CLAIRE O’BRIEN / 2013
REBLOGGED FROM LATINA LISTA
KANSAS REPORTER WHO EXPOSED RACISM IN DODGE CITY HAS NEW BATTLE TO FIGHT
POSTED date: May 21, 2010 | comment : 7
LatinaLista — It’s been a little over a month since Sam Bonilla, a Mexican immigrant opted not to go to trial in Dodge City, Kansas for killing a local man during a situation he claims was self-defense.
Bonilla’s reason for not facing a jury was reported that he didn’t feel he could get a fair trial in Dodge City because he was Latino. While there are people who disputed his claim on Latina Lista — they were mainly the family members of the deceased — it was a serious enough statement that got the attention of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund (MALDEF) and federal peacemakers from the Dept. of Justice.
Regardless of what Dodge City officials and their supporters contend about there not being discrimination in Dodge City against the local Latino population, enoughmembers from the Dodge City Latino community itself have emerged since Bonilla was put in jail to tell their stories to the contrary of city officials. Their personal experiences underscore how systemic racism has entrenched itself in the town to the point that people, who aren’t victimized by it, don’t even notice it.
From all reports, city officials are supposed to be now working with the local Latino community in addressing concerns and allegations that the police actively racially profile Latinos targeting their neighborhoods and businesses.
Time will tell if Dodge City officials were as clueless to the racial tensions that exist in their town, as they claim, or they just didn’t like anyone pulling off the blanket and exposing how they always did things.
No matter which way it’s looked at, the situation in Dodge City needed to be exposed. If it had not been for Claire O’Brien, the reporter for the Dodge City Daily Globe at the time, no one would have found out about Bonilla or Dodge City.
O’Brien’s diligence to Bonilla’s case, and her commitment to her journalistic ethics in not revealing a source during the course of reporting on Bonilla’s case, garnered her first place in the news category of the Spring 2010 Kansas Press Association awards (Not to mention, she won three additional awards) and was instrumental in finally getting the Kansas legislature to pass a Shield Law which was signed by Kansas Governor Mark Parkinson in April.
But not everybody was happy that O’Brien exposed Dodge’s racial undercurrents. In a bizarre show of unprofessionalism, the presiding judge in Sam Bonilla’s sentencing hearing, Judge Daniel Love, took over 10 minutes to publicly berate O’Brien, who was present in the courtroom, for stirring things up in town. He blamed her choice of words in her reporting to describe Bonilla’s situation. By the time the judge was done, it was clear he viewed O’Brien as a troublemaker — yet, everyone else should have seen her as doing her job, and doing it well.
However, in the hours after Bonilla’s sentencing, O’Brien found herself in a situation that no reporter should be in for doing their job. Within a span of hours, O’Brien lost her job at the Daily Globe, was uninvited to speak at a journalism conference, was ignored by the Kansas Press Association in her role for finally getting the Shield Law passed in Kansas and began a quest to redeem her journalistic reputation.
For someone who recognized that there existed two sets of standards in Dodge City and had the guts to report it, I think it’s only fair that Latina Lista readers know the second half to this story.
O’Brien’s problems began when she refused to reveal her source who had told her that one of the men who had confronted Sam Bonilla had “a base of support that is well-known for its anti-Hispanic beliefs” and the same support base had a “supply of semi-automatic weapons.”
The local County Attorney, Terry Malone, decided he needed to know O’Brien’s source and pressured her to reveal it or be found in contempt and go to jail. Though O’Brien was petrified of going to jail — which I can attest to since we were in phone contact during this time — she wasn’t about to reveal her source.
Right after the County Attorney began his bullying of O’Brien, her employers, GateHouse Media, secured a lawyer to represent her. It was at this time O’Brien told me that they were pressuring her to reveal her source or they would withhold legal counsel. She felt like she was under such pressure to reveal her source that she decided not to show up to the “Inquisition,” like a Grand Jury hearing and didn’t tell her lawyer since she wasn’t even sure she still had a lawyer. She was fined by the judge and threatened with contempt but eventually appeared. Luckily for O’Brien, her source decided to reveal himself.
