Collier, who is currently the Selma police chief, sued Bentley in 2016. He contends the former Governor wrongfully fired him in March 2016 as secretary of the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency (ALEA) and then tried to discredit him with a sham state investigation.
Flash forward to August 2017 and Collier was injured in a two vehicle car crash on Hwy 80 in Montgomery County that led to an investigation, since at the time of the crash Collier was driving an unmarked police SUV issued to him by the city of Selma. Ultimately Collier was cleared of any wrong-doing.
After months of coverage on the suit, Alabama Today was tipped off this week to one glaring omission from all of the coverage written thus far: nestled 11 pages deep in a 12 page document, is one key fact: AL.com’s John Archibald was in the with Spencer the day of the wreck.
“If any Defendant makes Collier’s wreck of August 14, 2017, an issue, Collier reserves the right to call any witness who has information of Collier’s condition on the day of the wreck including Selma Police Officers, the Selma PD Dispatcher, the Custodian of Records for the Selma PD and al.com columnist John Archibald who rode with Collier on the day of the wreck,” reads the subpoena.
According to WSFA-12 the crash report revealed at around 7:45 p.m.:
Collier’s vehicle was traveling east on U.S. 80 when it left the roadway, re-entered, then over corrected. Collier’s vehicle then began spinning before crossing the median and striking a second vehicle.
The reports indicate Collier told investigators he did not remember anything about the crash or the events leading up to it. The driver of the second vehicle told investigators that when he realized Collier’s vehicle was starting to the cross the median, he hit his brakes and tried to take evasive action to avoid the collision.
The report also shows investigators took a blood sample from Collier and submitted it to the Alabama Department of Forensic Sciences.
In dozens of articles about the crash — Times Daily, Lagniappe Mobile, Selma Times Journal, WSFA-12, Montgomery Advertiser, Decatur Daily, Alabama News Net — we found no mention of Archibald being in the car with Collier that day. In fact, AL.com, who usually doesn’t miss a beat when it comes to covering everything happening in the state, did not cover the accident whatsoever.
Out of 810 articles that mention Collier, there’s not a single one that talks about the car crash where one of their writers, who also happens to now be a Pulitzer Prize winner, was with Collier some time prior to the wreck.
Here’s where things get interesting. While the crash is seemingly unrelated to Collier’s firing and subsequent lawsuit, the toxicology report also appears to significant to Bentley in the suit with Collier. In December 2017, the former Governor attempted to subpoena the reports from the Alabama Department of Forensic Sciences (ADFS). In addition to the toxicology results, Bentley also subpoenaed all documents related to the wreck and “any and all communications related to your investigation into Collier’s car accident… including without limitation any internal communications.”
Archibald has further clarified in a tweet to Alabama Today that he was not in the car with Collier at the time of the accident, but rather with him earlier in the day.
“Are you saying I was a passenger in Collier’s wreck? I was not. We filmed him in his cop car earlier in the day,” tweeted Archibald.
Are you saying I was a passenger in Collier’s wreck? I was not.
We filmed him in his cop car earlier in the day.
— John Archibald (@JohnArchibald) January 30, 2019
See the full subpoena below:
*Headline and article have been updated to reflect John Archibald were not in the wreck together. Rather Archibald was a passenger in Collier’s car that day.