The Planned Parenthood Witch Trial

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Under the guise of a congressional “investigation”, Republican seat-moisteners lawmakers are trying to do to Planned Parenthood what they did to ACORN some seven years ago. This time, though, it isn’t working. This is mostly because Planned Parenthood has a broader and politically stronger constituency than ACORN ever did, and because the videos that anti-abortion activists have circulated that purport to show Planned Parenthood executives bartering for fetal body parts were so obviously doctored and unfairly edited.

It is true that fetal tissue from aborted fetuses is sometimes donated for scientific research. Research using fetal tissue has resulted in incredible scientific achievements.

The Congressional inquiry was chaired yesterday by Utah Republican Jason Chaffetz, who, along with his right-wing colleagues, spent a great deal of time hurling insults and accusations but not at all a lot of time allowing the affiant, Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards, to testify.

The entire charade can be summed up in a chart that Chaffetz sprung on Richards at the end of his “inquiry”.  He hadn’t had the decency to show her in advance the chart he was going to use, so she was barely able to respond to it. But it was an especially – intentionally – dishonest piece of propaganda.

Chaffetz was trying to accuse Planned Parenthood of abdicating its role as a major women’s health care provider and instead making all kinds of money off of abortion. Here is the chart he showed:

The source is “Americans United for Life”, a radical anti-abortion lobbying group. Is this how these Republicans science and math? 

Notice that the vertical axes are not labeled. That’s because the two lines use different scaling. On the left side, cancer screening has a value of about 2,000,000; abortions, about 290,000. As you might expect, 2,000,000 is above 290,000. On the right, cancer screenings has a value of 936,000, and that is somehow below the number of abortions at 327,000. It’s also somehow below 290,000!

So, the chart is falsely designed to imply that Planned Parenthood now performs far more abortions than breast screenings, but that’s quite obviously untrue.

Kevin Drum went a step further in Mother Jones, showing how the charts should look:

He adds,

And why has the line for cancer screenings gone down? According to Cecile Richards, it’s because “some of the services, like pap smears, dropped in frequency because of changing medical standards about who should be screened and how often.”

More importantly, Drum adds that the suite of women’s health services that Planned Parenthood offers goes beyond mere breast cancer screenings, but includes things like STD testing and pap smears. If you include all of the non-abortion services that Planned Parenthood offers, the chart looks more like this:

This is standard Republican playbook stuff, but because of the sheer power and broad reach of the target, it’s not working out. The government isn’t going to be shut down over federal funding of Planned Parenthood, and the vast majority of Americans can see beyond the propaganda and value the important services that Planned Parenthood offers. It remains true that abortion services are never federally funded, and only make up 3% of what Planned Parenthood does. About 41% of the organization’s budget – just over $500 million – comes from federal funding for women’s health and contraception services.

The ACORN entrapment videos – all of which were deceptively edited, and none of which resulted in any illegality – targeted a group that worked to register mostly poor, mostly minority voters. This was supposed to be the sequel.

When Presidential candidate Carly Fiorina lies about a scene that doesn’t exist in any of the Planned Parenthood videos – a scene, incidentally, shot clandestinely without the mother’s permission or consent of a fetus that hadn’t been aborted, but was the victim of a miscarriage – it underscores that this Republican effort to destroy Planned Parenthood has nothing to do with abortion or “sale” of fetal body parts, but everything to do with interfering with women’s health and their ability to enjoy a safe and disease-free sex life. They’ve tried it before, and they won’t be satisfied until they completely alienate the female vote.

In the end, it’s about puritanism and denying to women their basic human rights. Here’s what that looks like:

Thankfully, there were reasonable people present:

It’s ok to be anti-abortion, and it would be great if abortions never happened. However, Planned Parenthood offers contraceptive services, the expansion of which would lower the number of abortions performed in this country. It’s ok to be anti-abortion, but it’s not ok to legislate a woman’s right to make that choice. But most importantly, because federal funds do not and cannot be used to finance abortion services, all of this is a lie. It is all a manufactured show-trial by men who cannot tolerate the idea that women be allowed control over their bodies and their reproductive rights.

Patrick Kane Case: The Morning After

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The dust is still settling from a shocking, raucous week for the Patrick Kane rape case. Let’s consider what’s left of it.

Last Sunday, the Buffalo News published information obtained through anonyms about the results of DNA testing done on the alleged victim. It was reportedly negative for Patrick Kane’s DNA, at least below the waist. This information is exculpatory for Kane, but not definitively so.

By Wednesday, the alleged victim’s attorney, Thomas Eoannou, held a blockbuster press conference to accuse someone of tampering with evidence, having left what Eoannou called the “rape kit bag” on the mother’s doorstep. But within minutes, all the relevant law enforcement agencies had denied that there was any irregularity in the chain of evidentiary custody. Something fishy was going on. Thursday morning, I wrote this:

Eoannou’s bag almost certainly at one point contained some piece of evidence that was obtained at ECMC on the morning the rape kit was administered. It’s feasible, for instance, that an item was stored in there but the police took it away in a different bag. What’s clear is that everyone with no stake in the outcome of the underlying rape case agrees that the rape kit hasn’t been tampered with.

