Thursday, March 29, 2012

Roldo vs. Naymik on Mayor Jackson

Reading Roldo Bartimole's column has gotten really fun lately. The veteran alternative journalist is back in Cool Cleveland after a sporadic semi-retirement. He's chasing Mayor Frank Jackson with the same fiery tenacity that once inspired George Forbes to physically throw him out of a meeting.

"Is it time for Mayor Frank Jackson to go?" he asked on March 14. Cleveland is suffering from a spiritual depression, Roldo raged. Jackson, he wrote, has botched the LED lighting and trash-to-gas plant deals, hiked trash fees, thumbed his nose at Cleveland teachers, and cut a sweetheart deal with the Browns (this is Roldo talking, so you knew that'd be in there).

Roldo even called out the city's ambitious politicians to run for mayor in 2013:
C’mon Jeff Johnson. C’mon Joe Cimperman. Zach Reed. Nina Turner. You too Brian Cummins. Chris Ronayne. You all know you want it. C’mon Matt Zone. You too Tony Brancantelli. Ray Pianka. Don’t any of you sell yourselves short.
And, by the way folks, Dennis now is available. Whoa!
Since then, Roldo has accused Jackson of being Mike White Lite, cozying up to the Greater Cleveland Partnership, getting too tough on teachers, but not getting tough enough on firefighters. City Hall sources are complaining to him about the sorry state of Cleveland's fire, water and building departments.

It's exciting reading, some of Roldo's best work in a while. And it fits a vibe I'm getting from the local press corps, that with Jimmy Dimora in prison, it's time to swing more of our attention from the county administration building back to City Hall.

But while Roldo provokes Jackson fans, Mark Naymik is probing Jackson's character. The Plain Dealer columnist's March 22 piece is full of insights into the mayor's values and priorities. Some of them even read like responses to Roldo's anger:

Jackson's been a reluctant partner to the business community on many development issues over the years. His partnership with it today is one of convenience. He and the business community both want change within the schools ...

Jackson doesn't need the parties, the business community, unions or any other special-interest group to win re-election. ... His street credibility remains enormous ... Don't believe me? Name someone who is seriously considering running against him.
The mayor "lives by a code," Naymik notes. "It boils down to staying true to your word." This is an important insight, one I noticed when I profiled Jackson just as he took over as mayor. It not only means he'll stick to his promise to improve the schools. It also means he judges people by deeds, not words.

The mayor is judging the teacher's union not by their declarations that they want reform, but their go-slow approach in contract negotiations toward issues such as merit pay. He doesn't trust state Republicans either, but he knows they can give him more leverage to change the schools.

Roldo and Naymik agree on one question: Why isn't Jackson getting as tough with City Hall's most troubled departments as he's getting with the schools? It's a great question to judge the mayor by in the next year or two. And it's a sharper way to talk about him than the usual clichéd thinking about mayors.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Jesse Jackson, Louis Stokes, others recall King's 1967 Cleveland campaign

In 1967, Rev. Jesse Jackson was a 25-year-old aide to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., accompanying him on his many trips to Cleveland. King visited the city about every two weeks between April and November 1967, trying to prevent a repeat of the Hough riots and to help elect Carl Stokes the first black mayor of a major American city.

But, in one of the great ironies of the civil-rights era, Carl Stokes felt he could not afford King's help. In a meeting at the Call & Post offices, Stokes, fearing a backlash from white voters, asked King to cancel his plans.

"I remember that meeting," Jackson told me last month for my new oral history of King's 1967 Cleveland campaign. "Carl felt he had to have a coalition to win. That meant relieving white fears. ... Dr. King was the anti-war guy. He was the challenging-the-white-power-structure guy. He was, for many, an object of fear rather than a source of hope. So I think Carl was walking that thin line."

My oral history, "King's Speech," appears in the April issue of Cleveland Magazine and is online now. It tells the often-overlooked story of King's many visits to Cleveland in 1967, leading a major activist effort by his Southern Christian Leadership Conference, one of only two campaigns King ever conducted outside the South.

My piece includes interviews with Jackson; Andrew Young, a top aide to King who later became U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations; Louis Stokes, the former congressman and Carl's brother, who spoke with King on the night of Carl's victory; former city councilman George Forbes, who often accompanied King on his barnstorming tours of Cleveland's East Side; and several other Clevelanders who knew or met King.

