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Sunday, November 30, 2014

Writing Quote: Mystery Writer Agatha Christie

During her lifetime, Agatha Christie (1890-1976) sold more than two billion books, topped only by Shakespeare and the Bible. Hercule Poirot, her principal detective, appeared in 33 novels.

Reader's Digest, December, 2014 

Criminal Justice Quote: Police Officers Rarely Prosecuted For Shooting People

     Police agencies have developed policies that generally permit officers to use force when they reasonably fear imminent physical harm. The U.S. Supreme Court shaped the federal legal standards that govern the use of force, holding in a 1989 case that the use of force must be evaluated through the "perspective of a reasonable officer on the scene rather than with the 20/20 vision of hindsight."

     Since then, the criminal justice system has more often than not sided with police in shooting investigations, with prosecutors and grand jurors reluctant to second-guess their decisions. Many of the cases that don't result in charges involved armed suspects shot during confrontations with police. But even an officer who repeatedly shoots an unarmed person may avoid prosecution in cases where he reasonably believed himself to be under risk of serious bodily injury or death….

"Police Shootings Don't End With Prosecutions," Associated Press, November 26, 2014  

Writing Quote: Kurt Vonnegut on Literary Critics

As for literary criticism in general: I have long felt that any reviewer who expresses rage and loathing for a novel or play or a poem is preposterous. He or she is like a person who has put on full armor and attacked a hot fudge sundae or a banana split.

Kurt Vonnegut, Palm Sunday, 1981 

Writing Quote: The Sins of Book Reviewers

There is the critical sin of covetousness, which may cause the book critic to seek fame at the expense of the author whose work he exploits. The closely associated sin of envy leads to the denigration of the work of others for the hidden purpose of self-aggrandizement. To indulge the sin of gluttony is to bite off more than one is prepared to digest, denying others the right to partake. To be lustful is to indulge an inordinate desire for the gratification of one's sense of power. The deadly sin of anger leads to the loss of one's composure and sense of balance during the inevitable exchanges of differing opinion. The deadly sin of sloth is to repeat accepted lies about an author or body of work because the critic is too lazy to dig out the truth.

Carlos Baker in Opinions and Perspectives From "The New York Times Book Review," edited by Francis Brown, 1964 

Writing Quotes: How Academic Literary Critics Make Their Careers

Academics make careers out of describing who was influenced by whom and how. They collect writers into schools, camps, trends, and tendencies. Novelists of a similar age are also liable to be called a "generation," even if their works have little in common.

Ian Jackman, The Writer's Mentor, 2004

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Criminal Justice Quote: Something's Not Kosher on Connecticut's Death Row

     A federal judge in Connecticut has rejected the arguments of a home invasion killer on death row who complained that the food he is being served in prison is not kosher. Steven Hayes, convicted of killing a mother and two daughters, sued the Department of Correction in August 2014, alleging the preparation practices for kosher meals in the kitchen at the state's highest-security prison do not conform to Jewish dietary laws.

     Hayes describes himself in the lawsuit as an Orthodox Jew and says he's been requesting a kosher diet since May 2013. He says he has suffered "almost two years of emotional injury from having to choose between following God and starving or choosing to survive. [What life and death choice did this cold-blooded killer give his three victims?]…

     The judge noted that Hayes is offered kosher meals, and the state Department of Correction has two rabbis who periodically monitor the preparation of kosher foods in the prison system. The judge said both rabbis certified that the food and the food preparation process comply with dietary laws. "Although Hayes raises as an issue regarding the lack of a reliable orthodox certificate or an onsite Jewish overseer, he provides no evidence suggesting that this leads to a finding that the meals are not kosher," the judge wrote….

"Death Row Inmate's Prison Food Complaint Rejected," ABC News, November 28, 2014

     

Writing Quote: Procrastination Versus Writer's Block

A blocked writer has the discipline to stay at his desk but cannot write. A procrastinator, on the other hand, cannot bring himself to sit down at the desk; yet if something forces him to sit down he may write quite fluently.

Alice W. Flaherty, The Midnight Disease, 2004

     

Writing Quote: Mark Twain and His Typewriter

     Mark Twain loved gadgets and would buy the latest thing when it came out. When typewriters hit the market, he was among the first to buy one for the then outrageous price of $125 (more than $2,150 in today's money.) Twain was also the first author ever to submit a typewritten manuscript to a publisher. It was 1833 and the book was Life on the Mississippi. 

     Twain used the "hunt and peck" typing method. He didn't know the touch-typing system of using all the fingers. Nobody did, because it wouldn't be invented for another quarter century. Twain eventually traded his Remington typewriter for a $12 saddle.

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

Writing Quote: Mystery Writer P.D. James (1920-2014)

     Mystery writer P.D. James, who brought realistic modern characters to the classical British detective story, has died. She was 94. James' books, many featuring sleuth Adam Dalgliesh, sold millions in many countries and most were just as popular when adapted for television. James died Thursday November 27, 2014 at her home in Oxford in southern England.

     Because of the quality and careful structure of her writing--and her rather elegant, intellectual detective Dalgliesh--she was at first seen as a natural successor to writers like Dorothy L. Sayers, creator of Lord Peter Wimsey in the between-the-wars "Golden Age" of the mystery novel. But James' books were strong on character, avoided stereotype and touched on distinctly modern problems including drugs, child abuse and nuclear contamination…

     Although there was nothing remotely "genteel" about P.D. James' writing, she was criticized by some younger writers of gritty urban crime novels. They accused her of snobbery because she liked to write abut middle-class murderers, preferably intelligent and well-educated, who agonized over right and wrong and spent time planning and justifying their crimes. Dalgliesh of Scotland Yard, hero of more than a dozen of James' novels, is a decidedly gentlemanly detective, who writes poetry, loves jazz and drives a Jaguar.

     Phyllis Dorothy James was born in Oxford on August 3, 1920. Her father was a tax collector and there was not enough money for her to go to college, a fact she always regretted…She did not start producing her mysteries until she was nearly 40, and then wrote only early in the morning before going to the civil service job with which she supported her family. Her husband, Connor Banty White, had returned from the war mentally broken and remained so until his death in 1964…

     James' first novel, Cover Her Face, was published in 1962 under her maiden name and was an immediate critical success, but she continued to work in the Home Office until 1979…

     James was often spoken of as an heir to Agatha Christie and Arthur Conan Doyle, icons of the classic British mystery, but her admirers thought she transcended both.

Jill Lawless, "Mystery Novelist P.D. James Dead at 94," thestar.com, November 27, 2014 

Friday, November 28, 2014

Writing Quote: Writing With a Day Job

     Writing is a job. It fits into a lot of other categories, too--compulsion, therapy, joy, art, and occasional nightmare. But, at the end of the day, it's a job. And--unless you're lucky--it's not your only occupation…

     I've always had to find time to write fiction as well as maintain a demanding day job…My day job feeds my writing in all kinds of ways. Quite apart from the fact you meet fascination people in professions that might just come in very handy for research, it gives you a structure.

     Like many people, if I have all day to write something, then writing it has a habit of taking me all day…Knowing I haven't got all day to write something makes me buckle down and get on with it…Setting your alarm an hour earlier in the morning and getting up to write with a cup of coffee before you start your normal day achieves a surprising number of words over a few weeks or months.

Zoe Sharp in How I Got Published, edited by Ray White and Duane Lindsay, 2007 

Writing Quote: The Vampire Fantasy in Romance Novels

It's that fantasy about taming the bad boy, and you can't get any worse than a vampire. They have been alive for 600 years. They've experienced everything. Then all of a sudden they meet this great heroine, who basically is a breath of fresh air. Falling in love, trying to find that spark again in their lives--that is a great romantic fantasy.

Erika Tsang, Time, February 27, 2006 

Criminal Justice Quote: Driving Without a License

Plenty of drivers are out there with no license or one that is suspended or revoked. When you [a police officer] stop such drivers and ask for their license, the first thing they say often begins with "I was just…" as in "I was just gong to the movies" or "I was just dropping off a friend." They seem to think their claim of driving a short distance is a mitigating factor, as if the only people who really deserve tickets for unlicensed driving are those in the midst of cross-country odysseys.

Adam Plantinga, 400 Things Cops Know, 2014 

Writing Quote: The Secret of Being Funny in Print

What is the secret of writing funny? If I knew, I would write my own ticket. But I venture this thought: The art begins with a sense of sadness. This is the clown's gift.

James J. Kilpatrick, The Writer's Art, 1994 

Writing Quote: The Era of the Memoir

This is the age of the memoir. Never have personal narrative gushed so profusely from the American soil as in the closing decade of the twentieth century. Everyone has a story to tell, and everyone is telling it. Until this decade memoir writers tended to stop short of harsh reality, cloaking with modesty their most private and shameful memories. Today no remembered episode is too sorid, no family too dysfunctional, to be trotted out for the wonderment of the masses in books and magazines and on talk shows.

William Zinsser, Inventing the Truth, 1998 

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Sean Petrozzino: A Murder Suspect's Tragic Life and Sudden Death

     In August 2012, the bank foreclosed on 28-year-old Sean Petrozinno's house in eastern Orange County, Florida. He and his wife owed $200,000 on the home they had purchased in 2006. Several months after they stopped paying the $1,300 a month mortgage installments, the couple moved to Georgia.

     Sean Petrozzino grew up in Orlando, Florida. When he was 15 he contracted bacterial meningitis, a disease that destroyed his hands and feet. After a dozen operations, the quadruple amputee was fitted with prosthetic legs, arms, and hands.

     In 2000, a reporter with the South Florida Sun Sentinel wrote a feature article about the stricken 16-year-old in which Petrozzino was described as "perky, silly, polite and philosophical beyond his age." Regarding his disability, the teen said, "I don't want anyone to feel sorry for me. As much as I feel bad about what happened, I feel good that my family and all my friends stood by me."

