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.”
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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.
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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.
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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. 

NENCINI:
"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.]

PictureNencini's world.
    "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.

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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. 


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Damage done to Italian courts by L'Aquila earthquake and Knox verdicts.
 
 

(ANOTHER) UPREDICTED 
ITALIAN EARTHQUAKE

The criminal case of Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito is, for all intents and purposes over.

The political circus is just beginning.

April 6, 2009, 3:32 a.m.: The quaint Italian town of L’Aquila, just 114 miles from Perugia, was struck by a 5.8 magnitude earthquake. 297 people died.

October 22, 2012: In an event which sent shock waves around the world, the earth moved in Italy yet again when six Italian seismologists were arrested and charged with manslaughter for not predicting the L’Aquila earthquake. Incredulous experts from around the world testified that earthquakes are scientifically unpredictable at this point in the history of mankind—a fact disputed nowhere on earth, except one Italian courtroom. The scientists were convicted and sentenced to 6 years in prison—each. The main damage in this quake was to six innocent seismologists and the justice system of Italy.
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The courts in L'aquila were devastated. In more ways than one.
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Certainly, Italian ‘justice’ has a history of preying on its own good people. The Italian Inquisitions of the 1500’s and 1600’s are infamous for the persecution of people propounding scientific truth. The legendary scientist and astronomer Galileo, for example, fell afoul of the inquisition for espousing certain theories of Copernicus; in particular, the theory that the earth rotated around the sun—which it did and still does. A lot of people are unaware that Galileo died under house arrest in Italy. 1,250 other people are alleged to have been executed for similar “heresy” during this time. One would hope that nearly 600 years later, Italian justice would have improved. One would be wrong.


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Tragically, on March 26, 2013, another feudal judicial decision was handed down when the Italian Court of Cassation, the Italian equivalent of the U.S. Supreme Court, failed to formally affirm the full appellate exoneration of Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito, regardless of the fact that their innocence is almost as widely accepted and scientificlly proven as Copernicus’ theory.

Sadly, this is not an isolated anomaly. Italy is displaying with frightening regularity a type of vendetta-based ‘justice’ many are calling ‘medieval.’ In 1999, the very same Court of Cassation which failed to accept Knox and Sollecito’s proven innocence, ruled in a rape case that women wearing tight jeans cannot be raped. This was not the decision of a little back-water town judge remember, this was the Italian Supreme Court. The logic was based on the apparently inescapable conclusion that tight jeans could not be removed from a woman by an attacker. I suppose their conclusion is that man can predict earthquakes, but it is a physical impossibility for him to remove a woman’s jeans. The court ruled tight jeans could not be removed “…without the collaboration of the person wearing them.” I’m not making this up. 


However, just this last summer, the Court of Cassation outdid themselves; they ruled that it is a crime to tell someone “You don’t have the balls.” Seriously. That this case even got to the supreme court in Italy is mind-boggling and indicative of the juvenile/macho mentality of most of the judiciary there. Their decision is incomprehensible. The court found that the phrase inherently implied “…a lack of determination, competence and consistency – virtues which, rightly or wrongly, continue to be regarded as suggestive of the male gender.” This raises a question I’m sure it would take a legal scholar and a Ouija board to answer: Would it be a crime to tell a woman  “You don’t have the balls?” One could only assume it would depend on whether she was wearing tight jeans or not.

In the Knox/Sollecito case, a prosecutor (Giuliano Mignini) under indictment (ultimately convicted and sentenced to 16 months in prison) created an incredibly complex, imagination-based case against two innocent kids in order to, according to many experts, shield himself from conviction or even further prosecution. During the Italian Inquisition of the 15th and 16th centuries, the main charges besides heresy were sorcery, immorality and witchcraft. And Mignini’s allegations against Knox?  She was a “strega” (witch) and she engaged in “satanic sex rituals.” Sounds vaguely familiar, no? Also familiar is the fact that no evidence existed to support the claims of either the inquisition or Mignini. Sometimes the more things change, the more they stay the same.

