We live in a world of liars. That statement, by itself, is not breaking news. By virtue of being human, all of us are capable of telling lies, big and small.
But I've noticed a relatively new development on the falsehood front in postmodern America--at least I hope it's new. A significant number of Americans now are willing to lie under oath; they swear to tell the truth, under threat of criminal sanctions, and then lie about matters that are material to an official proceeding.
To make matters worse, our institutions have become so corrupt that an alarming number of public officials--we're talking mostly about judges--ignore blatant instances of false swearing. More often than not, I suspect, those who lie under oath are rewarded. (More on that in upcoming posts.)
If you ever are victimized and try to do something about it in an official setting, the wrongdoer (or someone involved in the chain of wrongdoing) is almost certain to lie about it. What is a citizen with a conscience to do?
Experience tells me that there is no simple answer to that question. But my best suggestion is this: Make technology your friend. Liars and cheats, I've found, have a universal dislike for tape recorders, video cameras, and the like. These tools can provide indisputable evidence of wrongdoing--and the scoundrels among us do not enjoy being confronted with that.
Our courts have become so corrupt that even indisputable evidence cannot guarantee you a just outcome. (More on that, also, in upcoming posts.) But video and tape recorded evidence can present daunting dilemmas for those who would try to lie their ways out of jams. And in the age of the blogosphere, you can bypass courts and present your evidence directly to the court of public opinion.
That has a tendency to level the playing field--at least a little bit. Let's consider two stories from recent months where indisputable evidence, gathered and distributed through the use of technology, helped shift public perceptions:
* Pepper Spray and the Occupy Wall Street Movement--On November 18, 2011, protesters at the University of California Davis gathered as part of the nationwide Occupy Wall Street movement. According to early reports, the protesters became menacing, forcing police officers to defend themselves with the use of pepper spray. There was only one problem for the cops who gave that version of events--someone with a video camera caught the whole thing on tape, and it showed protesters sitting peacefully, with their arms interlocked, while officers doused them with pepper spray. Two cops involved in the incident and the police chief have been placed on administrative leave. A task-force report on the incident will be released in April.
* A Basketball Coach, Syracuse University, and Allegations of Child Sexual Abuse--When Syracuse assistant basketball coach Bernie Fine first faced allegations of child sexual abuse, the university placed him on administrative leave. Fine denied the allegations as "patently false," and it looked like he might wind up keeping his job. But then ESPN reported that one of the accusers had tape recorded a phone conversation with Laurie Fine, the coach's wife. In the tape Laurie Fine says, "I know everything that went on with him . . . Bernie has issues, maybe that he's not aware of, but he has issues." Laurie Fine even suggested that she watched her husband molest a boy who was staying at their home. Hours after the new evidence emerged, Bernie Fine was fired--and university officials admitted their actions were prompted by the audiotaped evidence.
Leonard Pitts, of The Miami Herald, examined the actions taken against peaceful protesters at UC Davis and asked these sobering questions:
As we grapple with this vandalism of the First Amendment, we should ask ourselves this: what if there had been no cameras on hand? What if we had only the word of the protesters and their sympathizers that this happened versus the word of authority figures that it did not? Is it so hard to imagine the students’ claims being dismissed, the media attention being a fraction of what it is, the public’s outrage falling along predictable ideological lines and these cops getting a walk?
These questions resonate here at Legal Schnauzer. As regular readers know, my wife and I have tape-recorded evidence that proves wrongdoing against us in two separate legal matters. My unlawful termination at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) was driven by my reporting on this blog--on my own time, with my own resources--about the political prosecution of former Governor Don Siegelman. A UAB human-resources official named Anita Bonasera admitted that to me in a tape-recorded phone conversation, and I've run the audio numerous time on Legal Schnauzer. In fact, you can check out a video, featuring the Bonasera audio, at the end of this post.
Have UAB officials punished Bonasera and others who caused me to be unlawfully fired--and returned me to my job? No, they have not. That's probably because UAB higher ups ordered my firing, at the behest of certain conservative political figures in the state. I strongly suspect that one or more members of the University of Alabama Board of Trustees signed off on my career assassination. For good measure, UAB lawyers have happily watched as corrupt U.S. District Judge William M. Acker Jr. has cheated me at every turn, so far, in my pending federal lawsuit. I've referenced Acker's antics in several posts, including this one, and have much more coming.
Lisa Huggins, UAB's chief lawyer in most employment cases, has a duty under the Alabama Rules of Professional Conduct (ARPC) to report misconduct by any lawyer (including a judge) to the appropriate tribunal or other authority. The law is the only fully self-regulating profession in America, and Huggins' duty is spelled out in Rules 8.3 and 8.4 ARPC. Does Huggins take her duty seriously? Obviously not. She's watched as Acker has bastardized simple procedural matters and engaged in conduct that is blatantly "prejudicial to the administration of justice." So much for the ability of lawyers to police themselves.
The missus and I also have tape-recorded evidence of debt collectors from the Birmingham firm Ingram and Associates repeatedly violating the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) while trying to collect a debt I allegedly owed to American Express. The local firm, headed by a lawyer named Angie Ingram, was hired to collect the debt by a large Pennsylvania outfit called NCO. Multiple parties in our federal lawsuit admitted this, but we have recordings of Ingram representatives repeatedly saying they had been hired by American Express to sue me--that Angie Ingram was American Express' lawyer. This is both a grotesque violation of the FDCPA--which prohibts any false or deceiving statements to alleged debtors--and it also represents fraud under Alabama state law.
Angie Ingram must have done quite a few favors for her fellow members of the legal tribe because they have come out of the woodwork to protect her. These include federal judges making a slew of unlawful rulings in Ms. Ingram's favor, and we soon will be showing you exactly how they pull this off.
But we also are going to circumvent our corrupt courts and go straight to the public with our tape recordings of Ingram representatives lying to us, threatening us, and trying to defraud us. And this happened even though sworn statements show that Ingram had no proof that I even possessed an American Express card, much less that I owed a debt on one.
My record on using technology to fight corruption is mixed. In the early stages of our struggles with a difficult neighbor, which led to all of our legal headaches, I did not have an indisputable record of certain key conversations. At the time, I had no idea these property-related issues would turn into a legal matter--and I never dreamed that you could be baldly cheated for seeking redress in a court of law.
I've learned my lesson the hard way. As a result, we soon will be showing you how certain debt collectors--acting on behalf of corporate giants like American Express and NCO--try to get away with cheating consumers.
And I'm not going to allow corrupt judges or lawyers to keep this story from being told. I will take it directly to you, our readers.
As for audio that proves I was terminated from my job for exercising my First Amendment rights, you can check that out in the following video: