Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Bob Bashara, the Book, Coming Soon

Bob Bashara
Last week I signed the contract to do a book on the Bob Bashara case. It will be my fourth true crime book for Penguin imprint Berkley.  The case involved the January 2012 murder of Jane Bashara, a wife and mother in Grosse Pointe Park, Mich.  Her killer was Joe Gentz, a handyman and roustabout, who confessed to the killing but alleged he was hired by Jane’s husband Bob to carry out the murder. Bob Bashara is currently serving 6 ½ years in state prison for soliciting the jailhouse murder of Gentz, and is now charged with first-degree murder in the murder of his wife.
Joe Gentz
Also part of the story – the part that drives headlines – is the fact that Bob Bashara was involved in the BDSM lifestyle, coloring the case with a “Fifty Shades of Grey” element.  A September preliminary exam  included a number of parties connected to the case testifying in lurid, colorful detail, talking of Bob's penchant for dominance. Rachel Gillett, who was Bob's girlfriend at the time of Jane Bashara’s murder, met Bob on a BDSM chat site, where he called himself Master Bob. He also had a dungeon created for his trysts in the basement of one of several buildings he owned and rented out.
I’ve worked on the book for some of the last year and it’s in good shape already, plenty of original material that comes from some deep investigation and interviews with players large and small.
I’ve talked with Bob Bashara a number of times in the last year and much of that material will be part of this book. It’s the one thing I do with every true crime book, and I expect some Detroiters, provincial to a lovable fault, will be pissed that I even present the perspective of someone everyone expects to be found guilty. I got a lot of flak when I  did press for the first book, A Slaying in the Suburbs: The Tara Grant Murder, for talking and including the views of Stephen Grant, who was convicted of killing his wife Tara. Frank Beckman on WJR was charmingly critical of including Grant in the book when I hit his show. One book store, Borders in the northern suburbs of Detroit, refused to have an event/discussion of the book. I’m pleased to say that Borders is now out of business. That’s what I call real justice. That book, by the way, has sold over 30,000 copies, not a bad performance in the true crime genre.
The Bashara trial is scheduled for March in Wayne County

. It will be quite the sensation, and could draw national interest, depending on how the news cycle is going at the time. The book will come out late 2014 or early 2015.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Iggy Pop: Michigan Legislature “Shameful” to Allow Wolf Hunt

As you’ve seen via almost every Michigan media outlet, Iggy Pop is lending his name to an effort to repeal a bill that permits limited wolf hunting in Michigan.
In a letter dated Nov. 12, Iggy asks Michigan Gov, Rick Snyder to halt the hunt that began last week and put the issue to a vote “allowing the people’s voices to be heard.”
 “As a Michigan native and someone who has cared about animals, both wild and domestic, for as long as I can remember, I was dismayed…that a bill you signed last May (S.B. 288/P.A. 21) gave Michigan’s Natural Resources Commission the authority to decide which animals can be hunted…which resulted in the first authorized wolf hunt since wolves underwent state protection in 1965,” Iggy writes.
“It is shameful the lengths the legislature and the executive branch will go to hunt this iconic creature while as the same time opening the door for other species to be hunted, like the Sandhill Crane. The legislature’s actions are nothing more than an attempt to shield their actions and take away the voters’ rights.”
There’s much more to the bill to hunt wolves than just an action to help a small segment of Michigan’s cattle farmers, primarily in a limited region of the Upper Peninsula.
First comes the revelation that many of the complaints about wolves have come from one loud farmer, who has done little on his own to mitigate.
Then there is the travesty of public records reporting. There are few states that rival Michigan for government secrecy in order to keep the public in the dark.
From a story in MLive about the public response to the wolf hunt:  The Natural Resources Commission received more than 10,000 emails after seeking public comment, but there is no tally of how many were pro or con. The NRC chairman deleted several thousand, many of them identical, from all over the world. Most of the rest went unopened, a department spokesman said. They said anti-hunt groups launched an email blast so extensive the agency was overwhelmed.
I’m not sure who would believe that dog-ate-my-homework excuse, but certainly no one with any common sense.
Gov. Snyder is appeasing powerful Republican state Sen.  Tom Casperson, who serves a wide swath of the UP, where GOP votes have been traditionally hard to get.
Casperson is now chair of the Transportation Committee and the Natural Resources, Environment and Great Lakes Committee. His campaign coffers, like so many, are amassed with cash from special interests.
Perhaps more important in the case of the wolf hunt, he has received $10,500 over the years from the Michigan Farm Bureau political action committee, one of the prime movers of the bill that allowed the hunt.
Most farmers donate to the PAC, and more are members of the bureau.  That’s a big voting block.
Casperson posted a press release in October citing wolf attacks on the livestock and pets of some of his constituents in October while berating the U.S. Humane Society.  Then Casperson cited a poll by a Republican polling group that claimed 67 percent of Michiganders supported a wolf hunt in targeted areas of the state, which includes his district.
Casperson is the same lawmaker who pushed through a bill allowing petting zoo patrons to touch captive bear cubs, explicitly and unashamedly citing Oswald’s Bear Ranch in Newberry, Michigan in a press release as enjoying the benefits of this measure.
Casperson is certainly for sale. Dean and Jewel Oswald, operators of the bear ranch, donated $1,000 each to his campaign fund in August, 2012.
Casperson introduced the bill regarding bear cub petting five months later, in January of this year. The Oswalds had also donated $500 to Casperson in 2010. The price goes up, apparently, according to what you seek. Senate bills must cost more.
As you can see, the wolf hunt is all about the cash and Republican Party fealty.
Iggy’s letter in support of the wolves is a terrific gesture, truly something he didn’t need to do. That speaks volumes. He writes the letter like a man who has read White Fang more than once.

