About The Cosby Verdict

Serial rapist and sexual predator Bill Cosby was found guilty today. From the New York Times:

A jury found Bill Cosby guilty Thursday of drugging and sexually assaulting a woman at his home near here 14 years ago, capping the downfall of one of the world’s best-known entertainers, and offering a measure of satisfaction to the dozens of women who for years have accused him of similar assaults against them.

On the second day of its deliberations at the Montgomery County Courthouse in this town northwest of Philadelphia, the jury returned to convict Mr. Cosby of three counts of aggravated indecent assault against Andrea Constand, at the time a Temple University employee he had mentored.

The three counts — penetration with lack of consent, penetration while unconscious and penetration after administering an intoxicant — are felonies, each punishable by up to 10 years in state prison, though the sentences could be served concurrently.

Observations:

1 Good. Cosby should be serving hard time for rape. This verdict won’t accomplish that, and he has the resources to keep the matter tied up in appeals, maybe even forcing a new trial. Never mind: the verdict itself is satisfying punishment for a true ethics villain.

2. The verdict overcame the Cognitive Dissonance Scale, and that’s no mean feat. The jury deserves a lot of credit. Here, for the umpteenth time, is the scale:

Celebrities—or the characters they are identified with— are typically so high on the scale ( think of Bill/Cliff Huxtable as a plus 100) that even the evidence of a crime can’t pull them down sufficiently for jurors to be able to resolve the dissonance when they are thinking, “But he’s a great man and a wonderful person! How could he do these things?” The dissonance creates automatic reasonable doubt, all by itself, at least with enough jurors to ensure a mistrial, as in Cosby’s first trial. Hence O.J. Errol Flynn was acquitted of statutory rape. Robert Blake (“Baretta”) was acquitted of murdering his wife. Bill Cosby figured to have an unusually strong celebrity shield, but several  factors overcame it:

  • the amount of evidence against him.
  • the fact that what he did represented such a betrayal of his public image
  • the judge allowing, in the re-trial, other victims to testify
  • the series of previously admired show business figures who have been exposed as predators and sexual abusers since the Harvey Weinstein Ethics Train Wreck pulled out of the station, and
  • the fact that Cosby peak celebrity was decades ago.

If the trial had occurred at the time of “The Cosby Show,” I wonder if any evidence could have convinced a jury to convict him. Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, April 13, 2018: Past, Present, And Future

Happy Morning, everybody!

1. On the Future News front…The Michael Cohen raid has prompted a new outbreak of this particularly odious journalism and punditry trend: writing hysterically about what might happen. I spend so much time telling my wife that it is absurd and self-destructive to spend energy and emotion on dire “what if?” speculation, when sanity only reigns when we deal with what happens, when it happens, and not freak out because it might happen. Reinhold Niebuhr’s Serenity Prayer isn’t just for alcoholics, you know:

“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change;courage to change the things I can;and wisdom to know the difference. Living one day at a time;enjoy ing one moment at a time; accepting hardships as the pathway to peace…”

The news media, however, pummels us with dire future news to undermine serenity, create fear, encourage anxiety, distrust, panic and hysteria. All the better to undermine President Trump, after all.

MSNBC’s Joy Reid, for example, admittedly one of the worst of the worst, speculated about what might happen should the president refuse to allow himself to be arrested by federal marshals. Note that there is no evidence that there is anything to arrest him for, but never mind. This is Future News. “What if he refuses to open the White House door? What if he fires any Secret Service agent who would allow the federal marshals in? What if Donald Trump simply decides, ‘I don’t have to follow the law? I refuse to be held under the law. No marshal can get into this White House and any Secret Service agent who defies me is fired,'” she asked.

Today I am reading that Michael Cohen might have incriminating tapes of Donald Trump saying incriminating things. Yes, and he might have 12 toes and three nipples, too. Cohen apparently surreptitiously taped some of his conversations. Now, it is true that Cohen is a uniquely sleazy lawyer, but surreptitiously taping a client is a serious legal ethics breach that would pretty much end his career, not to mention his bar license, it it were proven. Never mind though: what if he taped Trump having sex with a marmot? What if he taped the President speaking Russian?

What might happen isn’t news. There are exceptions, but extensive concentration of speculation and projections, as with the Russian investigation coverage, is misleading and unethical journalism.

