The story seems like a throwback to the Cold War era: an American couple arrested by federal authorities and accused of spying on the U.S. for a communist country. But the couple in question are in custody right now. U.S. officials believe Dr. Walter Kendall Myers Jr. and his wife, Gwendolyn Steingraber Myers, have been spying for the Cuban government for 3 decades.
The following are excerpts from the Dept. of Justice press release regarding the couples' arrest:
An indictment and criminal complaint unsealed today in the District of Columbia charge Walter Kendall Myers, 72, a.k.a. "Agent 202," and his wife, Gwendolyn Steingraber Myers, 71, a.k.a. "Agent 123," and "Agent E-634," with conspiracy to act as illegal agents of the Cuban government and to communicate classified information to the Cuban government. Each of the defendants is also charged with acting as an illegal agent of the Cuban government and with wire fraud.
The Myers, both residents of Washington, D.C., were arrested yesterday afternoon by FBI agents. They made their initial appearances today in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. Wire fraud carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison, while serving as an illegal agent of a foreign government carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison and conspiracy carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison.
Whatever their motivations were, the Myerses seemed pretty committed to screwing their nation over, regardless of who was in the White House. Again, from the DOJ release:
[...] Kendall Myers traveled to Cuba in December 1978 after receiving an invitation from an official who served at the Cuban Mission to the United States in New York City. His guide while in Cuba was an official with Cuba's Foreign Service Institute. This trip provided the Cuban Intelligence Service (CuIS) with the opportunity to assess or develop Myers as a Cuban agent, according to the affidavit.
Approximately six months after the trip, the Myers were visited in South Dakota by the official from the Cuban Mission in New York and, according to the affidavit, Kendall and Gwendolyn Myers agreed to serve as clandestine agents of the Cuban government. Afterwards, the CuIS directed Kendall Myers to pursue a job at either the State Department or the CIA. Kendall Myers, accompanied by his wife, then returned to Washington, D.C., where he resumed contract work at the State Department and later obtained a State Department position that required a Top Secret security clearance.
Their methods of communicating also hearkened back to the most intriguing aspects of Cold War spycraft:
the CuIS often communicated with its clandestine agents in the United States by broadcasting encrypted radio messages from Cuba on shortwave radio frequencies. Clandestine agents in the United States monitoring the frequency on shortwave radio could decode the messages using a decryption program provided by the CuIS. Such methods were employed by defendants previously convicted of espionage on behalf of Cuba. According to the affidavit, the Myers have an operable shortwave radio in their apartment and they told an FBI source that they have used it to receive messages from the CuIS.
Numbers stations, anyone? If you don't know what those are, here's a telling description from Wikipedia: "Numbers stations (or number stations) are shortwave radio stations of uncertain origin. They generally broadcast artificially generated voices reading streams of numbers, words, letters (sometimes using a spelling alphabet), tunes or Morse code. They are in a wide variety of languages and the voices are usually women's, though sometimes men's or children's voices are used..."
W. Kendall and Gwendolyn Myers were through an old-fashioned sting, tricked into giving up the ghost by "an undercover FBI source." They seemed rather guileless (or perhaps overconfident) for spies. The DOJ says they eventually told the undercover operative deep info such as their spy code names as well as Gwen Myers's preferred method for passing info via switched shopping carts, because that was "easy enough to do."
Not discussed in the DOJ press release were details as to how the couple was paid for what they did. While Kendall Myers probably did pretty well through his various positions both in the State Department and as an educator, he wasn't rolling in dough. Still, he and his wife found time to buy a nice little boat they named the "Helene." Gwen Myers even gave a testimony to the boat maker, which the manufacturer published online [PDF]: "It is 8:00 PM here; we are having a drink and are practically melting in our chairs while repeating to one another, 'we have the most beautiful boat.' Today the temperature was around 60 degrees and the wind from 4 to 8 knots. We sailed the good ship Helene on the Bay for 4 hours. Kendall sailed then napped for an hour on a pad behind the helm's seat. I used a finger to occasionally touch the wheel while the boat sailed herself. Clouds were mesmerizing..." [Copy]
Any encomiums in that statement to "peerless leader Fidel" were surely edited out.
W. Kendall Myers caused a bit of a crapstorm in 2006 when he made some decidedly out-of-school statements about the relationship between America and the United Kingdom. His words have an added subtext now. Myers stated that he was "ashamed" of then-president George Bush's treatment of former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair and that the US/UK relationship "was a done deal from the beginning, it was a onesided relationship that was entered into with open eyes . . . there was nothing. There was no payback, no sense of reciprocity."
Kendall Myers, by the way, was also an author. If the DOJ is correct about his and his wife's activities, he'd been spying for Cuba for more than a decade by the time he published An intelligent traveler's guide to Western Europe through the Foreign Service's School of Area Studies in 1993.
An intelligent traveler's guide to Cuba probably would have been just a little too obvious, I guess.
The Associated Press has identified the suspect in the murder of Dr. George Tiller as Scott Roeder. Roeder comes from Merriam, Kansas. Someone with the same name signed the petition at ChargeTiller.com more than once. His comments may have been removed, but a Google search still yields portions of what Roeder posted. In March of 2007, Roeder wrote, in part: "PUT THIS MONSTER TILLER BEHIND BARS WHERE HE CAN'T MURDER ANY MORE OF OUR MOST INNOCENT UNBORN BABIES, WHO HAVE NO VOICE!!!"
