Friday, November 30, 2012

Ponzi Schemer Tim Durham Gets 50-Year Prison Sentence

Convicted Ponzi schemer Tim Durham with former O.J. Simpson house boy Kato Kaelin (left) and Judge Extreme Akim Anastopoulo (right) at the "Eye for an Eye" luncheon in Beverly Hills in Sept. 2005 (photo by L. Cohen, WireImage)
Judge Jane Magnus-Stinson heard arguments by Tim Durham's attorney at the convicted Ponzi schemer's sentencing hearing today that the government and news media were to blame for the more than $200 million thousands of small Ohio investors lost in Durham's Fair Finance, and she heard pleas from victims who lost their entire life savings in the form of testimony and more than 1,000 letters. The IBJ's Cory Schouten provided a play-by-play of today's courtroom action via Twitter. Not surpisingly, Judge Magnus-Stinson showed no mercy towards Durham, handing down a sentence fitting for an "eye for an eye" form of justice Durham jokingly embraced during a September 15, 2005 luncheon in Beverly Hills with his pseudo-celebrity friends. In finding more than 5,100 victims suffered losses of $250 million, Judge Magnus-Stinson sentenced Durham to 50 years in prison, which she described as "an effective life sentence." In her ruling, Judge Magnus-Stinson described his actions of "hosting a Playboy party, buying cars and yachts" while investors suffered losses as "deceit, greed and arrogance."  Judge Magnus-Stinson scolded Durham for being charitable with other people's money, referring to all the money he gave to charities, politicians and his family. "The Court finds there's no remorse on your part that's sincere," the judge said. Durham was saved by an even harsher sentence after the judge agreed that he wasn't acting as a fiduciary at the time he committed his financial fraud on the investors of Fair Finance. "I feel terrible they all last money," Durham told the judge. "My family has lost all of its investments. I feel very badly for all the people here today. . . I probably wasn't as familiar with our investor base as I am now" Yeah, as if his multi-millionaire ex-father-in-law, Beurt SerVaas, won't be taking care of them. I have a tough time believing he didn't recognize that many of his investors were from rural Ohio's Amish and Mennonite community. The IBJ's Cory Schouten notes that Durham concluded his statement without explicitly apologizing to the victims.

UPDATE: Durham's accomplices, James Cochran and Rick Snow, received sentences of 25 years and 10 years, respectively. I just realized that Durham is 50, the same age I turned today. I wonder why I feel like his future is brighter than mine?

Leerkamp And Alvarez Agree Forcible Sodomy Involving Boys Is Just Horseplay

Former Hamilton Co. Prosecutor Sonia Leerkamp struggled to find any crime had been committed when members of the Carmel High School boys basketball team sexually assaulted younger team members by pulling down their pants and inserting objects into their butts. After considerable public pressure, she brought only misdemeanor charges against the offenders. In an earlier case involving the sodomizing of a member of the school's swim team by older teammates, Leerkamp brought no charges after concluding it was just boys being boys. Apparently Cook Co. State's Attorney Anita Alvarez shares Leerkamp's cavalier attitude towards sexual assaults committed against young male victims. Police in Des Plaines, Illinois complain about Alvarez' refusal to bring felony charges against members of the Maine Township high school soccer team who sodomized younger teammates while their coaches watched.
Des Plaines police said they sought felony charges in a hazing incident in which teenage soccer players were allegedly sodomized by teammates.
But so far, Cook County prosecutors have shot them down.
And for now a criminal investigation into apparent hazing rituals at Maine West High School has only resulted in misdemeanor charges against six teenagers.
“We took this case very seriously,” Des Plaines police Deputy Chief Nick Treantafeles said. “We did our part of the investigation, however, we must work in conjunction with the state’s attorney’s office because they’re the ones that will prosecute the case.”
Prosecutors simply didn’t have what they needed legally to charge the teens with felonies, a spokeswoman said . . .
The misdemeanor charges filed so far resulted from an incident in which three soccer players were allegedly sodomized on campus Sept. 27 as part of an initiation into the soccer team, according to a lawsuit filed on behalf of two of those boys. Police reports, however, only list two 14-year-old victims that day.
Police reports and an attorney for two of the players said their teammates pulled down the victims’ underwear and sodomized them with fingers and sticks.
I guess Alvarez has been too busy filing felony charges against private citizens who videotape police in public and attorneys who let their clients use their cell phones to prosecute high school jocks who are still at an age when people do "dumb things" as one former Cook Co. judge put it in explaining Alvarez' decision.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Another Reason The Practice Of Law Is Becoming So Disgusting

The most frustrating aspect of the practice of law in this country is that attorneys in the practice face the same disparate treatment by those responsible for enforcing the rules of practice against them as we see with private citizens charged with violating our laws. Too often, those of us with fewer resources to defend ourselves are held to the absolute highest standard of conduct while those with money, power and connections engage in far more outrageous conduct and face few consequences for their actions--even to the point of being rewarded for their bad behavior. Two recent cases out of Chicago illustrate this troubling point.

Sladjana Vuckovic, a 44-year old Chicago attorney, has been a volunteer for First Defense Legal Aid for ten years providing free legal services to indigent clients. During the course of representing a client who was charged with killing a Chicago police officer, Vuckovic allowed her client to use her cell phone while she was meeting with him in an interrogation room at the Calumet lockup where her client was being detained. Vuckovic is now on trial for committing a felony count of bringing contraband into a penal institution. She faces up to 10 years in prison if she is convicted, in addition to possible disbarment as an attorney. Prosecutors insinuated to jurors that Vuckovic was trying to obstruct the police investigation by aiding her client in cooking up an alibi or destroying evidence. Vuckovic, who testified in her own defense, claims nobody ever told her she couldn't take her cell phone with her into meetings with her clients, which she estimated she had done a 100 times before. She believed the ban on contraband applied to bringing things like guns, knives and drugs into the lockup. Vuckovic no doubt has witnessed far worse transgressions being committed by attorneys practicing in the Cook County legal system on any given day without so much as a bat of the eye.

The same prosecutor who is trying to put Vuckovic behind bars and destroy her legal career is Cook Co. State's Attorney Anita Alvarez, who beyond having the right political connections, probably shouldn't even have a license to practice law, let alone decide the fate of criminal defendants. Alvarez has aggessively prosecuted Illinois' eavesdropping law to make it a felony for private citizens to videotape the public actions of police officers with sentences of up to 15 years in prison. The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals harshly criticized Alvarez' "extreme position" in striking down her application of the law to criminalize an activity that clearly should be protected by the First Amendment. "On the merits the State’s Attorney has staked out an extreme position. She contends that openly recording what police officers say while performing their duties in traditional public fora—streets, sidewalks, plazas, and parks—is wholly unprotected by the First Amendment," Judge Diane Sykes wrote in her opinion. An unapologetic Alvarez attacked the ACLU's standing to challenge her application of the law, accusing it of engaging in “advocacy under the guise of First Amendment infringement.” Alvarez had the audacity to appeal the 7th Circuit's decision to the U.S. Supreme Court, which this week decided against hearing her appeal, allowing the 7th Circuit opinion against her to stand. As respected constitutional law professor Jonathan Turley observed, her actions are a "disgrace."  "As a native Chicagoan, I remain astonished that citizens have allowed Alvarez to remain in office as she has publicly sought to strip them of their rights and block a tool that has been used repeatedly to show police abuse," Turley writes.

I'm not as astonished as Turley. I see it happening across the board in the legal profession. There is very little relationship in the practice of law today in this country to the degree of a person's integrity and fitness to practice law and their success within the profession. The most dishonest and deceitful seem to thrive in the practice, while attorneys who try to adhere to the standards of conduct they are sworn to uphold too often come up with the short end of the stick. Vuckovic may lose her license to practice law for volunteering her services to an indigent client. The most ruthless and unethical attorneys with no shortage of clients with deep pockets are the ones the bar association is always patting on the back for providing "pro bono" services, while those of us who get stuck providing a substantially more free legal services without choice than we ever get compensated to perform are brushed aside and crushed with a hammer for the most trivial of transgressions.

