Tuesday, September 30, 2008

O'Malley's porn

Federal prosecutors have released their sentencing memo in the Pat O'Malley case, and it's a blockbuster.

The feds want the judge to send O'Malley to prison for five years. They say the porn on O'Malley's computers included bestiality: images of men and women having sex with "dogs, horses, cats, snakes, a pig, a rooster, a mule, a camel, a cow, and a fish."

The memo confirms what I reported last week in my feature on O'Malley: that child porn was found on computer discs O'Malley's ex-wife turned over to the FBI.

Apparently, prosecutors charged O'Malley with obscenity, not child porn, so that their case wouldn't be tangled up in O'Malley's messy divorce. The child porn came to the feds through O'Malley's ex-wife, her lawyer, and a private investigator, the memo confirms. But some of the adult obscenity came from a computer seized directly from his home, and federal policy is to charge a defendant with "the most readily provable offense," the memo said.

Still, the prosecutors write, "The forensic examinations seemed to authenticate the evidence of child pornography." The memo describes the porn with alarm. "The depravity and deviance of the material sought by the Defendant, especially with the focus of so many stories on sex between children and adults, children and relatives, and children and animals; all while Defendant was the custodial parent of similarly aged children, significantly enhances the seriousness of Defendant's conduct and mandates a five-term of imprisonment," the prosecutors argue.

The memo also cites O'Malley's disorderly conduct conviction for a 2003 fight in Chagrin Falls, and "numerous confrontations with the police" in the last five years "documenting further aggressive behavior." (Many of these incidents are described in my story.) "The sentence must protect the public from further crimes of the defendant," the prosecutors argue. "An arrest, conviction, and fine were inadequate to deter Defendant in the past."

We've posted the prosecutor's memo online (click here), but be forewarned that parts of it describe the sexually explicit material in some detail.

Also, we've posted the sentencing memo from O'Malley's lawyer, Ian Friedman (click here). It argues that O'Malley should receive probation and that imprisoning him would harm his children (ages 5 and 7). It cites several letters of support, some from former employees of his, describing his acts of charity. It argues that damage to a public official's reputation can be punishment enough, instead of imprisonment -- and cites President Bush's commutation of Scooter Libby's sentence as an example.

Who Is The Professor?

My profile of The Professor, the anonymous blogger on Political Science 216, is online now. So is my complete e-mail interview with him.

The Professor loves publicity, so he's wallpapered his web site with quotes from it, links to it, hype about it, and gi-normous compliments about my work. I'd like to think he would've enjoyed my Pat O'Malley story anyway. But we're starting to look like book authors who blurb each other on our back covers. I promise, that's not why I wrote about him! (Professor: I appreciate your compliment, but sadly, magazine writers can't win Pulitzers.)

My story went to press before Seven Hills Mayor David Bentkowski sued The Professor and Scene over... well, I'll just let you read the Plain Dealer story about that. Bentkowski sued The Professor as "John Doe," because he can't figure out who the blogger is. I wanted to know too -- for totally non-litigious reasons -- and I couldn't figure it out either. But I managed to extract a few clues.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Friend of Feagler

I'm one of the guests on this week's Feagler & Friends, the talk show hosted by Dick Feagler on WVIZ-TV, Channel 25.

It's on tonight (Friday the 26th) at 8:30 p.m., tomorrow (Saturday the 27th) at 8 p.m., and Sunday the 28th at 11:30 a.m.

Sherrod Brown on Fox

U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown was on Fox News today, blaming House Republicans for the failure to reach a deal on the financial bailout and sparring with the anchor. Here's the video.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

FBI searches judges' chambers

Channel 3 and cleveland.com are reporting that the FBI searched the chambers of two local judges last night: Cuyahoga County common pleas judges Bridget McCafferty and Steven Terry. The FBI confirmed that the searches are part of their probe of suspected corruption in county government.

Here's the Channel 3 story, and here's the cleveland.com story.

I've never met McCafferty, but I've seen her at political events over the years -- she seems to work pretty hard at increasing name recognition and maintaining political connections. She's been a judge since 1999.

Terry was appointed to the bench last year. Before that, he was the head of the county's Department of Justice Affairs. I wonder if the feds are interested in his work at his current job, or his previous one.

Update, Thu.: This morning's Plain Dealer article has more details: Terry is a political ally of Russo's; Terry's lawyer says he is not a target of the investigation.

Update, Fri.: The feds are interested in his previous job, the PD says.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Sutherland vs. Jones

County commissioner Peter Lawson Jones and his challenger, Debbie Sutherland, are debating tonight in Rocky River. Countywide races are usually snoozers, with the Republicans serving up sacrificial lambs and Democrats coasting to victory, but not this time. Sutherland is the savviest Republican candidate for a county job in years, and she's got a lot of issues to run on.

