WEBCommentary Contributor

Author: Michael J. Gaynor
Date:  September 11, 2006

Topic category:  Other/General

The Johnsville News Deserves Boos

The Duke case is a travesty of justice, to be sure, but the antidote is the truth, not a competing myth. And the whole truth, not selective truth.

The Duke case is a travesty of justice, to be sure, but the antidote is the truth, not a competing myth. And the whole truth, not selective truth.

The Johnsville News is an anonymous blog that antedates the Duke case and has covered it extensively. It identified the Duke Three'saccuser (Crystal Gail Mangum), which is fine with me (I did the same), but it does not identify itself. That poses a problem for those trying to evaluate the worth of what The Johnsville News posts.

On September 8, The Johnsville News suddenly (and senselessly) characterized North Carolina journalist Cash Michaels as a "slow learner" (Click on the photo of him illustrating the post and the words "Cash Michaels-slow learner" appear) and ridiculed him outrageously.

Professor Robert K.C. Johnson, whose exposure of the Duke rape hoax has been brilliant, promptly posteda powerful piece praising Mr. Michael as a North Carolina journalist who "stood out" and compellingly explained why: "Michaels has homed in on the significance of Nifong's habitual disregard for standard procedures. Several weeks ago, he started asking some hard questions about whether the D.A. exploited African-American voters in handling the case; and his most recent column raises serious (and, as yet, unanswered) concerns about both Nifong's procedurally irregular behavior and the seemingly dubious personal character of the case's lead investigator, Sgt. Mark Gottlieb. The piece is a must-read.

"Michaels' conclusions strike me as critical for the African-American community. We all know the sad statistics--blacks are far more likely than any other group in this country to be victimized by police or prosecutorial misconduct. So allowing Nifong to get away with his multiple violations of procedure in this case will set a dangerous precedent from which African-Americans almost certainly will suffer in the future.

"I'm, obviously, not from Durham; and so pay special attention to message-board posts when people from the area talk about how their friends and neighbors are viewing the case. There's an interesting pattern: few, if any, seem to have been influenced by the widely condemned Times article. But many, especially in the African-American community, cite Michaels' work. It looks as if they understand that on the lacrosse case, readers are more likely to see quality journalism in the Wilmington Journal than in the New York Times."

Professor Johnson did not refer to the Johnsville News hit piece, but it seems safe to conclude that he was familiar with and repelled by it.

The Johnsville News depicted me in the post as Mr. Michaels' "visiting teacher" andinsinuated that the sincere tribute Ihad paid to Mr. Michaelsfor what he had done to help the truth prevail sooner rather than later in the Duke case (pronounce the prosecution evidence woefully deficient and confirm the upcoming "60 Minutes" season opener on the Duke case) was some teaching technique used with a "slow learner" instead of a genuine expression of appreciation for Mr. Michaels' refusal to stick with his initial suspicion when the evidence did not support it (like Dan Abrams and Susan Estrich, among others) and doing what I had been waiting for others to do: let people know that "60 Minutes" would be dealing with the Duke case on September 24, so that they could let "60 Minutes" know what they expected).

Like Professor Johnson, I quickly wrote in praise of Mr. Michaels. Unlike him, I also castigated The Johnsville News and called for it to apologize.

The Johnsville News took note of Professor Johnson's piece of Mr. Michaels. Instead of claiming temporary insanity, it insisted Professor Johnson needed a "gut check" and "even a brain check"!

Being anonymous does not take "guts," Johnsville News.

Following the truth when it isn't what you expected takes "guts."

Telling the whole truth takes "guts."

Pretending that the lacrosse team party last March was beyond criticism and that the team members are heroes (especially around September 11, when real heroes are appreciated) because they became victims requires "a brain check."

It seems to me that The Johnsville Newsis out to discredit Mr. Michaels because he wants the whole truth to be told, and things like the use of the N word, the "fine cotton shirt" remark, Ryan McFayden's vile email and the silence of the team members (now enforced by a gag order and previously on advice of counsel) offend him.

The firs threeshould offend everyone. The silence is a constitutional right that often seems to be a constitutional wrong. Given the nature of the prosecution and standard legal advice, the silence is readily understandable to me (a lawyer), but Mr. Michaels is not a lawyer and his belief that people should cooperate with a police investigation and tell the truth instead of invoke the constitutional right against self-incrimination has a certain appeal.

Mr. Michaels is not the only target of The Johnsville News for daring to see things a bit differently. On September 5 (three days before taking a cheap shot atMr. Michaels), in "Duke Case: Cheap Shot," The Johnsville News chided a Duke senior for daring to say that he did not "fear for long-term prospects" of the members of the 2006 Duke Men's Lacrosse Team:

"David Kleban, a Duke Trinity senior, writes a column for the Duke Chronicle. He takes a cheap shot at the Duke men's lacrosse team in his recent column: To be honest, though, I don't fear for the long-term prospects of these gentlemen. They will probably remain the objects of adoration of much of the female contingent of the 'Duke 500' touted by Rolling Stone. And for the most part they will continue to enjoy their lucrative, highly prized positions in (to use a buzz word of The Chronicle) 'New York-area investment banks.'