Yet, the damage had been done. It wasn’t long before O’Brien found herself locked out of the Daily Globe and then terminated. Since then, O’Brien has been in a heated exchange with Lucy Daglish, executive director of Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, who made statements to the press casting doubt on O’Brien’s explanations as to why she didn’t show up at the courthouse.
It’s odd enough that an organization meant to champion reporters would side so quickly with management but because it did happen that way, and from this particular organization, it wasn’t long before O’Brien found invitations to appear at journalism conferences rescinded, invitations to apply for jobs at other newspapers disappear and what’s worse, completely ignored by the Kansas Press Association for what can only be described as her historic role in getting the Shield Law passed in Kansas.
Other sources have chronicled this strange lack of support from the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press better than I. Yet, the bottom line remains that O’Brien’s reputation has been sullied and it will take a public affirmation from RCFP, according to O’Brien, that she was telling the truth all along to regain her previous reputation.
Well, Dalgish did post something. But not on the homepage of the RCFP website, which is the logical location. No, for some crazy reason, or maybe not so crazy, the executive director of an organization that is supposed to support journalists posted her so-called “letter of support,” written April 22, 2010, as a comment to a story that was posted on Feb. 16, 2010.
Dalgish’s letter starts out:
To Whom it May Concern:
This memo is to clarify misperceptions regarding the circumstances surrounding Claire O’Brien’s refusal to appear before a Kansas inquisition on February 10, 2010…
For the record, I did call Lucy Dalgish, executive director of the RCFP, who told me she was “very proud” of how her organization handled O’Brien’s case. Yet, throughout our conversation she did repeat “I’m going to get flamed by the Internet.”
Dalgish’s failure to post the letter of support in a visible location is a sad commentary on the RCFP and how this organization treated this reporter who put herself on the line for exposing a story that needed to be told.
It is also a disgrace that the Kansas Press Association turned their backs on O’Brien and the role she had in getting the Shield Law passed.
Doug Anstaett, director of the Kansas Press Association, told a reporter at the time of the signing of the Kansas Shield Law that:
“With the situation that developed in Dodge City, there was a much higher interest and awareness of this issue among the legislators this year. That made it somewhat easier to bring it forward and get it moving.”
That quote obviously tells me that he attributes the Shields Law passing into law this summer as a direct result of O’Brien’s situation. Yet, when in an e-mail sent to Anstaett asking who was present at the signing of the Shield Law he wrote,
“Four representatives of the Kansas Press Association were on hand April 28 at the office of Gov. Mark Parkinson for a bill signing ceremony for the recently approved shield law for reporters.
Mike Kautsch, KPA’s media law adviser, Ken Knepper, KPA legislative director, Rich Gannon, KPA director of governmental affairs and Doug Anstaett, KPA executive director, joined representatives of the Kansas Association of Broadcasters for the event.
Also on hand were three senators critical to the bill’s success: Sen. Derek Schmidt, who authored the original bill, Sen. Anthony Hensley, who co-sponsored the bill, and Sen. Terry Bruce, whose hard work this session helped moved the bill through the Kansas Legislature.
Gov. Mark Parkinson actually signed the bill into law on April 15. The bill was approved by the Kansas House and Senate March 30.”
When I asked why there had not been an invitation extended by the KPA to O’Brien, Mr. Anstaett replied:
I respectfully decline comment on your other questions.
Since her dismissal from the Daily Globe, O’Brien has been living a hand-to-mouth existence, since every newspaper door in Kansas seems to shut in her face for some inexplicable reason. Borrowing money from her family, she was able to move to a new town recently and start a new job. Yet, O’Brien suffered a car accident on the second day. After a series of unbelievable events, O’Brien now finds herself without a job again, no money and in a strange town.
So, as she gets her life back in order, and contemplates whether or not she can economically continue in journalism, I can only hope that she doesn’t give up.
She is the kind of reporter that is needed today more than ever. Someone who isn’t afraid of reporting the truth and exposing the kinds of discrimination and racism that does indeed exist from small towns to big cities. Someone who’s not afraid to hold accountable the institutions and organizations that began their existence in support of journalists doing their jobs.
