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A Funny Thing Happened On the Way to the Courthouse (Part II) Print E-mail
by John Browning    Wed, Nov 16, 2011, 12:18 pm

In last week’s column, I shared some recent examples of the strangeness that frequently accompanies criminal and civil cases.  As the following examples illustrate, there is a lot more where that came from:


Poetic Justice


Canadian prosecutor John Ramsay decided to add some rhyming to the closing argument he delivered during an Ottawa drunk driving trial in September, 2011.  Describing the government’s case against defendant Joey Anderson, Ramsay used poetry to summarize everything from the witness testimony, the police conclusions, and even a warning about driving drunk: “Beers at a cottage, 15 did he drink / And proceed to drive, rather than think / A marked departure from the reasonable driver / Mr. Anderson is fortunate he’s a survivor.”  It evidently worked, because Anderson was convicted and sentenced to 60 days in jail.  Ramsay garnered a fair amount of publicity for his closing argument couplets, but later apologized, saying he didn’t intend to make light of “a great public concern.”  As for me, I have no problem with Ramsay’s rhyming.  And in his honor, here’s a poem of my own: “Ramsay’s pleadings in verse / Could certainly be worse / To send felons to the slammer / Why not sue verse as a hammer?”


A Fan’s Ultimate Revenge


Any diehard Yankees fan would jump at the chance to disrupt the game plans of the hated Boston Red Sox.  So it must have been a dream come true for Yankees fan and process server Tom Cabral to serve suit papers on Red Sox pitcher Erik Bedard in September 2011.  In fact, Cabral—clad in a Yankees shirt, of course—arranged to serve Bedard with child support papers from an ex-girlfriend mere hours before Bedard was set to take the mound at Fenway Park (Cabral even posted about it on his Facebook page).  It must have worked—the Red Sox lost to the Orioles that night 7–5, and not long after had a catastrophic meltdown against Tampa Bay that kept them out of the American League playoffs.


Maybe He’s Climbing a “Stairway to Courthouse”


George F. Blackburn of Missouri really, really likes Led Zeppelin.  So much, in fact, that the 64 year-old recently had his name legally changed to “Led Zeppelin II,” after his favorite album by the iconic rock band.  Blackburn/Zeppelin said he’s been thinking about doing this for years, and says the group’s music “changed my life, forever, and that’s my whole reason for doing this.”  His friends are supportive, as is his ex-wife, who calls him “L.Z.” or “Zep.”  You might say Blackburn/Zeppelin has a “Whole Lotta Love” for his favorite band.


Don’t Mess With Texas—Or Our Trademarks


The Texas Department of Transportation, which owns the trademarked slogan “Don’t Mess With Texas,” has filed a restraining order to block the sale and distribution of a romance novel.  The book in question, by Christie Craig, is entitled “Don’t Mess With Texas” and features a cover illustration of a shirtless hunk holding a woman wearing cowboy boots in his arms.  The trademark infringement lawsuit filed by TxDOT claims that the cherished slogan could be tarnished by the book, which contains “numerous graphic references to sexual acts, states of arousal, etc.”  I’m not sure what her lawyers would say, but I’ll bet the romance novelist herself would file a pleading that is full of “unbridled passion, with the white-hot intensity of a thousand dying suns, and rippling with steely force.”


Beat Me, Whip Me, Make Me File Motions


Most government prosecutors want lawyers who excel at punishing the other side and whipping them into submission, figuratively speaking.  And Alisha Smith, who up until recently was a well-respected lawyer in the Manhattan office of the New York Attorney General’s office, was just such a lawyer.  Just 3 years ago, she was publicly praised by now-Governor Andrew Cuomo for her role in winning a whopping $5 billion settlement from Bank of America and other defendants in a securities fraud case.


But in mid-September 2011, Smith was suspended without pay pending an internal investigation, after it was discovered that the 36 year-old prosecutor was moonlighting as a dominatrix named “Alisha Spark.”  According to published reports in the New York media, the prosecutor would turn persecutor for money, getting paid to dominate, restrain, and whip willing people at S & M events, while posing for photos in fetish costumes.  The Attorney General’s office cited an official policy requiring employees to “obtain prior approval . . . before engaging in any outside pursuit . . . from which more than $1,000 will be received or is anticipated to be received.”  Looks like Alisha Smith is on the receiving end of a spanking, for a change.