Iggy could make a big difference down the line by funding and supporting candidates to take out such pay-to-play lackeys like Snyder and Casperson. Yes, they’ll be replaced by the same, but the revolving door at least has a small effect on honesty.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

The Pursuit of the Tex Watson Tapes. Charles Manson Still on the Hook.

I covet the Tex Watson tapes that the Los Angeles Police Department obtained.  Yes, I’ve read the Watson prison book, Will You Die For Me? and his numerous mea cuplas. I’m sure he has a nice room in Hell waiting for him when he’s done with this life but maybe that’s just a view jaundiced by viewing the murder scene photos at Cielo Drive. 
Watson was a knife-wielding maniac that night in August 1969, and the carnage was mostly of his making. He was also the first of those charged to declare his conversion to religion.
A couple years ago, it was revealed that there are about eight hours of audio tapes from 1969 of Watson talking with Bill Boyd, a defense attorney in McKinney, Texas, about 40 miles north of Dallas. The tapes were made shortly after Watson was arrested in connection with the murders at Cielo and in Los Feliz of Rosemary and Leno La Bianca.  Here’s a good story laying it all out.
I knew Bill Boyd when I was a reporter at the McKinney Courier-Gazette in the early 90s. He was a tough guy who was still cruising on that legend of Watson, but he was also a great criminal defense guy who pissed off endless assistant prosecutors.
In September, I filed an open records request with the department for the Watson tapes.  The LAPD, taking its time, denied my request, which I could see coming.  Watson has asserted that “there are no unsolved murder committed by the Manson family,” but the LAPD appears to be looking into something related to the tapes. Or at least that’s what it is asserting in its denial. 
Last year,  LAPD Commander Andrew Smith said the tapes could hold the key to a dozen unsolved murders. It would seem that in a year, there would be some progress, which the LAPD would be happy to share. 
But t
hese tapes need to be public if there is no imminent investigation. Below is the email I sent this week in a mild appeal. This is the first salvo. It's never good to quit in these efforts and hopefully it will lead to something in the end.
If anyone is interested in seeing this through, legal eagles in particular, let me know. Maybe we can keep the LAPD honest.

November 6, 2013

Caydene Monk
Los Angeles Police Department
Discovery Section
 201 N. Los Angeles St., Space 301,
Los Angeles, Calif.  90012

RE: Public Records Act Request, Tex Watson tapes

Ms Monk

I am in receipt of your letter dated October 29, 2013 (attached) regarding my open records request of September 20, 2013 (attached).

In your response, you cite Government Code Section 6254 (f), which contends that the material I seek is exempt under the provision of investigation.

Media reports, which have not been corrected by the LAPD, have said these tapes were obtained “because authorities believe the tapes might provide new clues about unsolved killings involving followers of Manson.” (CNN 6/13/12) This source sites court documents.

However, the exemption for law enforcement investigatory files arises “only when the prospect of enforcement proceedings becomes concrete and definite… Under section 6254, subdivision (f), the police agency is directed to make public certain categories of specified information unless disclosure of a particular item of information would endanger the integrity of an investigation, or the safety of a person involved in the investigation or of a related investigation,   (Williams v. Superior Court, 5 Cal. 4th 337, 356 (1993)

I would add that this same decision notes that “the labels of…"internal investigation" are captivatingly expansive, and present an elasticity menacing to the principle of public scrutiny of government."

I ask that you please reconsider your decision. Feel free to contact me if you have any questions as to what I am seeking or the information I am trying to extract.

