Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Josh Perlin Discusses Due Process and Civil Liberties

On several occasions, I’ve noted that the college press has featured a higher percentage of quality articles than its counterparts among mainstream print publications. Every once in awhile, however, a column comes along to shock the senses. Such was the case in a piece last week from a Cornell student named Josh Perlin.

Headlined “Seligmann Not Worth the Hassle,” Perlin’s article, which strongly condemned Brown other Ivy League institutions for a “lack of judgment” in recruiting Seligmann, featured some of the most tortuous logic to appear anywhere in print about this case.

Perlin worried about whether the campus could have handled things “if Seligmann had come to Cornell after the scandal broke.” Leaving aside the inconvenient fact that Seligmann is not even now looking to transfer to Cornell, Perlin seems to believe that Seligmann could have called up the Cornell coach the day after last March’s party, immediately been accepted into the school, and then started play on the lacrosse team the next day. Perlin’s hypothetical, in other words, is about as useful as speculating on what would have happened if Mike Nifong had suddenly become Ithaca district attorney.

Perlin then proceeded to what appears to be his real issue—the fact that recruiting Seligmann implicitly states that Mike Nifong’s case has collapsed. “There is a wealth of information floating around the media pointing to the three players’ innocence, but only a few people truly know all the details of the case.” Perlin lectures his readers that “I don’t think I have a right to judge, either way. No one does. That is why I’m surprised Ivy coaches are so willing to truly overlook his impending trial.”

About Seligmann, we know that:

  • His electronic alibi evidence includes cellphone records and an ATM video showing him someplace else at the only time any “crime” could have occurred.
  • The DA refused to meet with Seligmann’s attorneys to consider this evidence.
  • He was chosen—despite not matching any of the accuser’s initial descriptions—after a lineup in which the prosecutor instructed the police to violate their own procedures.
  • In the latest of her myriad, mutually contradictory stories, even the accuser doesn’t actually accuse Seligmann of doing anything (other than saying he was getting married the next day).
  • No DNA of his was found in the accuser’s rape kit.
  • The DA conspired with a lab director to withhold exculpatory DNA evidence from Seligmann’s attorneys.
  • Shortly thereafter, the state bar field an ethics complaint against the DA.

What more, exactly, did Perlin want to know? He didn’t say. He did say, however, that he was “tired of this case . . . tired of all the leaked information about what did or did not happen.” He’s “sick of the implications and everything else brought on by the media. Let’s wait for the trial, make sure justice is served and move on.” If Perlin is “tired of this case,” perhaps he might want to speculate how fatigued Seligmann might be.

For a glimpse of how a college newspaper could fairly address the issue of Seligmann’s transfer, Perlin could glance at the Harvard Crimson story on Seligmann’s possibly coming to Cambridge (“Accused Duke Star May Transfer,” March 1). The article describes the transfer process and includes fair quotes from both the coach and members of the team. For instance, the team’s senior co-captain, John Henry Flood said, “He’s a great person and he’s definitely a great lacrosse player. If the case turns out to be dropped, he’d be a great addition to the Harvard lacrosse team as a person and a player.” Coach Scott Anderson added that Seligmann is “a great student and I think he’s an excellent young man.”

The comment thread on Perlin’s column featured appropriate expressions of outrage. Noting Perlin’s admitted fatigue, commenter PJ Pluth observed that “to ease his weary soul, he proposes to keep burdening Reade Seligmann with the residue of a false prosecution . . . Watergate took more than two years to unravel. Ten months, evidently, taxes the mental stamina of the assistant sports editor of this little student newspaper. Woodward or Bernstein he ain’t.” Another reader urged Perlin to “be completely informed of all developments in the Duke Lacrosse rape hoax before he opines on the matter.”

Lacrosse parent George Jennison termed himself “offended” by the column, especially its title. Cornell, according to Jennison, would be lucky to have someone like Seligmann as a student; instead, Perlin’s “statement basically is, ‘not in my back yard’”—which amounts to “turning your back on supporting truth, supporting a fine young man, and are condoning the lies and misconduct that led to this situation.”