UPDATE: The jury hearing Vuckovic's case acquitted her after less than three hours of deliberating. They obviously saw through the corrupt motives of Alvarez's office in bringing these charges against her. The Tribune includes this item about attorneys admitting they routinely carry cell phones into meet with their clients and allow them to use their phones:
The charges against Vuckovic sparked a controversy among criminal-defense lawyers who said they routinely bring their cellphones into police interview rooms and sometimes let clients make calls. The consensus of many defense lawyers was that Vuckovic would not have faced criminal charges if it wasn't for the highly charged atmosphere surrounding an investigation into a police officer's slaying.

Watchdog Questions Bosma's Hiring Of Lobbyist As Parliamentarian

House Speaker Brian Bosma has hired a former state representative and lobbyist with the law firm of Krieg DeVault as the House's parliamentarian for the upcoming session. That decision has drawn criticism from Julia Vaughn, a lobbyist for Common Cause, a watchdog organization.  “So he’s going to have one leg in the lobbying world and the other leg in the behind-the-scenes-administration of the House of Representatives,” says Vaughn. “There’s an old saying that you can’t serve two masters.” “It doesn’t pass the smell test and I’m really surprised the Speaker has stepped right into this.” According to WISH-TV's Jim Shella, Whetstone filed paperwork terminating his registered lobbyist status before accepting the new post.

What's particularly unusual about Whetstone's hiring is that he's not an attorney. He holds a bachelor's degree in political science from Ball State, and while he works for a law firm, his role at the firm has been limited to a non-attorney role as a lobbyist. Historically, both the Senate and the House have hired outside attorneys to serve as parliamentarian for the respective chambers. Typically, the attorney hired for this role is not affiliated with a law firm that also lobbies the legislature. In the past, Bosma hired an attorney from his own law firm to serve in this role, a move criticized as self-serving by some at the time. In a statement issued to WISH-TV, Bosma defended the hiring of Whetstone. Whetstone understands the House rules and how to execute them, which is the sole role of the Parliamentarian. He understands the House and it’s floor procedures as well as anyone, and is the right selection for the job.”

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Kardashian Offers U.S. Middle East Diplomacy

Kim Kardashian with Ambassador Matthew Tueller
Just when you thought American Middle Eastern policy couldn't possibly be more counter-productive, the American Ambassador to Kuwait Matthew Tueller proves us wrong. The Ambassador met with trampy socialite and reality show pseudo-celebrity Kim Kardashian during her visit this week to the region to help launch Millions of Milkshakes shops. Kardashian stirred controversy recently when she used her Twitter account to comment on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. As she embarked on the trip, Kardashian promised her fans to study up on political issues in the Middle East. One would think Obama administration officials would avoid drawing attention to American female figures like Kardashian and Jill Kelley, whose lifestyles are an affront to most Muslims. It's unfortunate that American officials show poorer judgment when it comes to these floozies than Britain's Duchess of Cambridge, Kate Middleton, who brushed off an invitation from Kardashian to join her for tea during her recent trip to London to promote her sleazy clothing line. News reports indicate that Middleton also returned complimentary clothing Kardashian sent to her.

Report: Jackson, Jr. Tipped Off About Federal Probe Before Becoming Mentally Ill

This should come as no surprise. The Sun-Times reports that former Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr. (D-IL) received a tip last June shortly before he went on leave from Congress, claiming to be suffering from a mental illness, that he was under investigation by the FBI for misappropriating campaign funds. The Sun-Times couldn't confirm if the tip came from someone involved in the federal investigation; however, Jackson was also involved in the investigation of the attempt by former Gov. Rod Blagojevich to sell the Senate seat of Barack Obama shortly after his election in 2008. In that case, then-U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald tipped off reporters for the Chicago Tribune according to a new book on the Blagojevich crime spree, "Golden," who then revealed that the governor's telephone conversations had been wiretapped. The working theory is that Fitzgerald wanted to protect the newly-elected President and his close advisers, including Rahm Emanuel and Valerie Jarrett, from being implicated in the scheme. Fitzgerald's investigation ignored evidence offered by witnesses that Obama had accepted bribes from convicted political fixer Tony Rezko.

Jackson stopped showing up for work on June 10. After weeks of speculation, his staff finally confirmed he had checked himself into the Mayo Clinic for treatment of a purported mental illness. His office later claimed he had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, the mental disorder of choice for people who don't want to accept responsibility for their bad acts. Jackson never appeared publicly again after that point, although he was spotted having drinks with friends in a Washington bar in the weeks prior to the November election. Despite his leave from his job and his failure to campaign for re-election, voters in his district re-elected him by a landslide only to learn a couple of weeks after his re-election that he was resigning his seat amidst rumors he may enter into a plea agreement in connection with the federal investigation. Jackson's use of campaign funds on a Washington mistress, personal furnishings for his home and consulting payments to his wife, a Chicago alderman, is what has reportedly drawn the scrutiny of federal investigators.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

A New Downtown Hotel Without Public Subsidies, Imagine

I read with great interest a plan to construct a $27 million Hyatt Hotel in downtown Bloomington. The developer of the plan, Indianapolis-based REI Real Estate Services, only asked the city council for permission to vacate an alley; otherwise, no public dollars are being offered as an incentive for this new development. A lot of teeth gnashing by council members occurred in approving the plan, but their concern was based on whether the new hotel operator would pay its employees a living wage, which is currently $11.66 an hour according to the Herald-Times. The answer they got was that no promises could be made.

The new 168-room, 7-story hotel will be built on property that is currently used for surface parking. The hotel will include its own two-level parking garage with 130 spaces. Earlier this year, Marriott announced plans to construct a $17 million SpringHill Suites hotel in downtown Bloomington. The two new hotels will add 300 hotel rooms--enough to close a gap in the number of hotel rooms a consultant for the city's convention center said needed to be filled to attract more groups to host meetings in the city.

If it's possible to undertake such sizable real estate projects in the downtown of our much smaller neighbor to the south without any public subsidies, this should be a matter of great importance to our city leaders in Indianapolis, who persistently tell us that no new development can occur in downtown Indianapolis unless taxpayers share in the cost of the development. I propose that Mayor Greg Ballard form a task force at once to visit the fair city of Bloomington on a fact-finding mission to discover how they managed to get private developers to make such large investments in these difficult times without asking for anything more than a borrowed alley. Perhaps the eggheads who write the local editorials in support of these public subsidies can tag along as well. We might just be able to find a way of paying for basic city services and even a little more mass transit without resorting to higher taxes.

South Korea Strips Jill Kelley Of Honorary Consul Title

The government of South Korea has decided that the Tampa Bay Kardashian, Jill Kelley, is not worthy of the title of honorary consul after disclosures recently came to light that she was using the title to peddle business consulting gigs and making false claims of diplomatic immunity. "It's not suitable to the status of honorary consul that (she) sought to be involved in commercial projects and peddle influence," Deputy Foreign Minister Kim Kyou-hyun told a Korean news agency. South Korea has 15 honorary consuls in the U.S., each of which are paid $2,500 a year.

It's not clear how Kelley wound up with this title. The Lebanese immigrant was apparently given open access to MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Florida, home to the military's Central Command, where she worked as a volunteer. Kelley developed a close relationship with former CIA Director Gen. David Petraeus and his wife, an official in the Obama administration, while he was serving as the military's top commander in Afghanistan. Petraeus was forced to resign as CIA Director after an extramarital affair he had with his biographer, Paula Broadwell, became public. An investigation was launched after Kelley complained to the FBI about threatening e-mails Broadwell had sent to her. That investigation has also tarnished Gen. John Allen, Petraeus' successor in Afghanistan, after e-mails revealed that he had an inappropriate relationship with Kelley.

