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Wednesday, October 18, 2017

A Dead Pedophile and One Less Pimp

     When frustrated citizens come to believe the criminal justice system is failing them--police focusing on the wrong crimes, prosecutors making too many plea deals, and judges issuing light sentences--there is a chance people will start enforcing the law themselves. Some will do it for self-protection, others for revenge, and still others to make their communities safer for everyone. Because the nation's rates of violent crime are low compared to earlier times, this is not about to happen on a large scale. But parents of elementary school children are concerned about the pedophiles that are living in our neighborhoods. And parents of teen-age girls have a lot to worry about, particularly in the era of social media, and widespread drug use.

One Less Pimp

     Barry Gilton and Lupe Mercado lived with their four children in the Bayview District of San Francisco not far from Candlestick Park. Gilton, 38, had been a San Francisco Municipal Railway operator since 2008. A year ago, the couple's 17-year-old daughter (who has not been identified by name) ran off to southern California. The worried parents went to the police but (according to them) received little help. They added their daughter's name to several exploited children's registries which failed to produce results.

     Gilton and Lupe Mercado began seeing their daughter's name and photograph in internet escort service ads. They also learned she was being pimped out by 22-year-old Calvin Sneed, a member of the Nutty Block Gang in Compton, California.

     Detectives in southern California believe that the parents, on May 27, 2012, tracked Sneed to Vineland Avenue in North Hollywood. That night, according to the police, Gilton approached Sneed on foot as the suspected pimp sat in his Toyota Camry, and, using a 9-millimeter pistol, fired nine shots into his car. Although he wasn't hit by any of the bullets, Sneed received injuries from shards of glass from his windshield.  His girlfriend drove him to the hospital where he refused to cooperate with the police.

     On June 2, while the 17-year-old girl and the pimp were in the Bay area to visit one of her sick relatives, she and her parents, who were still trying to get her away from Sneed, argued. Two days later, at two in the morning, someone using a .40-caliber Glock handgun shot Sneed four times as he drove his Camry in the Bayview District near Gilton and Mercado's home. Later that morning, he died in a nearby hospital. The police believe Gilton shot the alleged pimp from his Mercedes-Benz SUV.

     Shortly after Calvin Sneed was shot to death, police arrested the girl's parents. Gilton and Mercado have been each charged with murder and conspiracy to commit murder. They are each in custody under $2 million bail. Their daughter is living with relatives.

     Prosecutors usually come down hard on murder defendants who have taken the law into their own hands. The message they want to send is this: leave law enforcement to the authorities. If everyone acted this way, no one would be safe. The authorities, aware that some in the community applaud people who take the law into their own hands, want to deter this kind of behavior.

A Dead Pedophile

     It happened on a Saturday this June on a ranch off County Road 302 near Shiner, Texas, a small town 130 miles west of Houston. Ted Smith (not his real name) and his family were hosting an afternoon barbecue. Mr. Smith had hired a 47-year-old Mexican man he knew to take care of the horses and do other chores on the day of the get-together.

     When the 23-year-old rancher heard cries of help coming from his barn, he found the hired-man sexually molesting is 4-year-old daughter. Ted Smith, with his bare hands, killed the pedophile on the spot. After saving his daughter, the rancher called 911.

     The Lavaca County sheriff, Micah Harmon, told reporters that it is unlikely Mr. Smith will be charged with criminal homicide. "He told me," the sheriff said, "that it wasn't his intent for this individual to lose his life. He was just protecting his daughter."

     The case is being investigated by the Texas Rangers. A local resident expressed the prevailing opinion in the community when he said, "I think he [the molester] got what he deserved." If the father is charged with criminal homicide, I can't image any jury finding him guilty.

     The killing in Texas is different from the one in California. The killing of the pedophile wasn't premeditated like the murder of Calvin Sneed. Stalking and killing a pimp is not the same as finding a man molesting your daughter. If the parents in California are found guilty, they could face long prison sentences. It would be an outrage if the authorities in Texas even charged Mr. Smith.

     The authorities in Lavaca County, Texas released the tapes of the 911 call from the father who beat his daughter's molester to death. (The dead man has been identified as Jesus Mora Flores, a Mexican national working in the U.S. on a permanent resident card.) The father, obviously distraught, and on the verge of panic, said, "I need an ambulance. This guy was raping my daughter and I beat him up and I don't know what to do. This guy is fixing to die on me man, and I don't know what to do."

     A Lavaca County grand jury decided not to indict the father. District Attorney Heather McMinn told reporters that "under the law, deadly force is justified to stop a sexual assault....All the evidence indicated that is what was occurring."