Perhaps the most effective response to Perlin came yesterday from fellow Sun columnist—and, ironically, Cornell lacrosse player—Andrew Webb. Webb notes, correctly, “The errors in ethics, judgment and sheer writing ability in Perlin’s column prove to be one of the worst cases of journalism that I have ever had the misfortune of reading.”

In Perlin’s view of the world, Webb contends, people should stray “from doing things that are right just because it would bring attention to the cause.” Webb wonders whether Perlin was “one of those who rushed to judge these three students before any of the facts came out.” (Somehow, I doubt that Perlin joined the ranks of Nifong’s critics.) By publishing his column, which then appeared on Insidelacrosse.com, Perlin not only “damaged Cornell University, Cornell Lacrosse and The Cornell Daily Sun’s reputation, but he has also single-handedly decided to make us Cornellians look like judgmental, exclusive jerks.”

Perlin’s column also seems to have misused quotes from Cornell men’s lacrosse coach Jeff Tambroni, who told Webb, “I regret the way in which I was portrayed in an article that I did not agree with.” Webb concludes,

I wonder if Josh Perlin would like it if he or someone close to him had to pay millions in legal defense, withstand unthinkable/undeserved cruelty from most of America and wait for an indefinite amount of time to see if he had to be punished for a crime that he never committed. And then also have to read from some college sports “columnist” (whose writing style and content are not original) about how the writer thinks that Perlin or someone he loves is not deserving of being a member of “his” community?

Webb’s words provided a useful reminder that Perlin does not reflect the values of many Cornell students. That Webb ends his effectively argued column by noting that he is a lacrosse player himself was, somehow, fitting.


Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

Perhaps Perlin could join Duff and his cohorts at The New York Times.

Anonymous said...

JLS says....,

And the little Cornell sports columnist is rooting against his own self interest. If Seligmann were to transfer to Cornell, Seligmann would be the most famous Cornell athlete since Ed Marinaro. Having a a famous athlete to cover is one way a budding college journalist MIGHT get noticed, if he were any good and could write.

Anonymous said...

Sounds like Perlin is auditioning for an ESPN or SI job.

Anonymous said...

A phrase about sledgehammers and nuts comes to mind here...

And the appropriate word is 'tortuous' not 'torturous."

Anonymous said...

Incidents in this on-going saga keep reminding me of that great bit in the Monty Python film "Search for the Holy Grail" where a couple of besotted, dim-witted peasants are trying to decide on the right way to determine someones guilt or innocence (especially if accused of the then PC crime of witchcraft).
The mindless "logic", the thinnly veiled need to torture the innocent; for some reason I cannot remember anymore that seemed actually funny at the time.

Anonymous said...

Frankly, I'm tired of this case.

Well, Josh.....you certainly spent enough time opining and kibitzing about a topic that you say you are so tired of.

Unfortunately, you come off as a peanut gallery sniffer at a Scarlett O'Hara parade.

Pea-green with envy


Anonymous said...

Webb's artice is excellent. Why in the world would Josh enter into the debate now? They are still coming out of the woodwork. Just like Professor Crawley,lawyer Anout and the rest. Josh should know that those who refuse to look at the fact and evidence lose their own reputations. Thats Andrew for coming to the defense of your school and lacrosse.

Anonymous said...

hman - I don't wish to derail a KC thread, but what you are looking for is here:


She turned me into a newt.

A newt?

I got better.

Surprisingly, a not inaccurate parallel for this witch hunt.

Anonymous said...

On the one hand Jay Nordlinger just published a very soft comment about Nifong and electing DAs/Judges. On the other hand, maybe more curious readers will seek out the story. His comment is about 2/3 down the page.

Nordlinger NRO Impromtus

"Ever since I was a kid, I have been squeamish about direct election of judges and prosecutors. I mean, I understand the arguments for it, but . . .

Take this guy down in Duke-land, the lacrosse guy, Nifong. He pleaded that this case arose “during the last few weeks of a hotly contested Democratic-party primary in which I was seeking to retain my office,” and “I was not always able to give the case my full attention.”