Someone for whom journalism is more than a career — it’s her life.
SOMEWHERE, I.F. STONE IS WATCHING YOU. MAYBE NOT FROM HEAVEN (SEE BELOW) BUT BELIEVE ME, FROM SOMEWHERE. HIS EAGLE EYE WON’T DIE AS LONG AS THERE ARE PEOPLE WHO BELIEVE IN FREEDOM, AND JOURNALISTS WHO BELIEVE DEEPLY IN A FREE PRESS.
PLEASE SEE POSTS DATED SEPTEMBER 16, 19, 20, AND OCTOBER 2 FOR BACKGROUND INFO.
The Junior High School Press Association faces heavy sanctions for releasing photos of the toxic biohazards being cleaned up by thousands of Black prison inmates in an undisclosed 500 square mile location somewhere west of the Rockies. This isn’t the first time the JHSPA has attracted the wrath of the American Legislative Executive Council, which has been granted expanded new powers to censor the media in the wake of an immigrant invasion of Arizona last August.
And it isn’t the first time JHSPA’S former Washington correspondent Tupac B. Wells, who took the photos, has received an serious blot on his permanent record. Wells, grade 8, was recalled to Frederick Douglas Junior High School in Newark, New Jersey and demoted to the cafeteria beat shortly after the invasion for questioning ALEC’S drone-based surveilence evidence of this drastic breach of our southern border.
Now, the 13 year-old reporter has been required to turn over all his photos to ALEC, forbidden to leave Newark, and forced to write “I WILL be grateful to America” 1,000 times. Wells has been further demoted, this time to the afternoon recess beat, and his editor, Malcolm J. Baldwin, also an 8th grader, has been kicked down to the 7th Grade Society Desk. An investigation is under way to determine how Wells got assigned a national story when he should have been covering the cafeteria.
Baldwin has remained defiant in backing his reporter; meanwhile Wells refuses to apologise to a New York Times correspondent whom he allegedly referred to as a cheap hack and an opportunistic tool.
The Times had no comment. Its reporter gave Wells the finger.
I.F. Stone’ Weekly continues to be banned.
READ POSTS DATED 6/8, 7/4, 7/19, AND 9/8 FOR BACKGROUND ON THIS CONTINUING STORY!
Just when we thought we were all middle class, the Academy of Sciences caved in and said the P word, about six weeks before the big election.
Life Spans Shrink for Least-Educated Whites in the U.S.
By Sabrina Travernis, New York Times.
(EXCERPTS) The latest estimate shows life expectancy for (American) white women without a high school diploma is 73.5 years, compared with 83.9 years for white women with a college degree or more. For white men, the gap was even bigger: 67.5 years for the least educated compared with 80.4 for those with a college degree or better.
Researchers said they were baffled by the magnitude of the drop.
“There’s this enormous issue of why,” said David Cutler, an economics professor at Harvard. “It’s very puzzling and we don’t have a great explanation.”
The slump is so vexing that it became the subject of an inquiry by the National Academy of Sciences, which published a report on it last year.
“Something is going on in the lives of disadvantaged white women that is leading to some really alarming trends in life expectancy,” said Ms. Montez of Harvard.
Poor whites across the nation are breaking out extra cartons of Bud to celebrate the news that America’s top researchers and academics are already working on issues first identified in the 1970s. Meanwhile, all black woman finally surpassed poor white women in 2006 have already identified “evidence of a troubling pattern that has emerged for those at the bottom of the education ladder.”
In fact, a Professor Berkman has recently received a grant from the National Institute on Aging to fund a new cutting-edge study.
Low wage jobs could take a toll on health.
FROM ELECTRICA’S FREE-WITHOUT-A-GRANT INFO FILE
1) Poor people work harder than you do so that your life can be much easier and much longer than theirs. Their knowledge of this is perfect, keen, and burning.
2) Poor people do not give up their lives freely. They don’t donate them. They grieve them. That combined quarter-of-a-century lost by, say, a poor white married couple? (see stats above).
They want that 24 years back. They also want – and much more than you can possibly imagine – their teeth. Poor people want their teeth back.
3) You’ll never know what poor people are thinking. But they’ll know what you’re thinking.
