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A Tale of Union Racketeering or How I Learned to Love the Hobbs Act

By Greg Stejskal
ticklethewire.com

Richard Debs was President of the United Auto Workers union local 1776. (No relation to Eugene V. Debs, the union organizer and socialist from the early 20th Century.) Debs had been the President of the local for 15 years in 1988. 1776 was the local representing the workers at the General Motors Willow Run assembly plant near Ypsilanti, Mich., where the Chevrolet Impalas were made.

Debs liked that job. And authorities suspected he was willing to harm people to keep it. But before I get into that, a little more about the Willow Run plant.

Willow Run was a massive industrial complex first developed by Ford during World War II to make the B24 Liberator bombers. At that time it was the largest assembly line facility in the world. At its peak it turned out a bomber every 55 minutes and was home to Rosie the Riveter. (The model for the iconic picture worked at the plant.)

After the war GM acquired the complex, GM expanded and converted it to an assembly plant and another plant to build the GM Hydra-matic transmissions.

During the waning halcyon days of the American auto industry, as president of a local, Debs had considerable power over a fiefdom that was comprised of all the workers at the assembly plant. Debs did not work at the plant, but rather administered the local from an office in a union building near the plant.

Because all GM plant jobs required UAW membership, Debs had the ability to influence hiring and to disperse jobs. He also had political power in the local community that derived from his position. There were also ample opportunities for corruption and graft to those so inclined.

Periodically UAW local officers have to stand for reelection, and there was to be an election in the spring of 1989. Debs was being challenged for the presidency by two other local members, Jesse Gray and Bob Harlow. Despite Debs 15 years as president, he was not universally well liked. Also he had recently been charged albeit acquitted in a Federal corruption case involving a local judge. (The judge and several others were convicted.)

In the fall of 1988, the FBI learned from a confidential informant (CI)that Debs had been attempting to hire some men to dissuade by violence Gray and Harlow from running against Debs. The source knew the identities of some of the men that had been approached by Debs, but he/she did not know whether anyone had agreed to Debs’ plan.

Although the CI’s information was deemed creditable, it was not clear whether Debs had progressed beyond the solicitation stage, and we did not want to jeopardize the CI.

It was decided the best course of action was to advise the Michigan State Police (MSP) and the potential victims of the information. We arranged to have Jesse Gray and Bob Harlow come to the MSP Post in Ypsilanti which was the Post responsible for the Willow Run complex.

Gray and Harlow were apprised of the alleged threat. They were also advised to take some precautions like avoiding predictable routines and varying the routes to and from work.

About a month after the meeting with Gray and Harlow, Gray was shot in the neck while driving to work in the early morning of December 29th. Gray was not killed, but multiple shots had been fired at his truck from a pickup as it passed him. Gray was unable to give more than a general description of the pickup. He thought there was more than one person in the pickup, but he could not provide any descriptions.

MSP did the crime scene investigation and was able to recover several spent 9mm slugs from Gray’s vehicle including the one that struck Gray. Although Gray’s wound was not life threatening, it was serious, and it had to be concluded the shooter was trying to kill Gray.

As a result of the shooting, Gray dropped out of the race for presidency of the UAW local. Bob Harlow decided to continue his effort to unseat Debs, but he confided that following our warning, he had varied his route to and from work. Gray had not.

MSP and the FBI began an investigation into the shooting. We interviewed Debs. He denied any involvement in the shooting, and said he and his wife were in Cleveland visiting family at the time of the shooting. Debs also denied soliciting anyone to do harm to either Gray or Harlow.

During the investigation we were hearing rumors about Debs having unusually close relationships with young men and boys. (That would foreshadow some future events.)

We interviewed one of the young men. (I’ll refer to him as John.) John said that Debs had befriended him and had given him money and gifts, but denied being asked by Debs to do harm to anyone. When asked about his whereabouts at the time of the shooting, John said he was in Cleveland with Debs.

John elaborated that late on the night of December 28th, Debs and his wife came to John’s apartment. Debs said he would pay John to drive them in Debs’ car to Cleveland.

They drove to Cleveland and arrived early in the morning on the 29th. Debs had John drop them off at a house. Debs told John to pick them up at 11:00 am. When John picked them up, Debs had John drive them back to Michigan. Debs never explained to John why he and his wife needed to go to Cleveland late at night and a few hours later return home.

As an investigator you question coincidences. Why would Debs seemingly on the spur of the moment decide to travel to Cleveland hours before the shooting of Jesse Gray and then return only hours after the shooting? I remembered an old adage from the Book of Proverbs: “The wicked flee when none pursueth….” (Proverbs 28:1)

In April, Debs was defeated by Bob Harlow for the presidency of local 1776.

