Perhaps even on a parallel with the courts, the media as an institution has the unique ability to affect cultural attitudes and climates. One need only listen to the “liberal media” and “conservative talk” outlets accuse each other of abusing this access to discern that there is some truth to the proposition. This article discusses that principle in relation to the political and cultural climates as they exist in central Pennsylvania, and the local media’s role in setting these climates.
We previously introduced you to the case of Miles Thomas before the disciplinary proceedings against Bailey really commenced in earnest. Miles filed two cases, and two motions to open judgment. In the first case, Miles claimed, and proved, that a Harrisburg Humane Society Officer, William Sandstrom, unlawfully took, and then would not return, Miles dog, his personal property, beloved to him.
The case was actively covered by some local press, the Patriot News included, and John Luciew of the Patriot News did a fine job keeping attention on this matter, which the federal court, Judge John E. Jones, proved impotent to deal with. For some unexplained reason Judge Jones would not simply order the Humane Society folks to return the dog, and scheduled, rescheduled, and delayed proceedings until finally the dog was returned, although under some bizarre “fostering” type of relationship. As is typical, Judge Jones used the very straightforward litigation as an attack on Miles, and his attorney, Andy Ostrowski.
Notably absent from the local news coverage of the incident was any coverage by the local abc affiliate, abc27 news of Harrisburg. It was later learned that abc27 anchor Alicia Richards is a significant benefactor and public spokesperson for the Humane Society, and that there was pressure at abc27 to cover the story, but that Richards alone stopped the coverage, even threatening to quit if the station covered the story.
While the saga dragged out before Judge Jones, who would simply not tell the Humane Society to return the man’s property, abc27 hosted a fundraiser for the Humane Society, which, as it turns out, was hosted by Richards and by her co-host, Valerie Pritchett. Because Miles had still not had his dog returned at the time – months after it was taken –he decided to attend the event and ask for his dog back again, and was escorted from the premises by the police.
This led to the filing of a second lawsuit by Miles, which he filed in Dauphin County that time, but which the defendants, Richards, Pritchett, the Humane Society, and the Crown Plaza included, were able to get back into federal court before Judge Jones, who dismissed this case, as well as Miles’ first case, after Ostrowski’s suspension took effect.
The theme that has been discussed throughout this site, such as in the Bailey judicial lynching and Penn State predictions articles, and elsewhere, is that the media, at least in central Pennsylvania, has some special access to the courts, such that they are able to combine to control popular opinion and cultural climates.
In the Miles Thomas case, the Humane Society’s protection by abc27, and even Judge Jones (the connection of these matters to the Thom Lewis Collie rescue case will be explored in much more detail), allowed them to persist in an indefensible course of conduct, and escape exposure. It reinforced cronyism as a legitimate use of the courts. It is not wrong for local personalities to support local causes, but it does compromise journalistic integrity to not disclose that these things motivate news agendas.
The Patriot News has some kind of special and coordinated access with what goes on in the federal courts. The Bailey “shit storm” verdict of $1.5 million dollars against a sitting attorney general gets no coverage, nor do the wiretap verdicts against state police officials, nor most of the other significant cases he brings, but the Patriot published the Carlson smear, and announces disciplinary proceedings, and covers just about every story that casts Don Bailey in a negative light. And, as if their devices were not obvious enough, they had taken to using an old file photo of Bailey wearing an eye patch, which was used every time they ran an article about Bailey, until someone was kind enough to demand that this unfair portrayal stop.
Even last week, David Wenner of the Patriot News covered the scheduled eviction of Steve Conklin from his farm, and his writings were filled with value-judged portrayals of Conklin as a fringe element deadbeat hippie who was trying to pull a fast-one to get out of his obligations under his mortgage. When Wenner was asked about his portrayals, he gives the stock response that they won’t “try his case in the paper”. That is fine, of course, and completely appropriate, but why try theirs?
This special access is also believed to be behind the Penn State/Sandusky, with deliberate leaks used to create a climate where plea agreements are the only reasonable alternative, and where, for further example, it does not appear to be any coincidence that Attorney Karl Romminger, who does a popular law-related local radio show on whp-580 became a public face of the Sandusky prosecution, only appearing to give voice to the “body-soaping instruction” defense to the molestation charges, and then not being heard from again. The pubic seed was planted, like the other examples brought to you, and this is how popular opinions and climates are set.
The question to which we intend to devote further study is, why? What is the dynamic at play behind these obvious abuses of special access to the courts as a result of the role of the media? The position being taken here is that these matters are, in large part, a result of the dynamic of the courts unique control over lawyers, coupled to unscrupulous court officers inclined to abuse the access.
The media generally in the Unites States is fairly free and unrestrained when it comes to criticism of the executive (President/Governor) and legislative (Congress/General Assembly), and accusations of improper, corrupt, or crooked agendas are never shied-away from; yet courthouse corruption, and crooked judges are scarcely discussed and exposed unless or until the problem reaches epic proportions, and explodes into a full blown scandal, like the kids-for-cash scandal that rocked the courts, only within the last year; yet it is no longer discussed.
Media outlets get sued in courts, and they are staffed with attorneys whose licenses are controlled by the courts, and to whom the lawyers are obeisant and deferent, as a product of their acculturation, to the courts and the personalities who control them. While executives and legislatures have some control over media, their efforts to control must by their nature be fairly transparent, as are their agendas. In the climate in the federal courts, where hearings are rarely granted, and most work is done behind closed doors, there is a better chance that decisions will be made, but the motivations for those decisions easier to conceal, and justify, and media outlets, and their lawyers, must build all these dynamics into their reporting on matters before the courts. As a result, there is distinct under-reporting.
This site has widely reported on the goings-on in the courts of central Pennsylvania, and if the things said in this site are true, the evidence is here, there is a huge problem in our courts, and one that does not get reported in the popular media; yet that media does appear to have access, and is part of serving other agendas. This all is part of the larger problem that has created the climate that was discussed in our Welcome to this site, and will continue to be a focus of our efforts.