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"And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." - John 8:32
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Author:  Michael J. Gaynor
Bio: Michael J. Gaynor
Date:  April 25, 2007
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Duke Case: Apology and Asininity

Let's be fair: Ms. Sheehan, a rape victim, believed the gang rape canard; she really is sorry; her apology is unqualified; and she's supporting Hoax victim David Evans' call for much needed reform in North Carolina's criminal justice system.

The News & Observer's Ruth Sheehan apologized publicly and contritely. The title of her latest article is "To Duke accused: I'm sorry." Ms. Sheehan had accused all of the members of the 2005-2006 Duke University Men's Lacrosse Team of atrocious behavior, so the lead sentence of her article made it clear that she was not apologizing only to the wrongly and wrongfully indicted: Reade Seligmann, Collin Finnerty and David Evans: "Members of the men's Duke lacrosse team: I am sorry."

Let's be fair: Ms. Sheehan, a rape victim, believed the gang rape canard; she really is sorry; her apology is unqualified; and she's supporting Hoax victim David Evans' call for much needed reform in North Carolina's criminal justice system.

Ms. Sheehan:

"Surely by now you know I am sorry. I am writing these words now, and in this form, as a bookend to 13 months of Duke lacrosse coverage, my role in which started with a March 27 column that began:

'Members of the men's Duke lacrosse team: You know. We know you know.'

"That was when Durham police and District Attorney Mike Nifong were describing a 'wall of silence' among the men who attended the now-vaunted lacrosse party at 610 Buchanan Blvd. Nifong, now described by the state attorney general as a 'rogue prosecutor,' was widely respected as solid, even understated.

"Though wrong, my initial column was cheered by hundreds of readers."

What is stunning about Ms. Sheehan's article is not that she apologized (I expected that, after the statute of limitations on defamation expired), but what she said about her newspaper: "Last weekend, our public editor, Ted Vaden, laid me low for that first column, and the second, which called for the firing of lacrosse coach Mike Pressler. According to Don Yeager, a former Sports Illustrated staffer who is writing a book about the case, Pressler blames me for his dismissal. I'm sorry he ended up coaching at a Division III school."

The key words are "[l]ast weekend." The public editor waited more than a year to talk to Ms. Sheehan about her rush to judgment! Arguably, THAT was much worse than a rape victim being duped and doing what she thought (now admittedly wrongly) was right.

Ms. Sheehan did not try to minimize those two articles (she called them "Molotov cocktails"), but she proceeded to note that after generating them, she did not "remain mute for nine months before declaring myself 'naive' and wrote a total of fourteen lacrosse columns.

Ms. Sheehan:

"On April 13, 2006, two weeks after the first column, I drew comparisons between the Alleged Victim and Tawana Brawley: 'If lying, take her to task.'

"In June, I said it was time for a special prosecutor to step in.

"And on Jan. 1, I called on Nifong to do what the attorney general finally did: drop the charges. I also acknowledged publicly how wrong I had been."

There's no doubt about that, but there was some doubt as to whether Ms. Sheehan was sorry about being wrong, so Ms. Sheehan dispelled the doubt.

Ms. Sheehan:

"For many, that wasn't enough. When the former players were declared innocent, I received 75 copies of my March 27 column (or parodies of it) and as many requests for an apology.

"Here it is: I am sorry.

"I would have written sooner, but for my husband's quadruple bypass surgery."

Ms. Sheehan went further:

"Meantime, beyond the apology, I wanted to commend the three men wrongly accused in this case for looking beyond their own troubles to other cases of injustice.

"In particular, I was impressed with the statement of former team captain Dave Evans, who noted that without his parents' resources, and the fine lawyers they hired, 'this could simply have been brushed underneath the rug just as another case, and some innocent person would end up in jail for their entire life.

"My challenge to readers is to take up Evans' larger cause -- reforming the state's grand jury system and ensuring fair treatment for all people accused of crimes. Not just the privileged.

"With that, I'll end what I hope will be my final column on the Duke lacrosse case.

"This has been difficult territory. I'm paid to write about what I think as things happen. But rest assured, I know my errors. And now you know I know."

John Ham (Right Angles) was incensed, not especially impressed:

"The N&O’s Ruth Sheehan apologizes today for two early columns on the Duke lacrosse case, one that convicted all 46 players of rape before any facts were in and the other that called for Duke lacrosse coach Mike Pressler to be fired. This is more than many pundits, who wrote the same or worse, have done, so give her credit for that. She says she would have done this sooner if it weren’t for her husband’s quadruple bypass surgery. This explanation didn’t set well with this commenter on lucianne.com:

I got to the part about her husbands triple [sic] bypass surgery and figured that this was all about her, anyway…it is not about apologizing but about HER. Not about forgiveness, but about HER…not about how sorry she is that she is just another liberal useful idiot seeking that Edward R. Murrow ‘thing’.. NO…it is ALL ABOUT HER.

