"MY, WHAT BIG TEETH YOU HAVE..."
The story of “Little Red Riding Hood” originated as a European fairy tale written by the French author Charles Perrault, and was later modified by The Brothers Grimm, among others. In reality, the story is more than a little dark and disturbing, and was unabashedly created as a cautionary tale of the consequences awaiting those who would ignore obvious signs of danger. Riding Hood is named after the scarlet hooded cape she wore, and certainly ‘Red’ had many wonderful characteristics, which ironically were also the very faults that ultimately (at least in Perrault’s original version) led to her final undoing.
Red Riding Hood’s faults?
She loved and was loved unconditionally: Her mother and grandmother lavished her with love and gifts and apparently doted on her, even gifting the girl with her eponymous red cover. This doting might have had the unintended result of Red’s apparent inability to recognize that the world outside her home and village was not as safe as the place she left.
She was Naïve: Even after being warned by her mother that the woods were dangerous, and instructed to stay ‘strictly on the path,’ Red skipped off with a basket of food for her ailing grandmother, blissfully unaware of the danger that lurked all around her.
She saw the best in everyone, and discounted the danger signs: As Red skipped toward Grandma’s house, she was stalked by the “Big, Bad Wolf,” who followed her from behind the camouflage of the trees. When he ultimately approached the little girl and asked where she was going, instead of recoiling at the sight of a wolf, Red innocently told him the truth, having no clue the evil acts the Wolf intended to perpetrate with that information.
She refused to attribute evil motives to others, because she could not fathom the evil: The Wolf enticed the innocent child to pick flowers for her grandmother in what seemed to be a loving suggestion. In reality, it was to delay the child so that prior to her arrival at grandma’s, he would have eaten the woman and devised an ambush for Red. What could be wrong with picking flowers for grandma?
As a result of the success of the Wolf’s deception, he got to grandma’s house ahead of Red and pretended to be her granddaughter. Then when grandma opened the door, the Wolf swallowed her whole, and set up the snare for the innocent girl. When the innocent Red arrived, she noticed that grandma looked somehow different.
“What a deep voice you have! And what big eyes you have!” She observed. “Goodness,” she later exclaimed, “What big hands and teeth you have!” She accepted the ridiculous lies uttered to cover her observations, “The better to see you with…” And it was at that point that the Wolf leapt out of bed and swallowed Red, as he had her grandmother.
In Perrault’s tale, the story ends there. The little girl is done in by her naïveté, optimism, goodness, and simple innocence. In the Grimm version, as well as French and traditional German versions, an alternate ending softens the blow for the reader, providing a lumberjack or a hunter to come to the rescue and cut open the wolf, releasing Riding Hood and her grandmother. Perrault’s story seems more authentic, however. It is ironic that after the original tale was written, others would want to soften the terrible consequences of evil people and dilute the very message of evil that the original writer aimed to warn against. Perrault must have turned in his grave.
The uniquely European tale of Little Red Riding Hood, though originally penned in 1697 by Charles Perrault, is neither obsolete nor dated. In fact, it is as modern and relevant as tomorrow’s newspaper. It is currently being retold in the case of Amanda Knox, a modern day Red Riding Hood.
On November 2, 2007, a naïve, idealistic and innocent American girl made a tragic mistake when she unexpectedly encountered a wolf on the trail, far from her own village. Instead of realizing the danger of her situation and how far she was from home, she remained where she was, even at the pleading of her mother to leave. This allowed the Wolves time to set a trap. Instead of recognizing that the prosecutor and police she dealt with were Wolves intent on devouring her, she remained in ‘the woods,’ confident that she was helping honorable people.
Amanda was pretty, well-raised, polite, courteous and compassionate. These qualities were exploited as vulnerabilities by the prosecutor, Giuliano Mignini, himself once sentenced to prison for malfeasance.
The Wolves took the information she gave them and used it to hurt others and swallow her whole. The people she was trying to help turned on her, and in one of the greatest travesties of justice in the modern world, they took Amanda’s words, twisted them, then created or “found” flawed, formulated and false evidence to convict her and her boyfriend of the murder of her best friend in Italy. A murder that all evidence proves was committed by a burglar well-known to the prosecutor.
In the original tale by Perrault, there was no rescue for the innocent little girl. The story ended when the evil wolf devoured her. Later, Continental and British versions of the story ended with the rescue of the poor girl at the last second. We are soon to see which ending of Amanda’s European tragedy we will see from Italy.
Why did Amanda not recognize the danger? For the same reason Red Riding Hood didn't recognize the Wolf. Evil often masquerades as good. Wolves don’t always show their ‘big teeth’ and ‘big eyes.’ Frequently, they present with soft words, warm smiles, and feigned concern. And who are most vulnerable to this ruse? Ironically, those among us that are the most innocent. How tragically ironic that innocence itself is used to force the mask of guilt on blameless people.
Charles Perrault wrote his stories less as entertainment than as cautionary tales. To ensure that no doubt was left regarding a story’s meaning, he explained them in detail. Of “Le Petit Chaperon Rouge,” known to us today as “Little Red Riding Hood,” Perrault explained as if reading from our headlines today:
“From this story one learns that children, especially young lasses; pretty, courteous and well-bred, do very wrong to listen to strangers, And it is not an unheard thing if the Wolf is thereby provided with his dinner. I say Wolf, for all wolves are not of the same sort; there is one kind with an amenable disposition – neither noisy, nor hateful, nor angry, but tame, obliging and gentle, following the young maids in the streets, even into their homes. Alas! Who does not know that these gentle wolves are of all such creatures the most dangerous!
WHO WILL STOP THE TANKS?
“Every man must decide whether he will walk in the light of creative altruism or in the darkness of destructive selfishness.”
--Martin Luther King, Jr.
Days before the horrible shots rang out, thousands of Chinese who sought nothing more than freedom converged on Tiananmen Square in Beijing to demonstrate for, among other things, the freedom to speak. They knew what they risked that warm June in 1989; it wasn’t police who showed up to disperse the group, it was soldiers and tanks. But the demonstrators did not disperse. In the end, hundreds or even thousands of these brave souls were shot and machine-gunned into silence. One man, however, galvanized the world with his selfless resistance. He will forever be known as “The Tank Man.” The photo of this man standing in front of a line of tanks, stopping their advance on the Square, somehow made everyone in the world a little stronger and braver.
The bravest people in the world are rarely found in governments, in the courts or even on the legal bench. The people who reside in such places are often those who have become most adept at swinging deals, of “give and take” and of compromise. No, the bravest men and women are most often found in Gulags, North Korean labor camps, or Chinese reeducation “centers.” Or in front of firing squads—or tanks. These people are in those places not just because of what they said, but because they refused to ‘unsay’ it. Most could have capitulated and remained, if not free, at least safe.
Like millions of people throughout history who refused to betray their faith, their ideals or their countrymen, they knew that when you betray the truth, you betray not just yourself, but all those who share that truth and have fought for it shoulder to shoulder with you. They echo the truth spoken by Benjamin Franklin two hundred years ago;
“He who would trade liberty for some temporary security,
deserves neither liberty nor security.”
I would add:
“He who would trade anybody else’s liberty for some temporary
security, deserves neither liberty nor security.”
From newspapers, from op eds, from Italian victims and from international judicial review bodies we hear that there is tyranny today in Italy and it resides in the judicial system. This is the same system that recently sentenced six seismologists to prison for failing to predict an earthquake—a feat that science still regards as impossible.
This is the same judicial system that exonerated a man for the rape of an 18 year old girl because she was wearing tight jeans, which the court opined could not have been removed without the girl’s assistance. Therefore, the rape, I mean sex, had to be consensual. This was the decision of the Italian Supreme Court, not a college fraternity ethics committee. The decisions of the courts, the inconceivable reasoning, and the contorted logic validates the general perception that the Italian judicial system is largely an archaic, byzantine, misogynistic 'good-old-boy' network which depends on coercion, superstition and political deals to achieve their ends. Few people with knowledge of the Italian system (and who are not a part of it) would dispute that statement. There are, of course, notable exceptions and honorable judges, but as a rule, ‘Italian justice’ is a contradiction in terms. It remains that way because nobody has yet stood in front of the tanks.
It is not politically expedient for the Italian judicial system to endorse the truth of Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito’s innocence, because it will expose police and judicial misconduct, perjury, and evidence tampering. It will, they believe, embarrass “the system,” and hurt national prestige. (Not realizing that their current strategy is devastating their global credibility.) While Knox remains safely (or so it is hoped) ensconced in a country where evidence and rule of law win out in the vast majority of cases, Sollecito remains under Italian control, awaiting his fate. And Sollecito is apparently the system's best hope of saving face.
Sollecito has, of course, steadfastly held to the truth that he and Amanda were together the night that burglar Rudy Guede slaughtered Meredith Kercher, stole her money, keys and phone, then danced and bought drinks with her money until 4:30 a.m. before fleeing to Germany—again using Meredith’s money. The Italians need Sollecito to say Amanda wasn’t with him the night of the murder; or have him at least allow the possibility she might not have been with him. Though he has steadfastly stated that she was with him, it seems like so little to ask. But it could steal twenty two years of an innocent woman’s life.
