Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Blunt named national co-chair for Romney campaign

Mitt Romney's presidential campaign today announced that Missouri Governor Matt Blunt will serve as one of the campaign's three national co-chairmen:

Today, Governor Mitt Romney named Governor Matt Blunt (R-MO), Senator Jim DeMint (R-SC) and Senator Judd Gregg (R-NH) as National Co-Chairs of the Romney for President campaign. As National Co-Chairs, they will serve as key advisers to Governor Romney and his national campaign.

Making today's announcement, Governor Romney said, "As leaders in their respective states and for our country, these men bring an incredible depth of knowledge and experience to our campaign to build a stronger America with a stronger military, stronger economy and stronger families. In the coming weeks and months, their support will be critical as we mobilize our grassroots effort throughout the nation."

"Our country faces a new generation of challenges that demand a leader who has the experience to meet those challenges. Whether in the private sector, at the 2002 Winter Olympics or in Massachusetts, Governor Romney has a proven record of leadership and exceptional experience in turning around troubled institutions. Governor Romney is the best candidate to bring real change to Washington," said Governor Matt Blunt.

Guilty plea accepted by defendant in Bowman credit card, bank fraud case

Yet another defendant in the bank and credit card case, whose defendants include Rep. John Bowman, D-St. Louis, pleaded guilty today in U. S. District Court in St. Louis.

Court records indicate William Hart, 27, pleaded guilty during a 20-minute session this morning to a bank fraud charge. Sentencing is scheduled for Jan. 24.

Bowman is one of only five of the original 17 defendants remaining in the case. Most of the others have entered guilty pleas. In documents filed Tuesday, Bowman asked to keep the original trial date of Nov. 26, and said he had no objections to severing his case from the other defendants.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Supreme Court won't hear Freeman appeal

Freeman Health Systems lost another round today in its continuing effort to gain control of Metro Emergency Transport System (METS}.
The Missouri Supreme Court announced it will not hear Freeman's appeal of a Missouri Southern District Court of Appeals opinion.

In a unanimous ruling earlier this month, the court upheld an earlier decision by Jasper County Circuit Court Judge David Dally which said Freeman and St. John's should each have three of the six seats on the METS board. METS provides ambulance service for the Joplin area.
When METS started as JEMS in 1981, Freeman, St. John's, and Oak Hill Hospital each held two board seats. When Tri-State Osteopathic Association, owner of Oak Hill, merged with Freeman in 1996, Freeman insisted it should have four of the six seats.
Dally ruled that equal representation was "consistent with the intent of the original corporate members of JEMS."

Dupont arraignment pushed back one day

The arraignment for Anderson Guest House owner Robert Dupont, charged with defrauding the Missouri Medicaid program from Sept. 20, 2003, to Sept. 20, 2007, originally scheduled for Wednesday, in the U. S. Courthouse in Springfield, has been delayed until 2 p.m. Thursday.
Dupont is accused of operating the Anderson Guest House and Guest House facilities in Joplin and Carl Junction after being convicted of federal Medicare and Medicaid fraud.
A federal grand jury reindicted Dupont earlier this month.

A fire at the Anderson Guest House in November 2006 took 11 lives.

Bowman: Let's have the trial now

In documents filed today in U. S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri, Rep. John Bowman, D-St. Louis, says he has no problems with the government's plan to separate his trial on bank and credit card fraud charges from his co-defendants, but he disagrees with the suggestion that his trial be pushed back to January.

Bowman lists the following reasons for keeping the current Nov. 26 trial date:

1. He has "subpoenaed a number of witnesses" to appear on that date.

2. His lawyers have other case scheduled for trial in December and January.

Only five of the original 17 defendants in the case remain, with most of the others entering guilty pleas and expected to offer testimony against the remaining defendants.

More information about the case can be found in the Oct. 26 Turner Report.

Life, influence of Wagoner outlined in article

The Nashville Tennessean offers a look at the life of country music legend Porter Wagoner, who died over the weekend at age 80. Wagoner, of course, was born in West Plains, and had his first successes as a musician in Springfield. Wagoner's later years were highlighted by an unlikely comeback:

Wagoner did not record any country hits after 1983, and talks of a comeback album were halted after he nearly died from an aneurysm in 2006. But he slowly returned to good health, and he and (Marty) Stuart set about making an album that highlighted his talents.

"Wagonmaster" was released to rave reviews, Wagoner's legacy was reevaluated by the New York Times and other publications, and Wagoner wound up opening for rock band the White Stripes at Madison Square Garden.

"I'm just so grateful, and feel so good about the fact that God let me live through that aneurysm," Wagoner said earlier this year. "I guess I think he had some other things that he wanted me to do."

Monday, October 29, 2007

Nexstar Broadcasting to announce third quarter financial results

Nexstar Broadcasting will announce its third quarter financial results during a conference call and webcast 9 a.m. Tuesday, Nov. 6, according to a company news release.
To join in on the call, dial 877/723-9517. A replay will be available through November 10 by dialing 888/203-1112.
Nexstar Broadcasting owns KSNF in Joplin and KSFX in Springfield and operates KODE in Joplin and KOLR in Springfield.

Former News-Leader executive editor named to Asheville post

Charles R. "Randy" Hammer, executive editor of the Springfield News-Leader in the mid-1990s, has been named president and publisher of the Asheville, N. C. Citizen-Times, according to a news release issued by Gannett:

"Randy's rich background in the newspaper industry has made him a valuable asset to our company. Stepping him up to president and publisher is a great move for him and for Gannett," said Gannett's Newspaper Division president, Sue Clark-Johnson.

Hammer had been with the Louisville newspaper since 2006, after spending seven years as executive editor of the News Journal of Pensacola, Fla.

Webb City residential care facility cited by state

County Acres Residential Care, Inc., a Webb City facility, has been cited by the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services during two recent inspections, according to the Missouri Coalition for Quality Care website. The following description of the violations was provided on the website:

A licensure inspection was completed on 6/26/07. The facility was not in substantial compliance with participation requirements. A revisit and complaint investigation was completed on 9/14/07. The facility failed to: provide adequate protective oversight by ensuring a staff person was awake while on duty to provide oversight to the residents; failed to provide proper care to meet the needs of a resident and follow physician orders to discharge the resident to a higher level of care to ensure proper management of the resident’s diabetes; failed to ensure staff did not knowingly omit any duties when staff failed to report allegations of sexual misconduct, verbal abuse of residents, ensure medications were in a secured location and not accessible to residents, keeping a resident whose needs could not be met by facility staff, provide adequate oversight and supervision by having an awake staff on duty; failed to ensure residents were not subjected to verbal abuse, threats of retaliation and report to the state agency any suspected abuse of residents; ensure a staff and effective medication system by ensuring medications were properly stored and not accessible by any person other than staff.

The Webb City facility was issued Class 1 and Class 2 notices of non-compliance.

Change of venue hearing delayed in church shooting case

A decision on a change of venue for accused killer Eikan Elam Saimon, originally scheduled to be made during a pre-trial conference today in Newton County Circuit Court, has been delayed until 2 p.m. Monday, Nov. 19.
Saimon is charged with three counts of first degree murder and nine other felony charges in connection with the Aug. 12 shooting spree at the First Congregational Church in Neosho. The shootings took place during an afternoon worship service of a Micronesian congregation. The three murder victims were the church's pastor and two deacons.
Saimon's trial is scheduled for June 23, 2008.

Graham files civil action against Director of Revenue

Boone County Circuit Court records on Missouri's indicate Sen. Chuck Graham, whose license was pulled after his refusal to submit to a breathalyzer test after being arrested for drunken driving Oct. 20, has filed a civil action against the Director of Revenue in order to have his driving privileges restored while the DWI case works its way through the court system. This is a routine action taken in many drunk driving cases.
The action was filed Oct. 24.
No hearing has been set in the case, according to

Sinquefield story includes no mention of vouchers

Count the Kansas City Star's Steve Kraske among those media types who are going to go along with educational voucher supporters' efforts to make their agenda more palatable simply by changing the name.
In his love letter to retired billionaire Rex Sinquefield in the Sunday Star, Kraske did not mention the word vouchers once, opting instead for this:

Big dollars have been poured into his best-known creation, a St. Louis-based free-market think tank called the Show-Me Institute, which advocates for many of his pet issues. Those include giving parents in Kansas City and St. Louis a broader array of school choices, abolishing the state income tax and replacing the earnings taxes in the state’s two biggest cities.

A broader array of school choices? Kraske not only does not mention vouchers, but he does not mention anything about public money going to private schools which would not have to account for how it is spent. It is the same trick employed by Sinquefield's Show-Me Institute. If you ask people if they believe they should have a choice of which school their children should attend, you are going to go a large percentage who will say yes. If you ask those same people if tax money should go to private schools, including private religious schools, the number who agree drops considerably.

Kraske also seems to almost revel in Sinquefield's efforts to pour as much money as he can into the accounts of his favored candidates, including Governor Matt Blunt and Attorney General candidate Chris Koster:

Critics contend that he’s blatantly skirting the newly reimposed campaign limits, because the committees allow Sinquefield to still make virtually unlimited donations to favored candidates. If each committee makes a maximum donation of $1,275 to Blunt, for example, Sinquefield can still funnel more than $100,000 to the governor.