So while the public disparagement of the team and the (almost entirely) baseless indictments against three players indeed represent a miscarriage of justice and of public opinion, I can't help but worry more about the lasting detriment to the reputation of our school. "Such is the callousness of youth."

The Johnsville News then quoted this comment by Nina Zash, mother of former Duke player Matt Zash, about Mr. Kleban's opinion:

"Although I think David Kleban's article is very well written and factual, I take exception to the remark that he does not fear for the long-term prospects of the gentlemen he feels will remain the objects of adoration by the female contingent of the 'Duke 500.'

"As the parent of one of those supposed objects of adoration, I am completely offended. The travesty of justice heaped upon 46 families will stay with them long after they leave Duke. It is with us every waking minute. Not one of us walks away from this unscarred, not the players on that team nor their parents. We hurt every day for the pride that was taken from us and for the naivete we had in believing so fantastic a lie could never amount to anything." Note to Ms. Zash:

First, there were forty-seven members of the team. The forty-seventh, a young black man, was not asked for a DNA sample. But he has stood up to pressure to support the gang rape claim and he and his family have suffered for it. I'm sure he and his were scarred too, and hurt every day. NOT because pride (as in reasonable self-respect) was taken from him, because I don't think anyone has succeeded in doing that.

Second, Mr. Kleban optimistically referred to the long term prospects of the players. I did not read his words as intended to minimize the enormous hurt of the families, but as an expression of confidence in the players to overcome and plenty of females to realize that the gang rape charge was a terrible lie.

I certainly don't minimize the damage done, and hope that it can be mitigated and no more damage is done.

I hope Mr. Nifong is punished for what he did. If he is convicted of a crime, I won't be sad. If he is disbarrred, I will celebrate the news. If he is successfully sued,my sadness will be that he won't have even a significant fraction of the money he should be made to pay if he did have it.

Mr. Nifong's wife, daughter and sistershould not be disrespected. His son is not to blame. I hope he is admitted to the best college for which he is qualified and that his college life does not suffer fromanyinterruption whatsoever, much less an outrageous one like the one inflicted onReade Seligmann and Collin Finnerty by his father and Duke University (of which Richard Brodhead still is the president). And certainly Mr. Nifong's dog should not be kicked.

BUT, Mr. Nifong himself should be punished severely.

As for the accuser, if she is as culpable as Mr. Nifong, she should be punished as severely (although she can't be disbarred). But...is she? Or, as Collin Finnerty's father Kevinsuggested publicly on NBC last June, was she a desperate person who did what she thought she had to do to escape incarceration herself? Is shetoo frightened to recant because the prosecutor is a vindictive political opportunist who pandered shamelessly to win a primary and incurring his wrath is more frightening than recanting?

Michael J. Gaynor

Biography - Michael J. Gaynor

Michael J. Gaynor has been practicing law in New York since 1973. A former partner at Fulton, Duncombe & Rowe and Gaynor & Bass, he is a solo practitioner admitted to practice in New York state and federal courts and an Association of the Bar of the City of New York member.

Gaynor graduated magna cum laude, with Honors in Social Science, from Hofstra University's New College, and received his J.D. degree from St. John's Law School, where he won the American Jurisprudence Award in Evidence and served as an editor of the Law Review and the St. Thomas More Institute for Legal Research. He wrote on the Pentagon Papers case for the Review and obscenity law for The Catholic Lawyer and edited the Law Review's commentary on significant developments in New York law.

The day after graduating, Gaynor joined the Fulton firm, where he focused on litigation and corporate law. In 1997 Gaynor and Emily Bass formed Gaynor & Bass and then conducted a general legal practice, emphasizing litigation, and represented corporations, individuals and a New York City labor union. Notably, Gaynor & Bass prevailed in the Second Circuit in a seminal copyright infringement case, Tasini v. New York Times, against newspaper and magazine publishers and Lexis-Nexis. The U.S. Supreme Court affirmed, 7 to 2, holding that the copyrights of freelance writers had been infringed when their work was put online without permission or compensation.

Gaynor currently contributes regularly to www.MichNews.com, www.RenewAmerica.com, www.WebCommentary.com, www.PostChronicle.com and www.therealitycheck.org and has contributed to many other websites. He has written extensively on political and religious issues, notably the Terry Schiavo case, the Duke "no rape" case, ACORN and canon law, and appeared as a guest on television and radio. He was acknowledged in Until Proven Innocent, by Stuart Taylor and KC Johnson, and Culture of Corruption, by Michelle Malkin. He appeared on "Your World With Cavuto" to promote an eBay boycott that he initiated and "The World Over With Raymond Arroyo" (EWTN) to discuss the legal implications of the Schiavo case. On October 22, 2008, Gaynor was the first to report that The New York Times had killed an Obama/ACORN expose on which a Times reporter had been working with ACORN whistleblower Anita MonCrief.

Gaynor's email address is gaynormike@aol.com.

Copyright 2006 by Michael J. Gaynor
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