Holy crap!

September 26th, 2017

This is a developing story.

Earlier today, the United States attorney for the Southern District of New York announced indictments against 10 people on assorted bribery, fraud, and corruption charges.

The twist? Four of those people are college basketball assistant coaches, and at least one is a high-ranking executive at a shoe company.

The investigation has revealed “numerous instances” of bribes paid by athlete advisers, and others, to assistant coaches and sometimes directly to student-athletes at N.C.A.A. Division I universities, the complaint said. The bribes were designed to get commitments from college stars to work with specific agents and companies after they turned professional, or to convince coveted high schoolers to attend specific universities.


One of the three indictments charges five people with wire fraud and money laundering in a scheme to pay high school athletes to attend particular universities…
The indictment says about $100,000 was to be paid to the family of “Player-10,” a heavily recruited high school all-American, to steer him to a particular college. It says contemporary news accounts described his college decision, announced this past June, as a surprise. Payments were arranged for other players’ families as well, the indictment says, including one who had not yet begun his junior year of high school.

I’m leaving out the names, even though they are in the linked NYT article, because innocent until proven guilty. Plus, this is the Southern District, which sometimes (in my opinion) pulls some questionable stunts.

But I kind of doubt they would have indicted this many people, especially assistant coaches, without some sort of evidence.

The indictments did not implicate any head coaches, perhaps for reasons explained by one of the defendants in an audio recording of a secret meeting. According to a transcript of comments by the prospective agent, Christian Dawkins, the path to securing commitments from college athletes was through assistant coaches, because head coaches “ain’t willing to [take bribes], cause they’re making too much money. And it’s too risky.”

Edited to add: “What you need to know about the FBI’s NCAA basketball investigation” from the Entertainment and Sports Programming Network’s website.

I love that little sting at the end.

Obit watch: September 25, 2017.

September 25th, 2017

Edgar H. Smith Jr. descended into Hell on March 20th of this year. He did so in obscurity, as his death was not noticed until Sunday.

On the night of March 4, 1957, a 15-year old girl named Victoria Zielinski disappeared near her home in Ramsey, New Jersey. Her body was found the next day in a sand pit.

She had been bludgeoned with a rock and a baseball bat, resulting in “a total crushing of the skull,” as an autopsy report put it. Her clothes were in disarray, though she had not been raped.

Mr. Smith came under suspicion. The authorities found bloodstains in his car and on his pants and shoes.

Taken into custody and questioned for hours without a lawyer present, Mr. Smith confessed. This was nine years before the Supreme Court’s Miranda ruling requiring that the police warn suspects of their right to remain silent and to have a lawyer present during questioning.
At his trial, he testified that his confession had resulted from coercion and exhaustion. He said he had picked up the girl and driven her to the sand pit, where they began to argue, and that he struck her, drawing blood. But he insisted that he had left her alive, with a friend who had driven up a few minutes later.

Mr. Smith was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to death. While awaiting his sentence, he taught himself law and began filing appeals. He also wrote a book, “Brief Against Death”, which was published in 1968.

His case also came to the attention of William F. Buckley Jr. Buckley came to believe the prosecution’s case had “damning weaknesses” and started promoting Mr. Smith’s innocence.

In 1968, the United States Supreme Court ordered the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit to reconsider its decision to deny Mr. Smith a hearing on the validity of his confession. Finally, on May 14, 1971, a Third Circuit judge ruled after a hearing that the confession had indeed been coerced, and that the prisoner must be freed if prosecutors did not retry him.

The state felt their case was even weaker without the confession, so they made a deal with Mr. Smith:

On Dec. 6, 1971, Mr. Smith was allowed to plead no contest to a reduced charge of second-degree murder and was sentenced to the time he had already served. During the court proceeding he said he had killed Victoria Zielinski, but after leaving the courthouse he declared that he had uttered the words only to put his long ordeal behind him. (He had been on death row longer than any other United States prisoner up to that time.)

After he got out of prison, Mr. Smith moved to California.