Roeder was involved in OperationRescue.org activities as well. The original webpage containing this comment has been taken offline, but in May of 2007, Roeder wrote the following comment at the bottom of this post:
Bleass everyone for attending and praying in May to bring justice to Tiller and the closing of his death camp. Sometime soon, would it be feasible to organize as many people as possible to attend Tillers church (inside, not just outside) to have much more of a presence and possibly ask questions of the Pastor, Deacons, Elders and members while there? Doesn't seem like it would hurt anything but bring more attention to Tiller.
You can see Roeder's comment if you scroll to the bottom of the copied webpage linked before the quote.
Scott P. Roeder, incidentally, was pegged as one of the Freemen by the FBI about 13 years ago. After Roeder was stopped in Shawnee County, KS with fuse cord, a pound of gunpowder and nine-volt batteries in his trunk, the AP reported that his name was on an FBI list of members of the group. A search of Roeder's residence following his arrest also yielded pages of instruction from the "Underground Cookboook" on how to create a "clothes pin time-delayed switch."
Roeder was initially convicted of an explosives violation and placed on probation. In December, 1997, the Kansas Court of Appeals reversed that conviction and ended Roeder's probation, ruling that the initial search of Roeder's vehicle had been illegal.
Science Blogs has more interesting information here.
At ChargeTiller.com, a site devoted to seeing charges leveled at the abortion doctor, an interesting comment on a petition to the State of Kansas to charge George Tiller may have been deleted. At one time, a comment on this page of the petition read in part: "TILLER MUST DIE PUBLICTLY, OBSERVED BY THE WORLD TO SEE, OPENLY, THAT PEOPLE WHO ARE INVOLVED WITH THIS PRACTICES MUST BE AWARE TO TURN ON THERE WICKED WAYS." Now it seems like that comment is gone, only to be found in the Google summary, as evidenced by the screen cap below.
During a press conference given in Wichita at 4 p.m. CT, Dep. Chief of Police Tom Stolz declined to give the name of the suspect currently in custody. He did state that the suspect, who was arrested near Gardner, KS, would also face charges of assault connected with the shooting of George Tiller. The killer, a 51-year-old man, apparently threatened two Reformation Lutheran church members who tried to apprehend him after the shooting. Wichita PD will also be investigating any connection between the suspect and various pro-life groups who have threatened Dr. Tiller in the past.
The Wichita Eagle is reporting an arrest in this case:
The suspect in this morning's fatal shooting of George Tiller is in custody, according to emergency dispatchers.
Authorities have yet to release more information about the arrest. Wichita police have scheduled a 4 p.m. [CT] news conference to discuss the case.
There has been a fatal shooting at a Wichita, Kansas Lutheran church. According to Eyewitness News in Wichita, a 6'1", 220-lb white male in his 50s or 60s opened fire this morning at the Reformation Lutheran Church near the intersection of 13 and Rock. The Wichita Eagle is reporting that the victim was Dr. George Tiller.
The following is from Tiller's own website: "Dr. George Tiller has provided abortion services since 1973. He pioneered the use of sonogram imaging during surgery and other procedures that have been adopted as the standard of care for abortion providers nationwide."
The Eagle states that Tiller "has long been a focal point of protest by abortion opponents because his clinic, Women's Health Care Services at 5701 E. Kellogg, is one of the few in the country where late-term abortions are performed."
To get a taste of the kind of negative attention and criticism George Tiller has received in the past, you need look no further than Bill O'Reilly's website and a blog post made in 2006 by O'Reilly producer Jesse Watters. According Watters, the abortion doctor has in the past been called "Tiller the Baby Killer." Tiller has also, according to O'Reilly's producer, "terminated late-term pregnancies by citing temporary 'depression' on the part of the mother, and performed these abortions on girls as young as ten, never informing police these girls were victims of rape or incest."
A site devoted to portraying George Tiller as a "baby killer" is Dr-Tiller.com. Registered in 2004 by an Oklahoman named Stuart Bensch, the site referred to Tiller as "America's Most Notorious Abortionist." There are (or were - it is difficult to determine whether the site is down from traffic or is offline completely, hence the link to the archived version) multiple stories of Tiller allegedly performing "coerced late-term" abortions and of grand jury investigations into Tiller's practice.
A Stuart Bensch can be found expressing his support of James Kopp here. About Kopp, who was convicted of the sniper-style murder of abortion doctor Barnett Slepian, Bensch wrote: "The evidence still doesn't match! I believe Kopp is confessing a crime he didn't commit to turn attention away from himself and toward the unborn. It's an act of great selflessness and great stupidity. I believe that his "confession" was the wrong thing to do, but I stand behind him anyway." Bensch also registered TillertheKiller.com.
But Bensch is just one pro-life activist out of many - George Tiller has been at the center of the abortion debate for decades. His clinic was bombed in the mid 1980s and he was shot and wounded by an anti-abortion activist in 1993.
Whether or not Tiller's activities as an abortion doctor had something to do with his murder remain to be seen, but my guess is that the answer is pretty obvious. After all, Tiller was just acquitted in late March this year of charges he'd conducted illegal abortions.
The anti-abortion group Operation Rescue has weighed in on Tiller's murder: "We are shocked at this morning's disturbing news that Mr. Tiller was gunned down. Operation Rescue has worked for years through peaceful, legal means, and through the proper channels to see him brought to justice. We denounce vigilantism and the cowardly act that took place this morning. We pray for Mr. Tiller's family that they will find comfort and healing that can only be found in Jesus Christ."