     In October 2014, Sean Petrozzino and his wife returned to Orlando. The couple and their Great Dane moved in with his parents who resided in the Andover Cay subdivision. His 63-year-old father, Michael Petrozzino, worked for Disney World. Nancy Petrozzino, his 64-year-old mother, had been an elementary school teacher for forty years. In 2007, she began teaching second grade at Andover Lakes Elementary School less than a mile from her home.

     At eleven in the morning of Tuesday November 4, 2014, deputies with the Orange County Sheriff's Office were dispatched to the Petrozzino house to check on Nancy who hadn't shown up for work that morning and couldn't be reached by phone.

     Inside the dwelling the officers found the dead bodies of Michael and Nancy Petrozzino. The couple had been shot to death. Nothing had been stolen and the house had not been forcibly entered.

     Sean Petrozzino, seen that morning driving his father's 2012 red Toyota Camry, became an instant suspect in the double murder. (According to a prosthetics expert, a person without hands can fire a handgun.)

     On the Monday following the double killing, the sheriff's office published a surveillance image of the suspect at a Wells Fargo ATM in Orlando. Detectives believed that the son of the murdered couple may have traveled to Jupiter or Coral Springs, Florida.

     Late Monday night November 10, 2014, six days following the murders, police officers in Memphis, Tennessee stopped a driver of a 2012 red Toyota Camry who made an illegal u-turn. As the patrol officers approached the car they heard a faint pop-like sound from inside the Toyota. The driver, Sean Petrozzino, had killed himself with a bullet to the head.

     This murder suspect's suicide was a sudden end to a violent, tragic crime. 

Criminal Justice Quote: Defendants' Courtroom Attire: How Stupid Can You Get?

Many defendants dress casually, even for felony trials. The collared shirt is a rarity. Most wear what they might don to watch Saturday morning cartoons, like a shirt that says Lucky Charms or flip-flops and shorts. Or an oversized football jersey and their good jeans, the ones with the embroidered dragon on the rear pockets. Defendants will show up for trial on a marijuana sales case wearing a shirt with a marijuana leaf design--not on a dare, or as some kind of political statement, but because they're so oblivious that they put the shirt on and don't think anything of it.

Adam Plantinga, 400 Things Cops Know, 2014 

Writing Quote: Does Perfectionism Cause Writer's Block?

     Much of the self-help literature on writer's block falls into the category of creativity enhancement. One popular approach tries to decrease the writer's perfectionism, or to silence his or her inner critics. This theme implicitly draws on the psychoanalytic concept of the superego, that internalized, harshly judgmental representation of parental and societal values. Yet lofty values alone are not sufficient to cause writer's block. Writer's block requires not just the inability to write as well as you want, but the inability to write anything less than you want. What drives that inability is the belief--usually unconscious--that it is better to write nothing than to write poorly…

     Perfectionism certainly causes some block. But it is invoked as a cause a little too often; it is such a comfortable explanation of your block. It is easier to tell people that you haven't published much because you have such high standards, than that you are disorganized or inhibited or love to play tennis.

Alice W. Flaherty, The Midnight Disease, 2004  

Writing Quote: The Lure of Nonfiction

Most of the fiction writers I know get absorbed by the idea of what might have happened; I feel more absorbed and gripped by the idea of what did happen.

Alec Wilkinson in Writer's Market, 1994, edited by Mark Garvey 

Writing Quote: Memoirists Are Liars

Perhaps all memoirists lie. We alter the truth on paper so as to alter it in fact; we lie about our past and invent surrogate memories the better to make sense of our lives and live the life we know was truly ours. We write about our life, not to see it as it was, but to see it as we wish others might see it, so we may borrow their gaze and begin to see our life through their eyes, not ours.

Andre Acimen in Writers on Writing, edited by John Darnton, 2001 

Writing Quote: Memoirist Hatched Jobs

Books like Christina Crawford's Mommy, Dearest and Gary Crosby's Going My Own Way, offered sensational, firsthand accounts into the family lives of Joan Crawford and Bing Crosby, proving that even in the film industry's Golden Age, Hollywood idols did not make top-notch parents. Nor most likely do their own children, comfortable performing literary blindsides on their star parents in the pursuit of their own 15 minutes of fame. It's a vicious cycle.

Andrew Breibart and Mark Ebner, Hollywood, Interrupted, 2004 

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Writing Quote: Telling Children's Book Tall Tales

Tall tales are a highly specialized form of children's book humor. You need to be awfully good, for the classic tales you compete with are superb. Take Jim Bridger who discovered that it took eight hours for an echo to return from a distant mountain. He turned it into an alarm clock by shouting "wake up!" before he went to bed.

Sid Fleischman in The ABC's of Writing For Children, edited by Elizabeth Koehler-Pentacoff, 2003 

Criminal Justice Quote: New Orleans Detectives Ignore Rape and Child Abuse Cases

     A New Orleans' city inspector general's report claims that five police detectives failed to do substantial investigation of more than 1,000 cases of sex crimes and child abuse--with one detective being cited for stating a belief that rape should not be considered a crime. The report, released on November 12, 2014, examined the detectives' work between January 2011 and December 2013. It found the detectives filed follow-up reports [the first report after the complaint] for only 179 of 1,290 sex crime cases. In particular, the report found that some cases of potentially abused children and rape victims went completely without investigation.

     Police officials said the detectives were transferred to patrol duty and were under further investigation. The police also said two supervisors who oversaw the detectives have been transferred…

     The U.S. Department of Justice previously investigated the scandal-plagued police force and in 2012 the city agreed to a host of changes in policies. Among the federal probe's major findings were that the police force was rife with corruption and had numerous instances of excessive use of deadly force, discrimination and problems with its sex crimes unit. A federal monitor is overseeing compliance.

     The latest city report charged that a detective handling child abuse failed to investigate a case involving a 3-year-old brought to an emergency room due to an alleged sexual assault, closing the case without any charges even though the child had a sexually transmitted disease. The same detective closed with book with minimal or no investigation, and again with no charges, on two cases involving children brought to the emergency room with fractured skulls…

     Two detectives stood accused of writing six reports on the same day in 2013--to make it appear they had done follow-up reports years before to the old cases…In fact, these documents were written only after inspectors asked for the missing reports…

     The five detectives could face criminal charges and be fired…

"Report Claims Five New Orleans Cops Failed to Properly Investigate Over 1,000 Sex Crimes, Associated Press, November 13, 2014

     

Writing Quote: Short Story Writers Can Take Chances That Novelists Can't

Short stories are gratifying and fun and not the kind of heavy lifting involved with a novel. I used to frequently write them in one sitting. Now it's usually several days. Whatever it is, it's a cheap investment in time. Plus, you can take the amount of chances you can't with a novel because if you waste three days, what do you care?

Lawrence Block, Writing the Novel, 1985 

Writing Quote: The Similarities Between Fiction and Creative Nonfiction

Nonfiction has many of the same requirements as fiction: opening hooks baited to entice readers; personalities and settings developed appropriately; background material presented without dumping; and consistent internal logic. In fact, nonfiction's familiar traits--who, what, where, when, why, and how--translate easily into character, setting, motivation, and problem-solving action.

Carol Ottolenghi-Barga, sfwa.org, 2001 

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Criminal Justice Quote: Physical Evidence Doesn't Lie

You can lead jurors to the truth but you can't make them believe it. Physical evidence cannot be intimidated. It does not forget. It doesn't get excited at the moment something is happening--like people do. It sits there and waits to be detected, preserved, evaluated, and explained. That is what physical evidence is all about. In the course of a trial, defense and prosecuting attorneys may lie, witnesses my lie, the defendant certainly may lie. Even the judge may lie. Only the evidence never lies.

Herbert Leon MacDonnell, The Evidence Never Lies, 1984

Mark Berndt: The Elementary Teacher From Hell

     People without sexual perversions are normal in generally the same way. Sexual perverts, on the other hand, are deviant in disturbingly diverse ways. Adults who use innocent children to satisfy their perverse sexual compulsions are not mentally ill in the sense they are detached from reality. To other adults, even to people they work with every day, they seem normal. Sexually perverse elementary teachers are hard to detect because they victimize kids who are under their control. Sometimes the children don't even know they are being victimized. Teachers like this can get away with sexually abusive behavior for decades. Most of them probably die before they are caught. Short of launching McCarthy-like witch hunts, how can these sexual preditors be identified and stopped?

     Mark Berndt, a 61-year-old third grade teacher at the Miramonte Elementary School in Florence Firestone, an unincorporated community in Los Angeles County, began teaching at the school in 1979. Miramonte, situated in an hispanic neighborhood, is in the Los Angeles Unified School District which is comprised of hundreds of campuses and 650,000 students. During his tenure at Miramonte, Berndt, according to his personnel file, had performed up to school standards without a single disciplinary action taken against him. Moreover, he had never been arrested for anything more serious than a traffic ticket.

     In October 2010, a technician at a CVS drugstore in the South Bay area of Los Angeles, came across a set of disturbing photographs of grade school boys and girls depicted in situations suggesting a bizarre form of sexual bondage. The film processor, as mandated by state law, notified the Redondo Beach Police Department. On December 2, 2010, the Redondo police turned the 40 photographs over to the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Office.

     In some of the photographs, Mark Berndt either has his arm around a third grade boy or girl, or his hand covering their mouths. Some photographs show children with live bugs crawling on their faces. Other kids are either blindfolded, or have their mouths covered with clear tape. Some of the girls are depicted holding spoons containing a white liquid up to their mouths. Children are also pictured about to eat cookies topped with the teacher's semen. (In Berndt's classroom trash can, police recovered a blue, plastic spoon containing traces of his semen.)

     Detectives with the sheriff's office's Special Victims Unit, started identifying the students in the photographs for interview. On January 3, 2011, a detective showed up at Miramonte to question Berndt. The teacher refused to speak to the investigator without first consulting with an attorney.

