Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Attorney Wilson Approaches the Bench

Again proving that a man who represents himself has a fool for a client, Attorney pro se Linwood Wilson has filed a civil rights lawsuit against Kent (DE) County, Durham County, and no fewer than 31 individuals (ranging from his estranged wife Barbara to Beau Biden(!), the vice president’s son and the current Attorney General of Delaware). The former DA’s chief investigator, Christian singer, and ethical sinkhole alleges that his arrest for possible spousal abuse in fact involved malicious prosecution, concealment of evidence, conspiracy, supervisory violations, and fabrication of false evidence—all matters of which, it goes without saying, his service under Mike Nifong gave him intimate knowledge.

Wilson’s 92-page complaint, filed alongside 10 exhibits (totaling some 355 pages), takes 10 pages just to identify the various people that he’s suing. Attorney Wilson suggests a wide-ranging and multi-layered conspiracy of his wife, her alleged “paramour,” a Delaware police officer with whom she also allegedly was having an affair, his wife’s family, some of his wife’s friends and co-workers, some law enforcement officials in Durham County, and various law enforcement officials in Delaware—all working in concert to deny Linwood Wilson his constitutional rights. Remarkably, until the filing of this complaint, this vast conspiracy went undetected—not by the media, nor by state legislators in Delaware or North Carolina, nor by various watchdog agencies. How could this be?

In the real world, the chief purpose of the complaint seems to be less exposing a previously undetected “conspiracy” than humiliating Wilson’s estranged wife and her alleged “paramour,” Joseph Curtis. Attorney Wilson describes his wife as “a mentally troubled woman who had abandoned her marriage.” Indeed, she had “plenty of Zoloft at home,” yet was caught going to the pharmacy for more. Wilson recounts the following alleged event at a local Mexican restaurant: “Defendant [Barbara] Wilson drank a large double margarita (while taking Zoloft, Clonazepam, and Xanax) and got extremely drunk, telling Plantiff [Linwood] how she wanted to rip his clothes off and have sex with him on the table.” Attorney Wilson describes this evening as “the best [the marriage] had been in months.”

But, alas, Barbara Wilson was leading a double life, according to her husband. She was having an affair with her “paramour” at the workplace, while at their “marital home,” Barbara Wilson “sat next to her husband each night, wanted [sic] him to rub her feet and legs.” The “paramour,” meanwhile, “ran from Wilson’s marital home like a dog with his tail between his legs” when confronted by Linwood.

The gap between Attorney Wilson and Plaintiff Wilson is sometimes difficult to follow. For instance, in paragraph 48 of the complaint, Attorney Wilson speaks of “our marriage” (the marriage between Barbara and Plaintiff Wilson); at other occasions, he uses “I” rather than “plaintiff” to describe his recollections of alleged events.

Attorney Wilson claims that his client has suffered various injuries, including “economic” harm, presumably a result of the marriage’s breakup shattering the “Voiceovers by Wilson” business that the husband and wife planned to start. Attorney Wilson also claims that his client has “suffered irreparable harm to his reputation.” How? After the exposures of the lacrosse case, Linwood Wilson had no reputation to lose.

Attorney Wilson is particularly fond of the phrase “upon information and belief”—an approach used in civil suits when lawyers believe that something occurred but for which they do not, before discovery, possess hard evidence to substantiate. But in the Wilson complaint, virtually every “factual” claim comes not from any evidence he possesses but from his own . . . beliefs. To give a sampling from the complaint:

“Upon information and belief Durham Coca-Cola was already aware of the affair.”

“Upon information and belief . . . Barbara Wilson had been reportedly locking herself in her office at work and crying all the time.”

“Upon information and belief, a display of public affection occurred between Defendants Wilson and Curtis, in Curtis’ car on the way back from NCCU.”

“Upon information and belief, Barbara Wilson was the only one who got a raise in the past 2-3 years.”

“Upon information and belief, the ‘Delaware Conspiracy’ along with co-conspirators . . . from North Carolina, made a ‘rush to judgment’ and manufactured changes.”

“Upon information and belief, Defendant Reimann continued to conspire with Defendants [Barbara] Wilson, Curtis, and Delaware Sgt. Weaver.”