You see what I mean? I am not settled against the direct election of judges and prosecutors, never have been. But “squeamish” is the word I use."

Anonymous said...

More interesting than Nordlinger's (NRO) comment about Nifong, are his comments regarding Cuban Journalists.

Cuban Journalists

Compare and contrast Cuba's treatment of Journalists and Duke's "Shut-up and Teach" approach to a free press. (For those that say not all Professors agree with the Gang of 88, I say silence is tacit approval.) Also, compare and contrast the power of the Internet on free societies.

The following quotes are on race, gender, class warfare studies at Duke, excuse me, I mean from Nordlinger on Cuba. Oh what's the difference? Maybe Cuba makes good Cigars... still supports athletes...is an island...is a less hostile environment if you want honest debate...

"...According to Reporters Without Borders, Cuba is the fourth-worst place in the world for journalists...”

…Duke may be in the top 3.

"...Castro has his official press, and everything else is illegal..."

…and the Gang of 88 has their official press

"...Yet independent journalists persist, and there are many little agencies across the island. Those who work for them are subject to constant monitoring, harassment, and worse..."

…thank God for the person who recorded the Shut-up and Teach event….Why haven't the Gang of 88 aired the event, why don't they publish their work on their web sites?

"...Independent journalists are not allowed to use the Internet, of course; they usually make do with pen and paper. Often they don’t have phones, because State Security rips them out. As I say in this piece, Cuba’s independent journalists not only have to be braver than their colleagues elsewhere; they have to be more resourceful, too..."

…thank God for blogs. “Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free”

"...“Whenever a foreign journalist came to interview or visit me and said, ‘What can I do for you?’ I would answer, ‘Leave me your pen.’...

…the end result of the CCI plan..."leave me your pen"

"...And please note the motto of CubaNet: “Only oppression should fear the full exercise of freedom.” It is a statement by José Martí...”

That Duke would put the Gang of 88 and others, in positions of power clearly demonstrates that it is not about light and exploration, rather darkness and indoctrination.

That Duke would elevate the AAAs program to Departmental status provides clear understanding that the Administration is about darkness and not freedom of expression, debate, or justice.

That Duke would elect McCain to run the Faculty Senate clearly indicates how muddled the leadership has become.

That all of this is occurring in the context of the Duke Lacrosse hoax is proof positive of the rapid deconstruction that is being shoved down the throats of those that built Duke.

What shall be done?

Anonymous said...

Yes... Perlin's approach is in keeping with those who most enthusiastically joined the rush-to-judgment in the early days of this case.

Now, when confronted with the facts ("leaked information"), and their own despicable prejudice, they call for the outrage to "go away". They hope for a "show trial" in which convictions may be gained by a false identification and racial, class and gender animus.

It would not surprise me if, in other cases, Perlin would describe himself as an adamant defender of "civil liberties". It is amazing that some such people willingly shed their "ideals" if only the accused fit their personal image of the "wrong" people.

Kudos to Andrew Webb.

Anonymous said...

Cornell students are mostly arch-leftists and new-age idealists. I'm disappointed that this jerk can't see the hypocrisy in his position.

Anonymous said...

Perlin is envious of Seligmann. Reade has conducted himself with grace, dignity and strength in the face of the most serious of offenses against him. If the roles were reversed, Perlin knows that he would have already buckled. Perlin sees in Reade the strength of character that he does not possess so rather than praise Reade, Perlin must somehow diminish him. Perlin is a Group 88 member waiting to happen.

Anonymous said...

In addition to the Monty Python scene ... this reminds one of the lynch mob scene in Blazing Saddles. They don't need no steenking badges (nor evidence, lest the inconvenient facts get in the way.) The Mob just KNOWS these guys are guilty and cannot let piddling little details like ACTUAL INNOCENCE get in the way...

The total inability of people to see that they themselves could easily be on the business end of a bogus prosecution is boggling. Empathy and common sense seem to be in short supply among these Knights of the PC Brigade. At least these creeps and their ilk are exposing themselves for what they are.

Anonymous said...