Mignini lied about evidence in public, violated any rule of evidence which did not support his case (in reality, nothing supported his case) and got a conviction he apparently hoped would raise no eyebrows. He was wrong.

When the case was appealed--almost automatic in Italy, where half of all cases are reversed on appeal--the first action of the appeals court was to order that Mignini’s “evidence” be reviewed by independent experts. Italy is not completely devoid of honorable justices; they are simply in the minority. The judge in this appeal had to be imported from northern Italy near Austria in the hopes that he would be free of bias. He was. He not only allowed modern science into the courtroom, he ordered it there.
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DNA which prosecutor Mignini had claimed implicated Knox and Sollecito was found to have never existed, was intentionally or incompetently attributed, or so badly read that Mignini’s ‘experts’ couldn’t even tell gender by reading DNA. The police forensic investigation in this case made the Keystone Kops look like CSI New York. In a stinging rebuke, the appellate judge and jury not only exonerated Knox and Sollecito, but declared that the evidence didn’t simply fail to prove their guilt, but that it actually proved their innocence. The two kids were released after four years of unjust imprisonment. And that is where it should have ended.

But in Italy, as opposed to most democracies, a prosecutor can appeal even a “not guilty” verdict. In Italy, a prosecutor can keep re-trying a case until he gets a conviction. This ‘2 out of 3’ jurisprudence results in a kind of “rock, paper, scissors” legal system, where even evidence as solid as a rock can be rendered moot by a single sheet of paper. Mignini appealed the ‘innocente’ verdict, and the Court of Cassation rendered a verdict as stunning in its ignorance as the failure to predict the earthquake decision.

At this moment, news outlets are providing incomplete or inaccurate information on the case. To set the record straight, I would like to point out certain facts which are true at this moment:

Amanda and Raffaele’s exonerations have not been vacated. By Italian law, they are still adjudicated innocent persons.

No retrial has yet been ordered.

Not until the Court of Cassation releases their “Motivations” document in approximately 70 days or so will any decision have the affect of law. Retrial is a possibility, of course, but so is limited re-examination of certain pieces of evidence not already reviewed by the independent authority. There is no indication that the court has in any way challenged the validity of the independent authority’s review of the main pieces of discredited ‘evidence’ which led to the exoneration in the first place.  

There is no indication that the court rejected any of the findings of the appellate court, their questions actually centering on why more of Mignini’s supposed “evidence” was not reviewed by independent sources. Still, the decision reminds me very much of the 1972 Olympic Basketball gold-medal game in which the Americans, leading the Russian team by 3 at the end of regulation, twice had the clock reset to 3 seconds by the Russian referees, until the Russians “won” on a miracle shot. 40 years later, nobody but the Russian team and referees believe that they won
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The Americans celebrate after they had won the game the second time. (They lost after the third time Russian referees inexplicably put time back on the clock.)
Absent more interference, however, any retrial would still favor Knox and Sollecito because:

A retrial would be removed from the feudal, Mignini-controlled town of Perugia, and placed in Florence. Perugia has the judicial integrity of 1963 Selma, Alabama. Knox and Sollecito's exonerations on appeal were only possible because a judge and jury were brought in from out of town due to the bias of the locals.
The city of Florence knows Mignini. They are the city that indicted him and convicted him of malfeasance, sentencing him to 16 months in prison.

Regardless of the outcome of the trial, however, not a soul seriously believes that Amanda Knox will ever spend another day in an Italian prison. Double jeopardy, corrupt prosecutors, absence of witnesses or credible evidence, perjury by the police, and the requirement that Giuliano Mignini present his case in an American federal court (which actually requires evidence, truth, and fairness) make the prospect of extradition at the request of a kangaroo court the stuff of Mignini’s dreams.

 Pratillo Hellman, the judge in the Knox/Sollecito appeal stands by his and the jury's unanimous decision to exonerate Knox and Sollecito, saying that there was absolutely no evidence of the involvement of the two in the crime. He also stated that he expected that the court of cassation would overturn his verdict, due to its close ties with the prosecutor.