“Upon information and belief Defendants Whitfield and Wilson hacked Plaintiff’s computers at his residence and falsified evidence.”

“Upon information and belief, Defendant Deputy Reimann was the source of information for Defendant Weaver, thus thickening the conspiracy more and more between North Carolina law enforcement and Delaware law enforcement.”

“Upon information and belief, it was common knowledge throughout the legal system in Dover, DE.”

“Upon information and belief, this is when the conspiracy was formed . . . to make it appear that Barbara Wilson was afraid of her husband (Plaintiff) and that he (Plaintiff) was crazy.” [As an aside, Barbara Wilson needn’t have entered into a conspiracy to have accomplished these goals: she simply could have told people to read this complaint.]

The strangest of these “information and belief” structures comes in paragraph 49, when Attorney Wilson writes, “Upon information and belief . . . Beth Greenman called Plaintiff [Linwood Wilson] and advised him that “If you don’t get Barbara away from [her alleged ‘paramour’] Joe he is going to ruin her and destroy your marriage.” The person who wrote these words was a party to the alleged call. This is his complaint. Is Wilson suggesting that he himself doesn’t know if the call occurred (the only reason for an “upon information and belief” construction)?

The anti-Linwood “conspiracy,” Attorney Wilson claims, intensified after his wife discovered that Linwood planned to involuntarily commit her for mental observation. At that point, Barbara Wilson decided to “flea [sic!!] the jurisdiction of North Carolina in order to avoid commitment proceedings.”

Attorney Wilson also appeared to have taken writing lessons from the grammatically-challenged Tracey Cline. Consider, for example, this head-scratching sentence: “Also none of it was relevant to Delaware since, according to Defendant Weaver himself, the fact that all this supposedly occurred in another jurisdiction, North Carolina, which Defendant Weaver had nothing to do with.”

Some of the “evidence” proffered by Attorney Wilson, alas, undermines the position of his client. For instance, Attorney Wilson recounts a conversation between Barbara Wilson and her husband, in which she told Linwood that she wanted the marriage to work, but that she had some “conditions.” That admission might sound damaging to Barbara, until Attorney Wilson reveals the wife’s conditions: that Linwood “was not to call her cell and ask where she was or what she was doing”; and that Linwood was not to “follow” her. If, in fact, the unemployed Linwood Wilson was following his wife around, or frequently calling her up asking her what she was doing, it would seem as if he was engaging in, at the least, emotional abuse; and, at the most, stalking.

In any case, Attorney Wilson says that his client immediately discerned that his wife wasn’t serious in hoping that the marriage would work—a conclusion he based on his “training and experience as a police investigator, private investigator, and District Attorney investigator, for over 38 years.”

Or take this charming anecdote from Attorney Wilson after his wife’s alleged “paramour” visited the “marital home” to check on Barbara Wilson’s well-being. Linwood Wilson admits to screaming at Curtis, “Don’t come into my home, push me out of the way, and disgrace me, my wife, or my home in this way or I’ll blow your f_king head off!” Again: a person charged with spousal abuse is admitting that he threatened to “blow [the] f_king head off” the man he believed was sleeping with his estranged wife.

As the marriage deteriorated, Attorney Wilson admits that his client refused to have sex with his wife, as the “Plantiff knew that would damage his case, if the marriage didn’t work out, from 20 plus years as a private investigator. A field in which Plaintiff had testified as an expert witness over 200 times . . . throughout North Carolina.” Demonstrating his client’s classless nature, Attorney Wilson passes along the fact that his wife “started using dildo’s” to pleasure herself.

The Linwood Wilson who comes through in this complaint is an enraged man, something of a control freak, clearly humiliated by his wife’s apparent infidelity. How he could escape sanctions for filing such a bizarre complaint remains to be seen.

Finally, perhaps the strangest or the many strange clauses from the Wilson filing was the following: “Defendant Eric Campen stated loudly in the lobby of the Durham County Sheriff’s Department and Courthouse in front of Deputy Tom McRae, several unknown deputies, about ten people in the lobby, one [sic] of whom was Victoria Peterson and Richard Porter, “You are a convicted felon! You will never get your guns back! You know better than to even try this!.” “I’ve seen your handy work on the computers, I know how good you are!” The truth is that Plaintiff Wilson has never been convicted of any felony and why was Campen tampering with evidence that he was not authorized to (computer). When Plaintiff Wilson and Richard Porter left the lobby of the Sheriff’s Department several unknown bystanders stated, “We didn’t know you were a convicted felon!” An obvious character assassination and deformation.”