"She also says: But, lest my reporting on Duke lacrosse over the course of a year be reduced to two early columns, let me remind you that I did not just throw those two Molotov cocktails and remain mute for nine months before declaring myself 'naive.' My lacrosse columns numbered 14.

"That’s a little like Lee Harvey Oswald complaining that his life is being judged on that little Texas School Book Depository incident."

Fortunately, it's not.

LieStoppers poster "Newport" was appreciative:

"I have to give her credit compared to the other journalists who have covered this story. She faces no liability. The media cannot be sued for jumping to conclusions. The media really can't be sued for liable, either. The actual malice standard is too high and they have too much money to fight.

"Her first two columns were dreadful, that is true and she has so acknowledged. It is important to note that she did shift and try to help the truth to come out. She provided many links at her blog that helped to get the truth out to her readers. I think she has learned a valuable lesson and admitting that she was wrong was difficult for her to do."

Other Liestoppers posters were critical, but "Newport" was not converted:

"Tough crowd.

"An apology and cleansing of the soul should always be encouraged. Ruth will read this and, while I have no vested interest in this and have only sent Ruth one email long ago in praise, BTW, after she turned her columns around, I think we should encourage apology. If we wish others to apologize it will not do to be critical of those who have made their apologies, no matter how imperfect they may be. I think Ruth recognizes that some of her stereotypes were contrary to fact. This by the way is something that the G88 will never recognize as their entire world view is built on demonstrably false stereotypes. Truth to them is a malleable subject. Ruth, I think, recognizes that this is not so. In sum, I feel that Ruth turned around pretty early on and for that she deserves credit. The apology does speak to her character.

"The Elmostafa article was horrible and she was rightly criticized for it. Hopefully she learned from that too."

Hero of the Hoax Bill Anderson realized it was time to focus on what Ms. Sheehan had done after she had focused on what she had done wrong:

"Given that many columnists still are heaping scorn on Reade, Collin, and David, I am glad to see that Ruth Sheehan has given a simple apology. From what I can tell, she really believed Nifong a year ago and that is what led to the columns she wrote. (By the way, Bryant is Division II, not Division III.)

"The best way to view Ruth's apology is to compare what she wrote to Selena Roberts, who goes on about the 'misogyny party' and the Boston Globe calling the three 'louts.' To Ruth's credit, she does not engage in smears and backhanded apologies. She simply says she was wrong.

"Also, at least she called last June for Nifong to step away from the case, so she lost trust in him very early, and made it public. Granted, I wish she had recognized the situation in the Elmostafa case -- which was out-and-out witness intimidation -- but given what I have seen from other writers, Ruth at least has made some efforts to undo the wrong that was done.

"So, I will give her the benefit of the doubt. After seeing her performance next to that sick piece from the NY Times by its public editor, I will take Ruth any day."

I too. I doubt that Ms. Sheehan appreciated what the Elmostafa prosecution was all about on the day she watched and wrote about it, but after (and before Election Day 2006), Ms. Sheehan wrote an article entitled "Turning the tide in Durham" which stated:

"I just hope the voters of Durham understand that the general election is not, in fact, a referendum on their loyalty to Durham. In many ways, it is not even a referendum on Nifong.

"Much as they might wish it were otherwise, this DA's race is a referendum on the Duke lacrosse case.

"If Nifong wins, how can he do anything but take this case to trial?

"That is what's so scary.

"At this paper, and in this column, my colleagues and I have written plenty about prosecutors with tunnel vision, who press forward with flawed cases at any cost.

"Here's a chance for voters to say, 'Not here. Not in Durham.' Durham voters can set this case before new eyes.

"If only they would."

Bill Anderson's follow up post put both Ms. Sheehan and her open-heart surgery reference in context:

"A couple of things. Again, let me say that I am glad to hear something apologetic from Ruth, versus what we have heard from other feminists. Second, as one who has gone through two angioplasties, I can tell you that something like open-heart surgery is like throwing a nuclear bomb into a household.

"So, let us accept the apology for what it is and move on. There are much bigger fish to fry and some people who need to meet the bar of justice."

Did Bill Anderson have unapologetic North Carolina journalist and television commentator Cash Michaels in mind?

Probably not.