Steve Miller

Friday, October 11, 2013

Judge Rules Against Black Flag Founder Ginn - Hot Topic and Urban Outfitter Rejoice

The federal judge who ruled against Black Flag founder Greg Ginn in his suit against a number of former BF members including Henry Rollins and Keith Morris, is a Clinton appointee and the same judge who last year ruled against the mother of Michael Jackson who was trying to sell a line of Michael Jackson merch. The ruling of U.S. District Judge Dean D. Pregerson ruled that MJ’s intellectual property belonged to his estate.
Dealing with Ginn, Rollins, Morris and a few other former BF members and confederates listed in Ginn’s suit as defendants was no doubt a walk in the park after handing the diva-riffic mélange of money grabbing in the Jackson camp. As comedian Denis Leary put it so well, the Jacksons are so weird “They give each other new heads for Christmas.” Dealing with a simple punk rock family feud is an easy day.
In August, Ginn sued everyone for trying to cop the four bars that pretty much stand for Black Flag, including Rollins and Morris, who weirdly enough applied to trademark the bars.
The news of Judge Pregerson’s ruling came from the winning camp and was picked up by the major pop music trades, including Rolling Stone and Spin.  Both cited the FLAG crew,  mostly composed of the victorious defendants, as the source of the judge’s ruling and its context.
For what that’s worth, it is interpreted as such:
1) the court found that SST had no rights in the trademarks;
(2) Ginn seemed to have no individual rights in the Black Flag trademarks;
(3) even if either had had any rights in those marks, they had abandoned those rights through a failure to police the mark for nearly 30 years;
(4) the defendants’ claim that the Black Flag assets were owned by a statutory partnership comprised of various former band members – even if these members only consisted of Henry and Ginn, based on (a) accepting Ginn’s argument that he never quit and given that there is no evidence or allegation that Henry ever quit – has merit;
(5) that even if the plaintiffs had some trademark claim in the marks, there was no likelihood of consumer confusion between Black Flag and Flag given the ample press coverage over the dispute; and
(6) the trademark application and registration that Henry and Keith made was done in good faith (e.g. not fraudulently) – and is thus not necessarily subject to cancellation – given that they understood their actions to have been done on the part of the Black Flag partnership (see No. 4, above).

I wonder if Rollins and Morris have to share any merch proceeds with Ginn.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Beyond the Obvious: Five Solid Charles Manson Books

The new book on Charles Manson, Manson: The Life and Times of Charles Manson, is getting good reviews and strong word-of-mouth. It indicates there is still a lot of interest in the Manson case and crimes, perhaps more than had been considered before. The books are countless, some bad, some decent. The most well-known,  Helter Skelter, was a touristy, breathless exercise by prosecutor Vincent Bugliosi. But The Family by Ed Sanders is the test by which all Manson books should be judged.  I still check in with it a couple times a year. For completist readers of the Manson legend, though, here are five lesser-known books that will give your reading on the man a bit more depth.

Desert Shadows: A True Story of the Charles Manson Family in Death Valley by Bob Murphy (Sagebrush Press, 1993) Murphy is a former superintendant of Death Valley National Park and delivers a well-told book on the Family’s move to Death Valley after the murders, including the best account yet the arrest of several members, including Manson, at Barker Ranch in a remote part of the park.

Charles Manson: Music Mayhem Murder by Tommy Udo (Sanctuary, 2002) The factual errors are minor irritants when you look to this as the best tome yet on Manson’s connection to the Topanga Canyon music world in the late 60s. It’s also a solid primer on the relationship between Manson and Bobby Beausoleil, a skilled musician who did the soundtrack for Kenneth Anger’s movie, Lucifer Rising, after Jimmy Page flaked.  Includes both a discography and some lyrics.

The Garbage People: The Trip to Helter-Skelter and Beyond With Charlie Manson and the Family by John Gilmore and Ron Kenner (Omega Press, 1971) Re-released in 2000 as Manson: The Unholy Trail of Charlie and the Family, Gilmore interviewed Manson and other family members a number of times in 1969 and it shows in this thorough account. It’s an abbreviated walk through Family land, with details that most authors have missed. Photo section includes morgue shots that you’ve likely seen before but remain a little unsettling.

The Shadow over Santa Susana: Black Magic, Mind Control and the Manson Family Mythos by Adam Gorightly (Creation, 2009) Takes on the religious and, well, spiritual side of the Family, including explorations of connection to the Process Church of the Final Judgment and Scientology.  Shadow is the best exploration of mind control and conspiracies around the murderous ways of Manson.

Will You Die For Me? The Man Who Killed For Charles Manson Tells His Own Story, Tex Watson as told to Chaplain Ray (Fleming H. Revell Company, 1978) Watson was the hatchet man on the Big Night at Cielo Drive. He got religion pretty quick after being sentenced to death in late 1971, and while this book reflects Watson’s conversion, it’s also a brutal account of life in the Family, including a first person step-by-step of the murder at the Cielo house.  