     A former fourth grade student of Berndt's, a woman now 30, told detectives that in 1990, she and two other girls spoke to a school counselor about their teacher's odd, inappropriate behavior. They had seen him, seated at his desk at the front of the room, playing with himself. The counselor accused the girls of making up the story. As a result, nothing came of their complaint. (In 1993, police investigators looked into similar complaints against Berndt. The Los Angeles District Attorney's Office, on grounds the police had not gathered sufficient evidence against the teacher, decided not to pursue the case. Presumably, school officials knew of the investigation.)

     Shortly after Berndt refused to be interviewed by the police, school administrators removed him from the classroom. A month later, February 201l, they fired him. (Actually, he wasn't fired. School officials induced him to retire by offering him $40,000 which he accepted. Firing a public school teacher is no small feat.)  While the parents of the children depicted in the photographs were told of the investigation, the police kept the public in the dark. (Placed under police surveillance, Berndt, between the time of his discharge and arrest, was not in contact with children.)

     On January 30, 2012, following a 13 month investigation, the case went public with Berndt's arrest at his home in Torrance. A search of his dwelling resulted in the discovery of 400 photographs similar to the ones seen by the CVS employee. (A normal person, knowing that he was under police investigation, would have destroyed these photographs. The fact that Brendt didn't, reveals how important these photos were to him. The police have recommended that the children in the photographs be tested for sexually transmitted diseases.) Charged with 23 counts of lewd acts against minors, Brendt was hauled off to jail where he was held on $23 million bond. The criminal charges against him pertained to his contact with children ages 6 to 10 from 2008 to 2010.

     On February 3, 2012, the police arrested a second Miramonte teacher on charges unrelated to the Berndt case. Martin B. Springer, 49, was charged with three counts of committing lewd acts in connection with the alleged fondling an 8-year-old girl in one of his classes. He was fired and held on $300,000 bail. From Alhambra, Springer had been teaching at the school since 1986. The judge who set bail decreed that if Springer made his bond, he was to wear an ankle monitoring device and to stay 250 feet away from schools and parks. On February 7, 2012, one of the two girls who accused Springer of fondling her, recanted her story.

     A lawyer representing "Jane Doe 1," one of Berndt's victims who ate a sugar cookie laced with the teacher's semen, announced plans to sue the Los Angeles Unified School District. The plaintiff claimed that the school district did not take adequate steps to prevent Berndt from repeatedly abusing his students after numerous complaints had been filed against him. (Following Berndt's arrest, seven more students came forward with allegations of abuse.)

     On February 6, 2012, perhaps in response to allegations of an institutional cover-up, the 88 teachers and 40 staff employees at Miramonte were suspended with pay. They were replaced by a substitute crew of teachers and clerks.

     The Miramonte situation continuted to worsen on February 7, 2012, when the mother of a former fourth grader told the Los Angeles Times that in 2009, a 50-year-old female teacher's aide wrote three love letters to her then 11-year-old son. One of the letters read, "...when you get close to me, even if you give me the chills, I like that. Don't tell nobody (oh boy) about this!"

     In November 2013, Mark Berndt pleaded no contest to 23 counts of lewd acts on children. The judge sentenced the 62-year-old former elementary teacher to 25 years in prison. According to Berndt's defense attorney, his client was "remorseful and apologetic." The lawyer said that Berndt had entered a plea to spare his victims the ordeal of a trial. (How about this: Berndt had spared himself the ordeal of a trial and made the deal to get a lighter prison sentence.)

     On November 21, 2014, a spokesperson for the Los Angeles Unified School District announced that it had agreed to pay nearly $170 million in court settlements related to the Berndt pedophilia case. The settlement involved more than a hundred students.

    

           

Writing Quote: Biography Versus History Books

The historian frames a cosmos of happenings in which men are included only as event producers or event sufferers. The biographer explores the cosmos of a single being. History deals in generalizations about a time. Biography deals in the particulars of one person's life.

Paul Murray Kendall in Biography as High Adventure, edited by Stephen B. Oates, 1986

Writing Quote: Jack London on Writing Humor

Humor is the hardest to write, easiest to sell, and best rewarded. There are only a few who are able to do it. If you are able, do it by all means.

Jack London in Jack London, edited by Dale L. Walker, 1979 

Writing Quote: Famous Short Story Writers

It is sometimes fashionable to dismiss the short story and to attribute its apparent decline to the greater versatility of the novel and to the rise of nonfiction. But the trouble does not lie with the form but with the practitioners. A really good short story writer will always find an audience. J.D. Salinger, John Cheever and John Updike have been remarkably successful, and the reason is that they are all masters of the form. They all have a good ear and eye for detail.

Frank McShane, The Life of John O'Hara, 1980 

Criminal Justice Quote: Mobster Turned Government Witness Gets Off Light

     The ex-husband of TV series' "Mob Wives" star Renee Graziano was sentenced to just 11 years in prison on September 24, 2014 for his role in the murder of a Brooklyn man…Mobster Hank Pagan, who could have been sentenced to life behind bars, caught a break on the murder case because he had been a "significant government cooperator."…

     Along with Bonanno crime family associates Luigi Grasso and Richard Riccardi, Pagan ambushed and shot to death James Donovan at his Brooklyn check cashing business in July 2010.

     At Pagan's sentencing hearing, the slain man's daughter pleaded with Judge John Gleeson to give Pagan a lengthy sentence…After the judge handed down the lenient punishment, the victim's daughter blasted the criminal justice system for giving mobsters light sentences in return for their prosecution testimony. Judge Gleeson responded by saying that such deals, while not pretty, were a necessary part of the system….

"'Mob Wives' Star's Ex Gets 11 years for Murder. The New York Post, September 24, 2014 

Writing Quote: Early Success Can Be Bad

When you have a first novel [Fear of Flying] that sells 6 million copies, anything you do after it has to be a disappointment. You set a standard that you cannot compete with, and the pressure it puts on you is almost unreal.

Erica Jong in On Being a Writer, Bill Strickland, editor, 1989 

Monday, November 24, 2014

Writing Quote: Catherine Drinker Bowen on Writing a Biography

In the writing of a biography, it is expedient to approach one's subject from the periphery, from the outside in--to study first the times, then move to the localities and persons of the immediate story.

Catherine Drinker Bowen, Adventures of a Biographer, 1959 

Writing Quote: Writers as Bit-Part Screen Actors

When directors adopt a recent literary work it has become a tradition to offer the writer of the work a bit part in the movie. This is partly because it's a little joke on the audience, but we suspect it's also because the cameo helps buy off the writer from complaining to the media later about how badly the story was adapted. If you want to see your favorite author on the screen, look quickly, because he or she is more likely to be playing "man in phone booth" than a major character.

Erin Barrett and Jack Mingo, It Takes a Certain Type to be a Writer, 2003

Writing Quote: Introducing Humor Into Your Writing

Humor can either be a genre in its own right, or an important ingredient in many other genres. Shakespeare wrote comedies, tragedies, and romances. Even in the most tragic of his tales, he knew the importance of inserting a humorous scene every so often to bring the audience some comic relief from all the death, deceit, and unrequited love in the rest of the play. While joke writing is a subsection of the genre, and a potentially lucrative one, it would be a mistake to confuse the ability to tell a joke with the ability to write humor.

Gordon Kirkland in Novel & Short Story Writer's Market, edited by Anne Bowling and Vanessa Lyman, 2002 

Criminal Justice Quote: 15-Monrh-Old Boy Dies in Hot Car, Father Charged

     A Connecticut man was charged on November 11, 2014 with the death of his 15-month-old son, who died this summer after he was left in a hot car for hours…Kyle Steitz, 36, turned himself in to police and was charged with criminally negligent homicide over his son Benjamin's death…The authorities released Seitz on his promise to appear in court the next day…

     Benjamin Seitz died of "hyperthermia due to environmental exposure" on July 7, 2014 after being left alone in a hot car by his father. The state medical examiner ruled the death a homicide. The temperature in the car reached 88 degrees that day, according to a report issued by Danbury Hospital in Danbury, Connecticut.

     Seitz was supposed to take his son to day care that morning but instead he drove to his job at a technology company and accidentally left the boy in the car until realizing he had forgotten about him….

"Connecticut Man Charged in Death of Boy Left in Hot Car," wtaqnews.com, November 12, 2014 

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Writing Quote: The Objective Biographer

The dangers of biography are inaccuracy and hero worship. The biographer needs to cultivate an objective eye that fits his subject into the world with compassion. Most biographers treat their subjects as one of three things: an example, a victim, or a source of wisdom.

Peter Rubie, Telling the Story, 2003 

Whackademia Quote: Graduating Magna Cum Debt

     The average amount of student debt per borrower in 2013, according to a study released on November 13, 2014 by the Institute for College Access and Success's Project on Student Debt, is $28,400…Matthew Reed, who directed the study, said the report aims to analyze increasing student debt averages for graduates with a bachelor's degree at a time when the cost of higher education is rising…

     "Debt varies from state to state and college-to-college so where you go to school can make a difference," Reed said. "It's something that prospective students should take a look at…Federal student loans come with protections such as fixed interest rates for the life of the loan, income based repayment programs, and public service loan forgiveness," Reed said. "These are not always available for private loans. Private loans are not a form of financial aid. They often have variable rates, and they do not have customer protections."…

     Kevin Long, a professor of economics at Boston University, said the rising averages of student debt is related to a combination of both poor labor market forces and increasing tuition costs….

"Recent Graduates Average $28,400 in Student Debt," The Detroit Free Press, November 17, 2014 

Writing Quote: Is Romance a Genre or a Marketing Label?

