Quick Hits – November 18, 2019

A correction!

In my defense, I was in the throes of the latest iteration of the plague when it happened, but that’s not nearly an excuse good enough to mitigate this kind of mistake. To wit, an alert reader noted that Naperville is actually 5 percent black, and not the 18 percent I ascribed in a previous column.

The 18 number actually denotes the percentage of Asians in Naperville, most of Indian descent.

But even though I got it wrong, the point remains the same. When you walk out that Ogden Avenue front door, one out of every four Napervillians you meet on the street ain’t gonna be Caucasian. To put that in perspective, that ratio to one in twenty for Geneva, and one in ten for St. Charles and Batavia.

Considering that vast level of diversity, it still surprises me that the whole Buffalo Wild Wing thing actually occurred there. But I will be a bit more careful with my demographics going forward!

 

Not a correction!

Similarly, a number of readers chimed in with a shift in the same Wild Wings story borne of an employee’s written account acquired by a local newspaper. If you fully believe their version of events, and I certainly wouldn’t take it at face value, the restaurant was acting in anticipation of what the racist couple MIGHT do.

At least one reader thought these revelations made it better for the restaurant, but that clearly isn’t the case.

Wild Wings

According to that worker, the male half of the couple who regularly visited the restaurant sported a Nazi tattoo. Now, I don’t know about you, but if I’m running a business and a “customer” walks in with a visible Nazi, “88,” or Confederate flag tattoo, the first thing I’m gonna do is ask them to leave.

More than a half a million Americans perished defeating the Nazis and Confederates, and it’s a slap in their collective faces to have someone celebrate the regimes that so unceremoniously took their lives. And those beyond bigoted snowflakes need to get over the fact that that kind of evil was soundly defeated and it ain’t comin’ back!

The staffer continued to explain that, if a black server brought this racist couple’s food, they’d send it back, so the staff was simply trying to mitigate a possible confrontation between them and the black party by repeatedly asking the African American group to move.

Say what? If they did manage to get the Nazi tattoo past me, the second they refused to accept food from a server based on their race, sex, sexuality or creed, their asses would be out the front door before their food even made it back to the kitchen. On what planet is any business ever required to offer accommodation to a couple of intolerant bleeps?

But then to ask the black folks to move in deference to these jerks when the jerks made no such request? That’s so much worse than the originally reported story. If Buffalo Wild Wings really wants to prevent racial tension, wouldn’t their best bet to be to eliminate the racists and not their victims?

So, no! This new scenario changes nothing! Wild Wings corporate did the right thing by banning that couple for life and firing all the managers. Andd Naperville still needs to take a long hard look themselves.

 

It’s called witness intimidation!

I’m not going to get into the whole efficacy of the impeachment thing because it’s a battle no journalist could win. But for those Trump supporters who firmly believe it was morally and legally correct for the President to attack former Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch while she was testifying, here’s what I want you to do!

Image result for marie yovanovitch"

Pick any reasonably high-profile Kane County felony trial – there’s one or more going on at any given time. Then I want you to pick a trial witness – they’re public record – and immediately proceed to verbally accost them on Twitter, in the courtroom, via email, or any other method you see fit – it doesn’t really matter.

Meanwhile, those of us who know how to behave in a civilized society will start placing bets on just how quickly Judge Barasanti, Tegeler, Peterson, Karyannis, or Kliment will put your pathetic posterior in the pokey, with some serious state’s attorney charges soon to follow!

In Illinois, witness intimidation is a class 3 felony carrying a two- to ten-year sentence.

Put more simply, the President should be setting the legal standard, not destroying it.

Quick Hits – A Curmudgeon Expounds on Marriage!

Since I’m still recovering from the latest iteration of the plague and writing ain’t comin’ easy, today’s Quick Hits will be supplanted by chapter from my upcoming second book ‘The Curmudgeon’s Guide to Life.”

And you’re in for a real treat because this chapter includes a passage from my favorite female curmudgeon, Sharry Lynn Blazier of Elgin. Enjoy!

 

Love, n. A temporary insanity curable by marriage. – Ambrose Bierce,

“Wait a minute, Mr. Ward! I distinctly recall you saying something about a wife in the last chapter! What self-respecting curmudgeon would ever consider sharing his or her domicile with another human being, and worse yet, what kind of obviously mentally ill woman would ever consider cohabitating with the likes of you?”

You know, it’s real a pain in the ass having such smart-ass readers. Perhaps I’ll go work for Fox News. But I digress!