Leaving aside the implausibility that the events occurred even remotely as Wilson described, and further leaving aside Wilson’s hilarious claim that a government official allegedly saying false things about him constitutes “deformation,” the vignette begs the question: what was Durham’s resident bigot and homophobe, Victoria Peterson, doing milling around the sheriff’s office lobby?

Friday, December 23, 2011

'Tis the Season . . . for the "Thugniggaintellectual"

The lacrosse case unintentionally exposed the extent to which shoddy thinking passes for insight in the contemporary academy. Dozens of professors at one of the nation’s finest universities rushed to judgment based on highly incomplete information—and then when evidence emerged that contradicted their preconceived biases, they resolutely clung to their original opinions.

Such behavior had to raise questions about whether Group members—who, after all, represent the dominant pedagogical approaches in most humanities and social sciences departments—also poorly evaluated evidence in their own scholarship. Addressing that question was a central theme of the blog’s series of Group profiles.

Yet a closer look at what passes for scholarship among the Group also revealed some zany (to borrow an adjective from the current presidential campaign) assertions—such as Grant Farred’s claim that former Houston Rockets center Yao Ming represented “the most profound threat to American empire.”

A recent blog post ("'Santa Claus Is Coming to Town': Some Thoughts on Christmas and State Surveillance") from the self-described “thugniggaintellectual,” Group member Mark Anthony Neal, reached Farred-ian levels. Indeed, as one correspondent noted, it read as if it were intended as a caricature of the most ridiculous type of academic discourse.

The post opened with a warm holiday scene—the Neal family getting into the holiday spirit by listening to “Santa Claus is Coming to Town.” (The Temptations’ version, of course, given that in the Group member's “youthful nationalist days, it was easy to reject the idea that some ‘fat white man’ would be honored for providing gifts that hardworking black women and men, like my parents sacrificed to provide for their families.”) And as this happy scene proceeded, Neal’s daughter tossed in a comment: “Santa sounds like a stalker.”

This . . . insight . . . prompted Neal to pause and reflect on “the more troubling aspects of Santa Claus.” He ultimately concluded that his “daughter was on to something. Every holiday season millions of American embrace a seemingly innocuous symbol, that is in truth a powerful reminder of the reality of State surveillance in everyday life.”

Santa as a latter-day J. Edgar Hoover, all courtesy of a professor's child! Who knew?

It also seems that parents who invoke Santa in a desperate attempt to get their kids to behave need to turn in their ACLU cards—for, as Neal explained, “Santa Claus is but a user friendly symbol of the State’s capacity not only to engage in blatant forms of surveillance, but to essentially police behavior in the absence of actual surveillance . . . How many parents have exploited their children’s knowledge that Santa ‘knows when you are bad or good’ as a means of reigning in bad behavior.”

Neal then proceeded to more flights of fancy, moving on from surveillance to a critique of Santa-themed Christmas TV shows, which “portray Santa Claus as a benevolent patriarch. Benevolent, that is, as long as children (and presumably adults) adhere to some State sanctioned notion of normal and legal behavior.”

The “thugniggaintellectual” provided his own unique brand of insight into Santa’s “disruptive outlaw figures.” BurgermeisterMeisterburger in Santa Claus is Coming to Town, according to Neal, “reproduced anxieties” not about Nazism (don’t be fooled by the German-sounding name) but instead “about Soviet-styled Communism.” As usual with the Group, why let evidence get in the way of a good argument, in this case proving American society’s reflexive anti-leftism? Or take two of my favorites—the Miser Brothers of The Year Without a Santa Claus. In Neal’s reality, they “are used to gently chide the kinds of male flamboyance often associated with homosexuality(!!).”

Neal’s post concluded by meandering from his reflections on Santa to commentary about the “State sanctioned assassinations of Black Panther Party leaders Fred Hampton and Mark Clark.” Of course.