Ultimately, regardless of the results of this modern inquisition, Amanda will never serve another unfair day in an Italian prison. The case, therefore has significance only to certain people:

1.      Prosecutor Mignini, still trying valiantly to clear his name of malfeasance and false prosecution charges while waiting on his retrial decision.

2.      The sadly deceived family of the innocent victim who have put their faith in a crooked prosecutor and a carnivorous Italian lawyer desperate for a share of a settlement from the wealthy Sollecito family.

3.      The sadly imbalanced, anonymous, basement-dwelling anti-Knox bloggers in Great Britain and America who have drunk the Kool-Aid of the prosecutor to the dregs and are focused more on hate than justice. This case will, for several more years give imagined purpose to their otherwise sad existence.

4.      Raffaele Sollecito, who is at this writing still a citizen of Italy and vulnerable to the whims of a judiciary largely based on innuendo.

In case the reader perceives this article as an indictment of Italy or the Italian people, let me assure you that is not the case. Since the appalling ruling came down, I have received texts, phone calls, E-mails and social media communications from prominent, published Italian forensic scientists, professors, DNA specialists, criminal profilers and lawyers, decrying the decision and offering their pro-bono assistance to the Knox family. Indeed, after the exoneration of Knox in October, 2011, I spent two days with Amanda in Italy and witnessed an almost non-stop stream of Italian citizens apologizing (sometimes tearfully) for what happened to her. They hugged, they kissed and they smiled. They know what its like to live under that system. The Italian people deserve a better justice system. They deserve more Judge Hellmans.

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While Amanda is in no real danger of ever being forced to submit to the corrupt Italian justice system again, (it’s a different story for Italian citizen Raffaele Sollecito), she can’t just do what the 1972 Olympic Men’s basketball team did and simply boycott a corrupt proceeding. They refused their silver medals and did not attend the medal ceremony. 

Amanda can't do that. She has to spend money to defend her name. It’s just a shame that two innocent kids got robbed. Again. It took the Russian referees three tries to steal the honest victory from the Americans in Munich. It may take even longer for the Italians to steal Amanda and Raffaele’s “innocence.” That’s the sad part. Nobody but the Russians doubt that the Americans won the 1972 Olympic Gold Medal, and nobody but Italians, the ignorant and the malignant doubt that Amanda and Raffaele are innocent.

Why then didn’t the Court of Cassation do the honorable and right thing and affirm the appellate decision? Why didn’t they act bravely and decisively? Why didn’t they exonerate two good kids in the face of overwhelming evidence of their innocence? Why didn’t they display the --in their own words--“determination, competence and consistency” which are suggestive of their own male gender? 

Are they corrupt? 

It seems to me that they just didn't have the balls.
 
 

"State Sponsored Kidnapping"

The Illegal Captivity of Jacob Ostreicher

Last week, I was called to testify before the congressional House Foreign Affairs Committee, Human Rights Subcommittee. My appearance was at the request of the subcommittee chairman, Congressman Chris Smith of New Jersey. The hearing was called to investigate the illegal arrest and imprisonment of  American Jacob Ostreicher, and the inaction of the United States government--read “State Department”--on the case.
In my testimony on Wednesday, June 6, (clips of which appear on my Media page),  I noted that Jacob is essentially a political prisoner accused of a crime which never happened. Not only can the government of Bolivia not provide a single iota of proof that Jacob Ostreicher committed a crime, they cannot provide a single iota of proof that a crime was even committed. Yet Jacob remains in a squalid, dangerous prison; one run by the inmates themselves. (See my blog, “Three Days in Hell,” 4/17/2012). He must pay to have a cell, he must pay to eat, and he must pay protection money to stay alive.

The judges and prosecutors in the country are puppets of Evo Morales and must toe the line or risk prison themselves. The defense lawyers, in turn, are many times puppets of the prosecutors. In fact, in the very prison in which Jacob is being held hostage, there is a special wing just for prosecutors, lawyers and judges. The inference is inescapable: “Play ball” or join the person whose innocence you are championing. Either way, the innocent arrestee has no chance of release.