It had been months since the shooting, and we weren’t any closer to identifying the shooters or tying Debs to the shooting. MSP had to cut back on their involvement. We had done most of the investigation and without new leads a resolution didn’t seem too promising.

We had interviewed some of the individuals the CI said had been approached by Debs to dissuade Gray and Harlow from running against him. All of them had been eliminated as the actual shooters.

We were able to confirm that 4 of the 5 men had been approached by Debs. He offered jobs and/or money to violently dissuade Gray and Harlow from running against him. All 4 had refused Debs’ offer. There hadn’t been any further discussion as to what specific violence Debs had in mind.

I came away from those interviews not enthusiastic with how creditable these 4 men would be to a jury. When you try to recruit some guys to commit felonies of violence, you don’t go looking for Eagle Scouts.

When I interviewed the 5th man Debs reportedly had contacted, he said Debs had made the same proposal to him that he made to the others. The 5th man, Larry Poore, said his initial response to Debs was he didn’t even know Bob Harlow. So Debs gave Poore a photo of Harlow. Poore told Debs he would think about it, but he said he never had any intention to do anything. Later he told Debs he didn’t want to do it.

As I was getting ready to leave Poore’s home, he asked me if I wanted the photo Debs had given him of Harlow – I hadn’t thought to ask. The photo had potential to be a great windfall. I very carefully placed the photo in an evidence envelope. The next day I sent the photo to the FBI Lab with a request that it be examined for fingerprints. Any latent fingerprints found would be compared with the fingerprints of Poore and Debs. I wasn’t optimistic, but it was worth a shot.

When I received the lab report, it stated there were only two legible fingerprints on the photo. One was Larry Poore’s, the other was Richard Debs. I felt like I had just drawn to an inside straight. We now had physical evidence to corroborate Poole’s account of Debs’ solicitation which indirectly corroborated the other 4 men’s similar statements.

I knew we still couldn’t prove Debs had any connection to the shooting of Jesse Gray, but we could show that Debs prior to the shooting had attempted or conspired to commit violence against Harlow and Gray. Because this conspiracy’s goal was to impede UAW members from running for office it denied the member electorate a choice. Also because a conspiracy was alleged the rules as to hearsay evidence didn’t apply to statements in furtherance of the conspiracy.

In late fall, 1989, a Federal Grand Jury returned a 4 count indictment charging Debs under the Hobbs Act (18 USC 1951) with having “solicited 5 different men to do wrongful violence against Bob Harlow and Jesse Gray” in an attempt to frighten them away from running against Debs for the UAW local presidency. (The Hobbs Act was enacted as a statute to combat racketeering in labor-management disputes and corruption directed at members of labor unions.)

A 4th count of the indictment actually charged that “Debs caused Jesse Gray to be shot for the purpose of inducing him and other union members not to oppose Debs in the 1989 election.” We knew we would have difficulty proving Debs involvement in the shooting, but by charging it, we could make the jury aware of the shooting and Debs’ coincidental “fleeing” to Cleveland.

Pursuant to the indictment we arrested Debs at his home. He was in bed and on his nightstand was a 38-caliber revolver. When we arraigned Debs, the government asked for detention, but he was released on a $25,000 bond despite the nature of the charges.

In September 1990, Debs pleaded guilty to one count of the indictment. Debs was allowed to stay on bond until his sentencing.

In November while awaiting sentencing, Debs was arrested and charged with 1st degree criminal sexual conduct after allegedly forcing a 12-year-old boy to perform oral sex on him. Now he would await sentencing in jail.

In January, Debs was sentenced to 4 years for the Hobbs Act violation. Ultimately Debs pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 15-30 years on the sex charge. Debs remained in prison until he died of natural causes.

Debs never admitted his involvement in the shooting of Jesse Gray, and the shooter(s) were never identified. But thanks to the Hobbs Act, at least as far as Debs was concerned, justice was served.

 

Dem Staff Report Says Top Justice Officials Did Not Give Green Light for Fast and Furious

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

A report issued late Monday night by the Democrats on the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform tries to debunk suggestions by Republicans that high level appointees at the Justice Department conceived and directed the very flawed ATF Operation Fast and Furious. It places the blame for the operation squarely on the agents in Phoenix.

“This report debunks many unsubstantiated conspiracy theories,” Representative Elijah E. Cummings (D-Md.), the top ranking Democrat,  wrote in a cover letter for the detailed report. “Contrary to repeated claims by some, the committee has obtained no evidence that Operation Fast and Furious was a politically motivated operation conceived and directed by high-level Obama administration political appointees at the Department of Justice.”