Suing for Lack of Sex


“Not tonight, I have a headache” may not be an option for spouses who aren’t in the mood in France, if one woman’s lawsuit becomes a trend.  A French wife sued her husband because he wasn’t having sex with her enough.  A judge in Nice agreed with her, and awarded approximately $14,000 to the wife after ruling that lack of sex was indeed a violation of the marital contract.  The judge opined that “By getting married, couples agree to sharing their life and this clearly implies they will have sex with each other.”  Only in France . . .


“A Few Good Men” Too Many


Moviegoers loved the rousing 1992 Tom Cruise / Jack Nicholson courtroom drama “A Few Good Men,” about a court martial resulting from a “Code Red” hazing gone wrong at the Guantanamo Bay naval base.  Few people know, though, that screenwriter Aaron Sorkin’s inspiration for the movie (and the play that preceded it) was a real-life hazing incident and the experiences of his sister, who was a young military lawyer who defended a Marine at a similar court martial in the 1980s.  Ten Marines were originally charged in the case that the movie was based on, but only 3 went to trial.  So, of the military defense lawyers who were involved in the case, who was the inspiration for Tom Cruise’s dashing Lt. Kaffee character?


Well, that’s a little tougher to answer.  Four lawyers have either claimed to be the basis for Lt. Kaffee, or have been described in media reports as the inspiration.  Chris Johnson, who now practices in California, says “My opinion is that the Tom Cruise character is largely based on me.”  Former Navy lawyer and U.S. Attorney in New Mexico David C. Iglesias was described as by a 2007 Washington Post article as the inspiration for the “dreamy” Lt. Kaffee.  Meanwhile, Virginia lawyer and former Navy JAG officer Donald Marcari says on his law firm’s website that “his exploits . . . became the basis for the motion picture ‘A Few Good Men.’”  And Connecticut lawyer Walter C. Bansley III claimed on his website that he “was the actual military lawyer played by Tom Cruise,” an assertion that also appeared in The New York Times.


So, do you want the truth?  Can you handle the truth?  Well, according to Aaron Sorkin himself, “The character of Dan Kaffee in ‘A Few Good Men’ is entirely fictional and was not inspired by any particular individual.”

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Remembering Rick Eilert Print E-mail
by Tom Pauken    Fri, Nov 11, 2011, 03:19 pm

As we honor our military servicemen and women this Veterans Day, my personal thoughts go to a former Marine named Rick Eilert who was one of the more than two and a half million young Americans who served our country as soldiers in Vietnam.


Rick was a young Marine lance corporal who triggered a land mine while on patrol in Vietnam.  The grenade exploded, and Rick was severely wounded.  Ultimately, he made his way to Ward Three South at Great Lake Naval Hospital to recover from his serious injuries under the care of a remarkable doctor named Dr. Boone Brackett.  In his book "For Self and Country", Eilert vividly recounts what it was liked to see what was left of his legs after his injuries in Vietnam.  He quotes Dr. Boone on the subject:  "It's a real mess, isn't it?  Charlie didn't leave much for us to work with.  But as long as it hurts it's yours and anything that's yours is better than a piece of lumber hanging from a stump."


A year later, after more than 30 operations, Rick Eilert finally was able to go home.  He was all of 20 years old.


It would have been easy for Rick to despair of his military service after all he had been though – think of the soldier played by Tom Cruise in Oliver Stone's "Born on the 4th of July".  Instead, Rick married his high school sweetheart Cheryl, found work with great difficulty (hiring Vietnam Veterans was not in fashion back in the 1970s), and raised a family.


Later, Rick wrote "For Self and Country", a truly inspirational book.  Dr. Boone wrote the forward to the book which describes Rick's story so well: "As a medical officer in Vietnam, I knew well the faces of the wounded and the depression that inevitably followed as the wounded fighting man gradually became aware of the awful finality of a crippling injury.  The courage displayed in these circumstances was often of the highest kind, combined in this case with the rarest and most precious gift of all, the ability to laugh at oneself."


