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Saturday, October 25, 2014

Rabbi Bernard "Barry" Freundel and The Peeping Tom Scandal

     For the past 25 years, Modern Orthodox Rabbi Bernard "Barry" Freundel has been the spiritual leader of the Kesher Israel Synagogue in the Georgetown section of Washington, D.C. Former U.S. senator from Connecticut Joe Lieberman and U.S. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew were members of Rabbi Freundel's congregation.

     A resident of O Street in Washington, the 62-year-old rabbi was known for his success in helping women convert to Orthodox Judaism. An expert on Jewish law, Rabbi Freundel held the position of vice president of the Vaad (Rabbinical Counsel) of Greater Washington. He also worked as a professor at nearby Townson University where he taught courses on Judaism and ethics. As a widely known expert on these subjects, the rabbi was a visiting scholar at Princeton, Yale, and Cornell and regularly presented guest lectures at Columbia University and the University of Chicago.

     While Rabbi Freundel enjoyed a sterling reputation in academia and among the vast majority of his congregants, concerns were raised as early as 2012 regarding his treatment of women undergoing conversion under his guidance. Several women going through the process complained that the Rabbi enjoyed wielding power over their lives. For example, they felt coerced into performing clerical duties such as organizing his files, opening his mail, paying his bills, taking dictation, and responding to emails on his behalf. Moreover, these vulnerable women felt pressured to donate money to the rabbi's favorite causes.

     On October 14, 2014, the roof collapsed on Rabbi Freundel's personal and profession life of privilege and respect when officers with the Washington D.C. Police Department placed him under arrest. He had been charged with six counts of misdemeanor voyeurism.

     Rabbi Freundel stood accused of installing a clock radio equipped with a hidden video camera in a synagogue shower room. He had allegedly filmed women showering before taking their ritualistic purification baths in a large tub called the mikvah.

     Jewish women and women converting to Judaism are required under Orthodox religious law to immerse themselves in the mikvah every month after menstruating and before having sex with their husbands.

     Shortly after Rabbi Freundel's arrest, Jewish authorities suspended him without pay from his position at the Kesher Israel Synagogue.

     On October 20, 2014, a Townson University spokesperson announced that the school had opened an internal Title IX investigation to determine if the rabbi had practiced gender or sex discrimination at the university. The school banned the former Judaism and ethics professor from its campus located in Maryland between Washington, D.C. and Baltimore.

     The Freundel voyeurism scandal has triggered discussion and inquiry into the possible widespread abuse of female converts by Orthodox rabbis.

     Rabbi Freundel has pleaded not guilty to the charges and is free on bail. If convicted of all six counts, he could be sentenced to up to sex years behind bars. That is very unlikely, however. 

Criminal Justice Quote: Collateral Damage in the Hunt for a Cop Killer

     James Tully, who doesn't own a car and who walks 5 miles to work every day, has been mistaken for Eric Frein, the Pennsylvania cop killer, more than 20 times by heavily-armed law enforcement officers scouring the Pocono Mountain region. On at least one occasion, Tully, 39, claims he was forced to the ground and had a rifle pointed at his head by an officer as he walked to his job along a heavily wooded road near where Frein is believed to be hiding…

     Hundreds of law enforcement officers descended on the area to search for Frein, who they say shot and killed corporal Bryon Dickson and wounded Trooper Alex Douglas in a ambush September 12, 2014 outside the Blooming Grove state police barracks in Pike County. Frein, a 31-year-old survivalist and expert marksman, has managed to evade capture in the dense woods of the Poconos--despite multiple reported sightings of him by police and local residents…

     Tully, a father of two who lives in Frein's hometown of Canadensis, was stopped by police so many times he started carrying his driver's license and work identification around his neck…After Tully left work Friday night October 17, 2014, he was stopped by an officer dressed in camouflage and a tactical vest and holding a rifle..."He yelled at me to get down on the ground with my arms out wide and demanded my name," Tully said. Tully said the man ripped the lanyard from around his neck as he drove his knee into his back…

     Tully said he was not released until a state trooper told the other officer that Tully was telling the truth. Tully limped the rest of the way home…

     Shortly after the encounter, Tully had trouble and was taken to the hospital where doctors told him his ribs were bruised as a result of the incident…He hopes the police will pay for X-rays and the time he was absent from work. [Good luck with that Mr. Tully.]

