Wednesday, June 27, 2007

INNOCENT: Walter Abbott, Citizen Journalist

"... these three individuals [David Evans, Collin Finnerty and Reade Seligmann,] are innocent of these charges."

North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper, Apr. 11, 2007

Yesterday’s Durham Herald Sun carried the following letter under the head: 'Just following orders' is no excuse for police

To the editor:

Your June 20 editorial [City in crosshairs..."] said, "It would have taken great courage for a rank-and-file officer or investigator to stand up and oppose the sitting DA."

That thinking is reminiscent of the Nuremberg defense used by Hitler's followers after WWII. It didn't work then and it won't now.

Sworn law officers don't have to "just follow orders" when it involves breaking the law. If they can't figure it out, they've no business with a badge and gun.

The Herald-Sun has a poor record concerning this case -- it was one of Mike Nifong's biggest boosters. It remains to be seen if The Herald-Sun can partially redeem itself by insisting that Durham's leaders get to the bottom of what happened with the police department no matter where it leads.

Mike Nifong didn't frame those three young men by himself. He had help and the public needs to know who it was and why it was done.

Ruston, La.
That letter is typical of Abbott’s direct, reasoned and fact-based approach to MSM editors. He’s a “tell me no lies, give me no alibis” person.

After NC Attorney General Roy Cooper declared the three young men innocent, Raleigh News & Observer executive editor for news Melanie Sill posted at the Editors’ Blog pouting she was sure that in the wake of Cooper’s declaration the N&O would receive “the usual barrage from people who hate [us and engage in] smearing The N&O.”

Abbott ignored Sill’s pout and told her just what he thought the N&O had done to enable the witch hunt and frame-up (thread @ 04/19/07 at 07:54)

Last year, Samiha Khanna and Anne Blythe wrote this about Crystal Mangum, the false accuser in the Duke case:

"The accuser had worked for an escort company for two months, doing one-on-one dates about three times a week.

"It wasn't the greatest job," she said, her voice trailing off. But with two children, and a full class load at N.C. Central University, it paid well and fit her schedule.

This was the first time she had been hired to dance provocatively for a group, she said. There was no security to protect her, and as the men became aggressive, the two women started to leave. After some of the men apologized for the behavior, the women went back inside, according to police. That's when the woman was pulled into a bathroom and raped and sodomized, police said."

Last night, Reade Seligmann's attorney Jim Cooney had this to say on Liestoppers Board:

"We were provided with "sign-in" logs from the "Champagne Room" of the Platinum Club. A "dancer" and her customer are required to sign the sheet pledging that they will not engage in any sex or touching in the room. (I swear that I am not making this up). We have sheets from the latter part of March (and just 2 or 3 days after the "attack") showing that someone named "Precious" signed in.

This is consistent with what Yolanda Hayes said about Precious in her affidavits (and appears to corroborate the approximate time of the videotape showing her dancing until Yolanda throws her off the stage).

Significantly, we were able to trace Precious' footsteps the weekend before the party. Recall that she told Durham PD that after dancing at the Platinum Club on Friday night, she did her nails, went to a movie, and did her nails some more.

Hardly. We found that after dancing at the Platinum Club she had at least 4 private hotel room engagements with various escort customers. She made approximately 20 to 25 calls to at least 8 escort services that weekend for jobs. We were able to track down at least one of those customers. We were comfortable with what his testimony would have been."

It is my contention that the Raleigh News and Observer is as culpable as Mike Nifong in precipitating this tragedy.

The 3/25/06 article by Khanna and Blythe provided the spark. It gave Nifong political cover, incited the potbangers, stampeded Brodhead and Steele, and signaled the TV networks to send in the satellite trucks.

The fuel of the accusations was there as was the oxygen of racial tension. You all struck the match.

In 1898, William Randolph Hearst, one of the most famous yellow journalists of all, precipitated the Spanish American War in a fashion similar to this case. Frederick Remington, the famous artist, telegraphed Hearst to tell him all was quiet in Cuba and "There will be no war."

Hearst responded "Please remain. You furnish the pictures and I'll furnish the war."

I suppose congratulations are in order, Melanie. You've made the big time.

Walter Abbott
Ruston, LA
Just the other day at the Editors’ Blog, managing editor John Drescher asked readers how the N&O should have reported testimony at the disgraced Mike Nifong’s State Bar trial that included the use of the “f” word.

Abbott blew right by Drescher's after the fact "question." He told Drescher some things he hadn’t asked for but which I think we’d all agree Drescher needed to hear and should follow-up on. (Abbott's is the first comment on the thread)

I understand and share your chagrin at what DA Mike Nifong said to DPD invesigators last April. Compared to the big picture, though, it really isn't important.

What's important is that you and your newspaper find out how the Durham Police Department and the Durham DA framed 3 innocent citizens for a crime that never was.

Find out how for an entire year, they managed to carry it off.

Find out who knew about the frame, but kept silent for whatever reason.

Find out who in the command structure of the DPD approved of the frame.

Find out which ADA's knew what Nifong was up to and said nothing.

Find out why the US Attorney is missing in action on this case.

Yes, you poeple have a lot to do. Finding out who uses foul language and whether it should be printed in the paper is way down on the list, in my opinion.

Walter Abbott
Ruston, LA
Walter Abbott and citizen journalists like him are doing just what the founders of this country wanted citizens to do.

May their tribe increase


Anonymous said...

Mr. Abbott is terrific, John, and so are you. Several of these excellent blogs are changing the face of journalism.

Anonymous said...


Thanks for recognizing one of the most dedicated of the blog hooligans. abb has done himself proud.

And I too applaud his committment..


Stephen said...

Amen!! Mr. Abbott is a REAL journalist! (So are you John)

Anonymous said...

Is Walter Abbott the guy who begged the Attorney General of the United States to launch a federal investigation of Duke because some low level guy in the Athletics Department would not let Duke Students for an Ethical Durham set up a voter registration table at one of the football games? How did that turn out? What a fruitcake.