Kelley made three trips to the White House in the weeks prior to the disclosure of the investigation of Petraeus' affair where she reportedly was granted access due to her friendship with a White House attorney who formerly worked as a civilian attorney in Afghanistan. This blog exclusively revealed that Michael J. Gottlieb is the only attorney on the White House counsel's staff who worked in Afghanistan as a civilian attorney during Gen. Petraeus' command there. Kelley was introduced to Gottlieb by military officials she knew at CentComm. For some odd reason, the state-run Omedia is going to great lengths to protect Gottlieb's identity and discussing just why it was that he was inviting Kelley to the White House. It seems to discredit the Obama White House's claim that it knew nothing about the Petraeus investigation prior to this month's election.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Durham's Attorney Seeks 5-Year Sentence

Not surprisingly, the attorney for convicted Ponzi schemer Tim Durham would like Judge Jane Magnus-Stinson to mete out a much lighter sentence than the 225-year prison sentence recommended in a federal sentencing report. A sentencing hearing has been scheduled this Friday in Judge Magnus-Stinson's court for Durham and two business associates convicted along with him, James Cochran and Rick Snow. Durham's attorney, John Tompkins, is seeking a three-year prison sentence, followed by two years of home confinement. "There is no need to incapacitate Mr. Durham beyond [five years] to prevent him from committing further crimes, given his extraordinarily low risk of recidivism, or to deter others from similar conduct," the filing said. “In this case, there is absolutely zero evidence that Mr. Durham subjectively intended any investor to experience a loss, and that’s what the law requires if ‘intended loss’ is to be used for the sentencing calculation,” Tompkins said. I'm guessing that the thousands of small Ohio investors in Fair Finance who collectively lost more than $200 million would take issue with Tompkins' characterization of his client's intent. My prediction is that Judge Magnus-Stinson will sentence Durham to a 30-year prison sentence, a sentence he should be happy to receive given the unusually lengthy sentences a number of other federal court judges have meted out in recent years to high-profile Ponzi schemers.

Newly-Elected Democratic Transgender Legislator Hid Criminal Past

The historic election of the first openly transgender candidate to a state representative seat in the New Hampshire House has taken an odd twist after news reports following the election uncovered the fact that Stacie Laughton, formerly known as Barry Charles Laughton, Jr. prior to her transition to becoming a woman, was a married man with a serious criminal record. According to the Daily Caller, a local newspaper, The Laconia Daily Sun, revealed over the weekend that Laughton had a prior felony conviction for credit card fraud and several other criminal convictions.

Laughton and her former wife used the identity of another woman living in their public housing project to take out a credit card, which they used fraudulently to purchase electronics and pay bills. Laughton pleaded guilty in 2008 to the three felonies associated with the scam. Laughton served four and a half months of a 12-month sentence in a county jail.

In another case, Laughton and her ex-wife faked a 911 emergency call in order to get an ambulance ride home from a fireworks show. The Laughtons admitted to their ruse after being transported to a local hospital. The couple then stiffed a cab driver who gave them a ride home after the ER doctor refused to treat them. Laughton pleaded guilty to misdemeanor theft, but the county prosecutor refused to prosecute the felony false-reporting charge. According to a police report, when police officers arrived at the Laughton's home to arrest them, Barry Laughton told the police that Laconia District Court Judge David O. Huot would "laugh the charges out of court" and "there was nothing the city police could do about it." Hout, coincidentally, was elected to the state legislature as a Democrat this past election as well.

What is extraordinary about this story is that during the election the media buzz was all about the historic nature of Laughton's candidacy and what it would mean for transgender persons. Not a single media report looked into Laughton's pre-op past and nobody else raised questions about it. According to the Nashua Telegraph, Laughton had run for office numerous times in the past as Barry Laughton before transitioning to a female. I thought New Hampshire was such a small state that everyone knows everyone else's business. Perhaps Bobby Hidalgo Kern should have moved to New Hampshire to run for office as a Democratic candidate instead of the multiple campaign attempts he's made in Indiana. Laughton told a reporter she had expected her criminal past to come up during the campaign and was prepared to discuss it when it did. “I didn’t feel it was necessary to tell [constituents], but I felt like if it came to light – which it has – I was going to be honest,” Laughton told Nashua Patch after the story broke. “I was prepared for it to come out during the campaign. I don’t want to step down; I want to serve the people – that’s all I’ve wanted to do, and regardless of my past, I can do it and serve them.”

The outgoing Republican leader of the House of Representatives has called on Laugthon to resign, but she has no plans to do so. "I know we live in a society where they say once you’re a felon and shouldn’t be able to work here, or there," Laughton said. "But people get out of jail, every day, and we spend so much to rehabilitate them. I just want to prove myself.” It seems to me that Laughton would have been up front with voters about her criminal past if she truly has rehabilitated herself; otherwise, it appears her transition from a man to a woman was nothing more than a scam to hide her past. Democratic leaders have remained silent about the revelations, which they presumably knew about prior to the election but chose to keep quiet in order to reach their goal of taking control of the House of Representatives, which they achieved on election day. The Democratic State Party Chairman, though, has accused House Majority Leader Pete Silva of playing politics for asking for Laughton's resignation.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Lucas Eitel On Fire For The Sycamores

I have to do a little bragging about my nephew Lucas Eitel. He got his first opportunity in the starting line-up of the ISU Sycamores and did quite well in the team's 76-62 win over High Point. His shooting game was perfect as he nailed seven 3-point shots and achieved his career game high of 25 points. His seven, consecutive 3-pointers tied a school record. "I can't say enough about Lucas Eitel, because he deserves it," Coach Greg Lansing said. "Not just because he was knocking down shots--he was defending too. That is why he go the nod. This is a good win over a high quality opponent." The video below has the game highlights.


The High Cost Taxpayers Will Pay To Redevelop One Block Of Mass Ave

The Star finally got around to reporting on neighborhood opposition in Lockerbie to the proposed relocation of Fire Station #7 on Mass Ave to make way for the redevelopment of the 500 block of Mass Ave where the fire station, IFD headquarters and the Firefighters Credit Union is currently relocated. When the City announced the $43 million mixed use development planned for the block, it gave few details, including a plan it had reached many months earlier for the site of the new fire station. It also suggested taxpayers were only kicking in about $3 million from the downtown TIF district to cover parking garage-related costs for the new private development. Although the City is giving the valuable land upon which the current firefighter-related buildings currently sit to the developer for nothing, it tried to mislead the public into believing the developer was paying $5.4 million for the land. In reality, the developer was merely placing that amount in escrow as security for the project. Once the developer moves forward with its project, it can tap all of that money for construction-related costs.

All of the existing firefighter-related entities must be relocated first. The IFD headquarters is being relocated to former IPS School #97 at 1401 E. 10th Street at a cost of about $4 million. The proposed new fire station the City wants to build on the North Lockerbie parcel owned by developer Joe Whitsett--despite opposition by neighborhood association--will cost an estimated $11 million. The City must also pay to relocate the Firefighters Credit Union out of TIF funds. The City has not yet determined how much that will cost taxpayers. Before it's all done and said, it will likely cost taxpayers as much to redevelop this new city block as the developer will spend on its $43 million mixed use project. When that project is completed, taxes generated from the development will flow to the TIF district and not to other taxing districts, like our schools, libraries or to the City to pay for public safety-related costs. The valuable parcel in North Lockerbie that will be converted to a municipal use as a fire station will yield no tax revenues, and the small portion of the remaining parcel there to be redeveloped is now in a TIF district that will receive all of the property taxes paid on the drastically scaled-down new development planned by the developer.