During four years in prison, Raffaele never wavered in his dedication to the truth and to his and Amanda’s innocence. This was bravery, this was honor. After his exoneration, Raffaele co-wrote a book entitled “Honor Bound,” in which he defined his unfailing defense of Amanda and the truth as “honor” in the face of extortionate pressure to change his story. The pressure came both from the Italian judicial system and his family to turn on Amanda and lie; destroying her “alibi” in return for his freedom. According to Raffaele's own book, since the first days of the horrible case, his family has chosen the easy way out--capitulate to the corrupt prosecution, perjure yourself and escape.He never did so. I have always admired him for that and always will.
While working on “Honor Bound,” Raffaele stayed in my home with my family and me for a short time. He is a delightful, gentle, intelligent young man and we enjoyed his visit, as well as visiting with his family. At that time, we thought the horrendous ordeal was over and that tyranny had been held at bay by truth, honor and bravery. But now the Sword of Damocles over Raffaele’s head has returned. In a stunning move, the Italian courts overturned the innocent verdicts of Sollecito and Knox (something legally impossible in most western or otherwise civilized nations), and are now -- according to well-placed sources--pressuring Raffaele to separate his defense from Amanda’s. The purpose is obvious; once separated, they can use Raffaele against Amanda. And this time, there are indications that Raffaele’s strength to resist may be waning. After all this time, why lose courage now? I might have an insight.
In 1996, I was diagnosed with cancer. I went through a year of particularly rigorous chemotherapy that was almost miraculously successful. In the years that followed, though, I had to face the threat of possible renewed chemotherapy, and not once did I believe I had the strength to go through it again. Returning to chemo is much more psychologically difficult than starting it the first time—because after the first time you know what you’re in for. I decided that the only reason I would endure chemotherapy again was for the benefit of my family. Returning to prison is likely the same. What was “doable” for Raffaele once, is likely inconceivable to him now.
Now, many in Raffaele’s family, two aunts and a sister in particular, have turned on Amanda (and her supporters) with inexplicable malice and ignoble vitriol, apparently in hopes of trading the freedom of their innocent loved one for the freedom of someone else’s innocent child. Raffaele remains largely silent in Amanda’s defense and the defense of his own supporters against the lies of his family, and one wonders whether he has the strength left to continue to fight the tyranny of the Italian judicial system or his family. Ironically, the women in Raffaele’s family seem to have taken control of him, while simultaneously complaining that he was easily manipulated by a woman.
Certainly, though my wife, my family and I have suffered dearly as a result of our defense of Amanda and Raffaele, I cannot claim to have as much at risk as he does. I am often asked what I would do if I was in his situation. I can tell you truthfully that I don’t know. But I can tell you equally truthfully that I know what “right” is, and what I hope I would do: Fight the tyranny, not just for himself, not just for Amanda, but for the hundreds and thousands who come after him. Raffaele was incarcerated partially because in the decades before his unjust persecution, others capitulated rather than risk the consequences of fighting the tyranny—and they bear partial responsibility for what happened to him. Absent adherence to what is right, the tyranny gains strength from the capitulation of others. It is a vampire which feeds on fear.
But really, the question of what I or anybody else would do in the same situation is a red herring. It’s a misdirection intended to change the subject from the topic of “what is right,” to “what is excusable.” The difference between the two is immense. Ultimately, one doesn’t have to be in someone’s shoes to know what is right or wrong. In fact, frequently, being a healthy distance away endows one with a clearer vision of right and wrong. When the Titanic was sinking, some men dressed as women to board life boats. At the time, some men were able to rationalize that atrocity. Whether or not others would have done the same thing has no bearing on whether the act was right or wrong.
We build monuments to those who stand up to tyranny and injustice. We do so not simply in admiration of their character but because they made the world better. These are people who went to jail—or died, because they refused to be complicit anymore in the tyranny and injustice under which they were forced to live. Rosa Parks, Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela, are among that group. No monuments are raised to those who capitulate. Their memory lives on only as cautions against human failure.
Whether Italian judicial pressure and the threat of more than twenty years in prison ultimately causes an innocent man to implicate an innocent woman in a crime with which neither had anything to do, remains to be seen. But if it happens, it doesn’t change the truth, it simply weighs Italy’s justice system a little lower in the muck. In 1968, Martin Luther King was assassinated because of his fight for freedom and equal rights for African Americans. The year he died, he summed up his decision not to accept injustice;
“A nation or civilization that continues to produce soft-minded men
purchases its own spiritual death on the installment plan.”
When a person capitulates to save themselves from incarceration, only half of that person remains free. That part of themselves that houses weakness and self-interest escapes prison and remains with them forever. Their courage and their ideals, however, hear the doors to the prison clang behind them, never to return. In nations where this is allowed to happen, the innocent fill the prisons, and the guilty roam the streets. Still, I do not believe Italy has any intention of imprisoning Sollecito for a crime most rational people understand was committed by Rudy Guede, alone.
I, at least five other retired FBI agents, many DNA scientists and dozens of other subject-matter experts have seen the evidence in the Kercher murder and know the truth. In reality, it's not a complicated case. Only the investigation was (unnecessarily) complicated. The evidence proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that Raffaele and Amanda are completely innocent and while I hurt for Raffaele, I will never, never turn on the truth. I will champion Raffaele and Amanda's innocence and oppose what I know to be lies, regardless of the reason(s) they are told or who tells them.
It was such wonderful times celebrating the “Not Guilty” verdicts with Raffaele, his family, and those who put their lives and livelihood on the line in Raffaele’s and Amanda’s defense. But, as Dr. King once again so perfectly summed-up,
“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands
in moments of comfort and convenience,
but where he stands at times of
challenge and controversy.”
The Raffaele I know would never betray the truth. In his heart, in his soul, he is an honest man dedicated to what is right and what is true. The Raffaele I know would never cede control of his life and future to his family and his lawyer. But every man has his limits. It is his choice now to either to rise to the occasion and fight injustice, or cave to blackmail and become part of it. I remember going to dinner one night, just Raffaele and me, and he mused aloud, “Why do [the Italian courts] get away with things like this?” I responded then as I do now; “Because people allow them to. Because people give in to extortion.”
It is now, ultimately, that Raffaele faces his denouement. I maintain my confidence in his character. Regardless, the world will soon learn whether he still has the courage to step in front of the tanks, or whether he has become an obsequious extension of the four women in his life and his father. If the latter is true, the answer to how the Italian courts "get away" with injustice will be found in his own mirror, and we will all watch in horrified sadness as honor is bound.
In the western world, anonymity is rightly regarded with suspicion. Newspapers refuse to publish anonymous letters to the editor, and little explanation is needed to explain this policy. It’s also a common understanding that people in masks are generally trying to do something illicit and not get caught. The Ku Klux Klan didn't wear masks because they were feeding the homeless.
In every human being, there is a distrust of anonymity ingrained in our DNA. The U.S. Constitution as well as English Common Law looks very dimly on anonymous witnesses and anonymously provided evidence—and for good reason. Unless one is allowed to “confront the witness,” the person’s veracity, motives and integrity are a complete mystery. Anonymity is the tool of anarchy, totalitarianism and hatred.
The Internet, sadly, has revolutionized anonymity. From consequences-free porn (men no longer have to go to the back area of a video store hoping not to be seen by someone they know) to the Aryan Nations hate site "Stormfront," new and more disgusting uses have been found for anonymity, and the means to hide from responsibility have multiplied exponentially.
More and more, we are seeing large groups of anonymous people spewing hate, lies and misinformation on the Internet—baseless accusations which could take the lives of innocent people as surely as similar lies did in the Salem Witch Trials. In the Amanda Knox case, an American woman and an Italian man, both clearly innocent, are continually vilified, demonized and caricatured by individuals and/or groups too cowardly to use their own name(s) in defense of a victim they claim they would (otherwise) lay their lives down for.
Those with legitimate expertise, insight or knowledge on a case or issue would benefit from revealing their identity. Would President Bill Clinton comment on a government policy anonymously, when his very name and experience commands respect and ensures his opinions a hearing? Of course not.
The fact that a person or persons hide behind an avatar and a fanciful moniker is in and of itself evidence that they know that their real identity would compromise their credibility. In other words, if we knew who they were, we would immediately disregard anything they said. In the Knox case, it’s people like the obsessive poster “Harry Rag” who spends so much of his time spewing hate and lies at Amanda Knox and her supporters that one wonders how he(?) keeps a job, if indeed he’s one person and not a persona created by a firm hired by prosecution attorneys. The fact that “he” sent rank pornography to my wife simply because she disagreed with him leads me to believe he is more likely a sick male than a rational committee. I regularly get hate mail from these anonymous trolls on this very website. Not once has any of them discussed actual case facts. Instead, they comment on my physical appearance (a favorite of theirs) and call me the most vile names--anonymously. Which is why it doesn’t bother me.
But how do they get away with this? They get away with it only when we or anybody else give credence to a single word they utter, type or print. Regardless of their argument, their stated position or their claimed knowledge, the fact is that these entities could be anybody. They could be blogging from a half-way house for sex offenders, or from the recreation room at an inpatient mental facility. Or, they could be groups of people at a public relations firm hired by those with a financial interest in the outcome of a particular trial. Regardless of which it is, it’s time society ignored those who do not have the courage of conviction to even stamp their opinions with their own name.