As for Electrica, we just want to be there when the American Dental Society pleads its case before the Almighty.
We’re praying for a press pass.
“It’s been a little over a month since Sam Bonilla, a Mexican immigrant opted not to go to trial in Dodge City, Kansas for killing a local man during a situation he claims was self-defense,” Marisa Trevino wrote Friday on her Latina Lista blog.
“Bonilla’s reason for not facing a jury was [reportedly] that he didn’t feel he could get a fair trial in Dodge City because he was Latino.
“Time will tell if Dodge City officials were as clueless to the racial tensions that exist in their town, as they claim, or they just didn’t like anyone pulling off the blanket and exposing how they always did things.
“No matter which way it’s looked at, the situation in Dodge City needed to be exposed. If it had not been for Claire O’Brien, the reporter for the Dodge City Daily Globe at the time, no one would have found out about Bonilla or Dodge City.
“. . . But not everybody was happy that O’Brien exposed Dodge’s racial undercurrents. In a bizarre show of unprofessionalism, the presiding judge in Sam Bonilla’s sentencing hearing, Judge Daniel Love, took over 10 minutes to publicly berate O’Brien, who was present in the courtroom, for stirring things up in town. He blamed her choice of words in her reporting to describe Bonilla’s situation. By the time the judge was done, it was clear he viewed O’Brien as a troublemaker ‚Äî yet, everyone else should have seen her as doing her job, and doing it well.
“However, in the hours after Bonilla’s sentencing, O’Brien found herself in a situation that no reporter should be in for doing their job. Within a span of hours, O’Brien lost her job at the Daily Globe, was uninvited to speak at a journalism conference, was ignored by the Kansas Press Association in her role for finally getting the Shield Law passed in Kansas and began a quest to redeem her journalistic reputation. . . . ”
NOTE: I have added extensively to this post, written two years ago, before I was aware of Harvey Silverglate’s involvement in a Kansas First Amendment legal case that destroyed my life.
Please pardon the poor formatting. WordPress has me flummoxed, and I can only ask readers for their patience and thank them for their perseverance.
THE VIEW FROM UP THERE:
When a very famous journalist uses a murder trial to illuminate the systemic racism that is its context, does he have a right to omit his knowledge of a hotly contested issue because a famous lawyer has asked him to do so – and because ” it’s not the story” he’s writing? The career and reputation of a hopelessly outgunned, multiple award-winning small-time reporter have been destroyed: and both she and Calvin Trillin are well aware of his singular power to restore her good name with one sentence. (Click on Trillin’s article below)
What kind of perspective did this journalist from the very top of the heap think he could legitimately claim by allowing a traumatized , obscure reporter to plead her case with increasing panic over several days – without once telling her that he had already been made aware of her truthfulness, and is nevertheless not going to mention it in his article?
Giving readers the false impression that the accusations made against someone remain unresolved is a form of lying. Journalists may not do it. Calvin Trillin may be an artist, but he is also an old news man, and ultimately he was writing a news story. There’s no possibility that he had the impression that he could pick and choose the facts: one may, if one is as talented and able as Trillin, write the news with artistry. But the news is not art. Yet, he persisted in maintaining precisely such a rarefied prerogative by responding to my pleas with an increasingly insistent claim: “That’s not the story I want to write.”
(“And it’s not the story I promised Harvey Silverglate I’d avoid.”)
Well, what the hell. To what extent did Mr. Trillin create that nervous character himself ? I’d say he created her almost wholly: in fact, his appropriation of my singular role in a Kansas State Supreme Court First Amendment case, and my subsequent inability to access a voice with which to assert it, is practically a textbook definition of an abuse of power in journalism. How differently might I have possibly appeared had Trillin assured me before his arrival in Dodge City that he was aware of the very public fabrications made about me to the national media by the most influential free press organization in the nation?
You’ll never know. A few people decided that you don’t need to.
If only Trillin’s reasons were more complex, if not more principled. But without doing any further investigative work, Mr. Trillin just went along with a request made by an old pal, famous Harvard Law School free speech attorney Harvey Silverglate.
That’s news. Period.