The civil-rights leader's Cleveland connections have attracted renewed interest this year, the 45th anniversary of King's Cleveland campaign, with the re-discovery of a recording of King's April 26, 1967 speech at Glenville High School.

Today, at 3:30 p.m. downtown, Louis Stokes and three other Clevelanders are speaking about their memories of King in Cleveland. The event, hosted by the law firm Ogletree Deakins, takes place on the 27th floor of Key Tower. Admission is free, but there are space limitations, so RSVP to if you're interested.

To link to "King's Speech," use this shortcut:

(photo: Cleveland Public Library Photograph Collection)

Friday, March 23, 2012

Can FitzGerald sue Staubach over Ameritrust Tower?

Ed FitzGerald is mad. He wants to unload the Ameritrust Tower, Cuyahoga County’s $45 million albatross and skyline ghost. He knows he’ll have to sell the empty high-rise for less than the county put into it. Taxpayers are likely to lose more than $20 million.

So the county executive wants to sue The Staubach Co., the real estate consultant that recommended the Ameritrust complex as the best site for a new county headquarters in 2005 and got paid $3 million.

Is FitzGerald grandstanding, like Mayor Frank Jackson did with his lawsuit against subprime lenders? Or does he have a case?

FitzGerald told me he wants to know whether “a contract violation or fraud” occurred. When his law director finishes his investigation, we may know more about whether anything improper happened when lawyer Anthony O. Calabrese III — now a defendant in the county corruption investigation — negotiated the county contract on Staubach’s behalf. We may also find out why the county paid Staubach (now owned by Jones Lang LaSalle) so much money for the job.

But if FitzGerald tries to argue that Staubach’s advice was so bad, it shares responsibility for the Ameritrust debacle, I think he’ll have a hard time. That’s because the county didn’t make the deal Staubach recommended.

I unearthed Staubach’s final recommendation to the county while working on “Tower Play,” my 2008 story on the Ameritrust Tower affair. Staubach recommended the Ameritrust complex, but it didn’t advise the county to buy the site. It negotiated a lease deal that would’ve obligated the owner, The Jacobs Group, to build a new, second tower next door.

“We believe the Jacobs proposal … is the best overall offer,” Staubach wrote to the county commissioners on March 31, 2005. “The existing tower’s high-rise identity and historic rotunda are unmatched by the other submittals.”

Staubach recommended that the county lease the Ameritrust Tower, the Cleveland Trust rotunda, an attached parking garage and a second tower Jacobs had agreed to build for about $120 million to $125 million. The report says Staubach’s negotiations with Jacobs had gotten the company to add the garage and the new tower to the deal, “neither of which were previously offered.”

The second tower seems to have been an echo of Marcel Breuer’s original plan to build two Ameritrust towers. “The overall structure will effectively accommodate all targeted County functions,” Staubach wrote -- perhaps implying that the existing tower, standing alone, would not.

But Jimmy Dimora, Tim Hagan, and Peter Lawson Jones accepted part of Staubach’s advice and disregarded the rest. They bought the Ameritrust Tower directly from The Jacobs Group for $21.6 million in September 2005, without Staubach as a negotiator.

And Dimora and Hagan didn’t buy the tower to move into it. They bought it to tear it down — a path Staubach had warned against.

“We do not believe a totally new construction alternative would be fiscally responsible at this point in time,” its report added.

Two years later, that line in Staubach’s report was proven right. The commissioners halted the project in fall 2007 after realizing they couldn’t afford it. (You can read my full account of the project in my “Tower Play” story.)

FitzGerald’s administration could still argue that Staubach never should’ve recommended the Ameritrust site at all. In a previous phase of the search, Staubach had named its top four sites, including the Ameritrust complex, but noted drawbacks to each. The Ameritrust Tower’s flaws included its small floor plate — one of the reasons the tower isn't desirable office space today.

But if FitzGerald sues, the former Staubach could argue the county’s real losses came when Dimora, Hagan and Jones bought the tower instead of taking the lease deal. In the end, Staubach could deploy an argument most everyone in town accepts -- that Dimora, Hagan, and Jones are ultimately responsible for the taxpayers’ loss on the Ameritrust Tower.

(photo from

Friday, March 16, 2012

Two county investigations of Ameritrust Tower underway since December; feds cooperating

Ed FitzGerald didn’t order one Ameritrust Tower investigation, he ordered two. They’re not new; they’ve been underway since December. And Cuyahoga County officials are conferring with federal investigators about the Ameritrust project, though the extent of those conversations isn’t clear.