“This attempt to buy public policy in our state should outrage Missourians,” said Robin Krause, a Knob Noster school board member and chairman of the Missouri Education Roundtable.

But the plan appears to be legal, and Sinquefield is upfront about his objectives. Republicans point out that finding ways to skirt donation limits is a time-honored practice in Missouri by members of both parties.

It should make us all feel good that our elected representatives and those who support them, from both parties, are so adept at taking a look at laws and finding out how to get around them.

Porter Wagoner dead at 80

West Plains native Porter Wagoner, a member of the Country Music Hall of Fame, died Sunday at age 80.
At one time, his syndicated television show was the top outlet for country music and was shown in this area at 5:30 p.m. every Saturday. Wagoner made his first records in Springfield, before moving to Nashville:

In 1960, he launched TV's syndicated Porter Wagoner Show, on a budget of less than $1,000 an episode. It predated Hee Haw and CMT. At its peak, it aired in more than 100 markets, making it the most important country-music TV property of its time.

Wagoner introduced a young Dolly Parton in 1967. They recorded many duets together, including The Last Thing on My Mind and Just Someone I Used to Know. Wagoner produced some of Parton's early solo hits (1975's The Seeker). The partnership ended acrimoniously in 1974, but Parton wrote I Will Always Love You for him as she left.

More than anything, Wagoner loved a song that told a story. He favored sentimental recitations and macabre tales of murder and insanity, like the cult favorite The Rubber Room. Between 1954 and 1980, he had 20 top 10 country hits, including Green, Green Grass of Home, The Carroll County Accident and The Cold Hard Facts of Life. He won Grammys for three gospel albums with the Blackwood Brothers. In 2002, he became a member of the Country Music Hall of Fame.

Wagoner this year recorded a final album, Wagonmaster. "It's the kind of country that defined what real and true, pure, authentic country music is," says Marty Stuart, who produced Wagonmaster. "It's the remnant of that old cloth that so little is left of, from the Hank Williams era. It's just a tiny remnant of that. But, man, is it a good one."

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Former KSN reporter honored by Arkansas Alumni Association

CNN weekend anchor T. J. Holmes, who made his first career stop as a reporter at KSNF, was honored by the Arkansas Alumni Association in Fayetteville Friday:

Holmes, a native of West Memphis, received a bachelor's degree in broadcast journalism in 1999 and now works as a news anchor for CNN in Atlanta. Before joining CNN in September 2006, his career took him to KSNF-TV in Joplin, Mo., KTHV-TV in Little Rock and NBC11 in San Francisco, the fifth market in the country. When Saddam Hussein was executed, T.J. Holmes brought the news into living rooms across the world, the same day that CNN also covered the memorial services of President Gerald Ford and James Brown. Sitting in the anchor chair for eight straight hours, Holmes took the lead as information came in fast and furious with no scripts. He describes it as the biggest and best day of his career.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Leggett & Platt closes Arkansas plant, 250 out of work

Carthage-based Fortune 500 company Leggett & Platt announced it is closing its Precision Industries plant in Malvern, Ark.:

Ricke Teague, vice president of human resources with Leggett & Platt, which is North America's largest producer of custom aluminum products, explained the company's decision to KTHV-TV, Channel 11.

"The decision to close the Malvern operation was based on a number of factors, including the fact that it has been losing money, margins have been eroded by global competition and there have been inefficiencies we have been unable to overcome," Teague said. "The state Dislocated Workers Task Force has been contacted and is working with local management to assist workers with the transition to other jobs. Management is also working with the United Auto Workers Local 415 to determine what additional measures may be taken to cushion the impact on employees."

No drinking problem for Graham, he hasn't touched a drop since arrest

The Columbia Missourian reports Sen. Chuck Graham, D-Columbia, insists he does not have a drinking problem. After all, he hasn't had a drink since his DWI arrest last Saturday.

Sen. Chuck Graham, under pressure from Republicans to resign following his drunk driving arrest last weekend, said he doesn’t have a drinking problem and has no plans to ditch his re-election campaign.

“This is an opportunity for me to emerge as a better person who is healthy and a strong public servant,” the Columbia Democrat said. “I don’t think I have a problem.”
Graham said he has not drank since Saturday. "I’m not drinking, and I’m excited about it. I'm excited about having improved physical and mental health.”

Graham did, however, drop the idea for having a cash bar at his campaign kickoff last night.

The Columbia Tribu
ne asked if Graham had ever been involved in drunk driving before, and his answer is a bit worrisome:

“Not that I’m aware of.”

The article continues:

As a legislator, Graham voted to cut funding for the Missouri Division of Liquor Control and supported easing restrictions on bars’ proximity to churches and schools. He said Friday he stands by those votes and doesn’t believe his arrest will hinder him as a legislator.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Government wants to try Bowman separately

It appears the full brunt of the federal government's bank and credit card case is going to brought against Rep. John Bowman, D-St. Louis, and when he come to trial he may be the only defendant.
Only five of the original 17 defendants remain, with most of them entering guilty pleas, including the latest, Robert Baker, who pleaded guilty to three counts today in U. S. District Court in St. Louis.
In documents filed today, the government asked that the cases of the five remaining defendants be severed into three cases, and that the trial date, which is scheduled for Nov. 26, be pushed back with only Robert Connor's trial being held at the scheduled time.
Assistant U. S. Attorney Matthew Schelp asked that the trials of Max Davis, Joanna Davis, and Monica Gholson be moved to December, and that Bowman's trial be held in January. Schelp outlined his reasons for the request in the court documents:

The government intends to introduce statements and admissions from all the defendants listed above. A defendant may be prejudiced by the admission in evidence against a co-defendant of a statement or confession made by the co-defendant. The confession of a co-defendant who exercises his or her Fifth Amendment right not to testify is not admissible against the defendant because the defendant has no opportunity to cross-examine the co-defendant. In Bruton v. United States, the Supreme Court held that the admission of a co-defendant’s confession at a joint trial
violates the defendant’s right to confrontation if the confession also incriminates the defendant unless the co-defendant testifies. Bruton v. United States, 391 U.S. 123, 126 (1968). The codefendant’s confession must be excluded even when the co-defendant’s confession merely corroborates the defendant’s own confession. Cruz v. N.Y., 481 U.S. 186, 193 (1987). An instruction that the jury should disregard the confession as evidence against the defendant is insufficient to render it admissible, unless the confession is redacted to eliminate any references to the existence or someone whom the jury would know to be the defendant.

The veteran St. Louis representative was indicted in January by a federal grand jury, which said Bowman and his co-defendants agreed to a scheme in which Bank of America Vice President Robert Conner took a bank lending program which provided money to small businesses by offering a $25,000 credit limit. Conner then arranged with the other defendants to apply for the loans, often with fictitious companies, then give Conner kickbacks ranging from $2,500 to $5,000 on each loan.
According to the indictment, Conner approved $1,213,970 in fraudulent loans.

According to the indictment, Conner approved $1,213,970 in fraudulent loans.
The indictment says Bowman became involved in the scheme in January 2006 during a meeting with Conner in the Bank of America branch in Chesterfield, submitting a fraudulent credit application under the name "Bowman Consulting."
On Jan. 30, 2006, the indictment said, Bowman used a "fraudulent credit card to obtain a $4,050 cash advance at a Bank of America Plaza branch in St. Louis. From Jan. 25, 2006, to Feb. 3, 2006, Bowman used the bank VISA card to buy "things of value in excess of $1,000."
If convicted of the crimes, Bowman could be sentenced to as much as 40 years in prison.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Appellate court upholds Tulsa gang member's murder conviction

The Missouri Southern District Court of Appeals upheld the murder conviction of Tulsa gang member Brian McDaniel today.
McDaniel was convicted in 2006 in McDonald County Circuit Court with the 2001 murder of Kendace DeCarlo in Newton County. The case was moved to McDonald County on a change of venue.
The court rejected McDaniel's claim that his statement to police should have been tossed and that Judge Kevin Selby should not have allowed testimony concerning McDaniel's gang membership. The opinion gives the following summary of McDaniel's crime:

Brian McDaniel (defendant) was convicted, following a jury trial, of murder in the first degree. Section 565.020.(FN1) This court affirms.
On July 3, 2001, the body of Kendace DeCarlo was found at her residence in Newton County. She had sustained two gunshot wounds to the head. An autopsy determined the cause of death as "massive brain trauma secondary to gunshot wound." The police officer who responded to the scene, Officer Allen, found three unused rounds of RP .380 cartridges on the front porch. He found two RP .380 shell casings on the porch just outside the front door near the victim's body.
Detective Jimmy Wallace, an officer with the Joplin Police Department, contacted Val Moss, Brad Moss, and Michael Wheeler. Detective Wallace was told that the three of them had come to the Moss residence that was located near the victim's residence about 9:45 the night of the shooting; that a white car was parked in front of the Moss residence when they arrived. A black male was seated in the driver's seat. They saw another black male run down an alley and get in the car.
Detective Wallace developed photo lineups for the three witnesses to view. All three witnesses identified defendant from one of the photo lineups as one of the persons they saw near the Moss residence the evening of the murder. They also identified a picture of a white Saturn rental car to which defendant had access as being very similar to, if not the same as, the car they saw at the Moss residence. The three witnesses identified a picture of Don Overton from another photo lineup as the other person they saw the night of the murder.
In July 2002, Detective Wallace went to Tulsa, Oklahoma, where defendant lived. He was present when a search warrant was executed at defendant's apartment. The officers executing the search warrant seized a box of .380 ammunition. It was not a full box and contained different brands of ammunition. RP was the dominant brand.
Defendant told the officers that he was an ex-boyfriend of the victim; that his intentions had been to get back with her. Defendant said at the time of the murder he had been "out dealing dope that night, in and out of his apartment." He told the officers that about a week and a half before the murder, he learned the victim "was not only cheating on him, but that she was selling her new lover's dope along with his dope." Defendant told the officers that during his relationship with the victim, she had sold his dope; that he believed she was murdered because of her dope dealing and her relationship with her new boyfriend.
Israel Ward had known defendant since the early 1990s. At the time of the trial of this case, Ward was in federal custody after pleading guilty to conspiracy to distribute cocaine. His sentencing was pending. He had pleaded guilty pursuant to a negotiated plea agreement. The plea agreement provided for a recommendation of a 15-year sentence. One of the terms of the plea agreement was that Ward would cooperate with any federal, state, or local government in prosecuting a crime about which he had knowledge.
Ward told the jury about business dealings he had with defendant involving "[d]rug distribution." He said defendant was upset with the victim because of her relationship with a new boyfriend; that defendant told Ward defendant was going to get Donald Overton to kill her. Ward said defendant told him that a .380 semi-automatic handgun would be used because it "was a throw away, a gun that was untraceable to anybody." Ward said defendant had shown him the gun. Ward talked to defendant after the victim had been killed. Ward told the judge and jury, "[H]e let me know that it had been handled, and that Overton had pulled the trigger."

Natural Disaster to perform at Sane Mule Saturday

Our group, Natural Disaster, which specializes in 50s and 60s rock and country, will be back in action this Saturday, beginning at 11 a.m. at the Sane Mule Motorcycle Shop near Boulder City in Newton County.
We will play most of the time between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m., though another group will do a short set sometime during that time.
The performance goes along with one of owner Paul Richardson's regular motorcycle rallies. A chili feed is also scheduled.

Nebraska newspaper:: We'll let readers know what happens with GateHouse

Greg Awtry, publisher of the York, Nebraska News-Times, made a promise that he may intend to keep but probably will not.
In the article concerning the sale of his newspaper to GateHouse Media, which was announced earlier this week, Awtry promised to let his readers know what takes place when GateHouse takes over:

News-Times Publisher Greg Awtry says the staff of the local newspaper will stay focused on continued excellence.

"GateHouse Media is a company with an acute knowledge of the newspaper business and of the challenges facing community newspapers today," says Awtry. "Although we will miss being part of the Morris family, we look forward to GateHouse's leadership in growing our business. As the change of ownership progresses, we will keep our readers informed. Meanwhile, the staff and management of the York News-Times will not stray from our vision of being the best community newspaper in Nebraska."

While I am sure Awtry was sincere, newspapers, which always demand every scrap of information from those they cover (and in most cases, rightfully so), are notoriously bad about releasing any information about themselves. I remember when American Publishing Company, the precursor of Liberty Group Publishing, which was, of course, the precursor for GateHouse Media, bought The Carthage Press from Thompson Newspapers.

We were required to run the news release word for word, not add any information to it and not even change a couple of errors that were in the release, because that was what the lawyers demanded.

And, of course, our newspaper, just like most newspapers, is not going to report on the various personnel changes which inevitably occur after a new company takes over. I am also reasonably certain that the newspaper will not talk about the cuts in staffing that may come, or the shifts in coverage that will occur as news beats are sacrificed or specially-targeted advertorial sections that provide cash flow, but little of substance of readers. I would be surprised to see things be any different in York, or at any of the other 16 newspapers, including the Pittsburg Morning Sun, Independence Examiner, and Hannibal Courier-Post, that were sold by Morris Publications to GateHouse this week.

GateHouse Media owns The Carthage Press, Neosho Daily News, Neosho Post, Greenfield Vedette, and Aurora Advertiser in southwest Missouri.

Student newspaper: Graham should step down from leadership post

The Maneater, the student newspaper at the University of Missouri, has recommended that Sen. Chuck Graham, D-Columbia, resign from his post as assistant minority leader following his DWI arrest:

Not only did Graham put his constituents in danger, he also lost trust among the people he represents.

Graham has already made enemies in the General Assembly, and his opponents will only use this as a way to attack and discredit him. He loses accountability and credibility, and he could possibly even lose an important seat in next year’s state elections. If this situation proves to be too much of a distraction during the next legislative session, Graham can decide to take further action. For now, though, he should cede his leadership position and apologize to those who elected him to office.

Education groups ask candidates to return Sinquefield money

Missouri education groups have asked candidates to return contributions from retired billionaire and pro-voucher activist Rex Sinquefield, according to St. Louis Post-Dispatch Political Fix:

“We are calling on candidates for public office in Missouri to reject contributions from Mr. Sinqefield’s political action committees,” says Education Roundtable chairman Robin Krause, a school board member from Knob Noster. “Mr. Sinquefield is attempting to buy candidates through massive campaign contributions that violate the spirit of contribution limits in Missouri.”

The Roundtable’s members include:
–the Missouri Association of Elementary School Principals;
–the Missouri Association of School Administrators;
–the Missouri Association of Secondary School Principals;
–the Missouri PTA;
–the American Federation of Teachers – Missouri;
–the Missouri National Education Association;
–the Missouri School Boards’ Association;
–the Missouri State Teachers Association.

“This attempt to buy public policy in our state should outrage Missourians,” says Krause. “There is no reason Rex Sinquefield should be able to buy the legislation he wants simply because he has millions of dollars to contribute to candidates’ campaigns.”

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Missourian: Police, hospital support their own in Graham fiasco

As expected, Columbia Police officials are backing their man's version of the events that occurred following the DWI arrest of Sen. Chuck Graham, D-Columbia, and University Hospital officials and Graham's lawyer are disputing that version. The Columbia Missourian continues to offer solid coverage of the fallout of the arrest of one of the state's best known legislators:

A spokeswoman for University Hospital said the hospital staff followed appropriate procedures when they tried to prevent Columbia police Officer Donald Weaver from taking a sample of Sen. Chuck Graham’s urine from the hospital to test it for alcohol.

Meanwhile, Columbia Police Chief Randy Boehm said Weaver acted according to police procedure when he took Graham’s urine.

The police report can be found at this link.

Branson Missouri Blog: Herschend not proposing vouchers

A post from the Branson Missouri Blog quotes Silver Dollar City head honcho Peter Herschend as saying he does not intend to propose educational vouchers:

Pete Herschend affirmed he wasn't proposing school vouchers last week and said students have a right to be educated.

Though he said he wasn't a proponent of vouchers he did say he believes all Missouri children have the right to the best education available.

Herschend, who was recently reappointed by Governor Matt Blunt to the State Board of Education, apparently did not mention whether he favors the infamous tuition tax credits, a thinly disguised effort to open the door for vouchers. He also says nothing about the only political contribution he has made to a Missouri candidate this year, according to Missouri Ethics Commission documents- a maximum contribution to the most outspoken pro-voucher legislator in Missouri, Rep. Jane Cunningham, R-Chesterfield, who is mounting a run for the Senate. Herschend's wife also contributed the maximum to Mrs. Cunningham.

And why would Herschend be the first non-voucher supporter appointed by the governor? If Blunt, a keynote speaker at the 2006 convention of the nation's top pro-voucher organization, All Children Matter, appoints a candidate, it is a sure bet that candidate is designed to keep that All Children Matter/Rex Sinquefield money pouring into the old campaign coffers.

Report: Graham refused breathalyzer; arresting officer battles University Hospital doctor, Graham attorney

The Columbia Police Department released the investigating officer's report on the arrest of Sen. Chuck Graham, D-Columbia, for driving while intoxicated:

On October 20, 2007 at approximately 9:47 p.m. Officers Rigsby and Cavener were dispatched to a three vehicle collision at the intersection of Green Meadows Road and Bethel Street. Sergeant Shelley Jones requested that I respond to the accident to render assistance. The officers responsible for investigating the accident had limited experience with investigating intoxicated drivers. At approximately 10:34pm, I arrived at the accident scene.

Upon my arrival, I observed three vehicles on Green Meadows Road that appeared to have collided with one another. It appeared that a Chevrolet Monte Carlo bearing Missouri license S19 had collided with the rear of another vehicle, which then collided with the rear of a third vehicle. For further information regarding the collision, please see the Missouri Standardized Accident Report compiled by Officer Rigsby.

I made contact with three men that were congregated near the stop sign, Dale Cramer, John Merritt, and Charles Graham. Cramer denied having consumed any alcohol and exhibited no signs of impairment. Merritt denied having consumed any alcohol and exibited no signs of impairment. Graham, too, intitially denied having consumed any alcohol. However, despite the fact that we were outdoors in relatively heavy winds, I detected a strong odor of alcoholic beverage on his breath.