Monday, September 9, 2013

The Saga of Sarah Pender, Featured on Investigation Discovery Sept. 22, 9 P.M. Eastern

It’s been hard for the media to get it right on Sarah Pender. There have been erroneous reports that Larry Sells, the prosecutor who tried and convicted Pender of murder in 2002, was going to represent Sarah in a bid for freedom. A recent story noted that the Marion County, Indiana, prosecutor’s office has decided Pender does not deserve a new trial or consideration for a reduced sentence, despite Sells’ opinion that she did not receive a fair trial based on previously undisclosed evidence.
Marion County prosecutor Terry Curry said in that story, “I don’t doubt Larry’s sincerity in stating that but all we were presented with was a motion to modify the sentence.” That leaves the door open to more legal movement in the case, as Pender takes her hopes to the state Court of Appeals to ask for a second round of post conviction relief. 
Pender’s case will be featured on the Sept. 22 episode of Deadline: Crime with Tamron Hall.  I was part of the taping. In advance of that show, here's an exclusive interview with Larry Sells.  

For 15 years, Larry Sells was the iron fist of the law in Marion County, Indiana, home of Indianapolis, ground zero for middle America.
As deputy prosecutor of homicides from 1991 to 2006, Sells put convicted murderers to death with creased-brow scorn.  He was a no bullshit guy, a rangy Marlboro Man lookalike who had done some modeling in his wild days before settling into a law career. His Southern fried accent and dramatic demeanor gave him great favor with juries.
Today he's 69 years old and has spent the last year in sleepless nights over a 23-year-old girl he put away on murder charges in 2002. He’s advocating on behalf of that young girl, Sarah Pender, who is serving her 110-year sentence in the Indiana Women’s Prison. Sells believes she didn’t get a fair trial.
His crusade began after reading a true crime book that revealed information that compromised his key witness in that case, a career criminal and jailhouse snitch named Floyd Pennington.
I wrote the book that changed Sells' mind, Girl,Wanted: The Chase for Sarah Pender, an Edgar award finalist in 2012.
On page 115 of that book is a graph that may eventually give Pender her freedom.
There was a problem with [Pennington’s] testimony and, in the rearview mirror, its impact on the jury. A letter discovered after the trial in the police file found that Pennington had offered to turn evidence on a list of people, from drug dealers to chop-shop owners. He named names on a yellow legal pad in his own writing. But the list was never presented by the defense during Sarah’s trial.
The letter was a snitch list I found in the homicide file.  It had never been seen by anyone outside the investigation, including the defense.
“Just some top-notch dope dealers I’m close to and can get in and make sells for and bust them…” Pennington notes in the handwritten list.
 “That letter should have been given to the defense and I never even saw it,” Sells told me in a phone call in mid-2012, when he admitted it had stuck in his mind since he had reread the book earlier that year. “If that had been introduced to the jury, it would have made a huge difference on the impact of the testimony of the key witness, that of Floyd Pennington. She did not have a fair trial.”
Pender was an unsympathetic character. A former engineering student at Purdue, she had been part of a bloody double homicide on the city’s south side. The two victims, Andrew Cataldi, 25, and Tricia Nordman, 26. were found shot to death in a Dumpster, their hair matted with dried blood. Pender and her boyfriend, Richard Hull, were arrested. Until the murder on October 24, 2000, the victims, Hull and Pender had been roommates and business partners. They moved pot, meth and acid out of the two-bedroom house they shared.
But when some money got funny, Cataldi and Nordman wound up dead and Hull and Pender blamed each other for the shootings.  Who pulled the trigger? Only those four knew for sure, and two of them weren’t breathing.
Helped by the testimony of Pennington, who testified in court that Sarah confessed to her role in the murders to him while both were in a jailhouse infirmary, Pender was sentenced to 110 years.
Pender was sent to state prison, where she remained until August 2008, when she escaped. For 136 days, Pender lived in relative freedom, meeting and being romanced by a man, working a regular job at a construction contractor in Chicago, living in an apartment in Rogers Park.
She was captured that December and returned to prison.
Even during her time on the run, Sells was convinced she had been rightfully convicted, calling her “the female Charles Manson” for her ability to convince others to do her felonious bidding.
Now, Sells talks about his change of heart and how the woman he so enthusiastically put away for the rest of her life needs to be let out of prison.

Steve Miller: The common joke is that prisons are full of innocent people – just ask the inmates. How common is something like this in the justice system, in which evidence that could influence a jury never comes to light?

Larry Sells: If a book were written about every case and the author was as thorough as in this book, there would be more things found. There are convictions set aside, of course. But usually it’s the defense that ferrets that out.