'If there's no evidence against her, she's obviously guilty.'
For months we have waited for the Italian appellate court in Florence to provide its “motivations” for their startling decision to overturn the unanimous October 2011 innocent verdicts of Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito. The appellate court had the exact same evidence in front of them as did the court which exonerated the two, with the addition of several pieces of evidence that even further bolstered the innocence of Knox and Sollecito. But unimaginably, the Florence court (apparently at the behest of the Italian Court of Cassation) convicted them. And all it took was the suspension of natural law.
The motivation document (in Italian jurisprudence) attempts to explain the decision of the court. This document is in, and after hearing only the first assertion of the translated report, I can tell you that just that one argument has convinced me. Guilty is the proper verdict. I have never seen a more convincing, clear and irrefutable document. “Guilty” of a crime which still victimizes Meredith Kercher and her family. Guilty of a crime which is as old as mankind itself, and tears at the fabric of society: The court of Alessandro Nencini is guilty of Judicial Corruption.
The “motivation” document produced by Judge Nencini alleges that Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito were able to do something that no criminal in the history of mankind has ever before been able to accomplish: Selectively clean up their own invisible DNA, leaving only the DNA of the man they wished to “frame.” To do so, they obviously had to possess the power to see DNA with their naked eyes, know whose it was (something the first Italian court famously couldn’t do with microscopes), and remove only their own. And most importantly, they had to clean the DNA from a bloody room without leaving a mark where the blood had been disturbed. This is like removing the underlying primer coat from a car’s paint without disturbing the paint job itself. It’s like doing a heart transplant through a sweat gland. It’s like removing Jesus from DaVinci’s masterpiece, “The Last Supper,” without anybody noticing. Even Batman’s foes never achieved this level of sophistication. You have to give Amanda and Raffaele credit for ingenuity. Or the Italian court credit for imagination.
Here is a rough translation of the court's logic with my underlined comments.
"It has been much discussed, especially by the defense of the defendants, whether a “selective” clean-up of the crime scene is possible by the authors of the crime. This possibility was denied on the basis of the empirical impossibility of a “naked eye” to identify and select the singular traces, often invisible, to destroy. It was also excluded that someone in the cottage of Via della Pergola, on the night between November 1st and 2nd, 2007, after having committed the murder of Meredith Kercher, could “selectively clean” the traces left by the authors of the crime, destroying all of the traces of the defendants in question, and leaving at the crime scene all of those traces that would have lead investigators to Rudy Hermann Guede."
[Translation: Yes, we have heard for years that selective cleaning of DNA at a crime scene is an "impossibility," and people simply can't "see" DNA with the naked eye. We get that. But then how is it possible that Amanda and Raffaele's DNA weren't present at the place they killed Meredith?]
"The affirmation, if apparently agreeable theoretically, must be correlated with the case in question, of which there are certain peculiarities."
[Translation: Even if it's theoretically impossible, we must look at this impossibility in relation to this case.]
" It is peculiar, for example, that no traces of Amanda Marie Knox were found in the cottage of Via Della Pergola if not those which are refer-able to the murder."
[Translation: It is peculiar that no traces of Amanda Knox were found in the cottage in which she lived. That would be peculiar if the statement was true--but it's not. There were many traces of Amanda in the cottage--that were admitted into evidence. Just none in the victim's room where the murder occurred. How he can get away with that lie is a mystery.]
"The Court retains that in fulfilling its duty, it must limit itself to a reasoning that is founded upon objective facts;"
[Just not SCIENTIFIC facts]
"An argument characteristically objective that emerged procedurally was evidence that, after the murder of Meredith Kercher, selective or not, there was a clean-up of the traces of the murder, and a maneuvering of the body of poor Meredith into a position (between the armoire and the wall of the room and covered by a duvet)"
[None of which is supported by a scintilla of physical evidence or testimony]
"...that certainly doesn’t correspond with the position in which the girl died, at the end of the aggressive phase. Someone spent much time within the cottage on the night between November 1st and 2nd, 2007, altering the crime scene and destroying numerous traces."
[Without leaving evidence of doing so.]
"The evidence provided by the Scientific Police proves this incontestable truth, which the reasoning must take into consideration."
[Translation: Amanda and Raffaele, if they killed Meredith, would have left behind evidence of their presence. But no evidence of their presence was there. This is a problem. So....]
1. Either it is possible (against scientific fact) to selectively clean DNA, or Amanda and Raffaele are innocent.
2. We have already decided that Amanda and Raffaele are guilty.
3. Therefore, the only conclusion left is that it MUST be possible to selectively clean DNA from a crime scene.
Extra credit: Without using blood stains of the victim; locate 3 separate DNA profiles in this photo (identify DNA donor by first and last name), circle their location. Show your work. You have five minutes.
This "logic" is mind-blowing and simply shameful. In order to believe these court motivations, one is required to believe the impossible. This is not an unprecedented requirement in Italian courts. In 2012, a court in L’Aquila, Italy suspended reality and convicted six seismologists of manslaughter for not predicting a killer earthquake. The fact that no earthquake in human history has ever been accurately predicted did not cause the court pause. Or embarrassment. Or shame. The seismologists were sentenced to 6 years in prison, each.
There are only two explanations for arguing the impossible in the motivations: Idiocy or corruption.
I reject the idiocy argument. No human being who possesses the intelligence to study law and rise to sit on a judicial bench, could look at this crime scene and believe the argument of selective and undetectable microscopic cleaning. In fact, I suspect that Nencini, rather than being an imbecile, is quite politically savvy.
No, this is a pre-determined court decision, made in contravention of science and every piece of reliable evidence. What’s the word for that?
Why did they convict? Ah, that’s where the report’s title “Motivations” is a misnomer. For it simply tells us ‘how’ and ‘what’ of the corruption, but not the ‘why.’ Ironically, the “motivations” report ignores the real motivations of the court in framing Amanda and Raffaele. Likely, it involves embarrassment, nationalism, anti-Americanism, money, protectionism or provincialism, or a combination of several. But the ‘why’ is less important than the corruption itself.
The only “idiocy” which manifests itself in this travesty is the belief that the world will look at this decision and not instantly recognize it for what it is—thuggery. It is the kind of idiocy that allows Kim Jung Un to believe that people outside of North Korea accept that he is a beloved leader because his people sing his praises. He hopes we don't notice that they do so at gunpoint. It is the idiocy of a basic underestimation of the reasonableness of the rest of the world. It is also provincialism.
One of the court’s statements says; “It is not believable that a group sexual intercourse had started. This hypothesis is not consistent with the personality of the English girl.” That it was equally (and demonstrably) inconsistent with the personality of the American girl apparently did not matter. It just didn’t register on the court’s Richter scale. This kind of provincialism is Donald Sterling-quality prejudice masquerading as legal jargon. Don't confuse official language with truth. Al Capone gave out business cards which said he was a "Used Furniture Dealer."
The vast majority of Italians with whom I regularly correspond fight for real justice and reject this verdict, hoped it wouldn’t come, but ultimately suspected it might. Likely, they just didn’t expect that it would be this outlandish. They are doing what they can to fight a corrupt system, and I admire them. But there are limits to what you can achieve when one side has the ability to suspend scientific reality at will.
When decisions are repeatedly handed down which fly in the face of science and known fact, and innocents are imprisoned apparently to protect cronies or institutions, it results in an appearance of third-world corruption, or mafia tactics. This primitive, crude and dishonorable verdict is more evidence of a cancer undeserved by the fine people of Italy, a country which was the first to bring the hope of justice for the common man to the entire world.
This unprincipled decision has shaken, and will continue to shake to the core the world’s belief in the justice of Italy's legal system. And we saw it coming. You know, maybe the court in L’Aquila got it right after all. Maybe earthquakes are predictable.
Damage done to Italian courts by L'Aquila earthquake and Knox verdicts.
AND THE FAMILIES OF VICTIMS:
A DELICATE BALANCE
With the recent discovery of evidence of the possible identity of vehement, frequently malicious, and obsessive anti-Amanda Knox blogger “Harry Rag,” I think it is prudent to discuss, with great respect and care, the issue of ‘victim families.’ This article, however, will not take sides on the claims and counter-claims of the identity of Harry Rag.
In the FBI cases that I investigated, supervised, or on which I assisted, the family members of dozens upon dozens upon dozens of victims had to deal with the tragic and unfathomable loss of their children, their brothers and sisters and/or other relatives. I dealt personally with many of those grievously wounded souls and my heart still goes out to them for their bravery, their strength and the sheer will it took for them just to get out of bed every day.
However, regardless of any law enforcement officer’s empathy for the victim’s family, absent their role as potential witnesses, family members should never, ever be allowed to become actively involved in the investigation and prosecution of suspects. Why? For the same reason a doctor should never operate on his own child: Potential lack of both perspective and emotional detachment.
The American Medical Association’s (AMA’s) Code of Medical Ethics states that physicians should not treat themselves, “or members of their immediate families.” The American College of Physicians Ethics Manual states; “Physicians should avoid treating….close friends or members of their own family.”
Why? Is there any doubt that the doctor would give his or her best effort? Do they fear that the doctor in such a situation would scrimp on care? Cut corners? Obviously not. Then why the prohibition? That answer is found in the dichotomous relationship between reason and emotion. In short, emotion can lead to mistakes; tragic and irreversible mistakes. Emotion may arise from the consideration of logic, but logic rarely, if ever, derives from emotion.
