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Miles Thomas – devoted husband and model citizen dies with dignity – despite the indignities of the federal courts

We sadly announce the passing of Miles Thomas at the Holy Spirit Hospital on Wednesday, February 15, 2102, at the age of 75.  John Luciew of the Patriot followed the first federal case, and the reunion, and published an article in the Patriot News announcing Miles’ death, and giving a kind tribute to Miles, and his efforts to be reunited with his dog named Baron.  John did a great job covering what was a very real and uncomplicated public interest story, and Miles remained specifically grateful to John until the end.

Miles lived the most dignified of lives by all measures.  Miles had a successful career as a stockbroker and investment banker, and was a devoted husband.  He was a member of the Harrisburg School Board who was known for his commitment to the community, and served for years on the Dauphin County Republican committee.  Miles spent the last of his life’s saving’s, including his house and most of his personal possessions, in the care of his wife of many years, who had suffered with alzheimers until her death.

After his wife’s passing, Miles had experienced brief periods of homelessness, living, at times, out of his car, with his collie Baron, who he had gotten in or around 2002.  Miles also had suffered with diabetes, which made him appear confused and disheveled at times, and was known to some local authorities, and had somewhat frequent admissions to Holy Spirit Hospital, where he was always well-treated, and liked.

Miles passing leaves a huge injustice undone, and an indignity that Miles was subjected through the federal courts.  Miles showed great courage, doing nothing but asking for his dog back originally, and even agreeing to drop his federal lawsuit in its entirety, and any claims for damages and attorney’s fees, even after having to appear in federal court and be subject to public ridicule by the attorneys for the Humane Society, McNees Wallace.

This article is being written in the first person, because there is no other way to tell the real story, as it revealed an agenda that was only later understood when Don Bailey was charged with misconduct in the Thom Lewis case.  There are huge injustices that have been left undone, and I was there with Miles on dialysis in the hospital, after he had lost Baron late last year – he was hoping to find another collie –  when he said he would never stop seeking justice for what had been done to him.  As a tribute to him and his courage, his whole story should be told, as it revealed a power that he had of which he, or even I, were unaware, because of the agendas of others, as have been discussed on this site, to hurt and harm Don Bailey and the civil rights clients he represents.

The first federal court action

I was with Miles the day he had his dog taken in August, 2009, Thom Lewis introduced us in my office, and we simply requested the dog be returned to its rightful owner, an apparent mistake having been made.  I was there and Don may have been busy – it was a simple enough issue. Thom Lewis was a client of Don Bailey’s, who I later also came to represent in connection with the sanctions proceedings against Don and Thom, imposed only against Don, which led to the disciplinary complaint.  See Thom Lewis Collie rescue case.

I knew very little of Thom’s case that Don was handling, and Don knew very little of the Miles case, except to the extent it became something of a spectacle.   Judge Jones, on the other hand, and the attorneys for Eckert Seamans in the Lewis case, and McNees Wallace in the Miles Thomas case clearly read some connection into the cases that only later became apparent.  Miles’ case was so simple – its complexity became bizarre.

Miles was a man who loved his dog.  He had fallen on hard times and was seeking assistance getting what is, in the law, his property back, that was clearly wrongfully, even if only mistakenly, taken from him.  I knew of no other agenda.  The very firm and repeated refusals to return the dog were perplexing.  There were no charges filed and no reason to keep the dog, and Thom Lewis had a preexisting agreement to care for Baron in times when Miles may need healthcare or other such things.

The threat of federal litigation did not change the Humane Society’s unreasonable stance, nor did the actual filing of a lawsuit and request for a Temporary Restraining Order for the return of the dog.  Instead, federal judge John E. Jones, who, prior to being the Chairman of the Liquor Control Board, was a republican fundraiser, and domestic relations attorney, granted something of a “temporary custody” to the Humane Society, then scheduled hearings in federal court on the issue of the return of the dog.

John Luciew began honestly covering what was a legitimate local human interest story, in a responsible use of the press to shed light on an ongoing dispute.  As the proceedings magnified, so did the coverage, and it became something of a spectacle.  It was nothing at all to be proud of in terms of reasonable people being able to resolve disputes reasonably, and was not easy to explain to those unfamiliar with the way business is done in these courts, as we have discussed throughout.  It was, at least, the abuse of the judicial system and misuse of judicial power.  At least Miles was afforded a hearing, although it was a completely unnecessary exercise.

Court proceedings were scheduled, and were attended by dozens of people.  Our efforts continued behind the scenes repeatedly to simply get this matter resolved, but communications were treated dismissively with hostility.  Miles again even agreed to withdraw his entire case, and all claims for damages and attorney’s fees, and end what had become a spectacle, if they just returned his dog to him.  Refused.  We even tried to get the matter resolved informally with the court.  Refused again.  Miles appeared and was ready to proceed with the hearing to get his dog back, and we remained unwary of any deeper connections to the Thom Lewis case.