The first thing you have to understand about curmudgeonliness is that it takes time to fully develop. Sure! The signs are there from an early age, but with so many erstwhile folks trying to fix us, it could take years of therapy to reverse all that damage and finally come into our own.

Curmudgeon Marriage

For example, it was only after writing that first newspaper column at the ripe old age of 44 that I truly started to realize my curmudgeonly potential.

But before we fully develop, we come across as the quiet and unassuming type which some men and women find utterly irresistible. The problem with those marriages, however is, when the curmudgeon’s true colors rear their glorious head, the spouse who didn’t sign on for that level of intensity tends to move on.

But there’s an even more insidious form of mixed marriage in which the husband is almost always the curmudgeon.

Considering our sparkling personalities and infinite capacity to play well with others, it’s hard to believe any woman would want anything to do with us. Ah! But there is a plurality of planetary females who see us as a challenge, and they proceed to administer their feminine wiles in an effort to trap and “fix” us.

Women can be such spiteful creatures.

Lured by the prospect of nuptial delights (and we’re quite adept at it, by the way) and by someone who coyly bats their eyelashes and giggles at our jokes and daily rants, like a hapless moth drawn to a big backyard bug zapper, we inexplicably ignore our finely tuned intuition, abandon our curmudgeonly roots, start believing the whole relationship thing was our idea, and then we become charming enough to seal the deal.

Even I have my moments, but thankfully, they quickly pass.

Once those “I dos” are exchanged, the charade abruptly ends, and things change faster than a hormonal teenage girl’s mind, because it’s at that very moment your brand-new wife starts executing “Operation Transmogrification.”

Oh! It’s subtle at first. She’ll say simple stuff like, “You know, you look really good in that [ridiculous article of clothing],” “You look much better with a goatee than a full beard,” and “Please don’t drink the tequila straight out of the bottle!”

Since we’re still getting regular sex, like a praying mantis oblivious to his impending doom at the hands of his hungry mate, we figure it’s such a small price to pay, we’ll go along with it just to make her happy.

So, we wear the ugly sweater, we shave a little bit more, and we stop drinking tequila out of the bottle – when she’s not around. But then, like the Starship Enterprise carelessly drifting into the grasp of a giant space amoeba, with her trap fully set, it gets worse – much worse.

The first sign of real trouble is your favorite articles of clothing mysteriously disappear. So, what if those jeans had holes in the seat? It took years to break them in. And if you ask me, buying new underwear once a decade is more than reasonable.

Then it’s the event scheduling and vacations. Despite her clearly comprehending curmudgeons hate going anywhere, especially if it involves new and obnoxious people, she’ll say things like, “C’mon! It will be fun,” as she gives that not-so-coy look that means you might get lucky if you just go along with the program.

Of course, it’s never something like a Cubs game or a strip club. Nope! It’s gotta be some sort of silly opera featuring a morbidly obese woman who insists upon caterwauling in a foreign tongue while everyone around her dies a gruesome death.

Apparently, those 18th Century Italians were a real hoot!

And who knew those uppity ushers (and your wife) would get kinda cranky when you rip open that bag of peanuts you snuck in smack dab in the middle of an aria. And who knew you weren’t supposed to spit shells on the floor? C’mon! If it’s good enough for Texas Roadhouse…

Then, irked by the whole peanut thing and the exceptionally loud snoring, she refuses to speak to you the entire way home – which would generally be a good thing – because it can take some time to recover from all that incessant shrieking.

So, you’re feeling pretty good about surviving the whole ordeal until you realize her silence means that sitting through a 4-hour snooze-fest just to get lucky later aint’ gonna work. Then you have to spend the rest of the week apologizing just for being you, which won’t get you very far because she knows you’re not really sorry and you’re not going to change.

And you can’t duck out to escape that dire dynamic because going out with your buddies will only aggravate her further. You see, it’s no fun for women to ignore you if you enjoy the fact you’re being ignored. With nowhere left to turn, you start playing Pink Floyd’s ‘The Wall – 25th Anniversary Edition’ over and over again until she stops ignoring you long enough to shout, “turn that s**t down.”

It’s as we slowly twist the volume knob counterclockwise that we suddenly realize the full extent of our horrific mistake. But divorce isn’t an option because then she’d walk away with half of your 33 guitars, your 60 superhero statues, and your comic book collection, which would be a tragedy of epic proportion.