As a teenager, I worked at a store with a fine man named Joe Perez. Joe had three children he adored. One Saturday afternoon, Joe and his wife took the kids to the lake. All three kids went swimming, but one of them began to have trouble getting back to shore. Joe saw the child in difficulty and streaked into the water to save him. But Joe couldn’t swim. A lifeguard pulled the child to safety then went back for Joe, but he had already drowned. Joe is my hero for his emotion, his bravery and love of his child. But his lack of detachment kept him from waiting for a lifeguard, and doomed that very same son to grow up without the awesome father that Joe was. Joe’s best intentions hurt everyone he loved.
The only thing that can give a victim’s family any measure of comfort—even if tiny in comparison to their overwhelming loss—is a kind of closure; the finding and the punishing of the person who hurt their loved one. And this is where involvement in an investigation by a victim family is the most problematic. Their need for closure is sometimes as urgent as our need for the next lungful of air. It frequently causes them to fixate on the first suspect and be reluctant to accept evidence that might clear that suspect. Why is that?
Anybody who has raised ducks know that upon hatching, new ducklings will bond to the first biological entity they see, believing it is their mother—unless immediate and forceful action is taken. This phenomenon is called “imprinting.” They will choose humans, dogs, cats, or even (in lab tests) inanimate objects, as their “mother.”
People imprint, also. Many men and women imprint on their “first love.” If that first love was a thin, redheaded young woman, a man may find himself dating a lot of slight, redheaded women throughout his life. A recent study even postulates that many people even “imprint” on the type of computer they first used. Mac users stay Mac, and PC users are PC people—and discount or ignore evidence which might prove them wrong.
According to unimpeachable source Wikipedia:
"Imprinting is the term used in psychology and ethology to describe any kind of phase-sensitive learning (learning occurring at a particular age or a particular life stage) that is rapid and apparently independent of the consequences of behavior."
Family members who learn that their loved one has been murdered have entered “phase-sensitive learning” much the same way as newly diagnosed cancer patients. Both are going to learn a lot about subjects they never hoped to. It is in this type of critical phase that “rapid” imprint occurs, frequently “independent of the consequences of behavior.”
In some cancer patients, you see this in steadfast refusal to undergo standard, “best-chances” treatment in favor of unsubstantiated “cure” claims of holistic medicine or quack cures.
The families of murder victims frequently “imprint” on the first suspect in their loved-one’s killing. They immediately foist all of their loathing, their vengeance and as much pain as they can on that suspect, and I can tell you from experience, they hold on to that “suspect as the killer” with all their might. They do so because changing their minds means giving up the closure they had obtained, and taking back some of their cruel pain, their loathing and their vengeance. And if the investigator was the one who leaked the name of the first (now discredited) suspect, he or she owns some of the family’s pain. It is simply cruel to allow the family to live through the ups and downs of a typical investigation.
Do all victim families imprint or lack detachment? Obviously not. Sometimes the duckling is right. But the duckling will never know for sure, and the consequences of being wrong are deadly serious.
There have been many, many instances in which the police have leaked the identity of the suspected killer to victim family members, who then found and killed the suspect. In 1984, a man named Gary Plauche gunned down (as TV cameras rolled) the accused molester of his 11-year-old son as he was returned to Louisiana to stand trial. Once again, emotion trumped reason. Loss certainly does not authorize vigilantism.
It’s not impossible for the once-imprinted to change their beliefs. Carol Dodge, the mother of murder victim Angie Dodge, initially believed that the man that the police arrested for the crime, Christopher Tapp, was guilty of the murder. She spoke of how just looking at Tapp filled her with revulsion and loathing. But now, years later, after further evidence has surfaced, Carol no longer believes that Tapp is guilty. It’s not because she suddenly established a relationship with Tapp and felt sorry for him, it's because she knows that as long as Christopher Tapp is in prison for a murder he did not commit, her daughter’s murderer has gotten away with it.
Another problematic phenomenon of involving the victim’s family is their sudden “expertise” in forensics and criminal investigations. In an attempt to feel less helpless and even come to grips with the investigation, they study, they learn and they frequently attempt to insert themselves into the case. I can empathize. When I was diagnosed with cancer in 1996, I learned more about medicine in the first six months than I have learned in the rest of my life combined. As much as I felt like an expert—and could even give myself injections, etc.—I was fooling myself if I believed that I was a doctor. I realized my mistake when I began arguing with my oncologist about treatment after I had studied on the Internet. His response brought me back to reality: “A doctor who treats himself has a fool for a patient.”
But why does all this matter today? It matters in light of the possible identity of angry blogger “Harry Rag,” and the resultant (potential) involvement of at least one member of the family of murder victim Meredith Kercher in the repeated trials of Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito.
First, such involvement might explain why in a murder case where three individuals were brought forward by the Italians as suspects, two are hated and one ignored, and the one who is ignored is the only one who admits (literally) that he had Meredith’s blood on his hands. Why is the hate for the suspected killers aimed at the most unlikely suspect, Amanda Knox, while the most obvious suspect, Rudy Guede is ignored? Because Amanda was the first arrested, the first publicly humiliated, and the imprinting was fait accompli by the time Rudy was arrested weeks later. By the time the evidence of Amanda and Raffaele’s innocence surfaced, the damage had been done.
As Mark Twain famously said, “It’s easier to fool people than to convince them that they have been fooled.”
Secondarily, it matters because of an anonymous individual who calls ‘himself’ (if we are to believe his claims of being male) “Harry Rag.” After years of literally obsessive and hateful rants (interspersed with rare moments of civility and debate), I discussed Harry’s posts with a psychologist friend of mine who opined that he had never seen someone “not directly related to the victim” who maintained such a vociferous and personal interest in the crime.
Recent revelations do apparently give credence, if not proof, to the belief of many that Harry Rag is in reality a member of the immediate family of Meredith Kercher; namely, her brother John Kercher, Jr., an employee of the BBC. ‘Harry’ has done nothing to disprove the allegations except to offer denials entirely unsupported by evidence. His refusal to end such speculation by simply identifying himself is particularly perplexing, and if he is not John Kercher, Jr., equally damaging to the people he attempts to defend.
However, if Harry Rag is indeed a member of the Kercher family, it would very well illustrate the validity of ensuring detachment between victim families and the legal system. If Harry Rag is a Kercher, then he has been attempting to influence public opinion without the ethical obligation of disclosing his very personal emotional involvement and potential bias regarding the case. He has claimed investigative and scientific prowess above and beyond career investigators and forensic scientists.
If he is not a Kercher, then “Harry Rag” owes it to that family to end the speculation and spare the family the embarrassment of being linked to his boorish ramblings.
Harry Rag has not been a spectator, nor do his actions meet any definition of “dignified silence.” Indeed, he has tried to professionally harm those who believe Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito innocent by—among other actions—contacting their employers and making malicious claims. He has engaged in some of the most obscene, hateful and undignified communications I have had the displeasure of witnessing on the Internet—much of it addressed to my family.
If it is ultimately proven that Harry Rag is a member of Meredith’s family, then he should be afforded sympathy, understanding and forgiveness for his actions. He has sustained a loss none of us can fathom and would wish on no person.
But loss is not license to engage in any behavior a person wishes.
Glenglassaugh (glen GLASS’ uch) is a single-malt Scotch that I suspect few if any of us have ever tasted. I say this not because I believe we are Philistines (I certainly don’t), but because Glenglassaugh is so expensive and rare. This fine Scotch comes from the Speyside region of the Scottish Highlands where the barley and the water are so unique and superb that they are de rigueur for the finest Scotch distilleries.
For those less versed in Scotch, “single-malt” is the variation of Scotch that derives from a single aged oak barrel, rather than a mixture of the contents of several barrels, which is how other Scotches are blended. Blending multiple barrels is a technique used to bring up the overall quality of a year’s production by mixing good barrels with poorer barrels. Single-malt barrels, in contrast, are chosen specifically for their superior quality and are kept ‘virgin’ in order not to dilute their excellence. They are identified early in the aging process and regularly moved into different aging locations to change temperature and humidity to perfect the cask as the years go on. After a minimum of three years, the Scotch may legally be called Scotch (as long as it’s made in Scotland, of course) and it may be bottled. However, three years is hardly enough for single-malt. Many of Glenglassaugh’s single-malts are aged for decades and cost over $150 per bottle. You can even buy a full barrel (un-aged at purchase) for a mere $7,500 and within ten to twenty years, you’ll have a great cask of Glenglassaugh.
Oddly enough, I was musing over this recently as I was leaving my high school class reunion. This was the first time I had ever really gone to a full-fledged high school reunion. You see, I’m a pessimist. Not by nature, but by decision. I very much dislike disappointments and letdowns, yet I always seemed to be the guy who “believed” in long-shots and doomed-causes long after everyone else had seen the light. I was the kind of guy who strolled into a Chevrolet dealership in 1974 determined to buy a Vega because I was sure that the one I got wouldn't be a piece of crap. Years after Sony had given up on the Betamax, I still refused to convert to VHS, counting on a "Beta" comeback. Following my call for a recount the morning after Ronald Reagan beat my candidate Jimmy Carter, my family conducted an intervention (and an exorcism). I finally sought help. Under doctor’s orders I underwent radical therapy; I adopted the Chicago Cubs as my favorite baseball team and for the last 30 years have had every last bit of optimism ruthlessly beaten out of my soul, (and I'm now a Republican). It is because of my hard-won pessimism that I knew that I would never go to a high-school reunion.