By Thursday night, Eoannou had fired the complainant and her mother as his clients, and held an extraordinary press conference recanting practically everything he had said the day before. An embarrasing spectacle had been exponentially grown into a circus. Anyone’s best guess is that the mother concocted the hoax in an effort to cast doubt on the forensic evidence – an effort that would have been substantively pointless. After all, its exculpatory effect helps Kane’s defense, but so would any manufactured, phony doubt cast upon the reliability of that DNA data; the result is the same.

On Friday, District Attorney Frank Sedita held his own press conference. Clearly, Sedita was incensed by the complainant’s former legal advisor, Thomas Eoannou’s accusations about a brown paper bag; accusations that were quickly determined to be false. For a shocking period of just over 24 hours, Erie County’s law enforcement agencies were falsely made to look like bumbling incompetents. Sedita was there to set the record straight.

The press conference had all the hallmarks of a closing argument to a jury. There was a concise and persuasive PowerPoint presentation to go along with Sedita’s dramatic and emotional statements. I think that the press conference itself went on for about 30 minutes longer than necessary, and that perhaps Sedita took too many liberties in discussing the case during his Q and A. The DA now discloses exculpatory Brady material to the parties during the investigation stage – before criminal action is commenced? Sedita needed to disclose that the complainant had retained civil legal counsel? He needed to emphasize that it wasn’t a question of “when”  but “if” the case is presented to a grand jury? Too long, and too much information.

Nevertheless, it quickly became clear that Sedita’s office has acted with utmost professionalism, and has not contributed in any palpable way to the unfortunate circus atmosphere surrounding the underlying case. They have behaved ethically and responsibly. Also, his office now finds itself chasing an extra, unnecessary inquiry: what did the complaining victim know about her mother’s brown paper bag hoax, and when did she know it?

What did we learn from D.A. Sedita? There was never a bag for the rape kit; the rape kit is sealed in a box, and taken to an evidence locker at central police services. He explained that the Eoannou’s brown paper bag was given to the alleged victim’s mother by a nurse at ECMC to hold an article of clothing that the complainant was wearing at the time of the supposed attack. The mother never used the bag; police took the clothing and placed it in their own evidence bag, and the mom held onto the hospital’s bag and took it home.

“What do we do with this new information?” Sedita said at the news conference. “Obviously, there’s been an effort to create a hoax. Obviously, there’s been an effort to manufacture a perception that forensic evidence cannot be trusted. I’ve got to figure out who was in on that, why they would do that and what it means for all of the other evidence. I will be doing that. We will be doing that over the course of the next few days.”

While I’ve argued that there exists no evidence at this stage to conclude that the alleged victim had any inkling of what mom was up to, others have pointed out that this is naive and stretches credulity. I prefer sworn testimony to anonymous allegations or declarations to the press, and I prefer proof to speculative conclusions. I take every media report about the case with a grain of salt. If the alleged victim is discovered to be incredible or a liar, how this case has been handled would likely dissuade future victims of sexual assult from coming forward. If you’ve seen on social media some of the visceral, homicidal hatred being slung the complainant’s way, you’d be appalled. Chicago reporter Julie DiCaro, who has reported fairly on this matter, couldn’t go to work on Friday thanks to death threats. Because hockey; because bro/rape culture.

After Sedita’s press conference, Patrick Kane’s lawyer, Paul Cambria, invited the media over to chat. He reiterated his belief that the bag hoax establishes conclusively that the entire thing is a fabrication, and there should not be any prosecution. Specifically,

That the actual accuser knew what that bag contained. That was a very, very important fact. If you know what it contains, you witness someone claiming that it contains something else and you know it’s introduced into the legal process and you know what the consequences can be. You’re ok with that, you’re ok with a fraud being perpetrated. I think that’s a very significant fact.

He argued that the mother could be subpoenaed to testify, in which case the hoax becomes fodder for cross-examination on the issue of credibility. Cambria said that she could have committed the crime of obstruction of governmental administration, and stated that Kane was the real victim. Cambria correctly stated that Eoannou could have saved himself a ton of embarrassment by simply going to the authorities with his concerns about the brown paper bag, rather than the media.

Tom Bauerle spent two afternoons on WBEN parroting Cambria. After his presser, Cambria was caught on a hot mic saying, “Tom [Eoannou] is a good lawyer, I can’t believe he got sucked into this.” True, that.

I have no idea whether there will be any prosecution, at this point. It depends a great deal on how law enforcement assess the credibility of the complaining victim. If she knew or acquiesced in her mother’s hoax with the bag from ECMC, this case is finished. Cambria argues that she had to know, but look again at Sedita’s statement – the mother never used the bag, so the “actual accuser” feasibly wouldn’t know what, if anything, it “contained”. In any event, no one knows whether the alleged victim is culpable for the hoax any more than I know the opposite to be true; if you say she’s a cheat or a liar, you bear the burden of proof on that point.

If there is no case to be had, I will wait for the District Attorney to tell me that. Before that happens, I’m assuming that everyone involved is a rational, thinking person who would not behave completely unreasonably. So far, the complainant’s mother has proven herself to be neither rational nor thinking. As for the complainant herself, I want her guilt regarding the bag hoax – to the extent it exists – to be proven. Don’t let’s jump to conclusions about her, just like we shouldn’t jump to conclusions about Kane himself.