     The Pennsylvania state police, meanwhile, claim they have no knowledge of the incident…

"Police Repeatedly Mistake Pennsylvania Man For Suspected Cop Killer Eric Frein," Fox News, October 24, 2014


Writing Quote: Avoiding Horror Fiction Cliche`s

     All good fiction consists of looking at things afresh, but horror fiction seems to have a built-in tendency to do the opposite. Ten years or so ago [1997], many books had nothing more to say than "the devil made me do it." Now, thanks to the influence of films like Friday the 13th, it seems enough for some writers to say that a character is psychotic; no further explanation is necessary. But it's the job of writers to imagine how it would feel to be all their characters, however painful that may sometimes be. It may be a lack of that compassion that has led some writers to create children who are evil simply because they are children, surely the most deplorable cliche` of the field.

     Some cliche`s are simply products of lazy writing. Tradition shouldn't be used as an excuse to repeat what earlier writers have done; if you feel the need to write about the stock figures of the horror story, that's all the more reason to imagine them anew.

Ramsey Campbell in On Writing Horror Fiction, Mort Castle, editor, 2007 

Criminal Justice Quote: Woman Sets Man's Face on Fire

     A Tampa Bay, Florida woman was arrested in October 2014 after setting her roommate on fire--after he threw out her spaghetti. Melissa Dawn Sellers, 33, became enraged after roommate Carlos Ortiz threw out her spaghetti and meatballs. She allegedly doused Ortiz in nail polish remover before setting him on fire.

     According to Ines Causevic, the victim's friend, "She was settling little objects on fire, then that turned into pouring nail polish remover on him, and then all of a sudden, the lighter sparked and he lit on fire."

     Ortiz took Sellers in after she lost her job at Wal-Mart and could no longer afford her rent. He was rushed to a nearby hospital where he was listed in critical condition, with burns to his face and body. "When he got up, his face was like melting off," Causevic said. "His lips were burning."

     Sellers has been charged with aggravated battery. She was convicted of battery in 2008.

"Woman Set Roommate on Fire After He Threw Out Her Spaghetti, independent news. com, October 23, 2014 

Writing Quote: Mae West's Short Runs as a Playwright

Mae West wasn't just a campy actress, but a playwright as well. Her first play, Sex, written in 1926, was about a Canadian prostitute. A production in New York City led to her imprisonment for more than a week on obscenity charges. [Prostitutes themselves do less time.] Her second play, Drag, was about transvestites. It got shut down on Broadway before it could even open.

Erin Barrett and Jack Mingo, It Takes a Certain Type To Be a Writer, 2003

Friday, October 24, 2014

Thiago Henrique da Rocha: Brazil's Motorbike Serial Killer

     During a nine month period beginning in January 2014, a man on a motorbike in the central Brazilian city of Goiania, used a .38-caliber revolver to shoot 39 people to death. The serial killer approached his intended victims on his motorbike, shouted "robbery!," shot them at close range, then drove off without taking anything from the people he murdered.

     Sixteen of the serial killer's victims were young women, the youngest being a 14-year-old girl shot to death at a bus stop in February 2014. The rest of the murder victims included homeless people, homosexuals, and transvestites.

     The Goiania police caught a break on October 12, 2014 when the killer on the motorbike shot at but didn't kill his intended victim. The young woman told detectives that she knew the shooter from seeing him at a local bar.

     On Tuesday October 14, 2014, the Brazilian police arrested 26-year-old Thiago Henrique da Rocha at his mother's house in Goiania. The serial murder suspect, during a prolonged police interrogation, confessed to the 39 criminal homicides committed in 2014. He also admitted killing people as far back as when he was 22-years-old. Rocha told his interrogators that he wasn't sure how many people he had murdered. All of the shootings, he said, involved victims chosen randomly.