And it’s pretty big news. Certainly it transcends the context of my individual career. Certainly it has much broader implications. And certainly it is the public’s business.
Silverglate is the founder of FIRE, which fiercely and very publically defends free speech on college campuses, as well as a former long-term member of the Massachusetts chapter of the ACLU’s board of directors. He prevailed upon Trillin on behalf of the organization’s Kansas/Missouri chapter, which had very egregiously interfered in a court case (mine) in which it had filed an amicus brief : simply put, this is extremely illegal.
Silverglate represented me when I was a child of fifteen, and in the process he achieved access to medical records he referenced many decades later, although he had had absolutely no contact with me throughout that extremely lengthy interval. To use privileged information about a minor client is in itself reprehensible, but Harvey didn’t stop there.
He started there.
Silverglate also acted to protect another famous attorney, former Reporter’s Committee for Freedom of the Press director Lucy Dalglish, She had both lied to me, and lied about me, while acting in her capacity as an attorney, and had made extremely damaging public fabrications for no purpose more noble than that of hiding her despicable betrayal of a truthful reporter who had earnestly, and, in retrospect, idiotically, stood up for the First Amendment.
Trillin went along with his powerful peers for the same reasons networks of the elite always go along with one another. Ordinary American liberals resist this obvious concept because they refuse to regard this particular elite in those terms. But Trillin, Silverglate, and Daglish et al are supposed to be the best defense we have! I am no political fool, but my journalism experience, while fairly extensive, did not intersect with that elite sphere; thus, I was not prepared for its ruthless disregard of the most fundamental of my civil rights. It had never occurred to me that this sphere actually represents an interest that is as invested in its own significant power as are the corporate and state interests it purports to defy.
More shocking is the blind cooperation it commands from virtually every viable media platform.
Here is the point: during a global and domestic crisis of arguably unprecedented historic proportions, when the public’s right to information has never been more acute, dozens of media leaders and civil liberties nonprofits across the nation have handed an elite network the power to decide what and whom to censor.
In 2010, I broke a record by winning four state press awards at once, including first place for the story that got me fired. I’d received an internal nomination for the national Ethics in Journalism Award, been invited to speak at a convention of the Society of Professional Journalists, and gotten a great response to initial feelers re a national job search.
I never worked again.
On-site interviews for which I’d been selected from pools of 300 – 400 applicants were suddenly cancelled with no explanation via emails from secretaries. I was evicted from my home without cause. Reporters who knew for a fact of my veracity re. the case began avoiding me, my friends and family were told lies about me, and outright fabrications were spread
No non-profit replied to my documented pleas for advocacy, no lawyer responded to my
Never mind me. It truly doesn’t matter what you think of me. Every alert high school reporter knows that the First Amendment protects the people, not the press, and that destroying an individual via insinuation, bias, gossip and lies is incredibly easy.
Consider instead what an extremely slippery slope has been established. Any serious belief that I will remain some sort of remarkably incompetent and necessary exception to the otherwise deeply held principles of America’s standard bearers of egalitarianism is patently
Rather, the efficiency with which I was discredited and silenced proves the opposite: it proves that those standards have already been systemically corrupted.
So, what else is new? Well, what makes my case important is the very specific national scope, coordination, and gravity of documented criminal actions.It removes this corruption from the realm of speculation about which we are accustomed to grumble and forces a public acknowledgement. I can and have proven these actions to be true. If the public reacts indifferently – so be it. That’s not my business.
Were I simply a nut obsessed with a job loss, the ongoing effort to keep me discredited would not be as obvious as it is. Huge corporate lawyers would not be tracking me on LinkedIn. Other bloggers, their petitions,emails, and tweets would not be universally and absolutely ignored – journalists, lawyers, and non-profits aren’t like that unless they cannot respond without lying, and have thus coordinated a strategic silence.
My decision to publically criticize Mr. Trillin was not made lightly. In fact, it has been amazingly difficult – it took me over two years to decide to write this. First of all, I didn’t want to be right. I wanted him to realize that he had failed to recognize a political courage that he was bound to respect. Over four days in Dodge City, I observed Trillin’s remarkable vigilance as he maintained a one-man mission to seek out and squash racist behavior by swiftly inserting himself as a role model. He also couldn’t tolerate even the potential for class injury, and threw himself into the breach at the first hint of its appearance.