Take a look at this sharp commercial that'll run soon on local TV.

No surprise she's running against corruption and cronyism, considering the FBI's July raid of county offices and this year's Plain Dealer exposés about patronage. Republicans would argue that electing Sutherland is the best way to clean house at the county -- while Democrats would argue her message is unfair to Jones, a clean politician who's not a subject of the investigation and not doing the crony-hiring.

Sutherland also called a press conference for this evening. The press release read:

"County residents deserve full-time leadership," said Sutherland, referring to Lawson Jones' repeated absences from the county building during business hours. "We had 175 federal agents raid the county building and homes of county officials and my opponent is still absent from doing his job as the President of the Board of County Commissioners."

Jones admitted that he works out of his private law office on public matters. "Public business should be conducted in the county building," Mayor Sutherland said. "Not behind the closed doors of a private law firm, especially during the largest public corruption investigation that our county has seen."

Jones' office hours at his law firm also got used against him in the Plain Dealer's endorsement of Sutherland. The PD suggests he's lazy, while Sutherland casts him as secretive and not doing his job. I don't buy it. Whenever I've been over to Jones' law office to interview him, and phone calls interrupt, they're almost always about county business. I get the impression he works long hours as a commissioner.

Jones and Sutherland also debated at the Euclid Public Library two weeks ago, but the only account I've found so far is this extremely pro-Jones web post.

Update, Wed. morning: Channel 3 has an article and video about the debate up on its website. The Plain Dealer ran this brief article.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Where the mortgage meltdown began

The U.S. government's planned $700 billion rescue of the nation's financial system looks different when viewed from Cleveland.

You could say the financial crisis began here, and in the poor neighborhoods of older cities like ours, when mortgage lenders gave out reckless loans, and Wall Street investors bought them in bundles.

Major financial institutions that invested heavily in subprime loans have collapsed. The Treasury Department wants to buy up bad mortgages and mortgage-related securities, to try to stop the lending crisis.

In July 2007, I told the story of one house on Cleveland's West Side and the people who lived there -- aiming to explain how bad loans hurt one address and several families, then a neighborhood, then our entire economy. You can read my article here.

How your vote could be challenged

In my feature this month about voting in Cleveland, I tell readers to "re-register to vote if you've moved," because "your vote could be challenged if you're not receiving mail at your voting address."

A lot of reporting went into that little warning. Did you get a mailing from the board of elections earlier this month? I hope so. If not, your vote could be at risk.

If a mailing to you bounced back as undelivered, poll workers will be scrutinizing your ID especially closely on Election Day, to make sure your address is correct. Also, before election day, your right to vote could be challenged.

This article from Saturday's Los Angeles Times explains: 522,000 Ohio voters have special marks next to their names on voter rolls, because mailings to them bounced back. Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner fears those marks and mailings might be used to knock thousands of names off the voting rolls. She sent an advisory to local elections officials on Sept. 5, telling them what to do if this happens. The fear is that the Republican party will challenge voters in Democratic neighborhoods, and a top Ohio Republican told the Los Angeles Times the party is keeping all its options open.

If you've moved recently, re-register at the address where you receive mail before Oct. 6. (You can download the form here.) If you live in Cuyahoga County, check here to be sure your registration is valid and up to date.

Update, Fri.: Good skeptical article in Scene about the fears of mass challenges. Most important line: "Cuyahoga's GOP chairman, Rob Frost, says such a plan is not in the works and never has been. 'I would not want to hear about anything of the sort going on in this area,' he says."

Frost is a member of the county elections board, so he's one of four people who'd rule on any voter challenges. This quote is a sign that state-level Republicans may not mount mass challenges like they did in 2004, and that if they do, Frost would likely oppose them.

Friday, September 12, 2008


If you love politics, this fall is a great time to be a Clevelander. People in other states are watching us enviously, because Ohioans' votes will count more than anyone's. Ohio's 20 electoral votes may well tip the election to Obama or McCain.

Meanwhile, Cleveland's politics are transforming. Familiar personalities are embattled, running in dramatic races or besieged by investigations. Two have died, sparking succession battles. An FBI probe, reform efforts, and media exposés are poking and prodding Cuyahoga County's once-sleepy but powerful government.

So I'll be blogging about Cleveland politics through the fall. I'll report on presidential candidates' visits and look at Ohio's role in the race. I'll let you know whether our past problems with our voting system have been fixed. I'll report from political events, let you know my thoughts on the latest news, and provide some insight about our city's political personalities. Thanks for reading!