Judge Jones took the bench and instead of proceeding with the hearing we tried to avoid, and which inconvenienced many attendees, he brought counsel back to try to resolve the matter.  Thom Lewis immediately became the issue insofar as Miles’ dog would not be returned to him as long as Thom Lewis had any connection to the case.  It simply made no sense whatsoever.  The “negotiations” broke down over the issue, and four attorneys and a federal judge discussed Miles rights to visit his dog at the Humane Society.   None ever answered the persistent questions as to what the issue with Thom Lewis was.  In retrospect they probably assumed that we knew what the issue was, but the only issue ever before Judge Jones was the return of Miles’ dog to him in the case on his docket, and that is the only thing that Miles and his counsel ever considered.  The fact is that it remained a mystery why Thom Lewis was such a factor.

Judge Jones reconvened the parties and those in attendance in the courtroom to announce that no agreement had been reached and that further proceedings would be scheduled.  Judge Jones concluded his remarks with the statement that he would see to it that “we will do what is in the best interest of Baron”.  What about the best interest of Miles?  Miles took this statement as a grave indignity, and it was, on many levels.

Miles had been subjected to stress, aggravation, and humiliation just because he had fallen on hard times and had his dog wrongfully taken, and was the litigant in court before Judge Jones, and it was his interest that was at stake.  He is a man.  Baron is a dog.  The Constiitution protects men.  Judge Jones’ statement squarely addresses the heart of the problem of the insensitivity of the judges of our federal courts to the protection of the most basic constitutional rights.  Judge Jones’ statement was legally akin to saying he’s doing what’s in the best interest of a car in a forfeiture proceeding – it was an insult and indignity to Miles Thomas, who was made to leave court again without his property, his beloved dog.

The Thom Lewis connection

Neither Miles nor I were aware at that time that the lawsuit filed by Thom Lewis in 2007 had been forwarded to the office of disciplinary counsel shortly after it was filed, indeed before it was even served.  Patti Bednarik from the office of disciplinary counsel received the case, and went to Sam Stretton, again before the case was even served, with threats that Don Bailey would be disciplined over it – in 2007 – we are in 2012, and these are the disciplinary efforts.

Bednarik, as it turns out, was involved in the illegal transportation of dogs, and used her Pennsylvania Supreme Court Office of Disciplinary Counsel  email to run some of the operations, which appears to be big private business in Pennsylvania with personalities connected to the federal courts.  Bednarik was reportedly later relocated out of the office of counsel over the matter.  Disciplinary matters were proceeding against me as well during the handling of Miles’ case, though all proceedings had been concluded, and were believed to have been resolved.  I was later suspended.

The Lewis cases had preceded Miles’ case, and it was only through Miles’ case that Thom Lewis learned that Judge Jones was the former PLCB Chairman.  Among the defendants Thom had sued was a Daniel Flaherty, who was a PLCB administrative judge under Jones, when Jones was chairman.  Lewis was aware that Flaherty had used his office to run various activities out of in some cults that Flaherty, and Sterner, and others connected to the case, were involved with.  The knowledge of the connection passed by Don Bailey and Thom Lewis, each knowing some facts, as they had no reason to suspect that there was any connection between Jones and Flaherty, nor should they have.  If there was, it should have been disclosed and been known.  At least three other federal judges in the middle district had revealed connections to people involved in the Thom Lewis case.

In addition, Flaherty and his other cult member co-defendants, who were allegedly of little means themselves, wound up with attorneys from the Eckert Seamans law firm, a powerful-statewide law firm, with whom Jones may have some old political friends.  Judge Kane is also in a personal relationship with one of the partners of Eckert Seamans, who is believed to have connections to the disciplinary board.  The relationship and the gifts exchanged between Kane and the Eckert partner are the subject of writings of author Bill Keisling, who also had a case before Judge Jones over the abuses of the York Courts, along the lines of issues raised by Steve Conklin.  Bill’s case was dismissed without any fair treatment.  The Eckert Seamans attorneys are the ones who pursued the sanctions proceedings in the Third Circuit that led to the current disciplinary proceedings against Don Bailey.

Further Thomas court proceedings

A second hearing was scheduled before Judge Jones in Miles federal case, and this time we proceeded with our case.  This was November 2009. Miles took the stand and testified confidently, clearly, and with complete dignity, despite the McNees Walllace lawyer’s and Humane Society’s chances attempts to portray him as basically a “bum”, as commonly portrayed.  Amy Kaunas took the stand and testified falsely under oath, which was pointed out to Judge Jones, either then or later, but never addressed the issue.  Judge suspended the proceedings in the middle of the hearing, after we had rested, i.e., after we had established in a court of law Miles’ right to have his dog returned to him immediately, though three months after it was taken and called the parties back for settlement discussions.

