Friday, March 28, 2008

Despite Sixty-Six Requests, Morning Call Still Refuses to Meet Drunk Driving Victim

On Wednesday, I told you my daughter - a soldier - has been unexpectedly ordered Army to Iraq. I'll admit I've been in a daze and a little depressed since learning she's in Baghdad. But many of you have had some very nice things to say. I really appreciate that.

Fred Daugherty has little reason to say anything nice to me. I was highly critical of his appointment to Nazareth Borough Council. But Fred is also a dad. His two sons were sent to an airbase in western Iraq a year ago. "As fathers we always wish to shelter and protect our children. To take their place in a dangerous or harrowing situation."

If my daughter was seriously injured or killed, I can't begin to imagine how I'd feel. A friend has already suggested I really should have a passport ready, just in case. I don't want to even think about that.

Sadly, some of us know. Bill Villa is one such person. His daughter, a Lower Nazareth dance teacher, was the victim of a drunk driver, right here in the good old USA. Amazingly, Bill is one of those who offered his best wishes. Knowing his loss, I really appreciate his sentiments.

His daughter has been dead for two years.

The person who killed her just happens to be the spoiled son of a prominent Allentown attorney. This lawyer just happens to work in a law firm that periodically represents The Morning Call. Does this mean anything? Probably not, but The Morning Call has circled the wagons against one grieving father, as I explained a few weeks ago. Comments editor Glenn Kranzley did meet with Villa for forty-five minutes on July 18, 2007, but a condition of that meeting - which included a local blogger - was that there be no discussion at all about Bill's case. For reasons that elude me, this Allentown paper refuses to sit down and simply talk to Villa, one on one, despite sixty-six requests.

Why not? What is its point here?

The Morning Call's reader forum foments all kinds of racist, xenophobic and anti-Semitic remarks from the lowest common denominators in our society. Instead of community discussion, it is hate-mongering. But while allowing all kinds of hate speech to stand, Villa's comments are routinely deleted. Racism is OK, but one grieving father is simply too much to bear. Why is he muzzled?

That attitude is nonexistent at other papers. Express Times editor Joe Owens not only met with Villa, he even wrote a column about it.

So why won't this paper meet with a thirty-year subscriber? No one can bring Bill's daughter back to him, but meeting him just might give him some peace of mind.

Is that so hard?

51 comments:

Joe Hilliard said...

Bernie,

Why does the Morning Call coverup the fiscal failures of the Pawlowski administration? (Borrow $10 million, produce a $5 million "surplus". Borrow $22 million, produce a $10 million "surplus".) Instead of reporting the truth to the public.

Why does the Morning Call continue to cover up the rapes of six year old children at Central Elementary in Allentown? Instead of finding out and reporting the truth to the public.

Why does the Morning Call cover up the theft of millions from Lower Mac? Instead of demanding and reporting the truth to the public.

Do you really think they will look into possible favoritism in DUI and murder cases? Come on.....

It's not only a pay to play in Lehigh Valley, it's a cover up any bad news no matter what valley.

And players in both parties are doing it. The good news is that there seem to be some interested parties outside of the valley. That is what I have been advocating for the last year. Until we get scrutiny from outside the valley, nothing will change.

That is why your work is important. And parties with no self interest from outside the valley might start stirring things up.

Bill Villa said...

"Do you really think they will look into possible favoritism in DUI and murder cases?"

I do. Yeah.

And to clarify, it's not "possible favoritism" in DUI homicide cases.

Given the chance to be heard by The Morning Call Editorial Board, I can prove that DA Jim Martin fixed a DUI homicide case for a longtime friend (the criminal defendant's grandfather) the night before a scheduled trial on 9/25/07. Martin then invited this man to attend his swearing-in ceremony in January, presumably for some public ring-kissing.

And this isn't a case of "prosecutorial discretion."

This is a case where our DA Jim Martin told one lie to the victim's family, told another lie to the judge, and wove it all together with a third lie about Lehigh Valley Hospital, the night before a scheduled trial.

And it ain't rocket science. It's laughably easy to piece together. Even a Morning Call reporter (other than Debbie Garlicki) could do it.

But here's the rub ...

I can also prove The Morning Call news department facilitated this fix by manipulating the truth (a.k.a. lying) in its coverage of the defendant's guilty plea on 9/26/07.

And, looking back at other DUI homicides under Jim Martin's reign and The Morning Call's coverage of them, it appears that 9/26/07 was not the first time that DA Jim Martin and The Morning Call have "collaborated" on going easy on a select/connected homicidal drunk driver.

This is why The Morning Call won't meet with me:

they know I have their number.

I will continue to encourage them to meet with me and prove me wrong.

In the meantime, as Joe Hilliard mentions, "outsiders" are beginning to contact me and make appointments to hear my story.

It's a story you wouldn't want to experience yourself.

Bill said...

Thank you for shining a light into this dark corner. I hope it lead to some formal response from the MC.

Mr Villa, my thoughts and prayers are with you and your family although there is little that can be said to heal this kind of tragedy. Everyone deserves some kind of closure, I hope and pray you get yours.

Bill Villa said...

"Thank you for shining a light into this dark corner."

My pleasure. Hey, Morning Call:

TAKE THE BILL VILLA CHALLENGE.

Meet with me.

What are you afraid of ...

Brickgrrl said...

Although I consider Bill Villa a friend and colleague, that's immaterial here. No one- NO one should have to endure the tragedy and injustice Bill and his family have gone through from the horrific night of his daughter's murder through these past few years.

Bill has doggedly, tirelessly pursued the truth and struggled against what can only be described as an impenetrable machine. It's frightening to ponder who's in charge of local journalism in the Valley if such a clear case is treated so dismissively.

I agree with Joe Hilliard that we need "scrutiny from outside the valley" and I wish Bill could capture the attention of the regional, and better yet, national media.

Thanks, Bernie, for giving this situation some virtual ink.

Bill Villa said...