On Oct. 1, 1976, he abducted a 33-year-old San Diego woman and stabbed her as she struggled to escape his car. Bystanders noted the license plate number, leading the police to Mr. Smith’s apartment. By that time, he had fled to the East. But he decided to turn himself in and flew to Las Vegas, where he was arrested by F.B.I. agents. Mr. Buckley helped arrange the surrender and later expressed regret at having championed Mr. Smith’s cause.
In a nonjury trial, Mr. Smith was convicted of attempted murder and other crimes and sentenced to life in prison.

But wait, there’s more:

During the trial, he admitted that he had, in fact, killed Victoria Zielinski. He said he had struck her in the car after she resisted his advances, chased her when she ran away and hit her with the bat. Then, he said, “I picked up a very large rock and hit her on the head with it.”

I swear that I’ve read a long essay by Mr. Buckley about the Smith case, his involvement in it, and his regrets over what happened. But I don’t remember where that essay was…

Your loser update: week 3, 2017.

September 24th, 2017

NFL teams that still have a chance to go 0-16:

New York Football Giants
San Francisco

Apologies to friend of the blog Infidel de Manhatta. Honestly, I remember the predictions before the start of the season: people (well, ESPN) were saying the Jets had a good shot at going 0-16. Tossed that away, did they not?

But hey, Cleveland’s still on track. Not that I really want to see Cleveland lose, for family reasons, but I think I’ve mentioned my theory of compensatory suck before, right? The better the baseball team is, the worse the football team, and vice versa?

Tiger, tiger, burning bright…

September 22nd, 2017

The Detroit Tigers did not fire general manager Brad Ausmus.

They just decided not to renew his contract.

Also out: Nebraska athletic director Shawn Eichorst.

Nebraska’s football team is currently 1-2.


September 21st, 2017

Court paperwork filed Tuesday said an armed good Samaritan stopped an attack on a runner on a popular trail near Rainey Street last week.

Another jogger who was carrying a flashlight and a handgun heard the victim scream and ran over to help.
The affidavit said the jogger told police he shined his light in the direction of the screams and saw the victim on her back and the attacker on his left side on top of the victim.
The jogger pointed his gun at the suspect and demanded he get off the victim. The attacker stood up and was naked from the waist down, the affidavit said.

Obit watch: September 21, 2017.

September 21st, 2017

Lillian Ross, one of the old-time New Yorker writers. She was 99.

I didn’t grow up reading her work, but I was passingly familiar with her from her book Picture. Ms. Ross followed John Huston while he was making “The Red Badge of Courage” and wrote about the production. Which, oddly enough, turned out to be deeply troubled.

Julie Salamon cites Picture as a major influence for her own classic book, The Devil’s Candy: The Anatomy Of A Hollywood Fiasco. It’s kind of interesting to contemplate these two books. Neither Ms. Ross (as far as I know) or Ms. Salamon (who explicitly states this in her forward) intended to write books about troubled movies. Both of them just simply wanted to document the process of making a Hollywood film: what was it like to do this in the 1950s, and what was it like in the 1980s? It’s odd that both movies turned out the way they did. And it’s interesting that nobody else has tried doing this in the last 25 years.

Bernie Casey, NFL wide receiver (for the San Francisco 49ers and the LA Rams) turned actor (“I’m Gonna Git You Sucka”).

For Mr. Casey, who also published books of poetry, the arts always came first. He considered football a steppingstone, but many viewed him as an athlete.
“It was just a gig,” he told The Washington Post in 1977 about football. “But it limits the way people perceive you. That can be frustrating. People have tremendous combinations of talents. A man can be a deep-sea diver and also make china.”

TMQ Watch: September 19, 2017.

September 20th, 2017

TMQ Watch has our tropes, too. One of those is referring to the team by their full legal name, “The New York Football Giants”.

What are some of our other tropes? The only other two we can think of are:

  1. “autonomous 1911 and heroin-vending robots”, which in turn is derived from TJIC (though the original was “autonomous Glock and heroin-vending robots”, but only heathens use Glocks.)
  2. Pointing out that Easterbrook is wrong, wrong, wrongity wrong about the 1972 Dolphins.