My spidey-sense says this story is about to be very big, and intensely politically charged. No matter which side of the abortion debate you're on, you should probably put on your seatbelt.
The story broke right around inauguration time: a middle-aged white woman was on her way to Washington DC to witness the swearing-in of the 44th president when racist miscreants torched her home -- most likely because she supported the President. At least that was what she wanted folks to believe. Well... Pamela Graf's story has come apart at the seams. From WSB Radio:
Captain Jason Shivers tells WSB's Jennifer Griffies 47-year-old Pamela Graf was arrested on unrelated charges, but is listed as a suspect in the fire.
"Ms. Graf was arrested on unrelated drug charges due to the execution of a search warrant during the investigation of the Lanier Drive fire," said Shivers.
Marijuana and cocaine were found during a search of motel room and car.
Graf's 46-year-old boyfriend Steve Strobel was also arrested. Strobel is suspected of taking part in the alleged arson as well.
All that's missing from this story is a backwards "B".
An MSNBC segment about the arrest of Gov. Rod Blagojevich. (D-IL)
Well, this is fun. Early this morning the Feds arrested llinois governor Rod Blagojevich. Blagojevich, say the Feds, was basically trying to sell the Senate seat vacated by President-elect Barack Obama. Well, that's not all he was doing, but it's probably the cherry on top of Blagojevich's alleged corruption sundae. The FBI caught the governor through wiretaps.
Anyone old enough to have been annoyed that the Watergate hearings were pre-empting their cartoons feels a twinge of deja vu when stories like this hit the airwaves. I come from Tennessee, myself, and after Watergate my home state still had to contend with our own uber-crooked gov, one Ray Blanton. For me, the Blagojeviches and the Blantons actually make politics interesting.
But this is a crime blog. And even though Rod Blagojevich has been arrested and charged with all kinds of juicy criminal corruption, the story is still more political than anything. Your best bet for finding out the nuts and bolts of this sordid tale so far is to follow these links:
* The USDOJ's release about the arrest of the governor and his Chief of Staff, John Harris.
* And of course, The Smoking Gun has more than 20 pages of uncensored criminal complaint goodness. One of the many money quotes -- Blagojevich, referring to Obama's empty Senate seat and his ability to appoint someone to fill it: "I've got this thing and it's fucking golden, and, uh, uh, I'm just not giving it up for fuckin' nothing. I'm not gonna do it. And, and I can always use it. I can parachute me there." Perhaps you see what I mean about the guy being a tool as well. As if his hair wasn't enough of a giveaway.
If you're looking for some irony (or something like it) related to this story, look no further than this announcement at Illinois.gov. Quote: "CHICAGO - First Lady Patricia Blagojevich today announced December's selection for her Children's Reading Club -How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Seuss."
American cable news networks are slow to really jump on full coverage of the ongoing terrorist attacks across the Indian city of Mumbai. This is surprising, considering that the attacks appear to be targeting business/tourist areas frequented by Westerners, including American and British tourists. Additionally, CNN/IBN has reported that terrorists holding hostages in one 5-star hotel in South Mumbai have been seeking out American guests, in particular. One police official speaking on live TV stated specifically that "American citizens are the target."
At least 25 people have been killed and many more injured in several terrorist attacks in Mumbai on Wednesday night.
five-star hotels - Oberoi and Taj - are under siege and gunmen are
reported to have held the occupants hostage. An ATS team has arrived at
the Taj, where fresh blasts have been reported...
The attacks were coordinated and designed to live up to the "terror" part of the word. Gunmen in several different locations in posh South Mumbai opened fire and set off hand grenades.
Currently at least 55 have been reported dead, and many more injured. According to the Times of India, a group calling itself the Deccan Mujahideen has claimed credit for these attacks.
To follow the remarkable flurry of tweets about this unfolding story on Twitter, click here. Another option is Tweetgrid, which automatically refreshes.Take some of the tweets with a grain of salt -- the story is unfolding, and even Twitter users in Mumbai are getting skewed or incorrect information. There is also ongoing coverage at Mumbai.metblogs.com. A must-see link is the Flickr photostream of a photographer using the screen name "Vinu." His photos from some of the scenes in Mumbai are haunting. [CNN/IBN]
OSWEGO, NY -- A late-night altercation over politics has put one young man the hospital in critical condition and another young man in jail. Police in Oswego say they answered a call on Sunday to break up a fight between Kevin T. Flanagan, age 23, and 19-year-old State University of New York Oswego student Angel Moreno. Early reports indicated that the men were having a verbal argument that escalated into a fistfight.
Angel Moreno is in the Upstate Medical Center in Syracuse, NY with a severe head injury. Kevin Flanagan, an Army Private stationed at Fort Drum, is in jail in Oswego.
According to the New York Post, the fight started when someone said something nasty about President-elect Barack Obama. One witness who spoke to the Post indicated that the words were "Fuck Obama."
The Post went on to cite Angel Moreno's Facebook profile, where the student had an Obama campaign poster as his profile pic.
Kevin Flanagan, who is assigned to the 10th Mountain Division, is being held on $5000 bail. Police are still investigating to see if Flanagan will face more charges.
Sadly, this is neither the first nor last story we'll hear along these lines in the weeks and months to come. [NewsWatch50.com - PDF]
Pretty offensive video by Paul Schlesselman from his MySpace account. Click if you wish. Click here if you don't know the meaning of the word "wigger."
By now everyone's heard of Daniel Cowart, age 20, and his buddy Paul Schlesselman, age 18. Everyone has heard of the way they walked into stupid criminal infamy.