Anyone notice how many people directly involved or commenting publicly about this whole thing are male? Oh, it’s a tough case for the prosecution now, says former Attorney General Dennis Vacco. The alleged victim had to know what mom was up to, says Kane’s attorney, Paul Cambria. The mom perpetrated a fraud so embarrassing, Eoannou held a press conference to destroy her forever, and fire her daughter as his client. Hell, here I am asking people to stop leaking information and rushing to conclusions – and I get grief about it. The few females I’ve seen actively pursuing this case are the aforementioned Julie DiCaro, whose life was threatened for daring to report objectively, occasionally, we hear from representatives from crisis services, and local attorney Florina Altshiler, who also seems to be the only person in any piece in which she’s quoted to basically urge caution and rationality from people. We need a lot more female lawyers and commentators involved with this case.

This case has been polluted by victim-shaming since day one. I think we could all benefit from hearing more women’s voices discussing this case in the mainstream media. We’re already giving Kane the benefit of the doubt by acknowledging that he remains not only not guilty of anything, but not even charged. We sit here instead contemplating what legal recourse Kane might have if absolved of wrongdoing.

Now, we wait some more, so that law enforcement can investigate an ancillary issue about a brown paper bag that never should have happened. No, this is not how these things typically go. 

Patrick Kane Case: Eoannou Quits

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Thursday night, in a hastily called, unusually late-night press conference, attorney Thomas Eoannou publicly withdrew as attorney for the complaining victim in the Patrick Kane rape case. Eoannou’s move came just a day after he held a different press conference, where a brown paper bag with a hospital label on it took center stage, as Eoannou alleged that it was evidence of some sort of epic evidence tampering.

As it turns out, and as we reported on Thursday morning, the bag represented nothing at all. Eoannou was duped, overreacted, or both. To hear him tell it, his investigation into how that bag came into his possession led him to believe that the alleged victim’s mother’s story about it was false. Because he had so publicly used that bag to accuse someone unnamed of sabotaging this case and tampering with its evidence, Eoannou looked ridiculous coming before the media a second time doing his best Emily Litella impression: never mind.

Except here, Eoannou’s client’s mother’s misinformation was such that he felt he could no longer represent them, and he fired them. Eoannou made it crystal clear that he didn’t blame the alleged victim herself, and that she had nothing to do with this.

What do we know? 

To circle back to the underlying rape investigation, these things are true:

1. Eoannou’s bag had nothing to do with the rape kit and is not evidence of tampering;

2. The alleged victim did not lie or make up some story to Eoannou about the bag – her mother evidently did;

3. None of this means that Patrick Kane did – or didn’t – rape the alleged victim;

4. The actual evidence remains safely tucked away at Central Police Services, unmolested and untainted, and from a prosecutorial standpoint, nothing is different as we wake up on Friday morning; and

5. Thomas Eoannou – who was, is, and remains one of the area’s elite criminal defense attorneys – had no official role in this case. For the underlying rape case, his withdrawal substantively represents absolutely nothing.

After all, the prosecution may not need the mother’s testimony to present and try this case, and without her, this whole episode with the bag never gets in front of a jury; it’s totally irrelevant. Arguably, were mom to testify, it could be brought up to assail her credibility, but that’s it. It can’t be used to challenge the credibility of the alleged victim herself.

Cambria’s Bluster

It also bears mentioning that Paul Cambria is wrong – none of this establishes that the underlying rape allegation is a “fabrication”, and he’s blustering for his client. Cambria’s posturing is unseemly, and the leaks to the media about the results of the DNA tests likely came from someone in or close to Kane’s defense team and need to stop. Those leaks are poisoning the jury pool and thwarting justice. Unfortunately, we have Eoannou to blame, since his very public accusations regarding that evidence bag opened the door for Cambria to speak publicly, as well. All of this was horribly thought-out, and has exploded in the complainant’s team’s face.

If the complaining victim’s mother lied to Tom Eoannou; if a tangential witness lied to her own lawyer, who has no official role in the prosecution, how exactly does this reflect poorly on the complaining victim herself? It doesn’t. It’s just a sideshow. It’s a shitshow, to be sure, but full of sound and fury, signifying nothing. The prosecution – if it comes – will be brought by the District Attorney’s office. Eoannou’s only role was to help the accuser’s family navigate a complicated and nerve-wracking system for victims whose interests are not always directly protected by prosecutors.

At this point, the alleged victim’s mother may have bought herself a prosecution of her own.

Fraud and Eoannou’s Withdrawal

Whether a prosecution comes is up to the District Attorney’s office. Will this behavior by one ancillary witness cause a notoriously cautious office to beg off? In a statement to the press last night, the accuser’s family says that she has, “every intention of pursuing this case to a just conclusion.”

One troubling aspect of all of this is this: although Eoannou may have felt an ethical obligation to withdraw from this representation based on the alleged victim’s mother’s behavior, he had no duty to do it so publicly. Ethical Rule 1.16 is instructive on this matter: if Eoannou felt a duty to so quickly and publicly withdraw, he suspected the mother was committing some sort of fraud.

It bears repeating that ejaculation is not an element of the crime of rape, and the absence of Kane’s DNA alone should not – and does not – absolve him of rape in this case. Likewise, the reported presence of another person’s DNA does not absolve Kane of rape. If I were to speculate, I suspect that the alleged victim’s mom likely concocted the “I found a ripped-up bag” thing because she’s legally unsophisticated and thought she could manufacture some sort of doubt about the DNA evidence. When Eoannou found out the truth, he had to quit (a) because she tried to commit a fraud; and (b) he helped promote it; and (c) he came out looking stupid when it turned out to be false.

