Much to Say…

…but I probably won’t say much of it here on this blog. To quote Daily Breeze reporter Denise Nix’s quote from legal pundit Laurie Levenson:

people involved in legal matters must be very careful about what they say in blogs, shorthand for Web logs, because it “can come back to bite them.”

Levenson said blogging defendants generally make their attorneys very nervous.

“It’s not like other writing — it just sort of vomits out on the page and it’s hard to take back or try to put back in context,” Levenson said. “It’s wrought with dangers.”

I don’t want to make my attorney nervous. Ever. He’s been very indulgent of my blogging venture, and I repay his faith by pretty much avoiding the topic of my trial. Not only could anything I say be “used against me,” as the Miranda warning has it, but striking the right tone is difficult. This hasn’t been easy, but I’m not looking for sympathy, so I don’t want to say anything that might cause people to feel sorry for me. Conversely, many things have happened to make me laugh out loud, but by sharing the laughs with you, I fear it would seem I was making light of the situation, and I don’t want to do that either.

Beth Barrett of the Daily News asked me to comment after the verdict yesterday, and I declined to talk about anything legal, verdict included. I did say one thing to her (which she didn’t use): I told her this experience has been emotionally overwhelming because of the many expressions of heartfelt sentiment about me from family, friends, former co-workers and clients, friends I haven’t heard from in 25 years, and even people I only know online. I am so grateful for that, inexpressibly grateful.

But I’m just an ordinary person who has led, generally speaking, a fairly ordinary life. I am sure that many people just like me have the love and respect of others, but don’t get to hear it very often. I was lucky, in a way. A bad thing happened to me, and so people came out of the woodwork and out of their shells to tell me how they felt, and to offer help. Their help–your help– made a difference in many ways, especially in my outlook on the whole ordeal.

My hope for all of you is that it doesn’t take a disaster for the people in your life to let you know how they feel about you.

One funny thing happened today. I went across the street from where I live to buy coffee for my wife and me. I had forgotten that this coffee shop stacks copies of the Daily Breeze for sale by the register. Because I’m an “area man,” the Daily Breeze played the story of the verdict sentence above the fold — with this horrible picture of me I put on my blog last summer. It was one of those ‘hold the digital camera three feet away from your face while you’re wearing a stupid hat’ pictures — now reproduced above the fold in a newspaper available everywhere in the South Bay.

Tomorrow can’t come soon enough!

Fortunately, even though I’m a regular at this coffee shop, no one behind the counter seemed to make the connection. Or, if they did, they were still willing to sell me coffee.

Seeing my face in that paper reminded me I owe an apology to David Zahniser, the excellent LA Weekly reporter who was at the Breeze when I was indicted. As he followed the early weeks of my story, he kept identifying me, mistakenly, as a resident of Rolling Hills Estates. This is probably because the LA County registrar of voters keeps getting an important part of my address wrong, no matter how many times I try to fix it.

At one point David left me a voice mail asking me to clarify where I lived — he obviously knew his information was iffy. Now, I always had good dealings with David, always liked and respected him, and never intended him harm. But I wasn’t in the mood to correct the error at the time. I also didn’t think I should be talking to any reporters. So, for months, until he left the Breeze, I was always identified as a Rolling Hills Estates resident.

There were times when seeing that mistake repeated once again was the highlight of my day.

David, I’m sorry. Your reportorial instincts were right as usual. I don’t live in Rolling Hills Estates. I hope you will forgive me.

10 thoughts on “Much to Say…

  1. Don’t know what to say. I see that a 15-month sentence has been issued, with a “contrite” John Stodder “accepting responsibility.” That doesn’t make it sound as if an appeal is forthcoming.

  2. D4P — Responding to your comment at any depth would make my attorney nervous. Suffice to say, there was much discussed in the trial for which I take personal responsibility that I regret deeply. The judge made a number of comments as he sentenced me that I strongly agree with. It’s too bad his entire statement wasn’t published somewhere. Having said that, however, there is ample justification for an appeal.

  3. Marty, thank you. I will do exactly as you say.

    Already I’m trying to decide on my next post. It’s between the Super Bowl; and compact flourescent lightbulbs, which I’ve been writing about for the past year, and are suddenly in the news in a big way. Which do you think is most appropriate?

  4. Dear Wondering:

    I live in Playa del Rey and I can see John’s house from mine. How’s that for a hint?

    Dear D4P:

    I attended the sentencing hearing where the judge, after passing sentence, gave each defendant a lengthy explanation of their right to appeal, and the process to follow. I can fully understand contrition, accepting responsibility, and also saying, “Yes, Your Honor, I’d like a helping of that ‘right to appeal’ also.” No paradox there.

    The judge was also clear in his personal remarks to each defendant about the difference between John’s acceptance of personal responsibility and that of his co-defendant, as LA Times reporter John Spano noted in his post-verdict story:

    U.S. District Judge Gary Feess told Dowie that he had abused the public’s trust and lost his “moral compass” in masterminding a scheme to overbill city government for consulting services.

    But in his first courtroom statement on the case, Dowie defiantly insisted that he was wrongfully convicted May 16. After he was sentenced, he said, “I am innocent, and I will appeal.”

    In contrast, co-defendant John Stodder Jr., 51, was contrite, accepting responsibility. He received a 15-month sentence.

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