No self-respecting male curmudgeon would ever resort to cheating, either, because the thought of having to cater to the emotional needs of two irrational women is even more terrifying than going to Disney World, Branson, Missouri or, God forbid, sitting through your wife’s book club

So, you attempt to make some strategic compromises, but that falls flat because once you’ve fallen through a black hole’s event horizon, there’s no escape – she won’t be happy until she completely remakes you in her image.

Emboldened by the emerging signs of resignation in your eyes, she starts buying all of your clothes, tells you when to get a haircut, makes you go to movie theatres, forces you to shave your back, insists you get dressed up to go out, and – the icing on the cake – she expects you to be nice to her crazy younger sister.

Finally, after years of heaping on this horrific abuse, one of two things will happen.

The first is, the curmudgeon re-bursts forth in all his righteous glory to reclaim his rightful legacy. He makes it abundantly clear that things are gonna be different from now on as he rips off the absurd sweater, puts on the pair of ratty old pair of underwear he hid in the toolbox in the basement , and grabs the pasta server to finally get relief from the incoming back hair.

Faced with the dismal failure of Operation Transmogrification, the wife typically bursts into tears and runs to her mother’s to explain exactly what a scurrilous cad you’ve been as if she’s the one who had to endure all that unspeakable torture.

And just like the shampoo bottle says, rinse, lather and repeat until the messy divorce is on.

But it’s the second possibility that’s the truly tragic one. Worn down by years of unrepentant harassment, the curmudgeon finally capitulates and becomes exactly the man his “loving spouse” always dreamed he’d be.

But then a funny thing happens! Utterly unhappy with her handiwork, she gets more and more dissatisfied with every “yes dear,” and then she meets a new guy at church (curmudgeons don’t go to church) who requires even more repair work. Enamored of the possibility of converting yet another victim, she starts having an affair and eventually leaves you for the new guy, who ends up treating her like crap.

The truly tragic thing is, once a curmudgeon completely capitulates, like a honeybee that just stung an interloper, there’s no going back. It’s a slow slide into oblivion as the former curmudgeon fervently prays for a quick death.

Either way, marriage almost always ends badly for the curmudgeon. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a curmudgeon to curmudgeon marriage, but I’m convinced that kind of thing could only lead to a double homicide or a civilization ending epic conflagration.

So, while it’s too late for me, there’s still time for my single male curmudgeonly compatriots to save themselves. No good can come from marriage in general, and that’s especially true if a curmudgeon is involved.

“But Jeff! If married life is so miserable, why do single men have shorter lifespans?” That’s because all animals live longer in captivity. And if you’ve ever been to a bachelor’s funeral, you will quickly observe that the corpse is always smiling.

Ah! But there is a kind of curmudgeon marriage that can work. If a non-curmudgeon male runs into a female curmudgeon, like stalking the elusive North American wilderness elk, if he can behave just long enough to con her into thinking he doesn’t completely suck, he won’t be disappointed.

To wit, this is my eminently curmudgeonly feminine friend Sharry Blazier’s response to this particular chapter:

“Having never been married, I feel unqualified to critique this. But, a cherished aspect of my curmudgeonliness is my certainty that I definitely would not, could not, have been a wife like those described. I wouldn’t care what he wore. I don’t wanna go to Branson, but wherever I wanted to go, I wouldn’t drag someone uninterested. I like Pink Floyd. I’d have viewed marriage, most especially to a fellow curmudgeon, as a shared shelter from all those annoying … PEOPLE out there. I’m pretty sure we wouldn’t have killed each other. But you may be right. In which case, just one more thing to feel curmudgeonly about. Marriage, bah humbug.

They’re low maintenance, they refuse to play the “if you don’t know why I’m unhappy then I’m not going to tell you” game, they don’t like to go to silly places, they don’t like sappy chick flicks, they like sports (not fake s**t  like golf, figure skating, or synchronized swimming), and they tend to drink semi-heavily and become quite funny and entertaining as a result. 

What’s not to like?

Quick Hits – Wheaton College and the sin of pride!

Why is it those institutions who exist solely to champion and promote a societal standard, somehow believe it means that it doesn’t apply to them? It reminds me of the ‘Cheers’ episode when, after Carla learned her son was going to be a priest, she immediately embarked upon taking advantage of what she called, a “get out of hell free card.”

Of course, when her son changed his mind, she suddenly tried to make amends for the all the havoc she’d unceremoniously wreaked.