I have heard every reunion horror story, and I knew what to expect. Poseurs, losers and braggers. And I knew that I would, inevitably, become one of the three before the night was over. It’s almost inescapable when at a reunion; the ego stakes are simply too high. Because in a way, the reunion is a report card on your life. No matter what you have accomplished in intangibles like raising good children, giving to charity, helping old ladies across the street, your entire life will be graded within five minutes by everyone you speak to. And even if nothing is said, you will see it in their eyes. I would, I was certain, be judged by my weight, hair (or lack of same), grace in aging, financial wellbeing and career. So I feared that I would be graded a loser or would try to be something I wasn’t. It’s a survival instinct.
Sadly, as my 35th high-school reunion neared, I fell off the wagon of pessimism and I had a severe relapse of optimism. This was caused by a series of freak events: My favorite football team, the San Francisco 49’ers went on an unexpected winning streak. Then, against all odds, I got a contract for my first book, and I suddenly realized that I had gone almost 20,000 miles in my Chrysler minivan without a transmission failure. Obviously, none of these things can be explained in purely human terms, so you can understand my confusion. In a fit of optimism about which I still feel shame, I caught a plane to Chicago for the reunion of the Buffalo Grove High School Class of 1976.
What I found at the reunion rocked me to my socks and set back my optimism aversion therapy probably for a lifetime. Inexplicably, it seemed, I had a fabulous time. I loved those people. In preparation for the event, I had memorized the “You can’t go home” adage (took me days), and had planned that each time I experienced an awkward silence because I had nothing in common with one of my old friends, I would simply repeat it silently to myself and the world would make sense. But as my old friends and I met up again after 35 years, something weird happened: We got along fabulously. There were no awkward silences. In fact, at times, I had the distinct feeling that we were continuing a conversation that got cut off last weekend, not in 1976.
Even people I barely knew in high school became new friends at the reunion. In 1976, Mary the winsome redhead and Cindy the cheerleader were both “out of my league” and I knew it. Now, Mary and her husband live on a spread in South Dakota big enough that people can hunt on it and she’s working on a book. Cindy manages a radio station and basks in the success of a son who recently passed the bar. Both were larger than life at the reunion and two of the highlights of my night. Friend after friend blew away my preconceived notions; Laura, Mark(s), Catherine(s) , Lance, Alysia, Tims(s), “Chaddy,” Steves(s), Anne, Nancy, Keith, Michelle, Tom……I was amazed at the quality of the people I had the privilege to go to high school with. I had no idea back then. Today, my old party-pals and fellow classroom clowns are musicians, cops, school teachers, stock brokers, authors, airline pilots, senate staffers, screenwriters, coaches, fire fighters, engineers, geologists, even a rabbi and a minister. It was quite a cast of characters. In more somber moments, we recounted the members of our class who would not be attending any more reunions because they had left us. By this reunion, the number that we knew of had reached double-digits, and it was a sobering and sad thought.
Rather than fizzle like some reunions, ours continued even after the banquet hall closed. Then after the bars closed. Then, after they threw about thirty of us out of the lobby of the hotel. And then it continued in the empty restaurant the hotel graciously opened for us. At 3:30 a.m., twenty or so were still sitting around a huge makeshift table as our classmate Tim strummed his guitar and alternately serenaded us and played songs from our years in high school so that we could all sing along. How did I never know he was that talented back in 1976? For just a moment, I felt like we had gone home. But for only a moment, and it seemed like nobody really wanted it to end.
But by 4:15, the realization was hitting most of us that we could only hold on to the moment so long, and like Peter Pan and the Lost Boys, we had to grow up and get on with life. We reluctantly hugged, kissed, shook hands and promised to keep in touch and went off in different directions to our rooms. The next day, we continued in different directions at 500 miles per hour. I felt true sadness that the moment ended, not sadness at what time had done to all of us. Because frankly, time had been a friend. No, we hadn’t recaptured our youth, we hadn’t “gone home,” nor were we reliving our high school 'glory days.' Maybe we realized that we would never want to recapture our youth.
On the way back to my hotel, my thoughts went to the conversations we had traded that night and I realized that no one hid behind the mask of “the perfect life.” Everyone at one time or another spoke of hidden pain, hardships and loss. Not one person wallowed in them, but neither were they afraid to admit them, to share their challenges and the ways they got through them, not because they wanted sympathy, but so they could encourage others. It was if they instinctively knew that everybody our age had been through hell at least once, and if you were on top one moment, you might be in a valley the next. It wasn’t a major topic, but it was there, and it was refreshing, and it was encouraging to see how people had overcome.
IT'S THE FIRE THAT MAKES THE DIFFERENCE
And as I drove, my mind went to Glenglassaugh. Not because I needed another drink. I was reminded of two little-known requirements for the making of fine Scotch. Fire and Bourbon. The best Scotch brands are aged in American Bourbon barrels that have had the interiors charred by firing. It is that charred barrel, steeped and aged in Bourbon that makes Scotch spectacular. When the Scotch alcohol first comes out of the pot still it is called, appropriately, “new spirit.” It is perfectly clear, colorless, and has a strong, undisciplined character much closer to “moonshine” than fine liquor. In high school, everyone at that reunion had been “new spirits." We had a sharp, in-your-face character, un-mellowed by any hard lessons or aging, because we hadn’t had any.
But if aging alone would have mellowed us, everyone would be fine with age. But we know that is not the case. And it is not the case with Scotch. If aging alone could do it, there would not be rules about the cask, and the way the liquor is aged. The finest liquor experiences the harshest aging. The hotter the summers and the colder the winters the better the liquor. Temperate conditions create tepid flavor. Stagnation will create a poor Scotch, also. Sitting without any kind of activity takes the character out of the barrel, so the barrel has to be rotated frequently. Sitting and stagnating also create poor human beings. Finally, in Scotch, approximately 10% of the barrel evaporates during aging, and this is known as “The Angel’s Share.” It’s a simple equation; you can’t get a truly exceptional Scotch without experiencing loss. Every single person at that reunion had experienced loss, some more recently than others; every single person had given up “The Angel’s Share” in their life. And it seemed that the ones who had experienced the most loss were themselves the most “refined.” But ultimately, it is fire that makes a tepid, store-brand Scotch into a work of art and makes the “new spirits” into amazing creations.
As the sun came up, it hit me that I had spent the evening with a group of single-malt friends. Not one of us had lived our lives without experiencing pain, loss or grief. Cancer, divorce, the death of friends and family, loss of jobs, financial ruin….nobody I spoke to had gotten through the last 35 years unscathed. We had all experienced the fire. And I realized that it was that fire; the pain, the loss and the recovery that had made these people extraordinary. It turned out that pain and what we learned from it might have been the common bond that we now had.
In June, 1976 in Buffalo Grove, Illinois, several hundred high school seniors graduated and moved out into the world with high hopes for the “good life” and few problems. That same month, in Speyside, Scotland, Glenglassaugh Distillery put up several barrels of “new spirit” into used, distressed, charred oak Bourbon barrels from Tennessee. This month, 35 years later, a remnant of that high school class met a few miles from the school which helped form them. They had experienced the fire of life, yes, but were stronger and better in most cases. They had mellowed, were more interesting, and their essential “bouquet” was more unique and pleasing than ever. Also this month, in the Scotland Highlands, the casks put up in 1976 were finally unsealed and poured into cut-crystal decanters, aged and distressed perfectly. The rare 35 year old Scotch went on the market for more than $500 per bottle. If these bottles are as mellow and full of character as the Buffalo Grove class of the same year, Glenglassaugh will be proud. In Scotland, as in Buffalo Grove, the exquisite result of aging and fire is recognized as having unusual value.
In the very near future, I plan to have a single shot of the finest single-malt Scotch my wallet will allow. And I will sip it straight, slowly enjoying its myriad of flavors, and contemplate the things that created those flavors. And I will think of my classmates who have aged so wonderfully, and contemplate the lives and the fires that created their wonderful character. Finally, I will drink to our classes’ ‘Angel’s Share;’ the ones we’ve lost in the process. With any luck, I will be remembering my classmates with that 1976 Glenglassaugh masterpiece, which they have appropriately named;
"The Chosen Few."
Amanda Knox; An Innocent Girl
Finally Goes Home
I met Amanda Knox for the first time a few days ago, following her release from an Italian prison after serving four years for a crime she did not commit. I am grateful that I had not met Amanda before I got involved in the case.
Not meeting Amanda prior to my involvement in the case probably saved me from prison time myself. Had I known her personally, I do not know if I could have waited for the agonizingly slow wheels of Italian justice to free her. Amanda, you see, turns out to be a truly spectacular person; even more intelligent than I had expected, even more empathetic than she had been described, and even more gentle than I had anticipated. More and more, the fact that she of all people was targeted by a malicious, psychologically-challenged rogue prosecutor raises the level of irony to almost absurd levels. So at a time when I should have been feeling only relief and gratitude, I had to fight a seething vicarious anger at four years taken from a good person. Amanda herself seems to bear no malice, and wonders only how anybody could believe she did what prosecutor Giuliano Mignini charged her with.