The outlines of the story are scary as hell, at first. By the time we get to the tuxes, though, we're well into something that feels like a Coen Brothers movie on acid.
Using the Affidavit of Complaint published by The Smoking Gun we get the story as told by ATF Special Agent Brian Weaks.
On October 23, Weaks went to the Sheriff's Office in Crockett County, TN to help out with an investigation into some alleged Federal Firearms Violations. The suspects in custody were Daniel Cowart and Paul Schlesselman.
Weaks interviewed the young men and got their back-story.
They'd met on the Web about a month ago through "a mutual friend." Cowart and Schlesselman considered themselves part of the "White Power" movement and had strong "Skinhead" views. Just like many young men eager to get to know a new pal, Cowart and Schlesselman began bonding over fantasies of killing 88 people and, specifically, "beheading 14 African Americans."
In the White Power movement, 88 is a symbol for the words "Heil Hitler," since "H" is the 8th letter of the alphabet. The number 14 has a similar significance.
Anyway, Aryan Adventure Boys Cowart and Schlesselman had a brilliant idea to fund their spree. They planned rob or burgle gun stores to compile a cache of weapons and ammo. Cowart, who lives in Bells, TN, went to the nearby city of Jackson (this is all in West TN, between Memphis and Nashville) where he photographed and diagrammed the layout of a store. He then sent the info to Paul Schlesselman "through webcam."
The guys had firearms to start with, though. The affidavit mentions: Schlesselman's sawed-off 12 gauge; a Ruger .357 handgun Schlesselman took from his Dad; Cowart's .308 caliber rifle; a .22 handgun and a .25 caliber handgun. Cowart told Agent Weaks that he took the last two from his grandfather.
On October 20, Cowart picked up Schlesselman in West Helena, Arkansas and they headed back to Tennessee. Here's what they were going to do, according to the Affidavit of Complaint:
"Cowart and Schlesselman further discussed the killing spree to include targeting a predominately [sic] African-American school, going state to state while robbing individuals and continuing to kill people. They further stated that their final act of violence would be to attempt to kill/assassinate Presidential Candidate Barack Obama. Cowart stated that they planned to use his FASI .308 caliber rifle and a high-powered rifle [...] Schlesselman stated that they planned to drive their vehicle as fast as they could toward Obama shooting at him from the windows. Both individuals stated they would dress in all white tuxedos and wear top hats during the assassination attempt."
Cowart and Schlesselman told the authorities that they were ready to die trying, too.
The boys began their prep by making a run at a home robbery in Tennessee. A couple of cars at the home and a dog was enough to make them change their minds. Cowart and Schlesselman weren't completely undaunted yet, though -- they purchased supplies at a Brownsville, TN Wal-Mart: food, rope, and ski masks were among the things they purchased.
After the Wal-Mart trip the intrepid duo shot out a window at the Beech Grove Church of Christ. Apparently this was badass enough for the guys for one evening, and they headed back to Cowart's granddad's place, where they slept the sleep of the just. Or the stupid, take your pick.
The next day more spree killing was discussed, and the boys decided to prime themselves by taking chalk to Cowart's car, scribbling "a Swastika and the numbers 14 and 88 on the hood." Other "racially motivated words and symbols" were drawn on the car. Because you know, when you want to start on a racially-motivated killing spree, it's a great idea to let the world know who you are by chalking it on your car.
Cowart and Schlesselman face multiple charges, including "Threats against a Major Candidate for the Office of President."
Just for the heck of it, you can take a look at one of Daniel Cowart's personal profiles here (I'm certain I'm not the first to find this particular link):
His hobbies are "shooting, harrassing pedestrians, stuff," and he is online to meet "new comrades" or just make friends "in general." Cowart has two photos on the profile, one of them of him in a hooded sweatshirt, the other shows him shirtless, clearly revealing the iron cross tattoo on his chest.
Daniel Cowart also has a MySpace profile, but it is private.
Per CBS News, this is Paul Schlesselman's MySpace profile:
Almost all you need to know about Schlesselman is encapsulated in a headline on his page: "Cookie Rapist is going to stab you with a railroad spike."
Still, Schlesselman's MySpace leads to his Photobucket image hosting account, and that is a scary feast for the eyes, if you could stand looking long enough. If racial imagery and racial slurs are deeply offensive to you, don't bother clicking through. To me, one of the more interesting images is the one you see on the left. The knife beside the severed head reads, "John Doe Massacre" -- the name of a German "Melodic Death Metal/Deathcore/Groove Metal" band.
Paul Schlesselman at one time had a YouTube account at with this screen name: nog1488. The account has been suspended, but cached search engine pages of other YouTube users' profiles revealed some of his thoughts on race (read: he was a classic YouTube troll, racist model). He wrote the following on a YouTuber's profile page on April 30, 2008, apparently in response to a question about race -- the following has been edited for obvious reasons:
"me? its not color its action that determines my disliking. All races including whites have done bad shit. There are a few distinct races that stick out as my most disliked among these are n***ers and jews. im refuse to go into the history of both fore its far to long and im not going to talk about it with someone who hates me lol"
Schlesselman also left comments for folks with whom he apparently felt a bit more kinship. YouTube user juggarnaut1486's account has also been suspended, but juggarnaut1486 wrote the following in his own profile, "how ridiculous, you anti- racists would rather flag me then debate, and they say racists are ignorant!"
Schlesselman seemed to respond to that statement, posting the following comment on juggarnaut's profile on May 1 of this year: "you know we are never going to do anything debating on youtube! they sit on there ass all day trying to make us mad. We should give em a good ass beating."