When you consider that the City lacks the necessary funds it needs to fund basic city services, you have to ask why so much of our tax dollars are being spent on something that yields so little return for a public benefit. During the recent meeting with neighborhood residents, the City complained that it would have to spend about $1.5-$2 million on improvements to the existing fire station if it remained at its current location, which it seemed to suggest was cost-prohibitive. Yet the $11 million price tag for a new fire station is no show stopper. What this demonstrates is that these decisions are being made entirely for the benefit of private developers and other pay-to-play contractors who are making big contributions to the politicians. For a $50,000 contribution to the Mayor's campaign committee, you can get millions of taxpayer dollars simply given to you as a reward. The useless media in this town will tout the new development and the supposed benefits without looking behind the curtain to see what really was taking place.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Marion County Coroner Follies Continue

The Marion County Coroner's tradition of operating the most incompetent coroner's office in the nation continues to live up to its low expectations. After rescue workers pulled a young male from a retention pond on Indianapolis' northeast side very close to the location where a 22-year old Avon man went missing after leaving a friend's apartment earlier this month, the family members of Joshua Swalls rushed to the scene fearing what they would learn. Chief Deputy Coroner Alfie Ballew publicly announced yesterday advised the family that the body found was not that of Swalls, after supposedly determining that the body pulled from the pond did not contain tattoos Swalls was known to have. Later today, Ballew issued another statement revising her earlier statement now confirming that the body was indeed Swalls. From the Star:
The family of missing Avon man Joshua Swalls has confirmed his was the body found in a Northeastside retention pond yesterday afternoon . . .
Earlier today, Marion County Coroner Chief Deputy Alfie Ballew told the Star at first the office did not believe the body was Swalls, 22, who had been missing since early November, but during the autopsy of the body, she said they found markings they thought might match up to tattoos Swalls had. By about noon today, the office was talking with the family.
Indianapolis fire crews pulled the body out of a retention pond near the Kroger store at 65th Street and Keystone Avenue at about 3:25 p.m. Friday. Officials had also searched the pond earlier this month after finding a shoe outside the fence of the pond and another shoe at Select Sewing Service, a business to the west of the pond . . .
 
Would the Indiana General Assembly please put forward an amendment to the Indiana Constitution to abolish this archaic coroner system we have and allow us to have competent medical examiners instead of incompetent political hacks conducting death investigations?

Council President Says Pacers Have Bipartisan Support For More Subsidies

You have to wonder how many members of the Indianapolis City-County Council have been bribed by billionaire Herb Simon when they would be willing to discuss offering even more public subsidies to his Indiana Pacers at a time when the City lacks sufficient revenues to fund basic city services. City-County Council President Maggie Lewis tells the IBJ that the Pacers have "bipartisan support" for more taxpayer help. "This is not a party issue, said Lewis. "All the councilors understand the financial benefits of having professional sports teams in this city." Yeah, there are financial benefits. It's just that the financial benefits the politicians fear losing most are the ones going directly into their pockets in consideration for supporting more subsidies for Simon's Pacers. Any councilor who supports more subsidies for the Pacers now should be tarred and feathered after receiving a public lashing.

We're suppose to ignore the fact that the NBA's new collective bargaining agreement is netting Simon's team an additional $20 million in shared league revenue. Simon officials claim they're still losing as much as $30 million annually on the franchise, even with the higher revenues. The claim of losses is a big fat lie that the CIB's leadership continues to feed to the public. Simon won't open up his audited financial statements for the Pacers and its ancillary business, Pacers Sports & Entertainment, to the public and for good reason. They would prove that he's lying about losing money. The Simons didn't become billionaires operating businesses that operate at such losses year after year. They always unload non-producing businesses and properties. Anyone who has ever done business with them knows that to be the case.

According to the IBJ, the NBA expects the Pacers to put their additional shared league revenues into higher player salaries, not the taxpayer-built Fieldhouse they get to use rent-free and operate as their a profit center for their own business. The Pacers get to keep revenues the non-game events hosted at the Fieldhouse generate in addition to game events, but the franchise won't give up that information either other than to assure us that it's not enough to cover expenses for the venue. For the past three years, taxpayers have been forced to pay $10 million a year to cover those operating costs, along with an additional $3.5 million the Pacers spent on a new digital scoreboard and ribbon board that offer additional revenue-generating opportunities from advertising that are retained by the team. It's time for this city to bid farewell to the Indiana Pacers.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Supreme Court's School Voucher Argument Misses The Mark

I had an opportunity to watch the online video recording of the Indiana Supreme Court's oral argument in the case (Meredith et al. v. Daniels) challenging the constitutionality of the state's Choice Scholarship program, which provides vouchers to parents to send their children to a private or religious school of their choice rather than the public school in the district in which they reside. To date, 97% of the schools certified by Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Bennett's Department of Education are religious schools, most of which are Catholic schools. Several parents brought suit against the state arguing that the Choice Scholarship program violates the prohibition in the state constitution on the use of public funds for religious purposes. Marion Superior Court Judge Michael Keele granted summary judgment in favor of the state, holding that because the program provides the scholarships to the students' parents to enroll students in a private or religious school of their choice, the program is not providing direct state financial support for a religious institution.

The focus of the argument before the Supreme Court is on Article 1, Section 6, which provides that "[n]o money shall be drawn from the treasury, for the benefit of any religious or theological institution." The challenge to the statute's constitutionality is based on a facial interpretation of the statute, which generally places a higher burden on the party challenging the statute, as opposed to an as-applied interpretation that seeks to invalidate a particular application of the statute. The seminole case both parties cited during oral argument was a 2003 Indiana Supreme Court decision, Embry v. O'Bannon, which challenged the state's dual enrollment program that allows state-funded public schools to pay teachers to teach certain classes in parochial schools, which includes students also enrolled in the public schools that in return get to count the students enrolled in the parochial school in their average daily enrollment that determines the amount of state aid a public school receives.

In Embry, a decision authored by the Court's current Chief Justice, Brent Dickson, the Supreme Court upheld the dual enrollment program, holding that the statute did "not confer substantial benefits upon any religious or theological institution, nor directly fund activities of a religious nature" so as to violate Section 6. The Court interpreted Section 6 "to permit the State to contract with religious institutions for goods or services, notwithstanding possible incidental benefit to the institutions, and to prohibit the use of public funds only when directly used for such institutions' activities of a religious nature." Justices Boehm concurred in the result allowing the expenditure of public funds for strictly sectarian teaching purposes, but he sharply dissented to Dickson's implication in his opinion that Section 6 did not prohibit public funding for parochial schools because they weren't "religious institutions." "No one claims that the church-affiliated schools involved in this litigation provide a purely sectarian curriculum," Boehm wrote. "Rather, although they raise their pupils in different faiths, each of these schools teaches its own single religious or theological doctrine as creed. That in my view plainly renders each of them a "religious institution." Boehm traced the historical context of the adoption of the 1851 state constitution and believed the addition of Section 6 was intended "to expand, not contract, the type of religious entities for which public expenditure is prohibited" as Dickson's opinion implies.

Interestingly, the state's Solicitor Gereral Tom Fisher appeared to concede that Justice Boehm had the stronger argument on the purpose of the addition of Section 6 to the state's constitution in Embry. His argument focused on the form of the statute over its substance. Fisher even conceded that there was no way of preventing funds paid to educate the students at religious schools from being used for religious, as well as education purposes. Because the primary purpose of the scholarships was for sectarian educational purposes, it did not run afoul of Section 6 he contended. If the state had chosen to provide direct funding to religious schools for educating students rather than vouchers couched as scholarship awards to the parents to select the school of their choice, Fisher believed the statute would have violated Section 6. The attorney for the parents insisted that despite the nomenclature used in the statute, the funding was still passing directly from the state to the religious schools.

I think the attorneys for the parents challenging the statute made a big mistake by not challening the Choice Scholarship program on an as-applied basis as well as a facial challenge. I was also disappointed arguments did not also focus on Article 1, Section 4, which provides that "[n]o preference shall be given, by law, to any creed, religious society, or mode of worship; and no person shall be compelled to attend, erect, or support, any place of worship, or to maintain any ministry, against his consent." By using our tax dollars to support religious schools, Indiana's citizens are arguably being compelled to support and maintain religious ministries against their consent. Most of the schools certified for participation in the program are Catholic or fundamentalist Christian churches, but the Hebrew Academy of Indianapolis and Islamic School of Indianapolis are also certified participants in the program. Many of these schools discriminate in admissions against persons who are not affiliated with their religion. Indeed, the enabling statute permits them to do so. "An eligible school may not discriminate on the basis of race, color, or national origin" according to the statute. Noticeably missing is discrimination based on gender and religion.