But reading Mr. Michaels' latest article sure makes the apologetic Ms. Sheehan look like a class act instead of a journalistic hack: "OUR DUKE LACROSSE COVERAGE – Recently, the ombudsman for the Raleigh News & Observer did a post mortem on that paper’s coverage of the now ended Duke lacrosse case. As you recall, it was the N&O’s March 24, 2006 story about a Black exotic dancer alleging that she had been beaten, raped, strangled, kicked, and sodomized by three white Duke lacrosse players that lit the fuse to a yearlong controversy that enveloped the nation.

"We now know that the State Attorney General’s Office has not only determined, after careful investigation, that the charges were false, but that the three defendants were 'innocent.'

"For the most part, the N&O ombudsman gave his paper pretty good marks, though he noted the paper’s first few stories and columns were sympathetic to the accuser. Investigative Joseph Neff did a bang up job pulling back the layers, exposing the alleged attempt by Durham DA Mike Nifong to exploit the accuser’s emotional instability, and in effect, frame three young men for crimes they didn’t commit.

"To put it another way, if something did happen to the accuser on that night, in that house, the Duke Three didn’t do it.

"So what about our coverage here at this paper? How did we do?

"Obviously, someone, like the N&O ombudsman would have to do a review for an objective analysis. Maybe one day we’ll get a journalism professor to tell us.

"But we know what our mission and objectives were, and from our point of view, we feel we achieved them.

"First keep in mind that Black newspapers are community newspapers, which makes us somewhat different from general market newspapers like the News & Observer.

"So while we go out and get the hardest news possible concerning key current issues our community wants to know more about, the inside of our newspapers are chock full of community submissions – the good news, if you will, that can’t be found in the larger general newspapers.

"Thus, Black newspapers become the 'voice' of the African-American community more than any other institution.

"If you understand that, then you understand who we serve, and why.

"The job of Black newspapers is threefold – report to the Black community; report about the Black community; and, when needed, stand up and defend our community.

"After all, we are your 'voice.'

"So that brings us full circle to our coverage of the Duke lacrosse case –how would we, a Black newspaper, approach covering an unusual alleged crime that is crackling with all of the most contentious issues there are – race, class and power?

"We decided from jump that no matter what we did, we had to carve out a different path for our coverage from our white media colleagues. While we weren’t in a position to break news regularly because we’re not a daily, we did have something our white colleagues in the media did not have – the Black perspective.

"Three white, privileged athletes, alleged to have sexually brutalized a poor Black female after hiring her to strip at a drunken party – that’s a powerful story one can easily get carried away with.

"That’s the one thing we did not want to do.

"The issue was too important to our community. It touched an historic nerve that tracked right back to the horrible legacy of African slavery.

"Black women were nothing but property, and sexual property at that for rich white masters. It was a crime for which the perpetrator was rarely, if ever, held accountable.

"That fact defined our overriding mission – could the criminal justice system firmly, fairly and efficiently adjudicate this case? Could the prosecution stand up to the enormous pressure that would be coming his way from what certainly would be a phalanx of powerful defense attorneys?

"Indeed, could the accuser hold up, and what would be the social ramifications of this case, which, by the time we began reporting on, had already begun exploding onto the national, and international scene?

"Those were the questions that guided our approach to the story. Staying true to those questions, and the implications that had for our community, is what we attempted to do.

"Thus, with the exception of one story where the accuser’s cousin gave us some sense as to who she was, we stayed away from the circus atmosphere of a People Magazine profile. We never tried to get to the elderly mother or father, or the still supportive ex-husband, because they were being unmercifully torn apart and exploited in the press.

"Certainly we kept our eye on pertinent information about the accuser and the three defendants, and referred to that as needed.

"But for the most part, we paid close attention to process – what was happening with both the prosecution and the defense, and tried to accurately report such.

"The effort proved interesting.

"To this day, Durham District Attorney Mike Nifong has never returned any of our calls, or responded to correspondence actually mailed to him from us. Not having direct access as other media had hampered us a bit, but it’s not like we didn’t try.

"Besides, to his peril, Nifong ran his mouth plenty in the early going, so we didn’t miss much.

"As for the defense, we were amazed that attorneys we actually knew personally were not returning phone calls for comment or off-the-record discussion. Attorneys we would see on TV or in the newspapers giving interviews away like water, wouldn’t save a drop for us when we called.

"When stuff like that happened, that tells us folks have something to hide.

"And that’s why, unlike the general media, we held the feet of both sides to the fire.

"But we also found the need to defend the accuser against racist, vile attacks from every quarter. Indeed, the vicious manner many in the public chose to go after her became an issue on its own that we, a community newspaper, could not just stand by and watch.