It’s easy, and wholly understandable, to laugh at this type of drivel. But it’s worth recalling Neal’s valued place within Duke. Indeed, the revelation of the “thugniggaintellectual” moniker came from Duke's public relations office itself; Duke Magazine published an interview with Neal in which he asserted that “my intellectual alter ego is thugniggaintellectual—one word . . .I wanted to embody this figure that comes into intellectual spaces like a thug, who literally is fearful and menacing. I wanted to use this idea of this intellectual persona to do some real kind of ‘gangster’ scholarship, if you will. All right, just hard, hard-core intellectual thuggery.”

Those remarks appeared in print just after the dean of students, in a public forum on the university’s response to the lacrosse case, worried that Duke students had created a "culture of crassness.” No worries about how a professor who said that he engaged in “hard-core intellectual thuggery” contributed to a “crassness” of discourse on campus.

But why bother confronting the hypocrisy of the academic powers-that-be when we can speculate on Heat Miser's sexual orientation?

Sunday, December 18, 2011

A Few Updates

[Update, Tuesday, 11.51am: The N&O reports that in an unpublished decision, a three-judge panel of the state Court of Appeals has upheld the conviction of Angel Richardson, even though DA Cline didn't turn over to the defense a statement that someone else claimed he had committed the killing until the trial was already underway.

In a remarkable piece of legal reasoning, the panel conceded that the evidence was exculpatory, and acknowledged that the Supreme Court's Brady standard (as well as, of course, North Carolina's seemingly toothless open file discovery law) requires turning over exculpatory material to the defense, but that there's nothing wrong with "the disclosure of evidence at trial, so long as disclosure is made in time for the defendant to make effective use of the evidence."]

A few updates on legal matters from Durham:

False accuser Crystal Mangum has been deemed mentally competent to stand trial for murder. Such a finding, it seems to me, best illustrates how low the bar for competency actually is—if Mangum isn’t seen as mentally imbalanced under the law, it’s hard to see who would be.

That said, the false accuser still has her defenders. Mangum co-author Vincent “Ed” Clark recently offered the following:

"The one thing I would want to add to this is that the story has been reported all wrong from the beginning . . . The narrative that Crystal lied about what happened that night is not true either. I was involved in the case from nearly the start. There are so many things that people don't know . . . the Duke case got used by a lot of people to score points in North Carolina . . . Unfortunately, reporter[s] and the general public are too lazy to do the work it takes to tell the real story. If you could just see, read or hear any of the interviews Crystal did with major media like NBC, CNN and the Daily Beast, you would have a completely different impression of what went on. Unfortunately, the attorneys for the players were very affective [sic] in killing any interviews Crystal did that made her look favorable . . . What I can tell you is that Crystal didn't make up being hurt. There were problems with the case but it didn't have anything to do with the information she provided . . . attorneys for the players[:] Many of them wereon the OJ [Brad Bannon as Johnnie Cochran??], Michael Vick and other similar cases . . . Racists [sic] idiots have no idea that the poor white boys in the case are and their parents have strong connections to the very media the hate[??]. The stress and lack of support for our own community really hurt Crystal. She has struggled to try and have a normal life but can't. Those clowns have hounded her for over five years. It has been said and unnecessary."

It’s worth pointing out: (1) none of the lacrosse players sued Mangum, as they obviously would have done if they had desired to “hound” her; (2) even the Queen of Bias, former SANE-nurse-in-training Tara Levicy, didn’t find any evidence that Mangum was “hurt”; (3) if the lacrosse players’ families had such strong connections to the media, how to explain the guilt-presuming media barrage in the early stages of the case?; (4) given that Mangum went on record with her rape-by-levitation theory, it’s hard to argue that anyone could deem any of her interviews credible.

But such comments offer a sense of the continuing reputational harm to the lacrosse players caused by Mangum’s false accusations and the Nifong/DPD misconduct.

The ethically challenged Tracey Cline remains Durham County’s chief prosecutor, even though her behavior prompted this extraordinary in-court remark from her former boss, now-Judge Jim Hardin: “In respect to motions in this court, and any others, please ensure they are factual . . . Consider this a warning and a public admonition as to that.”