During the oral argument, Justice Mark Massa defended the statute as being "religious neutral." It is true that the statute makes no reference to religion, but 97% of the schools participating in the program are clearly not religious neutral and heavily mix religious teaching with their sectarian teaching curriculum. The Islamic School of Indianapolis, the Hebrew Academy of Indianapolis and Calvary Christian School are examples of schools where religious teaching is heavily mixed in with the sectarian teaching. That's one of the reasons I think the opponents of the law should have included an as-applied challenge, in addition to their facial challenge.

Massa suggested that providing scholarships to send students to these religious schools was no different than providing state-funded scholarships to students who attend a religious affiliated universities like Notre Dame. As the parents' attorney pointed out, virtually all religious-affiliated universities have pretty much abandoned the inculcation of their religious beliefs as part of their curriculum in favor of sectarian-only teaching in order to qualify for federal funding. Most religious-affiliated schools do not discriminate in their admissions based on a student's religious affiliation. The U.S. Supreme Court applies a "pervasive sectarian test" in determining whether schools run afoul of the U.S. Constitution's Esablishment Clause.  "Aid normally may be thought to have a primary effect of advancing religion when it flows to an institution in which religion is so pervasive that a substantial portion of its functions are subsumed in the religious mission or when it funds a specifically religious activity in an otherwise substantially secular setting" under the "pervasive sectarian test."

The parents' attorney tried to remind the Court that the poor state of public education in this state prior to the adoption of the 1851 Constiution was due in large part to no uniform, state-funded public education system. Most public spending on education at the time, albeit meager funding, was being spent on private, religious schools. Shortly before the adoption of the 1851 Constitution, the state's voters approved a public question calling for the establishment of a uniform, public education system. To that end, Article 8 provided that the General Assembly "shall . . . provide, by law, for a general and uniform system of Common Schools, wherein tuition shall be without charge, and equally open to all." Article 8 further established a common school fund as a perpetual funding source for the state's schools and established the state Superintendent of Public Instruction as a constitutional officer to oversee the state's education system. The state contends the Choice Scholarship program does not run afoul of Article 8 because it does not receive its funding from the common school fund, but that argument seems specious. We all know that state revenues are to a large degree fungible and more money spent elsewhere usually means less money spent somewhere else. It's hard to argue that the Choice Scholarship program will not result in a reduction in state funding for our public school systems.

On one final note, I couldn't help but wonder whether Justice Massa should have recused himself from participating in this case. He was, after all, chief legal counsel to Gov. Mitch Daniels, whose office worked closely with Supt. Tony Bennett's office to help draft, lobby and steer the Choice Scholarship legislation through the state legislature, prior to him being appointed to the Court by Gov. Daniels. Nobody watching that oral argument could believe that he has an open mind about the legislation, and he certainly made little attempt to hide his views. It's one of the crowning achievement of his former boss. I think the parents' attorney made a mistake in not publicly calling on him to recuse himself, if for no other reason than to put him on notice that he was being watched closely.

Obama's Trip To Southeast Asia A National Embarrassment

Cambodia's First Lady Bun Rany gives Obama a "sampeah" greeting reserved for  servants
President Barack Obama's trip this past week to Southeast Asia was nothing short of a national embarrassment, although you won't read or hear anything about how badly he performed in the lamestream media, which has nothing but "oohs" and "aahs" for him. Investors Business Daily doesn't cut him any slack, however, describing the trip as "pretty much all style over substance"--"a Potemkin mission abroad."  The President still earns low points on style. He repeatedly mispronounced Burma Prime Minister Aung San Suu Kyi's name during a joint appearance with her, which IBD finds to be "an astonishing error given her global fame" as a Nobel Peace Prize winner. One would think that a man who grew up in Indonesia would have an advantage over other American leaders in pronouncing Asian names. He also used poor form in addressing the country's president, insulting him in the process. Obama's visit to Burma was supposedly for the purpose of promoting representative government, but he suggested to Burmese leaders that he wished he could impose his will on Congress. In Thailand, he trivialized his trip by "flirting around" with the country's attractive Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra and visiting tourist traps. He got royally dissed in Cambodia by the country's First Lady, when she "greeted Obama with a traditional 'sampeah' pressed-hands greeting reserved for servants, a little dig that was probably lost on him but not to Asians." If President Bush had made such mistakes during a foreign trip, we would be hearing about it for months.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

How Do These People Get Elected?

I'm not sure what the voters in Franklin County, Indiana were thinking when they elected Erica Hudson as their county auditor, but it probably had more to do with the fact that she has an "R" behind her name in this rural Republican-leaning county in southeastern Indiana than it did with her qualifications. The Franklin Co. Commissioners asked Hudson to resign in September after the employees she supervised reported that she hadn't been coming into the office all summer. Franklin Co. Treasurer Rebecca Oglesby used the word "malfeasance" to describe the problem with the absentee auditor. The county attorney, John Worth, who is also the Republican Co. Chairman, sent a letter to Hudson asking her to resign, but she wouldn't budge. The problem came to a head when the county got slapped with a $4,000 fine by the IRS because Hudson had instructed her employees not to open the office's mail during her absence. When employees in the office tried to reach her on her cell phone, they got no answer and were unable to leave voice mail messages for her.

After months of consternation, Hudson finally decided to return to work. A short time later, she hired Chadwick Sexton as a part-time employee of the office. The day after Sexton began working in the office, he was arrested on an outstanding warrant from Knox County where he was wanted on charges of theft, operating a vehicle without a license and a probation violation. Sexton was arrested at Hudson's home. Hudson denied that Sexton was living with her and claimed she and her daughter were attending church services when Sexton was arrested at her home. Hudson admitted she performed no background check on Sexton before hiring him, but she said she would do so in the future. She quickly hired him after her first deputy, who had been performing her duties as auditor in her absence, won election as the Franklin Co. Treasurer. Although its Hudson's job under Indiana law to record minutes of meetings of the county commissioners and county council, newpaper reports indicate that she doesn't perform the duty on the occasions when she does attend the meetings. It's unclear to me why the Franklin Co. Prosecutor hasn't brought her up on criminal charges in an effort to remove her from her job. It seems to me she's not only guilty of official misconduct, but she's also guilty of ghost employment if she's drawing a full-time salary for a job she rarely shows up to perform.

Jesse Jackon, Jr. Resigns From Congress

UPDATED: U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr. has tendered his resignation as a member of Congress from Chicago just two weeks after winning re-election to another term in Congress by a landslide despite the fact that he didn't campaign for re-election because he was too busy faking a mental illness in an attempt to avoid criminal liability for the multiple felonies he's committed as a sitting member of Congress. His resignation comes without nailing down the soft plea agreement he hoped to get from federal prosecutors, who have been scrutinizing hundreds of thousands of dollars he misspent from his campaign committee on his Washington girlfriend, personal furnishings for his home and phony consulting payments to his wife, a Chicago alderman, to keep her happy. Recent news reports suggested Jackson was holding out resigning for an assurance he would qualify for disability pay that would require taxpayers to continue paying the corrupt bastard the rest of his life to sit on his ass, in addition to keeping his lucrative congressional pension intact. In his resignation letter, Jackson included this gem in reference to the third Chicago airport he has been championing to be built in Peotone almost an hour south of Chicago since he was first elected, which proves just how stupid and unfit he was to serve in Congress:
"[S]itting on the Governor’s desk 400,000,000 proposal for an airport that will cost the taxpayers nothing and only awaits the Governor’s commitment to build it."
This clown actually thinks a new airport can be built at no expense to taxpayers. The state of Illinois has already spent about $30 million on the project it doesn't have to spend acquiring 2,317 of the more than 5,800 acres it will need for the new airport. The governor requires $70 million more in funding from the state legislature to acquire the remaining land. Illinois officials believe private sources and developers will pick up the rest of the tab it will cost to build the airport. This guy has never had to work a day in his life. He's had everything handed to him based on race entitlement and his father's name. In his world, money just falls out of the sky. He doesn't have a clue what people face in the real world.