I don't wholly agree with the label "romance." It is for me chiefly a marketing label, not a creative one. When Kathleen Woodiwiss and Margaret Mitchell were penning their first books, they weren't writing "romance." They were writing from their hearts like any other writer. Publishing labeled the books "romance." Publishing, in trying to imitate the success of these books, had superimposed rules and defined a genre. The best "romance writers" write from their hearts and break "rules" all over the place.

Judith Ivory, booktalk.com, 2005 

Writing Quote: Dealing With Criticism

     Criticism is the only antidote that human beings have discovered against error. It is the chief method that a skilled person can use to become even better. The key to discovering correctable errors before you commit a work to press.

     But criticism hurts. A deep and pervasive flaw in human character makes all of us resistant to the one thing that can help us do better. The only solution? Learn to grow up. To hold your head high, develop a thick skin, and take it.

     If a reader didn't like your work, that may be a matter of taste. But if she did not understand the work--or was bored--that's your fault as a writer, pure and simple.

David Brin in How I Got Published, edited by Ray White and Duane Lindsay, 2007 

Writing Quote: Learn the Business of Publishing

Publishing is a business, and aspiring writers who take the time and expend the effort to learn about that business and what it demands give themselves a leg up on success.

Donald Bain in How I Got Published edited by Ray White and Duane Lindsay, 2007  

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Myron May: Police Kill An Insane Lawyer Who Shot Three at Florida State University

     As a teenager, Myron May didn't get along with his parents. In 1999 he moved from Ohio to the Florida panhandle where he took up residence in the rural town of Wewahitchka with his grandmother. After graduating from high school, May enrolled at Florida State University in Tallahassee. He graduated from the university in 2005.

     In 2009, Myron May was granted a law degree from Texas Tech University in Lubbock, Texas. For the next three years he practiced law in that state.

     On January 18, 2014, May accepted a position as junior prosecutor in the district attorney's office in Las Cruces, New Mexico. According to District Attorney Mark D'Antonio, the 31-year-old did a good job and was well-liked by his colleagues. But on October 6, 2014, May abruptly resigned. It was about this time he began to exhibit the symptoms of paranoid schizophrenia.

     May's former girlfriend, Danielle Nixon, called the police after he came to her house uninvited with news that government agents were bugging his dwelling and his car. In a journal he kept, May wrote about his fear of being a target of government surveillance. His Facebook page contained messages regarding government agents who were spying on him by reading his mind.

     In early November 2014, May moved back to Tallahassee where an old friend let him stay in a guest house.Troubled by financial issues and mental illness, May said he planned to take the Florida bar examine in February 2015.

     At twelve-thirty in the morning of Thursday November 20, 2014, Myron May showed up on the FSU campus armed with a .380-caliber pistol. He walked into the lobby of Stozier Library that was packed with students studying for their upcoming final exams.

     In the library lobby, May opened fire wounding two students and a university employee. Students in the library proper heard the gunshots and called 911. The scene was one of chaos with 450 students taking cover.

     After the shooting spree, May stepped out of the building to reload. It was there he encountered officers with the Florida State Police and members of the Tallahassee Police Department who ordered him to drop his weapon. May shot at the officers who returned fire, killing him on the spot.

     One of the students May shot was taken to a nearby hospital in critical condition. The five police officers involved in the exchange of gunfire were placed on paid administrative leave pending an investigation. 

Writing Quote: Category Romance Novels

Category romances are marketed monthly under imprints readers have learned to associate with romance. Each book bearing the same imprint carries a distinctive cover design its readers recognize. To reduce costs, all books in the line have a fixed page length. Once printed, they are marketed in a block. Single-title romance novels are not part of a category line, their page length is not fixed, and each is sold on an individual basis.

Vanessa Grant, Writing Romance, 2001 

Writing Quote: The Biographer's Fascination with Their Subjects' Sexual Lives

One respect in which modern biography resembles fiction is its fascination with its subjects' sexual lives. In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries the novel was the literary genre above all others to which readers turned for the representation of sexuality. Biography restricted itself to the public lives of its subjects--or, insofar as it dealt with their private lives, did not intrude into the bedroom.

David Lodge, The Practice of Writing, 1996 

Writing Quote: True Crime Book Research

Writing a true crime book requires the writer to dig into angles not covered in the original rush of publicity and to deeply research the stories of victims, survivors, investigators, attorneys, and others; review all court, prison, psychiatric, medical, police and other documents about the perpetrator and interview people close to him.

Gretchen Brinck, authorsontheweb.com, 2002 

Friday, November 21, 2014

Miss World Beauty Contestant and Her Sister Murdered in Honduras

     Beauty queen Maria Jose Alvarado, as Miss Honduras, represented a country that has the world's highest murder rate for a place not at war. From 2005 to 2013, the murder of Honduran woman and girls increased by 263 percent. The 19-year-old university student resided in Teguigalpa, the Honduran capital. She had been participating in beauty pageants since she was a young girl.

     In Latin America, where beauty pageants are popular, winners often become celebrities and TV personalities. While Alvarado hoped to become a diplomat after graduating from the university, she worked as a model on the popular Honduran television game show "X-O Da Dinero." In her spare time she played volleyball and football (soccer).

     On the night of November 13, 2014, Maria Alvarado was at a resort/spa outside of Santa Barbara, a city 240 miles west of her home. She was there to attend a birthday party for her sister's boyfriend, Plutarco Ruiz.

     That night, after the party, Alvarado, her 23-year-old sister Sofia Trinidad Alvarado, and Plutarco were seen getting into a champagne colored car.

     The next day, when Maria failed to board a plane for London to participate in the early rounds of the  120-contestant Miss World pageant, she and her sister were reported missing.

     On Tuesday November 18, 2014, officers with the Honduran National Bureau of Investigation arrested Sofia Alvarado's boyfriend, Plutarco Ruiz. Pursuant to the arrest, the officers seized a champagne colored car and a pickup truck. They also recovered a .45-caliber pistol.

     Under police interrogation, Ruiz confessed to murdering his girlfriend and her sister, the beauty queen. After he and the women left the party, Ruiz and Sofia got into a heated argument regarding the fact she had been dancing with another man. At some point, out of a jealous rage, Plutarco pulled the .45-caliber handgun and shot her in the head. He shot Maria twice in the back as she tried to flee the scene.

     Ruiz and an accomplice loaded the two corpses onto the back of a pickup truck and hauled them to a remote spot along the banks of the Aguagual River near the town of Arada 25 miles from Santa Barbara.

     On Wednesday November 19, 2014, police officers recovered the bodies lying on top of each other in a shallow grave near the river. Maria Alvarado was wrapped in a brown plastic sheet.

     Officers with the Honduras National Bureau of Investigation, on the day they arrested Ruiz, took five suspected accomplices into custody. The officers arrested Aris Maldonado Mejia, Antonio Ruiz Rodriguez, Ventura Diaz, Elizabeth Diaz, and Irma Nicolle. 

Writing Quote: The Urge to Write: Gift or Curse?

Any writer with an I.Q. over 100 must know that the urge to write is an illness cured only by death. Perhaps that's why so many authors kill themselves.

Thornton P. Knowles, The Psychology of Writing, 1976 

Criminal Justice Quote: Police Officer Kills Woman Who in a Struggle Took His Taser

     A Citrus County, Florida deputy is on administrative leave after he fatally shot a woman who pointed a Taser at him during a disturbance call in Inverness late Sunday night November 16, 2014…The sheriff's deputy shot 46-year-old Dawn Renee Cameron following a struggle after receiving a call in Inverness. A witness told deputies that Cameron attempted to light a truck on fire then left the scene.

     Once the deputy encountered Cameron at the entrance to a park, she attacked him, removing his Taser that she then pointed at the officer. That's when the deputry shot her. Cameron was pronounced dead at a local hospital shortly after midnight…

     Jail records show that Cameron was arrested in June 2014 on a parole violation related to a previous grand theft case. Authorities have launched an investigation into the police-involved shooting.

"Citrus Deputy Fatally Shoots Woman Who Pointed Taser," tbo.com, November 17, 2014 

Writing Quote: What Makes a Short Story Great?

Unlike most novels, great short stories make us marvel at their integrity, their economy. If we went at them with our red pencils, we might find we had nothing to do. We would discover there was nothing that the story could afford to lose without the whole delicate structure collapsing like a souffle or meringue. And yet we are left with a feeling of completeness, a conviction that we know exactly as much as we need to know, that all of our questions have been answered.

Francine Prose in On Writing Short Stories, edited by Tom Bailey, 2000

Writing Quote: The Elements of a Great Biography

In general, a biography has to have a theme, and its subject has to fit into the context of the times the subject lived in. More than that, the subject of a biography should also be a symbol of some sort or the spirit of his or her age. The book should bring out some thematic element of that culture. Broadly, a good biography is one that illuminates and shows the times as much as the person.

Peter Rubie, Telling the Story, 2003

Thursday, November 20, 2014

The Bill Cosby Rape Allegations Scandal

     Bill Cosby, married to his wife Camille for 50 years, is one of the most recognizable comedians in the world. A graduate of Temple University in Philadelphia where he starred in track, the 77-year-old still resides in eastern Pennsylvania. When the former TV star began criticizing certain aspects of black culture a few years ago, he became a somewhat controversial figure. While conservatives generally considered him a courageous speaker of the truth, many liberals and members of the black community considered him a traitor to his race.

     In November 2014, Mr. Cosby's good name and wholesome image came under public attack in connection with allegations of past behavior that violently clashed with his longstanding public persona. On November 16, 2014, 64-year-old Joan Tarshis told a CNN interviewer that Cosby, in 1969 when she was nineteen, knocked her out with a drugged drink and raped her.

     Tarshis said she met Bill Cosby in 1969 over lunch in Los Angeles. She accompanied him back to his bungalow on the set of "The Bill Cosby Show" to work on some comedy routines. After she drank a bloody mary he had mixed for her, she passed out. She awoke to find him removing her underwear. In an effort to avoid being sexually assaulted, she told him she had an infection that he'd pass on to his wife. Instead of raping her, Cosby allegedly forced her to give him oral sex. She did not tell anyone, not even her mother, about what had happened to her.