Envy can make a person say horrible,untrue things. Reade is intelligent, a talented athlete and most of all a person with integrity and great strength of character and a kind and gentle heart always there to help others. Perlin does not know Reade personally but chooses to make a name for himself, even if it is a bad name, to get attention. What a sad, untalented, little person he is.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous 7:25,

I disagree that Cornell students are a bunch of arch-leftists and new age idealists. As a relatively recent graduate of Cornell (2002), I can tell you that Cornell has its fair share of pot-banging loudmouths just like Duke, but the majority of Cornell students are decent, reasonable people. I had and have good friends of the left, right, and everywhere in between from my days at Cornell who I know are disgusted by the travesty of justice that is the Duke Lacrosse case.

David said...

Re: “Seligmann Not Worth the Hassle”

This laziness does not reflect well on Cornell, much less on 'higher education.' If I were provost, Perlin would be looking for another major, or better, another school.

As a parent, I've thought a great deal about Reade Seligmann's situation - and I've come easily to this conclusion; I'd [also] mortgage the farm in his defense. This is a parent's highest calling, to defend one's child - to the death if necessary.

I even feel a little cheated, that my own didn't step into that racist cesspool called Duke, and to experience Durham in all its racist glory. Not to mention the state (not "State") of North Carolina, and hillbilly justice.

Anonymous said...

Awesome! I know Drew Webb and his family. Good people.

Anonymous said...

DJR says....,

Apparently I'm one of the few people on this campus who agrees with Josh Perlin.

The issue at hand isn't whether or not Seligmann is guilty or not; those who believe it is have gravely misunderstood Perlin's argument. What Perlin seeks to explicate is why Cornell should not recruit Seligmann at this time, and, in turn, those reasons are laid out in his article.

As a friend of Perlin's, I know him; the rest of you do not. And while I find the above comments' psychoanalysis somewhat amusing, there is to the best of my knowledge no great void in Perlin's life which his consideration of Seligmann fills. His potential recruitment by Cornell, however, is something of concern to our campus community. In fact, most students hadn't known about this until Perlin's article was published and even last year there existed little discussion or written discourse on the whole Duke affair. I thus encourage everyone to read his other columns before judging his opus based on his most recent work.

Lastly, to the flagrant idiot who suggested that the Cornell provost somehow expel Perlin, let’s talk about restricting civil liberties—namely the freedom of the press. The Cornell Daily Sun is an independent newspaper—it’s actually the oldest such college newspaper in the United States—and thus the administration has absolutely no power over what gets published. Oh, and sorry to disappoint any of you, but this article doesn’t even come close to entering the pantheon of the most controversial articles published in the Sun.

Anonymous said...

"I disagree with every word you have said, but will defend to the death your right to say it" Lets remember that Josh has his civil rights also.

Anonymous said...

Carolyn says:

It has been so disheartening to see the lives of Seligmann and his friends ruined by a corrupt DA. But in reading the comments arising from Josh Perlin's disgraceful whine that Seligmann was "not worth the hassle" to come to Cornell, one of the posters revealed an unexpected silver lining in all this darkness:

"Most all legal aid defense attorney’s in North Carolina are ecstatic that this case has become such a big deal. Why? Because, for the first time, the injustices they have had to face for their entire careers in attempting to get a fair and just trial for their clients has come to light in such a way that hopefully, it will be able to set a precedent that future defense attorneys can use against other DA’s that also use the same tactics as those used in Durham."

How amazing that a corrupt DA in Durham should now strengthen civil rights by the very act of trying to destroy them.

I truly hope Seligmann appreciates the irony.

kcjohnson9 said...

To the 12.37:

You note, Seligmann's "potential recruitment by Cornell, however, is something of concern to our campus community. In fact, most students hadn't known about this until Perlin's article was published."

Hadn't known about what? Seligmann isn't being recruited by Cornell. He doesn't want to go to Cornell. He didn't apply to transfer to Cornell. No one (including Perlin) ever claimed that he did.

In his column, Perlin asserted that Seligmann should not be allowed to go to other Ivy League schools. Perlin's argument that other Ivy schools should punish Seligmann because he was falsely charged strikes me as intellectually dubious.