I again asked Graham whether he had been drinking any alcohol. This time, Graham replied he had had "a few drinks" over the last two hours. He said he had been drinking Bud Light. I asked Graham "How many is a few?" Graham replied "that's it." Graham changed his answer again and later said he had drank two beers in the past two hours.

I performed the horizontal gaze nystagmus test on Graham. I clearly instructed him to refrain from moving his head from side to side. I began the test and Graham, despite my clear instructions, moved his head to follow my fingertip. I re-explained the test, and again clearly requested Graham not move his head. Again, despite my clear instructions, Graham moved his head. Graham was unable to follow simple instructions.

I asked Graham to place his hands on his chin. I have found through past experience that this often serves as a reminder to those performing the horizontal gaze nystagmus test that they are not to move their head. Graham's response to my instruction to place his hands on his chin was nonsensical. Graham explained he was unable to do what I had requested becuase he was "partially paralyzed." He also explained he had a "balance problem," and that he has what he described as a "paralyzation problem." He continued, explaining he was "not able to do a lot of things in terms of paralyzation." Graham's comments were patently absurd, as what I was requesting did not involve balance or any parts of his body except his head and arms. Graham slurred and mumbled when he spoke.

At this point, probable cause existed to believe that Graham was operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated, in violation of State law and municipal ordinance.

Only after I had explained the test four times did Graham follow my fingertip with his eyes and refrain from moving his head. I noticed the lack of smooth pursuit in both Graham's left and right eyes. I noticed distinct nystagmus at maximum deviation in both Graham's left and right eyes. I also noticed the onset of nystagmus prior to 45 degrees (parallel with Graham's shoulders) in both Graham's left and right eyes. Graham's eyes were red,watery, and bloodshot.

I explained to Graham that I was doubtful he had consumed only a few drinks. I explained that I believed he had either consumed much more alcohol that he claimed, or had used alcohol in conjunction with a controlled substance. Graham denied having used any drugs. I again asked Graham how much alcohol he had consumed and he remained silent. I asked again, and he told me he was refusing to answer that question.

I told Graham he was under arrest and requested he move his wheelchair near my patrol car so he could seat himself in the back seat. Once he was in my patrol car I handcuffed his hands in front of him and fastened his seatbelt.

Officer Mike Cavener took possession of Graham's wheelchair, disassembled it, and transported it to the Columbia Police Department. I transported Graham to the Columbia Police Department for processing.

At the Columbia Police Department, while Graham and I were still in my patrol car, I asked Graham several routine booking questions. Graham continued to slur his speech and mumble.

I reassembled Graham's wheelchair. I removed the handcuffs from Graham's hands to enable him to remove himself from my patrol car. Graham successfully moved himself from my patrol car to his wheelchair. I guided Graham in his wheelchair into the booking room. Graham indicated that he had to use the restroom. I guided Graham into holding cell number one at approximately 11:08pm. The water in the toilet of the holding cell was clear. At approximately 11:16pm, I guided Graham from the holding cell to the breath test room. I noticed the water in the holding cell toilet was a medium yellow tint. Graham urinated in the holding cell toilet between 11:08pm and 11:14pm.

I read Graham the Implied Consent Statement from page two of the Alcohol Influence Report at 11:18 p.m. Graham reiterated that he wanted to speak with an attorney. I explained to Graham that he would have 20 minutes to use the telephone and contact whomever he chose. I allowed Graham to use his personal cellular telephone, I also offered him use of the telephone in the breath testing room.

At approximately 11:21pm, Graham noticed he had a bruise on his right forearm. He requested medical attention for his aching bruise. I promptly summoned paramedics.

Graham informed me his attorney, Robert A. Murray, was in the lobby of the Columbia Police Department. Graham requested to speak with Murray in person.

At approximately 11:32pm, I escorted Graham to an interview room near the front lobby of the Columbia Police Department. Boone Hospital Center Paramedics Alan Beard and Jeff Norman arrived to evaluate Graham's bruise. Paramedics conducted an evaluation of Graham in the interview room. Sergeant Jones, Murray, and I stood outside and watched. Graham complained his mouth was extremely dry.

The paramedics informed Graham that he did in fact have a bruise on his arm and that it may continue to ache for several days.

Graham began breathing extremely rapidly. Graham acted as if he was hyperventilating. Despite the fact that Graham was breathing very rapidly, Graham and Murray both requested that paramedics discontinue their evaluation so Graham and Murray could confer in private.

As soon as the door closed, Graham's breathing instantaneously returned to normal and he conversed with Murray without experiencing any further episodes of rapid breathing.

Graham and Murray conversed, in private, for twenty minutes. As soon as Graham exited the room, he demanded to be taken to a hospital. I asked Sergeant Jones to request the paramedics return and transport Graham to the hospital.

I escorted Graham back towards the booking area and informed him we would be returning to the breath testing room where I would again request a chemical test of his breath. He explained he needed medical attention and wanted to be transported to the hospital.

While waiting for the paramedics to arrive I escorted Graham back into the breath testing room in the booking area. At 12:00am (now October 21, 2007), I again read Graham the implied consent statement from page two of the Alcohol Influence Report. When asked whether he would submit to the requested chemical test of his breath, Graham explained, "I am not refusing anything, I need to go to the hospital." I explained to Graham that as soon as the paramedics arrive, he would be transported to the hospital.

During the course of the next few moments, I asked Graham no less than six times whether or not he would submit to the chemical test of his breath. I readied the Intoxilyzer 5000 to accept Graham's breath sample. I inserted a sterile mouthpiece into the Intoxilyzer 5000 air intake hose. Graham was seated only inches from the machine. Graham simply repeated over and over again, "I'm not refusing anything, I need medical attention." I cautioned Graham that his inaction constitutes a refusal under Missouri law. Graham remained steadfast and continued to say, "I'm not refusing anything, I need medical attention."

When the paramedics arrived, they removed Graham from his wheelchair and placed him on a gurney. They transported Graham to the University of Missouri Hospital at his request. We left the Columbia Police Department booking area at approximately 12:20 a.m. We arrived at the University of Missouri Hospital Emergency Room at approximately 12:26 a.m.

I sat in the examination room with Graham when he was evaluated by medical personnel. Graham's attending physician was Scott Schultz. He was also treated at times by two or three different nurses, one of whom was identified as Nakeya Booth. The first time Schultz entered the room, he adressed Graham as Mr. Graham in a joyous and familar tone. He asked Graham whether Graham remembered him (Schultz); and he mentioned two places or events where the two had encountered one another previously.

Graham acknowledged that he needed to urinate. Graham urinated through a hose that was attached to his penis externally, into a plastic container. Due to where the chairs were situated in relation to the bed, I saw Graham urinate into the container through the hose.

While the medical personnel were doing nothing that required Graham's active involvment or participation, I again read Graham the Implied Consent Statement from page two of the Alcohol Influence Report. This time, I requested a chemical test of his blood. Dr. Schultz was present in the examination room when I read the Implied Consent statement no less than two times. Each time when asked if he would submit to the request of a chemical test of his blood Graham replied, "I am not doing anything until I talk with my attorney." I explained to Graham that I would not allow him to speak with anyone as he had ample opportunity to converse with Murray.

Schultz opined he believed it would be reasonable to allow Graham access to his attorney. I explained to Schultz that, while I appreciated his unsolicited legal advice, I was the sole police officer present at the scene, and was responsible for the care and custody of Graham, and I was also responsible for my own personal safety. I told Schultz I was unwilling to allow any person other than a police officer or employee of University Hospital to remain in the room with my prisoner and me. Schultz persisted and told me, regardless of my wishes, he was going to allow Murray into the room so Graham could consult with Murray. Faced with the certainty that Murray was going to be admitted into the room regardless of my concerns and objections, I told Schultz he could let Murray in the room for a brief consultation, but Murray would then thereafter have to leave.

Murray and Schultz spoke outside of the room for several minutes. Murray and Schultz returned to the room and Murray spoke with Graham in a whisper. Murray brought Graham a botle of water, which he partially drank.

I again read Graham the Implied Consent statement from page two of the Alcohol Influence Report and again requested he submit to a chemical test of his blood. This time, Graham replied he was "not refusing anything," but he was in the Emergency Room and needed medical care. I repeated the Implied Consent statement at least once and asked him at least three additional times whether he would submit to the request of a chemical test of his blood. Each time he explained he was "not refusing anything," but he needed medical care. I asked him several more times in rapid succession and pleaded with him to please answer me with either a yes or a no. He hastily replied, "No." I turned to Murray and confirmed he in fact heard Graham say "no" and affirmatively refuse to submit to the requested chemical test of his blood. Murray argued that this refusal was not relevant because it was his understanding the Graham had already refused a breath test.

Booth removed the near full plastic container of urine from the hose through which Graham urinated. I ordered Booth not to destroy the urine. I ordered her to place the container of urine on the counter in the examination room. There was a large amount of urine in the container. The urine was not going to be subjected to any medical testing as part of Graham's treatment. Even if it were, there was likely more than 12 ounces of urine in the container, undoubtedly a sufficient volume of urine was present to allow ample testing and still have plently remaining.