Are we forgetting any recurring tropes, all of you huddled wretched masses yearning to breathe free? Please let us know in comments.

After the jump, this week’s TMQ…

Read the rest of this entry »

From the flaming hyenas news desk…

September 20th, 2017

Some of you may recall my entry the other day about the Travis County DA’s decision to suspend pursuing felony charges against State Representative Dawana Dukes.

Now we have some clarity on the reasoning behind that decision.

The guy who runs the House Business Office (which I guess is responsible for things like cutting checks for expenses and reimbursement) apparently told Ms. Dukes’s lawyers that “his office does not require a House member to travel to the Capitol building in order to receive per diem payments when the Legislature is not in session.” Illegally collecting those payments, when she wasn’t present in the Capital, was part of the case against her.

Gee, that seems like a bad screwup by the Travis County DA. Why wouldn’t they have checked on something like that before filing charges?

Answer: they did. And were told something completely different. By the same guy.

Prosecutors said they learned about Adrian’s contradictory statement when they visited with him two weeks ago to prepare for trial. In a sworn affidavit, he had told Dukes’ legal team that she did not need to be at the Capitol to qualify for reimbursement because House District 46, which she represents, is within 50 miles of the building.
Adrian said the House personnel manual did not expressly require a representative to travel to the Capitol building to receive payments. The implication is Dukes would still have been eligible for reimbursement if she was performing legislative duties from another location in Austin.

That seems like an…interesting…interpretation.

A former Dukes staffer told the Statesman last year that the lawmaker did not travel to the Capitol for all of the days that she claimed but directed her staff to prepare the forms as if she did.
Dukes, according to the grand jury indictment, did make “a false entry in a government record, and present and use said government record with knowledge of its falsity, by instructing her staff to add a false entry to her State of Texas Travel Voucher Form.”

So, basically, it seems like the argument is: it doesn’t matter, because she was close enough for government work. Good to know.

But in the meantime, the DA’s office did a new filing outlining some of the other “extraneous acts” they plan to bring up at the misdemeanor trial, which starts in October. A couple of selected high points:

According to the filing, Dukes paid an online psychic $51,348 from December 2014 to January 2016, totaling nearly $1,000 per week.

Responded to a search warrant for her cellphone by providing investigators a phone that did not match the identification number on the phone they had requested.

Was noticeably impaired while trying to perform legislative duties at the Capitol and showed up late to a House Appropriations Committee hearing on March 29, stating, “I know I’m talking a lot. I’m full of morphine and will be headed out of here soon.”

Obit watch: September 20th, 2017.

September 20th, 2017

Jake “Raging Bull” LaMotta.

Short shameful confession: I have never actually seen the movie. Need to fix that.

Robert Grays, a cornerback for Midwestern State (Division II) died yesterday from injuries he received in Saturday’s game against Texas A&M-Kingsville.

Your loser update: week 2, 2017.

September 19th, 2017

NFL teams that still have a chance to go 0-16:

New York Football Giants
New Orleans
San Francisco

Obit watch: September 18, 2017.

September 18th, 2017

I don’t know exactly why this surprises me, but for the historical record: NYT obit for Jerry Pournelle.

The obit is actually pretty respectful (if a week late) and covers his work as a computer columnist almost as much as it does his SF writing.

Obit watch: September 16, 2017.

September 16th, 2017

The great Harry Dean Stanton.

He was in everything. Even “Cockfighter”.

He played Molly Ringwald’s underemployed father in the teenage romance “Pretty in Pink” (1986), the apostle Paul in Martin Scorsese’s “The Last Temptation of Christ” (1988), a private eye in David Lynch’s “Wild at Heart” (1990), a judge in Terry Gilliam’s “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas” (1998), the hero’s ailing brother in Mr. Lynch’s “The Straight Story” (1999), a veteran inmate cheerfully testing the electrocution equipment in “The Green Mile” (1999) and Charlie Sheen’s father in “The Big Bounce” (2004).

Also: who is killing the cast of “The Godfather: Part II”?