However, a lawyer can only withdraw if he can do so “without material adverse effect on the interests of the client”. Query whether the way in which he announced his withdrawal met that requirement. I don’t think it did, and I think the myriad Tweets I’m seeing demanding that the alleged victim – who even Eoannou says is innocent of this aborted fraud – be prosecuted for extortion, underscores my conclusion.

Transfer Venue

One thing is certain, in my mind: the venue for this case must be changed. Send it to Jefferson or Broome County and get it away from the Buffalo media market in order to find New Yorkers who don’t care about Patrick Kane to analyze and find the facts in this case. I don’t think that Kane – or the prosection – can get a fair trial in Erie County, and the whole thing should be moved pursuant to 230.2 of the Criminal Procedure Law. Under NY law, both sides can request transfer of venue.

Everyone Dummy Up

It is my hope that this matter goes before a grand jury sooner rather than later, and that somebody goes before a judge and asks for a gag order on all counsel and witnesses. All of this underscores what I’ve been saying since the day Mark Croce decided to tell the Buffalo News about what a classy joint he runs and how these girls were hanging all over Kanereveryone should stop talking to the media.

Patrick Kane and the Evidence Bag

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I’ve been writing pretty regularly about the need for everyone involved with the Patrick Kane rape investigation—lawyers, cops, witnesses, and parties—to be quiet and stop feeding the media. If the underlying desire—regardless of whether you side with Kane’s alleged victim, or with Kane—is to find justice, you won’t find it by trying the case in the press.

On that front, Wednesday September 24, 2015 was an absolute legal shitshow.

In fact, the whole week has been pretty horrible; remember Monday’s stories about what sort of DNA was found in the rape kit? There’s no reason for the general public to know that, at this point in the investigation. But Wednesday was something different; something special.

If you haven’t already heard, Thomas Eoannou, the criminal defense attorney advising Kane’s alleged victim, held an extraordinary press conference. Eoannou alleged that someone had deposited a brown paper bag at the home of the complaining victim’s mother. He went on to claim that the bag was absolutely, positively the one that once contained the rape kit administered in August at ECMC. The bag was ripped open and empty, and on it was a hospital label with the victim’s personal details and other information. Here it is in its entirety:

Pretty dramatic stuff, and if accurate—that someone had tampered with physical evidence of an alleged crime—beyond alarming. Never before had I heard of such an egregious mishandling of physical evidence of a crime, at least in an advanced first-world democracy. While Eoannou thanked the “good samaritan” who dropped the bag off, tipping the alleged victim’s family off to this break in the chain of custody, my initial reaction was that this was some sort of intimidation.

But not so fast.

Hamburg Police had this to say about it:

So, Hamburg’s chain of custody is in order. What about Erie County, whose Central Police Services (CPS) handles and stores this sort of evidence?

So, the county can also vouch for the state of the evidence, and that it is all present and accounted for.

So what is Eoannou talking about, and what was in that bag?

Shortly after Eoannou was done talking, all the press rushed down Delaware to the office of Patrick Kane’s lawyer, Paul Cambria. There Cambria, who had not previously commented about the case, except on my personal Facebook page, sang like a canary. Patrick Kane is the real victim. Kane’s DNA was not found “below” the alleged victim’s “waist”, but others’ DNA was. Because the findings from the rape kit were helpful to Kane, his side had no motive to tamper with any evidence. Only someone unhappy with the results of the rape kit would do such a thing.

People on Twitter commented on the “money soap” and Hustler 40th Anniversary mug on the bookshelf in Cambria’s office. Paul’s Hustler Mug is on Twitter.

The spectacle grew more surreal with each passing moment.

Here is a close-up of the redacted sticker on the bag Eoannou revealed:

That’s a regular grocery bag with a hospital sticker on it. Could Eoannou be incorrect? If Hamburg and Erie County confirm that all evidence and containers are present and accounted for—secure and unmolested—was this a mistake? Was it some PR stunt designed as a response to the persistent and constant pro-Kane leaks to the Buffalo News and other media outlets?  The pro-Kane PR juggernaut has been effective and well-funded up until now—not so much for the alleged victim. She is unknown and her side has been silent, until now. The information reported by some outlets had to come from either law enforcement or Kane’s legal team.

Also, let’s parse Cambria: no Kane DNA below the waist. But what about bitemarks on shoulder? Other DNA, above the waist? What about under victim’s nails? He limited his statement very strategically. The leaks about the absence of Kane’s DNA was especially harmful because for some reason people think that you need ejaculate for there to have been a rape. You don’t.

Eoannou’s bag almost certainly at one point contained some piece of evidence that was obtained at ECMC on the morning the rape kit was administered. It’s feasible, for instance, that an item was stored in there but the police took it away in a different bag. What’s clear is that everyone with no stake in the outcome of the underlying rape case agrees that the rape kit hasn’t been tampered with.

It’s also quite clear that the delivery of that bag to the victim’s mother’s house means something. What? No one knows. No one is likely to know unless the person who dropped it off comes forward. Was it to be helpful? Intimidating?

In the end, we learned that Buffalo lawyers and media are a bit clumsy when it comes to dealing with a super-high-profile criminal investigation. Hamburg and the county were quick to react to Eoannou’s charges, and it quickly turned the matter from one type of WTF into a wholly different and distinct type of WTF.