I did not subject Graham to any invasive procedures, or any procedures whatsoever, in collecting and securing the urine.

Graham had no reasonable expectation of privacy in the urine that he voluntarily excreted into a container that was going to be discarded.

I had probable cause to believe the urine in the container constituted evidence of the crime of driving while intoxicated, and I had probable cause that the evidence was going to be removed and discarded by hospital staff if I did not immediately seize it. The urine would have long been destroyed in the several hours that it would have taken to secure a search warrant.

I had probable cause to believe the urine in the container constituted evidence of the crime of driving while intoxicated and I had probable cause to believe that the evidence was going to be destroyed by remaining at room temperature if I did not immediately seize it and preserve it by subjecting it to cold temperature. The evidence would have significantly deteriorated in the several hours it would have taken to secure a search warrant.

I had probable cause to believe the urine in the container constituted evidence of the crime of driving while intoxicated, and it was in plain view from my vantage point, seated lawfully in the examination room.

At one point Murray, Shultz, and all nurses left the examination room. I telephoned a co-worker and inquired as to the suitability of a urine sample for blood alcohol content examination. Graham was present in the room during my telephone conversation and was awake and alert.

Moments later, Murray returned to the room. Graham and Murray whispered to one another. During their quiet conversation, both Murray and Graham turned their heads and glanced towards the plastic jug containing Graham's urine.

Murray left the room and appeared determined. I feared that Murray was going to contact Schultz and somehow arrange the removal of the urine.

Within seconds, I seized the urine in order to properly secure it and ensure its availability as evidence. I was approached by Booth, who had a look of fear on her face. She pled with me to return the urine to the room. She said, "You can't do that, Dr. Schultz just told me to go get the urine and throw it away." It appeared as if she were simply trying to obey a directive given by a superior. Based on her tone, her facial expression, and her mannerisms, I believe she did not intend to implicate Schultz in a crime or imply any wrongdoing, rather she simply wanted me to return the urine so she would not be punished.

Schultz, Murray, and an unknown female administrator (possibly named Danelle), entered the examination room with Graham and I. I was holding the container of Graham's urine, evidence I had properly seized pursuant to any one of several long recognized exceptions to the search warrant requirement of the Fourth Amendment. Schultz ordered me to turn my evidence over to him. I refused and started to explain the legal bases that justified my actions. Murray explained to me how I was only permitted to request two tests under Missouri Implied consent law and informed me my seizure of the evidence was therefore illegal. The female administrator sternly demanded that I return the urine immediately. With all three people simulteneously talking at me, including Schultz who was actually yelling at me, I offered absolutely no further explanation for my actions. I informed all present that I was a police officer, I was taking the urine, and that I would not be discussing it any further.

Schultz was angry. His fists were clentched and the muscles in his forearms were flexed. His voice got progressively louder. He began pointing his finger at me as he continued to yell at me and order me to relinquish custody of my evidence. He repeatedly informed me that I was not leaving the room with the evidence.

The female administrator demanded to speak with a sergeant. I telephone the sergeant's office and spoke with Sergeant Shouse-Jones. I asked her to have Sergeant Jones respond to the hospital. I informed those present that a sergeant was on the way as I turned to the door.

At one point, while Schultz was at the height of his frustration, he began to reach his hand out toward me. In a loud, clear, and stern voice, I commanded Schultz to back away from me. I threatened to arrest Schultz and anyone else that obstructed me. As I reached the door, I noticed that Murray had placed himself in front of the door knob. I ordered him to move, he ignored me, and instead looked at Schultz. I again ordered him to move and he complied. Sergeant Shouse-Jones was still on the telephone listening to this conversation.

I exited the room and was confronted by two security guards at least one of whom ordered me to stop and to return my evidence. I ordered them to back away and they complied. As I entered the main portion of the emergency room, I was confronted by more security guards who also ordered me to return the urine to the room. As I walked to the exit I heard the female administrator yelling out for someone to call the University Police Department.

I secured the evidence in my patrol car trunk and returned to supervise my prisoner. Sergeant Jones arrived shortly thereafter and met with Schultz, the female administrator, and MUPD Sergeant Fish and discussed the current situation. I later heard portions of the conversation, which were recorded. During the conversation, Schultz characterized Graham as intoxicated, Schultz admitted to having reached his arm out toward me, and Schultz admitted the urine was not going to be tested, rather it was going to be destroyed. For further information regarding Sergeant Jones' conversation with Schultz and the female administrator, and for information regarding the recording, please see her supplementary report.

Sergeant Jones agreed to accept custody of Graham. She stayed with Graham while I left the hospital and returned to the Columbia Police Department.

At approximately 2:11am, I collected two sample containers of the urine, packaged the sample botles, and secured them in the evidence room freezer. I discarded the remaining urine in a urinal in the men's locker room.

I completed a search warrant application. I requested a search warrant for Mr. Graham's blood, as I had probable cause to believe it contained an unknown amount of alcohol and drugs, evidence of the crime of driving while intoxicated.

I read the search warrant affidavit to Captain Steve Monticelli over the telephone. He orally approved the search warrant application. I responded to the residence of Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Jim Gray, who reviewed and approved the search warrant application. I responded to the residence of Judge Daniels. She issued a search warrant commanding me, or any other officer in the state of Missouri, to seize Charles Graham to obtain a blood sample from him at the University Hospital.

I returned to the University Hospital with the search warrant. I made a copy of the search warrant and provided it to Graham. Booth, as ordered by Judge Daniels, drew Graham's blood. The blood draw was completed at 3:50 a.m. Booth collected two vials of Graham's blood. She provided me with packaging materials of the anaseptic wipe, and the venipuncture device she used.

Sergeant Jones seized the water bottle Murray brought to Graham. I collected a sample of the liquid in the water bottle.

I arranged to transport Graham directly to the Boone County Sheriff's Department for his comfort, as I had realized the rear of my patrol vehicle was less than comfortable for a paralyzed person to enter and exit. Graham returned himself to the rear seat of my patrol car. We returned briefly to the Columbia Police Department, where I collected Graham's remaining personal property, which was secured in a locker, and his wheelchair. I transported Graham to the Boone County Jail.

At the Boone County Jail I fingerprinted Graham. Boone County Sheriff's Corrections officers photographed Graham. I issued Graham two summonses to court: Operating a motor vehicle while in an intoxicated/drugged condition, in violation of RSMO 577.010 ($500 bond); and operating a motor vehicle in a careless and imprudent manner by failing to maintain a proper lookout and colliding with another motor vehicle, in violation of RSMO 304.012.

I seized Graham's driver license and provided Graham with Missouri DOR form 4323, a notification of revocation of his license.

I returned to the Columbia Police Department and secured all of the items I seized as evidence. The vials of blood and water sample were secured in the evidence refridgerator. The urine was already secured in the freezer. The medical supply packaging materials, the printout from the Intoxilyzer 5000 evidencing Graham's refusal, and the now-empty water bottle were submitted to evidence as well.

I compiled a statement of probable cause and forwarded it to the State Prosecuting Attorney's Office.

I requested the digital video files from my patrol car recording system be retained as evidence. The files capture Graham's arrest, his slurred speech, and his nonsensical comments at the scene of the accident.

I requested and obtained digital video files on CD that capture Graham's movements and actions within the Columbia Police Department. The files capture Graham's behavior in the breath testing room including his refusal to submit to breath testing.

I arranged for the blood, the urine, and the water sample to be tested at the Saint Louis University Forensic Toxicology Laboratory. I requested the blood and urine be tested both for the presence of controlled substances and for blood alcohol content. I requested the water sample be tested for alcohol content.

I intend to file the original search warrant and the return with the Boone County Circuit Clerk.

Patek signs on as lobbyist for Smithfield Farms

The corporate hog farming industry just latched on to one of the most powerful lobbyists in Missouri, as if it needed any more help.
Missouri Ethics Commission records indicate Smithfield Foods, Inc., Smithfield, Va., the conglomerate which has swallowed up Murphy Farms and Premium Standard, as of Oct. 15, has former state representative Jewell Patek as its lobbyist.

Considering the in-roads the corporate farms have been making under the administration of Patek's close friend, Governor Matt Blunt, this does not bode well for Missourians who have been trying to stop the spread and the resulting contamination from these businesses.

Morning Sun publisher vows smooth transition

Pittsburg Morning Sun Editor/Publisher Stephen Wade says it will be business as usual during the transition from Morris Publishing Group to GateHouse Media.
The sale of the Morning Sun, its companion weekly, The Girard Press, and 13 other daily newspapers, including the Independence Examiner and the Hannibal Courier-Post, was announced Tuesday by officials from Gatehouse and Morris:

"Each of us at The Morning Sun and The Girard Press work everyday to deliver quality products for our customers and readers," said Stephen Wade, editor and publisher of The Morning Sun and The Girard Press. "We have worked hard to transform our business into a 24-hour news and entertainment operation.

"We will continue to do so as we transition to the GateHouse Media family."