That said: despite the public admonition, Hardin allowed Cline to “withdraw” her motions asking for prison-visitor records, apparently as part of an attempt to dig for evidence to prove her wild claims of a “conspiracy” against her. And Hardin chose leniency even though, as Andrew Curliss noted, “Cline offered explanations for why she sought the documents that do not match up with records requests made by her office's investigator or in the motions she presented to Hardin."

Meanwhile, the N&O is reporting that a Durham attorney, Scott Cooper, has organized a grassroots legal campaign to remove Cline from office—as the State Bar has requested between 800 and 900 pages of files from five of Cline’s cases.


Duke has filed a follow-up motion as the university continues its efforts to conceal as much as possible regarding its spring 2006 decisionmaking process. In the McFadyen lawsuit, attorney Bob Ekstrand requested material from the two public relations firms retained by Duke to craft the university’s public response to the lacrosse case. The requested material included items of considerable interest to any student of the case:

  • Burson-Marsteller’s public relations advice and communications with Duke University, its administrators, officials, employees, alumni, board members, regarding both “on” and “off-the record” statements to members of the press;

  • Duke University’s actions on April 5, 2006, including but not limited to […] the firing of former Head Coach Mike Pressler, President Brodhead’s television interviews, President Brodhead’s Letter to the Community, setting up a committee to examine the culture of the lacrosse team, setting up a committee to investigate the Duke administration and/or the decision to create any of the 5 committees announced by President Brodhead on April 5, 2006.
In a sometimes overheated reply, Duke’s attorneys described the subpoenas as an attempt to “harass the Duke Defendants” by prying into “confidential commercial information.” Somehow, I doubt that in future letters to prospective donors, Duke will describe itself as a commercial institution.

In the event, I suspect Judge Beaty will side with Duke on this matter—but his reasoning will be intriguing.


Finally, an issue unrelated to the specifics of the lacrosse case but one that touches upon some of the themes of the case.

A few days ago, the Suffolk (MA) County DA dropped all charges against New England Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman, who had been accused of indecent assault by a woman he allegedly groped at a Halloween Party. Early press coverage, especially from the tabloid-ish Boston Herald, presumed if not guilt at the least a demonstration of extremely poor character.

When the charges were dropped, the DA’s office also released a video of the alleged “assault,” which the accompanying press release conceded showed what was, at most, “fleeting” contact between Edelman and the accuser—who neither the Globe nor the Herald deigned to name.

Perhaps, as occurred initially when the New York Times refused to identify Mangum after the exoneration, the papers didn’t want to do anything that might deter false-grope accusers from coming forward in the future.

Monday, December 12, 2011

More Words from Wahneema

Followers of the “Duke Events” website and U-stream portal received a rare treat this semester: Group of 88 author Wahneema Lubiano took time away from her two “forthcoming” manuscripts (forthcoming at 14 years and counting) to answer questions on such topics as the “relationship between literature and Marxist theory” in Duke’s online office hours.

In the literature program, explained Lubiano, “we could be attending to the thought of Marx.”

But she also wants to “attend” to the “discourse” of everyday matters, such as a bus schedule. “My students,” revealed she, “wanted to be able to explain to their parents what the Literature program was about that was different from the English Department.” Her example: bus schedules as a text! “People need to know what time is, what durations of time are. You need to think about where it’s going . . . you need to think about what it means to get on a vehicle,” and to move to the relevant section of the bus. The bus schedule allows her students to think about “how we know something.”

To give a related example: my five-year-old nephew is very interested in bus (and subway) schedules for many of the reasons that Lubiano identified. Perhaps he should apply for a position as a tenured position in Duke’s Literature program?

To communicate a thought, Lubiano never uses one word where ten would do. She spends nearly six minutes “analyzing” an Obama speech to the Congressional Black Caucus (at 6.21 of the linked clip). After much verbiage, she comes to a conclusion that anyone looking at a typical political column could receive: that standard black political rhetoric often imitates the cadences and style of the Black church. Lubiano delivers this analysis while taking sure to note that she, herself, is a non-believer.

The host of the program responded to this string of banalities with a breathless reply, “Wow.” Wow, indeed.

In things like an Obama presidential speech, Lubiano continues, “None of these words are accidental choices.” No kidding.