A lot of rumors flew around today, too. No one knows what’s true and what’s not. But one thing became crystal clear on a warm Wednesday afternoon in Buffalo: that the people involved in the Patrick Kane rape investigation really, really need to stop talking to the media. All of them—Cambria, Eoannou, law enforcement—everyone. We don’t need odd press events about brown paper bags any more than we need bar owners engaging in some good old-fashioned victim-shaming.

Justice is not being served by transforming a spectacle into a circus.

Max’s Progressive Club’s Late Disclosure

Oops! Mistakes were made!

Actually, former Cheektowaga Democratic Committee Chairman Frank Max’s Progressive Democrats group has said absolutely nothing on the issue of its illegally and improperly late campaign finance disclosures. But before we get to that, let’s examine the constituent documents that Max’s companion group – the “Right Democratic Team” filed with the state earlier this year. As you’ll recall, the “Team” is a brand-new construct that held a fundraiser in late July but even at this late September date has yet to disclose anything at all about its activities during the primary campaign season, except a claim that it received $125 from two sources.

Cheektowaga Right Democratic Team by Alan Bedenko

I especially like the stricken “political” as the committee apparently was going to be a PAC before becoming a multi-candidate committee. It’s unclear whether the committee was created on August 7th or 14th, based on the competing “received” stamps, but either way, its filing came one or two weeks after it held its inaugural fundraiser. Who spent money on the fundraiser? How much was raised? To whom were the checks made out? How and when were they deposited? What right did this committee have to raise money for itself if it wasn’t yet legally in existence?

The Right Democratic Team declared the candidates whom it was supporting, also noting that these candidates – Magierski, Specyal, et al. – had authorized it to do so. The filing was executed on July 30th, one day  before its scheduled fundraiser.

As we reported on September 8th –  on the eve of the September 10th primary, which was hotly contested in Cheektowaga, Max’s Progressive Democrats hadn’t filed the requisite disclosures despite the fact that it was quite obviously participating the primary election. We knew that because of a piece of direct mail that it sent out slamming Democratic supervisor candidate Diane Benczkowski. Frank – who has run several times to be the county committee chairman and should know better – seemed to be sort of crossing his fingers and hoping that no one would question why there was no 32 day pre-primary or 11 day pre-primary disclosure filed.

On September 16th, he finally came clean – far too late to matter for the people whom he was working against, and completely against the law. Based on his wide experience engaged in electoral politics, there’s no way this was negligent, accidental, or some mistake. The failure to disclose had to have been intentional.

Now, Max’s group would like to inform you – the electorate – that his personal committee actually DID participate in this primary season, and in its late 32 day disclosure, filed on September 16th, reports having spent $1,600:

In its late 11 day disclosure, also filed September 16th, it reports spending an additional $950:

The 32-day report was due August 10th, and the 11-day was due on August 31st. All of this is 2 weeks to a month too late. All of it was, apparently, specifically designed to keep the electorate and their opponents in the dark about their activities.

The post-primary disclosures were due on September 21st. Neither the Right Democratic Team nor the Progressive Democrats have one on file yet.

Buffalo Connect: WiFi from 1999

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In a partnership with UB and M&T Bank, the city of Buffalo unveiled free outdoor WiFi along the Main Street corridor this summer, to much fanfare.

The ribbon-cutting was in mid-July, accompanied by hopeful comments, including this from Mayor Brown:

If downtown Buffalo is going to be a thriving engine of opportunity for all city residents, we must find ways to support the entrepreneurs who are driving technological advances and creating jobs. By providing city residents, members of the business community and visitors with free public Wi-Fi, we will continue to attract more people and business to downtown Main Street, while making targeted investments to improve our city’s wireless infrastructure.  I thank M&T Bank for leading the effort to engineer, purchase and install the system in partnership with the City of Buffalo and the University at Buffalo as we work together to further strengthen our economy.

I would submit that it’s not entrepreurs along Main Street who need broadband, but the poorest of the poor. Some of the region’s fastest publicly accessible internet is found at any branch or location of the Buffalo & Erie County Public Library, with speeds – up and down – that exceed 20 Mbps. Noting that 58,000 people work downtown every weekday, here’s what M&T’s Robert Wilmers had to say:

Every day it seems, downtown Buffalo is adding new residents, new employers and employees, new visitors, new and redeveloped buildings—and now new public Wi-Fi.  Buffalo Connect will make downtown Buffalo an easier place to stay connected, and that’s good for our City, and for the people who live, work and visit here.

With a major presence on the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus, the University at Buffalo provided fiber assets and expertise in network engineering design and management. University at Buffalo students also helped design the new logo and digital experience for Buffalo Connect.

“This is a great time to be in Buffalo—whether you are working here, studying here, or coming to visit and enjoy all our great city has to offer. UB is excited to partner in the expansion of our region’s Wi-Fi capabilities to better serve the people in our downtown corridor each day. This network will be a terrific asset to our community, and we are proud that we can lend our leadership and expertise—including the involvement of our student engineers and artists—to make this regional fiber network a reality,” said University at Buffalo President Satish K. Tripathi.

That’s a lot of technology and money backing this up.