“The documents obtained and interviews conducted by the Committee indicate that it was the latest in a series of reckless and fatally flawed operations run by ATF’s Phoenix Field Division during both the previous and current administrations,” Cummings wrote.

The report counters repeated claims by Republicans like Committee Chair Darrell Issa (R-Calif) that top ranking Justice Dept. officials gave the green light for  Fast and Furious.  Under the operation, ATF’s Phoenix office encouraged gun dealers to sell to “straw purchasers”, all with the hopes of tracing the guns to the Mexican cartels.  Some of the weapons surfaced at crime scenes including at the murder scene in Arizona of Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry.  Many Republicans have called for Atty. Gen. Eric Holder and Lanny Breuer, head of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, to resign.

The report is expected to be met with skepticism by many Republicans and critics of ATF, which has come under intense scrutiny, and has undergone a major shakeup in management. Holder is scheduled to appear before Issa’s and Cumming’s committee on Thursday where he’s likely to get a grilling from the Republicans.

Cummings, who has sometimes been at odds with Issa over Fast and Furious, said in a press release  that the minority staff report was the result “of the Committee’s year-long investigation into the actions and circumstances that led to multiple gunwalking operations in Arizona from 2006 to 2010.”

Rep. Elijah Cummings/govt. photo

The report concludes that the ATF Phoenix office failed to use sufficient controls to stop weapons from getting into the hands of violent criminals.

“Although this report provides a great amount of detail about what we have learned to date, it has several shortcomings,” Cummings wrote in his letter. “Despite requests from me and others, the Committee never held a hearing or even conducted an interview with former Attorney General Michael Mukasey. The Committee obtained documents indicating that in 2007 he was personally informed about the failure of previous law enforcement operations involving the illegal smuggling of weapons into Mexico, and that he received a proposal to expand these operations. Since the Committee failed to speak with Mr. Mukasey, we do not have the benefit of his input about why these operations were allowed to continue after he was given this information.”

“The Committee also rejected my request to hold a public hearing with Kenneth Melson, the former Acting Director of ATF, the agency primarily responsible for these operations. Although Committee staff conducted an interview with Mr. Melson, the public has not had an opportunity to hear his explanations for why these operations continued for so many years without adequate oversight from ATF headquarters.”

The report states that in 2006, ATF agents in Phoenix initiated Operation Wide Receiver with the cooperation of a local gun dealer.

“For months, ATF agents watched in realtime as traffickers purchased guns and drove them across the border into Mexico,” the report states.

The report also states “that ATF’s former Acting Director, Kenneth Melson, and ATF’s Deputy Director, William Hoover, told Committee staff that gunwalking violated agency doctrine,that they did not approve it, and that they were not aware that ATF agents in Phoenix were using the tactic in Operation Fast and Furious. They also stated that, because they did not know about the use of gunwalking in Operation Fast and Furious, they never raised it up the chain of command to senior Justice Department officials.”

The report further stated: “Former Phoenix U.S. Attorney Dennis Burke told Committee staff that although he received multiple briefings on Operation Fast and Furious, he did not approve gunwalking, was not aware it was being used, and did not inform officials in Washington about its use.”

“He told Committee staff that, at the time he approved the proposal for a broader strategy targeting cartel leaders instead of straw purchasers, he had been informed that there was no probable cause to make any arrests and that he had been under the impression that ATF agents were working closely with Mexican officials to interdict weapons.”

The report goes on to state: “Gary Grindler, the former Acting Deputy Attorney General, and Lanny Breuer, the Assistant Attorney General for the Criminal Division, both stated that neither ATF nor the U.S. Attorney’s Office ever brought to their attention concerns about gunwalking in Operation Fast and Furious, and that, if they had been told, they ‘would have stopped it.’”

“When allegations of gunwalking three years earlier in Operation Wide Receiver were brought to the attention of Mr. Breuer in 2010, he immediately directed his deputy to share their concerns directly with ATF’s leadership. He testified, however, that he regretted not raising these concerns directly with the Attorney General or Deputy Attorney General, stating, “if I had known then what I know now, I, of course, would have told the Deputy and the Attorney General.”

“The Committee has obtained no evidence indicating that the Attorney General authorized gunwalking or that he was aware of such allegations before they became public. None of the 22 witnesses interviewed by the Committee claims to have spoken with the Attorney General about the specific tactics employed in Operation Fast and Furious prior to the public controversy.”

 

FBI’s Kids Page: Just Another Example of FBI Outdoing Other Agencies in the Public Relations Game

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

I remember years ago sitting at a banquet table at a retirement party for a U.S. Marshal in Detroit when the head of U.S. Customs in Detroit started talking about his school-aged son.

