Thursday, February 12, 2015
Lehigh County Jim Martin Sues Over On-Air Defamation at WAEB
I saw Martin at a police function right after one of these shows, where this very proactive prosecutor was handing out awards to officers all over the Lehigh Valley. A big and sometimes gruff man, Martin tried to blow it off. But I could see that the years-long campaign of lies were taking their toll on him.
The Morning Call is now reporting that Martin has finally reached the breaking pint and has taken action against Walsh and the Blog Mentor. Legal pundits never subjected to this kind of torture called the lawsuit "rare." I'd call it self-defense. They talk about free speech, but the Pennsylvania constitution gives everyone, even Jim Martin, the right to protect his reputation.
I wrote about this matter in June, laying out what I thought and still think was a concerted campaign to damage Martin. Here's what I said then.
Bobby Gunther Walsh, the Lehigh Valley's aging poster boy for crackpot AM radio, is a combination huckster and conspiracy theorist. Between an endless series of commercials and promotions, he parades a series of goofy guests to tell us the sky is falling. Lately, he's been conducting a witch hunt against Lehigh County District Attorney Jim Martin.
It started in February and will continue today. Walsh uses a guest (I won't name him) who has a vendetta against Martin. "I have multiple pages of documentation that [my guest] provides to back up what he is asserting," Walsh deceptively assures listeners.
He accuses Martin of creating "a culture of corruption and incompetence." He implies falsely that Martin goes easy on drunk drivers because he's a drunk himself. Walsh's guest states, "Maybe there are people in high places in Lehigh County, maybe in the District Attorney's office, who have experience driving drunk and don't think it's that big of a deal." Walsh and his guest even accuse the DA of case-fixing. He encourages listeners to mob courtrooms in an obvious attempt to resurrect lynch mob justice. While passing out pitchforks and torches, they defame a man who has dedicated much of his professional career to criminal justice.
Last Wednesday, police officers from all over the Lehigh Valley were recognized for their efforts in deterring both aggressive and drunk driving. Jim Martin was the person who made these presentations, and then stuck around to hear their concerns. That's pretty strange behavior for someone who goes easy on drunk drivers.
Walsh has never acknowledged the visionary role Martin plays in law enforcement.This includes the creation of a regional crime center that uses the latest information technology advances. This center has solved several homicides and other major crime sprees. Instead of focusing on reality, Walsh defames Martin as a corrupt, crooked, incompetent, case-fixing drunk who goes easy on and cuddles with criminal defendants, especially if they are "young and shapely" blondes. Walsh and his guest have told outright lies, not verifiable facts, about three cases. Let me set the record straight. .
James W. Lauer
What initially attracted Walsh's guest to this defendant is his last name - Lauer. Walsh's guest think there must be a connection to Phil Lauer, a prominent defense attorney.
Gunther's guest repeatedly asks, "Who does he know?"
There is no relation.
James Lauer has been charged four times with drunk driving. In the most recent episode, he ran a stop sign, T-boned a car, and injured four people, including a pregnant woman. He left the scene, but was apprehended right away, and has been in jail since that day. In addition to driving drunk, Lauer committed an interlock violation, somehow evading a system that authorities installed to keep him from driving drunk.
He is obviously going to get hammered.
But Gunther's guest incredibly warns, "I smell a case fix here."
I smell something, too. Bullshit. The guy has been in the can since the day of the accident, and had no lawyer at his most recent court appearance, months after languishing in jail. Not even a Public Defender. He has been jailed repeatedly for his drinking. If anything, Lauer's record demonstrates a no-nonsense approach to drinking and driving in Lehigh County.
But Walsh's guest claims he has proof that Lauer gets special treatment.
"In 2010, when Mr. Lauer was doing time for his third DUI in Lehigh County prison, they gave him an afternoon furlough to attend a wedding," he charges. "Would they do that for you or me? Who is this guy? Who does he know? You're in prison for your third DUI. They let you out to go to a wedding?"