Hey Brickgrrl, you are one swell pal, thanks. You too BernO, thank you again.

Agenda-Wise, I’m pushing for an “Integrity Renaissance” at The Morning Call in 3 simple steps:

1. Editorially call for DA Jim Martin to resign.

2. Fire all of Martin’s colluding reporters and editors at The Morning Call.

3. Apologize to the public and move forward.

Special Note to new Tribune/Morning Call owner, Sam Zell:

Mr. Zell, I believe doing these 3 simple steps could turn around The Morning Call’s plummeting circulation and nose-diving ad revenue. People LOVE a good public purging and redemption story. Think Jimmy Swaggart.

Dave Baun said...

This whole thing seems so surreal to me, it has been two years. My friend and his family are still suffering and will always have this pain to deal with. BUT it has been warped into a torturous public spectacle carried out by those connected to the very person who caused the Sheena's death two years ago. Utterly unthinkable and inconceivable.

This goes way beyond what is truly to most painful part of the story, the loss of a bright, beautiful, talented and caring member of our community. This goes to the core of the community and in the long run calls into question every elected official and public service/servant and their motives.

It is truly amazing to me what corruption lies here between local government and the Morning Call. I am not usually surprised at all to hear of the shady dealings behind close doors between lawyers and judges and the like. But when you throw in an institution (?) such as the Morning Call, they are here to report the news, right?

Gone are the days I suppose, of a reporter actually breaking a big story about 'the wrong doings of an elected official' or 'a local government scandal' being unearthed by a diligent reporter going above and beyond. No investgative reporting here. Or is it just selective investigative reporting decided by those in the higher ranks?

It seems that yes, the only way things will ever change around here is if the 'outside world' gets a look and gets involved. We really need a new sanitation company to come in here and clean up all of the trash that has assumed control of our welfare, as well as the mess they have made.

I wish Bill and his family the best and continue to include them in my prayers. It seems there is only One who can help them now and my hope is that it happens sooner than later.

Peace & Prayers for you and yours my friend.

Anonymous said...

time to get an electronic billboard
like the old National Debt Clock in New York and park it across the street from The Morning Call
so they can watch it scroll upward and onward as the number of attempts to be heard on the part of Mr. Villa continues, matched exactly the number of times the Morning Call staff dives under their desks whenever an email from
this heartbroken father appears on their screens. hey MC, you're in the truth business, right? not sure you can claim to be that and still be selective as to who's truth you entertain and who's you choose not to. you can't send me
to bed, MC - i'm the truth.

Anonymous said...

Bernie,

You are right, what is so hard about the MC meeting with Bill? Mr. Villa is a grieving father and if someone over there at the MC would just reach out to him it would give him peace of mind. I know he has e-mailed Bill White and Paul Carpenter and just about everyone. Why have they not even responded or acknowledged him? They just ignore him. Well, he's not gonna just go away. God Bless Bill and his family.

Bill Villa said...

Well, to be fair, The Morning Call doesn't totally ignore me.

For example, I got these thoughtful notes from them recently ...

---------------------------------------

In a message dated 3/3/2008 8:34:00 A.M. Eastern Standard Time, gkranzley@mcall.com writes:

Mr. Villa, No thanks on your offer to meet with the editorial board.

---------------------------------------

In a message dated 3/25/08 8:13:23 AM, gkranzley@mcall.com writes:

Mr. Villa, I don’t want to schedule an editorial board meeting with you on the topics you request.

---------------------------------------

In a message dated 3/25/08 8:13:23 AM, gkranzley@mcall.com writes:

Mr. Villa, Please don’t repeat this request in a series of e-mails.

---------------------------------------

Bill Villa said...

... almost forgot to mention:

The Morning Call has banned me from entering their building without an appointment-- the appointment no one there will give me.

This makes me feel sorta special ...

Louis said...

Hello,

I sincerely support what Bill Villa is trying do. I think the Morning Call is ducking its role as a fair-minded community newspaper. This is a big problem in many American communities with a "monopoly" newspaper. (Many reasonable voices are silenced as a result.)

The best thing that can happen to the Lehigh Valley is for a daily newspaper to compete with the Call. But alas, even as daily newspapers are in steep decline in readership, it probably won't happen--and there's nothing meaner, nastier or uglier than a mortally wounded dinosaur.

Readers need to reject the "drive-by" hit-and-run media like the Call and turn to community based weekly newspapers (both free and paid) and new media like this electronic forum--they may be your best friend when it comes to offering a voice to many of the people ignored by the daily news.

The Morning Call editorial board owes Mr. Villa the opportunity to meet and speak. The board members should quit acting arrogant and do the right thing.

My sincere wishes and prayers to the Villa family in dealing with their pain.

Louis Varricchio III
Managing Editor
New Market Press Newspapers
Middlebury, Vermont

[Note: The writer is a former resident of Allentown, Pa. He was a former editor of the Emmaus Free Press, and a news reporter with its parent paper the Quakertown (Daily) Free Press--owned by the Meredith family of Quakertown for over a century. Both papers ceased publication during the 1980s due to competition from the Call.]

Bernie O'Hare said...

Louis, Thanks so much for your perspective. It is refreshingly honest.

Bill Villa said...

... and for the opposing dishonest perspective, dig this from The Morning Call's web site:

"The Morning Call Editorial board intends to be as open with readers as possible. It meets regularly -- a few times every week -- with people and groups about topics of public interest. The Lehigh Valley area is blessed to have public-spirited citizens who recognize that the newspaper is a corporate citizen that strives to be engaged in the debate on such issues, and that tries to offer leadership. The welcome mat always is out for those who want to be heard." -www.mcall.com

michael molovinsky said...

somewhere along the line, i got the impression the morning call justifies its current refusal to meet with mr. villa, because they have in the past considered his grievances. on the other hand, they have no reluctance to print the 789th press release from a alan jennings or another pawlowski feel good babble.
if simple bloggers feel compelled to publish comments critical of themselves, should not main steam media have at least the same introspection?