With some amusement, and a perhaps a drop of disappointment, he recounted how his son told people his dad worked for the FBI. Ouch.

I’m reminded of that story after looking on the FBI website and finding the “FBI Kids Page.”

Of all the federal law enforcement agencies, the FBI, hands down, has far outpaced others when it comes to public relations and promoting its image.

This is just another example of its efforts.

The feature is designed to educate children and teens and their parents about the workings of the agency.

“Follow a case from start to finish through the FBI Laboratory on our Kids Page,” the FBI website says.

“The page is designed for children and their parents to learn more about the FBI through age-appropriate games, tips, stories, and interactives. We also introduce you to our working dogs and show how FBI special agents and analysts investigate cases.”

I point this out, because I think some federal law enforcement agencies could do a much better job of dealing with the media and promoting their image.

Just a thought.

 

Republican Campaign Against Atty. Gen. Holder Ends Up Being Just Another Exercise in Partisan Politics

Atty. Gen. Eric Holder Jr./doj file photo

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

Partisan politics inside the Beltway has been around forever. That’s a given. Unfortunately, these days it has reached such ridiculous heights.

That being said, if the Republicans had been serious at all about pressuring Atty. Gen. Eric Holder Jr. to resign, they would have been a little smarter and tried to get some Democrats on board.

Instead, it ends up looking like another Republican opportunity to bash the Obama administration and its Justice Department.

So far, more than 60 members of Congress, along with two presidential hopefuls,  have called for Holder to resign. Not one is a Democrat.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying the Republicans’ campaign is even legitimate. Sure, Eric Holder should take some blame for the disastrous Operation Fast and Furious, but I don’t think there’s any evidence so far that he intentionally misled Congress as some are saying.  Simply put: Having no Dems on their side hurts the cause.

In the end, the attack-Holder campaign by the Republicans ends up being just another ugly exercise in partisan politics.

Santa’s Helper, a Giant Elf, a Cuban Inmate Uprising and the Salvation Army

By Greg Stejskal
ticklethewire.com

This is a Christmas story, but it really began just before Thanksgiving in 1987, at the Federal Penitentiary in Atlanta.

The Cuban inmates had rioted and had taken control of a sizeable portion of the penitentiary. The catalyst for the riots happened years before that in 1980.

The Mariel boatlift, a massive exodus of Cuban refugees from Cuba to the US, had among its refugees, convicted criminals. Fidel Castro had apparently thought the boatlift was an opportune time to decrease his prison over-crowding.

Upon arrival in the US those Cubans who were determined to be criminals were detained and placed in US penitentiaries with no clear plan as to what to do with them in the long term.

This uncertain future led predictably to unrest and ultimately to the prison riots.

When the inmates rioted and took control of part of the Atlanta Penitentiary, they also took some of the staff hostage.

The FBI was tasked with negotiating with the inmates and providing SWAT teams should it become necessary to retake control of the penitentiary by force and rescue the hostages.

SWAT teams from many of the large offices were called to respond to Atlanta. Our Detroit team was one of those teams.

So on a cold, rainy November night, an Air Force C-141, flying a circuit, landed at Detroit Metro Airport to pick up our team. Already on board were teams from Pittsburgh and Cleveland. We arrived in Atlanta early the next morning.

The Atlanta Penitentiary is a foreboding place. It was built in phases beginning in the late 1800s, into the first few decades of the 1900s.

It has 60-foot walls with watch towers on each corner. Upon our arrival we climbed to the top of one of the watch towers and looked down into the prison yard. It looked like a scene from a post-apocalyptic “Mad Max” movie.

Inmates were walking around the yard, all carrying homemade weapons: long-knives, swords, etc., made from scrap metal and sharpened on some of the prison machine tools.

After seeing that scene, we all assumed we were going to be in Atlanta for awhile. We knew we would prevail if it came to having to use force. After all they had made the critical tactical mistake of bringing knives to a gun fight. But they had hostages and a large supply of non-perishable food in their control.

The next morning I was walking to the Penitentiary administration building for the shift change briefing when I saw a tent where free coffee and Krispy Kreme donuts were being served. It was the Salvation Army tent. The Salvation Army was there every day of the insurrection including Thanksgiving serving coffee, donuts, smiles and kind words. I’ve been on a lot of SWAT operations, but I had never been offered coffee, donuts or kind words from the neighborhood in which we were operating.

Knowing the Salvation Army was there for us, had me thinking that I owed this selfless organization a debt – a pay it forward kind of thing.