Steve Miller: You called me around June of last year to tell me that there was a major problem with the case and that justice was not served in Sarah’s trial. But you knew about that document, Pennington’s snitch list, since 2009, when I asked you about it.

Larry Sells: I didn’t look at the list very long although when I did, I thought, ‘Damn, why didn’t I have this back then in 2002?’ It really affects the credibility of Pennington. He was a shady witness then, as all jailhouse witnesses are. But by 2009 I was no longer a prosecutor. I retired in 2006. I still had a prosecutor mindset but I wasn’t in the office where I could do anything about it. When I reread it, it became crystal clear to me that this letter destroyed Pennington’s credibility. I had to do something. Yes, I saw the list, but when you see it described in writing, it makes more of an impact.

Steve Miller: What was your first move to make this right?

Larry Sells: I got hold of Sarah’s mom, Bonnie, it was the Friday before Mother’s Day. I told her, ‘you know Bonnie, it’s my opinion that Sarah didn’t get a fair trial and I will do what I can to help.’  When she realized I wasn’t pulling her leg and I was who I said I was, she burst into tears.
Then I called Sarah’s lawyers and told them what I thought. Then I got a call from the prosecutor’s office, which had heard through Sarah’s lawyers about my opinion. He was pretty attentive to what I had to say. Then I got a call from the sentence modification committee at the prosecutor’s office, and we met. We looked at the document, and at first, they were thinking this is no big deal, it’s simply impeaching evidence. When I ran my opinions by them, though, their opinions started changing. I’ve been interviewed by the Marion County prosecutor’s office. Sarah’s lawyers are pushing forward. Now things are up to the system.

Steve Miller: So is Sarah Pender an innocent person who has served all this time?

Larry Sells: I thought she was guilty before any testimony. I thought she was a dangerous person. She has expressed a couple of times that it didn’t bother her that her roommates were brutally murdered. I can’t say what her role in the shooting was, but based on this letter and the fact that her attorney didn’t have this document deprived Sarah of a fair trial.  I am still not convinced of her innocence. But that doesn’t factor in to what I believe about her case. I had to come forward because it’s the right thing to do. I had to do it as a lawyer and a human being. My conscience wouldn’t let me do otherwise.


Monday, August 19, 2013

Journalism - Always the Best Fallback

I’ve had a couple of journalism pieces hit in the past two weeks as I worked the promo for the book, Detroit Rock City, which has done much better than I expected. As I told someone before it came out, ‘I read it, liked it and maybe a couple dozen other people will.’  Appeal seems to be a little wider than that. I take that as a good sign, although I have no idea of what composes success in broad terms. Getting published is a success in some camps.  Acceptance has always dulled my senses, and staying in the outsider camp feels right at all times. It was a huge coup to me when I started work at the Dallas Morning News. It was as if the inmate was allowed to be part of the staff at the asylum.
The journalism I mentioned is a story I did out of Florida on the state House Speaker Will Weatherford, who didn’t disclose some business relationships because he didn’t have to. Now that sounds like a non-story, but it was prompted by a story earlier in the year I read about his finances, in which he was weirdly vague about what he did for a living, outside of his role in the part-time Florida legislature.
I began to dig about the same time another reporter did, as we both had a reader in our ear questioning Weatherford’s finances. His piece came first, in July.  It was good, but I read it several times and still didn’t think everything was out there.
Some close to the story think it was a tipster who steered me toward the story. But it was pure instinct after that second story that led me to search business filings in Texas – which is where Weatherford has some roots – and find he was connected to an insurance adjuster who did business with the state of Florida’s insurance company, Citizens Property Insurance.
Next was a story for the Fort Worth Weekly on the Tarrant Regional Water District, a government agency that gave me an amazingly hard time in spring 2012 when I asked to look over copies of the district’s campaign finance reports for the last few year. My suspicions were aroused and I filed an open records request for a number of items, including emails that indicated a lot of inside favor dealing among a power structure in Fort Worth. Much of those records formed the basis of this story.

For most readers, this is dull shop talk. But I dig it and there you go.  More books, I’m sure, will roll along and that’s what so many people are into. I enjoy writing the articles every bit as much as the books.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