Anonymous said...

The Morning call has always been a third class act.You can read it in 5 minutes.They can step up to the plate and do the right thing by meeting with Bill, but they won't and never will.They are cowards,and probally could not write a fair article.An article that readers could identify with losses of all kind. An article that will talk about concerns of a D.A. that we should consider.An article of how parents cope with such a loss with both a child and in the courts when your representation tends to favor the opposite side.

Bernie O'Hare said...

The truth is that Bill's situation is a story. No one can bring Sheena back, but there aree so many angles from which his tale can be examioned - the story of victims who feel screwed by our system (that happens in NC, too); the tragic toll being exacted by drinking; the DA; the paper's own involvement. It just seems that the MC is unwilling to revisit this matter and do some introspection, which I fin\d unfortunate.

Bill Villa said...

"i got the impression the morning call justifies its current refusal to meet with mr. villa, because they have in the past considered his grievances." Molovinsky

That's right and they are smoke-screen lying like crazy about this.

Allow me to explain ...

There are three (3) vehicular crash death cases I want to discuss with The Morning Call Editorial Board:

* my daughter Sheena's 2006 crash death

* Zachary Mohney's 2006 crash death

* and Patrick Sinatore's 2003 crash death

In each case, I have compelling evidence of shamefully unenthusiastic prosecutions by DA Jim Martin and integrity-questionable coverage by The Morning Call news department.

None of these three cases were discussed at the July 18, 2007 meeting with Glenn Kranzley that I attended.

As Bernie points out, Kranzley granted this 7/18/07 meeting only on the condition that I not discuss anything having to do with my daughter Sheena's case because Kranzley wasn't interested in hearing anything about it.

I agreed to this jaw-droppingly callous restriction, at the time, only as a way of "getting in the door" at The Morning Call.

The fact is that I arranged this 7/18/07 meeting with Glenn Kranzley for blogger Chris Casey ...

... and the meeting's agenda was basically me sitting there silently as Casey outlined for Kranzley his concerns regarding DA Jim Martin's questionable handling of several things, including campaign contributions, real estate transactions involving DA Martin's former law firm, the Charles Cullen (Angel of Death Nurse) case, and the Officer Michael Kenderski case.

For Glenn Kranzley to claim, in March 2008, that the newspaper "already looked into my grievances" in July 2007 is a total crock of crap.

The Zach Mohney and Patrick Sinatore cases didn't even come to my attention until months after Kranzley's July '07 meeting with Chris Casey.

And the third case I want to discuss with The Morning Call Editorial Board, my daughter Sheena's case, I was prohibited from discussing at the July '07 meeting between Casey and Kranzley.

By the way, I thought Chris Casey raised issues at that 7/18/07 meeting which were highly worthy of The Morning Call looking into.
Whether the newspaper did or not, I do not know.

But by refusing to meet with me, it's almost as if Glenn Kranzley is thinking, "well, we deemed that Chris Casey didn't have anyting on DA Jim Martin ... so ... Bill Villa probably doesn't have anything on Martin either."

And this kind of fallacy-flawed "thinking" is either ...

* just plain lazy

* just plain stupid

* or dumb like a colluding crony fox diabolical

I find it unusually cruel, and highly suspicious, that The Morning Call would make me an exception to its "Welcome Mat" policy-- a grieving father with "excellent questions that deserve to be answered" regarding a district attorney who has invited scrutiny with his reckless and arrogant cronyism the night before a trial.

Yesterday, I e-mailed my 69th request for a meeting with The Morning Call Editorial Board.

I request that they honor it, and my daughter Sheena, by booking a meeting with me.

Meg said...

Bernie -

Thank you for bringing this topic and (one of many) injustices to light. Blogs like these are important - seeing it is one of the only way for citizens to be heard.

You bring up an interesting point...
We can do so much as citizens to help out in our neighborhoods, communities, country, and dance schools...yet, all that hard work goes seemingly unnoticed once the worst happens. This sort of trend has been proven numerous times throughout this country, and unfortunately, places like the media is where this such thing thrives. Of course, the "news" is worthy to report when it's a sort of topic that will attract readers/viewers/listeners - yet, after that 30 second initial shock, there is not much news.
It's disgusting and unfortunate that media in this country strives only on shocking, biased news that gives citizens false impressions, racist ideas, and negativity.
Maybe the morning call would be more inclined to talk to Bill if he is struck with another injustice that would raise subscribers.
Or maybe if the irresponsible, coward drink driver's daddy wasn't a part of the "prestigious" law firm so strongly connected with the MC.

I see absolutely no harm in giving Bill a couple minutes to discuss his concerns with the "community" newspaper that is suppose to be our voice as "free citizens." Without that 5 minute meeting, the media might as well not report anything. Because if they're going to adequately report the "news" and concerns taking place in our community they need to listen to the citizens
It's not rocket science...
Although, maybe for the members of MC it is

Bernie - I wish you, your family, and your daughter all the best.

Bill - you're the strongest man I know - This tragic event has created such a courageous person who is fighting, and continuing to fight, for the injustice of sheena, Zach, Patrick, and every other case that became so wrongly acknowledged by our DA.
We, and Sheena, are so proud of you.
Never give up what you know is right.

Anonymous said...

i think the morning call owes bill an audience. he seems to have a lot of data that should be properly investigated.

Bill said...

This piece has been on my mind all weekend. I don't have an ax to grind with The Morning Call, but it really bothers me that they would react in this fashion.

Serious allegations are made and these assertions are met with deafening silence. The kind of silence that adds credibility to the claims.

I am very interested to hear how they respond.

Bill Villa said...

I believe The Morning Call has been protecting DA Jim Martin ever since Martin was handed the job of DA by the Lehigh County Commissioners.

Go through The Morning Call archives as I have and if you can find anything even remotely questioning or critical of DA Jim Martin, I'll give you $100.00.