The penitentiary insurrection was resolved peacefully after about two weeks. The key factor was that no social order was developed among the inmates just anarchy. They went through several months food supply in days. (There are a lot of good stories from the “siege” of the Atlanta Penitentiary, but those can be told another time.) We all went back to our respective homes.

I didn’t forget the Salvation Army’s generosity. I decided every holiday season for a few hours, I would volunteer to ring the bell and tend the red kettle in my hometown of Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Some years later, I was ringing the bell at a local super market with my wife. We had both donned our Santa hats and were wearing the Salvation Army issue red vests. It was snowing lightly, the Christmas lights were shining and Christmas carols were playing on the stores PA system.

We were at one door of the store greeting shoppers and collecting donations in our kettle, when all of a sudden there was a commotion at the other door.

A man ran out of the store. He was closely followed by two other men in white butcher smocks. The men in the smocks tackled the man in the parking lot. They were trying to hold him down, but he was struggling & screaming as they pulled several cuts of meat from under his coat. The erstwhile meat thief continued to yell, flail and kick.

I turned to my wife and said, “I should probably go help them.” I kept flex-cuffs (large heavy duty zip-ties) in my car. I grabbed some flex-cuffs, walked over and knelt next to the struggling man.

He was facing away from me. In my “soothing,” authoritative voice, that I used for arrests and reading someone their rights, I told him, we could let him up, but he needed to let me put these cuffs on him.

The man turned his head to look at me, and his eyes got very big.

I’m about 6’4” and weighed about 235 lbs. I had forgotten I was wearing a Santa hat and a big red vest. After staring at me for a few moments, he asked, “who are you?” I smiled and replied, “I’m Santa’s helper.”

He immediately stopped fighting and struggling. He submissively allowed me to place the cuffs on him. The butchers and I stood him up, and he placidly waited for the police to arrive.

I have often thought there might be some profound Dickens type message to be derived from this incident. I don’t know if the meat thief was stealing prime rib for his family, sort of a protein version of Jean Valjean, or maybe he was planning to host a barbecue at a homeless enclave.

There is certainly some irony in collecting donations for the Salvation Army at one door of a grocery store, and at the same time, to have an economically disadvantaged meat thief fleeing from the other door.

Maybe the message is as simple as, if you’re poor and hungry at Christmas time, there are places other than your local grocery store you can go that care, like the Salvation Army.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

 

Blago’s Biggest Crime: He Thought He Was Smarter Than All of Us

Blagojevich/file photo

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

Ok, so I wouldn’t have given ex-Ill. Gov. Rod Blagojevich 14 years in prison for his infinite arrogance and his corrupt ways. Ten or 12 would have sufficed.

That being said, I can’t say he didn’t deserve getting the toughest sentence of any crooked Illinois governor. He never stopped yapping and denying and lying. He went on Letterman and the View and the Daily Show and came up with more trash than a mobbed-up sanitation firm.

The worst part about it all is that he assumed we were all dumber than him.

It was obvious the sentencing Judge James Zagel wasn’t dumber than Blago. And it was easy to see from press reports from the two trials that the judge didn’t appreciate his shenanigans.

In Blago’s first trial, the prosecution screwed up. It made the case far too complicated for the jury. The jury came back with one conviction out of 24 counts. Blago and his attorneys had sense of enough not to put Blago on the stand.

But in the second trial, prosecutors convicted Blago on 17 of 20 counts. Blago took the stand — the arrogant guy that he is — hoping to dupe the jury. That didn’t work.

Blago turns 55 on Dec. 10. He’s set to report to prison in February. He’ll be gone a long long time.

I feel sorry for him. Even though he has a law degree and served in Congress and was governor, he wasn’t a very smart guy.

And the dumbest thing he did was assume he was a smart guy — smarter than all the rest of us.

A Letter to My Son on Moral Decisions in Light of Penn State

By Ross Parker
ticklethewire.com

Dear Son,

As your enthusiasm builds for leaving home and going off to college in a few months, I want to talk with you about having to make on-the-spot moral, legal, and social decisions when you are on your own.

As you know, the news has been filled with reports and commentary about the alleged incidents at Penn State involving former Defensive Coach Jerry Sandusky sexually molesting disadvantaged young boys who participated in his charity. He has denied the charges in the indictment, and due process of law will determine his guilt or innocence.

Up for discussion in the unforgiving public forum are the actions of Assistant Coach Mike McQueary who, on March 1, 2002 at 9:30 p.m., while he was a grad assistant entered the practice facility to obtain some video tapes to review. He heard noises from the shower area and went to investigate. According to reports of his grand jury testimony, he was “distraught” when he saw Sandusky raping a ten-year old boy.