     Rocha lived in Goiania with his mother. A search of her house resulted in the discovery of the .38-caliber murder weapon. The police also seized a pair of handcuffs and several knives.

     Shortly after Rocha's arrest, the Goiania police chief, at a press conference, said, "Rocha felt anger at everything and everyone. He had no link to any of his victims and chose them at random. He could have killed me, you or  your children."

     When detectives asked Rocha what caused all of this rage, he told them that he had been sexually abused by a male neighbor when he was 11-years-old. So, why did he take out his anger on so many women? Rejection, he said. A lot of women had rejected his romantic overtures. On top of the sexual assaults and the female rejection, he had been bullied at school. "I was quieter than the other kids," he said. "I suffered mental and physical aggression. I don't know if that has anything to do with it, but these things accumulate inside you." (This man will require very little coaching from his defense attorney.)

     A few days following his arrest, Rocha supposedly tried to kill himself by slashing his writs with a broken holding cell light bulb. Jail guards interceded before he was able to seriously cut himself.

     Rocha asked a jail guard if he would face a murder trial if he killed a fellow inmate. He said he still felt the urge to kill. He said his feelings of "fury" only abated when he killed a person.

     The handsome serial killer, no doubt the future recipient of marriage proposals, became an instant celebrity upon his arrest. In speaking to Brazilian reporters from his jail cell, Rocha explained that the killing of a victim in cold blood did not make him happy. He said the next morning "I wasn't happy, no. There was the feeling of regret for what I had done."

     To reporters hanging on every word, Rocha said, "If I have a disease, I'd like to know what it is, and also if there is a cure." (The only sure-fire cure for Rocha's "disease" is the death sentence.)

     In a statement that reveals the depth of this young killer's sociopathy, Rocha said, "I'd like to ask for forgiveness, but I think it's too difficult to ask for forgiveness right now." Even for a sociopath, the extent of this narcissist's self-centeredness is staggering. Because he obviously enjoys the limelight, Rocha is a crime reporter's dream criminal.   

Whackademia Quote: Phantom Courses for College Athletes

     On October 22, 2014, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill said it will discipline nine more employees for an academic fraud that spanned 18 years and made it easier for student athletes to maintain eligibility to play. The school, which has won five national basketball championships, released the results of an independent investigation into the fraud in which 3,100 students took so-called "paper classes"--with no faculty involvement or class attendance. Almost half of the students were athletes…

     A series of probes that began in 2010 revealed the university had improperly cut corners for years to help student-athletes get better grades. The scandal has roiled the campus and drawn harsh national spotlight, shaking up the football program and leading to the resignation of former Chancellor Holden Thorp, who departed last year…

     The latest investigation is the result of information that emerged from a criminal probe by the Orange County District Attorney in North Carolina, where UNC at Chapel Hill is located. The DA last year dropped charges against Julius Nyang' oro, former chairman of the African and Afro-American Studies department that is at the center of the scandal, after he began cooperating with authorities.

    Nyang' oro had been charged with obtaining property under false pretenses after the university released a report in December 2012 that found the black studies department had offered courses where classes didn't meet and made unauthorized grade changes. The criminal charge was linked to payments the professor received for courses he never taught….

Michael McDonald, "UNC Academic Fraud Spanned 18 Years, Involved 3,100 Students," October 22, 2014


Criminal Justice Quote: Another White House Fence Jumper

     A man who jumped the White House fence Wednesday night October 22, 2014 suffers from mental problems. According to his father, he has been arrested there before. Dominic Adesanya of Bel Air, Maryland, barely made it onto the lawn before he was subdued as he fought two police dogs…"Dogs got him," a Secret Service spokesman said. His father said his son is paranoid and hears voices.