What you will find in The Morning Call's coverage (or lack thereof) of DA Jim Martin are examples of either “preemptive protection,” as this November 30, 2000 Morning Call headline almost humorously (and transparently) telegraphs … and I swear, this is their actual verbatim headline, you can look it up ...

HOUSE ARREST ISN'T UNUSUAL FOR HIT-RUN. FULMER IS GETTING COMMON PENALTY FOR FIRST OFFENSE IN APRIL 4 INCIDENT.

… or “omission protection,” that is, not asking questions that DA Jim Martin maybe does not want asked.

For example …

Q. Were alcohol and/or drugs ruled out as a factor in the car crash death of Whitehall High School senior Patrick Sinatore in 2003?

And the reason I ask is that, unfortunately, as we all know, alcohol and/or drugs are oftentimes very much involved in car crashes that kill young people.

But as I was re-reading the 5 main articles in The Morning Call's archives on this case, about twin brothers and fellow Whitehall High School seniors Zachary Bankos and Gregory Bankos and their alleged racing on MacArthur Road that resulted in a car crash and Patrick Sinatore's death ...

* 9/23/03 by Joe McDonald
* 11/6/03 by Romy Varghese
* 3/27/04 by Debbie Garlicki
* 4/2/04 by Debbie Garlicki
* 4/3/04 by Debbie Garlicki

... the question of whether alcohol and/or drugs were involved in the crash, like an elephant in the room, is just begging to be asked and answered, but curiously ... is never addressed.

Think about this for a second and you tell me:

What would have been every Morning Call reader’s #1 question when reading about this case?

Wouldn’t it have been: “any alcohol or drugs involved here?”

And yet, The Morning Call never asked this question.

And they refuse to tell me why not.

Q. Were alcohol and/or drugs involved, or ruled out, as a factor in the car crash death of Patrick Sinatore in 2003?

Q. Were alcohol and/or drugs involved, or ruled out, as a factor in the car crash death of Shaun Buenzly just a few weeks ago on March 16, 2008?

So far, The Morning Call ain't sayin' ...

Bill Villa said...

"This piece has been on my mind all weekend." -Bill

Bill ... words can't adequately describe how much I appreciate you being disturbed enough by my case to have been thinking about it all weekend. Thank you.

Please hang in there with me and please tell all your friends.

In a few months (or maybe years), we're all gonna look back on this and laugh out loud about how grossly over-matched these crony crooked Morning Call bastards were. We're gonna get 'em. Martin too.

Bill Villa said...

From The Morning Call archives, here's a sampling of actual, verbatim, "objective" headlines (that don't show any favoritism at all, wink wink) regarding Lehigh County District Attorney Jim Martin:

'GENTLEMAN JIM' MARTIN SWORN IN AS LEHIGH DA. CENTER VALLEY MAN SAYS HE WILL STRIVE TO SEE THAT JUSTICE IS DONE.

By DEBBIE GARLICKI
Jan 27, 1998

---------------------------------------

IN LEHIGH DA RACE, CLARK CHARGES MARTIN IS SOFT ON NUISANCE BARS. BUT DISTRICT ATTORNEY SAYS HE CLOSED SHORTY'S, AND HE CAN'T SHUT OTHER TAVERNS WITHOUT EVIDENCE.

By KIRK BELDON JACKSON
Oct 29, 1999

---------------------------------------

LEHIGH COUNTY DA TO HANDLE FULMER PROSECUTION. JAMES B. MARTIN SAYS HIS RELATIONSHIP WITH BAKER AND ACQUAINTANCE WITH HER FRIEND DON'T CONSTITUTE CONFLICTS OF INTEREST.

By DAN HARTZELL
Oct 15, 2000

---------------------------------------

HOUSE ARREST ISN'T UNUSUAL FOR HIT-RUN. FULMER IS GETTING COMMON PENALTY FOR FIRST OFFENSE IN APRIL 4 INCIDENT.

By DAN HARTZELL
Nov 30, 2000

---------------------------------------

LEHIGH COUNTY DA JAMES B. MARTIN TO SEEK REELECTION; DEMOCRATS WITHOUT CANDIDATE. HE SAYS HE WOULD LIKE TO RUN UNOPPOSED SO HE CAN FOCUS ON HIS JOB.

By DEBBIE GARLICKI
Feb 21, 2003

---------------------------------------

Anonymous said...

I still fail to see why the Morning call won't answer Bill Villa's charges, or at least hear him out. This goes beyond local news, I'm from Maryland, and this pisses me off. Their avoidance of Mr Villa, and the entire issue reeks of self-guilt. If they have nothing to hide, let the sun shine in, and expose Mr Villa for what he is:A distraught father. To do otherwise, well, silence is louder than words. Althought part of some trials involve the words, or words to the extent, that we shouldn't take some one's refusal to testify as an addmission of guilt, I think in the back our minds, we do. The same holds true for this.

Anonymous said...

On numerous occasions, I have opened up the Morning Call and read articles very similiar to the story Bill Villa is trying to tell. The one difference? The opposition does not have connections through the Lehigh Valley court house and MC. So why is this story not being printed? To who's advantage and to who's dismay? What side is the MC supposed to be taking- the public, Mr. Villa, who's interest is "held at heart" or could the MC possibly be trying to use its power in the press to influence the outcome of this situation? If friends and family of Sheena had not been so adamant in their demanding justice for what was done, who is to say this case would have gotten as far is it has. But the truth is, Sheena is dead, God Rest her Beautiful Soul, and not I nor anyone on this earth will ever see her again. So who is silencing the story of how and why that Bill Villa has to share? I know he has a lot to say but I also know it's information that needs to get out to the public. The Morning Call is a public paper and needs to realize that their stories are followed not only locally in the Valley. At this point, people nation wide are following this case as you can see in previous posts. The disapproval of people with absolutely no personal connection should speak volumes on the behavior of the press. There is no way to describe the level of pain and agony this family has had to endure and it is no one's right to decide when and what they are permitted to say on the subject. Until you have suffered a loss and are facing the same terrible odds at justice that this family is, the press has no right to deny them the opportunity to promote their own case. The MC does a good job advocating for their friend in the DA's office, now how about allowing the family some impartiality. They deserve at least that much.