Jackson appears to have taken after his father, Rev. Jesse Jackson, who was busted for fathering a child out of wedlock wth one of his many mistresses and making hush payments to the child's mother from his nonprofit. Despite the misappropriation of hundreds of thousands of the nonprofit's dollars, his father was never prosecuted. Jackson, Jr. probably presumes he's entitled to commit multiple felonies as well without consequences since the U.S. Attorney's Office ignored evidenced turned over to it during the investigation of Operation Board Games, which resulted in the prosecution and conviction of Blagojevich and a number of his associates, that Obama also had taken cash bribes from convicted political fixer Tony Rezko and was equally as culpable as Blagojevich in the Chicago Way crime spree that has been taking place since Democrats seized total control of Illinois state government. Jackson, Jr. somehow managed to get admitted and earn a law degree from the University of Illinois Law School, the same university that booted his father out in a cheating scam after he had been awarded an affirmative action scholarship to study there.

As a result of this culture of corruption, the state of Illinois is now teetering on bankruptcy. The state has been brought to its knees by nearly $8 billion in unpaid bills and a $96 billion shortfall in funding its current obligations for public employees pensions. The public employees unions, which have a stranglehold over the Democratic-controlled legislature, have provided no options to the state's Democratic governor, Pat Quinn, to bring the state's fiscal crisis under control. You know things have really gone off the rail when the Democratic governor is forced to terminate the state's contract with the largest public employees union, AFSCME. In a statement announcing the termination of the contract, Gov. Quinn's budget director explained the decision:
After 11 months of bargaining, we informed AFSCME’s leadership Tuesday that there will be no more extensions of their contract that expired in June.
Governor Quinn has cut state spending down to 2008 levels and proposed closing empty or half-empty, very expensive state facilities that are no longer needed. After decades of mismanagement, he state is behind on $8 billion dollars of payments to vendors including social service agencies. And the state’s pension shortfall has risen to $96 billion – the worst of the 50 states.
During 11 months of bargaining, the state has extended the contract three times and made significant efforts to compromise. But the government employees union, which has not offered a single proposal to deal with retirement health care, continues to seek millions of dollars in pay hikes the taxpayers can’t afford to give them. It has refused to recognize the extraordinary financial crisis squeezing the state.
Contrast that picture with the picture of Gov. Mitch Daniels announcing a $111 tax credit for each individual filing a tax return next year because the state is running a $2.1 billion surplus. Yes, that's still possible when you put Republicans in charge of the executive and legislative branches of government. What is truly sad is that the American people were too stupid to realize they had sent to Washington the most corrupt politician in the history of the United States and the worst Illinois had to offer. Obama will destroy America if it's the last thing he accomplishes in his life. The man does not share the values upon which this country was founded, and he sees it as his goal to punish every person who has been successful in life by taking away their weatlh and giving it to people who don't want to work and expect to have everything handed to them. At the same time, Obama thinks he and his family should live like royalty. They've cost taxpayers more money from their high-flying ways and lavish partying than any other president, surpassing by several times the amount of money the British government spends on its royal family. This is what you got, America. There is no hope for your children. You have destroyed all opportunities for them. The American Dream is dead, but Barack and Michelle are living like a king and queen while the country burns as if life couldn't be better. Have a Happy Thanksgiving thinking about how little you and your family have to look foward to in life now.

Carson: Free Cell Phones Not Paid For By Tax Dollars

An obscure federal program that provides free cell phone service to certain income-qualified persons drew attention after critics of the program complained that the Obama administration was using free cell phones paid for by a tax on land line and cell phone users to purchase votes in this years's presidential election. This week, WTHR investigates took a look at the free cell phone program without once mentioning how it was marketed by the Obama administration to win votes for Obama's re-election. The cost of the federal Lifeline program have skyrocketed from $772 million when Obama took office in 2008 to $1.6 billion by last year. In the state of Ohio alone, which was considered the number one battleground state in this year's presidential election, the program issued more than 1 million free cell phones! What caught my attention in WTHR's report was a defense of the program by U.S. Rep. Andre Carson, who insists it's not paid for by taxpayer dollars.

But Indiana Representative André Carson defends the cell phone component of Lifeline. In a statement to 13 investigates, Carson said, "We should always look for ways to improve these programs, but Lifeline is a valuable and effective, bipartisan tool. And it doesn't rely on a single tax dollar."
Jim Bryant disagrees.
"It's mandatory, so it's a tax," he said.
"Sounds good for the people who's getting the free phones, not for the people who's paying for the people to get free phones," said one couple.
The FCC audited the Lifeline program last year, uncovering 400,000 instances of multiple phones distributed to individual people. In Indiana alone, 16 percent of people who got free cell phones did not qualify for the program.
As WTHR explains, the FCC ordered phone companies to provide basic phone services for free to low-income persons; however, it permits the phone companies to impose a universal service charge on phone customers to pay for the program. A typical phone user pays $4.83 a month for the service, or about $60 a year. Recipients of Medicaid, food stamps, Section 8 housing and persons who qualify for a free or reduced school lunch program qualify for free phone service. The FCC pays phone companies $9.25 per customer per month to support the program. Unbelievably, users of the free cell phone service complained to WTHR that they only get 250 minutes a month of use on their cell phone, which they say they consume in as little as three days. That has led to abuses in the program. Free users simply go to other providers to get additional free cell phones thanks to the tax you pay every month on your phone bill. Yes, Rep. Carson, it is a tax.


Bopp: 1982 Federal Court Decree Prevents GOP From Stopping Election Day Vote Fraud

In 1982, the Democratic National Committee took the Republican National Committee to court in New Jersey, alleging that it was trying to prevent minority voters from casting votes on election day. The case ended quickly with a federal consent decree ordered by a Democratic judge appointed by President Jimmy Carter. Indiana elections lawyer Jim Bopp tells World Net Daily that the decree to this day prevents the RNC from stopping election day vote fraud being committed by the Democratic Party on a wide scale basis using minority voters. Under the decree, the RNC, but not the DNC, must “refrain from undertaking any ballot security activities in polling places or election districts where the racial or ethnic composition of such districts is a factor in the decision to conduct, or the actual conduct of, such activities there and where a purpose or significant effect of such activities is to deter qualified voters from voting; and the conduct of such activities disproportionately in or directed toward districts that have a substantial proportion of racial or ethnic populations shall be considered relevant evidence of the existence of such a factor and purpose.”

The decree has remained in effect for the past 30 years. Republican efforts to alter or dissolve the decree were blocked by the Third Circuit Court of Appeals, a decision which is now on appeal to the Supreme Court. Bopp complains that under the decree the RNC's hands are tied when it comes to preventing election day vote fraud by the Democratic Party. “It is way too restrictive,” he said. “It prevents the RNC from working with state parties in conducting voter integrity activities. It has been used by the DNC to harass the leadership of the RNC with false allegations of violations of the consent decree.” Bopp tells WND the concerns reflected by the consent decree are "completely unjustified."

Concerns of vote fraud have heightened after Mitt Romney failed to get a single vote in thousands of Democratic precincts in urban areas across the country, particularly in the battleground states. Virtually the only other place in the world where you see those kinds of voting patterns is in totalitarian dictatorships where people fear for their lives if they don't support the ruling party. “Third-world, tin-horn dictators don’t get [these percentages]," radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh complained. "I mean, the last guy that got this percentage of the vote was Saddam Hussein, and the people that didn’t vote for him got shot. This just doesn’t happen. Even Hugo Chavez [of Venezuela] doesn’t get 100 percent or 99 percent of the vote.” At the same time, a video uploaded to the Internet by "Anonymous" claims credit for breaching computer servers which supported the Romney campaign's nationwide get out the vote effort on election day, virtually shutting it down. Tens of thousand of Romney election day workers were unable to access the system on election day, hampering its GOTV efforts in key battleground states. Anonymous claimed the system had to be blocked to prevent Karl Rove from stealing the election, even though the system had nothing to do with the operations of voting software that counts actual votes cast in the election.