Schlesselman posted the photo seen below and on the right on September 18 this year, with the following comment: "me with my new .357 mag (ruger)."
It's all too easy to laugh at the ineptitude of these young men, but one has only to reflect on fairly recent history to realize why the story of their plans has made any news at all, and why law enforcement takes threats like the ones Cowart and Schlesselman allegedly made pretty damned seriously.
See, one of the reasons so many find it so hard to believe that Lee Harvey Oswald was the lone gunman who shot President John F. Kennedy is precisely this -- Oswald's bio made him seem rather inept. Comically inept if viewed from a certain angle. He tried to be a soldier. He basically failed. Oswald tried to leave his US roots behind and become a Russian. The Soviets thought he was a loser, too. Oswald came back home and he continued to fail at life until that day in Dallas.
If you buy the single assassin theory of the Kennedy Assassination, you buy that on one November day in 1963, lifelong loser Lee Harvey Oswald succeeded at one, huge, awful and historic thing.
Sure, Daniel Cowart's and Paul Schlesselman's grisly plans also seemed ridiculous. The chances against them succeeding were probably too huge to even calculate. It's probably okay, now that the feds have a hold on them, to laugh about the tuxedos and the chalked symbols on the car. But temper that a little, because once upon a time, Lee Harvey Oswald was a ridiculous loser, too. [TSG; see also this CBS look into the story, with a good deal more info about Schlesselman.]
Every web address I posted for confessed race-baiting liar Ashley Todd was accurate. That's really the main purpose of this post -- just to say that. The other purpose of this post? Getting a perp walk video up. The word "schadenfreude" does apply.
If you want confirmation from another source about some of what you read in other True Crime Report entries about B-girl Ashley Todd, look no further than this article in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette by Michael A. Fuoco, Jerome L. Sherman and Sadie Gurman.
I won't quote ad nauseam from the piece (I hate doing that, anyway), but I will point out what I gleaned from it.
For one thing, Ashley Todd doesn't feel responsible for what she did, and she blames the media. My personal opinion of her, based on this, is not that she is mentally ill, in the sense that I understand that word -- it is that she is a sociopathic attention seeker. She feels no remorse for her lie because she doesn't have much of a conscience. I predict, too, that Ms. Todd will show up again in the news in the future. It may be years, but we'll hear from her again -- and it will be under similar circumstances.
Also, there was no way to really predict what happened, but Ms. Todd was telegraphing that she might just do something royally fucked-up for years. The Post-Gazette reporters caught a detail of Todd's MySpace that I missed, even though I was the first to post that information. Quote:
"On her MySpace profile, where her screen name is 'Italian Pajamas,' Ms. Todd gives her occupation as 'Being a badass.' Next to her picture, she references the title of a song by the group Panic at the Disco: 'Lying is the most fun a girl can have without taking her cloths (sic) off,' but adds to it 'but its (sic) better if you do.'
"Among the books she lists as favorites: 'The Scarlet Letter.'"
Put that together with the observation I made about a particular statement made in Todd's blog here, and you have a lot of foreshadowing for Ashley's big, racist adventure in Pittsburgh.
Now, if this were a political blog (and by the way, I don't mean I'm apolitical personally -- I'm not -- I just mean that covering politics here would be off-topic and therefore pointless, unless you consider all politicians criminals-in-waiting, but I digress), I'd explore why the hell some folks running the McCain campaign in Pennsylvania actively directed reporters towards this story. I'd ask if perhaps the McCain campaign might have initially seen another opportunity for a "Joe the Plumber" type of narrative. But the national Republican campaign seemed to wise up to what was really going on pretty fast, and they left this the hell alone. If any onus is on the McCain campaign at all, it's on the Pennsylvania branch. If Ashley Todd had been properly vetted, this would have been discovered: "In March, Ms. Todd was asked to leave a grass-roots group of Ron Paul supporters in Brazos County, Texas [...] Ms. Todd posed as a supporter of former Arkansas governor and presidential candidate Mike Huckabee and called the local Republican committee seeking information about its campaign strategies."
Should Ashley Todd be pitied? Maybe a little. But I don't believe there's any "help" for someone like her. To her, it's all gamesmanship. That approach to life is akin to an addiction, and time in a mental health facility or on antidepressants won't cure it.
Like I said: we'll be hearing from or about her again.
Ashley made it all up. She's confessed. From KDKA.com: "Police sources tell KDKA that a campaign worker has now confessed to making up a story that a mugger attacked her and cut the letter "B" in her face after seeing her McCain bumper sticker."
Ashley Todd will face charges.
ANOTHER UPDATE, 1:15 p.m. ET
I changed the post time on this entry to put it at the top of the blog's main page because this information is interesting, if nothing else. This is the Xanga journal Ashley Todd kept up until February, 2006: xanga.com/ISeeTallPplRabbitDb8r.
It seems that while keeping that journal, Todd was a chain-smoking metal head who was, admittedly, really enjoying what must have been her first year in college, majoring in -- what else? -- poli sci.
It's a site Todd began with others. According to one post there, she was supposed to be the "content manager." She posted the URL in her profile at Cross-X.com, a forum for "debate on the Web." Ashley Todd posted there as "thelilwhiterabbit." She had more than 650 posts to her credit as of this morning.
As for Ashley Todd being part of a start-up web site about politics called "Know B.S.," well... I don't really need to point out the irony there, do I?