     Cosby later called Tarshis at her home in New York to invite her to watch him perform at The Theater at Westbury. She accepted drinks at Cosby's hotel and in his limousine before the performance. While at the theater she began to feel drugged. She asked the chauffeur to take her home in the limo where she passed out. The next morning, Tarshis woke up naked in a hotel bed next to Cosby.

     Out of "guilt and shame," Tarshis did not reveal that Cosby had sexually assaulted her for the second time. She didn't think that anyone would take her word over a man revered as America's dad.

     On Saturday November 16, 2014, Scott Simon, in an interview on NPR, repeatedly asked Cosby if the rape allegations were true. Each time Cosby simply shook his head, no.

     The Cosby rape allegation scandal intensified the next day when a reporter with Village Voice wrote about a comedy routine on a 1969 Cosby album involving "Spanish Fly," a drug that supposedly made women beg for sex. As part of the comedy bit, Cosby joked that when he visited Spain he tried to acquire the drug.

     Janice Dickinson, the 59-year-old former supermodel, sat for an interview conducted by "Entertainment Tonight" co-host Kevin Frazier that aired on November 18, 2014. According to Dickinson, Bill Cosby had sexually assaulted her in 1982 after they had dinner in Lake Tahoe. He had invited her there to open a show for him. After dinner at his hotel, he gave her a pill and a glass of red wine. She passed out. "The last thing I remember," she said, "was Bill Cosby in a patchwork robe, dropping his robe and getting on top of me."

     Dickinson told the "Entertainment Tonight" interviewer that she wanted to expose Cosby in her 2002 memoir, No Lifeguard on Duty: The Accidental Life of the World's First Supermodel. The publisher, however, got cold feet when Cosby and his lawyers threatened a lawsuit.

     Cosby's lawyer, Martin Singer, in a letter to the Associated Press, claimed that Dickinson's allegations were "false and outlandish." According to the lawyer, she contradicted her story in her memoir where she described stopping at Cosby's hotel room door after they had dinner. When she declined to enter the room, he said, "After all I've done for you, this is what I get."

     On November 19, 2014, a detailed and damaging article about Bill Cosby and another alleged rape victim, 41-year-old Andrea Constland, came out in the Internet publication, Mailonline. In November 2002, the 29-year-old former Temple University basketball star met Bill Cosby. She became a regular dinner party guest at his home and considered him a mentor.

     Constland, while visiting Cosby at his home in January 2004, told him she had been stressed at work. To help her relax, Cosby allegedly gave her what he called a "herbal medication." Shortly after consuming the three blue pills, she became dizzy and her knees began to shake. A little later she was unable to move her arms and legs. At that point Cosby allegedly gave Constand another drug. He led her to the sofa where she passed out. When she awoke her outer clothes and her underwear were in disarray.

     Constand waited a year before reporting that Bill Cosby had raped her. She had returned to Canada, her native country. It was there she reported the assault.

     Bruce Castor, the then district attorney of Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, the site of the alleged rape, was informed by the Canadian authorities of Constand's allegations. He launched an investigation. In the Mailonline article, the former prosecutor lamented the fact he didn't have enough evidence to file charges against Bill Cosby. "I wanted to arrest Cosby,"  he said, "because I thought he was probably guilty." But being able to prove a crime beyond a reasonable doubt and thinking that a suspect is guilty are two different things."

     Mr. Castor, in the Mailonline piece, pointed out that Constand's one-year delay in reporting the crime hurt the case. "We couldn't test for hairs, fibers, DNA and drugs that might have linked the victim to Cosby or his house."

     In March 2005, Andrea Constand sued Bill Cosby for causing her "serious and deliberating injuries, mental anguish, humiliation, embarrassment, post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, sleeplessness, anxiety, and flashbacks." The plaintiff asked for $150,000 in damages. Her attorney had rounded up thirteen other women who supposedly supported her claim that Bill Cosby was a rapist.

     In 2006, Bill Cosby settled the Constand civil suit out of court. Given the damaging publicity the trial would have brought him, and the relatively small amount asked for by the plaintiff, this was not surprising. Some took this as a sign of his guilt while others simply considered it a good business decision on his part.

     Shortly after the Mailonline article came out, executives at Netflix postponed Cosby's comedy special that was scheduled to air on November 28, 2014. NBC followed suit by scrapping a Bill Cosby project that was in development. TV Land cable network stopped airing reruns of "The Bill Cosby Show."

     On Friday night, November 21, 2014, Cosby appeared at the Maxwell C. King Center For The Performing Arts at Eastern Florida State College in the central Florida town of Melbourne. Following his 90-minute set he received a standing ovation from an adoring audience. One of the male attendees to the show, in speaking to a reporter with the Los Angeles Times, said, "If he raped all these woman, why did they not say something before?"

     The University of Massachusetts Amherst, where Cosby earned his master's and doctorate in education in the 1970s, cut ties with the comedian on November 28, 2014. According to a university spokesperson, "Bill Cosby has agreed to resign as an honorary co-chasir of UMass Amherst's capital campaign. He no longer has any affiliation with the campaign nor does he serve in any other capacity at the university."

     If the allegations against Bill Cosby are untrue, he has been made the victim of a terrible injustice. If they are true, his past as a serial rapist has caught up with him. In either case, the scandal is real and his reputation has been seriously and permanently damaged.

     

Criminal Justice Quote: How Not to Cross-Examine a Forensic Pathologist

Attorney: Now, doctor, isn't it true that when a person dies in his sleep, he doesn't know about it until
                the next morning?
Witness: Did you actually pass the bar exam?

Attorney: Doctor, how many of your autopsies have you performed on dead people?
Witness: All of them. The live ones put up too much of a fight.

Attorney: Do you recall what time that you examined the body?
Witness: The autopsy started at 8:30 PM.
Attorney: And Mr. Denton was dead at that time?
Witness: If not, he was by the time I finished.

Attorney: Doctor, before you performed the autopsy, did you check for a pulse?
Witness: No.
Attorney: Did you check for breathing?
Witness: No.
Attorney: Did you check for blood pressure?
Witness: No.
Attorney: So, then it is possible that the patient was alive when you began the autopsy?
Witness: No.
Attorney: How can you be so sure, doctor?
Witness: Because his brain was sitting on my desk in a jar.
Attorney: I see, but could the patient have still been alive, nevertheless?
Witness: Yes, it is possible that he could have been alive and is practicing law.

Michelle Boren, Disorder in the American Courts, 2014 

Writing Quote: The Types of Writer's Workshops

     Writer's workshops around the country reflect wildly different assumptions about what the work should be, what the goals are, and how progress might be measured. Some are simply therapy sessions, attempting to create a warm, nurturing environment in which writers are encouraged to express themselves, release their creative energies without fear, and see what happens. Some have a political agenda--feminist art, black art, social protest art. Some have an aesthetic agenda--minimalism, realism, metafiction, etc. There are writer workshops specializing in horror fiction, detective fiction, children's fiction, science fiction, and so on.

     There are workshops that have almost nothing to do with writing, where the texts are little more than an excuse for primal scream catharsis on one hand or new age channeling on the other. So it follows that in talking about a writer's workshop it must be made clear just whose workshop is under discussion.

Frank Conroy in On Writing Short Stories, edited by Tom Bailey, 2000

Writing Quote: The Biographer's Impossible Mission

Biography is a vain and foolhardy undertaking. Its essential conceit, that the unimaginable distance between two human beings can be crossed, is unsupportable; each of us is inherently unknowable. The biographer may be able to locate his subject in place and time--to describe the clothes he wore, the food he ate, the jobs he had, the opinions he expressed--but that subject's inner essence is, by its very nature, forever inaccessible.

Jonathan Yardley, Misfit, 1997

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Two Americans Accused of Stealing Infant Body Parts From Bangkok Medical Museum

     On Saturday November 15, 2014, workers at a DHL office in Thailand's Pathum Thani province noticed something gruesome while scanning packages destined for the U.S. The discovery caused a DHL manager to notify the Royal Thai Police.

     Inside five plastic boxes officers discovered an infant's head, a baby's left foot sliced into three pieces, an adult heart, and patches of human skin.

     Thai investigators questioned Ryan Edward McPherson and Daniel Jamon Tanner, the Americans who had tried to ship the body parts out of the country. The men claimed to have purchased the body parts at a flea market for $100. The idea was, they said, to shock their friends back home.

     Notwithstanding the fact McPherson and Tanner could not remember the location of the flea market, the Thai authorities, unsure if these men had broken any laws, released them without criminal charges. The men said they were headed to Cambodia.

     On Monday November 17, 2014, Thai detectives determined that the infant body parts had been stolen from the Siriraj Medical Museum within Bangkok's Sirira Hospital. The items had been taken from the forensic medicine section of the museum.

     Closed-circuit camera footage from the hospital showed that McPherson and Tanner had visited the institution on the day the body parts went missing. A Thai judge, that Monday, approved arrest warrants for the two Americans on charges of theft from a government hospital. If convicted as charged, McPherson and Tanner could be locked up abroad for up to seven years.

     In Thailand, infant body parts are purchased on the black market by people who believe they possess the power of black magic. Believers make these macabre acquisitions for protection, good luck, and success in business. In this case, the stolen body parts brought McPherson and Tanner no protection and plenty of bad luck. 

Detroit Police Officer Deon Nunlee Raped Domestic Violence Victim

     On October 30, 2013, in Detroit, Michigan, police officer Deon Nunlee and his partner were on patrol working out of the 8th Precinct. They were assigned to the late shift when dispatched to a home at three in the morning to investigate a domestic violence complaint.

     Officer Nunlee, 40, had been on the force eight years, and although he didn't have a perfectly clean work record, he had never been disciplined for a serious breach of professional misconduct.

