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Jeff Bruzzese speaks out.

The Perception of Corruption

Corruption is defined as...

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Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Steubenville: Time to Take Out the Trash

I was able to find a copy of the Bill of Particulars online - thanks to  who posted the copy on Twitter.  I know I sound like a broken record when I say that this case continues to get stranger and stranger with each court hearing, but it's true.  This case is like a rotten onion.  The more you peel back layers the more funk that lies underneath.  This past court hearing didn't disappoint in the deliverance of the "funk".  Superintendent McVey's attorney had asked that the State provide a Bill of Particulars regarding allegations against their client.  I have included the 4 pages that were posted, and transcribed from page 4 which reads as follows:

Count 5
  1. Nature of Offense:  Obstructing Official Business, specifically the defendant violated Section 2921.31(A)M-2, Ohio Revised Code.
  2. Conduct of Defendant, Date and Time:  Michael McVey, defendant, from on or about April 5, 2012 to November 19, 2013, within the County of Jefferson aforesaid, in violation of section 2921.31(A) of the Ohio Revised Code, did without privilege to do so and with purpose to prevent, obstruct, or delay the performance by a public official of any authorized act within the public official's official capacity, did commit an act that hampered or impeded a public official in the performance of the public official's lawful duties, to wit: including but not limited to the following:  deleted emails, "wiped" computer(s) (and/or had someone else "wipe" computer(s)), failed to comply with subpoenas served upon him, failed to provide information regarding an investigation the school undertook and/or lied about an investigation that the school undertook, manufactured email(s) with false or misleading information, directed others to create record(s) after the fact, and/or created a misleading timeline after the first subpoena was served upon him. 

I am not even sure what to say at this juncture regarding the allegations against McVey.  Obviously, he has not been found guilty of any crime yet but...the slightest possibility that he may have done what he is being accused of makes him and the other adults in that school system even more reprehensible.  Again, not one -- repeat NOT ONE of them did their job as a mandatory reporter.  Lynnette Gorman couldn't be arsed to mandatory report after she found out that her son wasn't involved in the April incident.  Coach Fluharty didn't seem to give a crap either as he didn't mandatory report, and Mr. McVey - the superintendent and supervisor of all of these educators not only couldn't be arsed to mandatory report the abuse of a child, but he is alleged to have purposely tried to conceal evidence, and further instructed others to be dishonest or manufacture evidence in order to conceal these crimes against children.

There was a reason that locals were worried about a cover up from the beginning.  Because that's just how it is in Steubenville.  Cronyism, nepotism, you rub my back - I'll rub yours.  It has been that way for a very long time. Locals know it, and the Steubenville screamers club who continues to raise the "there was no cover up" defense don't want anyone to know how things work in their town.  Lots of hate for "outsiders", but honestly without the outrage of outsiders would we even know about Steubenville?  It is pretty obvious at this point that from the beginning they were trying to handle things their way.  Kind of like how the Country Club vandalism issue was handled, or certain someones shooting out car windows, or another one egging cars in broad daylight on Sunset Boulevard.  

This is a systemic problem that goes far deeper than one man's desire to protect an institution or a football program.  It goes way deeper than Mike McVey, and nothing is going to change in Steubenville until the trash is taken out and a clean up is done from the top down.

 So...really?  There was no cover up?

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Less Than Honorable Behavior

There has been a lot of activity coming out of Steubenville lately from  illegal gambling raids to the Bill of Particulars being released in the State's case against school administrators regarding the alleged cover up to protect Steubenville high school athletes accused of rape.  Last week the Bill of Particulars was filed with the court which accuses Mike McVey, Superintendent of Steubenville City Schools of  wiping computer hard drives, erasing emails and lying to investigators about his knowledge of the allegations against the boys. There have also been allegations of witness  intimidation or harassment raised by both the prosecution and the defense in McVey's case.

McVey has pleaded not guilty to felony counts of tampering with evidence and obstructing justice, and misdemeanor counts of falsification and obstructing official business.

Early on McVey claims that he and the principal deferred investigation or judgment to Coach Reno Saccoccia when asked about the school's involvement in the investigation of the accusations.  In fact, McVey stated to CBS News in January 2013 that "protocol was followed" with regard to the handling of the investigation by the school.  That "protocol" should raise questions all over again since he now stands accused of covering up a crime and tampering with evidence.
Dean Reynolds: Do you see a possible conflict of interest there?
Superintendent Michael McVey: Protocol was followed, sir.
Reynolds: What is the protocol? You and the principal defer to the football coach?
McVey: We followed our discipline protocol as we usually do.
McVey: Once everything is over and the facts are out, then we will make our decisions on what has to be done or who was involved or who was not involved.

To date, Steubenville City Schools has not made any public statements about those educators who were indicted.  There are past statements about their willingness to cooperate with the investigation, however, those words hold no weight at this juncture, otherwise there would be a deeper desire and willingness to answer the unanswered questions that the public and their community has.