Even after all that Rick Eilert had been through, he still loved his country.  I had the good fortune to get to know Rick when we worked together in our Vietnam Veterans Leadership Program during the Reagan administration.  Simply put, Rick Eilert became the heart and soul of that program of "veteran helping veteran".  We all looked up to him for his courage, love of country, and willingness to make a difference in the lives of his fellow Vietnam Veterans who were struggling with problems after their Vietnam experience.


Rick Eilert was buried at Arlington National Cemetery a few months ago.  His family and friends gathered to honor this fine man one last time.  Many of us who worked with Rick in the Vietnam Veterans Leadership Program joined with his family in celebrating his life and praying for the repose of his soul.  He will be missed.


Semper Fidelis.


Tom Pauken is Chairman of the Texas Workforce Commission and author of Bringing America Home.

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That Could’ve Gone Better Print E-mail
by John Browning    Wed, Nov 9, 2011, 11:03 am

Years ago, I tried a case in which the elderly plaintiff, egged on by her adult daughter, turned down what I thought was a pretty generous six-figure settlement offer and insisted on proceeding to trial.  When the jury came back in my client’s favor with a verdict that the plaintiff receive nothing, she looked absolutely stunned.  The adult daughter—never at a loss for words—simply started berating the despondent-looking attorney, screeching “Well, that could’ve gone better!”  It is an image that remains with me whenever I hear of moments at trial that go horribly awry for one side or the other.  Here are a few of my recent favorites:


A Defense That’s All Wet


55 year-old Marie Rusin was in federal court in New York recently, accused of scamming the Long Island Rail Road pension fund.  In an earlier proceeding, she was accused of “fabricating a medical condition” in order to avoid a trip to Manhattan to meet with federal prosecutors.  This time, Rusin “slumped over and did other things to make it appear she needed medical attention” in court, according to Assistant U.S. Attorney Justin Weddle.  To really sell the supposed performance, prosecutors say, Rusin purposely peed in her pants—the evidence of which was still staining the courtroom chair as she was taken to a nearby hospital.  While Rusin’s attorney denies that his client was faking a medical problem to get out of court, the incontinent defendant was released after about an hour and the hearing resumed.


She Rubbed This Lawyer the Wrong Way


It’s got to be somewhat awkward when you are a lawyer defending someone accused of illegal human trafficking, as Chicago lawyer Douglas Rathe was in August 2011.  Rathe was defending Alex “Daddy” Campbell in federal court.  Campbell was accused of exploiting immigrant women by having them work at his massage parlor and perform sexual favors for money (called “extras”) pocketed by Campbell; he allegedly kept the women under constant threat of deportation.  At trial, witness after witness testified about Campbell’s reign of terror.  But the trial came to an abrupt halt when Ukrainian immigrant Liudmyla “Liuda” Ksenych told prosecutors that she recognized defense attorney Rathe as a client from the massage parlor where she worked for Campbell.  U.S. District Court Judge Robert Gettleman declared a mistrial.  In the meantime, in a hearing that had to give new meaning to the words “awkward” and “uncomfortable,” Rathe testified about how he was indeed a massage client of “Liuda,” and had given her gifts and exchanged e-mails with her—but that there was no sex involved.  Campbell is set for a new trial in January, and with a new defense attorney—one who hasn’t frequented his massage parlors.


Some People Beat the Rap, Others Beat the Judge


Philadelphia defense attorney Joseph Stanton was defending right to life advocate Margaret McGrath in July 1997.  The 60 year-old McGrath faced harassment and assault charges stemming from her picketing of a northeast Philadelphia abortion clinic.  During an in-chambers hearing in the midst of trial, assistant district attorney Brian Grady “got carried away” and tried to assault Judge Richard Klein.  When defense attorney Stanton intervened, he got pummeled for his trouble.  Grady was held in contempt of court and fined $2,500.  A mistrial was declared and another judge granted a motion to bar the retrial of Ms. McGrath, calling Grady’s acts “a signal of the breakdown of the integrity of the judicial proceeding.”  That’s too bad—I wanted to negotiate the pay-per-view rights for the rematch.


Helpful Tip—Don’t Call the Judge an “Ass Clown”


Paul Hupp filed for bankruptcy and tried to discharge $80,000 worth of student loan debt, and the legal maneuverings in his case brought the dispute all the way to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in California.  But perhaps he should have invested in a lawyer instead of representing himself, because his persuasion skills could use a little work.  For example, his brief is one long, rambling missive full of profanity, most of which is directed against the judges themselves.  I can’t quote most of Hupp’s choice wording in a family newspaper—suffice it to say that “slime ball” and “ass clown” are about the most printable ways he addresses the court.  And while there are many ways to respond to an argument by opposing counsel, I’m pretty sure that “Wrong, bitches” is not the preferred way taught in most law schools.  Hupp’s appeal was denied—color me surprised.


Taking the Hypocritical Oath


60 year-old violinist Martin Stoner wants to be judged for his abilities, not his age.  After being rejected from a competition run by the nonprofit Young Concert Artists, Stoner (who played with the New York City Ballet orchestra for 25 years) filed an age discrimination lawsuit in federal court on his own behalf.  But after his case was assigned to 88 year-old Manhattan federal judge Robert Patterson, Stoner cried foul and filed a judicial complaint seeking a different judge because, he claims, Patterson is too old.  In his complaint, Stoner argues that Judge Patterson “could barely see unless he put his face almost on top of a document,” that he “should be removed from the bench both because of his mental and physical limitations,” and because he’s “too old to preside.”  The irony isn’t lost on anyone, including Stoner.  “I know it sounds kind of like hypocrisy,” he says.  Young Concert Artists director Susan Wadsworth says “The whole thing is pretty comical.”  Good luck appearing credible as a crusader against age discrimination, Mr. Stoner—you’re going to need it.


Maybe the Pen Is Mightier Than the Sword


Joshua Monson, a defendant up on felony drug charges in Snohomish County, Washington, is finding it hard to come by both defense lawyers and office supplies lately.  That is because he keeps stabbing his attorneys with pencils and pens—to the point where Judge David Kutz has declared that Monson has forfeited his right to counsel.  In the first two incidents, Monson was accused of stabbing two different lawyers with pencils smuggled in from jail.  In the third incident on November 1, Monson allegedly grabbed a pen from defense attorney Jesse Cantor and stabbed him in the head during the prosecutor’s opening statement.  For the rest of his trial, Monson will not only have to represent himself, but he’ll do so strapped to a special chair—a lá Hannibal Lecter.  Judge Kutz instructed the jury to ignore the pen-stabbing incident, the absence of counsel, and Monson’s unique restraints.  And for goodness sake, don’t let him anywhere near an office supply store!


When All Else Fails, Blame Your Legal Education


Finally, there are those lawyers who personify the old saying about how it is better to remain silent and risk people thinking you’re ignorant than to open your mouth and confirm their suspicions.  This exchange comes from an actual trial transcript quoted in a case that went up before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit.  The judge and the plaintiff’s attorney, Mr. Phipps, are discussing the applicability of certain cases to the one Phipps is arguing:


          Judge:   What do you do about Morgan?

          Phipps:  I don’t, I don’t, I don’t know Morgan, Your Honor.

          Judge:   You don’t know Morgan?

          Phipps:  Nope.

          Judge:   You haven’t read it?

          Phipps:  I try not to read that many cases, Your Honor.

          Judge:   I must say, Morgan is a case that is directly relevant to this case.  And for you representing the Plaintiff to get up here—it’s a Supreme Court case—and say you haven’t read it.  Where did they teach you that?

          Phipps:  They didn’t teach me much, Your Honor.

          Judge:   At Tulane, is it?

          Phipps:  Loyola.

          Judge:   Okay.  Well, I must say, that may be an all time first.

          Phipps:  That’s why I wore a suit today, Your Honor.

          Judge:   Alright.  We’ve got your attitude, anyway.


Yeah, that could have gone better.

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Let Me Tell You (or Not) About the Birds & The Bees Print E-mail
by James Reza    Wed, Nov 9, 2011, 10:48 am

All through my working career and even now in the music business I’m still in, I’ve seen lots of crazy and wild love bug interactions between men and women.  I’ve worked with men and women who seemed happily married and all of a sudden they start fooling around with someone at the workplace and bam! He or she is no longer married and they move on with their new found love and adios wife, kids, the house, etc.