The events of the last week have washed over me like a tidal wave, and I have not caught up with the emotion, the reality or the impact of what took place. I do not feel that I am ready to write at length about the events in Perugia last week, but I wanted to communicate a few thoughts in the meantime.
The most beautiful part of the “Not Guilty” verdict for Amanda and Raffaele came in the way Italian law demands that a verdict be couched. In Italy, a person can be found not guilty for two reasons (and I paraphrase the language):
1. Not guilty due to insufficient evidence. (Not guilty)
2. Not guilty due to the fact that the person did not commit the crime. (Innocent)
The first option is a passive statement, but the second is a positive declaration ofinnocence, not simply lack of guilt. It says not that the prosecutors failed to meet their burden, but that the evidence proves that person charged did not commit the crime. It is not simply release, it is full exoneration. That is the verdict Amanda and Raffaele received: Not guilty because the evidence proved that they did not commit the crime.
In a piece in Wednesday’s International Herald Tribune, New York Times Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Timothy Egan wrote, “There was no way, based on forensic evidence that was a joke by international standards and a nonexistent motive that played into medieval superstitions, to find Knox and Sollecito guilty….” The claim of the prosecutors that there was a trace of the victim’s DNA on the blade of a knife used by Amanda to cut bread was, “….nearly laughed out of court by an independent panel of [DNA] experts.” The independent experts did find something on the blade, though: Bread Starch. (Rye). Out of nowhere.
It must be pointed out that Amanda’s exoneration did not come from an American court. The U.S. State Department (God knows) didn’t do anything to help her. The U.S. government abandoned her in a despicable, cowardly way, frankly. No, the exoneration of Amanda and Raffaele occurred in an Italian court. A court in the same Italian city in which they were first convicted by a judge who, if he is not corrupt, has not even a basic understanding of evidence and the rule of law. The kids were exonerated in the same courtroom in which the first trial was held. By a jury of Italians, not Americans. Jurors who wore sashes in the colors of the Italian flag. They were once again prosecuted by the same prosecutor (who is still appealing his own prison sentence for corruption). Only the judge was different. And this judge demanded evidence. And this judge demanded justice. Judge Pratillo Hellmann made Italy justifiably proud. I have been in more Federal Courtrooms in the United States than I can count. The controlled, careful and fair manner in which Judge Hellmann conducted this trial was, if anything, superior to what I have come to expect even in a U.S. federal court.
In Italian law, after a not guilty verdict, a defendant already incarcerated in prison obtains their release several hours later at the prison. Only very rarely will a judge order that a defendant be “released immediately.” On those rare occasions that this occurs, according to Italian attorneys I spoke to, it is considered a ‘slap’ at the prosecutor(s). Judge Hellmann ordered that Amanda and Raffaele be “released immediately.” The immediate release was an obvious signal of the judge’s extreme dissatisfaction the prosecution.
Following the verdict, a crowd of over 1,000 Italians formed around the courthouse, and a cheer went up when Amanda’s sister Deanna spoke of her release. Many times in Perugia, I experienced an indication of the overwhelming Italian sentiment of Amanda’s innocence. Italians would learn that I was involved in the case, and I would find that my drinks had been paid for, unrequested desserts came to the table, and strangers came to encourage or to hug me. People who spoke no English would walk past and cross their fingers in the “good luck” sign, smiling. The Italian public had figured this one out.
At the end, the Italian (legitimate) press was vociferously in Amanda’s corner. Immediately following the verdict, I looked over at two of my newfound friends in the Italian television media, and tears were rolling down their smiling cheeks. The prosecutor Mignini tried to couch this trial as racism (the actual murderer was black), and then as nationalism (big, bad America trying to step on poor little Italy). But in doing so, he only managed to prove the truth of Dr. Samuel Johnson’s immortal 1775 quote: “Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel.” Insightfully, the judge, the jury and the Italian public chose to disregard his attempts at jury nullification and decided this case on fact rather than jingoism and prejudice.
Sadly, the vindictiveness of a corrupt local system is not easily escaped. About half an hour after the initially popular verdict, a “spontaneous” anti-Knox demonstration began outside the court. In a striking bit of serendipity, the “spontaneous demonstrators” just happened to have megaphone with them that night, and all knew what they would chant. Though in jeans and polo shirts, the demonstrators (all men between their middle-20’s and late 40’s) bore startling, almost eerie individual resemblances to the dozens of policemen who had originally signed the warrants against Amanda and Raffaele, and who had been in court that night in a “show of solidarity.” Many of those officers are the same ones suing Amanda for claiming that she had been slapped in her interrogation. (The required tape of the interrogation of prisoners in Italy is inexplicably absent. Go figure.)
After the ‘impromptu’ demonstration, the men began individual fist-fights with Italian Amanda supporters, (I counted at least five such fights) and generally shamed the town of Perugia at a moment when the city deserved to be basking in the glory of the world spotlight. I want to point out here that the people of Perugia are good, honorable people, by and large. The Carabinieri (military) police in the town are honorable and professional. But the local police and the local prosecutor ruthlessly run the town. As an example, while we were in Perugia, five people were arrested---in the courtroom---by the local police. All for criticizing the prosecutor in some way or another. My wife was one of those arrested, and awaits a decision as to whether she will be charged with “contempt” which carries with it a possible three-year prison sentence.
The relief I feel at Amanda and Raffaele’s release is indescribable. I also feel additional relief that on-line Amanda-haters are by and large a thing of my past. We had dealt with them until now only to counter their hateful propaganda in front of an uninformed public. Now, it’s not even important to answer them because truly, nobody cares about what they say anymore.
They and others who refuse to accept this Italian court verdict (while arbitrarily accepting the first court’s verdict) are already receding into insignificance, and even the echoes of their hateful diatribes and death threats are fading into the ether. I do not think that they will ever be convinced of Amanda’s obvious innocence, nor do I think they are done spewing propaganda. Frustration produces anger, and like an infant who throws a tantrum when put down for a nap, I assume they will make a lot of indiscriminate noise that does nothing but irritate those around them. But they can now be grouped by society with those who claim to have been kidnapped by UFO’s, doubters in the moon landings and 9/11 conspiracy theorists. As one of my favorite philosophers, Stan Marsh of “South Park,”once said to Eric Cartman about such conspiracy mongers: “25% of society is crazy.” This is truth, and it is truth that the anti-Amanda crazies will continue to validate. But now they have been refuted by the same justice system they touted for years, and eventually, like the child put down for a nap, will become distracted and move on to other things. They will soon be looking for new things and people to hate. (Though those of them who crossed the lines of civil and criminal behavior will soon find that they have not been forgotten and that legal redress waited only for Amanda’s repatriation.)
What remains is to ensure that this does not happen again. As Egan said, “Perhaps the tide from Perugia will lift other boats.” For this to happen, though, pompous prosecutor Giuliano Mignini, forensic perjurer Patrizia Stefanoni, and mind-reading detective Edgardo Giobbi (and others), must be prosecuted for their corruption. The judge who rubber-stamped the lies in the first trial, Massei, must also be called to the bar of justice—or back to law school. That is what will occupy some of my time for the next few years, I’m sure. But for right now, I am in the mood to bathe in the warmth of the freedom of Amanda Knox. The sunshine of the justice she obtained should warm the entire world.
At this moment, I find that the word “elation” is woefully inadequate to describe my emotions. Euphoria might be a closer word, but euphoria eventually fades. As long as I live, I will remember that late night in the courtroom when two innocents were rescued from a cabal of evil men.
Posted from Florence, Italy, September 28, 2011
The Perugia Witch Trial continues…..
Well, the façade is down. No more trying to hide it. This is a witch trial. These are not my words, but the words of Carlo Pacelli, an attorney fighting to obtain monetary damages from Amanda Knox. Pacelli finally said (in court, on record) what everybody already knew the prosecution thought:
“Amanda Knox is a witch!”
Like the Salem inquisitions and other publicly sanctioned murders, the initial trial was based on rumors, lies, accusations, and a “confession” obtained from (psychological) torture techniques that the prosecutors in Salem would have killed for. Finally, any and all evidence clearing an innocent person was intentionally disregarded.
Patrick Lumumba is suing Amanda Knox for €80,000 for implicating him in the murder, a statement the detectives forced and beat from her after an overnight foodless, sleepless interrogation, using techniques developed by the North Koreans to brainwash U.S. pilots during the Korean War. (See injusticeinperugia.com for details.) Being sued for something you were forced to do is kind of like being rammed by a drunk policeman, then being ticketed for littering because the body of your passenger is on the freeway.
So, at least it’s finally out in the open and we can go on, confident that, at least we understand each other.
In other news:
On September 28th, 2010, Pepperdine University and I parted company, at their request. I am no longer at liberty to discuss why. (But it was not a mutual decision. Pepperdine and I settled "out of court" the lawsuit I subsequently filed. I can't speak for Pepperdine, but I am very satisfied with the resolution of the suit.)