Bill Villa said...

Early on in my fight for justice for Sheena, a current State Representative who formerly worked as an Assistant DA in Lehigh County told me this during a meeting in his office:

"Be careful. Jim Martin has friends at The Morning Call."

When I repeated this warning to Morning Call Opinions Editor Glenn Kranzley, Kranzley got so incensed he told me he'd be calling the State Rep to "ask him about his statement."

During my 8/15/06 meeting with DA Jim Martin, when I told Martin I knew the surrealistically high crash speed that killed my daughter Sheena (APD told me: "minimum 85 miles per hour"), 'Gentleman' Jim Martin got all red, pointed his finger at me, and bellowed, "I'LL COME AFTER YOU. I'LL COME AFTER YOU IN THE MEDIA."

I believe the State Rep was right.

"Be careful. Jim Martin has friends at The Morning Call."

Bill Villa said...

I need to add that MC Opinions Czar Glenn Kranzley apparently did call the State Rep, because later that day, in a series of lengthy, convoluted, and what those of us in advertising would call "dancing on the table" e-mails, this obviously shaken State Rep "clarified" for me that while he did make the two statements during our meeting, i.e., "Be careful" and "Jim Martin has friends at The Morning Call," he insisted that I was mistakenly linking them together as if he had said, "Be careful, Jim Martin has friends at The Morning Call." Like I have in my notes. He swore his warning of "Be careful" was referring to something else ... not Jim Martin's friends at The Morning Call ... but he couldn't recall exactly what. Ah yes, politics. And the power of The Morning Call.

Bill Villa said...

MESSAGE:

To the congested and seemingly inebriated or overly medicated woman who has been crank-calling me late at night …

and saying that my daughter Sheena’s killer is "greatly enjoying" his time in the “easiest prison in Pennsylvania,” before hanging up on me …

allow me to tell you a little bit about Laurel Highlands State Prison where Sheena’s killer has so far served only a year and a month of his 5.5 to 12 year sentence …

because you are either sadly misinformed or delusional or in denial about it being “easy” up there.

I "greatly enjoyed" a half-day tour of Laurel Highlands State Prison on August 20, 2007, 3 days after your first crank-call, by the way, and by coincidence, as my tour had been months in the making.

Laurel Highlands State Prison is a bone-dull boring and bleak 4.5-hour drive West of Allentown ... so it’s not too “easy” to get to for visiting.

Also, its mountainous winters are brutal; not much “easy” outside yard time betwixt November and April.

The Office of the Victim Advocate at the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections told me that I am the first victim family member in the history of PA to have been granted permission to tour a PA State Prison that houses the offender who killed my loved one.

Turns out the professionally hard-of-heart PA Department of Corrections was actually moved by my story …

and I imagine they’ve probably heard lots more tragic death stories than have those immovable mules at The Morning Call.

But I digress.

Back to “easy.”

There is no work release program at Laurel Highlands, so, so much for “easy” option time outside of the walls up there.

No one has ever escaped from Laurel Highlands. It’s a medium-security prison that’s surrounded by multiple rows of razor wire and is a favorite long-term storage depot for pedophiles and sex offenders, as well as murderers. So ... the company and camaraderie up there isn’t “easy” either.

Like all state prisons in PA, there are some “dormitory” accommodations at Laurel Highlands and Sheena’s killer lives in one of these dorms-- as long as he behaves, that is, otherwise, they have closet-size 2-man cells and solitary confinement as amenity punishment options.

Oh and I must tell you … these “dorms” aren’t “easy” ... nor are they anything like your “dorm room" at college.

About the size of your average McMansion living room, Sheena’s killer’s “dorm” houses eighty (yep, 80) pedophiles, sex offenders, and murderers like him in bunk beds stacked 4- and 5-high.

The “lockers” are about the size of a large Tupperware container.

Personally missy ... I can’t imagine Richie Rich thinking it’s “easy” up there, especially compared to those lazy, hazy, crazy, AWOL (and waiting on the details of the case fix) vacation days in Belize, Central America, downing those festive drinks with the paper umbrellas in 'em. Now THAT’S “easy.”

Not "easy" Laurel Highlands State Prison also has the highest number of surveillance cameras of any of the 26 or so PA State Prisons. Very impressive.
And highly oppressive. There's ZERO (0) privacy up there. Not even in the potty.

And while the 500+ cameras may account for the fact that Laurel Highlands is the only PA State Prison where no inmate has been killed by another inmate (yet), all those watchful eyes make it extremely difficult (i.e., not “easy” at all) to get away with … anything.

This can’t be “easy” for a spoiled brat accustomed to a lifetime of getting everything he wants whenever he wants it.

I guess that's why they call it "prison."

One of my tour guides, the head of security at Laurel Highlands, chuckled darkly as he told me “there’s no such thing as an ‘easiest prison’ in Pennsylvania.”

He also told me he'd keep an eye out for Sheena's killer.

However, please do keep calling me, wheezy/drunk crank-caller (the police already have your number), because I’m sure we can find something other than “easy” to talk about.

For example, how about we discuss the charge DA Jim Martin could and should have filed in this case, Third Degree Murder, and the sentence your loved one should have gotten, 12.5 to 25 years.

In this regard, I’ll grant you … DA Jim Martin made sure he got off easy.

Bill Villa said...

"Q. Were alcohol and/or drugs involved, or ruled out, as a factor in the car crash death of Patrick Sinatore in 2003?"

... and which member of the Bankos family is DA Jim Martin pals with? I've heard it's the grandfather, again ...

Dan said...

I've known Bill for a long time, and if the Morning Call views his repeated requests as an irritant that will simply evaporate over time, they're dead wrong. Bill will not let this drop - his stamina will outlast whatever stamina the Call has!