During the Foreign Affairs hearing on the 6th, Congressman Smith voiced his interest in attending a scheduled legal hearing for Jacob in Bolivia, yesterday, June 11, 2012. I cautioned him, though, that I felt that there was exactly “zero” chance of the hearing taking place. Only once has a hearing for Jacob gone forward, and in that hearing months ago, Jacob was ordered released on bail. Before he could even muster out of the prison, the judge reversed himself sheepishly, in wording that sounded oddly like a person speaking with a gun to their head. In fact, the judge criticized himself for putting “..too much emphasis on evidence presented to him.” That’s a nearly verbatim translation. Since that date, no hearing has taken place, though many have been scheduled.  Yet Rep. Chris Smith of New Jersey was on a plane in less than 48 hours. It was an act that provided the only ray of hope in a dark tragedy.

The reason no hearings will ever take place is that there is no evidence to support the charges against Jacob, and like a student who has no homework to turn in, the Bolivians are doing whatever they can to avoid the inevitable moment of truth. Yesterday, with Congressman Smith in attendance, the hearing began this morning in Santa Cruz, Bolivia. Almost immediately, the judge ordered the hearing postponed. No surprise. But what happened next would have put tears of pride in the eyes of Joseph Stalin. (And trust me, Evo won’t take that as a criticism.)

Jacob’s defense attorneys strenuously objected to the postponement, and the judge, between a rock and a hard place, finally agreed to hold the hearing at 3:30 pm, which incensed the prosecutor. At 3:30, when the hearing reconvened, the Minister of Government, (MOG) (not the Minister of Justice), ordered the judge to recuse himself from the case, apparently because his ruling that the hearing should take place showed favoritism to Jacob. The judge refused. The MOG then threatened the judge with prosecution if he did not recuse himself from the case. Even in a judicial world with little pretense of propriety, this threat was blatant. The judge, instead of recusing himself, sent the matter up to the Supreme Court to decide—in effect cancelling the hearing. This appeal will result in yet another delay of months before the next hearing.  If this judge recuses himself or is forced out, he will be at least the third judge removed from the case.

Tragically, this whole charade is simply a shell-game to keep Jacob in a prison they are betting he will not survive. One must seriously consider whether the aim of the Bolivian government is to ensure that there is no Jacob for whom a congressman would fight.
“STATE (DEPARTMENT) ‘ALLOWED’ KIDNAPPING” 

I must preface this section of the article by saying that I believe that the State Department is one of the most essential organizations in the United States government, and it is staffed by and large, by honorable, brave and caring people. I hope that the situation with Jacob Ostreicher is an anomaly caused by nonsensical State Department policies, but I fear that it is much more than that.

By using the hearing sham, the Bolivians have checked the right boxes with a risk-averse U.S. State Department (see my testimony below), allowing them the cover of allowing the Bolivian “judicial process” to run its course. Amazingly, the State Department’s written evaluation of the Bolivian “justice” system is a scathing indictment of political retribution and corruption. Specifically, according to the 2011 State Department “Country Report on Human Rights Practices,” Bolivia’s “justice” system engages in “arbitrary or unlawful deprivation of life (murder),” “arbitrary arrest or detention,” and “denial of a fair and public trial.” These are not my words, these are the words of the U.S. State Department. But now that an American is being victimized by these exact human rights issues, the Bolivian judicial system is "legitimate." The two official positions cannot be reconciled and stand in sharp contrast.

Unfortunately, an innocent American in a foreign prison is an impediment to close relations with the host country, which is the State Department’s main goal. Jacob is a rock in the State Department’s shoe, and the life of one Jewish businessman is apparently is not worth the State Department’s best efforts. In support of that statement, I provide the following information which was entered into the congressional record on June 6, 2012 by Congressman Smith or testimony from the Ostreicher family:

Not once has the Charges d’Affaires John Creamer, chief U.S. diplomat in Bolivia, visited Jacob in prison. Not once. This is a strong message of ambivalence to the Bolivians.