Though this dynamic does seem to be a basic fact of human nature, I want to be clear that the stone I’m about to cast isn’t nearly aimed at every glass house. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t plenty of available targets either.

The best examples of this paradoxical phenomenon are the Kane County State’s Attorney’s Office, the Catholic Church, the Geneva, Illinois, Police, the National Republican Party, social justice warriors, and my all-time favorite, the eminently sanctimonious Wheaton College!

Wheaton College

They’re the institution that ardently believes the rest of us should blindly adhere to their version of “Christianity” while they tried to protect their ranked football team from a hazing scandal resulting in multiple felony charges; they were ranked the country’s least tolerant university towards gays and lesbians; and they “fired” a black professor who donned a hijab in solidarity with Muslims because “they are people of the book.”

Put much more simply, that Wheaton College administration is just another fun-loving bunch of pseudo-Christian hypocrites.

And since they generally ascribe to a Pharisee at the Temple kinda theology, Wheaton is back in the news again! This time, four students are suing the City of Chicago for banning their proselytizing practices in Millennium Park, particularly in the area surrounding the ‘Cloud Gate,’ more colloquially known as ‘The Bean.’

Clearly comprehending the inevitable chaos that would ensue if the park became an unchecked forum for all manner of evangelists, political zealots, and anyone with beef, a Chicago ordinance prohibits any kind of solicitation in the park.

But as is par for the course in ‘The City that Rarely Works,’ the enforcement of that edict has ranged from capricious, to downright illegal. At one point, our quartet was moved to another area of the park, only to be told they couldn’t “preach” there, either. Then a couple of security supervisors told them the adjacent sidewalk was also out of bounds, which actually is a First Amendment violation.

The lawsuit is being argued as we speak, and that kind of statutory fumbling certainly ain’t gonna help the Second City’s cause.

Nonetheless, I fervently believe Chicago will prevail on the grounds that we limit speech, and particularly religious speech, all the time. Sikhs can’t bring their daggers onto airplanes. Muslims can’t wear face coverings in driver’s license photos, public school teachers can’t lead a morning prayer, the government cannot install a religious symbol on public ground, and so forth and so on.

Furthermore, what Wheaton College chooses to fail to understand is, “religious freedom” also means freedom from religion. I have an absolute right to stare into the Cloud Gate free from being harassed by a shouting 20-something zealot who has no clue about what life or theology really means. More simply put, your right to foist your religious beliefs on me ends at the tip of my nose, and at the lobe of my ear.

If those students wanted to simply stand and offer literature to people, go for it!  But no! What fun would it be if you aren’t allowed to self-righteously bash non-believers over the head with a set of tenets that don’t apply to them?

And if Wheaton College is so sincere about this evangelical effort, why not send students to preach on O’Hare flights, during Blackhawks games, and at the next showing of ‘Harriet?’ Free speech is free speech, right?

But they don’t send them those places because it wouldn’t end well for them on any number of levels – especially at the Madhouse on Madison. I’m guessing some fans would come up with a rather new and innovative application for a hockey puck.

In the end, and at it’s most basic level, it’s called having some consideration for your fellow human beings.

Though Wheaton College is always one of the worst, they’re not nearly the only ones who engage in this kind of blatant bullying. There’s a regular sport in my neighborhood by  which the Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses insist on ignoring our rather detailed no soliciting sign.

And when I point to the plaque and ask them to leave, they instantly start acting like a four-year-old who didn’t get his cookie. That’s when I pull the cell phone out of my back pocket, dial 911 right in front of them, and then the police come out and tell them they’re done in Geneva for the day.

With the exception of my immediate family, friends, and clients (and sometimes I even wonder about them), access to my presence is a privilege and not a right! And for self-professed “Christians” to believe they’re entitled to it shows they don’t even begin to understand what Jesus was all about.

But that’s not nearly the worst of this fencepost-over-the-head proselytizing. That would be the vast arrogance borne of the sin of pride, and the last time I looked, “pride” was one of the Seven Lethal Shortcomings

Please consider the hubris it must take for someone who doesn’t even know you to assume their religion is somehow superior to yours! I don’t need to be saved. If I need your help finding my way, I’ll be the first one to ask. And you have absolutely no right to interrupt my day in a park or at my front door. If you want to leave something at my door, or perhaps even have a theological conversation (and you’re willing to listen), I might just be up for it, but that’s about it.