2. Incompetent prosecution to the rescue! For some reason, Bill Cosby’s prosecutors, allowed to choose from the more than 70 alleged victims of the serial sexual predator a representative five to show his  modus operandi that victimized Andrea Constand, chose Janice Dickinson, an aging ex-model, huckster, reality show star and publicity hound with the approximate trustworthiness and credibility of Stormy Daniels. Continue reading

Ethics Quote of the Week: Popehat’s Ken White

ionesco-rhinoceros

“[L]ying about Trump’s legal affairs doesn’t help. It helps promote lying, not Clinton (or anyone else.) This week social media is full of a narrative that the mainstream media is “ignoring” that Trump is on trial for rape and racketeering in December. That’s dishonest…Trump is historically awful. That’s not a reason to promote narratives that damage us as a nation. Lying about the nature of allegations, and treating allegations as presumptively true, damage us as a nation. “

—-Attorney/blogger Ken White, explaining the “rape trial” and “racketeering charges” against Donald Trump that Clinton supporters have been citing on-line and off as an “It’s not the worst thing!” rationalization (#22) to deflect criticism of Hillary Clinton

On Popehat, where he reigns supreme, former prosecutor and current lawyer Ken White has posted an essay called  “The Facts About A Couple of Pending Lawsuits Against Donald Trump,”  a blessed service to all of us who want to make the social media defenders of Hillary Clinton stop trying to corrupt everyone else with spin, lies and rationalizations.

Three main talking points of distraction and disinformation have been issued to followers by the panicked Clinton campaign to spread hither and yon. (Like Ken, I know that Trump must lose, but I want Clinton’s victory to be as unpleasant and marginal as possible.) The first and most insulting is the tried and true “vast conspiracy” against little ol’ Hillary, mostly because she’s a woman. The second is the lie that she’s no more dishonest than other politicians. (This one infuriates me, as it is demonstrably false, and attempts to set the standard for acceptable, institutionalized trustworthiness for U.S. public servants to Hillary’s miserable level for all time. This is, perhaps, the greatest long-term danger she poses to the nation.)

The third is the “how can anyone care about those stupid e-mails when Trump has a rape trial in December?” smear. I’ve been bouncing around Facebook trying to explain why this argument makes my friends look like idiots, but they, like the townspeople in Ionesco’s allegorical comedy “Rhinoceros” who start sprouting horns, pawing the ground and grunting, seem to have collectively given in to mindless conformity.

Ken explains why the third talking point is irresponsible: at this point, there are only allegations. “The fact that I hate Donald Trump does not mean that the allegation is or is not true,” he says.

The “rape trial” is a particularly misleading situation. Ken: Continue reading

Ethics Quiz: Ammon Bundy’s Cowboy Boots

Ammon Bundy. Nice look...that last name is a problem, though.

Ammon Bundy. Nice look…the jury should like it. That last name might be a problem, though.

Jury selection is was about to begin last week  in the trial of Ammon Bundy (Son of Cliven, no relation to Ted) and his fellow defendants who led an armed stand-off on federal lands in Oregon.  First, however, the judge in the case had to rule on Bundy’s lawyer’s motion demanding that the defendants, who are in custody, can wear neckties, belts and boots at trial as requested.

The U.S. Marshal’s Service  emailed  Bundy and the rest to alert them that certain  items of apparel wouldn’t be permitted at their trial: “Ties, Bows, Belts, Handkerchiefs, Cuff Links, Steel toe boots/shoes, Shoe laces, Shirt tie down straps, Safety pins, Shirt pocket pen protectors.” When U.S. District Judge Anna J. Brown Tuesday afternoon asked Barbara Alfono, the deputy U.S marshal in charge of the Bundy trial, about the requirement, she explained that security concerns were the source of the order. Those accessories could be used as weapons against deputy marshals or the defendants themselves, she said. As for the boots, they would interfere with the shackles that are placed around the defendants ankles as they are transported to and from the courthouse. (The shackles will be removed, because prior courts have ruled that they are prejudicial, making defendants look dangerous to the jury.)

J. Morgan Philpot,  Ammon Bundy’s marvelously named lawyer, argued that since his client is innocent until proven guilty, he should be allowed to wear the civilian clothes that he chooses.  “These men are cowboys,” Philpot wrote  in his motion, “and given that the jury will be assessing their authenticity and credibility, they should be able to present themselves to the jury in that manner.” He continued:

“We must consider, when he does so, how will he look? And what are the spot assumptions and impressions will the jury have about him when they see him in the kind of white socks and loafers he was wearing today, with his beltless trousers, and dressed in a formal suit without a tie,Just as significantly, how will the lack of belt, tie, or other apparel compare to others in the courtroom, as he and the other detained defendants are the only ones who will appear that way.”

The judge ruled against him.

Your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz of the Day:

Is it ethical for the system to prevent accused cowboys from looking like cowboys during their trial?

Continue reading

A Plague Of Misleading Headlines

Fake headline

The mad quest for clicks appears to be leading websites that should know better to sink to misleading or outright dishonest headlines on the web. For someone like me, who has to scan these looking for possible ethics issues, it is an increasingly annoying phenomenon. Readers need to speak up. The practice is unethical, and moreover, suggests that the source itself isn’t trustworthy.