It is unclear what happened next. McQueary apparently made no mention in the grand jury about intervening to save the child, but in the last couple days he has hinted that he forced Sandusky to stop. He then called his father, with whom he had a close relationship, for advice on what to do next. Then he contacted Coach Joe Paterno and reported the incident. Later he also told two other Athletic Department officials. These three, however, say that his report was not detailed enough to cause them to take further action of some kind.

It is clear that no one reported the crime to the police or to Child Protective Services. Allegedly Sandusky’s access to the children and the Penn State facilities was not restricted, and he inflicted other such assaults on children during the nine years that have followed. Both Paterno and McQueary continued to publicly support Sandusky’s charitable activities.

The public reaction to McQueary and Paterno has ranged from commendation to vilification. Paterno, probably the most revered football coach in America, was summarily fired and McQueary, perhaps because of his legal protection as a whistleblower, has been placed on paid administrative leave. Probably neither will have any connection to college football again.

The issue worth thinking about is whether McQueary’s response, whatever it was, presents a moral and legal lesson for the rest of us. In my generation a woman named Kitty Genovese was stabbed to death in New York’s Central Park while dozens failed to take action when they heard her cries for help. Social psychologists have labeled the phenomenon diffusion of responsibility or bystander effect, but the bottom line is that, when confronted with a moral imperative, people who could have saved her life failed to act.

McQueary has been showered with the moral opprobrium of the commentators who have assumed he failed to stop the assault. They have hastened to assure their listeners that they would have assuredly stepped up stopped the violence and called the cops. Jane Turner, an FBI psychological profiler who specializes in child sex crimes, however has indicated that in her experience most people would have walked away as McQueary is alleged to have done. Turner said:

“It takes enormous strength to put one’s moral integrity over your personal inclination to protect fellow colleagues who have committed malfeasance, or criminal activity. The FBI, like Penn State and the Catholic Church, are entities that allows their personnel to report allegations up a chain of command but those in positions of power or change, fail to take immediate or strong actions. It simply boils down to the fact that those in power have a stronger desire to preserve the reputation of their institution, than taking the road of truth or justice. Entities like Penn State, the Catholic Church and the FBI all share something in common; they operate in an insular world where rules or laws that apply to everyone else, do not apply to them.”

Early in my career as a prosecutor, my boss Len Gilman made it clear to us that our job was to do what was right even if we as individuals or our office had to pay the price of being embarrassed or worse. And a couple times we were.

Assume for the sake of this letter that Mike McQueary is neither a hero nor a villain but just a guy who hesitated, as a majority of others would have in 2002, when suddenly confronted with a terrible moral issue. Just a guy who knew that the price to be paid for more aggressive action would be to jeopardize the head coach he idolized, the powerful institution and football program to which he was so loyal, and the future he wanted so badly.

So he called his dad for guidance, then Joe Pa. And that apparently was it, for nine years, until it hit the fan, as it seems with increasing frequency to do. If we have learned nothing else from the massive tragedy that has so damaged the Catholic Church, it is that doing nothing, protecting people and institutions that seem so invulnerable at the time, will usually be disastrous for everyone concerned. And now a legend will die, a great university tarnished for a generation and saddled with millions of dollars of civil settlements, and an apparently otherwise fine young man’s dreams dashed forever. Worst of all, boys who had tough enough lives already were damaged by a man who should have been isolated so he couldn’t harm others.

Son, I hope you always have the luxury of time for meditation and parental guidance before you have to act on a moral issue. But if you don’t, consider this your father’s advice.

Demonstrate the courage I know you have to step up, do what is right, protect the vulnerable, call the police and support them in any way they ask. If there is a price to pay, we will share it together and you will be compensated by the respect of your family and friends.

Oh, and call your mother once in a while.

Dad

Response

 Charles Lutz is a retired DEA agent and Penn State University alum. His column is in response to a ticklethewire.com column by Ross Parker’s entitled: A Letter to My Son on Moral Decisions in Light of Penn State.
 
By Charles Lutz
For ticklethewire.com

 While I don’t disagree with Ross Parker’s advice to his son to always try to do the “right thing,” he has misstated the facts in making his case in his column “A letter to my Son on Moral Decisions in the Light of Penn State.”

For example, he says that once Joe Paterno, Athletic Director Tim Curley and Senior Vice President Gary Schultz learned of the alleged allegation by Graduate Assistant Mike McQueary that the three took no further action of any kind, and that Sandusky’s access to the children and the Penn State facilities were not restricted. That’s simply not true.