It would be in their best interest
to meet with him, hear what he has to say, and take his questions seriously. Dodging him simply raise questions about why they would find it so painful to talk to him.

Besides, treating him as a nuisance does a disservice to this grieving dad, and makes the paper look petty.

He's got a beef against the paper, and so the paper ought to meet him square on, meet his challenge. Shutting him out will NOT work.

Maybe they're starting to discover this on their own...

Dan McKinney

Peter Wernsdorfer said...

Through circumstance Bill Villa and I crossed paths not too long ago. It’s odd that we had never met or that I knew naught of the tragedy that has befallen him. We have friends in common and our personalities are eerily similar. He and I share many a trait but in particular we are fiercely protective fathers who will, to the last ounce of our strength and dignity, do everything we can for our children. We are, in the final analysis, the only advocates they have until they are adults. I used to think that even then it wasn’t really over. And then, I met Bill Villa and his story has convinced me that it’s never over, especially when after the horrific death of a loved one the odds of finding justice are more than long or seemingly impossible.

I’ve always thought it was an American ideal that the system of justice was designed to protect the less fortunate. And, isn’t it in the traditions of the American experience that the vaunted fourth estate, the noble press that is iconic in our nation’s traditions because of its role in the forming of the American Revolution has a role - that is, that it provides a voice for those who have none?

In a judicial system that is sometimes less about justice and more about advocacy, where does the line get drawn when the circumstances are as tragic and the interests as conflicted as those surrounding the death of Sheena Villa? I don’t know where, but I do know when - at the point where not doing so blurs the line between justice and accountability. The blurring of the line is what has happened here and its result is a denial of justice. It is unconscionable.

Where is the iconic presence of the press? Where is the outrage? It is missing in action, that’s where. It used to be that the press was where the downtrodden went to provide parry and counterthrust against the powerful. No longer is that the case. Now the press lies cowering in the corner under the assault of corporate and political authority as part and parcel of the manifest destruction of many an American ideal. In other interesting times we called that fascism.

Where are the journalists who just three decades ago brought us the Pentagon Papers and exposed Watergate - forever changing the American political landscape? Where is the fourth estate when the chips are down? Where is its independence and sense of self? Just examine the evidence and you will see that it is lost in cowardice.

If your child were killed under the same circumstances, what do you think your reaction would be? I am not so sure I would have been able to practice the same level of restraint as Bill Villa. But what reaction do you expect from a grieving father who has been so wronged by the system and has nothing left other than memories? His grief is genuine, his anguish is palpable, and his resolve unshaken. Is it so much for a distraught father to ask, as he faces an immovable object, to ask for help? It is a simple request – look into the case, be objective about the evidence, and report on the facts.

The time has come for the Morning Call to be responsive to the residents of Allentown and the Lehigh Valley and prove it is not beholden to the special interests. It is a serious conflict of ethics for any journalist to allow political influence of any kind to effect and affect the stories it covers.

The time has come for the Morning Call Editorial Board to meet with Bill Villa and show us the press can live up to its traditions and support the truth.

Jesse Smith said...

How wonderful it is to see so many thoughtful, caring comments on this issue since last I visited this blog.

Now, people, let's step up and do more than talk.

Anonymous has the right idea:

"Anonymous said...
time to get an electronic billboard
like the old National Debt Clock in New York and park it across the street from The Morning Call
so they can watch it scroll upward and onward as the number of attempts to be heard on the part of Mr. Villa continues, matched exactly the number of times the Morning Call staff dives under their desks whenever an email from
this heartbroken father appears on their screens."

Maybe not an electronic billboard, but how about a real one? Or a direct mail campaign of some sort to publicize this story more? Radio commercials or PSA's? I have my own studio and I'll record 'em for free. (Yes, anything we do would have to be legally checked and rechecked for slander/libel implications.)

If Bill Villa or anyone else has an idea or plan to put on the table, I'll be the first one to send a $100 check to get it rolling. And I've got three kids and two mortgages.

C'mon, citizens and outraged parents, let's put our heads - and wallets - together. Let's publicly shame the Morning Call into meeting with Bill.

Anonymous said...

I have been shocked and horrified about all that I've heard about the DA's handling of the case against Sheena Villa's killer and other DUI criminals. I am more disgusted and disillusioned by the fact that the Morning Call is apparently so biased, unethical and inhumane that it won't even grant a grieving father a meeting, let alone do it's job as a community "watch dog" and investigate objectively and report on the truth that the public has the right to hear about. This is a crime! I wonder what presidential candidate O'Bama would think of a story like this or how he would, if elected, propose eliminating corruption in government and law enforcement. This would be a great story for Oprah, or an investigative news report for national TV. The morning call's silence only calls into question its own guilt in supporting what can only be interpreted as corruption. They are certainly not winning over any subscribers. I cancelled my subscription service because I couldn't even get the paper delivered at my door step in a timely fashion. Moreover, the paper lacks substance and is extremely biased. It cannot be relied upon to report the news that is important for community members to know about and that would be important for making decisions to improve the safety and well being of our community. I hope they meet with Mr. Villa. But the skeptic that this whole event has turned me into leads me to believe that it will never happen, unfortunately. It's a CRIME! I wish the Villa family much peace and I am truly sorry for our "system's" mishandling of the entire situation.

my name is Pat Wallace said...

morning call inadequately covers fiscal bloopers by the mayor’s office.
morning call inadequately covers sexual assault at the grade school level.
morning call inadequately covers theft in lower mac
morning call inadequately covers criminal case after criminal case, DUI, vehicular homicide, etc, etc.
morning call inadequately covers inadequate performance by the DAs office.
or so I’m told
no wonder they can’t/won’t meet with bill villa, where are they gonna find the time?
these guys’ hands are full.
please bill, give it time. or perhaps another sixty-six or so attempts.

my name is Pat Wallace said...