Not once has a meeting with the Bolivian government been called to discuss the plight of Jacob. He has allegedly been mentioned, but only during meetings previously scheduled for other topics. Kind of a diplomatic, “Oh, by the way….” Again, a strong message, but the wrong one.

Not once has any staffer at the U.S. Embassy in Bolivia uttered the name Jacob Ostreicher in a public forum. In fact, if one had only the State Department to provide information on justice for Americans overseas, no one would ever have heard of Jacob Ostreicher.

Not once has the embassy contacted Jacob’s family unless they are replying to a call from the family or providing information promised during that call. Not once has the U.S. State Department unilaterally reached out to Jacob’s family. Not once.

Maybe they’re too busy.

On May 30, 2012, the House Foreign Affairs Committee posted notice of the hearing on Jacob Ostreicher’s case with the hearing’s subject and purpose listed as,

The U.S. State Department’s Inadequate Response to Human Rights Concerns in Bolivia: The Case of American Jacob Ostreicher”

 One would think that the State Department would consider Jacob’s plight a serious matter. If not Jacob’s plight, one would think that they would like to set the record straight and avoid criticism they might consider baseless. However, the State Department immediately declined to appear. Yet, four days later, and exactly four days before the hearing, Charges d’Affaires John Creamer made time to dance in Bolivian native costume in a Bolivian festival. El Deber, the main newspaper in Bolivia, explained that in order to learn the dance, Creamer had to take lessons four times each week for over a month. A total of 16 dance lessons before he donned the costume of the country illegally holding an American citizen fighting for his life in a squalid prison. A very busy man indeed.

All this while Jacob continued a hunger strike. As Jacob told me recently, the hunger strike is as much in protest of U.S. State Department indifference as it is of his illegal detention by the Bolivians.
The above photograph of Mr. Creamer and his lovely wife Liza dancing in Bolivian costume was proudly posted on the embassy website two days before the Foreign Affairs hearing which State refused to attend. The festival and diplomat performance occurred on the 47th day of Jacob's hunger strike in protest of State Department indifference to his plight.  

This photo, along with another of Creamer delivering donated books to a Bolivian library were on the front page of the Embassy website, as were headlines emphasizing American friendship with Bolivia. These initiatives include a series of string concerts sponsored by the U.S., donations to hospital construction, and the embassy's participation in a Bolivian celebration of hip-hop music and "Graffiti as Culture." A thorough search of the U.S. Embassy Bolivia website  revealed no mention of “Jacob Ostreicher.” A website search engine query answered “no results” for Jacob’s name.  Embassy priorities are obvious. One might wonder if the Embassy is engaging in "Quiet Diplomacy." However, the embassy have expressed to the family no intent to engage in any initiative other than "bringing the issue up" during meetings.

The U.S. State Department is completely aware of the corruption and use of the “judicial” system in Bolivia for political purposes. (Yet, they apparently believe it is good enough for an accused American.) The State Department knows for many reasons, not the least of which are the events of May 30, 2012, just eight days prior to the hearing. On that day, Roger Pinto Molina, a prominent Bolivian Senator took refuge in the Brazilian Embassy in La Paz, requesting political asylum and protection from Evo Morales and his government.

Molina has accused the Morales government of human rights abuses, drug trafficking, the incarceration of political prisoners and corruption. In response, the Morales “Justice” Ministry has charged Molina with a series of crimes, including political corruption. Molina told the Brazilian Embassy diplomats that he feared for his life.

Bolivian Vice President Alvaro Garcia linera said on June 6, the day of the U.S. congressional hearing, that Molina was not being persecuted, and that there were no political prisoners in Bolivia.

The vice president also said, “If he believes that….he didn’t commit these crimes, well, he should be happy to defend himself” in court. Molina is apparently aware of an accused person’s prospects of a fair trial (or any trial) in Bolivia. Apparently Brazil, which shares a border with Bolivia agrees. Yesterday, June 11, the Brazilian government granted Senator Molina political asylum. The brave move by the Brazilians involving a neighboring country stands in stark contrast to U.S. timidity.