Miles was involved in these discussions, and things like his housing arrangements and other such things that were nobodies’ business were asked of him.  Miles himself raised the issue of what the problem with Thom Lewis was, and it was simply not something that anyone would ever discuss.  We did inform them, as an additional accommodation that Steve Conklin had invited Miles to take up residence at his farm.  It is noteworthy that within 24 hours of the hearing, for the first time ever, Steve received a visit from a local dog warden with some sort of warning notice about a dog on his property, which simply did not exist.

The Humane Society, in clearly a face-saving gesture, then imposed an additional condition on Miles that he would have to agree to an adoption of his dog on a temporary basis, with conditions allowing visitation by the Humane Society, and other such intrusions.  Miles was willing to sign anything to get his dog back, and the fact is there was nothing he could sign that was not a further violation of his rights, but the Humane Society then wanted the consent of Steve Conklin to come on his property to conduct random visits.  The objection is apparent.  Nonetheless, it appeared that something could be arranged, and Miles left believing his reunion with Baron was imminent – it would be 3 more months.  Judge Jones assigned the case to Marty Carlson to finalize.

After the hearing, Miles and I both tried to make positive public statements about Judge Jones efforts to reunite Miles and Baron, as we did think it would be within a day or two, but the fact is that Judge Jones did what he did to protect the Humane Society, and, more importantly, to cut off Miles’ rights.  Miles had just appeared in his court and established that his property was wrongfully taken from him, and Judge Jones had no choice but to order that the dog be returned.  He was repeatedly reminded of this fact, and in a private discussion with Judge Jones, I told him I had no choice to go along in the face-saving, because Miles paramount concern was to be immediately reunited with his dog.  The Humane Society had just spent untold tens of thousands of dollars on one of Harrisburg’s premier law firms, and had even hired a public relations firm.

To order the dog returned would not only have been a huge public embarrassment, but would have opened Miles’ case to discovery, and questions about what the real issue was with Thom Lewis in the case, and what the real circumstances were behind the seizure of the dog, and all those other things that would have been allowed during discovery.  Judge Jones’ ordering the return of the dog would have meant that Miles already prevailed on one of his claims against the Humane Society, and would have been entitled to damages and attorney’s fees for that claim.  Judge Jones refused to simply go out and make that order, and Miles had to agree to whatever he could to get his dog back.  It was hard to be appreciative under the circumstances.

Miles second case against abc27 and Crowne Plaza

Miles thought his reunion was imminent, but the paperwork issue again became a fiasco.  Miles had learned that the Humane Society was holding its annual “fur ball” at the Crowne Plaza in Harisburg, and it was being hosted by abc27’s Valerie Pritchett.  The connection between abc27’s Alicia Richards and the Humane Society, and the refusal to cover Miles case while continuing to promote the humane Society had already become known.

Miles continued to remain proactive in the efforts to get his dog back, and was dumbfounded as to why Judge Jones did not just order it, though it was explained to him.  There was a network of people interested in Miles’ case, and someone agreed to buy him a ticket to the fur ball at the Crowne Plaza, and to rent him a room for the evening.  Miles decided to attend and ask that his dog be returned to him, and requested an advance ticket, and then attended the ball in November 2009.  The Humane Society, and abc27 personalities were aware Miles was planning to attend.

Miles entered the hotel and was accompanied by someone to pay for his room – he had money for the ticket.  Harrisburg Police officers were already on the scene when Miles got there, and he was escorted from the premises, and his room reservation was revoked.  He remained to request that his dog be returned to him, but was rebuked time and again.  These matters became the subject of the second suit Miles filed several months later against the Crown Plaza, abc27, Humane Society, and their associated personalities, which were also later dismissed by Judge Jones after I was suspended from practice during the pendency of Miles cases, and others.  The case was not filed right away, and Miles again just sought assistance in getting his dog back.  Crown Plaza/abc27 Complaint.

The return of Baron

Miles’ first case was scheduled for a mediation with Magistrate Judge Carlson, a mediation over nothing but the return of the dog.  The fact is that the right had been established, and that was the only condition on the table for Miles that the Humane Society offered, and they even attached complicated paperwork requirements to those conditions.  Miles attended because he wanted his dog back, and he had counsel with him as well, but was advised that there was nothing lawful about anything that was going on in the proceeding, and that he could sign anything he wants and should do whatever he has to do to get his property back, which had now become a hostage in a dishonest effort to have him dismiss his case, which he had already proven.  This is exactly what Carlson and the defendants were told by Miles counsel many times over, and Miles again did sign a paper, which was nothing more than that legally under all of the circumstances.