In my own downtown Indianapolis precinct on election day, I was disturbed by the large number of African-American men who cast votes from a Wheeler Mission facility at 520 E. Market Street. I've worked as an election judge in the Lockerbie precinct for about six years. You could count on your hand the number of African-Americans who cast votes on election day at this downtown precinct in past elections. This year, large numbers of African-American men showed up to vote, all producing photo identification listing an address of 520 E. Market, which is owned by the Wheeler Mission. None of the men had the appearance of being homeless. After the election, I asked the Marion Co. Board of Registration for a list of all voters registered at that address. Much to my surprise, there were nearly 200 people, all men, registered at that address. The precinct in the past has had a total of about 1,000 registered voters. The precinct has a history of ticket-splitting. Mitch Daniels, for example, won the precint by a wide margin in 2008 at the same time Barack Obama was easily carrying it in the presidential election. In last year's municipal election, only a few votes separated Mayor Greg Ballard and Melina Kennedy in the mayor's race. This year, even the Republicans leading vote-getter in the county and statewide, Attorney General Greg Zoeller, failed to carry the precinct. Even Scott Keller, who had the support of several prominent Democrats in his state representative race, was trounced by his Democratic opponent. The influx of voters from the Wheeler Mission was enough to reverse entirely the precinct's historical voting patterns.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

7th Circuit Rejects Plowman's Appeal

A 7th Circuit Court of Appeals panel has affirmed former Indianapolis City-County Councilor Lincoln Plowman's conviction. The court found no error was committed by a U.S. District Court Judge Larry McKinney when he denied an attempt by Lincoln Plowman's defense attorney to offer an entrapment defense during his trial last year on bribery and attempted extortion charges where he was found guilty by a jury on both charges and sentenced to forty months in prison. The entrapment defense requires that the accused be able to offer sufficient evidence that he was induced by the government to commit the crime, and that he lacked a predisposition to commit the crime with which he was charged.

The court found that Plowman's proffer of evidence that he was induced to commit the crime "too vague and conclusory" to be sufficient for an entrapment instruction. "The transcripts overwhelmingly show that Plowman was not entrapped into accepting the bribe," the court wrote. The court noted that the size of the bribe, $5,000, was too small to induce someone to commit a crime he might not otherwise have committed, and that the undercover agent did not mislead Plowman into believing that he was paying him for consulting services as opposed to a quid pro quo for greasing the zoning approval for his proposed strip club. "When Plowman requested money from Mark, the money was not just to reimburse a realtor or attorney, but to help Plowman 'schmooze' other public officials and to line his own pockets." "After the FBI revealed its sting operation, Plowman admitted that he did not have a side business and had not given Mark a receipt for the $5,000," the court reasoned. The court also found that the evidence at trial showed that Plowman was "an active and willing participant" in the bribery scheme.

Carmel High School Jocks Not Alone In Practicing Kinky Gay Hazing Rituals

It looks like a north suburban Chicago High School's soccer team has something in common with the Carmel High School basketball team. According to a lawsuit filed against the Maine Township high school district today, soccer team members have a hazing ritual of stripping freshman team members naked and sodomizing them--with the approval of their coaches. From the Sun-Times:
According to attorney Antonio Romanucci, who filed the suit on behalf of a 14-year-old boy, the assault occurred as part of an initiation after the victims were promoted from the freshmen team to the varsity team.
The suit alleges that coaches ordered a “campus run,” a term which was a code indicating the hazing should commence.
At that signal, older team members grabbed Romanucci’s client, tore off his pants and underwear, held him down on the school’s soccer field and sodomized him with their fingers and other foreign objects, the suit alleges.
While this went on, the coaches “stood idly by” according to complaint.
Two other boys who are not part of the legal action got the same treatment, the suit claimed.
“That behavior in today’s society is disgusting,” Romanucci said at a press conference Monday. “It is never to be condoned, it should never have happened.”
The boy’s mother also spoke out, saying she was angry at the school. “I feel like the coaches should have kept him safe on the soccer field, and they didn’t do that.”
The victim's attorney believes there are a many more victims who have not yet come forward. The school has reassigned the coaches, but they have retained their teaching positions despite the allegations made against them.  The Des Plaines police department has charged six team members who committed the assaults as juveniles, and ten students have been disciplined by the school district. Some of the ten students involved in the assault were barred from playing for the team.

Two Arrest Warrants Issued In Connection With Southside Blast

UPDATED: Indianapolis investigators confirm to various local news sources that two arrest warrants have been issued this afternoon in connection with last week's southside home explosion in the Richmond Hill subdivision that killed two and caused millions of dollars in damages to homes throughout the subdivision. News reports indicate that two males have been taken into police custody for questioning, neither of whom have been formally charged with a crime. WTHR has identified one of the men taken into custody as Bob Leonard. He is the brother of Mark Leonard, the boyfriend of Monserrate Shirley, owner of the home that exploded. Investigators earlier confirmed a white van owned by Mark Leonard had been impounded. Investigators yesterday asked the public for any information they had concerning the identity of persons seen inside the van within the subdivision only hours before the explosion took place. A $10,000 award has been offered for information leading to an arrest and conviction.

According to the Indianapolis Star, Leonard has a lengthy rap sheet. Leonard and Shirley told investigators they were out-of-town at the Hollywood riverboat casino in Lawrenceburg when they learned the home had exploded violently. Before leaving town, Shirley left her daughter at a friend's home and boarded the family's cat. Investigators believe a gas leak was intentionally introduced into the home prior to the explosion and an electrical device of some sort, perhaps remotely controlled, was used to trigger the explosion after a sufficient amount of gas had leaked into the home. Investigators are looking at the home's gas meter to determine if there was a spike in the amount of gas being consumed before the blast occurred. Shirley had attempted to sell the home earlier this year through a short sale but failed to complete the deal when she was unable to come up with the a payment required by the agreement. Shirley and Leonard insist they are innocent and had nothing to do with the blast.

Monday, November 19, 2012

The White House Attorney Who Knew Jill Kelley: Michael J. Gottlieb?

EXCLUSIVE
As soon as I learned that Jill Kelley knew an attorney working in the Obama White House who arranged her three recent visits to the White House, including a tour of the White House just two days before the election and only days before the White House disclosed that Gen. David Petraeus had resigned as CIA Director because of an extramarital affair he had with his biographer, Paula Broadwell, I became determined to learn who that attorney was. The White House refused to disclose the attorney's name, telling reporters that his name would be disclosed in a few months when White House logs of Jill Kelley's visits to the White House became public. "The man worked as a civilian lawyer in Afghanistan and got to know military personnel, who invited him to MacDill, where he met Kelley. He now works as a lawyer in the White House," the Tampa Bay Times reported.