Walsh starts laughing, creating the impression that authorities let a drunk out of jail to get blasted at a wedding reception.
Here's why this furlough was granted. Lauer's son was getting married. It was just three days prior to parole. He was released for three hours to attend the ceremony itself, not the reception. Moreover, Lauer was drug and alcohol tested when he returned to jail. The courts would do this for any inmate who had a good record in jail. You don't treat people like animals and then expect them to act like humans.
Walsh and his guest know these verifiable facts. They would rather lie so you believe that Lauer is connected..
Update: Lauer was sentenced to 2 1/2 to 7 3/4 years in prison.
Another false claim made by Walsh and his guest is that Martin gives preferential treatment to "young attractive drunk driving women". He cites the pending Washko case as an example. Last May, at what Gunther's guest himself admits is a "tricky intersection" at American Parkway and Dauphin Street, Washko ran into a vehicle being driven by Joseph Hennessey and killed him. Nearly eight months later, she was charged with drunk driving, but not homicide by vehicle.
An incredulous Walsh asks, "She wasn't even charged with vehicular homicide? ... You're kidding me."
Walsh's guest responds, incorrectly, that this woman was driving too fast, "obviously ran a solid red light," and killed Hennessey as he inched his way into the intersection. He calls the matter a "case-fix in progress", and thinks vehicular homicide charges should have been filed. In a letter to Judge Ford, he complains, "I know a judge can't tell crooked, incompetent, and lazy DA Jim Martin what charges to file."
Police knew Washko was drunk and could have charged her with that right away. But if she pleaded to these charges, they would be unable to charge her with anything more serious even if they later determined that her intoxication was a factor in the crash. You can't try someone twice for the same or even a related crime. Police waited, appropriately, until their investigation was complete before deciding what to charge.
Here are the facts, based on what police found in their own accident reconstruction. Hennessey was ahead of the white stop line that appears on American Parkway at that light. His vehicle was going 15 mph through the red light, and Washko came along at 43 mph. She had the light. Hennessey's vehicle was blocked by an embankment, and when it finally came into view, Washko only had 1.0 seconds to react and attempt to avoid a collision. According to police, it would take a sober person 1.6 seconds to react. That is why Washko was spared vehicular homicide charges. Though she was impaired, it played no role in Hennessey's death.
"Is this another example of a shapely (and drunk driving) young female being left off the hook by an enchanted DA Jim Martin?" asks Walsh's guest on his blog, to which Walsh refers listeners repeatedly.
No. You don't automatically charge someone, even a drunk person, with vehicular homicide. There must be evidence that the intoxication played a role in what happened.
Update: Washko was sentenced to three to six months in jail.
In another effort to falsely portray Lehigh County District Attorney Jim Martin as a prosecutor who looks the other way for "young, shapely blondes," Walsh and his guest point to Jennifer Gehringer. She struck and killed Parkland gym teacher John Toggas in 2008 as he crossed the street near Dorney Park. Though she was intoxicated, she was never charged with vehicular homicide. Just drunk driving.
Outrageous, exclaim Walsh and guest.
Here are the facts they fail to tell listeners. It was around 2 am, dark and Toggas was wearing a black T-shirt and dark shoes. He was drunk himself, and had been arrested earlier that night for drunk driving. He had argued with his wife, and decided to walk 13 miles home, loaded.
Gehringer, driving at or under the speed limit, never saw him. Nor would a sober person.
Walsh and his guest have been feeding a string of lies and distortions to radio listeners. They want to see courtrooms packed with 50-100 people to pressure judges into imposing harsh sentences instead of following the law. Ironically, they may have tainted Washko and Lauer so badly that it will be impossible to try these presumed innocent defendants in Lehigh County. Ex parte contacts have already resulted in the recusal of several judges.
I'd like to see the courtroom packed, too, when Walsh, his guest and Clear Channel are sued for libel. They have no interest in justice, but do have axes to grind.