Sunday, September 10, 2006

Duke lacrosse: The N&O finally tells about Gottlieb. So why now?

I’ve got questions and commentary regarding yesterday’s Raleigh News & Observer’s story, “Detective [Gottlieb] got tough with Duke students.”

For those who missed the story, excerpts follow.

The rest of you can scroll to where you see the ***** line and read from there.

N&O excerpts :

If three Duke University lacrosse players face a jury this spring, defense attorneys likely will take aim at Sgt. Mark Gottlieb, the Durham police officer who supervised the investigation into the March 13 party at which an escort service dancer says she was raped.
Most of you probably know that but this will be news:
Records show [Gottlieb] arrested a disproportionate number of Duke students, all on misdemeanor violations such as carrying an open beer on a public sidewalk or violating the city's noise ordinance.

Such charges usually earn an offender a pink ticket such as those issued for speeding. But court records show Gottlieb often arrested Duke students on such charges, taking them to jail in handcuffs.(bold added)

Reached by telephone, Gottlieb declined to be interviewed for this story. A department spokesman said this week the sergeant is on leave, though what kind was not disclosed. …

From May 2005 to February 2006, the period during which Gottlieb was a patrol supervisor in the district, court and police records examined by The News & Observer show that Gottlieb arrested 28 people. Twenty were Duke students, including a quarterback of the football team and the sister of a men's lacrosse player. At least 15 of the Duke students were taken to jail.

In comparison, the three other squad supervisors working in District 2 during the same 10 months -- Sgts. Dale Gunter, John Shelton and Paul Daye -- tallied a combined 64 arrests. Two were Duke students. Both were taken to jail.

Gottlieb often treated Duke students and nonstudents differently. For example, Gottlieb in 2004 wrote a young man a citation for illegally carrying a concealed .45-caliber handgun and possessing less than a half-ounce of marijuana, but records indicate he wasn't taken to jail. He was not a Duke student.

The N&O cites arrest records for the period May 2005 to February 2006 which have been available to the N&O since it “broke” the Duke lacrosse story on Mar. 24.

But in all that time the N&O’s said almost nothing about Gottlieb’s arrest records for the period May 2005 to Feb. 2006, even thought by early April defense attorneys and others who knew of Gottlieb’s record were urging N&O reporters and editors to report it.

Why was the N&O so silent?

The N&O did examine Gottlieb’s arrest records for an uncritical, even admiring story it ran on Apr. 30. (“Veteran sarge, novice detective”)

But here’s all the N&O had to say on Apr. 30 about Gottlieb’s treatment of Duke students:
Gottlieb has taken on Duke students before, as much of the off-campus population lives in the district where he serves. One loud party led to an investigation that didn't stand up in court. Five students who lived at 203 Watts St. were charged with noise and open-container violations for an October party. Gottlieb testified that by the time officers arrived, everyone had left. One student was convicted.
Why is the N&O suddenly now telling us critical information about Gottlieb that its known for months and withheld from us?

I think part of the answer has to do with Stuart Taylor’s Aug. 29 article,"Witness for the prosecution? The New York Times is still victimizing innocent Dukies," which included this:
Gottlieb had drawn fire before the alleged Duke rape—perhaps unbeknownst to the Times—as a Dukie-basher who reveled in throwing kids into jail for petty drinking infractions, noise violations, and the like, sometimes with violent criminals as cellmates.
Taylor’s article put the N&O on notice that Gottlieb’s treatment of Duke students was “getting public.”

But I think the main reason the N&O finally told us on Sept. 9 about Gottlieb’s treatment of Duke students has to do with Sept. 24.

I’ll bet most of you can guess where I’m going.

On Sept. 24 CBS's 60 Minutes will do a segment on the Duke Hoax. As background 60 Minutes researchers and other staffers have been in contact with the N&O.

60 Minutes surely wanted to know more than the N&O has told us about the anonymous interview with the woman the N&O said in March was “the victim.”
60 Minutes no doubt asked the N&O lots of other questions. It very likely asked for on camera, “no promises” interviews with certain reporters and top editors.

One reporter 60 Minutes would very likely want to get on camera is Samiha Khanna. She was one of two N&O reporters bylined for both the N&O’s Mar. 24 “broke the case” story and the Mar. 25 “interview with the anonymous victim” story.

People at the N&O tell me Khanna conducted the interview while her co-reporter, Anne Blythe, got “background information” such as Duke Law Professor Paul Haagen’s remarks about lacrosse needing to be a concern because it was a sport of “violence.” The N&O used Haagen’s irresponsible opining as its story closer.

Khanna was the sole reporter bylined for the Apr. 30 “Veteran sarge, novice detective” story. She’s also one of three reporters bylined for the Sept. 9 story.

I don't doubt 60 Minutes has already talked to Khanna and/or her editors. So the N&O has a good idea from 60 Minutes’ questions of what 60 Minutes is interested in and will very likely report on air.

I’m betting the N&O is very confident (fearful?) Gottlieb’s treatment of Duke students is going to come up on Sept. 24.

So I think the Sept. 9 N&O story is a major, preemptive CYA in which the N&O went as easy as it could on Gottlieb and Duke’s administration.