The network operates through more than 30 “hot spot” access points running along Main Street. The access points, which have a range of approximately 250-feet, are now installed and operating from the Theater District through Canalside and Erie Basin Marina. Additional access points are being installed to extend the network to North Street, on the doorstep of the growing Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus.

So, how’s it working? City of Light 2.0 decided to test it all out. The results are embarrassing.

Basically, it’s ridiculously slow. Even a tourist with no cellular data would find this to be an utter waste of time, and difficult to connect. In part 2 of its analysis, City of Light underscored that these sorts of speeds are what you’d have expected to get out of wifi in 1999. In fact, it seems as if speeds are capped at 2 Mbps, which is a tiny fraction of what you get from LTE on your cell phone.

…the reliability and strength of the signal from Buffalo Connect drops off quickly once you get off of Main Street.

Drawing from this key, we can see there’s a very fine line of green teal down Main Street, and pretty much everything else is blue. The areas that aren’t on Main Street are generally blocked by large buildings.

While on Main Street, there is a lot of background noise. Yet with all the background noise, it still has a strong signal. If you have potential for decent download/upload, but a lot of noise and/or interference, then you will likely experience slow or “unstable” connectivity that appears to drop. While on the Buffalo Connect network, while going up and down Main Street (the green areas on the map), and throughout Canalside, the connection consistently provided 1Mpbs and there was no drop in coverage.

To make matters worse, it appears that Buffalo Connect’s routers are quite expensive, retailing at about $1,200 each.

…a pretty penny was spent on these brand new routers, all to provide residents, businesses, and visitors to the area with a wireless network that we have trouble finding any practical value for.

On top of routers, there are other aspects to the network that would’ve cost the provider more money, such as the black boxes pictured behind the router, the lines to the router/black boxes also pictured, the lines from UB’s fiber, labor, weather-proofing, setting up firewalls, and basic network administration. While we’d have trouble estimating the total costs of all this, we can safely assume it wasn’t cheap.

To reiterate our thoughts from Part 1, Buffalo Connect is a lackluster network. As one can gauge from our further analysis, it has a lot of potential to be greater than it is. In Part 3, we’re going to investigate UB’s network to see how it influences Buffalo Connect’s performance.

It’s hard, sure, to quibble with the quality of a free service, but why tout the hell out of something that simply doesn’t deliver? And why doesn’t it deliver?

Patrick Kane and DNA

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It’s been quiet lately on the Patrick Kane rape investigation front. Here’s what happened in August:

Why Mark Croce went to the Buffalo News: August 9, 2015

Slut-Shaming and the Patrick Kane Case: August 12, 2015

The Patrick Kane Case FAQ: August 13, 2015

Patrick Kane’s Designated Driver Opens Yap: August 17, 2015

Paul Cambria on Patrick Kane: Don’t Prejudge: August 18, 2015

After the initial round of victim-shaming and leakage to the media, the meme over the past few weeks has been “will they or won’t they”? Specifically, will Kane and the victim reach some sort of private, civil accommodation (read: payment) in order to avoid a prosecution?

Although a civil settlement would likely involve some promise that the alleged victim would not testify against Kane or otherwise cooperate with any prosecution, it is not completely impossible for a D.A. to prosecute anyway; difficult, but not unheard-of. The upshot of it all is that District Attorney Sedita’s office mysteriously postponed the first day of grand jury testimony, and it’s scheduled to begin shortly. Reports of a possible settlement are contradictory and likely speculative.

In the meantime, Kane appeared at a bizarre press conference where he apologized for the “distraction” and otherwise generally appreciated – but did not answer – everyone’s questions.

In Sunday’s Buffalo News, however, we have more leaks from people who are likely aligned with Patrick Kane’s legal team, or else are superfans working for law enforcement. The News reports:

DNA evidence does not confirm a woman’s allegations that Patrick Kane raped her, four sources familiar with the case told The Buffalo News.

DNA tests taken from a rape kit conducted on the woman showed no trace of Kane’s DNA was found in the woman’s genital area or on her undergarments.

The lack of that DNA evidence does not necessarily mean a sexual assault did not occur, legal experts say, and the evidence involved in this type of investigation typically consists of more than just DNA. The investigation continues, and Kane has not been charged with any crime.

The only thing missing is a quote from a bar owner about how the alleged victim was asking for it.

Whoever these four sources are, they’re in the tank for Kane. Full stop. This is yet another piece of the elaborate and well-remunerated public relations war being waged against the alleged victim in an effort further to victimize her, shame her, and to try this case in the court of public opinion. Justice is not being served here – only the interests of a very wealthy and famous young man who finds himself in very deep trouble indeed.

But what about this, from a prosecutorial point of view? First, let’s ask a former sex crimes prosecutor who also happens to be a female:

“The absence of DNA and semen, in itself, does not prove that there was no rape,” said Florina Altshiler, a Buffalo attorney who worked as a sex-crimes prosecutor in Alaska. “It proves that there was no ejaculation, or possibly, that the perpetrator wore a condom.”

Altshiler said she is aware of cases in which rapists did wear condoms.

For the counterpoint, let’s ask a male, retired District Attorney:

Frank J. Clark, the county’s former DA, offered a different opinion.

If none of Kane’s DNA was found on the woman’s genital area or in her undergarments, that information “could be a game-changer” in Kane’s favor, he told The News.

“If the vaginal swabs taken at the hospital show no sign of his DNA, that could very well exonerate him of rape,” Clark said.