These Bars Never Seem to Close, Although it Wouldn’t Be Bad if They Did

It’s not like you couldn’t see this one coming, but Black Flag founder and guitarist Greg Ginn has filed a lawsuit against a number of his former bandmates, including Henry Rollins and Keith Morris, seeking compensation and a restraining order to prevent a band of former Black Flaggers – and a drummer - from continuing their current tour.
The federal action alleges Rollins, noted in the filing by his legal name of Henry Garfield, and Morris have fraudulently applied for a trademark of the Black Flag logo, knowing that Ginn has full rights to use of the four black bars, referred to in the action as “marks,” among other things.
“Garfield and Morris falsely claimed they were the owners of the marks and had continuously used the marks since 1978,” Ginn claims in his petition, which also names former Flag members Chuck Dukowski, Dez Cadena, and Bill Stephenson for various alleged copyright infringements.
Ginn accuses the current band that includes Morris, Cadena, Dukowski and Stephenson, touring under the name “Flag,” of willful trademark and service infringement. Ginn is touring with former Black Flag singer Ron Reyes as Black Flag. Both bands are playing songs written by Ginn for Black Flag.
On its face, it seems Ginn has a pretty good case; these other guys are swimming in the guitarist’s wake.
For the life of me I can’t see the merit in seeing either version of this band. Isn’t that how bands like Grand Funk or Great White got into each other’s shit, with this ridiculous name change game?
What is more interesting is that Rollins and Morris teamed up in September to get the Black Flag trademark, pointedly to sell clothing with the Black Flag logo, which is where the real money is if Urban Outfitters has anything to say about it.  If I were Ginn, I would be genuinely pissed.
“Garfield and Morris falsely claimed they were the owners of the marks and had made continuous use of the marks in commerce since 1978,” Ginn states in the suit, referring to the trademark filing.  Then there is this, which alleges that  that Rollins has or had a hand in the merch being sold by Flag.
“…Based upon statements made by counsel for Garfield and Morris in response to office counsel action [regarding their trademark application for the Black Flag bars], Garfield either intends to join in the infringing activities of the other defendants, or has already done so, with regard to the manufacture of items of clothing with the marks.”

Thanks to the Hollywood Reporter for picking up the court filing.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Nobody’s Women Found Among Possessions of Newly Discovered Cleveland Serial Killer?

Michael Madison charged today
 Michael Madison, and his neighbors, are reportedly chattering about a fascination with Anthony Sowell, whose crimes I chronicled in a book last year, Nobody’s Women: The Crimes and Victims of Anthony Sowell.
The first thing I wondered was if he had simply followed the Sowell case via the local media, which did a terrific job, or if he had read one of the two books about his supposed inspiration. I’d like to know when law enforcement releases the evidence list. If I were there, I would ask the cops. Yes, I am curious.
Madison, 35, born in New Castle, Penn., lived a mile from the East Cleveland home in which Sowell grew up. He had three felony drug charges over the years in Cuyahoga County before being popped for attempted rape. Madison pleaded guilty and got four years with 121 days credit for time served.
The first victim was identified as Angela Deskins, 38, who had
a host of driving violations and little else. Police are still seeking information on the other two victims, and fear there are more. Like the remains of most of Sowell’s 11 victims, they were wrapped in trash bags.
The urge is to ask what’s up with Cleveland, where in May it was discovered that former school bus drive Ariel Castro kept three women hostage in his home for up to a decade.  Lumping these three cases together is irresistible for most of the media – you know, what is it about the city? A story with little to hold it together save for a batch of “soul searching” quotes.

It’s ridiculous to blame the usual inner city woes, as Cleveland doesn’t have that market cornered.  That would be just another money grab excuse for race hustlers. It’s perhaps more of an indictment of the justice system in Ohio. I’m no authority on that system at this point, but it’s certainly the first stop in any investigation I would do.

Friday, July 12, 2013

More News From Nowhere – Sarah Pender’s Legal Team Continues Push for Her Freedom

The lawyer for Sarah Pender has filed a petition with the Marion County Prosecutor’s office in hopes of getting her client sprung. The motion includes an affidavit signed by Larry Sells, the man who prosecuted Pender for a double homicide in 2002. Pender received 110 years.

If you’re here, you are aware of the legal debacle. I outline it here, using an article by the local newspaper in Indy, the Indianapolis Star. The town is blowing up over this story, which has received only local coverage so far. But when Pender is released, the cameras will swoop in from everywhere. 

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Detroit Rock City: I’ll Read it to You, Produced by Mike E Clark

Mike Clark in studio
 The audio book version of Detroit Rock City hits today, and it was a cool trip.
I spent a few days recording it with Mike E Clark at his Electric Lab Recordings – north and south.  We did a couple days at his place in Detroit, then moved north for a weekend to his compound/studio north of Saginaw.
Who the hell wrote this?
I narrated the thing, all ten-plus hours, even though people told me what an ordeal it was and how difficult it could be. What happened was my agency sold the audio rights to Audible.com, which does many of the books on CD you see in the store. When the contract arrived, I looked it over and thought I’d like to hear who would be reading it. Pretty standard. Then I thought, ‘well, I can read and this might be fun.’ So I had a clause put in the contract that I be allowed to audition.  A few weeks later, I made the grade, much to my surprise. It’s good, honest work, pays well, and I’m always up for work. It’s now here for download. Dig in.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Insider Comments on/from Detroit Rock City