CORRECTION: wilderness sources
report sightings of the American
Ostrich now up to 73. ohhh,
morning calllllll. anybody home?

itzmedave1 said...

Ya know.... I did leave my two cents (and then some) on here before but I've been thinking..... about my friend Bill and the disrespect he has been shown in the past two years. Also about what can I or anyone else do to help him.

Well.....

I know that I have lived without that rag of a newspaper most of my life and got along just fine. I am sure there are many out there who might read it today who could easily do without it as well, there are other options.

I am thinking.... what if those of us who have read this were to send out a bulk email to our local contacts suggesting they don't purchase a certain newsaper for a week, maybe a month or perhaps not at all? What would happen then?

I personally know that between my email accounts I have hundreds of local contacts in the Allentown/Bethlehem area, many of whom are good friends. What if 100 of us sent such an email to 100 people? That's 10,0000 seeds planted and who knows? Maybe they would resend it to 100 of their friends..... hmmmmm

Plus I have a few forums where I blog and post bulletins. One particular site I have well over 1,000 friends. They are not all local but they might know others in the area too. We can impact their readership and circulation if we try.

Bill and his family deserve the peace of mind and we all can help if we want to. I personally have a few days off right now and if I get bored..... well, ya never know what I will write and to how many.

Peace & Prayers

Anonymous said...

Hmm.

If I wanted to get there attention and I really was sure of what I wanted to say, I would hold a press conference right in front of the building and talk about press censorship and prosicutorial misconduct. We are in the news catchment area for Philadelphia, you might just get NBC, ABC and Fox to pick up a story like this.

Its an election year, something like that just might get some traction.

I'm just sayin.

Anonymous said...

If this continues...
the morning call is going to have about 10 readers, its staff, DA Jim Martin, and the LaBarre Family...

Anonymous said...

At the beginning of this blog we were at 66 requests from Bill alone....
with the amount of comments to this post, that could raise to triple digits...
I think we should all get involved - and I think our "community" needs to hear the facts about our "community newspaper"

Bill Villa said...

Thank you, everybody, for your support. Please keep it coming and please tell all your friends.

I love itzmedave's "boycott The Morning Call" idea, and, Jesse Smith's ad campaign-style blitz idea.

Maybe we combine the two ideas?

i.e., an ad campaign blitz calling for a boycott of The Morning Call.

I'll bet The Morning Call would even run the ad-- they need the ad revenue plus all of their proofreaders have been laid off.

FYI, today I e-mailed Opinions Czar Glenn Kranzley and The Morning Gall Editorial Board my 74th request for a meeting with them.

Haven't heard anything back yet ...

Meg said...

I support a boycott

although - I think it's pretty sad that's what (possibly) it would come down to in order to have a fair representation in our local media.

Jesse Smith said...

Yes!! The boycott idea and multiple emails idea are great - BUT everyone who boycotts and/or receives the email must be urged to also send a letter snail mail to The Morning Call so they know what's happening and to what degree.

Bill Villa, are there any significant dates ahead that we could plan this around? A significant anniversary in Sheena's life maybe in May or June?

Bill Villa said...

"Bill Villa, are there any significant dates ahead that we could plan this around? A significant anniversary in Sheena's life maybe in May or June?"

Jesse Smith, thank you for asking, and thanks too for your offer to donate money, and, to provide free studio time for recording radio spots calling for a boycott of The Morning Call.

And yes, there are Sheena significant dates on the near horizon to plan a blitzkrieg around.

Please contact me via the contact info on my web site and we can get it rolling.

ATTENTION LOCAL RADIO STATIONS: Help us bring The Morning Call to its knees. As you know, they richly deserve the humbling. Decide how much free air time you'd like to donate and then contact me via the contact info on my web site and we'll "air things out" together. Thank you in advance for your consideration.

Dave Follweiler said...

Regardless of whether Bill Villa meets with the Morning Call or not, there are some major issues here that really need to be addressed. Why hasn't Jim Martin's suspiciously high tolerance for DUI offenses ever been investigated or even mentioned by the Morning Call? Why, in the year following an election year in which Democrats were swept into power, did no one choose to run against Jim Martin for DA? (I find it hard to believe that not a single Democrat in the Lehigh Valley wanted the job.) And I'm intrigued by Bill's story about the state rep who quickly retracted his comment about Jim Martin having friends at the Morning Call. Having seen John Dean speak at Zoellner last night, I was reminded of the crucial importance of an unbiased free press. Can you imagine if the Watergate story had been suppressed because Nixon had friends at the Washington Post?

Bill Villa said...

Re: "I'm intrigued by Bill's story about the state rep who quickly retracted his comment about Jim Martin having friends at the Morning Call."

It was Doug Reichley.

And I have all the e-mails if you'd like to see them.

Republican Doug Reichley represents Lehigh County's 134th District.

I like Doug and I greatly appreciated the hour and a half meeting he gave me shortly after my daughter Sheena was killed by a homicidal drunk driver.

As a former assistant DA under former DA (and current judge) Bob Steinberg, Doug Reichley knows how the DA's office operates. Doug told me I was doing the right thing in being vigilant against possible DA Jim Martin favoritism regarding the person who killed Sheena-- the son of a highly connected local attorney.

It was wrong of me to repeat to Morning Call Opinions Emperor Glenn Kranzley what Doug told me, i.e., "Be careful, Jim Martin has friends at The Morning Call."

And I understand why Doug had to quickly "retract" (or, re-write) his statement upon sensing Glenn Kranzley's impending wrath and likely access-denial.

Coincidentally (and timing is everything), State Rep Doug Reichley had an OpEd piece in yesterday's Morning Call on page A11 ...

... so I'm glad everything's still cool between Doug and Glenno.