Here are three current examples;

1. The Daily Beast: “Idiocracy’ Director Mike Judge: Fox Killed Our Anti-Trump Camacho Ads”

Boy, isn’t it just like that conservative, Trump-promoting Faux News to help The Donald by using its power, influence, lawyers, something to stop the makers of “Idiocracy,” that comic classic, from being used to save the country from American Hitler?

That’s sure how the Daily Beast wanted its largely Democratic readership to react to its headline over the story about a fizzled effort to use the the film’s character  of ex-porn star future U.S. President Dwayne Elizondo Mountain Drew Herbert Camacho, played by Terry Crews, in a series of comic spots ridiculing Trump’s candidacy. The story, however, never quotes Judge as saying Fox—that would be the movie side of Twentieth Century Fox, not Fox News, which had no say in the matter: the company produced the film and owns the right to it and all of its characters—killed the project.  All Judge says is that the idea of doing a series of such ads didn’t come to fruition, for a whole list of reasons which might have included Fox’s distaste for the project.. Of  Fox, he says this..

“I think also Fox… yeah, they… even though they’ve probably forgotten they still own it…”

The writer then suggests that company owner Rupert Murdoch might not like the idea, and thus prompted, Judge replies,

“Yeah. That’s the other thing. I think there was a roadblock there, too…I just heard that [the proposed ads] were put on the shelf, so it looks like they’re not going to happen.”

Based on this, the author, typical Daily Beast hack Marlow Stern, writes, “It looks like Fox refused—and the ads are now dead.” Stern never says that Fox refused; it is the “reporter” who says it. Meanwhile, when the Daily Beast writes about “Fox,” it is referring to Fox News 99.9% of the time, and knows that’s what its readers will think when they read “Fox.”

The headline is intentionally misleading, and a lie.

(Incidentally, the movie is a great concept that under-delivers on its premise and potential, and should be a lot funnier than it is) Continue reading

It’s Time To Fire And Discipline Marilyn Mosby

Mosby in 2015, ruining lives, pandering to the mob, and undermining justice...

Mosby in 2015, ruining lives, pandering to the mob, and undermining justice…

The third (of six) indicted Baltimore police officer charged in the death of Freddie Gray was acquitted last week, and how the rest of the trials, if they even occur, will play out is now a foregone conclusion. To be fair, this was a forgone conclusion from that moment that Baltimore City Attorney Marilyn Mosby charged the officers a year ago without sufficient justification beyond her own political ambitions, those of her husband (who is now running for mayor), racial bias and a desire to mollify rioters. Most commentators believed the charges were premature, rushed to avoid civic unrest. To say that is really to say that she allowed a mob to dictate to law enforcement. This was unethical, dangerous and despicable then, and remains so today.

If officer Caesar R. Goodson Jr., who drove the police transport van in which Gray suffered the spinal cord injury that killed him, could not be found guilty of intentionally killing Freddie Gray, nobody can. Says the New York Times,

“His acquittal on seven counts leaves the state without any convictions after three trials, in one of the nation’s most closely watched police misconduct cases — and continues to leave open the question of what, exactly, happened to Mr. Gray inside the van….Judge Barry G. Williams, who presided over the Goodson trial, issued the verdicts to a hushed, packed courtroom. He drew no conclusions about exactly when during the van ride Mr. Gray got hurt, saying there were several “equally plausible scenarios.” And he rejected the state’s contention that the officer had given Mr. Gray an intentional “rough ride” and knowingly endangered him by failing to buckle him into the van or provide medical help.” 

The prosecutor isn’t supposed to ruin the lives and careers of presumptively innocent law enforcement officials to try to find out what happened to Freddie Gray. The prosecutor is supposed to investigate until sufficient evidence tells her that a crime was committed, and the she has enough of that evidence to get a legitimate conviction. The three trials have shown that such evidence either doesn’t exist, or was never found. No, we don’t know what killed Freddie Gray, and that’s called “reasonable doubt.” Continue reading

“Oops!” Most Ridiculous Lie Of The Year: Saudi Mega-Millionaire Ehsan Abdulaziz

Saudi rapeOh, I can’t let this one pass.

Saudi Ehsan Abdulaziz was just tried on a rape charge in London. The alleged victim, an 18 year-old woman, says that she woke up to find him having sex with her. Supporting her accusation, traces of his semen were found in her vagina.

But wait! He can explain!

Abdulaziz says he met two women at a West End  nightclub and took them both to his room,  where they continued to drink. He had sex with one of the women; the other, the eventual accuser, fell asleep on the couch. Abdulaziz testified that he went into the room to see if  she needed anything and she drunkenly pulled at him. He lost his balance and fell on her. His penis accidentally slipped into her, he guesses, and the semen found in the woman’s vagina  must have been a left-over from the earlier sex with her friend.  “I’m fragile, I fell down,” he told the jury, “but nothing ever happened, between me and this girl.”

The jury acquitted him in 30 minutes.