This is the t-shirt. Why not?
Detroit Rock City is out and there are stories in there that my pal and fellow traveler Tim Caldwell has picked up on and carried away. He writes stories fed by experience and knowledge – which only occasionally are mutually exclusive – in a stream-of-brain feed fashion. All readable and filled with insight. Try this:

did jack/joker bob 'the knob/blob' madigan 
de-throne the king of shock rock alice cooper 
when he approached the rock star with a vial containing 
an aborted human fetus and asked him to autograph it?
{to his credit (!?) i believe ac did sign the dead baby jar}.
  would this mean the man known for inventing shock rock theatrics 
held onto the title or thereby passed it onto 
a hard core gg allin fan
mainly known for hooking up folks to a hand crank generator
& giving the chain of hand holding fools 
in audience a collective jolt,
his human ostrich side show talent of swallowing and regurgitating items,
and fronting bands (slaughterhouse/cum dumpster)
that made flipper sound like speed freaks
in comparison?

   when one of madigan's hooligan 
band members let it be known
they were going to gift me 
with a fetus/embryo
i responded while one one level 
i could appreciate
the inverse logic / symbolic gesture 
of an unborn
gifted as a birthday present
i graciously had to decline the offer
as in good conscience 
could not accept the gift
unless the proud folks who conceived it 
were the givers...

In the book, the great band Slaughterhouse gets a mention – vocalist Bob Madigan’s love of pig porn, specifically – so that is the Bob that Tim refers to. The band was always surrounded by fringe players who should have all become famous in one way or another. More from Tim:

was thinking about madigan's band c.d. (appropriate acronym if i ever heard one) after re-reading drc. their second best show* i saw was at the red door after hours (former club house space). the band and a good portion of the audience were tripping. rachel nagy and cara lundgren (daughter of grande ballroom artist carl) were still like 17-19 yr old strippers (at silver cricket on mich by telegraph among other venues**). 
they both roomed at the monroe manor next to bronx bar.
the gals were 1/2 to nearly naked while the band cum dumpster 
played their heavy dirges (to my mind sounding like a slower version 
of that groaning/droning vanilla fudge beatles cover) .
they were psychedelic style body painting each other.
there was dim lighting, maybe a strobe and gelled can or two,
as one could thereby create moody atmosphere on the cheap.
the ladies also cavorted in the shower with a large glass door 
situated in the middle of the room.
that figured in their dance/grope fest perf ,too.
steve shaw and joe s. took photos.
Then he refers to chatter in the book from a couple of players.

nawara and livingstone were right in their assessments 
of the excruciating power of the band to instill fear n loathing.
their credo seemed to have been borrowed from flipper-
  we suffered for our art/
now it's your turn.
{max bummer stoner rock- the cheech & chong routine shtick
about playing black sabbath at 16 rpm.s on 'cid & seeing god
or satan in their case}
  rachel used to be a butcher so her mentioning the stiletto 
in a dudes crotch would've been a serious threat.
dress em out like a thanksgiving turkey
and stuff their giblets in maw.
have you ever witnessed up close that mischievous/
maniacal glint in her eyes?

  the cobras second performance was at the old miami
after a dally in the alley.
i showed a sound 16mm film clip of bessie smith 
before the band went on.
that would set the bar pretty high intimidating many people 
but not rachel & co.
when i complimented her on her performance she said
'yeah tim, you see i'm not just a whhhooooorrreee'
cracking me up.
she's a great performer,
a classic beauty,
sweetheart who'd as soon kiss ya
as spit on ya
&/or stick ya.***
   the timmy v. mention of her having mooned the audience and writing on cheeks
made me recall the post wedding reception (kev monroe) party 
of  at the euclid tavern in spudville,oh.
the cobras performed and she grabbed zoot's mgr. aaron anderson 
and jammed his face in her ass (with clothes on) whilst on all 4's onstage.
at the end of the night it was the detroiters dressed in wedding formal finery vs
the local yokels territorial stand off.

And finally, Tim refers to a point in the book in which John Brannon talks about living near Michael Davis from the MC5 in Ann Arbor.
that chick that lived with hyenas on platt road 
that went out with mike davis was real odd.
weird passive aggressive dead pan vibe.
she had blunt cut bangs a long ass dark mane 
and wore a bullet belt like her dishonorably discharged
guitar army/ trans love beau.
pretty sure she was in a band called dog soldier.
larissa and john were annoyed that she kept a dead pet parrot 
or parakeet in the freezer.
through winter ,spring and summer
refusing to plant it.