The occasion of a rapist using a condom is “extremely rare” in his experience. Clark said.

So there you go. Here’s a bombshell piece of leaked information of unknown provenance! What does it mean? MAYBE NOTHING, MAYBE ALL THE THINGS. Feel more informed?

Still, Kane’s DNA was found beneath the woman’s fingernails and on her shoulders, according to two of the sources, one of them a member of law enforcement.

Whatever occurred between the two prompted the woman to abruptly leave Kane’s home, call her brother on a cellphone, go to a local hospital to be examined for signs of rape, and to file a crime report with Hamburg Police, claiming that Kane attacked her, according to authorities and sources close to the case.

I don’t think its a credit – legally speaking – to the News’ four ejacualatory sources that Kane’s DNA isn’t where one might expect it to be, but rape means any unwanted penetration – however slight, so it’s likely that the alleged victim said no, Kane went for it anyway, and she managed to fight her way out of there before Kane finished. After all, Kane’s DNA was found on her, just not around her genitals or in her underwear.

Thanks to the News’ sources, we can now have this discussion: there doesn’t have to be semen for there to have been a rape.

Again: I don’t know whether or not Patrick Kane raped anybody; I certainly hope no one raped anyone. In mid-August, I implored people close to the case to stop talking to the media. As I wrote then, “…the jury pool poisoning is continuing apace — of course, no one has yet been charged with a crime, but it’s safe to say that the authorities are investigating whether one happened, and whom they might charge. So, what we see happening as the coverage lurches from Mark Croce’s victim-shaming to anonymous supporters of the alleged victim defending her, to Lieutenant Thomas English, the aforementioned designated driver turning to the News to rebut the alleged victim’s friends’ assertions.

“The whole case has devolved into a public relations battle. In this case, Kane has deeper pockets, star power, and more to lose, so it stands to reason that his PR effort would be well-funded and professional, while the alleged victim’s side has been silent, and some friends talked to the News without attribution.”

The PR effort calmed down a bit, but Sunday’s article reveals that the court of public opinion is in session, and that maens Kane’s alleged victim is now on trial. Cui bono? Obviously, Kane – casting doubt on the very existence of any “rape” certainly helps his image and bolsters those die-hard fans who refused to believe the allegations because of the identity of the accused. What if the leakers are from the DA’s office? This sort of revelation would, let’s say, soften the blow if charges aren’t filed – regardless of the whether there’s been a civil deal.

Justice isn’t being served here.

I Watched the CNN Debate

These are my real-time reactions, at least until 10:20 when I had to get ready for work in the morning.

Cheektowaga: Wrong Democratic Team

CheekRight

We talked about it during Episode 2 of the Public Record podcast, and I wrote about it here and here.

Sometime during this past summer, a political committee suddenly popped up in Cheektowaga calling itself the “Right Democratic Team.” It filed its first and only financial disclosure on or around September 7th – an 11-day pre-primary report. It appears that the “Right Democratic Team” is a Frank Max-aligned subsidiary of Preetsmas Industries.

Here’s what its reports purport to reveal:

1. The “Right Democratic Team” claims to have been created on August 14, 2015, and Kathleen Hannel is listed as treasurer at a Depew address.

Hannel is a supporter of Supervisor Mary Holtz, has been hired in the past as a seasonal worker in the town clerk’s office, and Holtz co-owns the 16 Brookedge Road property with Hannel, according to the Cheektowaga town assessor:

2. In its September filing, the Right Democratic Team says it took in $50 in unitemized contributions from individuals or partnerships on August 26th. The election law allows contributions of under $100 to be unitemized.

3. The Right Democratic Team says it took in $75 in unitemized corporate contributions on July 30th, two weeks before its creation.

So, according to the “Right Democratic Team”, from a date prior to its creation until the September 7th date of this report, it took in only $125 in unitemized contributions, and spent no money whatsoever.

This, however, is not possible. It is a lie. These people are lying. 

How do we know?

1. Here is a ticket for a picnic fundraiser that the “Right Democratic Team” held at Fontana’s on July 30th.

Unless that event was canceled, this committee (a) made much more than the reported $75 in corporate contributions on July 30th; (b) had expenditures relating to the holding of the picnic event; and (c) it is missing – at the very least – one required financial report, the 32-day pre-primary report.

Although the official address for this shadowy committee is that of Cheektowaga Supervisor Mary Holtz, the “remit checks to” address is that of town councilmember Jerry Kaminski. If you go look at Kaminski’s own filings, he reports a $500 contribution to the Right Democratic Team on July 17, 2015. So, why hasn’t the committee that received it reported that? 

Let’s try something different – a search for all contributions to the “Right Democratic Team” that other committees reported. Here’s the result:

So, add to Councilman Kaminski’s $500 an additional $500 from Supervisor candidate Alice Magierski’s committee, Two $500 listings for “literature” to the Right Democratic Team, and a ticket to the July picnic bought by Republican Family Court candidate Brenda Freedman.

That is $2,035 unaccounted-for dollars that the “Right Democratic Team” received starting in mid-July, through September. It had a legal duty to file a 32-day pre-primary report accounting for these payments, but failed and refused to do so. Even if it claimed mistake or ignorance in doing so then, certainly it had a duty to make these disclosures in its 11-day pre-primary report of September 7th. Its failure and refusal to do so is a blatant violation of not only the letter but the spirit of the election law and its flimsy disclosure requirements.

