Thursday, June 20, 2013

What Would Jesus Drink Part III - My Kingdom for a Crystal Ball

It was June 2011 when I first told this true story.
Police in Hardin, Texas got a tip.  Reports on just what the tip was conflict.  Dozens of dismembered bodies buried at a farmhouse? Children in danger at that farmhouse? Either way, they got a warrant.
Because when Jesus and 32 angels tell Angel about what's going on at the farmhouse.  The Times reports.
Equipped with a search warrant and cadaver-sniffing dogs, deputies from the Liberty County Sheriff’s Office converged on a home on a narrow country road near Hardin — about an hour outside Houston — in search of a macabre crime scene. The news of a mass grave in rural Texas set off a news media frenzy: throngs of reporters camped outside the home, two news helicopters circled above, and cable news stations flashed alerts that up to 30 bodies had been found.
Liberty County Sheriff's deputies, the FBI, DPS officers and the media converged on the town of Hardin looking for signs of a mass grave. A search at the home turned up nothing.
Because, of course, you have to check.
I mean, when someone calls with that sort of story, and offers a credible explanation for how she knows . . . .
Oh, you wondered about the credible explanation?
The caller, a woman who identifies herself as "Angel," spoke to CBS.
They up-front asked me how I got the information, and I am a reverend. I am a prophetess and I get my information from Jesus and the angels, and I told them that I had 32 angels with me and they were giving me the information and then it went from there.
I mean, who could doubt?
Which I repeated in June 2012 because, as I said then, "the beauty of a good story is that it has legs."  And there was an update.
This morning, Scott Greenfield picked up on the latest news.
Via Courthouse News, Joe Bankson and Gena Charlton are suing the sheriff, the psychic and a bunch of news outlets who reported about them "after a self-proclaimed psychic told the sheriff that 25 to 30 dismembered bodies were buried in a mass grave at their home." Needless to say, this tip didn't pan out, much to the surprise of the psychic who calls herself "Angel."
The sheriff's office provided the plaintiffs' address to the news media and repeated the false statement, and it made nationwide and worldwide headlines, according to the complaint.
Bankson and Charlton claim the sheriff's office searched their home unreasonably and without probable cause, inviting the media along to watch the intrusive execution of the search warrant.
The couple claim the sheriff's office was "unreasonable in relying on an uncorroborated tip from a self-proclaimed psychic source" who has proven to be "unreliable and untrustworthy."
Me, I'm not a believer.  Sure, I lived in Texas, went to law school there, practiced law there, and have a mighty fine cowboy hat I wear occasionally.  Even so, I'd think it was unreasonable to rely on "an uncorroborated tip from a self-proclaimed psychic" who got her info from "Jesus and the angels" even without knowing that she had been proved "unreliable and untrustworthy." (Of course, despite the dozen years I lived on the Llano Estacado, I'm basically a Yankee.) 
As I said, good stories have legs.  The gifts that keep on giving.  It's now June 2013, and THEY'RE BACK!!!
This time Paul Kennedy caught the news.
Presley "Rhonda" Gridley, the psycho psychic who got a false message from the Angels (perhaps it was from fallen angels - you know, Hell's Angels)  about that mass grave and convinced the cops of Liberty County, and the Texas Rangers and the FBI and all the media that could get there in time and probably a team from Mossad and one from whatever the Chinese secret police are called, and a particularly gullible magistrate to sign off on a warrant and search the Bankston/Charlton homestead, well, she just got socked with a $6.8 million judgment.  
Carol Christian in the Houston Chronicle has some details (link stripped).
Gridley, 50, failed to appear in court May 7 for the bench trial before Judge Carl Ginsberg in the 193rd State District Court, records stated.
Ginsberg found that Gridley had made defamatory statements about Bankson and Charlton on June 6, 2011, when she volunteered false information to the Liberty County Sheriff's Office, claiming that a mass grave containing dismembered bodies was at the plaintiffs' home.
The defendant's false statement injured the plaintiffs' reputation and exposed them to public hatred, contempt, ridicule and financial injury, the complaint stated.
Of course, Gridley is almost surely judgment proof.  I mean, how much money can you bring in doing psychic readings when you have a track record of failure.  OK, maybe a lot.  After all, this is America (and Texas f'rgodsake) where people will believe anything.

Yesterday, Deputy FBI Director Sean Joyce took an oath to tell the truth and then told Congress - and via the media everyone else - that they had used critical information from phone metadata and web surveillance to foil a plot to blow up the New York Stock Exchange.  Which would be interesting and perhaps would lead some people to think that it's OK that their privacy was invaded because it kept a bunch of stock traders safe.

Except that, of course, it's not true.  Joshua Dratel, who represents the purported foiled bombe Sabirhan Hasanoff, talked Kevin Poulsen of Wired.
Hasanoff supposedly plotted to blow up the New York Stock Exchange. Hasanoff has pleaded guilty to providing material support to terrorists. But the government’s own sentencing memorandum shows that the defendants called off a proposed plot on their own, without any involvement from federal authorities, and over a year before being arrested.
“There was no plot,” says Dratel. “There was one guy was asked to check out a tourist site downtown. It was a year and a half before they arrested Hasanoff. So if they thought it was really a plot, what were they doing letting him run around?”
The sentencing memorandum in that case, dated May 31, confirms Dratel’s statements. “Hasanoff relayed that the New York Stock Exchange was surrounded by approximately four streets that were blocked off from vehicular traffic and that someone would have to walk to the building. The Doctor [an undisclosed high-ranking al-Qaida operative] revealed that, although the information provided by Hasanoff could be used by someone who wanted to do an operation, he was not satisfied with the report, and he accordingly disposed of it.”
Trust, but verify as Ronald Reagan used to say.   You know, look up the facts.  Trust us, Joyce said, lying.

And the FBI itself.  They're just so damn good you know you can trust them to whitewash investigate thoroughly and penalize forcefully when one of their own shoots someone.  But gosh darn despite the fact that they've paid out millions in damages to the victims of their shootings, of the 150 or so people Agents shot from 1993 to 2011 every one was proper.  Oh, sure, some of those people hadn't done anything wrong, but as Charlie Savage and Michael S. Schmidt report in the Times, the agents were, in every fucking case, right to shoot the person.
And we believe.  And trust.
So maybe the esteemed Ms. Gridley can parlay her newfound fame as a charlatan into the big bucks needed to pay the judgment.  Probably not, though.  So what's the point?

The 6.8 million is compensatory not punitive.  (Actually, it's 3.4 million in damages - the rest is interest.)  It's designed to repay Bankston and Charlton for their loss, not to teach Gridley (or anyone else) a lesson, not to punish.  And since it's uncollectable . . . .

Of course, it's not really Gridley who was the problem.  The problem was the Yahoos in the
Liberty County Sheriff's Office who took her nonsense seriously.  And then called a press conference.  The good news, if there is good news, is that they didn't travel to the ranch by tank.
And they didn't shoot anyone.

Of course, if they had, the FBI would have found it righteous.

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