Lubiano also describes her classroom style, where “I would talk about the discourses that come together.” Sports, for instance—which according to Lubiano, is “an incredibly elaborate discourse.” (She admits that she doesn’t “know anything about it,” but has no problem speaking about it in the classroom.) “You could think of football or food or cancer treatment as a collection of social texts”—all of these things, she says, illustrate the “social order.”

Lubiano excitedly recalled that she was “sitting up all night long preparing for class one day, and . . . I just made a sign: ‘I heart Occupy Wall Street.’” It must be nice to teach a class in which the prof’s prep work consists of drawing a sign to place in her “folio.”

The host says that Lubiano has “written quite a bit” about Anita Hill. “Quite a bit” in this respect would be relative—Lubiano has written an essay on the topic. And Lubiano (see at the 20-minute mark) is such an “expert” on this matter that she apparently believes that former Missouri senator John Danforth’s name was actually Danfort. The discussion about Clarence Thomas revolves around two (apparently randomly-selected) photos of Thomas, one with President Bush and one with Senator Danfort [sic].

Amazingly, Lubiano says that she sees part of her work as commenting on “political history”—and yet she appears to know no more about U.S. political history than a typical college student. She certainly has no research background in U.S. political history. But, keep in mind, her student Melissa Harris-Perry has claimed that devotees of "black feminist" scholarship can rely on "experiential knowledge" rather than actual facts. Appropriately, the session concludes with a question submitted from none other than fellow Group stalwart Karla Holloway, asking Lubiano to reflect on the legacy of Derrick Bell—a race-obsessed law professor whose work mirrored the Group of 88’s “discourse” (to borrow a Lubiano term).

Based on these 40 minutes, Lubiano views her job as pontificating about everyday phenomena, in a way that virtually anyone with a pulse could do. Why it’s taken her more than a decade to produce the two books that she claimed were forthcoming is beyond me.

By the way, this “Online Office Hours” program seems to be a regular spot for Group of 88 figures. Below is a screenshot from Group member Kathy Rudy’s September appearance.

It’s worth pointing out, by the way, that the above comments refer to the thoughts of a figure described (by an unnamed professor) as “one of the smartest people in America.”



skwilli said...
I had a conversation with my dog yesterday that was waaaaay more interesting than anything Lubiano could ever say. Can any student taking one of her classes get their money back? Or how do I apply for a position in her department? I'm pretty sure I write just as well as she does, and I have many more interesting stories. How can Duke survive with crap like that?

12/12/11 7:41 AM
Anonymous said...
I hope parents of every kid even thinking about applying to Duke watch this. Before anyone writes a check to Duke Univ. they should know the pap that Duke is "selling."

12/12/11 9:00 AM
Anonymous said...
Almost like looking at "the people of Walmart." Also did you mean to say she has written 2 books?

12/12/11 9:27 AM
Anonymous said...
Just sent Duke my "88 cents" in response to their umteenth fund drive request. They can kiss my experiential backside.
My kid, and my meager funds, go to a real university where intelligence, production, honesty, hard work and integrity are words directly associated with the FACULTY! And taught daily to all the students. They don't harp on the evils of capitalism, the horror of racism, the disgrace of homophobia....they demand, live and teach by example....the value of hard work, the truth of real human rights, and the silliness of discrimination based on sexual preference. Shame on Duke for hiring and retaining these empty suit clowns. Cline would be a great Duke faculty member....she could teach Hooked on Phonics.

12/12/11 10:06 AM
Anonymous said...
I suppose it would politically incorrect to describe the arguments of these people as "fatuous"?

12/12/11 10:14 AM
Anonymous said...
If this is in any way indicative of the humanities and social sciences in American higher education, it's no wonder so many recent college graduates in this country are jobless. Before condemning Duke as an institution, however, it's worth noting that there are many excellent faculty teaching rigorous material in the physical sciences, engineering, economics, public policy, and others.

My son graduated from Duke in 2006 and majored in chemistry and economics. I got my monies worth. But I lament that my Alma mater employs, even promotes, such lunatic fringe. Our nation is experiencing unprecedented global competition. Society cannot afford to waste precious resources on self indulgent tripe masquerading as education.