Drugs and Crime

The great availability of illicit drugs contributes not only to more frequent crime but to more serious crime. The man who steals from stores and houses may have ideas about bank robberies flash through his mind, but without drugs he is too fearful to carry them out. Once he is on drugs, barriers to more daring ventures are overcome. The drugs do not cause a person to obtain a sawed-off shotgun and hold up a liquor store, or for that matter, commit any other crime. They simply make it more feasible for him to eliminate fears for the time being in order to act upon what he has previously considered. That is, drugs intensify and bring out tendencies already present within the individual user. They do not transform a responsible person into a criminal. The criminality comes first, the decision to use drugs later.

Dr. Stranton E. Samenow, Inside the Criminal Mind, 1984

[I believe this concept holds true in the relationship between mental illness and violent crime. Violence is not a symptom of mental illness. However, when a violent person loses his mind, the tendency already present in the person manifests itself. The mental illness merely releases the violence.]

Writing the First Draft

     All writing begins life as a first draft, and first drafts are never (well, almost never) any good. They're not supposed to be. Expecting to write perfect prose on the first try is like expecting a frog to skip the tadpole stage.

     Write a first draft as though you were thinking aloud, not carving a monument. If what you're writing is relatively short--a financial report, a book proposal, a term paper--you might try doing your first draft in the form of a friendly letter. The person at the other end could be someone real or imagined, even a composite reader.

     Relax and take your time, but don't bog down, chewing your nails over individual words or sentences or paragraphs. When you get stalled, put down a string of X's and keep going. What you're writing now will be rewritten. If it is messy and full of holes, so what? It's only the first draft, and no one but you has to see it.

Patricia T. O'Conner, Words Fail Me, 1999

The Mystery of Why People Commit Crimes

     It's like the old staple of 1930s gangster movies: why does one person become a criminal and the other a priest? Or from my perspective, why does one become a serial killer, another a rapist, another an assassin, another a bomber, another a poisoner, and yet still another a child molester? And within these crime categories, why does each commit his atrocities in the precise way he does? The answer lies in one fundamental question that applies to every one of them:
     Why did he do it?
     The who? follows from there.
     That's the mystery we have to solve.

John Douglas [criminal profiler] and Mark Olshaker, The Anatomy of Motive, 1999

Writing the Novel's Opening Line

My favorite struggling writer is the Billy Crystal character in the movie Throw Momma From the Train who spends much of the film trying to write the first line of the book that will free him from his crippling writer's block. "The night was," he writers over and over, never getting beyond those first three words. In the end, comic and harrowing events in his life cause him to throw away the line and just start writing. The lesson is, there is no magic opening line. The magic is what creates the line in the first place.

Loren D. Estleman, Writing the Popular Novel, 2004 

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Adaisha Miller's Sudden, Mysterious Death

     On Detroit's west side, on July 8, 2012, 24-year-old Adaisha Miller attended a Saturday night fish fry hosted by Isaac Parrish and his wife. Miller, a certified massage therapist, came to the backyard party with a friend acquainted with the 38-year-old Detroit police officer throwing event. Isaac Parish, a beat patrolman for 16 years, did not know Miller before the get together.

     That night, Officer Parrish carried his department-issued Smith & Wesson M & P 40 semiautomatic pistol on his right side in a soft holster tucked inside his waistband covered by his shirt. In Detroit, officers have the option of carrying their firearms when off-duty. There are not, however, supposed to be armed if their blood-alcholol level is 0.02 percent or above. (In Michigan, the blood-alcohol threshold for a DUI conviction is 0.08 percent.) In essence, Detroit officers are prohibited from carrying their handguns if they consume alcohol, period.

     Thirty minutes after midnight on the night of the party, Adaisha Miller, while either hugging the officer, dancing with him side-by-side, or dancing on her knees behind him (I have a hard time picturing this), touched or tugged at his waist in a way that caused his firearm to discharge. The gun not only went off, the bullet entered Miller's chest, pierced a lung, hit her heart, and exited her lower back. She died later that day at a local hospital.

     According to Dr. Carl Schmidt, the Wayne County Medical Examiner, the path of the bullet through Miller's body did not reveal the victim's position relative to the gun's muzzle (end of the barrel) which was pointed toward the ground. Because the Smith & Wesson M & P 40 is designed for police and military use, it does not have a safety switch. However, the trigger must be pulled back all the way before the gun will fire.

     Months after Adaisha Miller's sudden demise, the Wayne County Medical Examiner's Office declared her death "accidental."

     Because it was hard to construct a scenario, based on the facts at hand, that explained exactly how this accident occurred, Adaisha's death remains a mystery. Less than 24 hours after Miller's death, a lawyer surfaced in the case talking about a potential lawsuit against the Detroit Police Department. Attorney Gerald Thurswell, in speaking to a local reporter, said, "We believe 100 percent that this death was caused as a result of a negligent act of somebody. If somebody was negligent then someone's responsible for the injuries and death caused as a result of their negligent act." This lawyer has hired a private investigator to look into the shooting.