According to the Grand Jury Presentment, when Paterno learned of the incident from McQueary he reported it to his superiors, one of whom was in charge of the police department, which had jurisdiction for all crimes on campus. And when Curley and Shultz learned of the incident they banned Sandusky from bringing children into the locker room facilities, and reported the allegation to the Executive Director of Sandusky’s former charity, the Second Mile. It would have been fair for Ross to have said that he didn’t think what had been done was enough. But what was done was done was certainly more than nothing.

Further, Ross unfairly, in my opinion, accuses McQueary of doing nothing for nine years after making his report to Paterno, Curley and Schultz. But according to the Grand Jury Presentment, McQueary was informed of the actions taken against Sandusky, and that they had been approved by University President Graham Spanier. When McQueary was asked on the stand (at the preliminary hearing for the perjury charges against Curley and Schultz) why he didn’t go to the police, he said, “I thought I did (referring to Schultz).” I’m not sure what else a Graduate Assistant could have done.

Ross is quick to conclude, on his mistaken premise that Paterno, Curley and Schultz did nothing, that Sandusky was free to molest other children. But he fails to mention that during the more than two-year Grand Jury investigation of this allegation, these same facts, and allegations made by many other children, were well known to the Pennsylvania Attorney General (newly elected Governor), and the Commissioner of the Pennsylvania State Police, and that they did nothing to intervene on behalf of the children.

They could have indicted Sandusky on one felony count, exposed him, asked for legal restrictions on his activities with children, and superseded the indictment with the additional counts. But they chose not to do so. While they were quick to point the moral finger at Penn State officials, where were their moral compasses pointed? Perhaps Corbett didn’t want to rock the boat while he was running for Governor(?).

Parker’s Response

Ross Parker was chief of the criminal division in the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Detroit for 8 years and worked as an AUSA for 28 in that office. He is a regular columnist for ticklethewire.com.

By Ross Parker
ticklethewire.com

The fact is that exactly who did what and when in this alleged tragedy are hotly disputed subjects which will presumably be sorted out in court in the months ahead.

Neither of us were witnesses so each of us has relied on someone’s version. However, from what I can determine, the column’s assertion is accurate that Sandusky’s access was not restricted to children or to University facilities—except that about a month after the incident his keys to the locker room were taken away.

Coach Paterno did report to the appropriate officials two days after the incident. McQueary did report, in some fashion, to Coach Paterno and then to the Athletic Director and the Vice President for Finance and Business (who also oversaw the campus police), about ten days later when he was called to a meeting with them. Second Mile officials were told something about the incident, but Sandusky continued to be active in the organizationfor eight years.

If my brief and general rendition of the facts is unduly hard on the two coaches, who at least did do something, however limited, then I appreciate former Special Agent Lutz’s corrections of the record. But on the fundamental moral issue, the point is that, although everyone had to know that Sandusky continued to be actively involved with children, coaching, Second Mile activities, etc., no one acted to intervene beyond those initial discussions.

According to the Grand Jury Presentment, no one notified the University Police, the city or state police, or Child Protective Services. No one tried to protect or even identify the alleged child victim or to determine if there were others in need of counseling or protection.

 

Doing the Right Thing in the Penn State Scandal

As head of the FBI’s Ann Arbor office, Greg Stejskal got to know well the legendary University of Michigan football coach Bo Schembechler. Stejskal, who has retired from the FBI, gives his insights into the Penn State scandal and discusses how he thought Schembechler, who died in 2006, might have handled it.

The author (right) Greg Stejskal and Michigan coach Bo Schembechler

By Greg Stejskal
ticklethewire.com

“Do the Right Thing –Always,” Bo Schembechler

I want to preface this by saying, I was an admirer of Joe Paterno and Penn State football, which in my adult life have been synonymous. I don’t know Joe Paterno, but I know that he has been head coach at Penn State for 46 years and has been extremely successful, winning 409 games and two national championships.

Paterno achieved this seemingly without compromising sound values. His players were encouraged to be student-athletes with equal emphasis on the student part.

The football program’s slogan was “success with honor.” All of that including Paterno’s legacy is in jeopardy.

There was a seamy underside to all that success, Jerry Sandusky. Sandusky played for Paterno then became a coach. Ultimately, he was Penn State’s defensive coordinator (the face of Linebacker U). He was characterized as Paterno’s heir apparent. But if numerous allegations are to believed, Sandusky was, at least, as far back as the mid 90s, a child molester – using his position and its status to sexually abuse young boys.

Sandusky’s alleged transgressions go beyond despicable, but the issue for Paterno is what did he know, when did he know it and what did he do about it. According to the report of the Pennsylvania Grand Jury, that was investigating the allegations against Sandusky, in 1998 the Penn State police conducted an investigation regarding allegations that Sandusky was in involved in the molesting of young boys.