GateHouse already owns a number of publications in this area, including The Carthage Press, Neosho Daily News, Neosho Post, Big Nickel, Greenfield Vedette, and the Aurora Advertiser.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Maneater: No breathalyzer, but blood, urine samples given by Graham

As widely reported, Sen. Chuck Graham, D-Columbia, refused to take a breathalyzer test when he was stopped on suspicion of driving while intoxicated Saturday.
University of Missouri student newspaper The Maneater reports Graham provided other types of information:

Graham refused to submit to a Breathalyzer test at the scene and was arrested on suspicion of driving while intoxicated, (Columbia Police Chief Randy) Boehm said.

Boehm said he thought there was eventually blood drawn.

“And then I believe there was also a urine sample collected,” he said.

Graham: I'm sorry that the incident occurred

In his first public statement since his arrest Saturday for driving while intoxicated, Senate Assistant Minority Leader Chuck Graham, D-Columbia, said he couldn't say anything and he's sorry that anything happened that he can't talk about.

Graham's statement was given to the Columbia media and includes the following passage:

I want to apologize to my family, friends, and most importantly, to the citizens of Boone and Randolph counties for any embarrassment I have caused to them. I’m sorry that this incident occurred, not for myself, but for the other people involved and for those who have put their trust in me. I know there are many questions about this case that members of the media would like to have answered, and I would like to answer them. As a journalism school graduate, I know the important role the media plays in our society. I have always been open to the media, and I will continue to be in the future. However, there are many details about the incident that my lawyer has instructed me not to discuss at this time. I am as frustrated as the members of the media about not being able to publicly comment on all aspects of this case, but it is a reality with which I must deal.

Graham did say that he takes full responsibility for his actions.

Nebraska newspaper employees told jobs are safe

Employees of the Grand Island Independent, one of 14 daily newspapers purchased by GateHouse Media today, have been told their jobs are secure, according to an article posted tonight on the newspaper's website:
The Independent staff were as shocked as those at the Independence Examiner, where even the publisher was kept in the dark about the sale:

The news came as a surprise to the newspaper, said Independent Publisher Don Smith.

"It came totally out of the blue," Smith said. "But it was a business decision made for good reasons."

The Independent has about 105 employees, and Smith said he's been told all should consider their jobs secure.

Not much is known about the specifics of the sale because it came about so quickly, he said.

"We'll be open with our readers and the public on the details as they unfold," he said.

Morning Sun runs press releases accompanied by byline

The Pittsburg Morning Sun posted news of its sale at 7:28 p.m. but it appears not much information was available.
Reporter Matt Clark's article is a combination of the press releases issued by new owner GateHouse Media and current owner Morris Publishing Group, combined with a listing of area newspapers owned by GateHouse.

Examiner publisher: GateHouse purchase won't change a thing

Independence Examiner Publisher Steve Curd says his paper's purchase by GateHouse Media will not change a thing as far as the Examiner's readers are concerned:

"Whether you receive your local news through the Examiner print product, or, I can assure you that you will continue to receive more news about your community than from any other news source," Examiner Publisher Steve Curd said. "We will not change our game plan."

Considering that Curd only found out about the sale at 3:30 p.m. today and had no inkling of it beforehand, it seems a rather optimistic take. In an interview with the Kansas City Star, Curd said:

"My reaction was moderate surprise. It didn’t completely throw me off, but it caught me slightly off guard. But I didn’t meet it with any negative reaction, either. … We’ve really learned to embrace change at the newspaper.”

He said he thought the sale would not hinder the newspaper but “allow us to have more resources to accomplish what we want to accomplish.”

GateHouse CEO: Purchases offer "compelling synergy"

GateHouse Media issued the following release concerning today's announcement that the company is buying 14 daily newspapers, including the Pittsburg Morning Sun, Independence Examiner, Hannibal Courier-Post and 11 other daily newspapers:

GateHouse Media, Inc. announced today that it has signed a definitive asset purchase agreement to acquire several daily and non-daily publications from Morris Publishing Group for a purchase price of $115 million. The transaction is expected to close before the end of November and is subject to regulatory approval and customary closing conditions. The publications to be acquired are located in South Dakota, Florida, Kansas, Michigan, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma and Tennessee.

"This is an excellent acquisition opportunity for GateHouse," said Mike Reed, Chief Executive Officer of GateHouse. "These are strong local media franchises in small markets, many of which are near existing GateHouse properties and offer compelling synergy opportunities. We are also enthusiastic about the acquisition from a financial standpoint as we expect these assets to generate an incremental $14 million of Adjusted EBITDA."

Gatehouse Media buys Pittsburg Morning Sun, Independence Examiner, Hannibal Courier-Post, 11 other dailies

GateHouse Media continues to add to its stable of newspapers, with the announcement today of the purchase of the Pittsburg Morning Sun, Independence Examiner, Hannibal Courier-Post and 11 other dailies from Morris Publishing Group, according to a news release issued by Morris. The news release said:

Morris Publishing Group announced today that it has signed a definitive asset purchase agreement to sell fourteen daily newspapers, three nondaily newspapers, a commercial printing operation and other related publications to GateHouse Media, Inc. ("GateHouse") for a purchase price of $115 million, subject to a working capital adjustment. Morris Publishing Group will utilize all of the net cash proceeds from the sale to pay down the debt outstanding under its bank credit agreement. The transaction is expected to close before the end of November and is subject to regulatory and Morris Publishing's lender approval and customary closing conditions.

The daily newspapers to be sold include the Dodge City (Kan.) Daily Globe, The Newton (Kan.) Kansan, The (Pittsburg, Kan.) Morning Sun, the Hillsdale (Mich.) Daily News, The Holland (Mich.) Sentinel, the Hannibal (Mo.) Courier- Post, The (Independence, Mo.) Examiner, The Grand Island (Neb.) Independent, the York (Neb.) News-Times, The Daily Ardmoreite (Okla.), The Shawnee (Okla.) News-Star, the Yankton (S.D.) Daily Press & Dakotan, The Oak Ridger (Tenn.), and the News Chief (Winter Haven, Fla.). The nondaily newspapers include La Estrella (Dodge City, Kan.) The Girard (Kan.) City Press and the Vermillion (S.D.) Plain Talk. The commercial printing operation is Flashes Publishing (Mich.), which also publishes The Holland Sentinel and the Flashes Shopping Guides (Mich.), related free nondaily community publications included in the sale.

Commenting on the sale, William S. Morris IV, Morris Publishing Group's chief executive officer and president, said, "While it is difficult to say goodbye, this sale is in line with our strategic plan to focus on our larger markets and will enable us to pay down our existing bank debt. We greatly appreciate the work by the employees of these great newspapers during the time they have been a part of Morris."

GateHouse Media owns The Carthage Press, Neosho Daily News, Neosho Post, Big Nickel, Greenfield Vedette, and Aurora Advertiser in southwest Missouri.

Former representative: Legislators have easy access to booze

Former Republican Representative Tom Burcham, who acknowledged his problem and resigned following a DWI arrest, says the problem is the easy availability of alcoholic beverages for legislators.
The following passage is taken from an article in today's Columbia Tribune occasioned, of course by the DWI arrest Saturday night of Senate Assistant Minority Leader Chuck Graham, D-Columbia:

Burcham, who said he has been sober since his last DWI arrest, admitted he had problems with alcohol before being elected. He said serving in the House gave him easy access to alcohol.

"It’s more commonplace than it is in the general population," he said. "There are more opportunities to drink. At most functions, almost at all functions, it’s free to eat and drink at your pleasure. Nobody thinks badly of it. I’m not using that as an excuse - I had a problem - but alcohol and food are more readily available on a nightly basis" for legislators "than it is to a typical person in the work force."

Signing planned for Nancy Hughes book

A signing for Nancy Hughes' first book, Healing for the Heart: Survival in the World of the Widow, will be held 1 to 3 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 4, at Lamar East Primary School, 1600 E. Highway 160.

To pre-order a book for the signing call Nancy's daughter, Lindsay Harris, 417-682-3896.

Mrs. Hughes, the Lamar R-1 school nurse, is a longtime friend and was one of the columnists for The Lamar Press during its one-year run in 1996 and 1997

Former KY3 anchor offers coverage of California fires

Southwest Missourians who have been watching coverage of the California fires on KY3, KSNF, and other NBC outlets, have been able to watch correspondent Leanne Gregg in action.
Ms. Gregg was a longtime anchor on KY3, serving alongside Tony Beeson.

Nodler: It's premature to talk about Graham repercussions

Sen. Gary Nodler, R-Joplin, says it is too early to tell what the repercussions are going to be from Saturday's arrest of Sen. Chuck Graham, D-Columbia, for driving while intoxicated.
In an article in the Columbia Missourian, Nodler said, “To some extent, it’s up to the people of ... that district to determine what their values and expectations are of their elected officials. And that may vary from one part of the state to another. So that’s kind of up to the folks in Columbia to determine.”

Nodler also noted, “If he has a problem, I hope he’s able to deal with it, get some help for it and get it corrected.”

Cooper's brother rips bloggers, says his brother deserves a presidential pardon

In a letter to the editor in today's Springfield News-Leader, Ryan Cooper, brother of former Rep. Nathan Cooper, R-Cape Girardeau, rips into bloggers and says that his brother deserves a presidential pardon because "He's not a violent criminal and should be allowed to earn a living without this error of judgment ruining his future."