But if you don’t begin to understand what being a Christian means, you can’t explain why you’re “open air preaching” other than an adult told you to, and you have no appreciation for me other than that of a deer in a hunter’s scope, not only are you not gonna get very far, but if you can’t figure that out on your own, you should be prohibited from doing so.

Because if Chicago provided that kind of green light, Millennium Park would be overrun with overzealous advocates to the point where it’s entire recreational purpose would be utterly defeated. So, I’m certainly rooting for them on this one.

And just out of curiosity, whatever happened to “They’ll know we are Christians by our love?”

Quick Hits – Never underestimate the persistence of American racism

Like I just did!

Since journalists are charged with being the skeptical gate keepers in our collective pursuit of the truth, when I first read the Naperville, Illinois, Buffalo Wild Wings news story, I thought it was a hoax perpetrated by a group attempting to secure a large settlement.

Before you hit the “send” button, please allow me to explain!

Considering the recent raft of breathing while black revelations, I cannot imagine a Caucasian who hasn’t taken note of the dire consequences befalling the bigot when those stories go viral. C’mon! White people have dialed 911 or complained to management about blacks for:

  • Barbecuing in a park
  • Babysitting white children
  • Accidentally brushing a woman in the subway with a backpack
  • Going to a public pool
  • Sitting a seat away while flying
  • Napping in a dorm lounge
  • Shopping
  • Leaving an Airbnb with their luggage
  • Taking a college tour
  • Golfing
  • Sitting in a Starbucks

And each one of those prejudicial perps either lost their job or suffered severely in the court of public opinion. So, you’d think my Caucasian compatriots would get some sort of clue and finally realize no good can come from that kind of blatant and shameless intolerance.

I apologize for having far too much faith in my race.

BWW

Second, if it happened at the Geneva, Illinois, Buffalo Wild Wings, it would’ve been far more believable. Given its 1 percent black population, I lovingly refer to my hometown as “The City of Whites.”

But to be fair, aside from your garden variety anonymous racist literature, Genevans have acquitted themselves quite well in this regard. I’m not sure if it’s wisdom or dumb luck, but I’ll take it either way.

Conversely, 18 percent of Naperville’s 150,000 residents are African American, and if one in five of your neighbors are black, they’re certainly not a rarity. Furthermore, given its size and relatively young average age of 39, I’ve always viewed our neighbor to the southeast as quite the cosmopolitan municipality.

Lastly, how did this blatant bigotry travel like a rogue electrical current go from a customer, to a host, to a series of restaurant managers unchecked? I understand this is the era of Trump but am I really that out of line to be flabbergasted that there wasn’t even one adult in that Buffalo Wild Wings room? Really? There wasn’t a single savvy soul who said, “Hey guys! Keep it up and this ain’t gonna end well for us?”

Let’s start with the racist customer who asked the host to move that group of 15 because he didn’t like black people. Who says that out loud in 2019? He should’ve simply asked the host to move him with no explanation necessary. Instead, this man felt comfortable enough to say exactly what was on his mind, and he firmly felt he had the right to ask the other group to move.

That’s some sort of entitlement mentality.

And if the story wasn’t bizarre enough already, the host himself was black – another reason I questioned the veracity of this sad scenario. We have to imagine he did his damndest to warn his supervisors they were heading down a very dangerous road.

But they clearly didn’t heed that admonition because after one manager tried to get the group to move, another went over and tried to tell them their tables were reserved after they correctly wouldn’t budge. I’ve only dined at Buffalo Wild Wings once in my life, and even I know they don’t take reservations.

After one or two more attempts to force the party to relocate, they finally gave up and left the restaurant altogether. But wouldn’t you think those managers would’ve finally found religion when the black host broke down and cried and some of the white customers came up and hugged the group as they were leaving?

But no! They were all fired, a number of employees quit in despair, and the customer who started the racist ball rolling has been banned from Buffalo Wild Wings for life. Of course, the corporate talking heads offered all the right platitudes, but only time will tell if they’re sincere about making the obviously necessary changes.

To his credit, Naperville Mayor Steve Chirico personally reached out to the aggrieved party goers lamenting that, “It’s shocking that this type of behavior exists today. This was an incident that is not who we are as a community.”

But even though I’m not questioning the Mayor’s sincerity, I’m not so sure about the latter part of his statement. Naperville has been beset by racial incidents in recent years, including an essay by former resident Brian Cook on what it was like to grow up black in that predominantly white community.