Again there were several weeks of paperwork hang-ups created by the Humane Society, who may have somehow or other legitimized their behavior to some board members of benefactors, and ultimately Miles was reunited with Baron in February.  There was great reward in the reunion despite the nonsensical course of conduct that had to lead to it.  Tens of thousands of dollars, days of court time, hundreds of attorney hours, media coverage, face-saving, and political agendas, all to not admit that a mistake was obviously made.  The reunion with Baron, again covered by John Luciew, was its own reward.

My suspension came right in the midst of this, and after that, Miles did not have counsel immediately because the courts took no measures to protect my former clients, and he had his first case wrongfully dismissed over his objection, his second case, against Crown Plaza, abc27, et al, was also dismissed though complete dismissal was not even requested by all parties.  This was filed by Miles pro se, and it was not until later that Don Bailey took over the cases to save what could be saved on appeal.  It was over one of the issues in Miles’ cases that Judge Jones called the disciplinary board to urge that they do something quick to get me so I can’t help Don Bailey.  Miles motions to open these judgments.  Miles was hospitalized at times in those months, and there is even evidence that mail was purposefully withheld from him, even not having a lawyer.

All of his cases were dismissed, and the appeals filed by Don Bailey were denied.  It was then during the sanctions proceedings in the Third Circuit in June 2010, against Bailey that all the connections became clear.  They believed that Miles Thomas was a shill, or that his case was being used for ulterior purposes. and that his case needed to be out of the way.  It was neither – no Thom Lewis agenda was known to counsel at any time until June 2010 – and there is no dispute that his property was wrongfully taken from him, and that he, like others, have suffered a second abuse at the hands of our courts.

Miles’ civil rights legacy 

Miles remained committed to seeing justice done throughout his cases.  He began in doing anything and everything he could to be reunited with the last thing he loved in his life, knowing that he was being mistreated in the process.  He was proactive in the effort, and knew his rights were being violated in the process itself.  He nonetheless also demanded his complete justice, after he got his dog back, and demanded his right to have these matters presented through the courts, and ultimately to juries.  He was seeking damages for what he had been through, under the federal civil rights laws.

Miles devoted his life to helping his community, and loving his wife, and was not deserving of having the agendas of others thrust upon him.   Miles was a dignified man and a courageous man, and it was an honor to know him and represent him.  The courts and the defendants in his cases owe him an apology at least for taking that dignity away as a reward for his life of service and support, and for participating in his mistreatment.  Whether it is forthcoming or not, Miles would surely accept it graciously.  He was a gracious and grateful man, and he will be missed.

Miles is not the first dog owner who has stirred the halls of justice.  Despite all the indignity that was created by the courts, and has been created and allowed to remain over the matters being covered here, the case was about a man and his dog.  In the case of a dog named “old drum” in 1870 where former Missouri Senator George Graham Vest (1830-1904) gave the following closing statement:

Gentlemen of the jury: The best friend a man has in this world may turn against him and become his enemy. His son or daughter that he has reared with loving care may prove ungrateful. Those who are nearest and dearest to us, those whom we trust with our happiness and our good name, may become traitors to their faith. The money that a man has, he may lose. It flies away from him, perhaps when he needs it the most. A man’s reputation may be sacrificed in a moment of ill-considered action. The people who are prone to fall on their knees to do us honor when success is with us may be the first to throw the stone of malice when failure settles its cloud upon our heads. The one absolutely unselfish friend that a man can have in this selfish world, the one that never deserts him and the one that never proves ungrateful or treacherous is his dog.

Gentleman of the jury: A man’s dog stands by him in prosperity and in poverty, in health and in sickness. He will sleep on the cold ground, where the wintry winds blow and the snow drives fiercely, if only he may be near his master’s side. He will kiss the hand that has no food to offer, he will lick the wounds and sores that come in encounters with the roughness of the world. He guards the sleep of his pauper master as if he were a prince. When all other friends desert, he remains. When riches take wings and reputation falls to pieces, he is as constant in his love as the sun in its journey through the heavens.

If fortune drives the master forth an outcast in the world, friendless and homeless, the faithful dog asks no higher privilege than that of accompanying him to guard against danger, to fight against his enemies, and when the last scene of all comes, and death takes the master in its embrace and his body is laid away in the cold ground, no matter if all other friends pursue their way, there by his graveside will the noble dog be found, his head between his paws, his eyes sad but open in alert watchfulness, faithful and true even to death.

Rest in peace.

Miles Thomas, Baron the dog, and abc27 news – the role of the media in maintaining cultural climates

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.

Thank you.