That’s some of what I learned this week in the wake of the Plain Dealer's Tuesday Ameritrust story.

Cuyahoga County inspector general Nailah Byrd is reexamining the county’s 2005 purchase of the vacant skyscraper. Her job is to give taxpayers a full accounting of the aborted county headquarters project, which cost $45 million, and examine it for possible wrongdoing. Law director Majeed Makhlouf is looking into whether the county can sue any of the project’s contractors, including real estate consultant The Staubach Co., to recover funds.

County executive Ed FitzGerald asked Byrd and Mahklouf to examine the Ameritrust project in December, after a report about county-owned property amplified FitzGerald’s concerns.

“This is probably the most prominent public policy fiasco in decades,” FitzGerald told me. “It will cost the county more money than all the corruption allegations put together. It’s incumbent upon us to have an exhaustive review process.”

FitzGerald says he wants the county’s twin investigations to look into:

• the former county commissioners’ decision to buy the Ameritrust Tower
• the $3 million paid to real estate consultant The Staubach Co.
• adjacent properties, including the $5 million purchase of a Huron Road parking garage that Jimmy Dimora was bribed to expedite
• the county’s decision to remove the asbestos from the tower
• the legal representation involved in the deal, including corruption defendant Anthony O. Calabrese III’s role representing Staubach.

“It could be a case of incompetence, it could be a case of corruption, or it could be a mix of the two,” FitzGerald says.

Byrd says she hopes to complete her inquiry within eight weeks. “We’ve got a ton of documents in the conference room,” she says.

Makhlouf says he can’t say when his “massive” investigation will be done. “At this point, we’re looking at everything, the full investigation of the whole transaction, all the parties involved and everything,” he says.

Evidence unsealed at the Jimmy Dimora bribery trial has aided Makhlouf’s investigation, he says. “The inspector general has been working with the U.S. Attorney’s office on a lot of stuff,” he adds.

The FBI examined the Ameritrust Tower deal in 2007 as part of the county corruption investigation, but federal prosecutors have not filed any charges related it. A five-year statute of limitations on most federal crimes limits their ability to reach back to 2005 now.

“We have been in contact with them [the FBI and U.S. Attorney’s office] about what they’re doing on the criminal end of it,” FitzGerald says. “I can’t talk to you about what they’re willing to share, although they don’t share a whole lot.”

Anthony O. Calabrese III, who negotiated the $3 million in payments on Staubach’s behalf, is scheduled to go to trial in September on bribery and corruption charges related to the county corruption investigation. In 2005, when Calabrese was representing Staubach, federal prosecutors charge he was already colluding with Dimora buddy J. Kevin Kelley on schemes to extract cash from the nonprofit Alternatives Agency and a contract with the Parma school board. He's also accused of involvement in the 2008 conspiracy to bribe Dimora on Alternatives Agency's behalf. That raises alarm bells for FitzGerald.

The county executive sounds eager to sue Staubach (now owned by Jones Lang LaSalle). He can’t believe the county paid $3 million for its work, and he thinks its recommendation of the Ameritrust property was bad advice. The county’s new real estate consultant, Allegro, was paid $220,000 to study all the county’s properties, and it concluded that the Ameritrust Tower isn’t fit for government use.

So the county is likely to sell the tower. “The chances are quite remote that we’re going to be able to recoup the costs that we have into that facility,” FitzGerald says. The county now values the property at only $17 million, according to Crain’s Cleveland Business (a figure FitzGerald wouldn’t confirm), which means taxpayers could face a loss of about $28 million. {Update, 3/23: I wonder if this $17 million figure is actually from the appraisal by The K&D Group, which has been interested in buying the tower for years. K&D might turn the tower into an apartment building.}

“When that happens, and there’s an actual accounting of how much the county will lose in that transaction," FitzGerald says, "then I think people will say, ‘Did you exhaust every option to try to remedy this very flawed process that we inherited?’ ”

True. But I also think FitzGerald’s revelation shows his shrewd sense of political timing. The local political beat was about to calm down after Dimora’s trial and Dennis Kucinich’s March 6 defeat. By dropping mention of the investigation to the Plain Dealer, FitzGerald stepped back into the news right when the public’s anger with Dimora is at its height.