In other work place situations I’ve seen where married company owners, supervisors, mostly male, find themselves being charmed by alluring female workers for a variety of reasons one can only imagine.  By the same token, I’ve seen men due to their supervisory status at work, grope or make unsavory and sexual advances at women who are under their authority. Most often, women who are single or divorce with children endure all that sexual harassment in fear of losing their job, which is sad indeed.  As the father of 2 fine-looking daughters, I’d get PO big time if they worked under those circumstances.  If one of my daughters would tell me they were being harassed at work, I definitely would go and have a talk with whoever was harassing them.  Thankfully, my daughter, Cecilia, an RN, works in the delivery room at JPS Hospital and my other daughter, Michele, works for a banking firm as a teller and data entry technician.  Neither of my daughters has ever told me they’ve been harassed at their work place.

Right after high school I worked as a mobile home builder.  Almost all of my co-workers were men, thus, I didn’t see any hanky panky in that work environment.  Then, I became a linotype operator (a trade I learned in high school), for a large printing firm.  Again, most of my coworkers were men.  However, the typesetting industry soon gave way to computers, and I flowed right along with the new typesetting technology.  Suddenly, I found myself working alongside women.  As I recall, some of the women were downright beautiful and friendly as heck.  What can I tell you, though married with 3 kids, I, as a young man, like so many others, started to goof around with the ladies at the workplace. Able, to somewhat control my emotions, I nonetheless enjoy fooling around with the opposite sex.  Some of you might be saying, “James, shame on you! Married with 3 kids and a wife, how could you be such a flirt?”  Folks, I’m just being honest.  Furthermore, I’m not gay, and though married, I love talking and being friends with one of God’s most beautiful creations — women!  To this day, after many years I still keep in touch by phone or email with many of my former female coworkers.

OK James, some might ask, where are you taking us with your opening comments?  My friends, I like so many of you am bored with the overkill coverage by the media of the Herman Cain (a Republican candidate) accusations that he sexually harassed several women.  Just recently, another woman who seems that she can’t get her story straight, alleged that he fondle her when he promised her a job some 13 years ago.  What troubles me about this gal (Sharon Bialek) is why didn’t she come out with her allegations when Mr. Cain ran for a Georgia Senate seat in 2004, or when he announced his candidacy for the Presidency as a Republican months ago.  Or, when his approval rating was at 2%.  No, it seems, she waited until he became the front-runner that motivated her to come out with her allegations.  At this juncture I have no Republican candidate I’m supporting.  To be honest, I thought Gov. Perry was going to be my candidate, but his inept debate performances and his decision to grant in-state tuition to the children of illegal immigrants made me change my mind.

What I personally have found so disturbing in all this Herman Cain fiasco, who I as of yet have not thrown my support for, has been the hypocrisy of the media in their bias reporting.  According to the Media Research Center, ABC, CBS, and NBC hit Cain sexual allegation stories 50 times in less than four days. In contrast, over a similar period these networks mostly ignored far more substantial and serious scandals relating to President Bill Clinton.  These same networks only released one story of Paula Jones sexual harassment charges.  Three mere reports of when Kathleen Willey a White House aid, who on March 15, 1998 alleged President Clinton sexually assaulted her on November 29, 1993, during his first term as President.  Ms. Willey was also subpoenaed to testify in the Paula Jones sexual harassment case.  For Juanita Broaddrick, who came forward in February 1999 to say Clinton raped her, only three stories followed charges appearing only in the Wall Street Journal.  The women who accused President Clinton of sexual misconduct were dragged through the dirt by this same media bunch now besmirching Mr. Cain, by defining them as trailer park trash and other belittling names.

It should be pointed out that all these women (Jones, Willey, and Broaddrick) offered their names.  They weren’t anonymous.  Additionally, the accusations of assault and rape go far beyond what’s being mentioned with the Cain scandal.  Then, let’s don’t forget the Lewinsky scandal when President Clinton pointed his finger at the American people on TV and told a bald face lie.