That all culminated in Naperville State Rep Anne Stava-Murray claiming, “Our city’s history of white supremacist policies is ongoing,” in a January Facebook post that ignited a firestorm in which she was rebuked by the Mayor. Outspoken City Councilman Kevin Coyne repeatedly demanded her resignation, too.

Ironically, other than saying this was “an isolated incident,” Councilman Coyne has been conspicuously silent on this one.

And while I certainly wouldn’t label every Napervillian as racist, and I think Ms. Stava-Murray’s “white supremacist” choice of words was a poor one, that doesn’t mean her underlying contention wasn’t correct.

Because while the previously cited breathing while black viral incidents were generally precipitated by a lone white racist, the management staff that incited this particular “event” was so at ease with their level of bigotry that didn’t question their actions for a scant nanosecond.

And if a commercial enterprise is that comfortable with that absurd level of intolerance, it is, indeed, an indictment of the city in which it’s located.

So, I apologize for not believing the victims who had to endure what amounts to being kicked out of a restaurant for being black. The abundantly apparent lesson here is, never underestimate the insidiousness and perniciousness of American racism. I won’t do it again!

And if Ms. Stava-Murray is right, and, at this point, there’s no longer any doubt, given the audaciousness of this kind of racism, Naperville really needs to take a long, hard look in that bathroom mirror and decide who they want to be and how they want to be perceived.

Contrary to conservatives’ consistent claim that electing a black president summarily ended racism in American, this incredible Naperville incident clearly indicates we’ve got a very long way to go!

Quick Hits – I fought the law and the law won!

(Cue The Clash!) But in the end, it was a Pyrrhic victory for the Kane County State’s Attorney. Put more simply, I may have lost yesterday’s battle, but we won the war!

Of course, we’re talking about the final legal outcome of my lawsuit against State’s Attorney Joe McMahon asking the judge to force him to turn over 255 pages of sexual harassment complaints against just one former prosecutor.

But before we continue, I want to offer a heartfelt thank you to all the folks who’ve wholeheartedly supported me in this 13-month endeavor. From readers, to friends – three of whom showed up yesterday, to elected officials, to a number of attorneys, to the woman who had the courage to tell me her story, there are good people out there who believe in doing the right thing.

To make matters even better, the Judge made a point of complimenting me on my argument and generally professional comportment. Who knew?

So, here’s what happened in that Kendall County courtroom yesterday.

McMahon 2

1. I won the legal argument, but…!

At least according the attorney in attendance, and my other two friends told me opposing counsel was quite agitated throughout my summation.

The KCSAO’s defense was primarily based on the FOIA statute privacy exemption, and I tore that contention apart by correctly apply the law and citing a slew of appellate court rulings. Joe McMahon clearly perverted that privacy exemption to protect his own ass; he certainly didn’t give a flying bleep about the victims’ privacy.

Nice guy, huh?

But my argument against that exemption wasn’t enough, because I lost on a point of law opposing counsel didn’t even consider. Since the men and women in black must adhere to the law regardless of the arguments in front of them, after privately reviewing the “complaints,” Judge Barnhart concluded that, “Those documents are inextricably linked to the deliberatory and investigative process.”

And investigative “notes” are, indeed, exempt from FOIA requests.

I also want to express my sincere gratitude to Judge Barnhart for allowing me to ask more than a few questions after her ruling so I better understood it. As it turns out, there was just one two-page sexual harassment complaint in all of those 255 pages.

By the way, there will be no appeal because, in order to prevail, I’d have to prove the Judge was lying about the nature of those documents, and not only does she have a stellar reputation, but she clearly wasn’t lying. We’ll get to that in a bit.

2. How the bleep did I win with the Attorney General?

That’s the real question, and it’s beyond ironic that I did win. Perhaps I shoulda been an attorney, after all.

Given Judge Barnhart’s correct reading of the documents and the law, the Public Access Counselor (PAC) should’ve ordered the KCSAO to turn over the two-page redacted complaint and the “disciplinary” letter McMahon finally provided (previously posted here).

But for some glorious reason, they told the KCSAO to provide me with every last page which set a somewhat strange series of events in motion.

3. The incompetence of Joe McMahon and the KCSAO

I know some of y’all aren’t too terribly fond of Kane County Chairman Chris Lauzen, but his recent shellacking of the KCSAO for multiple bouts of incompetence was dead on! From the Campton Hills rehab center debacle to that office reviewing the wrong labor contracts, it’s been case after case of nightmarish legal malpractice.

And apparently, they can’t correctly answer a FOIA request, either.