I thought to myself: How many attorneys on the White House staff formerly worked as a civilian lawyer in Afghanistan? I'm guessing just one. The only one I've been able to find is Michael J. Gottlieb, a special assistant and associate counsel to the President earning $130,500 a year, and I'm pretty sure he's the one who knew Jill Kelley. Gottlieb is a 2003 graduate of Harvard Law School and a 1999 graduate of Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois. I found the audio of a speech on Northwestern University's website that Gottlieb delivered to Northwestern School of Communication graduates in June of this year. The website story provided this biographical summary for Gottlieb describing his work in Afghanistan as a civilian attorney:

As the Associate White House Counsel and Special Assistant to the President, Gottlieb has advised the President and senior White House staff on a wide range of legal and legal policy issues. From January 2010 to March 2011, he was detailed to Kabul, Afghanistan as the Deputy Director of Combined Joint Interagency Task Force 435, which focused on rule of law development and detention operations for the U.S. Government in Afghanistan. Prior to his time with the Obama Administration, he served as an Assistant United States Attorney in the U.S. Attorney's Office in the Central District of California and practiced at the law firm of WilmerHale in Washington, DC, where he focused on government public policy and appellate litigation.
Immediately after law school, Gottlieb clerked for Judge Stephen Reinhardt on the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals and for Justice John Paul Stevens on the United States Supreme Court. He is a 2003 graduate of Harvard Law School and a 1999 graduate of the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences at Northwestern. While at Northwestern, he twice won the intercollegiate National Debate Tournament.
Gottlieb attributes how he wound up on the White House counsel's staff as pure luck. He said he went to law school and had become friends with the woman who arranged interviews for the White House counsel's office and who had worked on Obama's Senate campaign in 2004. During Gottlieb's speech to the Northwestern School of Communication's graduates, Gottlieb describes how he wound up working with detainees in Afghanistan. Gottlieb says he was contacted by a brigadier general in the Army who was in charge of detainees and who asked him to come to work with him in Afghanistan as his civilian deputy. Gottlieb described his work at the White House as providing advice on national security legal issues, including detentions and interrogations. Gottlieb explained how the brigadier general in the Army was being sent to Afghanistan to run a new task force to promote rule of law development and head up U.S. detentions. Gottlieb reflected very positively on his experience in Afghanistan. He describes his time spent there as the best 14 months of his life. He said he was inspired by the sacrifice of our soldiers and brave Afghans who held out hope of a better future for their children. Gottlieb said his service in Afghanistan made him a better decision-maker, better colleague, better public servant and a better person.

After doing a little more digging into who that brigadier general could have been, I discovered that another Harvard Law School graduate, Mark Martins, is a brigadier general in the Army who was in charge of detention operations in Afghanistan during the same period of time Gottlieb worked in Afghanistan. Martins graduated from Harvard in 1990, one year ahead of President Obama, and both Martins and Obama served on the Harvard Law Review together. Martins served with Army Gen. David Petraeus when he commanded our forces in Iraq. Both Gottlieb's and Martin's work in Afghanistan overlapped Gen. Petraeus' command of our forces in Afghanistan from July 4, 2010, to July 18, 2011. It makes sense that the military commanders in Afghanistan, such as Gen. Petraeus and Gen. John Allen, both of whom knew Jill Kelley, in addition to Martins, could have been responsible for introducing Gottlieb to Kelley when they invited him to CentComm at MacDill Air Force base in Tampa, Florida.

Why is Gottlieb's identify so important? It proves that someone at the White House may well have been communicating with Kelley during the investigation of Gen. Petraeus specifically about the investigation that had been launched after Kelley had complained to her friend, Frederick Humphries, who worked for the FBI, about the harassing e-mails that Broadwell had been sending to her in the spring of this year. Gottlieb is probably the only attorney at the White House who would have been in the unique position because of his work in Afghanistan and who had the opportunity to get to know Gen. Petraeus, Gen. Allen and even Broadwell during the time she spent in Afghanistan performing research for her biography of Petraeus, "All In." If Gottlieb knew about the investigation of Petraeus weeks, if not months, before the White House first acknowledged the investigation of Petraeus the day after the election, is it even remotely conceivable that President Obama knew nothing about the investigation before the election? I think not.

UPDATE: As if this scandal isn't already filled with enough comedy, gadfly attorney Gloria Allred has entered the picture to represent Jill Kelley's twin sister, Natalie Khawam. "My personal feeling on this matter is that women are being depicted in a negative and stereotypical manner which appears to be very unfair to all of them," Allred told the Daily Caller. Yeah, right. Only a fool would hire Allred. I'm convinced that Allred violates the rules of professional conduct by contacting women involved in high-profile public cases and soliciting their representation just so she can conduct press conferences to engage in self-promotion. She typically does more harm to her clients than good because of the bad publicity she brings to them at her press conferences, which are covered by the tabloid media simply for comical relief. Ask any attorney in this country what they think of her and the response you will get will either be a roll of the eyes or a big chuckle. I'll be interested to see if anyone in the media who covers Allred's circus tomorrow will ask her client if she knows Michael Gottlieb since she reportedly accompanied her sister Jill on her recent trips to the White House to meet with the previously undisclosed White House lawyer. Recall also Allred's October surprise in this past presidential campaign when she tried to make an issue of Mitt Romney's testimony many years ago during the divorce trial of Staples' co-founder Tom Stemberg by unsealing his ex-wife's divorce records in an effort to prove that Romney understated the company's value in order to help Stemberg defraud Stemberg's ex-wife, even if it meant practicing law in Massachusetts where she is not licensed to practice law.

UPDATE II: Gloria Allred's press conference with her client, Natalie Khawam, was all show and no substance to nobody's surprise. Essentially, Allred just wanted to step in front of the cameras to accuse the family court judge who awarded her client's ex-husband custody of their son of committing a miscarriage of justice, which she assured us would be overturned on appeal. Allred isn't handling the appeal, and she isn't licensed to practice law in the state of Florida. She also blamed the family court proceedings for bankrupting her client, although one reporter questioned her account, noting that friends and associates had paid most of her legal bills. Allred had nothing but praise for Gen. Petraeus and Gen. Allen for providing supporting affidavits to Khawam during her custody battle; otherwise, she wouldn't answer any questions about her or her client's sister's relationship with the generals. The press members in attendance seemed skeptical about the purpose of today's press conference and some wondered if Allred wasn't doing more harm to her client by further publicizing her child custody battle. One reporter asked Allred about her client's visits to the White House with her sister Jill Kelley. Allred said her client visited the White House once for a tour, but she refused to answer the reporter's question about who arranged that White House tour. One reporter could be overheard saying as Allred walked slowly into the room with her client as if if she was a father walking his daughter down the aisle at her wedding, "This is a joke." Yes, it is.

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Southside Explosion Now A Homicide Investigation

UPDATED: Marion Co. Prosecutor Terry Curry and Indianapolis' Homeland Security Chief Gary Coons held a press conference tonigt a little more than a week following that deadly southside blast that killed a couple inside their home in the Richmond Hill subdivision when the explosion at a neighboring home occurred. Curry has confirmed the investigation is now a criminal investigation, and that numerous persons have been interviewed and a number of search warrants have been executed. Investigators are seeking information on a white van seen in the neighborhood on the night of the explosion. Investigators have reportedly impounded a white van suspected of being connected to the blast. The ATF is offering a $10,000 reward for anyone with information that leads to an arrest and conviction, and Crime Stoppers is offering an additional $1,000 reward.

Days after the blast occurred, a source told Advance Indiana that investigators were trying to determine if a gas-fueled appliance, such as the home's gas fireplace within the home owned by Monserrate Shirley, had been leaking prior to the exposion with the home's chimney vent closed. The explosion may have been triggered when an appliance within the home kicked on after the home had filled up with a sufficient amount of gas to cause the deadly explosion that totally destroyed three homes and severely damaged others within the Richmond Hill subdivision.

Fox 59 News' Russ McQuaid reports that investigators met this afternoon with Shirley's boyfriend, Mark Leonard. Investigators for State Farm, which insured the home, also questioned Leonard today according to McQuaid. Shirley and Leonard were out-of-town at the Hollywood riverboat casino in Lawrenceburg when Shirley received a call from a neighbor, who was checking on her condition after the explosion. Leonard reportedly owned a white van that has been impounded by investigators. Shirley, who recently divorced her husband, had listed the home for sale earlier this year. According to McQuaid, an attempt by Shirley to sale the home in a short sale fell through after she failed to come up with $30,000. The National Transportation Safety Board earlier ruled out a gas main leak as the cause of the explosion. An attorney for Shirley disputed that finding, claiming that Citizens Energy was trying to shift blame for the explosion to his client.