Anonymous said...

Go get em KC

Anonymous said...

12:47 It is not clear to me how "knowing Perlin" impacts his essay. He appears to be the only person in America (including the coach) that thinks Reade would want to go to Cornell or is being recuited. I think he made a huge mistake by turning down Harvard for Duke - Looks like that is being corrected. Let us know why he entered into the debate.

Anonymous said...

Perlin's comparison of Reade Seligmann's predicament to that of Nathan Poffenbarger misses an important point. The "case," if there ever was one, against Reade has come apart so publicly that it certainly would be reasonable for the adminstration and coaching staff at Brown, or any other college or university (including, it appears, Duke), to conclude that there will not be a trial in the Duke Lacrosse case. In that regard, the otherwise much-maligned legal system in North Carolina has served Reade well. I doubt so much exculpatory evidence could have been made so public in most other states. Perlin also doesn't seem to realize that trials are not required in all cases. I am an attorney who specializes in commercial work. Trials are very rare; most matters settle. To be sure, criminal cases are much more likely to go to trial than are civil cases. However, there are protections built into most systems of criminal procedure that will lead to the dismissal of criminal cases before trial if the state lacks sufficient evidence even to go to trial. The Duke Lacrosse case appears to be such a case. Hence, it is hard to see treating Reade Seligmann as a defendant likely to be convicted. He should be free to get on with his life even though he remains under an indictment that cannot, at this point, lead to a trial, except for those who are responsible for the indictment and what followed.

Anonymous said...

If Mr. Perlin was journalist enough to do a little research on the subject he is so ready to dismiss as "not worth it", he might have come across a column written by Peter Applebome in the July 16 New York Times (believe it or not) entitled "As Duke Accusation Festers, Disbelief Grows". The first three sentences of that article mention that Pat Crapo, one of Reade's teachers at Delbarton wrote in his college letter of recommendation that if she had a son, she would hope that he could be just like Reade. She is quoted in the article as saying that in 24 years of teaching, she has never said or written that about any other student. Perhaps reading such a tribute would suggest to Mr. Perlin that Reade is in fact "worth it" and very much so.

Fortunately, unlike the pucilanimous Mr. Perlin, I didn't need to learn that Reade is an outstanding young man from the NY Times, as my son was a classmate of Reade's at Delbarton and I already knew that to be the case. I knew from the outset of this farce (and before the exculpatory evidence proved it so) that accusing Reade of such crimes was and is a patent absurdity and, as many now know (thanks in no small measure to Prof. Johnson), an outrageous travesty.

But to Mr. Perlin, it is not enough to have Reade's reputation ruined, to have his family endure ruinous legal expenses and to have his life put on hold for over a year. He should also be denied admission to Ivy League schools regardless of his qualifications so long as these charges hang over his head, all so that poor Mr. Perlin and his colleagues at other Ivy League schools need not be subjected to the controversy that might, however unfairly, attend Reade's recruitment. This even though the delay in resolving those charges is now attributable to the unethical actions of the DA and the need to allow his replacement time to re-investigate the charges.

Having two children in college at two different Ivy League schools (neither Cornell), I am extremely disappointed with Mr. Perlin's dreadfull piece and the attitude it reflects. I am glad that other Cornellians have responded to reject his suggestion to discard and ostracize a demonstrably innocent young man. Any school (Ivy Leage or otherwise) would be very fortunate to have Reade as a student. When allowed to re-enter college life somewhere at some point (hopefullu very soon), I am confident that his contributions to the school he attends will far outweigh the oh so terrible incovenience of the attendant publicity to his fellow students that so concerns Mr. Perlin.

Anonymous said...


I noticed that you conveniently failed to mention the statement by the Harvard LAX captain that Seligmann would make a good addition to the Harvard team "if he's proven innocent." I find this omission quite surprising given the fact that you spent roughly 9 months beating up President Brodhead for making a similar statement.

Anonymous said...

I must be getting senile - I remember Brodhead saying " If they did not do this, whatever they did was bad enough." what is that?