The best thing about getting anything from Tim is that it’s true, no need for embellishment. He’s part of Detroit Rock City with an eye for reality, and likely has more stories than anyone.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Gannett Publishes Story on Sarah Pender Case Based on Info in Girl, Wanted

The Indianapolis Star made a stab at a significant story regarding my book,  the Edgar-nominated Girl, Wanted: The Chase for Sarah Pender, and a change of heart by the prosecutor who sent the 23-year-old Pender to prison in 2002 for 110 years on a double homicide.
Sadly, the Gannett newspaper misses the mark in a crucial way. Instead of portraying prosecutor Larry Sells as a man with a doubt, it paints him as a man who believes Pender is innocent.  What he has said in numerous conversations we’ve had over the past two years is that Pender did not receive a fair trial – a huge difference.
I have to doubt that this reporter was at fault. It looks more like crazy train that is Gannett incorrectly cast the story at a higher level. It was initially to run June 2, but it was held over. A lot of damage can be done to a story at the editorial level in a week.
And here’s where it all started, as I wrote about a key witness in Pender's trial named Floyd Pennington.
From the book: But still, there was a problem with his testimony and, in the rearview mirror, its impact on the jury. A letter discovered after the trial in the police file found that Pennington had offered to turn evidence on a list of people, from drug dealers to chop-shop owners. He named names on a yellow legal pad in his own writing. But the list was never presented by the defense during Sarah’s trial.
“I never saw that list, and it would seem that the defense never saw it either, since it wasn’t in evidence or used to combat Floyd’s statements for us,” says Larry Sells, who prosecuted the case for the state.
The book came out in June 2011. No one  - and Pender’s advocates have railed ever since the book hit about her innocence - ever made a deal out of the list on page 115, until Sells had the courage to do so.  Really, with friends like those…
From the story, which hit yesterday:
But after all that has been written, filmed and dramatized about Pender, there’s still more to her story.  Well, no, there isn’t. The story is the same. The change of opinion in light of that graph from the book is different.
Sells found it in 2009 while poking through the old detective files on Pender’s case. It came to Sells when I found the letter. This was written despite the fact I told the reporter so in a conversation earlier this year. I found it as I was seated at a table in the office of Mark Rice, head of homicide for the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department. I dug into an accordion police file and pulled out a yellow sheet of paper that day. Sells was helping me in my research for the book and sitting to my right at that table, as we both looked at things in the file. I showed it to him. He kept his poker face but knew immediately how important it was.
More from the story: Sells now believes Pender’s account: She wasn’t there when the shots were fired. She was irresponsible and arrogant. Her actions made her appear guilty of the murders but she hadn’t really participated in them. Incorrect. “I do not know for certain who pulled the trigger, but it is my opinion that the most credible evidence suggest it was Richard Hull,” Sells says. But he certainly doesn’t hands down believe Pender’s tale of going to the store, coming back and walking in on a murder scene. The story “makes it sound like I believe her story, that she went off somewhere,” Sells says.

At any rate, it’s the fairness of the trial that is the point, and with the snitch list written by the main state’s witness that was never seen by either side, that is the issue here. 
This graph was corrected in the Indianapolis Star after Sells complained Saturday to: Sells is not sure what happened in the house on Meikel Street. But he now believes Pender was not the shooter: She was irresponsible and arrogant. Her actions made her appear guilty of the murders, but in the end, she did not get a fair trial. But Gannett affiliates all over the US are still running the first version of this.
“My position has always been there is no credible evidence as to what she did in that house,” Sells told me. “That doesn’t mean she didn’t do something in there. That’s been my position all along.”
The bottom line is that there’s a big difference between being not guilty and being innocent. If Pender was there and did nothing, well, that’s like sitting in a waiting car as someone holds up a bank. You’re part of the crime, like it or not, if you do nothing. A fair trial is a whole different thing.
One more from the story: It really makes no difference why, said Joel Schumm, a criminal law professor at the Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law in Indianapolis. The fact that the snitch list was withheld at all, Schumm said, could raise serious questions about the validity of her guilty verdict.
The list wasn’t withheld – in fact its existence was never known to Sells. This graph makes it sound like the state, as represented by Sells, “withheld”  evidence.
And, really, calling Girl, Wanted, a “true crime novel” is a high level oxymoron. Believe it – true crime is a true story. A novel is fiction. What are they implying?
Let’s end with something from Girl, Wanted. Make your own judgment here. The context is a letter Pender wrote to Tom Welch, the wealthy trucking business entrepreneur who became her lover after she escaped from prison in August 2008.
She professed her love for Welch and included some telling details of her own take on the crime that got her into the situation in the first place. Sarah said she was not sorry for being caught with regard to the murders, but she was sorry that she got involved in anything like that in the first place.
“I am not sorry they are dead,” Sarah wrote. “People die all the time, for lots of reasons, many at young ages . . . killing people is not such a big deal, because people die. We are human.”