12/12/11 1:50 PM
Lois Turner said...
The "People of Walmart" comment is spot on, and I suspect these two would take it as a compliment. No one expects middle aged college professors to look like, say, Helen Mirren, but this level of slovenliness and unprofessionalism as to personal appearance gives an awful impression of the university.

I note that the renowned Duke Diet & Fitness Center is "offering extra savings on new client seasonal rates" until December 19. Maybe someone should alert our dynamic duo of pie-loving profs.

12/12/11 4:12 PM
Anonymous said...
I am ashamed of Duke. Period.

12/12/11 5:59 PM

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Rev. Wells Departs Duke

The Rev. Sam Wells, Duke chaplain, is leaving his post to return to England. Wells was a peripheral player in the lacrosse saga, but his performance was a deeply unfortunate one, given his status as a man of the cloth. Throughout the case, Wells implied that he viewed his ministerial functions as confined to students who conformed to the humanities' faculty preferred race, class, and gender status.

On April 2, 2006, Wells (as he later revealed to the H-S) shelved his planned sermon, and instead talked about the lacrosse case. (Many months later, in an e-mail to me, Wells claimed his sermon in fact wasn't about the case, an assertion that not only contradicted what he told the H-S, but made no sense, given the sermon's contents.) In his sermon, Wells implied that the lacrosse players had broken the “law” of the university, and he placed their actions in a “subculture of reckless ‘entitlement’, sexual acquisitiveness and aggressive arrogance goes against every aspect of this law. It commodifies and consumes the bodies of others, with no generosity, no patience, no searching for truth or beauty, and no regard to its social significance. It undermines the university because it corrupts the imagination on which the whole university rests. It breaks the university's law. It debases desire.”

“The last week,” he contended, “has exposed the reality that sexual practices are an area where some male students are accustomed to manipulating, exploiting and terrorizing women all the time—and that this has been accepted by many as a given.”

Such views got Wells a spot on the wildly biased Campus Culture Initiative; and also appear to have prompted him--after Mike Nifong's case imploded--to invite NAACP head William Barber to give a Sunday sermon at Duke. That invitation came despite (or, perhaps, because of?) the NAACP's flagrant biases against the wrongly accused Duke students, and unsurprisingly led to a sermon that tried to rationalize the NAACP's inexcusable handling of the case.

To my knowledge, the Rev. Wells never apologized for his response to the lacrosse case, either to the wider Duke community or to the specific Duke students whose words he (erroneously) targeted. Indeed, in an e-mail to the blogger John in Carolina, Wells, like Barber, tried to rationalize his behavior.

Sunday, December 04, 2011

Cline Losing Her Grip (Updated)

[Update, Tuesday, 2.31pm: Joe Neff reports that proceedings were adjourned because of an apparent bomb threat, but not before DA Cline offered a "dog-at-my-homework" excuse in the Peterson hearing:

Cline also said she was unprepared and had not read(!!) 800 pages of evidence given to her after Thanksgiving . . .

“I am here to say my sister still has rights, and there is no way you can have this district attorney represent my sister,” said Candace Zamperini, (Kathleen Peterson’s sister). “They are not prepared, they haven’t read the documents…..I will tell you, this district attorney’s office is not the district attorney’s office of Jim Hardin, where I got good representation.”

Cline does not appear to have given a reason why she didn't do her job and read the relevant documents; she seemingly assumed that, at worst, Judge Hudson would allow her to delay proceedings by removing herself from the case, and was caught unprepared when the judge refused her demand.]

[Update, Tuesday, 9.28am: Joe Neff's article in today's N&O is worth reading in full, if only for the sheer entertainment value. It ranges from the bizarre (the attendance of a figure who has argued that an owl(!), rather than Michael Peterson, killed Peterson's wife) to the ridiculous:

Fox patiently listened as Cline discussed more than a dozen cases from state appellate courts that she said supported her request. At one point, Cline mentioned a case that she hadn't read yet and asked the judge for time to read it. Fox said yes.

The packed courtroom sat in silence while Cline sat alone at her table, flipping through documents.

After 14 minutes, Fox broke the silence: "Are you still reading the case?"

Cline said she hadn't located the correct citation.

Bill Thomas, appropriately, summarized: "It was remarkable that she offered no evidence in support of these extraordinary allegations."]