I was moved by this: I saw it as a tribute honoring the working-class Jewish tradition from which Trillin inherited the gift of his gaze – a gaze with no other possible source. It is a gift not only from his family, but from their culture – and from history.
I also found myself moved by the realization that he had assumed this role in part as a responsibility of his prominence.
Thus, I assumed for many, many months that my own political perspective was flawed, and that if Calvin Trillin rejected the basis for my claim to support, I had better examine it closely.
If anyone ever wants to blackmail me, a threat to publish the long email pleas I intermittently sent to Trillin just might do the trick. Writing them was as utterly humiliating, exhausting, and bewildering as re-reading them now would be. I had no idea of what had actually happened, and thus stupidly explained Politics 101 to him at great and embarrassing length. Eventually I was reduced to simply begging him for compassion.
Four years later, I view Calvin Trillin as another rich old white man with too much power. I call him out as a phony, an opportunist, and a class enemy. His treatment of me so profoundly contradicts the political integrity that has shaped his public life that nothing less than very public restorative action could redeem him.
Fat chance. And as long as that wonderous and dizzying dream of a dinner or lunch invitation from Calvin never dies in the hearts of so many – who cares what I think?
END OF PART ONE
NOTE: I and others have written extensively re the specific allegations referenced in this post. Here are some links. The bottom one will lead you to others. I can document everything, but can no longer cram the same chronology into every article I write. The sheer scope of the case tends to erode my credibility, but who would manufacture such a fantastic list of claims?
Believe me, if one or two people from the list below is deposed, the rest will topple like dominos.
At no point was I represented by counsel – not ever. Each attorney worked specifically against my interests to advance the interests of opposing parties without my knowledge. It’s impossible to describe the confusion and growing dread of watching your lawyer destroy you, while he chews you out for not trusting him and complains to your company’s national HR office 2,000 miles away.
Below are just some of the individuals and organizations that participated in some way in an extensive defamatory campaign that has been waged against me for over four years. Specifically, they have all committed both conspiracy to defame and defamation, but vary in terms of professional and criminal violations- as does the range of ethics issues regulated and sanctioned by their professional organizations.
Lucy Dalglish, former RCFP director, currently Dean of U. of Maryland Journalism school
Tony Mauro, US Supreme Court reporter, National Law Journal and RCFP steering committee member
Polly Sack, Chief Counsel, GateHouse Publishing
Harvey Silverglate, Harvard University Law School, FIRE director, former ACLU of MA. board member
Calvin Trillin, New Yorker Magazine
Attorney Mark Johnson, Topeka, Kansas
I don’t know Ms. Flax ; we have never met or spoken. There is one, and only one reason for the huge Tribune Publishing Company’s vice-president and deputy general counsel to examine the detailed employment history and professional references available on the LinkedIn profile of an obscure and blackballed reporter such as myself.
Note Flax’s ties to huge global law firm Sonnenschein Nath and Rosenthalm, which is also the longtime home of mild-mannered corporate thug and hit man, attorney Mark Johnson (listed above.) Mr. Johnson popped up out of the blue one day to offer me his “services”, having been hired by Daglish to assist in silencing and discrediting me.
And I thought I finally had counsel!
Silly me. Still connecting lawyers with justice and Easter with the Bunny .
Sound far-fetched? Ask me for proof. Please.
Consultant, First Amendment Lawyer and Media Law Professor
Another complete stranger, Ms. Goller is exactly the sort of looming presence a blackballed reporter on food stamps is reassured to discover inspecting remote details, such as an academic award won seventeen years ago.
” Karlene Goller, a former Los Angeles Times executive, provides strategic consulting for global media companies and teaches Media Law at the University of California, Irvine School of Law.
Ms. Goller served as First Amendment counsel for the Los Angeles Times and the Times Community News newspapers for more than 20 years. As the Los Angeles Times Deputy General Counsel and Vice President, Legal, she provided all aspects of newsroom counseling and litigation, as well as intellectual property matters, for content on all platforms — print, digital and multimedia. She was also responsible for representing the news organizations in connection with legislative and policy matters at the state and federal levels.