     In February 2017, Adaisha Miller's mother, Yolanda McNair, was part of a demonstration outside the Detroit courthouse. The protesters were mothers of children who had been killed by Detroit police officers. McNair told a reporter that in her opinion, justice was not done in the case of her daughter's death. The lawsuit was pending. 

Stephen King on Reading Good and Bad Novels

     One learns most clearly what not to do by reading bad prose. Reading Valley of the Dolls and Bridges of Madison County is worth a semester at a good writing school, even with the superstar guest lecturers thrown in.

     Good writing, on the other hand, teaches the learning writer about style, graceful narration, plot development, the creation of believable characters and truth-telling. A novel like The Grapes of Wrath may fill a new writer with feelings of despair and good old-fashioned jealousy--"I'll never be able to write anything that good, not if I live to be a thousand"--but such feelings can also serve as a spur, goading the writer to work harder and aim higher.

Stephen King, On Writing, 2000

Lawsuits Are Important

     It matters how judges decide cases. It matters to people unlucky or litigious or wicked or saintly enough to find themselves in court. Learned Hand, who was one of America's best and most famous judges, said he feared a lawsuit more than death or taxes. Criminal cases are the most frightening of all, and they are also the most fascinating to the public. But civil suits, in which one person asks compensation or protection from another for some past or threatened harm, are sometimes more consequential than all but the most momentous criminal trials. The difference between dignity and ruin may turn on a single argument that might not have struck a judge so forcefully, or even the same judge on another day. People often stand to gain or lose more by one judge's nod than they could by an general act of Congress or Parliament.

     Lawsuits matter in another way that cannot be measured in money or even liberty. There is inevitability a moral dimension to an action at law, and so a standing risk of distinct form of public injustice. A judge must decide not just who shall have what, but who has behaved well, who has met the responsibilities of citizenship, and who by design or greed or insensitivity has ignored his own responsibilities to others or exaggerated theirs to him. If this judgement is unfair, then the community has inflicted a moral injury on one of its members because it has stamped him in some degree or dimension an outlaw. The injury is gravest when an innocent person is convicted of a crime, but it is substantial when a plaintiff with a sound claim is turned away from court or a defendant leaves with an undeserved stigma.

Richard Dworkin, Law's Empire, 1986

Writing Quote: Procrastination

     A primary reason writers procrastinate is in order to build up a sense of deadline. Deadlines create a flow of adrenaline. Adrenaline medicates and overwhelms the censor. Writers procrastinate so that when they finally get to writing, they can get past the censor.

     What writers tell themselves while they procrastinate is that they just don't have enough ideas yet, and when they do, then they'll start writing. It actually works exactly backward. When we start to write, we prime the pump and the flow of ideas begins to move. It is the act of writing that calls ideals forward, not ideas that call forward writing.

Julia Cameron, The Right to Write, 1999

Monday, October 16, 2017

Pedophiles in Hollywood: Hey Kid, You Want to be a Star?

     While child sexual molestation takes place behind closed doors, pedophiles groom their potential victims in plain sight. They do this in classrooms, churches, gymnasiums, and day care centers--anywhere vulnerable children are subjected to the influence and control of adults. They also do it in Hollywood where parents eagerly offer up young, aspiring actors and entertainers to pedophiles working as talent managers, agents, publicists, acting coaches, and casting directors.

Jason James Murphy

     In Edmonds, Washington, 19-year-old Jason James Murphy, an aspiring actor working as a camp counselor, met and began grooming a 5-year-old boy for sexual encounters. In December 1995, an employee of the Hazelwood Elementary School in Lynnwood, Washington, saw Murphy kissing this boy who was now 7. The teacher notified the police who took Murphy into custody on a child molestation charge. Murphy's family posted his bail and shortly after his arrest he was released.

     In January 1996, Murphy's fixation on this child was so intense he disguised himself as a woman and lured the boy from the elementary school. Murphy and the abducted child flew to New York City and checked into a hotel. After a massive police hunt for the missing victim followed by a segment featuring the case on "America's Most Wanted," a New York City hotel clerk who recognized Murphy and the boy notified the authorities. A short time later, FBI agents rescued the child, and arrested Murphy. Eight months after that a federal jury found Murphy guilty of kidnapping and child molestation. He served 5 of his 7 year sentence behind bars.