Cooper's brother, who is described as a copy editor for a local newspaper, takes issue with Fired Up Missouri blogger Howard Beale's contention that the presidential pardon is in the bag, but in doing so, he also rips into the entire blogosphere, using some of the same tired lines that traditional media folk use over and over:

Real journalists seek the truth. We try to avoid putting our personal views and interests into our stories. We never replace interviews with rumor or gossip. Unlike bloggers, we're held accountable for what we write.

Cooper also writes:

I encourage local bloggers to avoid using articles from sources known to contain false information. Lies are less believed when they aren't spread across the Internet. I discourage anyone from using blogs as a sole source of information.

Until bloggers join the ranks of the professional media, they just can't be trusted.

While I can certainly understand and sympathize with the situation the Cooper family faces, the traditional media faces the same lack of trust that the blogosphere faces and is often not held accountable for its stories or for their failure to cover certain stories.

The blogosphere needs to be treated in the same fashion as the traditional media. Bloggers, just like newspapers or television news programs, have to earn your trust, but dismissing them outright, as Mr. Cooper does (with a token favorable nod to a couple of former Missouri State students who helped expose the Dan Rather/Memogate scandal), is not a reasonable solution.
In the letter, Cooper's brother indicates former Rep. Cooper will receive a sentence of 30 to 37 months in prison and a hefty fine.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Guilty plea entered in fraud, identity theft case

Former Missouri Department of Revenue employee Krystal Gail Stephens pleaded guilty in U. S. District Court in Jefferson City on a charge of conspiracy to defraud in an identity theft/fraud case that also involved a worker from the Missouri Department of Social Services and another Department of Revenue employee.

According to court records, Ms. Stephens had access to identification information of customers of the Revenue Department's Division of Taxation, and passed it along to Robin Deardorff, who used the information to set up cell phone accounts for her prisoner husband. Mrs. Deardorff was working for the Department of Revenue when she was indicted by a federal grand jury.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Cash bar planned for Graham campaign kickoff

A cash bar and appetizers will be available when Sen. Chuck Graham, D-Columbia, holds his campaign kickoff fundraiser next Friday, Oct. 26, at the Clinton Club at Mizzou Arena, according to a notice on the Boone County Democrats website.
Graham, who was arrested Saturday on suspicion of driving while intoxicated, has the following suggested giving levels for those wishing to contribute to his campaign:

-$100 for "division champions"
-$300 for "conference champions"
-$650 for "national champions"

No mention has been made if the event will take place as scheduled.

KOMU: Democrats refuse to comment on Graham arrest

Columbia television station KOMU reports Democrats are not making any comments on Saturday night's DWI arrest of Sen. Chuck Graham, D-Columbia:

Republican Majority leader Charlie Shields said of the arrest "Obviously this would be an unfortunate incident, however it's one, as the senate, we'd let the courts and the legal system address. Certainly in the history of the legislature there's been cases like this and from time to time these things happen, we don't like to see it, it's a bad reflection of the institution, but ultimately we let the legal system deal with it."

KOMU tried to contact Senator Graham and several members of the Democratic party but no one would comment on the incident.

We also scheduled an interview with a couple who says they were the driver and passenger of the van Graham's car hit.

They later decided not to go on camera, but in a phone conversation they did say the accident was more than a fender bender, the front of Graham's car was smashed and Graham's airbags went off.

AP: Graham refused breathalyzer test

Associated Press reports Sen. Chuck Graham, D-Columbia, refused to take a breathalyzer test after the police stopped him for suspicion of drunk driving Saturday:

Columbia Police Sgt. Dan Beckman said officers smelled intoxicants on Graham, noticed his eyes were watery and bloodshot and that he slurred his words and mumbled. Beckman said that according to a probable cause statement, Graham acknowledged consuming "a few" beers before driving.

Graham refused to submit to a breathalyzer exam and would not provide a blood sample.

Did Graham arrest begin with a lobbyist's gifts?

The fallout from Saturday's DWI arrest of Sen. Chuck Graham remains to be seen, but there is one area that is likely to remain untouched...did the senator get in his alleged condition with the help of beverages provided by a lobbyist?

And just as important, was that lobbyist being paid by the taxpayers?

We won't see the October lobbyists' report until Dec. 1, thanks to the protective system Missouri legislators have put in place for themselves, but if past records are any indication, Graham was probably at the MU football game Saturday and if he was there, it is almost certain that some lobbyist was picking up the tab for his tickets, meals, and beverages.

Missouri Ethics Commission records show Graham has garnered nearly $10,000 in lobbyists' gifts since Jan. 1, 2006, and an examination of the 2006 MU football season, shows Graham received gifts of entertainment on four of the seven dates on which MU had home games.

For two of those games, the Sept. 9, 2006, contest against Mississippi, and the Sept. 23, 2006, game with Ohio, the taxpayers picked up the tab since Graham had $40 in entertainment for the first date and $60 for the second paid for by Stephen Knorr, a lobbyist for the university.

At each of two other games, Sept. 30 against Colorado and Oct. 28, against Oklahoma, Graham had $100 in entertainment provided by lobbyist Stephen Millikan, representing Missouri Employers Mutual Insurance.

Graham recorded $6,446.65 in lobbyists' gifts in 2006, and though he is well behind that mark with four months left to be recorded on the Ethics Commission website for 2007, he still has more than $3,300 this year, including the infamous July 31 trip to Isle of Capri Casino in Boonville, for which the casino's lobbyist Chris Liese provided $130 worth of meals, food, and beverage.

That was the night that Sen. Jeff Smith, D-St. Louis, was arrested for gambling with the identification of Rep. Joe Aull, Kansas City, who was also arrested.

Graham arrested for DWI

Assistant Minority Leader Chuck Graham, D-Columbia, was arrested Saturday by the Columbia Police Department on suspicion of driving while intoxicated:

A media release stated the first-term senator was taken into custody while exchanging insurance information with the drivers of a vehicle that he hit.

“Senator Graham asked for medical treatment, and was subsequently transported to the emergency room at University Hospital,” the e-mail states.

Graham was released from the Boone County Jail after posting $500 bond.

The e-mail stated said Graham would have no further comment on the matter on advice from counsel.

The Columbia Missourian offers the most complete version of the Graham arrest:

At about 9:45 p.m. Saturday, Graham, 42, was driving on Green Meadows Road near his home when he rear-ended a vehicle stopped near the intersection of Green Meadows Road and Bethel Street, Columbia police Sgt. Lloyd Simons said. The vehicle Graham hit then hit a vehicle in front of it. The airbag in Graham’s vehicle deployed, and Graham was treated and released from University Hospital after complaining of pain in his arm, Simons said. The other drivers were not injured in the crash. Both of the victims’ vehicles sustained minor damage, Simons said. Graham’s vehicle sustained moderate damage.

Boston Herald: GateHouse stock continues to drop

An article from Thursday's Boston Herald explores the decline of GateHouse Media stock, which has dropped 46 percent since it went public about a year ago:

Gatehouse has tried to distinguish itself from the big newspaper companies by snapping up small daily and weekly newspapers, in the belief readers still want very local news.

A Goldman Sachs analyst in August expressed reservations about the softening advertisement environment in general and Gatehouse’s ability to keep paying dividends.

The New York-based Gatehouse reported a second quarter loss of $2 million, or 5 cents a share, disappointing some investors. Gatehouse’s revenues have surged lately, thanks to recent acquisitions of papers from Gannett and Copley Newspapers.

GateHouse Media owns The Carthage Press, Neosho Daily News, Neosho Post, Big Nickel, Greenfield Vedette, and Aurora Advertiser in southwest Missouri.

Internet sex stings are paying off

(The following post is my column from last week's Newton County News)

At first, when Diamond Police officer Jim Murray began his successful string of Internet sex stings, I wondered about the wisdom of this project. Why should Murray be bringing perverts from Michigan or Illinois into Diamond. Let them stay where they are and never darken our streets.

I have changed my mind since the arrests he has had in recent months, have included numerous offenders from this area.

If you are not familiar with Murray's project, it works like this: Murray poses as a 13-year-old girl and has no trouble finding adults wanting to violate children. He never brings up the subject of sex, but it does not take long for these men to do so.

I wrote several weeks ago in this column about Gary Reed Blankenship of Neosho, the former O'Sullivan Industries official who is appealing his conviction (at taxpayer expense) for attempting to solicit someone he thought was a minor.

Last week, the Missouri Southern District Court of Appeals upheld the conviction of another of Murray's targets, Billy Joe Ward of Joplin.

The court rejected Billy Joe Ward's contention that he was entrapped by Murray. Ward was found guilty June 22, 2006, by a Newton County jury on charges of enticement of a child and attempted statutory sodomy and was sentenced to four years on each count to be served consecutively.