At Pepperdine, I shared responsibility for security of their worldwide campuses and the students that studied there (including those in Florence, Italy). In a magnificent display of God's sense of irony, today I find myself in Florence, Italy.
When something you initially perceive as bad (or really bad) occurs, remember that it could be God intervening to change your course for the better. I believe this is the case with my change of direction one year ago today. I have not felt so fulfilled, at peace, and certain I was on the right side of an issue in my life. It might be the best bad thing to ever happen to me, and that's saying a lot. Pepperdine is a fine, even spectacular university and I hope and pray that they flourish all over the world. Their students are among some of the finest people I have ever met.
So, today, in Florence, Michelle and I will celebrate God's provision for us, not mark a somber occasion.
1. “Courtesy in behavior or speech”
Last week, I posted my response to the Ann Coulter 'drive-by op-ed' on this blog, and later that week, on groundreport.com. Since then, it has received more than 3,500 views. I am gratified at the response, but suspect it had much more to do with the name Coulter than it did with the name Moore.
Less gratifying, unfortunately, were many of the comments I received about the article. If you read the article, you may remember that my hypothesis was that people should be judged one at a time, and not by any group with which they are affiliated. Affiliation with a group is not tacit endorsement of everything done by everything in that group. I am a Christian, but I don't endorse abortion clinic bombings; or for that matter violence of any nature in the name of God. Nobody wants (or deserves) to be judged by the actions of everyone in a group they belong to, or worst of all, a family into which they were born. That's prejudice, bias and sometimes hatred.
While I did not tally up the 'for' and 'against,' in the comments, it appeared to be about two-thirds in favor of the article, and the remaining one-third.....well, they hated my guts. With the exception of one or two actual attempts to debate the subject matter, the rest (50 or so) were simply personal attacks. And not just on me, but on my wife, too! Where did that come from? The bottom line, however, is that the dissenters on this article either didn't read the article, or are heroically trying to prove me right. They also illustrate why I have elected not to receive comments on my articles on this blog. [Changed now, he got braver. -administrator]
I present some of the more entertaining (and less threatening or vulgar) comments, solely to strengthen the hypothesis of my article. Enjoy.
“Moore can go on over to Red China and enjoy retirement with his Commie peers” (Is California an acceptable substitute?)
“Not only do you not speak Italian, but you have never even been to Italy.” (True. I do not speak Italian. How I ever thought I could investigate a crime is beyond me. Good thing the FBI never asked. As far as never being in Italy, several airlines owe me a refund.)
“We know you are not very well educated, Mr Moore” (This is not my fault, private universities are not what they used to be.)
"You and your eccentric wife….. are useless, publicity-obsessed clowns." (We are not useless.)
Shut up, Moore - you fat clown.(I thought you had to be tall and intelligent to get into the FBI.) (You do. I got a waiver.)
"....moronic, delinquent three-year-old...." (You forgot about the part in the article where you disagreed with me. You know, what I'm wrong about?)
"Shut up Michelle - you Moron." (Apparently, one reader felt that a pro-Steve poster was actually Michelle. It wasn’t.)
"Don't forget that as well as Mr Moore's extensive career and military credentials, Jesus would also like him for a sunbeam." (That hurts, as it obviously came from a Baptist. Or a Nirvana fan.)
"You are raving…... Calm down and find a job." (I was excited until I found out the word wasn't 'ravishing.')
"Wasn't smart enough to go to EITHER med school or law school." (Again, an obvious requirement for investigations or opinions. Not sure if I was or was not smart enough. Never applied to either. I did get a congressional nomination to the Air Force Academy. Again, education failed me.)
"...Pilot that became a campus security guard..." (I just always wanted to ride in golf carts)
"I feel sorry for your shallow intellect." (Mom? Is that you?)
"What, are you a Communist now that you're out of the FBI, which you infiltrated." (Confused. Did I infiltrate the communists or the FBI?)
"You are a self-destructive nut without a cause.....mercurial madness...." (The "mercurial madness" allegation made me really mad. Then, it didn't. Then it did again.)
"Are you trying to kill your own mother?, what an opening to your crappy opinion piece." (How is that tin-foil hat working out for you?)
"You gonna plop on your fat behind. Roll down the hill, baby…." (Stop looking at my butt.)
"You've always hated women. Now it's Ann Coulter alias your Mom. Maybe Mom and Ann both have gunsafe fuller than yours, that the problem?" (Mom's gun safe can't hold a candle to mine.)
"When are you going to turn on Michelle and Megan(sic)?" (Michelle is already turned-on by me. Meg will always see me as just "dad." But thanks for the gross question.)
"Steve was reassigned as a pilot and is awfully young to have "retired" from the FBI." (Awwwwww.....shucks. Thank you.)
"I feel genuine pity for the man and hope that he can find effective treatment." (Doctors have determined that the most effective treatment for me involves hand-rolled cigars and single-malt scotch. I accept donations care of injusticeinperugia.com. I KNOW some of you are from the UK. Give 'till it hurts.)
"You are clearly beyond educating, Moore. Find yourself an easy job and leave the serious stuff to clever people." (I'm looking into politics.)
"Mr Moore and his wife lost every single shred of credibility outside of the US bible belt when they said they were doing God's work….[they] should be ignored immediately due to their over reliance on myths and 2000 year old fairy stories. If you want to get any respect back Steve, start listening to reason as opposed to God or your wife." (Remember, ignore Steve because he believes in God, not because of facts. Obviously, nobody who believes in God can be competent. I sincerely hope your next airline pilot doesn't believe in God.)
"Go read some Richard Dawkins, Phillip Pullman and Douglas Adams then laugh at your bible and start living your life without fear of someone who doesn't actually exist." (Let's bet on the whole 'existence of God' thing. No money, we've already got more than that riding on it.)
"To begin with you say you are a career FBI agent. OK so why is it, given your age, you are no longer employed by the FBI?" (How old do you think I am?)
"You state that you have all these qualifications. (Helicopter pilot etc;) So how come you are not gainfully employed ferrying workers out to oil rigs in the gulf?" (Have you ever been to Morgan City, Louisiana?)
"An undercover agent! How exciting, and how long did you sit in the car wearing a suit as a disguise while eating donuts?" (Not sure if Apple Fritters are officially donuts.)
"A certified sniper. Congratulations upon being able to hit a barn from the inside..." (I think you are unclear on the concept....You don't happen to live in a barn, do you? Would you mind terribly standing next to one?)
"Thank God your wife is working, probably at MacDonalds (sic)." (So that's where you've been Michelle?)
I'll finish with something that will (regrettably) enrage some of my new "fans:" A closing analogy which mentions both guns and God.
When I was on SWAT, my son once asked me what I would do if a gang-banger tried to shoot me with a machine gun. (That's the gun part)
"I would thank God," I said. (That's the God part)
"Why??" He asked, incredulous.
The answer was very simple. Once the trigger is pulled, a machine gun is about as controllable as a fire hose (which is frequently manned by two fire fighters.) Unless a person is highly trained, machine guns cannot be effectively aimed once it starts firing. And firing at 800 rounds a minute, they will empty themselves in about two seconds. So all the bullets go over your head, and the shooter is unarmed almost immediately. The shooters who concerned us were those who were careful, deliberate, held a gun properly and seemed to know what they were doing.
The individuals who responded to my article are like those machine-gun-toting gang-bangers. Their 'weapons' apparently made them feel powerful, yet ultimately, their responses were un-reasoned, out of control, and completely ineffectual. I'm almost disappointed, because the facts are on my side, and I'd kind of like to debate them.
And Michelle, please bring home a Big Mac. Combo. And Super-Size it.
At Long Last, Ms. Coulter,
have You No Sense of Decency?
This is a difficult article to write. It’s kind of like being a cop and finding out that the burglar you’re looking for is your mom.
You see, I’m a lifelong Republican. I tell you this not because I want to pick a political fight, argue ideology, make you like me, or certainly make you dislike
me. I tell you this because I am having an identity crisis. For years, you see, I watched Fox News, and for a while I even listened to Rush. I thought Ann Coulter was irreverent, a little over-the-top, but generally right, though I occasionally winced at her statements.
I was a career FBI Agent, the son
of an FBI Agent. I was a SWAT team-member, a certified sniper, an undercover agent, and a helicopter pilot. I followed terrorism investigations overseas into Pakistan and Indonesia. I have (and wear) American flag lapel pins. I own guns. I haven’t voted for a Democrat for president since….well, ever. I am a member of the National Rifle Association, and I am an NRA certified Law Enforcement Firearms Instructor. I do not buy carbon credits. I have never even sat in a Suburu. My current car has 300 unapologetic horsepower. I love animals but enjoy a good steak.
I consider myself a Christian. I believe God loves me in spite
of my weaknesses and failures, not because of their absence. I depend on God daily to teach me, to give me guidance, and to shape me into a person who cares more about others than I do myself. I am not there yet, by the way, but that’s not an excuse not to keep trying.
And now, to my amazement, I’ve just found out that I’m a “Liberal.”
This comes as a terrific surprise to me, but if Ann Coulter says it, it must be true, as she’s never wrong. In fact, not only am I a liberal, but according to her, I’m suffering from a “psychological disorder.”
According to her, I’m also “demonic”
because I “intentionally defend the guilty and impugn the innocent,” I “side with barbarians,”
because “a fair and just system of law challenges [my] hegemony as a “judge of the universe.”