The case was presented to the local prosecuting attorney, but no charges were brought as a result of that investigation. (It is difficult to believe a case could be presented to the prosecutor without Paterno being aware of the investigation.)

Coincident with the conclusion of that investigation, Sandusky was informed by Paterno that he would not be Paterno’s successor as head coach. Following the 1999 football season, at the age of 55, Sandusky retired from the Penn State coaching staff.

I don’t know what caused Sandusky’s precipitous fall from grace, but the timing, at best, seems curious.

Although Sandusky was no longer on the Penn State coaching staff, he was still a member of the PSU faculty. He remained an Assistant Professor of Physical Education Emeritus with full access to Athletic Department facilities and other perks.

According to the Grand Jury report, March 1, 2002, Mike McQueary, a PSU football graduate assistant (now the wide-receiver coach) saw Sandusky sodomizing a young boy in the shower area of the football building. McQueary knew Sandusky andwas shocked and unsettled, but on the following day he reported what he had seen to Paterno. Paterno then told the Penn State Athletic Director, Tim Curley, of McQueary’s eyewitness account. Later McQueary would be interviewed by Curley and Penn State Senior Vice-President, Gary Schultz. It is not clear what further actions were taken as to Sandusky, but it is clear this incident was never reported to the police or child welfare authorities. Nor apparently was any action taken to identify the young boy or ascertain his welfare.

Sandusky retained his Assistant Professorship (He was listed in the faculty directory as recently as last week.) and his access to University facilities. According to the Grand Jury report, Sandusky’s abuse of young boys continued after 2002.

So did Paterno fulfill his responsibility as head football coach and as Sandusky’s former boss?

I don’t think it can be overstated the prestige and sheer clout that Paterno has at Penn State, but for whatever reason, he apparently never used any of that to further pursue the Sandusky matter or to inquire about the welfare of the alleged victims.

In comparison, I pose the hypothetical question: What would Bo Schembechler have done?

Bo is a man I did know. Bo was a legendary football coach at Michigan from 1969-1989 and a peer of Paterno.

To the best of my knowledge, Bo never had to deal with any of his staff being alleged child molesters.

He did have situations that required staff and players having to take responsibility for their acts even if it might reflect badly on Michigan, a place he loved and revered.

In 1987, the FBI was investigating two sports agents, Norby Walters and Lloyd Bloom, who had ties to organized crime. Walters and Bloom had worked up a scam where they bribed blue-chip college football players to sign post-dated, secret, agency contracts while they were still eligible to play college football – a clear violation of NCAA rules. Ultimately some of the players balked, threats were made by Walters and Bloom, and the whole thing fell apart.

Players who had signed the contracts were identified. They were all star players on prominent college teams. Two of the players were on Bo’s 1986 Michigan team.

When Bo found out, he was livid. He called one of the players, Garland Rivers, an All-American DB, into the office and had Rivers tell him the whole story.

Then Bo called me.

When I got to Bo’s office, Bo told Rivers “Tell this FBI agent everything about your relationship with Norby Walters.” Bo could have distanced himself and Michigan from the investigation.

Michigan would have been just one of many major football programs victimized by Walters and Bloom. But that wasn’t Bo. Damage control doesn’t mean hiding from the truth. It means taking responsibility for your actions and trying to rectify the mistakes.

Walters and Bloom had enticed his players to break the rules. They had besmirched Michigan. Bo knew he had to take a stand and do what he could to protect future players from illicit agents.

Later, when Walters and Bloom went on trial in Federal Court for racketeering and fraud, Bo testified. He was the star witness. His testimony was so strong, the defense declined to cross exam him. Walters and Bloom were convicted. What had been a dark moment in Michigan football history was a comeback win as important as any that had occurred on the field.

So what would Bo have done if faced with an assistant coach who was allegedly molesting young boys.

We’ll never know for sure, but I’m certain that he wouldn’t have just reported the allegations to his boss and done nothing else. Bo would have made sure the police were aware of the allegations. And that assistant coach would not have had access to Michigan athletic facilities or be emeritus anything.

It has been said that Paterno fulfilled his legal responsibility by reporting the allegations to the Penn State AD.

However, it would seem he did not fulfill his moral responsibility by making sure the allegations were pursued and, thus, protecting potential future victims.

We may never know why Paterno failed to pursue the Sandusky matter further. Perhaps Paterno didn’t do more out of a misguided effort to protect the reputation of Penn State, but if that was the motive, far more damage has been done to Penn State’s reputation than would have been done had this matter been fully confronted in 1998 or 2002.

Bo did not see degrees of honor and integrity. You either did the right thing or you didn’t – half way was unacceptable.