     When the officers rolled up to the complainant's residence, the 31-year-old victim reported that she had been assaulted by her boyfriend. Officer Nunlee's partner stayed with the suspect while Nunlee took the victim to an upstairs bedroom. Instead of taking the woman's assault report, officer Nunlee allegedly assaulted her sexually.

     As the officers left the house that night (I don't know if they arrested the boyfriend), Nunlee informed the victim that he would return to the house after he got off duty. (He did not return to the dwelling.)

     Shortly after the officers departed the scene, the woman notified two of her friends that she had been sexually assaulted by a cop. A few hours later she reported the crime to the authorities. That day a police administrator placed officer Nunlee on desk duty pending the outcome of the investigation into the accusation.

     On February 10, 2014, a crime lab scientist reported the results of the rape kit test. Deon Nunlee, according to DNA analysis, had engaged in sexual activity with his accuser. The chief of police suspended him without pay.

     On March 14, 2014, police officers booked Deon Nunlee into the Wayne County Jail on charges of second-degree sexual conduct, assault with intent to penetrate, and one count of misconduct in office. After being informed of his Miranda rights, the suspect declined interrogation. A 36th district court judge set Nunlee's bail at $50,000.

     On the day of the officer's arrest, Detroit Police Chief James Craig, at a press conference, said: "This case is an anomaly. This is not what our police officers do. This officer who decided to engage in criminal misconduct does not represent the 2,500 sworn men and women who wear this uniform."

     On November 18, 2014, after pleading guilty to second-degree rape, the Wayne County Judge sentenced the former police officer to 19 months to 15 years in prison. (It seems to me the low end of this sentence is extremely lenient.)
    

Writing Quote: Don't Quit Your Day Job

A few first novelists rush to quit their day jobs, especially if they manage to swing a large advance. It is accepted industry wisdom that getting big money up front means that one's publisher will be forced to work hard to earn it back. Sounds logical, but it isn't necessarily so. Even with massive support, a certain number of books are bound to fail. It also happens that publishers blow off high advances.

Donald Maass, The Career Novelist, 1986 

Writing Quote: The Writer's Brain: Hypergraphia And Writer's Block

Neurologists have found that changes in a specific area of the brain can produce hypergraphia--the medical term for an overpowering desire to write. Thinking in a counterintuitive, neurological way about what drives and frustrates literary creation can suggest new treatments for hypergraphia's more common and tormenting opposite, writer's block. Both conditions arise from complicated abnormalities of the basic biological drive to communicate.

Dr. Alice W. Flaherty, The Midnight Disease, 2004 

Writing Quote: True Crimes That Don't Make It Into Print

There are many reasons I can't write about a true crime case. Sometimes, (1) there isn't enough there to fill a full-length book; (2) the characters are just not interesting; (3) the case has been over-publicized; (4) the story is too sad; or (5) the timing of a case may be wrong because I am already attending other trials or writing other books…I have to wait until an arrest has been made and a case is headed for trial. From there on it's a gamble; if the defendant should be acquitted, I probably couldn't write the book.

Ann Rule, annrule.com, October 2003 

Whackademia Quote: In Class, Speak Softly and Carry a Big Knife

     A middle school math teacher in New Mexico waved a large knife at two students who were talking too much during a pop quiz. The incident happened on Friday November 14, 2014 at Bernalillo Middle School in Bernalillo, a small suburb 20 miles north of Albuquerque…The teacher, Benjamin Nagurski, had the knife out in the classroom to dig out staples from a bulletin board. He approached the two students who were chatting during the pop quiz.

     "Stop talking," Nagurski, 63 said while holding the knife about four feet from the students. "Maybe next time I'll pull a machete on you," the teacher later told one of the boys... The students sent a text message to his parents after the incident.

     Nagurski insisted that he had made the machete comment in jest…

     In the complaint filed with local police, one of the students said he felt "unsafe" and "scared." The school district superintendent assured parents that the children were never in harms way…

     Police officers booked Nagurski into jail on charges of unlawfully carrying a deadly weapon on school premises and aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. The teacher posted his $10,000 bond and was released. He was placed on paid administrative leave pending the outcome of the case.

"Math Teacher Pulls Knife on Students," The Daily Caller, November 18, 2014 

Criminal Justice Quote: Charles Manson: Idiots Should Not Be Allowed to Marry Death Row Psychopaths

     Mass murderer Charles Manson plans to marry a 26-year-old woman who left her midwestern home and spent the past nine years trying to help exonerate him. Afton Elaine Burton, the raven-haired bride-to-be, said she loves the man convicted in the notorious murders of seven people, including pregnant actress Sharon Tate.

     No date has been set, but a wedding coordinator has been assigned by the prison to handle the nuptials, and the couple has until early February to get married before they would have to reapply…Burton, who goes by the name "Star," told the Associated Press that she and Manson will be married next month. "Y'all can know that it's true," she said. "It's going to happen. I love him," she added. "I'm with him. There's all kinds of things."

     However, as a life prisoner with no parole date, Manson is not entitled to family visits, an euphemism for conjugal visits.

     Sharon Tate's sister, Debra, who acts as a spokesperson for the families of Manson's victims, said the impending marriage is "ludicrous."

"Manson Gets Marriage License," Associated Press, November 18, 2014 

Writing Quote: Science Fiction in the 1950s

No science fiction novel in the fifties sold more than one hundred thousand copies. Science fiction itself was regarded with lack of interest or contempt outside of the genre walls. Its very audience was an unorganized constituency, much like audiences for contemporary men's magazines. They might like it, buy it, need it, but they were not in the main evangelical and those who were, simply increased the popular perception of science fiction as a strange field, incestuous and defensive. The genre made no impression up the academic/literary nexus which controls critical perception and audiences in this country.

Barry N. Malzberg, The Man Who Loved the Midnight Lady, 1980 

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Writing Quotes: The Importance of Clarity in Nonfiction Writing

Any person who can speak English grammatically can learn to write nonfiction. Nonfiction writing is not difficult, though it is a technical skill. What you need for nonfiction writing is what you need for life in general: an orderly method of thinking. Writing is literally only the skill of putting down on paper a clear thought, in clear terms. Everything else, such as drama and "jazziness," is merely the trimmings. I once said that the three most important elements of fiction are plot, plot, and plot. The equivalent in nonfiction is: clarity, clarity, and clarity.

Ayn Rand, The Art of Nonfiction, 2001 

Writing Quote: The Coming-Of-Age Memoir

Coming-of-age is a literary term to describe the passage from childhood to adulthood, from a state of innocence to a state of experience. Most writing about the teenage years is about coming-of-age, for that is the point of those years. We slip free of the protection and constraints of childhood and step into the vulnerability and freedom of adulthood, and we know it.

Susan Carol Hauser, You Can Write a Memoir, 2001 

Writing Quote: Stephen King's First Novel

I wrote my first novel when I was a freshman in college and submitted it to a first-novel competition--I believe it was the Bennett Cerf competition. I thought the book had an outside chance, and I was enormously proud to have fathered such a wonderful creation at the age of nineteen. It was rejected with a short "Dear contributor" note, and I was too crushed to show that book to any publisher in New York.

Stephen King, Secret Windows, 2002 

Criminal Justice Quote: NYC Man Pushed to Death at Subway Station

     The Metropolitan Transportation Authority says a man killed by an oncoming train at a Bronx subway station had been pushed onto the tracks. A MTA spokesperson said it happened around 8:40 AM on Sunday November 16, 2014...

     The 61-year-old man was hit by a southbound D train at the Grand Concourse and East 167th Street station. The police are looking for a suspect…

     The victim is Wai Kuen Kwork of the Bronx. There have been three other incidents in recent years that involved a person being pushed onto the tracks.

"Man Hit by NYC Subway Train Was Pushed," Associated Press, November 17, 2014 

Criminal Justice Quote: Illegal Alien Suspected in Hit-And-Run Murder of Girl

     An illegal immigrant driving drunk and without a license crashed through a fence Sunday November 9, 2014 hitting and killing a 3-year-old girl as she was waiting in line for ice cream in Porterville, California. Adolf Balbuena, 18, mowed down the toddler, Angeles Moreno, as she and several others, including an 8-year-old boy, were waiting for an ice cream truck. After hitting Moreno, Balbuena backed up and drove away. He was arrested at his home around an hour later…

     Balbuena…is an illegal immigrant from Mexico. Though the local district attorney is handling the case, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services will ultimately decide whether he will be tried in the U.S. or deported back to Mexico….

Chuck Ross, "Illegal Immigrant Drunk Driver Hits and Kills 3-Year-Old Waiting for Ice Cream," The Daily Caller, November 11, 2014 

Whackademia Quote: Extreme Biology at Columbia High

     An Idaho biology teacher is facing disciplinary action after killing and skinning a rabbit in class to show students where their food comes from.

     The teacher killed the rabbit in front of 16 students by snapping its neck at Columbia High School in Boise. The rabbit was then skinned and cut up in front of the 10th graders. [Whether he intended it or not, this teacher probably turned 16 kids into vegetarians.]

"Teacher Kills Rabbit in Class," Associated Press, November 15, 2014  

Monday, November 17, 2014

State Trooper's Careless Driving Kills Woman

     At three-thirty in the morning of Saturday July 5, 2014, Pennsylvania State Trooper Frederick Schimp, with another officer in the police utility vehicle, ran a stop sign in Fairview Township just west of the lakeside city of Erie. The officers were not responding to an emergency.

     A vehicle driven by 57-year-old Donna Platz from nearby Edinboro, Pennsylvania, plowed into the troopers' 2013 Ford Explorer. An hour later, the Erie County Coroner pronounced Donna Platz dead at the scene.

     Members of the Fairview, Pennsylvania Fire Department cut the officers out of the badly damaged police vehicle. Trooper Schimp, 48, and his Troop E partner, 26-year-old Garrett Padasak, were taken to the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) Hamot Trauma Unit. After being treated for "moderate" injuries, the officers were released the next day.