It’s unusual for an administration to investigate a previous administration. But if FitzGerald turns up new revelations about the tower debacle, he’ll burnish his credentials as a reformer. If he sues someone over it, people will cheer, even if it ends as poorly as Mayor Jackson’s foreclosure-crisis lawsuit.

Investigating one's predecessors is easy, compared to doing better next time. Like Dimora, Tim Hagan, and Peter Lawson Jones before him, FitzGerald is making plans to move the county government to new offices. He, too, says he wants to save money while doing it. Can he? That’s a subject for another blog post.

Update, 6/7: The FBI and IRS investigated the Ameritrust Tower purchase and the Staubach contract as part of the county corruption investigation, according to a new indictment of Calabrese. See my new post here

To read my 2008 story about the Ameritrust affair, "Tower Play," click here.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Dimora Things Change: Covering Corruption panel Tuesday at Happy Dog

Chairs probably won't be thrown. Drunken heckling will likely be sporadic. An enormous Jimmy Dimora piñata will probably not be burned in effigy.

But you never know.

I'm a panelist tomorrow night in the Ohio City Writers' latest Write to Assemble discussion, "Dimora Things Change: Covering Corruption in Cleveland," at 7 pm at the Happy Dog. And I'm excited about it, because the Write to Assemble series has, so far, been just as eventful and rowdy as a public forum held in a bar ought to be.

Esquire writer Scott Raab's debate with Jimi Izrael about his LeBron book, The Whore of Akron, included some entertainingly angry exchanges among Raab and writers in the crowd, including playwright Michael Oatman. January's panel sparked a blogosphere rumble between Cleveland-booster bloggers and Cleveland-critic bloggers.

Tuesday's panel includes Cleveland Magazine columnist Mike Roberts, who has a special talent for throwing a rhetorical grenade or two at local politicians, and Rachel Dissell, who covered the Dimora trial and corruption scandal for the Plain Dealer and wrote a withering critique of the misogyny that bound Dimora's A-Team together.

The discussion will be moderated by Dan Moulthrop of The Civic Commons, who will do his best to keep things relatively civil. Hope to see you there.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Dimora guilty on 33 of 34 counts

The friendship defense failed. A federal jury found Jimmy Dimora guilty today of 33 out of 34 charges against him -- including bribery, obstruction of justice, and running his office as a criminal racket.

With their verdict, the jury struck a final blow against the old Cuyahoga County politics, the era Dimora dominated and defined.

Dimora's defense, inept as it was, must have given him some small satisfaction. His lawyer, Andrea Whitaker, really did speak for him on the trial's opening day when she argued, "The government has confused friendship with corruption."

Whitaker's arguments took me back to that now-legendary day, four years ago, when I watched Dimora vote to sell the Ameritrust Tower and then throw two reporters out of the commissioner's meeting for asking him about a possible patronage hire.

“I help people in this town!" he shouted. "That’s why I got to where I’m at. ... I help people. That’s why they elect me to this position, and I’ll continue to help people in this town!”

Andrea Whitaker echoed that at trial. “Jimmy did help these people," she said. "That was his job.”

To Dimora, friendship was politics. Putting in a call to the office for a buddy who's on a trip with you to Vegas? Not a crime! Not even if you're calling about his $38 million contract bid and the guy just bought you a hooker. Not as long as someone else signed off on the final decision. Not as long as he listed the buddy's name on a disclosure form.

But today, Cleveland politicians are on notice that cozy relationships and conflicts of interest aren't tolerated anymore. Living large because you're a public official isn't OK -- even if (like Dimora always insisted) you never single-handedly steered a contract.

There was some gray area in a lot of the 34 charges against Dimora, more than some people realized. Often, Dimora wasn't caught actually doing much of anything for his buddies. He put in a good word for them. He tried to nudge their competitor out of the way and failed. He wrote a letter, made a call. He wasn't caught making explicit deals, either. He and his friends operated by winks and hints.

But that didn't matter in court. The federal bribery and extortion statute is pitiless. A quid pro quo, a something-for-something deal, needn't be explicit, judge Sara Lioi told the jury. The public official doesn't have to carry out the official act successfully. He doesn't even have to try. The briber can retain him on an "as-needed" basis, just in case a need for a favor comes up.