In an interview on MSNBC, Pittsburgh reporter Jerome L. Sherman just stated that Ashley Todd also told police that she'd been sexually assaulted. Here's Sherman's article in the Post-Gazette. Money quote from the article: "Yesterday, [Todd] said the man sexually assaulted her, a detail that police said she didn't mention in the initial report."
Curiouser and curiouser.
It's probably a good idea to make a little list of some of the more important aspects of the story about the alleged assault on McCain campaign volunteer Ashley Todd. The following isn't intended to be comprehensive. It is intended to support my contention that Todd's story is a big, steaming pile of b.s.
-- Speaking on-air to MSNBC's Contessa Brewer, police spokesperson Diane Richard said that police asked Ashley Todd to take a lie detector test. Todd did so. Richard would not reveal the results. Richard also said that details of Todd's story have changed in her talks with police.
-- According to a report in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (linked below), the student from College Station, TX said her attacker "sat on her chest, pinning both her hands down with his knees and used what she believed was a dull knife with a roughly 5-inch blade to carve the B." A very carefully-rendered but somehow backwards B, to boot.
-- Todd didn't report the crime immediately. She went to a friend's residence, one mile from the scene of her alleged mugging. I can't figure out what universe you have to come from for this aspect of the story to make any sense at all.
-- That friend says Ashley Todd "went to an unknown hospital on her own" some time after midnight. Emphasis added.
-- A police Commander named Larry Ross told Pittsburgh reporters that Todd didn't make any reference whatsoever to her McCain bumper sticker when she first made a report to the police. Ross said, "I don't know how she came to the conclusion that he noticed the sticker."
-- People working at businesses close to the scene, according to the Post-Gazette, "were unaware of the attack."
Blogging for Salon.com, Alex Koppelman uncovered some additional interesting details about Ashley Todd. Alex writes, "This isn't the first time this year that Todd has claimed to be involved in an election-related incident. Earlier this month, she posted to YouTube a video she shot of a janitor at New York's Queens College. In it, she says, "this janitor took down all of my signs... and tore them apart... I am really perturbed. He closed off the bathrooms and is making it very hostile." The janitor shown in the video just happens to be a tall, well-built black male. Much like Todd's alleged attacker in Pittsburgh.
So far, I've only read one statement from a good source that lends anything resembling credibility to Ashley Todd's story. It was in the article published by the Post-Gazette: "[Police Cmdr Larry Ross] said the description of the robber as a 6-foot 4-inch, 200-pound black man is similar to that of a man who robbed a Liberty Avenue bank in recent weeks." That's it. And that's not much, is it?
The other shoe on this story hasn't hit the floor yet, but I hear it whooshing through the air. The next big question to answer: will Ashley Todd eventually be arrested for filing a false report?
I wouldn't be surprised, but you just never know.
What this young woman needs is help. She has a problem, and it's about to become unmanageable for her. I almost feel sorry for Ashley Todd. Almost.
Ashley Todd made it all up. She's confessed. From KDKA.com: "Police sources tell KDKA that a campaign worker has now confessed to making up a story that a mugger attacked her and cut the letter "B" in her face after seeing her McCain bumper sticker."
Ashley Todd will face charges.
There seems to be a growing, bipartisan consensus online that Ashley Todd may not be telling the truth. The 20 (or 23) year-old from College Station, Texas told police in Pittsburgh, PA she was mugged and assaulted Wednesday night at an ATM in Pittsburgh's Bloomfield neighborhood. You can read all about that here: "Insanity and Politics: McCain Supporter Attacked in Pittsburgh."
Todd kept a blog on her now-locked MySpace. A copy of the blog's main page as it appeared on August 10, 2008 is embedded above. This passage from an entry posted July 1, 2008 jumped out at me: "Thankfully my closest of friends have assured me that when I finally am a victim of political assassination or brutal murder for running my mouth, that they will be honest at my funeral."
Todd obviously has a strong interest in politics. She was in Pittsburgh to do some sort of work for the McCain/Palin campaign, and one of her "General" interests on her MySpace profile is "Ron Paul 2008." So -- the joke about "political assassination" makes sense, since she might have ambitions to run for office in the future.
But the statement I quoted above is interesting because it parallels what Ashley Todd says happened to her on Wednesday night. Todd told Pittsburgh police that her mugger robbed her of $60 at knifepoint. Then, according to her, he noticed that she had McCain bumper stickers on her car. The mugger -- whom Todd described as a 6'4", 200 lb black man in dark clothing -- started talking smack to the woman he'd robbed and she says he beat her with his fists and feet. Todd says he carved that mysterious backwards "B" in her cheek, seen in this photo.
In essence, a routine mugging turned into a politically-motivated assault because of what Ashley's alleged mugger perceived to be "statements" from her, as evidenced by the bumper stickers on her vehicle. Bumper stickers, particularly stickers related to political campaigns, are a form of using one's car to run one's mouth. And an attacker carving a "B" in a woman's face for McCain bumper stickers would be a case of the victim having been assaulted for essentially running her mouth.
It really isn't a stretch to say that there's an eerie echo in Ashley's off-the-cuff blog post from last July in what she says happened to her. Luckily, she wasn't "assassinated" or murdered.
I say "luckily." I suppose I'm being kind, because that implies Ashley Todd could be telling the truth. I don't believe she is.
Seems like the narrative is about turn on this politically involved young woman from Texas. After reports of the assault hit the news -- aided by feverish headlines from Matt Drudge -- Ashley Todd reportedly received calls from both Sarah Palin and John McCain, expressing sympathy.