Almost always, the mainstream media will cover up the sex shenanigans of Democrats.  They praise the Democrats in their ability with their help of course, to cover up or lie about their sex misdeeds and are still able to help them get elected.  In other words they tell you all you want to know about the birds and the bees when it pertains to Republicans, but hush up when it applies to Democrats.

What many of us are witnessing with this Herman Cain fiasco is a modern day lynching of a black man by the KKK mainstream media because he happens to be a Republican and who as of yet not been convicted of sexual misconduct in a court of law!

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Coming Home Print E-mail
by Wes Riddle    Tue, Nov 8, 2011, 09:52 am

This story is a first person account, submitted by an American Self-Defense Institute member, Preston Schoentube.  Almost any one of us, however, could have written it under similar circumstances. . . . 

I sat in my seat of the Boeing 767 waiting for everyone to hurry and stow their carry-on’s and grab a seat, so we could start what I was sure to be a long, uneventful flight home.  With the huge capacity and slow moving people taking their time to stuff luggage far too big for the overhead, and never paying much attention to holding up the growing line behind them, I simply shook my head knowing that the flight was not starting out very well.

I was anxious to get home to see my loved ones, so I was focused on “my” issues and just felt like standing up and yelling for some of these clowns to get their act together.  I knew I couldn't say a word, so I just thumbed through the "Sky Mall" magazine from the seat pocket in front of me.  You know it’s really getting rough when you resort to the overpriced, useless sky mall stuff to break the monotony.  With everyone finally seated, we just sat there with the cabin door open and no one in any hurry to get us going, although we were well past the scheduled take off time.  No wonder the airline industry is in trouble, I told myself.  Just then, the attendant came on the intercom to inform us all that we were being delayed.  The entire plane let out a collective groan.  She resumed speaking to say, “We are holding the aircraft for some very special people who are on their way to the plane, and the delay shouldn’t be more than 5 minutes.”  

The word came, after waiting six times as long as we were promised(!), that I was finally going to be on my way home.  Why the hoopla over “these” folks?  I was expecting some celebrity or sports figure to be the reason for the hold up. . . .  Just get their backsides into a seat and let’s hit the gas, I thought.  The attendant came back on the speaker to announce in a loud and excited voice that we were being joined by several United States Marines returning home from Iraq !  Just as they walked on board, the entire plane erupted into applause.

The men were a bit taken by surprise by the 340 people cheering for them as they searched for their seats.  They were having their hands shook and touched by almost everyone who was within an arm’s distance of them as they passed down the aisle.  One elderly woman kissed the hand of one of the Marines as he passed by her.  The applause, whistles and cheering didn’t stop for a long time.  When we were finally airborne, “I” was not the only civilian checking his conscience as to the delays of “my” getting home, finding my easy chair, a cold beverage, and the remote control.

These men had done for all of us, and I had been complaining silently about “me” and “my” issues.  I took for granted the everyday freedoms I enjoy and the conveniences of the American way of life; I took for granted that others paid the price for my ability to moan and complain about a few minutes’ delay to “me” for those Heroes going home to their loved ones.  I attempted to straighten out my selfish outlook some, and minutes before we landed suggested to the attendant that she announce over the speaker a request for everyone to remain in their seats until our heroes were allowed to gather their things and be the first off the plane.  The cheers and applause continued until the last Marine stepped off, and we all rose to go about our too often taken-for-granted, everyday freedoms. 

I felt proud of them.  I felt it an honor and a privilege to be among the first to welcome them home and say “Thank You” for a job well done.  I vowed that I would never forget that flight or the lesson learned.  I can’t say it enough: “THANK YOU.”  Thank you to the active duty service men and women returning—and to all veterans, thanks for a job well done.  Welcome home.  And for those, who cannot come back because they are no longer with us, “THANK YOU” most of all.  And may God bless always these United States of America .


Wesley Allen Riddle is a retired military officer with degrees and honors from West Point and Oxford .  Widely published in the academic and opinion press, he serves as State Director of the Republican Freedom Coalition (RFC).  His newly released book, Horse Sense for the New Millennium is available on-line at and from fine bookstores everywhere.  Email: This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it .  

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