For the record, the following local and state officials all encouraged me to apply and maintain an unrelenting pressure on DA Jim Martin as my best defense against any possible preferential treatment of Sheena's killer:

* Allentown Chief of Police Roger MacLean

* Pennsylvania State Representative Jennifer Mann

* District Justice (and now Judge) Michele Varricchio

* Lehigh County Executive Don Cunningham

* Allentown Mayor Ed Pawlowski

* Allentown City Councilman Tony Phillips

* State Senator Charlie Dent

* State Representative Doug Reichley

* PA Chief Deputy Attorney General, Frank Fina

* Assistant to the Coroner, Andy Kehm

I respectfully request that one, or more, or all of these fine public servants speak out in outrage, and in support of me, regarding The Morning Call's curiously stubborn refusal to meet with me.

Bill Villa said...

... politicos, easy, form a line, please, don't hurt one another fighting to be first in line to defend me ...

Bill Villa said...

For the record, I have not heard one peep of a response back from any of the fine public servants listed above who were so supportive of me over the past 2 years-- in private anyways, via in-person meetings, phone calls, or e-mails.

Hmm, I wonder ... are any of them willing to GO PUBLIC in support of my 78 (and counting) attempts to meet with The Morning Call Editorial Board about a guy (DA Jim Martin) they all endorsed (privately anyways) that I basically watch like a hawk?

I wonder ... would any of them GO PUBLIC in supporting my call for an investigation into DA Jim Martin's "special handling" of that DUI homicide case on 9/25/07? You know, the one where Martin is longtime pals with the criminal defendant's grandfather and actually had the gall to invite the man to his swearing-ceremony in January after having fixed the case for his grandson in September?

Tell ya what ... let's find out.

On Monday, I will start contacting all of the above-listed fine public servants to find out where they stand on this important issue.

And I will file a report on each official's official response to me.

Let's see who among them has the guts (like I do) to stand up to The Morning Call.

Heck. We'll even give Doug Reichley a 2nd chance.

Bill Villa said...

"Can you imagine if the Watergate story had been suppressed because Nixon had friends at the Washington Post?"

Dave Follweiler, you have hit the issue squarely on its head. I hope Morning Call Opinions "Head" Glenn Kranzley can feel it.

Bill Villa said...

"It just seems that the MC is unwilling to revisit this matter and do some introspection, which I fin\d unfortunate." -Bernie O'Hare

Thanks Bernie, I agree.

Unfortunately, for the time being anyway, Morning Call Opinions Vicar Glenn Kranzley has himself all dug in, in "you can't make me" fashion, and it's making him, and the "newspaper," look really bad.

But this isn't my fault or my problem.

It's the strategy Glenn Kranzley and The Morning Call have chosen and they've gotta be accountable for whatever blow-back consequences result.

And if Mr. Kranzley chooses to continue "cheating," e.g.,

"The Morning Call's 'Welcome Mat' policy may not apply to our Managing Editor, Dave Erdman" ...

and "lying," e.g.,

"Mr. Villa, we listened to and looked into your grievances in July '07" ...

and having me continue to expose him publicly as a cheater and a liar ...

well, that's his decision.

I think a smarter and more Christian decision would be for Glenn Kranzley and The Morning Call to humbly admit having been wrong ... at least about the way they have handled me and my polite (albeit persistent) requests for a Welcome Mat meeting with The Morning Call Editorial Board and BOOK A MEETING WITH ME already, for Christ's sake.

After all, The Morning Call Editorial Board's Welcome Mat (and I quote) "always is out for those who want to be heard." -mcall.com

And this should include a grieving father who lost his only daughter and who has "excellent questions that deserve to be answered," right?

This would be a clean slate and a fresh start.

This would also give The Morning Call the opportunity to learn about all the other things they are wrong about regarding DA Jim Martin.

And ... who's against learning?

Bill Villa said...

* Allentown Chief of Police Roger MacLean

* PA State Representative Jennifer Mann

* Lehigh County Judge Michele Varricchio

* Lehigh County Executive Don Cunningham

* Allentown Mayor Ed Pawlowski

* Allentown City Councilman Tony Phillips

* State Representative Doug Reichley

* Lehigh County Commissioner Percy Dougherty

* Lehigh County Commissioner Sterling Raber

* Lehigh County Commissioner Glenn Eckhart

* Lehigh County Commissioner David Jones

* Lehigh County Commissioner Daniel McCarthy

* Lehigh County Commissioner Dean Browning

* Lehigh County Commissioner Andy Roman

* Lehigh County Commissioner Gloria Hamm

* Lehigh County Commissioner Bill Leiner

* Lehigh County Sheriff Ronald Rossi

* Lehigh County Controller Thomas Slonaker

* LC Recorder of Deeds Andrea Naugle

* Lehigh County Coroner Scott Grim

* Allentown City Councilman Michael Donavan

* Allentown City Councilman Julio Guridy

* Allentown City Councilman Peter Schweyer

* Allentown City Councilman Michael D'Amore

* District Justice Patricia Engler

* District Justice Maryesther Merlo

* District Justice David Leh

* District Justice Carl Balliet

* District Justice Wayne Maura

* District Justice Robert Halal

* District Justice Anthony Rapp

* District Justice Karen Devine

* District Justice Patricia Warmkessel

* District Justice Donna Butler

* District Justice Rod Beck

* District Justice Charles Crawford

* District Justice David Harding

The following e-mail message was sent today, April 7, 2008 to all of the above-listed city, county, and state elected officials, plus APD Chief Roger MacLean.

I hope they all get the message.

Dear ______, below here is my 81st request for a meeting with The Morning Call Editorial Board.

Please review it ... and then please write an e-mail to Morning Call Opinions Editor Glenn Kranzley requesting or (depending on your level of outrage) insisting that The Morning Call Editorial Board meet with me. Please "cc" me on your e-mail.

I will then share your e-mail to Glenn Kranzley (or your "no response" to me) with the thousands of registered Lehigh County voters on my "Sheena Squad" e-mail list of supporters.

I hope I can count on your support on this matter.

Thank you for your consideration.

Deadline is end of day Friday, April 11.

Sheena's Dad
Bill Villa