Civil Division head Joe Lulves is so arrogant he thought it would be funny to send me 255 pages with all but one sentence greyed out. Remember, he’s the one who regularly brags his office is FOIA-proof. The correct answer to that request should’ve been just those four pages because that’s all I really asked for.

But when Lulves responded with 255 pages, it made it look like they had something to hide and that incited my 13-month quest.

Ironic, isn’t it?

4. The fallout from an errant FOIA response

So, here’s how the war was won! The entire journalistic point has been to remove Joe McMahon from office. As far as serving his constituents goes, he’s the worst state’s attorney in Kane County’s long history, and that includes Meg Gorecki, who actually did resign.

Had Lulves accurately submitted those four pages, there would’ve been no Attorney General appeal and no year-long pursuit of the truth. But because he couldn’t or wouldn’t do the right thing, I appealed his “amusing” response, and I won. It truly is better to be lucky than smart!

And that gave the KCSAO sexual harassment scandal story new legs.

Not only that, but that victory came at a time when McMahon was considering running for reelection. But with someone having publicly and privately recruited an opponent, and with the real threat of a judge ordering the disclosure of those documents weighing heavily upon him, he chose to step down.

5. Here’s what we know now

My primary source told me she was the only one with the nerve to file a written harassment complaint, but when I saw those 255 pages, I thought she was mistaken. It turns out she was right.

So, when Judge Barnhart ruled that 251 of those pages were investigative in nature, that means the KCSAO compiled that massive volume only to conclude that the appropriate response was to move the harasser across the office. We all know that’s the cure for sexual harassment, right? Make ‘em walk a few extra steps and it all stops!

And if you reread that disciplinary missive, you’ll note they moved him, not be because of the harassment, but because the prosecutor bragged about being such good friends with McMahon that he could get away with anything.

McMahon didn’t give a bleep about any of the victims! He only did something when his subordinate insulted him.

 

As you might imagine, I spoke to my sources after yesterday’s ruling and they confirmed that most of the sexual harassment complaints came through exit interviews conducted by McMahon himself. So, he damn well knew how pervasive the problem was, but the problem is you can’t FOIA conversations.

That’s exactly what this state’s attorney’s office excels in – circumventing the law – because they know exactly how to do it. Joe McMahon, former First Assistant Jody Gleason, Civil Division Head Joe Lulves, and Misdemeanor Chief Joe Cullen are so much worse than the people they prosecute, because they really oughtta know better.

And Gleason’s now a Kendall County judge. No bad deed goes unrewarded in the justice system.

At the end of the hearing, Judge Barnhart did note that a different State’s Attorney might choose to answer my FOIA request differently.

It ain’t over folks!

Quick Hits – Tomorrow, the Kane County State’s Attorney loses in court!

It’s finally time! I’ve been working on acquiring those 255 pages of sexual harassment documents against just one former KCSAO prosecutor for 13 long months now, and the case heads to court tomorrow!

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For those interested in attending – virtually all court proceedings are public – here are the details:

Location:         Kendall County Courthouse, 807 John St., Yorkville, IL

Courtroom:     116

Judge:            The Honorable Melissa S. Barnhart

Date/Time:      November 6, 2019 at 1 p.m.

Please remember that entering a court building means going through security, so adjust your wardrobe and pocket/purse contents accordingly. There shouldn’t be a long court security line in in the afternoon, but you never know.

With no testimony involved, the hearing will proceed directly to final arguments with me, the plaintiff, leading off, and attorney Pat Kinnally following up on behalf of the respondent, Joe McMahon.

Because the burden of proof generally lies with the plaintiff, not only do I speak first, but I will have the opportunity to respond to opposing counsel’s argument. The irony being, given the nature of the FOIA statute, the burden of proof falls squarely on the respondent’s shoulders. And having two opportunities to make my point will certainly be somewhat of an advantage.

Judge Barnhart may rule directly after the case; she may take some time to deliberate and rule later that afternoon; or, what will most likely happen, she will take it under advisement and set a date to issue her ruling.

But I’m convinced that won’t be the end of it. With the law and the precedent overwhelmingly in my favor, when I do prevail, I’m convinced the KCSAO will take it to the Second District Appellate Court. That means, if they don’t reject it outright – the most probable scenario – I may get to argue it in front of an appellate court panel.

And wouldn’t that be something!

Meanwhile, with the exception of a brief synopsis if the judge makes an immediate ruling, as you might imagine, there will be no Quick Hits tomorrow. But I will most certainly be covering the proceedings in Thursday’s Quick Hits.