According to court records, during an internet conversation Ward attempted to set up a sexual encounter with a 13-year-old girl named Ashley. Ashley was actually Murray. When Ward arrived at the pre-arranged meeting place, he was arrested. The following account of Ward's arrest was included in the court's opinion:

In January 2006, Officer Murray was conducting an investigation. He was asked what precipitated the investigation. He answered that he had been advised there was the possibility "a subject" was trying to entice or meet young girls by way of the internet or in person; that the focal point of the investigation was defendant.
Detective Murray found an online profile for defendant under the screen name "Winterwolf772000." The profile included defendant's real name, address, telephone number, and picture. It stated his age as 30. Detective Murray established an online profile for a fictitious 13-year-old named Ashley. He established a Yahoo ID for her as "ashleyanne1938." The profile did not give Ashley's age. (Detective Murray, speaking as Ashley, explained, "It makes it more convenient for me to tell my age in the first chat.") The profile stated that Ashley was a single female. It listed her occupation as "student." Her hobby was "hanging out at the Joplin mall."
After establishing Ashley's profile, Detective Murray, as Ashley, requested that defendant add Ashley to his instant messaging and sent an instant message ("IM") to defendant. The next day defendant and Ashley began exchanging messages. Defendant asked Ashley how old she was. Ashley told him she was 13.
After Ashley told defendant she was 13, defendant replied that he was 32; that she was "way too young" for him. Defendant asked, "Are you a cop?" He was told "no." Defendant told Ashley that the minimum age for him was 18. Defendant nevertheless told Ashley to "IM me later or call me," and again asked her name. He asked where she lived. Ashley answered, "Diamond." Defendant continued the exchange. He asked if Ashley had a way to Joplin. Ashley answered that she might have a way to get there Friday after school; that she could ask a friend to take her.
Ashley contacted defendant later and told him a friend would take her to Joplin; that they went to the mall a lot and shopped. Defendant responded to Ashley's message. He asked where she was. Ashley replied, "At home. I played hooky today. Shhh. Don't tell." Defendant asked Ashley to call him. He gave her his telephone number. Ashley told defendant her mother had just come in and asked if he would "be on in an hour." Ashley told defendant her mother would be going to Neosho; that she could call then. Defendant told her, "Call me. I need to hear your voice."(FN2)
Defendant continued the exchange with Ashley. He asked why she chose him. Ashley told him because he lived in Joplin and had a sexy picture on his profile; that it appeared he did not have clothes on in the picture. She concluded the statement with "LOL" which Detective Murray said meant "laughing out loud." Defendant replied, "And you liked that. You know, I could get in real trouble if we got caught. And you don't mind that I am older?" Ashley answered, "Don't tell my mom. Okay?"
Defendant told Ashley that he got off work at one or two a.m. He asked if Ashley could come see him then. Ashley told him to let her think about how she could work that out. The meeting place was to be a truck stop in Joplin. Detective Murray contacted Jasper County law enforcement authorities who, along with a female decoy arranged by Murray, waited at the truck stop from about 1:30 a.m. until 2:30 a.m., but defendant never appeared.
The next evening, about 7:35 p.m., defendant contacted Ashley by e-mail. He told Ashley he had gotten off work late the night before and asked if they could meet right then at the truck stop. Defendant again asked, "You ain't no cop, are you? If I smell police, I'm out of there."

The talk became more graphic as it continued and eventually a rendezvous was arranged

Murray contacted a female police officer to act as decoy at the truck stop. He told her to wear a red ball cap. Murray had defendant's photograph and defendant's Yahoo profile. Murray told the court and jury:

I arrived at 9:30, right at 9:30, and saw [defendant] sitting at a table inside [the truck stop] on the south -- on the west side of [the truck stop], that area, and he got up and went into the restaurant area and looked around, and came back and sat down at the table.

The decoy arrived. She walked from the east side of the truck stop and went to the door she had been told to use. About two minutes later, defendant got up and went to the door where the decoy had gone outside. Detective Murray followed defendant outside and intercepted him before he reached the woman decoy. Defendant acknowledged that Ashley told him she was 13 years old; that his e-mail address was the one Ashley had communicated with.

The appeals court ruled that Ward was not entrapped by Murray.

It is sad that society has a need for police officers to do such things, but fortunately this area has a policeman in Murray who has been able to get these perverts off the streets.

A belated thank you to Kinsley, KZRG

It has been so hectic during the past couple of weeks that it slipped my mind to post a thank you to KZRG and on-air personality Mark Kinsley for having me back for a second show.

We took some listeners' calls this time, and the conversations were interesting and enlightening. It appears I will be on Kinsley's program the second Tuesday of each month from 4:30 to 6 p.m. I neglected to promote the last time simply because it almost slipped my mind. I will try to let readers know next time. Those who do not live in the Joplin area can listen to Mark Kinsley's Afternoon Newswatch program by going to the station's website, which is one of the links on the right-hand side of this page.

Thanks for a successful book signing

A big thank you to all of you who attended the book signing Saturday at Always Buying Books. I was pleasantly surprised when I sold almost as many copies of Devil's Messenger as The Turner Report, but both titles did well.

As usual, I had an opportunity to have conversations with friends old and new. The three hours flew by.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Actor Lonny Chapman, raised in Joplin, dead at 87

Character actor Lonny Chapman, whose family moved to Joplin shortly after he was born in Tulsa, Okla., died Oct. 12 at age 87.

Chapman appeared in more than 25 movies, including "The Reivers," "Baby Doll," and "Take the Money and Run," and in hundreds of television episodes.

Chapman was named an outstanding alumnus of Missouri Southern in 2005, and in fact, hitchhiked to New York City with his Joplin Junior College (the precursor of MSSU) classmate Dennis Weaver to begin their acting careers.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Indictment against alleged Cooper accomplice dismissed

The U. S. Government dismissed an immigration fraud indictment against the alleged accomplice of disgraced former Rep. Nathan Cooper, R-Cape Girardeau, today.
According to a one-page document filed in U. S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri, Omega "Meg" Paulite, the woman who was described just two months ago as "a serious risk to threaten or injure a prospective witness," and "a serious risk to obstruct justice," faces no charges.
The only words in the document were:

"Pursuant to Rule 48A of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure and by leave of court endorsed hereon, the United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Missouri hereby dismisses the indictment filed Aug. 9, 2007, against the defendant."

Ms. Paulite was charged with selling Cooper more than 100 visa approvals designated for the hospitality and temporary service industries, allowing workers to come to the U. S. illegally. Cooper gave the visas to trucking companies.

Cooper is scheduled to plead guilty Nov. 21. In a document filed today, his attorney accepted Cooper's pre-sentence investigation report.

Two more guilty pleas scheduled in Bowman case

Two more defendants in a federal bank fraud and credit card have indicated they will enter guilty pleas, according to documents filed today and Thursday in U. S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri.
Among the clients remaining in the case is Rep. John Bowman, D-St. Louis.
Court records indicate Robert Baker will plead guilty Friday, Oct. 26, and William Hart's plea is set for Wednesday, Oct. 31.
As noted in the Oct. 18 Turner Report, Baker and Hart are just the latest in a long line of defendants who have changed their pleas. Bowman and the remaining defendants are scheduled to go to trial Nov. 26.

Attorney in McDonald County sex cult case asks to question potential jurors individually

Robert Evenson, the attorney for Raymond Lambert, pastor of the Grand Valley Independent Baptist Church, is asking to question potential jurors individually when Lambert's trial on sex charges begins Nov. 13 in McDonald County Circuit Court.
Lambert and his wife, Patricia, are charged in connection with alleged ritual sex involving children.
Evenson filed the motion Thursday.
Raymond Lambert is charged with four counts of child molestation and four counts of statutory sodomy in connection with what authorities describe as ritual sex acts with children.
Mrs. Lambert faces one charge of statutory sodomy.

Plasters contribute $13,400 to Romney campaign

In a tongue-in-cheek editorial in today's Springfield News-Leader, the Editorial Board asks presidential candidate and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney to help persuade Speaker of the House Rod Jetton to level with Missourians about the insertion into a law of a measure designed to benefit his friend, Robert Plaster of Lebanon.

If the News-Leader Editorial Board was serious about this (and it is fairly certain it was not), it should be noted that the Plaster family of Lebanon has contributed $13,400 to Romney's presidential campaign in 2007, including $9,200 on Sept. 30, the last day of the third quarter reporting period.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Dupont arraignment scheduled for Oct. 31

The arraignment for Anderson Guest House owner Robert Dupont, charged with defrauding the Missouri Medicaid program from Sept. 20, 2003, to Sept. 20, 2007, will be held 11 a.m. Wednesday, Oct. 31, in the U. S. Courthouse in Springfield.
Dupont is accused of operating the Anderson Guest House and Guest House facilities in Joplin and Carl Junction after being convicted of federal Medicare and Medicaid fraud.
A federal grand jury reindicted Dupont earlier this week.

Always Buying Books sale to take place during Turner Report book signing

Bargains will be available with every book at Always Buying Books, 5357 N. Main, Joplin, when the signing for The Turner Report book is held 1 to 4 p.m. this Saturday.
Bob at Always Buying Books tells me every book in the store, all 30,000 of them will be on sale, some for as much as 50 percent off, beginning at 10 a.m.
The Turner Report will sell for $17, while my novels, Small Town News and Devil's Messenger, will be on sale for $10 apiece.
I hope to see some of you on Saturday.