Senator Molina knew better than to stay in Bolivia, and it appears that he knew better than to seek sanctuary at the U.S. Embassy. Jacob, unfortunately did not have the same information Molina had. Jacob was too trusting. Of both the Bolivians and the Americans.


 
 

Jonas Salk (and Other Insensitive Bastards)

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          During the four year fight for justice for Amanda Knox, a question was repeatedly put to me and others (by people who mistakenly thought Amanda guilty): “Why are you defending Amanda Knox? Why not somebody else?” “Why defend (as it was recently put to me specifically) a middle-class white girl?”  The unavoidable, undeniable insinuation being, of course, that there are more “worthy” people to defend than the middle class, whites, and women.  It’s frankly a question which belies a certain bias, a certain hatred and a certain ugliness.

          By the logic of that question, Emergency Operators should always answer the line with, “9-1-1, what is your emergency…..race, and social status?” In actual fact, many of these questioners put even more of a fine-point on the question, noting that Amanda was “American” and “attractive.” Certainly, I’m not arguing that Americans are worthy of justice, that’s simply absurd. But “attractive” has me stumped. Again, should calls for help be accompanied by headshots? (“My GOD that girl is ugly, roll the fire trucks!” Or, “I don’t know, the green eyes work just too well with the auburn hair, there’s really nothing we can do.”)

          The question as to why anybody would come to the defense of a young white woman whom society considers attractive, is itself is so biased, so race-based, so economically prejudiced, so ignorant that one despairs for society.

          The question says more than it asks. It says that the worth of a person is still judged by their race, color, social status and nationality.

          Aren’t we yet as a people so far beyond this (at least philosophically) that such hate speech can be recognized for what it is? Do intelligent people really believe that people not “of color” or poor are less deserving of care, love, rescue, freedom? The concept is simply the 1960’s Selma, Alabama sickness – reversed.

          I understand, maybe as much as anybody who has not experienced it directly, that there has been—and continues to be--terrible injustices based simply on the fact that a person is black, or brown or poor. As a young FBI Agent, I surveilled and attempted to infiltrate the Aryan Nations white supremacist organization in Idaho in the mid 1980’s when they were at their peak strength. As a white man, I saw an opportunity—and a responsibility—to do what I could to stamp out this type of hatred. I witnessed cross-burnings, I investigated race- and religiously-based murders, and I heard the seething, irrational hatred of bigots. After my identity as an FBI Agent was discovered, I was very nearly killed. But I helped put dozens of white men away (most for life without parole) for hideous crimes against people simply because they were Jews or non-whites. I spent two years investigating and prosecuting a man who machine-gunned day-care children because they were Jewish, and who shot a dark-skinned Filipino postal worker twice in the head because he was "non-white." (He got 600 years, but is eligible for parole in 540 years.) I’ve been there; I’ve seen it. I've examined the lifeless, bloody corpses of the victims and watched their relatives weep.

           But even in the midst of my disgust and anger at the acts, I can tell you one thing; reverse bias is not the answer. The question as to whether a white woman is equally worthy of rescue from injustice is almost as obscene as the question as to whether black woman should be allowed to sit in the front of the bus.

          Of course, the response of the questioners might simply be that they were not questioning Amanda’s worthiness, but the motives and bias of those working in her favor. (This question is easily refuted by the fact that they never questioned why we would help Amanda’s Italian male co-defendant.) But even the inference of bias among her supporters is grossly naïve and in itself bigoted. One might just as well ask why Amanda’s parents came to her aid. One might also ask why Dr. Martin Luther King chose to help blacks in America instead of blacks in South Africa. Was it self-serving? Did he care less about African blacks? Was he simply provincial?  I don’t think so. I think he saw a need close to him and was called to something he saw with his own eyes.  John F. Kennedy popularized a phrase that applies: “A rising tide lifts all boats.” One may argue convincingly that Dr. King’s efforts sped the end of apartheid. The nearness and familiarity with the victim(s) is also the reason that most initially came to Amanda’s aid. The movement consisted of friends, relatives, parents of school friends, family friends, and other Seattleites who viewed Amanda as “one of their own.” Others had either experienced similar injustices, or had careers, experience or interests which intersected with the case.