As I like to say, good journalism should still mean something. Here’s to proving that!

 

Quick Hits – How the felony charging system works

That’s the question I’ve been consistently hearing since I broke what’s very likely to be the real story of the Burlington School District bus aide incident. And those same folks inevitably follow that one up with, “If there’s any doubt she hit the special needs child, how can she possibly be charged with a felony?”

Ah yes! As one of my former sainted Beacon-News managing editors liked to say, “They could indict a ham and cheese sandwich if they really wanted do.” That’s how easy it is. Don’t get me wrong, the system generally works because felony prosecutors don’t like spending time on losing causes, but when a case goes viral like this one, that’s when the system starts to break down.

Please allow me to explain!

If the arresting agency deems the alleged crime falls in the felony category, they put their case together and, depending upon the situation, they either call or submit the paperwork to the on-call felony prosecutor. Neither the police nor sheriff’s deputies can unilaterally file felony charges, they must be approved by the Kane County States Attorney’s Office.

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But that’s hardly a check and balance because there’s no defense element to the felony determination process. The charging agency is under no obligation to provide exculpatory evidence and they’re well within their rights to present the “facts” in a manner that casts their case in the best light possible.

Though I’m sure you see the potential for abuse, the system tends to work because the state’s attorney’s office would quickly come down on any police department that regularly overcharges defendants.

If the state’s attorney approves the felony charge, the case moves to the indictment stage where the prosecutor takes those “facts” to a grandy jury. They have the ultimate say in whether there’s probable cause for the felony to go forward. And “probable cause” is a far lower standard than beyond any reasonable doubt.

But again, there’s no defense element to this “trial,” which means the prosecutor is under no statutory compunction to tell the whole truth. There’s no right to confront your accuser(s), either.

Both a local judge and attorney reminded me that, even if the prosecution has ten eyewitnesses to the “crime,” nine of whom failed to identify the defendant, they can proceed on the basis of the one positive ID and they don’t have to tell the grand jury about the others. Just as it was with the arresting agency, the prosecutor is under no obligation to present exculpatory evidence at the grand jury point.

That same attorney told me that, thought this part of the felony system is far from perfect, it’s the best one we’ve managed to come up with. And it generally works because even though the grand jury doesn’t get to hear absolutely everything, the judge or jury who eventually tries the case will. For all the obvious reasons, most prosecutors don’t want to develop a reputation for exercising the kind of overreach that means loses felony cases.

Again, the grand jury system tends to fail in high profile cases like the Burlington bus aide, because it’s going to be difficult to find jurors who haven’t heard the news, and the State’s Attorney’s Office will be under immense pressure to convict a person who’s already been tried and convicted in the court of public opinion.

Many of you also complained about the press being sensationalistic in this regard, but that’s not a fully accurate assessment.

Yes! I do find myself accusing Shaw Media and the Daily Herald of being nothing more than glorified police blotters. Though even traffic tickets are public record, whenever a newspaper prints an arrest, it basically becomes a conviction in the press.

But that doesn’t mean those editors are violating any ethical standard by running the story. The truth is, that person has been charged, and the charging documents are readily available to anyone at the Circuit Clerk’s office.

Prior to the print media depression, one of those now extinct old school local reporters might’ve questioned whether felony charges were warranted and performed some sort of investigatory groundwork. But with newsroom staffing at an all-time low, that kind of due diligence is out of the question.

So, shortly after a grand jury indictment, the State’s Attorney’s press release hits the newsrooms and all the papers run it virtually verbatim. It’s neither libelous nor unethical, but it isn’t the best journalism, either.

I think the biggest question our bus aide will face is whether to take a misdemeanor conviction plea deal – if offered. And I think it will be offered because sources told me the bus video is not a slam dunk for either side and the burden of proof is on the prosecution. It’s a heck of a lot better than having a class 3 felony on your record, but if you’re truly innocent, even a misdemeanor conviction will be a very hard thing to swallow.

So, now you know how it works and, yes! My former editor was right! A prosecutor can indict a ham and cheese sandwich if they really wanted to. Though it’s rarely abused, the felony charging system completely favors the prosecution. They know the fact you’re charged with a felony can be a very expensive proposition, which might make some defendants accept a plea because they may not be eligible for a public defender, but they can’t afford a vigorous defense, either.

It’s certain not a perfect system and if you have a better idea, I’d love to hear it.