     The district attorney of Erie County declined to bring homicide charges against Trooper Schimp. While the officer's actions did violate the legal standard of due care, his behavior did not rise to the criminal standard of recklessness, a degree of negligence needed to justify a charge of homicide. (Reckless behavior involves a knowing disregard for the safety of others.)

     The local prosecutor charged Trooper Schimp with careless driving, a summary offense that imposes a six-month driver's license suspension in cases involving fatalities.

     On November 14, 2014, at a summary trial before Judge Paul Manzi, Trooper Schimp pleaded guilty to carless driving. The conviction placed the officer in danger of losing his job. Because he was just two years shy of the state police retirement age, termination had an enormous impact on this officer's life.

     Pending the results of an internal inquiry into the fatal accident, Trooper Schimp was placed on paid administrative leave.

     Regardless of whether or not Trooper Schimp remains on the force, the state of Pennsylvania and this officer can expect a wrongful death lawsuit filed by Donna Platz's family. This case is not over. 

Criminal Justice Quote: Man On Fire

     A Glendale, Arizona man walking down a street fully engulfed in flames Thursday evening November 13, 2014 was taken to Maricopa Medical Center with burns over 80 percent of his body…Bystanders attempted to help the man, one of them using a fire extinguisher to put out the flames…

     "The weird thing was, he wasn't making a sound," said Lindsay Riedlinger, manager at the Arby's Restaurant near where the man was walking. "By the time I got there, he was silent." Someone had run into the restaurant screaming about a fire and asking for an extinguisher, she said. Riedlinger, 24, grabbed the extinguisher and went outside. By that time the man was surrounded by eight or nine people…"I aimed and put out the places on fire on his body," Riedlinger said. "The flames took everything. It looked like on his shoulders, his shirt was singed into his skin. He didn't know what was happening. After I put him out, he walked away and went into the Taco Bell. He said he just wanted water."

     Taco Bell employees called 911 and paramedics took the man to the county burn center in extremely critical condition. The man would not tell officials how the fire started….

"Man Survives After Being Found Engulfed in Flames in Street," The Arizona Republic, November 14, 2014


     

Criminal Justice Quote: Judge Says Strippers Barely Make a Living

     Dancers at a strip club are due more than $10 million in back wages and tips, a federal judge in New York City ruled on November 14, 2014 after the dancers sued to be paid at least a minimum wage. And additional claims are headed for trial in the class action case, meaning there ultimately could be further awards to roughly 1,900 women who worked at Rick's Cabaret in Manhattan between 2005 and 2012…

     The dancers got no steady wages, instead paying a fee to the club to perform there and in return getting paid by customers. The customers put up $20 for each personal dance and fees starting at $100 for 15 minutes of entertainment in semi-private rooms. But after paying club fees and required tips to deejays and other club workers, the dancers sometimes ended up in the red…

     According to the plaintiffs' attorney E. Michelle Drake, "there is a real mythology of the wealthy stripper who has made piles of money. People see all the money that the customers give to the dancers. What they don't see is all the money going back from the entertainer to the club."

     The club argued that the dancers were independent contractors. Club lawyers said the wages due to the strippers should be offset by the money they made from customers, called performance fees….

"Court Awards New York Strippers $10 Million in Back Wages," Fox News, November 16, 2014 

Writing Quote: Memoirs About Mental Illness

The memoirs of the mentally ill are full of confused action, failed promise, and grinding pain; they do not tend to make good narratives.

Dr. Alice W. Flaherty, The Midnight Disease, 2004 

Writing Quote: Novels Still Taught in School Are Short

It's fair to say that not many writers' works and reputations survive for more than a generation or two. In a practical sense, writers in this country generally survive after their books--that is they stay in print--because they are taught in the classroom. Moreover, short books, like small dogs, live longer: Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby and Hemingway's In Our Time and The Sun Also Rises are taught more frequently than Tender is the Night and For Whom the Bell Tolls, not necessarily because they are better but because shorter books are easier to get students to read and to teach.

Anthony Arthur, Literary Feuds, 2002 

Writing Quote: The Supposed Death of Fiction

The 1960s were when the demise of fiction became something to crow about. Philip Roth told us that life in America had become so barbaric and bizarre that no fiction could hold a candle to the grotesque truth. Truman Capote allowed as how he had invented a new kind of narrative treat, the nonfiction novel, that made the un-non kind as obsolete as hand-churned ice cream. Tom Wolfe let us know that his new journalism was zippier, grabbier, funnier, wilder, and truer-to-life than any old wistful bit of fiction published, say, by those tiny giants over at The New Yorker. 

John Updike in Handbook of Short Story Writing, Jean M. Fredette, editor, 1988 

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Criminal Justice Quote: The Cost of Catching a Cop Killer

     The manhunt for alleged cop killer Eric Frein cost more than $11 million according to the Pennsylvania State Police. Overtime costs for the state police accounted for the majority of this total, with $6.9 million being paid out to officers who worked extra hours throughout the 48-day manhunt.

     The $11,046,653 total only accounted for the costs for the Pennsylvania State Police and not the supporting agencies like the FBI and the U.S. Marshals who were the officers who ended up finding Frein October 30, 2014 in an abandoned airport hanger in the Poconos.

     In addition to overtime wages, nearly $3 million was spent on benefits and more than $657,000 in standard salaries. Travel costs amounted to more than $66,000 and nearly $200,000 for inventory and operational expenses.

     The manhunt for Frein began after he allegedly ambushed two state troopers on September 12, 2014, killing one and wounding the other. Frein, a war re-enactor, excellent shot and self-taught survivalist, eluded the massive police dragnet for nearly 7 weeks. He has been charged with murder and possession of weapons of mass destruction (two bombs). He has also been charged with terrorism. He has not entered a plea and is being held without bail. [Taxpayers will still have to pay for this killer's prosecution, defense and lifetime incarceration.]

"Eric Frein Manhunt Cost More Than $11 Million," ABC News, November 14, 2014 

Writing Quotes: Before You Write a Nonfiction Book, Make Sure It's Something People Will Want To Read

I'll bet you think that if you write a nonfiction book that is interesting, fact filled, and with touches of great writing, a publisher is sure to buy it. Wrong. You have forgotten the first basic rule. Find out who wants it.

Oscar Collier, How to Write and Sell Your First Novel, 1990 

Writing Quote: The Benefits of Writing Nonfiction Over Fiction

I find the possibility of life as a fiction writer horribly depressing. Nonfiction, meaning journalism, essays, scholarly work, etc. is far more important to me because I am attempting to have an actual impact on the culture, on politics, and on ideas in people's heads. Nonfiction provides a more direct line to all of those things than fiction, which is too often used as an escape or to console people about their lives. Oh, and nonfiction pays much better.

Nick Mamatas, smallsspiralnotebook.com, 2005 

Saturday, November 15, 2014

USC Player Josh Shaw's Big Lie

     Josh Shaw's fellow football players, just prior to the University of California's opening game of the 2014 season, voted the fifth-year senior cornerback captain of the team. Trogans fans, when they checked the team's website on Monday August 25, 2014, read that the 22-year-old star, over the weekend, had suffered two high ankle sprains that would sideline him for the year. The injuries, however, were not football related.

     Shaw's online account of how he hurt himself comprised a compelling story. On Saturday night, August 23, while attending a family get together in Palmdale, California, he jumped from a second-story balcony when he saw his 7-year-old nephew struggling in the swimming pool. To save the boy he knew couldn't swim, Shaw leaped off the balcony, landing onto the concrete below. In severe pain, he crawled to the pool where he saved the child. That selfless act of heroism had cost him his final football season at USC.

     Not long after the website posting, doubts surfaced regarding the validity of Shaw's story. Too many things just didn't add up. For one, on Saturday August 23, it seemed the football star wasn't anywhere near Palmdale.

     On Tuesday afternoon, August 26, Lieutenant Andy Neiman with the Los Angeles Police Department released a statement that laid waste to Shaw's tale of heroism.

     In downtown Los Angeles that Saturday night, officers responded to reports of a woman screaming from the third floor of an apartment complex. Someone had entered her dwelling by prying open a window facing a balcony. According to the woman, the intruder fled the apartment and jumped off the landing. During the questioning of this victim, the name Joshua Shaw came up. Apparently the victim and the football player had some kind of relationship. He also lived in the complex. Several witnesses saw a man at the apartment complex that night that matched Shaw's description. (A husky black man with dreadlocks.)

     On Wednesday August 27, 2014, Josh Shaw confessed to coach Steve Sarkisian and other USC officials that he had not injured his ankles by jumping off a balcony in Palmdale to save his nephew. Coach Sarkisian suspended Shaw from the football team.

     In a written statement released by Josh Shaw's attorney, Donald Etra, the football player said, "On Saturday August 23, 2014, I injured myself in a fall. I made up a story about this fall that was untrue. I was wrong not to tell the truth. I apologize to USC for this action on my part."

     Other than to say the injuries were caused by a fall from the downtown apartment complex, neither Shaw nor his attorney explained what he was doing at the time or what had caused the "fall."

     In his statement to the media, coach Sarkisian said, "We are extremely disappointed in Josh. He let us all down…I appreciate that Josh has admitted that he lied and has apologized. Although this type of behavior is out of character for Josh, it is unacceptable. Honesty and integrity must be at the center of our program. I believe Josh will learn from this."

     Perhaps. But in all probability Mr. Shaw came clean when it became obvious that his elaborate lie wouldn't hold water.

     On November 12, 2014, Josh Shaw spoke publicly for the first time about the scandal that ended his football career at USC. To a reporter with the Los Angeles Times, he said, "I've seen the dark side, I've hit the bottom. I've learned."