She joined the Times Mirror Company in 1990 as corporate counsel for Times Mirror Cable Television Inc. where she provided all forms of in-house counseling, including managing litigation, franchising, regulatory and legislative matters. Before joining Times Mirror, she was an associate at Cole, Raywid & Braverman in Washington, D.C., where she practiced primarily communications law counseling cable television and cellular clients, as well as litigating trade secret matters.”
Q. Why does a discredited lowly former staff reporter for an obscure Midwestern newspaper require the scrutiny of this Big Gun four years after the fact?
A. Because Reporter Lowly has documented the truth. She won’t shut up; thus, censoring her requires vigilance.
INCIDENT IN DODGE CITY: What led to a showdown in the riverbed?
BY CALVIN TRILLIN MAY 10, 2010
- ABSTRACT: ANNALS OF CRIME about the State of Kansas v. Samuel Bonilla. Last Labor Day afternoon, Tanner Brunson—accompanied by his friend Steven Holt, Holt’s daughter, his stepson, and a former boyfriend of his stepdaughter’s—drove his truck down a riverbed in Dodge City, Kansas. Holt and Brunson had consumed a lot of beer and in the riverbed they came upon Sam Bonilla, a Cox Communications cable guy, walking with his older son and his nephew. As Brunson’s truck approached, Bonilla gave him the finger. Holt and Brunson got out of the truck and as they approached Bonilla he fired on them with a .22-calibre gun. At the hospital, doctors stabilized Brunson, but Steven Holt died. Both Holt and Brunson were “good ole country boys.” Bonilla was Hispanic. Describes the history of the Hispanic community in Dodge City; almost half of the city’s current residents are Hispanic. After some hesitation, Bonilla turned himself in to the police on the evening of the shooting. He told them that he repeatedly shouted “Get back!” to Brunson and Holt before shooting, a claim confirmed by Holt’s daughter and stepson. Bonilla was charged with second-degree murder in the death of Holt and second-degree attempted murder in the wounding of Brunson. Rebecca Escalante, who runs Becky’s Bail Bonds and Tax Service, has found the Hispanics in Dodge City to be considerably less assertive than what she’d been accustomed to in Texas. Bonilla worked part-time for Escalante, and on one visit to see him in jail she took along Claire O’Brien, a reporter with the Dodge City Daily Globe. O’Brien’s article about Bonilla—in which he said he didn’t think a Hispanic could get a fair trial in Ford County— caused a sensation in Dodge City. County Attorney Terry Malone subpoenaed both O’Brien and Escalante—demanding that they reveal any anonymous sources, that O’Brien hand over her notes on the jailhouse interview, and that they both testify in a closed-door proceeding. Doug Anstaett, the executive director of the Kansas Press Association, thought the case made a good argument for the Kansas legislature to pass a shield law to protect reporters. Attorney Lucille Douglass, who began representing Bonilla, claimed that information about weapons and anti-Hispanic sentiment could have been easily obtained by subpoenaing Brunson’s MySpace page. A blog in Texas, Latina Lista, described Dodge City as “a place where some of the ‘white’ locals like to play a game they call ‘Border Patrol’ where they use their trucks to intimidate Latino pedestrians.” The implication was that Bonilla was nearly run over because he is Hispanic. Mentions gun rights. In early March, it was announced that Bonilla accepted a plea bargain on the reduced charges of voluntary manslaughter and aggravated battery, resulting in a sentence of seventy-four months. As a noncitizen who had committed a felony, he would presumably be deported after completing his sentence.
MORE EXCERPTS FROM THE SOCIETY OF PROFESSIONAL JOURNALISTS’ DISAPPEARING FOI BLOG. MARCH 26, 2010.
(See September 16 post)
I.F. STONE – he would never have given me a medal, and I’ll never deserve one. But you can bet your life on this, Lucy Dalglish, RCFP, SPJ., and the ACLU:
I.F Stone would have stuck up for me.
Read him lately?