After listening to six weeks of tales of sleaze, hookers, gambling sprees, hotel trysts and the slow construction of Dimora's backyard Polynesian paradise, the jury cast aside Dimora's defense. Everyone involved knew the deal, they decided. Dimora got convicted of taking bribes from even minor players -- the guys who gave him stuff for his house in exchange for a reference letter and a letter supporting a visa application. (The only not-guilty charge involved an accusation that he used his campaign funds to pay Executive Caterers for his wife's birthday party.)

It's a strict, tough verdict, but Cleveland is better for it. A split decision, with not-guilty verdicts on the subtler charges, would've sent a signal to local politicians that they could go back to that gray area where insiders trade favors and conflicts of interest are no big deal.

Instead, a jury from outside Cuyahoga County pushed Cleveland politics farther into a new era, where corner-cutting, favor-dealing politicians are on notice that the public and the law won't cut them slack.

Now it's the public's job to sustain that new era and hold our elected officials to higher standards. We know that small lapses, like Dimora's small-town conflicts of interest and campaign-finance violations 20 years ago in Bedford Heights, may grow into larger ones if left unchecked. Journalists are on notice that they shouldn't accept conventional wisdom about what constitutes political business as usual. Politicians are on notice that if they make deals with a patronage machine, they may actually be abetting something bigger and worse than they could see.

In the end, the prosecutors didn't confuse friendship with corruption. Dimora did.

Update, 2:15 pm: Judge Lioi ordered Dimora taken into custody immediately. He was taken from the courtroom in handcuffs. Co-defendant Michael Gabor was found guilty on seven of eight charges against him and also held by U.S. marshals. Next week the jury will decide whether Dimora will forfeit part of the value of his house.

To read my 2009 profile of Dimora, "Life of the Party," click here.

Dimora guilty of racketeering, bribery

Guilty -- that's the jury's verdict in the Jimmy Dimora trial.

So far, the jury has announced his verdict in counts 1 through 11 out of 34, including the racketeering conspiracy charge. He's also guilty of several charges of bribery, including the charge that Ferris Kleem bribed him with the infamous Las Vegas trip, and one count of honest services mail fraud.

More news to come.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Kucinich loses to Kaptur and Republican gerrymander

In the end, nothing Dennis Kucinich could've done mattered.

Aggressive to the end, he fought back when Marcy Kaptur, his now-former friend, slammed him in radio and TV ads. At the City Club debate, he tagged his defense-friendly opponent as a tool of the war machine. He got Robert F. Kennedy Jr., Russell Simmons, Willie Nelson, and Gore Vidal to come out for him. He declared that the 9th district congressional race was a fight that would define the Democratic Party.

But Kucinich lost to Kaptur by such a wide margin -- 56 percent to 40 percent -- that it looks like the gerrymander was stacked against him from the start.

No one who looks at the creepy-looking lizard-shaped 9th district can deny it: Toledo and Cleveland were fused together unnaturally, just to throw Kucinich and Kaptur together into a cruel, friendship-destroying cage match.

Much will be made of the fact that Kaptur dominated the Toledo vote and snatched some of Cleveland's vote away. She got 94 percent of the vote in Lucas County, while the vote in Cuyahoga County came in at 73 percent Kucinich, 24 percent Kaptur.

Surely if Kucinich hadn't pressed his luck with his hometown voters by running for president twice and meeting with Syria's dictator, Kucinich could've run up the numbers in Cuyahoga County more. Had he stayed closer to home, he also wouldn't have lost a chance for Ed FitzGerald's endorsement -- check out his New York Times quote about how Kaptur's staff has been a better help to the county government than Kucinich's.

But that didn't matter either. Kaptur got 7,633 votes in Cuyahoga County. She won by 12,563 overall. I haven't seen whether Toledoans turned out more than Clevelanders, but we didn't give Kaptur her margin of victory.

Clevelanders who fixate on Kucinich's ego and flaws may try to attribute his defeat to them. Not true. He didn't defeat himself. She beat him because the map was on her side.

Now the question is, what's next for Dennis? Washington state is still theoretically an option. He's got nine more months to use his congressional soapbox to champion lonely causes and warn against war with Iran. And after that?

He'll certainly aim to remain a national figure. He's hinted at a new direction for his "movement" (meaning his national constituency). I've already placed my bet: executive director of a peace nonprofit, traveling activist, or, possibly, MSNBC talk show host. Like the rest of Cleveland, I'll be curious to see for sure.