I don’t understand why a group of experienced political operatives feels the need to create a secret, shadowy little political committee to help the Frank Max-backed candidates get elected. Would they be less effective if they obeyed the law? The law requires that they be transparent and up-front about it, yet they refused and failed to do so. Why lie about it? This isn’t an accident – this is deliberate .

Why do people in Cheektowaga tolerate this sort of thing? When will this illegality be prosecuted? Who will prosecute it?

Preetsmas in September

preetsept

It’s been weeks – months – since we last checked in on Preetsmas.

You may recall that on May 28th, state police and FBI agents raided the homes of three prominent political consultants, former county Democratic chairman Steve Pigeon, former deputy Mayor Steve Casey, and Congressman Chris Collins’ chief of staff, Chris Grant. Authorities are investigating campaign finance and election law irregularities of the WNY Progressive Caucus (hereinafter referred to as “AwfulPAC”), and the extent to which they jibe with real life. There’s been speculation that the AwfulPAC investigation branched off into other matters .

Throughout June, we drilled down through the various disclosures and discussed or analyzed how they might be evidence of some illegality:

The First day of Preetsmas (5/28/15): The raids & an introduction

The Second day of Preetsmas (6/4/15): All about AwfulPAC

The Third Day of Preetsmas (6/2/15): Seneca cigarette bootlegger Aaron Pierce & Mickey Kearns.

The Fourth Day of Preetsmas (6/3/15): Steve Pigeon, PAPI, and Gene Caccamise

The Fifth Day of Preetsmas (6/3/15): Pigeon’s Tax Liens

The Sixth Day of Preetsmas  (6/4/15): Analyzing tax returns, and litigation surrounding the sale of the Front Page/South Buffalo News

The Story of Preetsmas (6/4/15): Background on AwfulPAC

The Seventh Day of Preetsmas (6/5/15): Financial Shenanigans with Pigeon-connected PACs

The Eighth Day of Preetsmas (6/7/15): The Money Orders and AwfulPAC

The Ninth Day of Preetsmas (6/9/15): Pigeon’s addresses and Ganjapreneurs

The Tenth day of Preetsmas (6/11/15): The Pigeoning

The Eleventh Day of Preetsmas (6/12/15): AwfulPAC FOIL

Preetsmas: In their Own Words (6/14/15): A trip down memory lane

A Preetsmas Recap and Update (6/16/15): Updates on the investigation

The Preetsmas Mysteries (6/22/15): More about the AwfulPAC money orders

Let’s Talk About “Mistakes Were Made” in Campaign Finance Law (7/14/15): On the question of intent.

The statute of limitations for misdemeanors under the election law is two years from the date of a filing. It’s now mid-September 2015, and 2 year anniversary of the first batch of AwfulPAC’s 2013 reports has come and gone with no prosecution. It’s possible that prosecutors may instead choose to proceed under the New York State Penal Law, for filing a false instrument – a felony.  That may be a cleaner, easier explanation to a (grand or trial) juror.

It may be that prosecutors have focused more on other crimes, all well within the felony category.  It would be a shame to have them ignore the Election Law
even if these people are convicted on other things, because it’s the precedent that’s important – to avoid similar future violations, like illegal coordination.  These sorts of activities have been happening for a long time – at least since 1999, when similiar shenanigans took place on behalf of David Dale vs. Greg Olma, and for Jack O’Donnell vs. Al DeBenedetti. The people who think this all matters can afford to be patient.

Just this past primary season, we had two campaign committees get involved in Cheektowaga that are in blatant violation of the election law; Frank Max’s Progressive Democrats of WNY and a new committee called “Right Democratic Team” clearly participated in the September 2015 primaries, but improperly failed to make the proper financial disclosures. Neither committee filed primary reports, despite things like this happening:

Close readers of the Preetsmas series will recall Aaron Pierce of Irving, NY as having been invested in AwfulPAC, as well. He was a topic of discussion on the 4th and 7th days of Preetsmas. Two of Pierce’s companies found themselves in deep trouble, resulting in a guilty plea and over $1 million in fines, and Pierce lavishly exploits the LLC loophole to plunge tens of thousands of dollars into campaigns.

Max’s Progressive Democrats of WNY received $25,000 from one person just days before a primary election it never disclosed to anyone that it was participating in. Where did the money go? How was it spent – as a donation to one or more campaigns, or to make independent expenditures on other campaigns’ behalf? Whom was the committee supporting or opposing in September’s primary? Why didn’t it file the required forms and disclosures? Is this just another “oops we made a mistake?”

What, exactly, is Pierce buying by throwing $25,000 at Cheektowaga

This is yet another case where a Max- or Pigeon-controlled political committee tries secretly to influence a primary election and does everything it can to avoid drawing attention to itself. Long after it’s too late to matter, or to comply with the letter or spirit of the law, the committee files a flurry of disclosures or amends old ones. It will file forms with the board of elections to reveal the candidates it was backing or opposing months from now – months too late to matter, and months later than required. And, in the end, we’re meant to believe that a person who used to be a town committee chair, has been involved for decades, and who has vied to be the county committee chair did it by mistake and didn’t know any better.

If you have any information concerning this investigation, please feel free confidentially to contact me at buffalopundit[at]gmail.com.

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