If her story is indeed entirely made up, she's made them look like fools. In fact, she made the Obama campaign look a foolish for buying her line of bull, as well, since the Democratic candidate's people issued a statement roundly condemning this crime and saying they hoped "that the person who perpetrated this crime is swiftly apprehended and brought to justice."
Ashley Todd may not have had any clue as to what she was doing when she reported this "crime." At 20 (or 23 -- the age given on her MySpace profile) a lot of people still have very little ability to govern their impulses or predict the outcome of their actions.
If Todd didn't have a clue then, she may have one now. She's made her Twitter feed and MySpace private, acts that smell like retreat. If she goes through with the polygraph, I will be utterly amazed. My prediction is that a lawyer will become involved and start pointing the finger back at the Pittsburgh police. The case will linger until after the election, when some sort of arrangement will quietly be made between Ashley Todd and the authorities -- she'll get off with a fine for false reporting, perhaps.
Ashley Todd made it all up. She's confessed. From KDKA.com: "Police sources tell KDKA that a campaign worker has now confessed to making up a story that a mugger attacked her and cut the letter "B" in her face after seeing her McCain bumper sticker."
Ashley Todd will face charges.
Be sure to read the updates at the bottom of this post. I've published two more entries about this case:
Police in the Bloomfield area of Pittsburgh, PA say a 20-year-old Ashley Todd may have been viciously assaulted because she had a McCain/Palin bumper sticker on her car. Sounds like it began as a routine robbery; the robber pulled a knife, Todd gave him sixty bucks. Then the criminal saw the McCain bumper sticker on the woman's car. He beat Todd with his hands and fists. Then, bizarrely, he used his knife to scratch a "B" on her face. Police told local Pittsburgh media that Todd refused treatment.
One Pittsburgh news outlet says only that Ashley Todd had the bumper sticker on her car. Another, the Post-Gazette, described the victim as a "McCain staffer" from Texas. The paper also quoted police spokesperson Diane Richards, who said authorities couldn't "substantiate" Todd's story, yet.
The suspect is said to be a 6'4", 200-lb African-American male. He was wearing dark clothing.
The robbery wasn't captured on the bank's security cameras.
According to the Pittsburgh Channel, the Obama campaign has issued a statement about the attack, saying that their "thoughts and prayers are with the young woman for her to make a speedy recovery, and we hope that the person who perpetrated this crime is swiftly apprehended and brought to justice."
CBS 13 published a report online stating that the Republican candidate for vice president, Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska, "spoke with the victim by phone." The McCain campaign has issued their own statement about the crime, calling it "sick and disgusting."
This crime is so bizarre and potentially politically-charged it's already produced a screaming, bold-red headline at the Drudge Report. Be prepared to hear a lot more about it.
Click the thumbnail of a screen capture of that Twitter account above and read it. It appears to be a narrative covering her arrival in Pittsburgh, her search for an ATM, and an allusion to what happened afterwards. You be the judge as to how believable it is -- or not.
ETA II, Electric Boogaloo: If you want to read some of Ashley Todd's blogging between 2006 and 2008 or so, just click this -- copy of blog.myspace.com/rabbitrocker. Based on political views, name, age range, and home town, it seems clear that "rabbitrocker" Ashley is the same Ashley Todd who reported the bizarre mugging in Pittsburgh last night.
Just in case you think it's only people in the center and on the left of center who doubt this story, read this post by popular, arch-conservative blogger Michelle Malkin. Whatever you think about Malkin's politics, she is anything but stupid. Malkin writes:
"I’ve reported on the great lengths that warped attention-seekers have gone to in perpetrating fake hate crimes, including beating themselves up, carving swastikas on their dorm room doors and walls, locking themselves in bathroom stalls, and burning down their own houses.
"Which is why I’m not jumping up and down with outrage over Drudge-promoted story of a McCain volunteer claiming to have been attacked by a black man whom she accused of carving a “B” in her face after spotting her McCain bumper sticker."
Michelle Malkin's perceptions are dead-on. And Ashley Todd's contrived Twitters from last night as well as her strange MySpace headline about "lying" all lend support to the idea that she could be, as Malkin put it, one of those "warped attention-seekers." The other shoe on this story will drop by tomorrow, and any sympathy left for Ashley Todd on the right or the left will dry up immediately. I admit it now -- I began doubting the story almost immediately, but I held my fire till now. I knew I might be right when friends who are McCain supporters began to express their own doubts. Malkin's skepticism seals it, though -- this story is hogwash.
**Last Update for this post**
A reader pointed out some interesting things about the Google cache of Ashley Todd's MySpace:
-- She was pulling for Ron Paul at one point. Just look at the page. This may not be significant, but I figured it was worth a mention.
-- Her last login was October 17, last Friday. The page has only been made private in the last 6 days, otherwise Google couldn't have cached it. My guess is that she made it private after reporting the "mugging."
-- Something I noticed, which isn't related to this at all -- I get the impression she either knew or was friends with murder victim Ashton Glover, based on a video embedded in the page dedicated to Ashton. I only noticed this because one of the last articles I wrote for Court TV's (now TruTV's) Crime Library was about Ashton's murder, which took place 2 years ago in Sugar Land, TX.
Also, from reader "ruth G," there's this late development: "Police planned to administer a polygraph test to Ashley Todd, 20, because her statements about the attack conflict with evidence from the Citizens Bank ATM where she claims the incident occurred, police said." Emphasis was added.