You can read my 2007 profile of Kucinich, "The Missionary," here. Also check out Cleveland Magazine's 40 year archive of Kucinich coverage, "The Complete Kucinich."

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Kaptur pulls away from Kucinich; Santorum, Romney close in popular vote

Marcy Kaptur is pulling away from Dennis Kucinich in the race for Congress. She now leads him by 9,000 votes in the Secretary of State's tally, after earlier results showed them very close. She spoke at her campaign party a few minutes ago, sounding very confident.

Kaptur is completely dominating in Toledo's Lucas County, with 95 percent of the vote. Kucinich is barely running ahead of Graham Veasey there. Cuyahoga County Democrats didn't line up the same way for Kucinich. He's got 74 percent of the vote here, Kucinich 24 percent.

Meanwhile, the Rick Santorum/Mitt Romney race in Ohio is very close, at least in the popular vote. CNN is going crazy about the tight results, with John King saying a Santorum victory here will have great "moral power." But this race is about to become a long slog for delegates, and Romney could easily win more of them here, since Santorum's less-organized campaign failed to file complete delegate slates in some Ohio congressional districts.

McGinty heads toward victory in prosecutor’s race

Tim McGinty, a maverick former judge, looks like he’s heading toward victory in the race to become Cuyahoga County prosecutor. With early voting results and half the precincts in, he has a commanding lead: 38 percent, with the other candidates ranging from 20 percent to 9 percent.

McGinty parlayed his 29 years’ experience in the county courts as an assistant prosecutor and judge into strong performances in campaign debates and forums and a big lead in campaign donations. His ads and flyers were everywhere as the election neared.

He’s funny and a bit eccentric, with a big independent streak. I know because I once spent a few days with him. He was a judge in a malpractice trial; I was a juror.

The first clue was all the flags tacked up on the courtroom’s painfully monotonous, corrugated brown walls (I wish I could remember which ones… Don’t Tread on Me? Don’t Give Up the Ship?). During the many breaks in the action, McGinty would turn to the jury box and tell us the story behind the flag, trying to keep us entertained and awake.

He knew I was a journalist – that had come out in jury selection – so now and then, as we filed out to the jury room for lunch or whatever, he’d stop me and try to interest me in some story ideas. One was about a long-ago stop-and-frisk in downtown Cleveland that had gone to the U.S. Supreme Court and set a new precedent for how cops detain suspects. The other was his proposals for reforming the local justice system.

For more than a decade, McGinty has been pushing to make Cuyahoga County’s justice system more efficient, pissing off fellow judges and lawyers and railing against bureaucracy. Some of his ideas, such as ending the “straight release” of suspects after booking, have been adopted. Others, such as early and alternative disposition of low-level felonies, are being tried in pilot programs. Some, like 24-hour booking, have been ignored. But if he’s the next prosecutor (he’ll face a long-shot Independent opponent in November), McGinty will surely try to implement them all.

Like most of his opponents, McGinty aimed to convince voters he’d break with the past. Current prosecutor Bill Mason has faced strong criticism for his political alliances and for failing to deter and root out corruption in county government. McGinty didn’t take the lead on the issue – former Cleveland law director Subodh Chandra did – but McGinty did promise to set up an anti-corruption unit, refuse campaign contributions from his employees, and ask employees running for partisan office to take a leave of absence.

As McGinty became the man to beat, Chandra aggressively challenged him on several fronts, especially for prosecuting an innocent man, Michael Green, for rape in 1988. Green was exonerated by DNA evidence in 2001, and McGinty says his case is a cautionary influence on his decisions about eyewitness testimony and scientific testing.

The prosecutor’s race was the first without an incumbent in 56 years, which gave people an unusual opportunity to extract promises from the candidates. And since the real contest was in the Democratic primary, liberal constituencies concerned with civil liberties and racial bias in the justice system tried to extract promises that the candidate would prosecute moderately and not overdo it.

At the City Club debate, McGinty didn’t go as far as some of his opponents. He did say he’d seek the death penalty more judiciously, and not use it as a threat in plea negotiations. He claimed his planned reforms will eliminate the overcharging suspects, a cocky claim his opponents quickly challenged. Asked to name a case he had declined or dismissed as a prosecutor, McGinty didn’t quite do that. Instead, he cited his decision not to seek the death penalty against Eugene “Hacksaw” Canady, who had murdered and dismembered his girlfriend. It was really a non-dismissal. Hacksaw’s still in prison.