Steubenville City Schools released a statement in March 2013 which read:
"Last week was a difficult time for everyone in Steubenville, but especially for those of us
who work daily with young people. We are grateful to those who investigated and prosecuted the crime, and to all those who helped support the victim through this ordeal. We also are grateful to Judge Lipps for handling this case with great sensitivity and care, making sure that justice was served even under very difficult circumstances. As the trial in juvenile court proceeded, it was impossible not to ask what we might have done differently to prevent this horrible event from occurring.

Like everyone else, we are left with many unanswered questions and applaud Ohio Attorney
General Mike DeWine's decision to convene a grand jury to make sure the investigation is complete and to determine whether additional charges should be filed in this case. We will respect the results of that process, and, if necessary, will take appropriate action.

From the beginning, we have cooperated fully with this investigation and will continue to do
so. To the best of our knowledge, everyone associated with Steubenville City Schools students and employees – have cooperated, as we have encouraged them to do.

As a school community, it is time for us to move forward and focus our attention on the students in our classrooms. But, as we do that, we must learn everything we can from this case and try to figure out what, if anything, we can do differently so nothing like this ever happens again. We owe that to the victim, our students, and our community."
Rereading this statement now is cringe-worthy knowing that McVey and others have been indicted and/or charged with lying, obstruction of justice and tampering with evidence for the purpose of protecting a football program instead of protecting a child.  Exactly WHAT has Steubenville City Schools learned from this case?  What have they done to make sure nothing like this ever happens again in their community?  What have they done to educate students and/or the community so that this never happens again?

For nearly two years the battle cry out of some Steubenville locals has been there was "no cover up".  Those unwavering screams turned into harassment of anyone who countered their screams with fact; some of those attacks were even coming from the Jefferson County Prosecutor's Office.  And then there is this gem from Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Frank Bruzzese:

It would appear that the local official in charge of Steubenville City Schools turned out to be not so honorable after all and had Jane Hanlin done her job with due diligence, Attorney General Mike DeWine would have walked away empty handed.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Cultural Apathy

Last week members of the Steubenville Police Department along with agents from the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation executed the search warrants on 8 locations throughout Jefferson County in what was reported to be raids resulting from an illegal gambling investigation initiated by Steubenville Police and Ohio BCI.  An estimated $1.5 million was seized as a result of the coordinated raids.  

What is odd is the lack of response by Jefferson County Prosecutor's office and the Jefferson County Sheriff's Department with regard to the raids.   Why hasn't the Jefferson County Prosecutor's Office and Sheriff's office congratulated Steubenville PD and BCI on a job well done?  There have been so many other congratulatory butt slaps over the past 2 years when it comes to joint effort investigations and arrests.  Why no congratulatory ticker tape this time?   

The other obvious elephant in the room is the lack of shock and awe from locals regarding these busts.  The general consensus among locals is that no one really sees the gambling as a problem because it is so entrenched in the culture that no one views it as against the law -- it just is a way of life there.  While reading on a few local forums and the WTOV9 Facebook fan site one gets the notion that there are far worse crimes in Steubenville that the locals want to be eradicated rather than the illegal gambling.  In fact, some have even bragged that their bookie wasn't "pinched" and they are still able to place bets.  

Investigators say the crackdown was initiated by the Steubenville Police Department. "We received a request from Steubenville PD in September 2013 to look into gambling in the Steubenville - Jefferson County area,” Said Jamies Ciotti, Special Agent Supervisor, Ohio BCI. 
"We’ve always known about the illegal gambling in Steubenville. Most citizens know about it - it's all over. It takes a joint effort -BCI doing such a large scale operation,” said Chief Bill McCafferty, Steubenville Police Department.
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Everyone in town knows a bookie or where to find illegal gambling.   It is a generational issue that is part of the cultural fiber, and as such people are apathetic to whether it violates the law or not.   As the veil of corruption is slowly being lifted in Steubenville there will be those that continue to fight against the sunshine that is illuminating a century old complacency when it comes to cherry-picking the law or protecting their own.  Corruption has been part of the culture of Steubenville for many years, too.   It has been a part of the town's history for as far back as anyone can remember - even being the subject of a book written in 1947 called "Twelve Against the Underworld".  Twelve local ministers and priests attempted to cleanse their town of prostitution, gambling and corruption but obviously were unsuccessful at doing so.  

Not much has changed since 1947.  The present Sheriff of Jefferson County, Ohio has been in office for almost thirty years and was criminally indicted on corruption charges back in 1990.  He also runs unopposed during election time.  His brother is the chairman of the Democratic Party of Jefferson County and also plead guilty to racketeering charges over twenty years ago.  Jane Hanlin has used her position as Prosecuting Attorney for the benefit of a private citizen when she testified on behalf of felon Branko Busick.  Branko Busick was a former Steubenville High School athlete who was facing two to ten years for several violent offenses including that he pistol-whipped someone allegedly for gambling debts.  Mrs. Hanlin testified as a character witness on Busick's behalf and he got off with only probation.  Mayor Mucci has had so many DUI's that they should probably get him a designated driver as part of his salary.  

Strange things are happening in Steubenville, and this time those things might be for the better.   HUGE kudos to Chief McCafferty for being the guy who stopped being apathetic and did something about it.