A rather strange video from something called TheSingingNewsNetwrk. Discussion of Mark Jacoby and registration flipping begins about 1 minute in.
I try to keep crime-blogging and politics separate, but I suppose I'll be accused of waxing political no matter how I frame this story. So be it. It's a political season to end all seasons, so a story like this ending up in a crime blog was inevitable.
Mark Jacoby, the head of Young Political Majors (YPM) was arrested this weekend in Ontario, California. According to FoxNews.com's "Elections" site, Jacoby was charged with a felony for "allegedly lying about his address in the state in order to vote illegally."
California authorities believe Jacoby registered to vote in Los Angeles with the address of the home in which he grew up. He apparently hasn't lived there for quite some time. If you give false info on your voter registration card in Cali (and probably most places, I haven't checked the federal laws) it is considered perjury. Mark Jacoby could face 3 years in prison.
"Mark Jacoby, the president of a GOP signature-gathering firm accused of tricking California voters into registering as Republicans under the guise of signing a petition to keep pedophiles in jail, has been arrested in Ontario, CA on suspicion of voter fraud.
"Jacoby's paid signature-gatherers are accused of actively deceiving Californians while YPM was under contract to the Republican Party.
"An astonishing eighty percent of a random sample of voters registered by YPM in California told the LA Times that they had been tricked into registering as Republicans. YPM has registered 70,000 voters as Republicans in California in this election cycle alone. "
The California Republican Party says that Jacoby's arrest is "politically motivated." Fox News quoted a statement from the CRP that read in part, "The fact that these charges are being leveled against an individual operating in a highly-contested area of California, and the significant gap between recent allegations and the charges we've seen today suggests that this is politically motivated."
The CRP also directed fire towards California's Secretary of State Debra Bowen. The CRP stated that Bowen "is using her office to play politics with the public's perception of political parties. This is inappropriate at least, and an abuse of her office and a willing suspension of her duties at worst."
Jacoby has been accused of sketchiness before. In Fooled Again: How the Right Stole the 2004 Election & why They'll Steal the Next One Too (unless We Stop Them), published in 2007, author Mark Crispin Miller wrote about "Young Political Majors LLC, a wee firm owned and managed by Mark Jacoby (who, one summer's day, turned up at the Board of Elections office in Gainesville [FL] with 1,200 voter registration cards, of which 510 were from Floridians who had switched to the GOP)." YPM, wrote Miller, "turned out be be employed by something called JSM Inc., which was in turn employed by Arno Political Associates, a rightist propaganda powerhouse whose clients have included Reagan/Bush, Bush/Quayle, Phillip Morris, R. J. Reynolds, Occidental Petroleum [...] and Wal-Mart."
Jacoby's problems may be metastasizing. YPM LLC was recently mentioned in a post on RipOffReport.com. While the "report" in question was signed off by a basically anonymous "joe" (that screen name is popular with anonymous types), and should be viewed with some skepticism, it may also be the tip of the iceberg for Jacoby's Titanic. A portion of the Ripoff Report:
"my self and many others are victims of this mans games. he will hire you with the impression he is a professional in his field of petitioning. big promises of money are rebutled with 'validity' you only get paid 50 to 70 percent even if you do everything you are told. he keeps the extra money and you do get paid well but he gets paid very well. forget the last check. he will get you to work extra hard telling you there is a pay increase per signature collected for his petitions, he will leave town to go work some other town or state and not pay you. he is very good at this , even if you wanted to take him to court you cant becuase he has not real business address , no home or vehicle, he lives out of hotels and rental cars. if your work for this man."
Not long now till election day. It's getting intense, no matter which side you're on.
No arraignment date has been set for Mark Jacoby. A judge set his bail at $50,000.
Barack Obama answering questions at a town hall meeting in Davenport, IA.
CBS 4 in Denver is now reporting that "at least four people are under arrest in connection with a possible plot to kill Barack Obama at his Thursday night acceptance speech in Denver."
Some of the equipment confiscated during the investigation into this alleged plot so far: two high-powered, scoped rifles; camouflage clothing; walkie-talkies; a bulletproof vest; something called a spotting scope and fake i.d.'s.
The second man arrested (see below) may have ties to some kind of white supremacy group.
All those arrested are now being held on a variety of charges.
Authorities in Denver believe they may have uncovered a plot to harm Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama.
Very early on Sunday morning, cops in the Denver suburb of Aurora stopped Tharin Gartrell, age 28. In his rental pickup they found two rifles -- one said to be a "sniper rifle" -- and methamphetamine.
Gartrell's arrest led police to a room on the 6th floor of the Cherry Creek Hotel. The cops knocked on the door, and the guy inside, 33-year-old Shawn Adolf from Greeley, CO, jumped out the window. It must have been like something out of a movie, because Adolf landed on an awning, bounced to the street below and took off running.
He didn't get far. Cops found him a short time later with a broken ankle and put him under arrest. After all, he had 7 outstanding warrants.
Also arrested during this investigation was Nathan Johnson, age 32.
CBS 4 in Denver reported that one of the men under arrest made statements while in custody that led them to believe there might be some sort of plot to hurt the Democratic nominee. The case is currently being investigated by the Secret Service, ATF and the FBI.
Below you'll find a MySpace profile for Tharin Gartrell or his Denver-dwelling dead-ringer with the same first name:
He marketed himself in the Denver area as a DJ under the name Tharin Roberts or Tharin Robert (images on his profile say both). You can see him in action here. [CBS4Denver.com and 9NEWS.com -- the latter confirmed that Gartrell was a DJ.]