     Shaw admitted jumping off the balcony following an argument with his girlfriend. "We just got into an argument just like every couple does. Was it loud? Yes. Was it overly loud? I don't think so." (What is overly loud?)

     "We were not on good terms when she left," Shaw continued. "I thought she had somebody call the authorities. I was thinking the worst. If she did say anything, I'm a black man with dreadlocks, and with everything going on in the country at the time, all that stuff in Ferguson, Missouri in my mind, I'm going to leap from the balcony so the authorities didn't see me."

     If I may, I'm going to leap to the following conclusion: The Ferguson excuse is a load of crap. Shaw was up to no good and he wanted to get out of that apartment. Ferguson, Missouri? Does he think we are stupid?
     

Writing Quote: Where Do Humorous Ideas Come From?

It is not hard to write funny stuff. All you have to do is procure a pen and paper, and some ink, and then sit down and write it as it occurs to you. The writing is not hard, but the occurring--that, my friend, is the difficulty.

Stephen Leacock in Becoming a Writer edited by Dorthea Brande, 1934 

Writing Quote: The Elements of Style

Though still revered, the classic text, The Elements of Style [by Will Strunk and E.B. White] is a little dated now, and just plain wrong about some things. Strunk and White  are famously clueless for example, about what constitutes the passive voice. Their book also has some of the hectoring, preachy tone that creeps into so many of the discussions about writing, though it's not as extreme as Lynne Truss's Eats, Shoots & Leaves, which declares that people who misuse apostrophes "deserve to be struck by lightening, hacked up on the spot and buried in an unmarked grave."

Charles McGrath, "Omit Needless Rules," The New York Times Book Review, October 19, 2014 

Criminal Justice Quote: The Manhattan Diamond Heist

     The search in New York City continues for two men who robbed a Manhattan jewelry store at gunpoint on November 11, 2014…The two men robbed the store in the middle of the afternoon. Police responded to the scene in force, sweeping the building looking for suspects…"All of a sudden we saw the SWAT team and all the cops outside the building," one witness said. Diamond district workers and shoppers say they got the scare of their lives…

     Investigators say just before 2:30 PM, two men posing as deliverymen buzzed for entrance into the Watch Standard Jewel Store saying they had some letters…"Suspect number one pulled out a firearm and demanded that the store empty out the safe and place the jewelry inside a bag," Deputy Chief William Aubrey said...

     The four employees inside the eighth floor wholesale and retail store complied but yelled for the owner to call 911. The first suspect then whipped the 56-year-old owner, leaving him with a minor injury while the second suspect waited in the hall…

     The first suspect had a black shoulder bag with a letter K in a blue circle. The second suspect was wearing black True Religion jeans. Police haven't revealed how much jewelry the robbers walked off with.

"Police Investigate Armed Heist in Diamond District," NY1.com, November 12, 2014 

Writing Quote: Fiction Should Not Primarily Be About Ideas

Ideas are not the best subject matter for fiction. They do not dramatize well. They are, rather, a by-product, something the reader himself is led to formulate after watching the story unfold. The ideas ought to be implicit in the selection and arrangement of the people and places and actions. They ought to haunt a piece of fiction as a ghost flits past an attic window after dark.

Wallace Stegner, On Teaching and Writing Fiction, 2002 

Friday, November 14, 2014

Criminal Justice Quote: Trooper and His Dog Find Missing Girl in Woods

     A 2-year-old girl was found Thursday November 6, 2014 in the woods wrapped in a blanket. She had wandered away from her home 22 hours earlier. Brooklyn Lynn Lilly wandered off while playing outside her Tawas City, Michigan home in the eastern part of the state near Lake Huron. Her neighbors and family had feared the worst. "We worried that maybe somebody came and grabbed her, family friend Patrick McDonald said…

     State Trooper Denis McGuckin and his dog Jax found Brooklyn…"She lifted her head up off the ground and looked back toward me and my dog and smiled," McGuckin said. "She said, 'I love the woods.' "

"Toddler Who Spent 22 Hours Alone in the Woods Found Safe," ABC News, November 7, 2014



Criminal Justice Quote: Miguel Mejia-Ramos Sentenced for Tripple Murder

     Miguel Mejia Ramos, a 45-year-old New York City man, has been sentenced to 45 years in prison for fatally stabbing his sleeping wife in a rage triggered by jealousy and then killing their two toddlers. Queens District Attorney Richard A. Brown says Mejia-Ramos was sentenced Friday November 7, 2014. He pleaded guilty to manslaughter last month for the January 2014 killings. [Why did they let him plead to such a lesser offense? In places like Texas, killing three people will get you the death sentence.]

     Majia-Ramos told police officers he snapped after drinking and finding a photo on his wife's phone of her with another man. [Okay, but how does this explain the killing of the children?] He grabbed a kitchen knife and stabbed 21-year-old Daisy Garcia and their daughters ages one and two. Police arrested him near Schulenburg, Texas. He was trying to flee to Mexico.

"NYC Man Gets 45 Years For Stabbing His Wife and 2 Toddlers to Death," Associated Press, November 7, 2014

     

Writing Quote: Real Life Events Versus Short Story Episodes

A basic distinction between an episode in real life and a short story is that the story does have an author, who creates his characters, selects his actions, and directs them in the exploration of some meaningful idea. Any episode in life is filled with irrelevancies of many kinds which confuse our understanding; in the story only those elements are included which serve to focus the overall effect, which is the story. The helpful author is present, then, in the creating, selecting, and focusing of the materials of his story.

James A. Thurston, Reading Modern Short Stories, 1955 

Writing Quote: There's No Such Thing as a Being A Little Funny

Humor is difficult. Other kinds of stories don't have to hit the bull's-eye. The outer rings have their rewards too. A story can be fairly suspenseful, moderately romantic, somewhat terrifying, and so on. This is not the case with humor. A story is either funny or it is not funny. Nothing in between. The humor target contains only a bull's-eye.

Isaac Asimov, I, Asimov, 1996

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Robert Lustyik: Rogue FBI Agent

     Special Agent Robert Lustyik, a 48-year-old assigned to the FBI resident agency in White Plains, New York, was under investigation by various federal agencies for soliciting bribes from a native of Bangladesh named Rizve Ahmed. Agent Lustyik and his lifelong friend, Johannes Thaler, a ladies shoe salesman from Tarrytown, Connecticut, were suspected of selling FBI data to Ahmed. The information pertained to a political opponent of Ahmed's in Bangladesh, material Ahmed could use to harm his rival. Federal authorities believed agent Lustyik's and his accomplice's scheme unfolded between September 2011 through March 2012.

     Federal investigators had acquired a series of text messages between Lustyik and Thaler discussing how to pressure Ahmed, a resident of Danbury, Connecticut, into paying them the maximum amount of money for the information taken from confidential FBI files. In one such message, Lustyik wrote: "We need to push Ahmed for this meeting and get that $40,000 quick…I will talk us into getting the cash…I will work my magic. We are so close." 

     In a text message to his FBI friend, Thaler replied: "I know. It's all right there in front of us. Pretty soon we'll be having lunch in our oceanfront restaurant." 

     The FBI agent's scheme threatened to unravel in January 2012 when Lustyik learned that Ahmed was considering using another source for the information he wanted. In a text message to Thaler, Lustyik wrote: "I want to kill him [Ahmed]…I'm pissed…I will put a wire on and get Ahmed and his associates to admit they want a Bangladeshi political figure offed [murdered]…We'll sell that information to him [Ahmed]." 

     According to their scheme, the FBI agent and his accomplice hoped to secure, from Ahmed, a $40,000 "retainer"and monthly payments of $30,000. Only $1,000 in bribe money had actually exchanged hands. 

     Besides the Bangladesh scheme, the criminally industrious FBI agent and his co-conspirator had another illegal iron in the fire. In a separate, parallel case, Lustyik and Thaler stood accused of using the agent's access to FBI data to thwart a federal investigation into military contract fraud involving a Utah-based company formed by former U.S. soldiers. The company's head, Michael Taylor, was charged in 2011 with using inside information to win inflated government contracts worth $54 million. The contracts were intended to supply weapons to Afghan troops. 

     Agent Lustyik, in exchange for millions of dollars, offered to make Michael Taylor look like a valuable counterintelligence source by creating a dossier of fake interviews with former agents and prosecutors. In a text message to Taylor, Lustyik wrote: "I will not stop in my attempt to sway this [investigation] your way." Johannes Thaler's role in the scene involved acting as a messenger between Lustyyik and Taylor. 

     Unfortunately for Special Agent Lustyik, Taylor and two of his employees pleaded guilty to the defense contract scheme in late 2011. A few months later, when he turned 50, Lustyik retired from the FBI. 

     FBI agents, on August 2, 2013, arrested Lustyik and Thaler for their roles in the Bangladesh bribery case. They were charged with conspiracy to bribe a public official and soliciting and receiving bribes. Lustyik was also charged with disclosing the contents of a FBI Suspicious Activity Report. Lustyik and Thaler posted their bonds and were released from custody to await their trials. If convicted, they faced up to 25 years in prison. 

     Michael Taylor, in December 2013, after spending 14 months in federal custody in Utah, gained his freedom by cutting a deal with federal prosecutors in the cases against Lustyik and Thaler. At this point the focus of the federal investigators was on the ex-FBI agent and his friend. 

     On September 30, 2014, the former FBI agent pleaded guilty in a Salt Lake City federal courtroom to attempting to derail the investigation into Michael Taylor's defense contract case. Lustyik's lawyer, in speaking to reporters, said that his client would not make a deal to cooperate with federal prosecutors. He would not testify against his friend, Johannes Thaler. 

     Johannes Thaler, 51, and Rizve Ahmed, 35, on October 17, 2014, pleaded guilty in a White Plains, New York federal court to bribery and conspiracy to commit wire fraud in the Bangladesh case. Lustyik's trial on these bribery charges is scheduled for November 2014.