"Many people felt that she was lying, so they believed that empowered them to dehumanize her, her family, and the Black community.

"As a 'voice' of the African-American community, there was no way to circle the wagons to defend our community, but leave her outside to catch the slings and arrows. We had to defend her right to have her day in court, take the stand, and tell her story before a judge or jury.

"It was clear that the objective of Duke Three supporters and the defense team was to prevent a trial at all costs.

"Why?

"Why hadn’t lacrosse players other than the three co-captains who lived at the address of the party spoken to the police, particularly since they maintained that nothing happened that night?

"What evidence or smoking gun did the prosecution have to ultimately prove his case that so far hadn’t been disclosed?

"There were a thousand questions we kept raising on our pages. There were tips we received that we never published because we couldn’t find sources to confirm them.

"For instance, we were told the day after Thanksgiving that all of the DNA results had not been turned in from that private lab. Our source was someone we certainly trusted, but the problem was we couldn’t confirm it, and more importantly, had no idea if it leaned towards the prosecution or the defense.

"We were told about the accuser being pregnant a week before the world was told. Problem – no one knew where the accuser was (as in what state), and her mother had not been told yet. So we sat on that.

"We also had to deal with the attacks on the Black community from the bloggers, who believed they could intimidate the Black Press into doing their bidding. When that didn’t work, they turned animal.

"We’re glad we stood up to them.

"And of course, our biggest scoop of our coverage, the allegation that millions on hush money was offered to the accuser to 'make the case go away.' It was the confirmation by Black leaders locally that they had been approached to influence her that put meat on the bone for that highly controversial story. When, according to police documents, the accuser reportedly denied the story to investigators, we made sure we broke that story too.

"Who was telling the truth? One day we may learn."When we gained access to determine for ourselves that DA Nifong had little evidence to hang his hat on to prove his case, we reported that to the chagrin of many in the community. We also questioned the actions of Durham police investigators, and whether they lied in order to build their case.

"And the Black Press were the only ones not afraid of the defense team. When it was clear they were trying to derail a trial or poison the potential Durham jury pool, we went after them, exposing their tactics.

"When we finally did open a channel to communicate with the defense, we soon found ourselves lied to. They were too nice, and thought we were too dumb to see that they would speak with us only when it suited their strategy – namely to win the Black community over to their side.

"While they were giving white media full access to the discovery evidence, they only offered to show us pictures of the accuser to prove she wasn’t bruised as reported.

"The defense filled their change of venue motion with so many lies, followed by unsubstantiated claims that Durham’s residents (read that Durham’s Black community) were so racist, that they would actually 'take action' against the well-being of jurors impaneled to hear the case, which was a damnable lie.

"And while defense attorneys told me that they had nothing to do with the racist bloggers on the Internet, those were the first people they ran to to get hugs and kisses last week after the charges were dropped. Indeed, several of the attorneys admitted ON THE BLOGS that they regularly checked in to see what the posters were saying about the case, and download stories.

"Liars!

"In the end, we did OK for one of the toughest assignments we’ve ever had. History will ultimately be the judge. But make no mistake – no one can accurately tell the Duke lacrosse case story, without talking about our role in informing a community here, and across the country."

False accuser Crystal Gail Mangum apparently does not have a monopoly on delusion.

A jury trial is not supposed to be held whenever anyone accuses another or others of a crime or crimes. There are supposed to be checks and balances, including a prosecutor who is a fair and objective minister of justice, a grand jury that is supposed to be presented with evidence and determine whether or not there is probable cause to proceed to trial and a judge who will dimiss on appropriate legal grounds.

In the Duke case, the prosecutor hardly pretended to be fair and objective and the grand jurors were tricked with a grossly skewed presentation of evidence of which, conveniently, there is no record, because North Carolina does not require one.

Hoax victim David Evans was right to call for reform of grand jury proceedings and Ms. Sheehan to support his call.

Mr. Michaels' amusing review of his performance contained a particularly glaring omission as well as nonsense, distraction and revisionist history.

Long before Election Day 2006 Mr. Michaels asked two questions with respect to the Duke case--"What evidence does the DA have," and "Can he prove this case?"--and admittedly got "answers to both — 'Nothing' and 'No.'"

Mr. Michaels should have reported THAT to the Durham community, black and white.

His deliberate failure to do that dwarfs Ms. Sheehan mistakes with respect to the Duke case.

And at least SHE had the decency to admit her mistakes and apologize in an article in which the word "sorry" appeared three times.

Michael J. Gaynor

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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.


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