[Update, Monday, 6.42pm: Joe Neff reports that Judge Fox dismissed all of Cline's filings, dismissing her reasoning as "woefully inadequate."

Here's how Neff described the courtroom scene: "Cline then gave a rambling half hour speech that roughly tracked her court filings and made no mention of Peterson: Hudson was retaliating against her because she failed to dismiss a murder charge in the case of Derrick Allen."]

[Update, Monday, 12.29pm: Reporting from the courtroom, Joe Neff brings word that Judge Fox is . . . skeptical . . . of Cline's bizarre claims:

“There’s a lot of verbiage in here that has nothing to do with anything,” Fox said of Cline’s 286-page motion and foot tall stack of exhibits. “The affidavits are not sufficient.”]

There were a couple of occasions in the lacrosse case in which Mike Nifong all but baited the State Bar to file prompt ethics charges against him. The first came just before Election Day, when the embattled candidate traveled to NCCU and all but turned the American theory of justice on its head, asserting, “If a case is of such significance that people in the community are divided or up in arms over the existence of that case, then that in and of itself [emphasis added] is an indication that a case needs to be tried.” The second coincided with the week of the Meehan hearing, during which Nifong offered myriad (often mutually contradictory) explanations as to why he hadn’t reported all the DNA test results. The first set of ethics charges against Nifong arrived a few days later.

Based on an article in today’s N&O by Andrew Curliss, Durham is rapidly moving toward seeing its second DA in less than a decade removed for ethical improprieties. Curliss’s piece traces Cline’s by-now-standard pattern of fabrications, but it also shows that the county’s “minister of justice” has been reduced to lying about seemingly trivial matters.

In recent months, Cline expanded her network of untruths from Judge Hudson’s courtroom to that of her (and Nifong’s) former boss, Judge Hardin. The topic of Cline’s false filings: prison visitation records. In her filings to Hardin, Cline (falsely) claimed that the two prisoners (Keith Kidwell and Angel Richardson) had filed motions to which she needed to respond. Yet neither man had filed such a motion, nor had their attorneys intended to do so.

So why did Cline mislead the court; and why would she have any interest in such a seemingly obscure matter as prison visitation records? Cline refused to speak to the N&O, nor did she respond to an e-mail from me requesting comment. But it appears as if she was not only lying to a judge but abusing the powers of her office either (1) to dig for material to help save her law license in any ethics proceedings against her; or (2) as part of her futile attempt to compile “evidence” substantiating her wild claims of an anti-Cline “conspiracy” between Judge Hudson, defense attorneys, and the N&O.

Cline had no good reason for desiring the information: the prison department spokesperson Curliss, "Why the DA's office is interested in whether Kidwell is seeing his pre-approved visitors, I have no earthly idea. It's our own internal policy, so it's ours to police."

Jim Coleman told the N&O that the State Bar will be concerned about "not only whether she is misrepresenting and abusing the judicial process, but also whether she is filing patently false allegations in pleadings and taking advantage of the immunity that she has (as a prosecutor). ... She really is undermining the integrity of her office." Coleman also predicted that Cline could face a contempt-of-court hearing from Hardin.

Curliss’ latest exposé follows on Cline’s moves late last week regarding a hearing tomorrow in the latest appeal filed by Michael Peterson, the former Durham mayoral candidate convicted of killing his wife. (Judge Hudson was scheduled to preside over the hearing.) Cline wants Hudson off the case, and the H-S reported Friday that Cline has subpoenaed as many as 53(!) people to appear at the hearing. As a fallback, she’s requested that the Attorney General’s office step in for her if Hudson isn’t removed. The AG’s office has said it will accept Cline’s request—but only if it can obtain a continuance to allow its attorneys to get up to speed on the case.

The AG’s position is a reasonable one, but the fact that a long-scheduled hearing might have to be delayed because of Cline’s increasingly unhinged behavior gives a sense of why the Bar needs to intervene sooner rather than later.

For a sense of how untenable Cline’s position has become, even the local legal academy’s most prominent apologist for prosecutorial misconduct, Irving Joyner, has deemed the DA’s conduct “strange” and noted that her filings were apparent “misrepresentations to a court.”

When an unethical Durham prosecutor has lost Irving Joyner, it would seem there are few local legal allies left.