Here are a few other things pointing to the story as more a CYA than a fair and thorough news report.

The N&O makes no mention of the alleged assault at Blinco’s. Gottlieb was there and by some accounts a principal in the alleged attack. The alleged victim has said a “fat bald cop” was one of the ringleaders of the alleged assault. Gottlieb is fat and bald.

The N&O doesn’t do more than mention in passing Gottlieb’s cuffing of Duke students. Decent police officers, of whom there are very many in DPD, try to avoid cuffing for many reasons.

One has to do with this: as soon as you cuff someone, you’ve made that person more vulnerable to serious injury even if the person is very cooperative. Just think of the situation of any of us cuffed and tripping on the sidewalk.

If the N&O were doing a fair and thorough story about Gottlieb’s treatment of Duke students instead of a CYA, it would certainly have asked for comment from Duke’s President Richard H. Brodhead and other top administrators such as Assoc. Vice President for Campus Safety & Security Aaron Graves, as well as Director of Police Robert Dean.

But there was no questioning of anyone at Duke or any mention in the story of an effort to contact any administrators there.

The N&O’s failure to get a Duke response deprived readers of an important part of the story they should have had. [Note to Duke Chronicle editors: Please follow-up on this part of the story. - JinC]

Not putting President Brodhead and others at Duke on the record was what some journalists would call “a bouquet toss” to Duke's top administrators. The N&O has treated top Duke administrators "gently" since they adopted the "race, class, gender" Duke lacrosse orientation so popular with most Duke faculty and so common and fervid in the N&O's Duke lacrosse news stories and columns.

Closing thoughts - No matter how much bouquet tossing the N&O does and how hard Duke tries to avoid responding, students, parents, and trustees who care now have a stronger case for demanding President Brodhead and his senior administrative team finally begin speaking out against injustices directed against Duke students.

The silence of the Brodhead administration has made a bad situation much worse, including more dangerous.

As for the N&O -- Many years ago a physician told me North Carolinians could very significantly imporve their physical and mental health if we would just stop doing three things: Smoking, driving drunk, and reading the N&O.

For some other bloggers' takes on the N&O's Sept. 9 story see:


Johnsville News

Lead and Gold



Anonymous said...

Nifong doubters shouldn't get their hopes up about the coming 60 Minutes piece. Like the New York Times, CBS News is unlikely to get to the bottom of this story. The Times is CBS' hometown newspaper in Manhattan, after all. Has anyone contacted Sean McManus, the head of CBS News, about the useful information and analysis available on Durham in Wonderland, Liestoppers, John in Carolina, etc.? Other than Neff, who at the N&O would tell the truth to CBS?

wts said...

IMO if the N&O is beginning to step up, as I believe they are, they will/should do a separate piece on Blincos. Adding too many of the possible side stories defeats the impact of the main story. I hope they follow up with all the stories involved and they continue to state facts as they did in this piece.

Could they have done more? Let's try some honey instead of a stick on this group. Whatever their motivation at N&O, I am very glad to see what I perceive to be a change and hope the Herald follows. (However unlikely that might be!

T'75, MBA'78

JWM said...

To Anon "Nifong doubters shouldn't get ..."

That's reasonable advice although I think for reasons I'll go into in the next few days CBS/60 Minutes will not want to report things as wrong as the N&O and NYT has.

Thank you for you nice words about JinC. I'll remember them the next time someone blasts me.

To wts,

I'm glad you shared your opinion here. It's good to have "counter" voices.

That said, I don't think influencing the N&O is a matter of trying "honey."

I'd be very careful with a "Whatever their motivation" approach.

Consider that such an approach leaves you vulnerable to "whatever [the N&O's] motivation" is.

That's an awful lot of vulnerability.

Thank you to you both for your comments.


wts said...

John, unfotunately I believe the truth is we are already quite vulnerable to the N&O! Their readership will continue to grow as they continue to be straight and are recognized for heading down the right path.

Anonymous said...

Regarding the N&O, someone should be held accountable for the March 24 and 25 stories, which inflamed the situation and helped create the atmosphere in favor of Nifong at a critical juncture in the rape hoax case.

wts said...

Loss of business, or potential loss of business is a great incentive....just as is doing the right thing an incentive for more readership...Let's see...sounds like Smith...

JWM said...


Both you're comments speak for themselves.

Anon "Regarding the N&O, someone should be held ..."

I agree but it is awfully hard to do.

But let’s keep working. Surveys show the publics distrust of MSM is at al all time high. And with good reason. NYT exec editor Bill Keller was recently "unmasked" as a serial liar. No one seems yet able to explain why it took MSM 10 days to reveal the 60 Minutes TANG anonymous documents source, whom the network kept telling us was “unimpeachable” was in fact that long-time Bush-hater and Democratic activist Bill Burkett. And on it goes.

That alternative media is far from perfect but it contains a degree of diversity unknown in the MSM.

I try to remain hopeful.


Anonymous said...

The Duke Chronicle has a story concerning Gottlieb and his treatment of Duke students in today's edition (9/11/06). As the parent of a Duke student, I find his actions very alarming. It seems his handling of the lacrosse case is not unusual for him. He hasn't seemed to mind making up "facts" against other Duke students in the past.