          I would point out that many of those involved in Amanda’s defense were also involved in other cases, many of which involved people of color. As an example, I am currently involved in the case of the wrongful imprisonment of a man of Indian descent, and others were involved in the unsuccessful attempt to prevent the execution of Troy Davis in Georgia.

          Dr. King, a man I deeply admire, wrote in 1963 from a jail in Birmingham, Alabama,“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” King would not wonder if Amanda was equally worthy of rescue. Nor would he question the motives of people who were seeking justice in any arena.

          Bias against a victim because they aren’t poor or “of color” is not a correction of a problem, it is not “balancing the scales,” it is simply revenge. If Martin Luther King’s vision of a society of complete equality was a great “dream” for which to strive, then revenge is simply the nightmare of a society far from that goal. It undoes everything the man stood for and stands in stark opposition to his dream. It amounts to no more than reversing the polarity of the bigotry. Sound waves are one of the few entities, philosophies or bits of matter in this world that can be eliminated by simple reversal. Bose has made a successful business selling “noise-cancelling” headphones. These devices sense a sound wave, reverse it, broadcast it, and thereby cancel it out. The only people who have ever made a living by continuous reversals of prejudice are coroners on the West Bank and arms dealers. Those who would deny justice to a person because they weren’t “of color” or "poor" are just as depraved as those who would deny justice to someone because theywere.

          To say the least, it is ironic that almost to a person, the people who ask this question are always the very same people who decry the fact that in the Kercher murder, a “black man” was being “blamed.” It really isn’t the Amanda Knox supporters who are “blaming” a black man, it is science. The DNA of African Rudy Guede was inside the sexually assaulted victim. The appeals court confirmed scientific findings that his bloody footprint was found on a bathmat, and his bloody handprints were on the victim's purse, which obviously have deluded some people into thinking that a person of color is capable of murder. Remember, nobody knew that the fingerprints and the DNA belonged to a black man when they were collected or tested.

          The question; “Why a middle-class white girl?” might simply imply that persons should be helped in order of need; that no person should be helped until all who are “less fortunate” than they are first helped.  If a car flipped in front of you and caught fire, would you first check to make sure no more serious accidents were happening nearby, or that the people in a similar accident were less socially disadvantaged than “your” victims? Another vexing question would be whether someone could be helped with her 26 year sentence until everyone with 27 year or longer sentences had already been helped.  To do otherwise would be gross insensitivity.

          One of the greatest examples of this type of self-serving, short-sighted insensitivity was, of course, that selfish bastard Jonas Salk. A polio vaccine?! Are you kidding me? A vaccine for (rich) people who don’t even HAVE the disease? He could have used his genius, his time, and the money he spent on polio to find a cure for cancer! Cancer! People alreadyhad cancer and were dying by the thousands. Even if you got polio, there were ‘Iron Lungs’ so you didn’t have to die. But if you got pancreatic cancer, it was over. You could not find, and still cannot find, an ‘Iron Pancreas.’ So while Salk selfishly worked on his vaccine, tens of thousands of people died of a disease more deadly than polio. What a waste. Why, Jonas? Why did you work on polio and not on something more important?

          And what about that ‘Iron Pancreas?’ In 1959, at a time when the world desperately needed (and still needs) an ‘Iron Pancreas,’ a device was created which did nothing except regulate the beats of a working heart; and it was called the “pacemaker.” What’s ironic is that pacemakers already existed, but they were bulky machines. This one was simply an internal, portable pacemaker so that the wearer could enjoy a better quality of life, and it was invented by one Dr. Wilson Greatbatch, who apparently didn’t care about people with cancer either. No one knows how much money was spent on this device which couldn't cure cancer or serve as an artificial pancreas. Cancer vs. better quality of life for people who eat too much cholesterol so they can go golfing? Really?

          Don’t get me started on Dr. Greatbatch.