     Four years after getting out of federal prison, Murphy moved to West Hollywood, California where he registered as a sex offender under his legal name, Jason James Murphy. Under California law, there were strict rules regarding the circumstances under which a registered sex offender can work with children under 16. The law also required registered sex offenders to notify law enforcement if they changed their names or use aliases.

     Murphy, under the professional name Jason James, became a successful freelance child actor casting director. He worked on films such as "Bad News Bears," "The School of Rock," and "Cheaper by the Dozen 2." Director and co-producer J. J. Abrams hired him as a freelancer on "Super 8."

     On November 17, 2011, J. J. Abrams, having been tipped off by his manager David Lonner who had just learned of Jason James' true identity, informed Paramount Pictures, the studio that released "Super 8." Someone at Paramount called the police.

     Officers with the Los Angeles Police Department, on December 9, 2011, arrested Murphy on charges he had violated California's sex offender registry regulations. Violations of these laws were felonies that carried sentences of up to three years in prison. Murphy's attorney blamed the arrest, and the attention it drew from the media, on the highly publicized Penn State child molestation story that was breaking at the time. The lawyer also claimed that the people who had hired Murphy as a casting director knew his full, legal name. Mr. Murphy had not been accused of molesting any of the children he had worked with professionally.

     On May 2, 2012, a Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge dismissed the charges against Murphy on the grounds that all the studio executives who used his services were aware of the casting director's true identity.

Martin Weiss

     Less than two weeks after producer J. J. Abrams notified Paramount Pictures of who Jason James really was, Los Angeles detectives with the Topanga Division's Sexual Assault Unit arrested 47-year-old Martin Weiss, a Hollywood manager who specialized in child actors. Weiss stood accused of committing 30 to 40 sexual crimes against an aspiring singer and musician he represented from 2005 to 2008. The sexual encounters allegedly took place at Weiss' apartment/business office in Santa Monica, and at his home in Woodland Hills. After being taken to the Los Angeles County Jail, a judge set his bond at $300,000.

     According to the alleged victim, now 18-years-old, the molesting stopped when he turned 15. After that, he and Weiss parted ways. The victim didn't report the abuse then because he didn't think anyone would believe his story. But after the Penn State scandal became big news, the victim decided to report his abuser, and come forward with evidence that backed up his story.

     On November 15, 2011, the victim confronted Weiss at his apartment in Santa Monica, and secretly taped their conversation. (In the Penn State case, the victim's mother taped her confrontation with former football coach and child molester Jerry Sandusky.) In discussing their past relationship, Weiss did not deny having sexual relations with his accuser. When Weiss' accuser compared his victimization with that of Jerry Sandusky and the boys he molested, Weiss reportedly replied, "Those kids didn't want it." Weiss' accuser pointed out that his sexual encounters with Weiss, acts that took place when he was 11 and 12, had also not been consentual.

     Martin Weiss, at a December 15 pretrial hearing, entered a plea of not guilty. If convicted as charged, the owner of Martin Weiss Management faced up to 34 years in prison.

     Paula Dorn, the co-founder of the non-profit child talent support organization BizParentz Foundation, reportedly said that, over the years, she and members of her group have heard rumors of Weiss' sexual relationships with some of his clients. But without any hard evidence of sexual abuse, no one reported this to law enforcement.

     On June 1, 2012, Martin Weiss pleaded no contest to two counts of a lewd act with an 11-year-old client. The judge, Leslie Dunn, sentenced Weiss to one year in the Los Angeles County Jail. He also received five years probation, had to register as a sex offender, and stay away with people under 18. In return for the plea, the prosecutor dropped 6 other sex offense charges against  him.

      Martin Weiss got off easy.

      A Documentary on Pedophilia in Hollywood

     On June 13, 2016, The Week magazine published an article about a column by Oliver Thring that had appeared recently in The Sunday Times (London) regarding pedophiles in Hollywood. What follows is an excerpt from the The Week piece:

     "...Serial child abusers lurk among the legions of directors, managers, and agents, sheltered by powerful friends and their own wealth. One agent who managed high-profile child stars was convicted of molesting a boy and trafficking in child pornography, and he spent eight years in jail. Others, though, are never exposed or return to work in Hollywood after serving just a few months in prison--and their old pals hire them to work with children again. Those who speak out are shamed or silenced. Actor Corey Feldman, for example, went public after the abuse he and Corey Haim suffered for years. Both actors went on to abuse alcohol and drugs, and Haim died at age 38. But Feldman's tell-all memoir was dismissed as unreliable because of his drug addiction….Oscar nominated director Amy Berg has a made a documentary about the prevalence of child sexual abuse in Hollywood, in which five former child actors describe their abuse and name names. But though An Open Secret was well received at Cannes, Berg can't get a distributor. Hollywood bigwigs just don't want the story told."