As you may understand, this has come as quite a shock to me. How did this happen? How could I have been so wrong about myself?
Apparently, this radical change happened when I discovered that an innocent person had been convicted of murder and I tried to do something about it. Maybe it happened to you, too. (If so, don’t tell Ann Coulter.)
In an article on September 7, 2011, mean-spiritedly entitled “Amanda Knox: The New Mumia,”
Coulter uses lists of long-discredited, flat-earth-society “facts” to postulate the guilt of Amanda Knox, the American College student railroaded for murder in Italy in 2007. Coulter initially branded Knox as guilty several years ago, based on Knox’s alleged purchase of bleach on the morning after the murder of her roommate. This type of American press savagery is partially why Knox is still in prison four years later. Because this alleged bleach purchase never happened: No bleach was ever found, no records of any such purchase exist, the checkout employee flatly stated that Knox was not in the store that morning; and regardless, the crime scene that Knox is wrongly accused of causing was not cleaned with bleach
. I knew these things about the bleach at the time Coulter said them, but I simply chalked it up to the fact that investigating violent crime wasn’t a hobby for me. But I was still disappointed, because Coulter and I shared some conservative political
views and I trusted her. (Now that I realize I am a ‘liberal’ I am not sure how this could have been possible.)
After Coulter’s unfounded bleach “fact” was shown to be apocryphal, she fell into a long silence about the case. I naturally assumed that she had learned that the facts on which she based her conclusion were wrong, and that she therefore changed her opinion and was weighing how to best help this innocent girl. Instead, Coulter fired back this week with a list of even more incorrect, discredited facts; an article simply breathtaking in its naiveté. The problem with this isn’t simply that people more knowledgeable about the crime than her (lawyers, FBI agents, judges, scientists, DNA experts, senators, FBI profilers, almost a dozen members of the Italian Parliament, Pulitzer-prize winning journalists and New York Times Best-Selling authors) have all come to the conclusion that Knox is innocent. The problem is that Coulter is quoting “facts” discredited over a year ago.
The other problem is that that if you disagree with her, you are evil.
Coulter alleges in her 9/7 masterwork; “Now liberals are howling that the DNA evidence was "contaminated,….”
For the readers’ edification, here is a short list of just some of the ‘liberals’ who have spoken out in favor of Amanda Knox’s innocence: Megyn Kelly, Shepard Smith of Fox News, Bill O’Reilly, Geraldo Rivera, and Donald Trump, who recently attended a tree-hugging, “pinko” rally held by a group calling themselves the “Tea Party.” In fact, a recent meeting between me and another “liberal” who believes Knox was railroaded was held at the Ronald Reagan Library in Simi Valley, California, because both of us are inexplicable admirers of the man.
In her magnificently naïve article of the 7th, Coulter quotes more than a dozen “facts,” all of which she says proves Knox’s guilt, and all
of which have been thoroughly deconstructed. If not, the fact that the DNA evidence was false would not have any bearing on the case, and the release of Knox would not be imminent. I have no intention at this point of going point by point through Coulter’s charges, which appear to say something, but hide the real truth. I would rather argue with a 9/11 conspiracy theorist. (Or have dental surgery in Somalia.) There are only so many times I can stand to say the same thing to a stone wall. If you care to see the real facts of the Knox case, visit injusticeinperugia.org.
But what is more striking than Coulter’s incredible ignorance about the case is her startlingly bigoted assessment of anybody who disagrees with her. She leaves the intelligent reader speechless and just a little afraid.
But this shouldn’t surprise us, really. Coulter is becoming a pariah even to conservatives. Until 2001, for instance, Coulter was a columnist for National Review Online,
a sharply conservative publication. But she was fired. Why? Jonah Goldberg, editor at large of NRO said at the time; “We did not ‘fire’ Ann for what she wrote…we ended the relationship because she behaved with a total lack of professionalism, friendship and loyalty.”
Coulter’s syndicated column was dropped by the Arizona Daily Star in August 2005, because, “Many readers find her shrill, bombastic and mean-spirited. And those are the words used by readers who identified themselves as conservatives.”
It’s not simply the bigotry inherent in her statements that is disturbing. It is the propaganda-like nature of her tactics. Propaganda is defined as “Information of an intentionally misleading nature, used to promote or publicize a particular political cause or point of view.” The best propaganda is that which has the ring of truth, but hides the salient facts. In that way, propaganda is like a bikini; what it shows appears to be important. But what it hides is crucial.
In short, propaganda is not defined so much by what it says, as by what it hides. For instance, Coulter never mentions (conveniently) that the prosecutor in the Knox case has been convicted and sentenced to prison for malfeasance, and was under indictment at the time he prosecuted Knox. His crime? The abuse of the rights of innocent suspects and random, vicious threats and accusations. You would think this germane to the conversation, would you not? But Coulter leaves that gem out. As Coulter herself said in 2002, “I don’t pretend to be impartial or balanced….”
Coulter also conveniently omits that the loss of the DNA evidence she blames on American liberals was actually at the hands of court-selected Italian (not Italian-American) DNA scholars designated as independent experts by the Italian judge. The only American officially involved in the case is Amanda Knox.
But still, it is “liberals”
who are trying to spring a ‘guilty’ Amanda. As an example; Coulter spews the following; “From Tawana Brawley, Mumia and the Central Park rapists, to the Duke lacrosse players and Karl Rove, liberals are always on the wrong side of a criminal case. A few times could be a coincidence; every time is evidence of a psychological disorder.”
Let’s be clear on this; I was outraged by the Brawley lies, I believe Mumia was guilty, and I find justice and immense peace in the fact that murderer Leonard Peltier will die in prison. But I also know from a quarter-century in the FBI that most criminal cases do not split on party lines.
As described in her (eponymous?) book "Demonic," Coulter alleges that“liberals defend the guilty and impugn the innocent not only because they side with barbarians, but because a fair and just system of law challenges their hegemony as judges of the universe.”
This hurts me now that I find that I am a liberal. And because I have friends who are liberal. It also hurts me because it’s stupid. It’s a statement that might fit some (on both sides), but as a blanket statement, it is pure bigotry. Not surprising from a woman who famously stated in the British newspaper, “The Guardian,” “[The United States] would be a much better country if women didn’t vote.”
Maybe it would be a better country if this particular woman couldn’t communicate.
What Coulter has written bears more similarity to a drive-by shooting than it does to a journalistic endeavor. Denigrating and dehumanizing those who disagree with her is really not original, it was used with flair in the early 1950’s when Senator Joseph McCarthy went on a reactionary rampage using as his antagonist not “liberals” but “communists.” But the methods were the same; if you disagreed with McCarthy, you were obviously a communist. And like McCarthy’s rampage, innocent, real people are getting hurt.
It is to the conservative movement’s shame that they did not ‘self-police’ the problems with Joseph McCarthy. I hope to become a conservative again, notwithstanding Ann Coulter’s permission. But now I know how peaceful Muslims feel about Al Qaeda. If I, as a conservative, stay silent about Coulter and other demagogues, then the ideas in which I truly believe will be viewed not on their merit, but by the people who espouse them. I don’t want people to think of Ann Coulter when they hear the word “conservative” any more than many “liberals” want be defined by Michael Moore (I hope.) I also wish that when people heard the name “Jesus” they didn’t think of politics.
Maybe Coulter’s own words will do the trick. It took Edward R. Murrow, other senators and McCarthy’s own excesses to ruin him. Murrow’s words about McCarthy seem strangely prescient in this instance: “We must not confuse dissent with disloyalty. We must remember always that accusation is not proof and that conviction depends upon evidence and due process of law. We will not walk in fear, one of another. We will not be driven by fear into an age of unreason, if we dig deep in our history and our doctrine, and remember that we are not descended from fearful men — not from men who feared to write, to associate, to speak and to defend causes that were, for the moment, unpopular.”
Finally though, the most appropriate rebuke for McCarthy, and again, strangely fitting for Coulter, was a moral rebuke, and came from Chief Counsel of the United States Army Joseph Welch during a senate hearing. Welch had recommended a young attorney to work for the very committee that McCarthy was using as a career springboard. But McCarthy found out that the attorney was a member of the “Lawyers Guild,” which McCarthy maintained was a communist front. He then attacked this young attorney in public, not with real facts, but with innuendo, attempting to destroy his career to further his own; a type of political vampirism. Finally, Welch had had enough. With deep emotion, Welch rebuked McCarthy during a hearing in one of the most dramatic moments in congressional history. “Until this moment, Senator, I think I never really gauged your cruelty, or your recklessness. Fred Fisher is a young man who went to the Harvard Law School and came into my firm and is starting what looks to be a brilliant career with us…..” “Let us not assassinate this lad further, Senator. You’ve done enough. Have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?”
Welch speaks eloquently for us today. Until Coulters September 7th article in which she attempts to sacrifice an innocent girl’s future on the altar of the god who would guarantee her own, I had really never gauged her cruelty and her recklessness. Amanda Knox is a fine young woman who was railroaded by a deranged prosecutor in Italy in a failed attempt to save his own career. Ann Coulter is now using that tragedy to further her own career. So now we are left with just one question;
“Have you no decency, Ms. Coulter? At long last, have you no sense of decency?”