     Adesanya was arrested near the White House about two months ago and charged with a misdemeanor…

     In the latest incident, before officers moved in, Adesanya kicked a K-9 unit dog and punched another one. The two dogs were treated by a vet for injuries suffered in the incident. Charges against the White House intruder are pending….

"Latest White House Fence Jumper Has Mental Problems, Father Says," CNN, October 23, 2014 

Writing Quote: Teen Horror Fiction

     Horror is an extremely popular genre in teen fiction. It's easy to see why. A good horror story will take a relatively normal individual, Our Hero, and pit them against a malevolent, often mysterious enemy, The Monster. Our Hero must struggle to understand this monster, its strengths and weaknesses. Then he must face it. Often, Our Hero conquers the unknown beast, sometimes not, and until some understanding of The Monster is found, Our Hero, faced with the unknown is often powerless against it. Teens deal with parents, teachers, peers, and a world full of rules they have yet to fully understand.

     Teen fiction, at its best, examines these confusing emotional issues; therefore, the coming-of-age theme is essential. Characters face the unknown and take steps to gain power over it. They are forced to make life-defining decisions by examining who they are and taking actions that set the stage for the adults they will become.

     This is what makes horror so compelling for a teen audience (besides the cool monsters, of course). Horror looks at issues of death, alienation, insecurity, physical changes, loss of faith, and the inherent fear of the unknown. On some level, horror fiction shows teens that even the greatest obstacles can be faced and survived. The most well-known example of this comes from the television series Buffy the Vampire Slayer, in which the idea presented is that high school is, quite literally, hell.

Thomas Pendleton in On Writing Horror, Mort Castle, editor, 2007 

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Michelle Randall: The Nebraska Mother Who Pimped Out Her Daughters

     In April 2012, a tipster called the Nebraska State Patrol to report a woman he had met on Craigslist. According to the informant, she had sent him sexually graphic photographs of her 14-year-old daughter. For a price, this woman offered to make the girl available for sex.

     On April 26, an undercover state officer, posing as a potential John, arranged to meet the 35-year-old mother of three at a motel in Kearney, Nebraska. Michelle Randall, accompanied by her 14-year-old daughter, offered to sell herself for $150, and/or the girl for $200. The officer flashed his badge and arrested the mother. A child protection agent took custody of the teen.

     The arresting officer took Randall to the Buffalo County Jail where she was held on $250,000 bail under charges of soliciting the sexual assault of a child and possession of child pornography.

     Police and child protection personnel went Randall's home near Minden, Nebraska where they found the suspect's other two daughters, ages 7 and 9, alone in the filthy house. The girls were placed into foster care.

     When questioned by the police Michelle Randall admitted allowing her 41-year-old boyfriend, over a period of 14 months, to have sex with her teenage daughter and her 7 year old. She also named some of the men who had paid to have sex with the girls.

     Over the next few weeks, Nebraska police officers arrested 7 men, including the boyfriend, who had paid to have sex with the 14-year-old one or more times. Three of these men had sexually molested the 7-year-old sister. They were all charged with sexual assault.

     A Columbus, Nebraska man, 37-year-old Donald Grafe, had sex with the 14-year-old at a Lincoln truck stop. The other arrestees included Logan Roepke, a 22-year-old man from McCook, Nebraska; 38-year-old Alexander Rahe from Omaha; 41-year-old Shad Chandler from Lincoln; and Brian McCarthy, 25, also from Lincoln. McCarthy, incarcerated in the Lancaster County Jail, had pornographic images of the 14-year-old on his cellphone.

     In November 2012, Michelle Randall pleaded no contest to conspiracy to commit first-degree sexual assault of a child and two counts of possession of child pornography. The judge sentenced the mother pimp to 92 to 120 years in prison.

     In January 2013, Shad Chandler from Lincoln, Nebraska, pleaded guilty to sexual assault of a child. Three months later the judge sentenced him to 15 to 45 years behind bars. The other patrons of child prostitution pleaded guilty and received similar sentences. In 2013, police officers arrested three more men accused of having sex with the 14-year-old girl. Their cases are pending.