Blogs > Frye on the News

Keeping his eye on the news and offering commentaries and insights on what is happening in Oakland County, around the world, on the tube and in the news.

Monday, June 29, 2009

What about Iraq?

Many worried about Farrah Fawcett not receiving enough attention because she had the misfortune of dying hours before Michael Jackson.
I don't think so, as her career was minor compared to his. She was an icon but known more for her celebrity than her body of work, and she was carried across front pages across the world and primetime broadcast specials as part of the Jackson coverage.
But what about Iraq?
Remember that story, kind of a big deal during that monstrous presidential election?
Well, we're starting to leave and today (their time) they were handed over control over policing their cities. 
Remember the entire debate about a firm deadline or a general but unstated plan, goals versus a date?
Well, it's June 30 in Iraq. The date's here and the pull out has started.
It'll take a while, but now we've got Iran and Honduras melting down and North Korea remains the crazed drunken driver on this global highway.
Of course, we've still got to find out about the tickets to Michael Jackson's tour and reimbursements, and then there's the funeral.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Michael Jackson's troubles will be forgotten, but not Phil Spector's

Michael Jackson, I believe, will go down in history as an incredibly
gifted performer (dancer, beat maker and singer) who was also a bit
eccentric, adding to his legend.
The stuff about the children will be a short-lived anti-Jackson bias
that will disappear as time passes.
And it should be that way.
Michael Jackson was never convicted of a crime, and he was tried.
It's not like an allegation disappeared into a politically charged
investigation. A jury acquitted him of all charges, after everything
was laid out for the public to absorb.
And in the end, his appearance was freakier than the allegations.
Of course, there was the earlier allegation, but that kid took the
money. And all that can be said, I think, is that Jackson, because of
his eccentric behavior, was a very big target for extortion.
The fact that the mother of his second accuser had previously sued
someone else, well, that makes her look like an opportunistic
Sorry, but that's how it looks.
I'm no fan of Jackson. In fact, I can only list Beat It and Billie
Jean as songs I've listened to and liked. Never cared for Thriller
and never saw the video all the way through. Weird Al had a bigger
impact on me.
But Jackson's legacy will be of his being a child star who carried
the starpower to the next level, going from 11-year sensation to
world-dominating chart-topper.
His nonstop journey through the tabloids and then the court system
will be a footnote, showcasing the power he held over the public.
On the other hand, superfreak super-producer Phil Spector will go
down as a freak for his gun-toting and standoffish ways. He killed a
woman, a jury ruled, and will likely die in prison. On the side, he
created the Wall of Sound and produced albums for numerous acts,
including the Beatles.
While he could be considered a background guy, doomed to have his
talents and contributions forgotten, I disagree. It's because he is a
murderer that he will be known for killing someone. Michael Jackson
was not a child molester, a jury found. He was a superstar singer,
And speaking of Super Freaks, Rick James will go down more for his
troubles — cocaine, kidnapping, sexual assault — than his beats,
because... again, he was convicted.
Juries do matter.
And what you do will affect your reputation, carrying with you into
your grave.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Favorite headline

Celebrity blogger Perez Hilton punched
It's only the favorite of the morning, just barely topping the one about the Tigers winning their fourth in a row.
But this guy is generally a source of controversy or at least surrounded by chaos, so I'm sure it's a win-win for the manager of the Black Eyes Peas, who, according to The Associated Press, popped pop cultures most annoying face.
This sort of mess is what this guy adores, so good for him, getting punched.
We should all strive for greatness.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

News that bothers (and it's not Monica)

It is a difficult story to understand because it seems so unfair.
Man runs down another man, killing him, while driving drunk. And not just a little drunk, but quite drunk (not super drunk, we're talking .12-plus, not 0.08 or 0.30.) 
He goes to jail -- for 30 days.
In Oakland County, it would be at least months, maybe years, if the driving was bad enough.
But Donte' Stallworth was not in Oakland County, and, many readers have noted, he is a rich NFL star.
And this story sickens me. I'll try to give him the benefit of a doubt.
I try not to get riled up by the news, especially political or crime reaction stories. But you want at least for the system to pretend to be fair.
I don't know what happens in other drunken driving causing death cases. If 30 days is standard in Florida, then OK, that's fine. It's what anyone would get, then that's the law or at least the way the law is practiced.
But in Oakland County, if you drink and drive and kill someone, look for the hammer. Juries are sympathetic, judges are outraged, and prosecutors are out for blood. No one in the media is complaining, and defense attorneys are generally outgunned by very efficient police forces who know how to gather and collect the evidence to prove the allegation.
Some examples from cases I've covered this decade:
***Thomas Wellinger: The former executive ended up pleading to charges that will keep him in prison for 19 to 30 years. He killed a mother and her two young sons in Farmington Hills, speeding down a road improperly in a middle turn lane and driving over their car. He was at something like a .35 BAC. (Keep in mind, he didn't even get the 28-year minimum handed to the illegal immigrant who drove his car over an off-duty police officer on a motorcycle, killing him.)
***Dean Lee Rector: The former auto worker received a minimum 25 years for running red lights for five miles from Rochester Hills into Troy, passing people at speeds of 90 mph-plus before slamming into a woman's SUV and killing her. He was not drunk; but was high on cocaine (he didn't help himself with, as Assistant Oakland County Prosecutor Rob Novy characterized, by claiming cocaine fairies had left the powder outside his car, telling a jury he would never buy the stuff to get high. He just found it and because his back hurt, he snorted it. Judge Gene Schnelz doesn't like liars, especially the part about the throttle being stuck for five miles).
***Eugene Wright: He left a work party drunk and drove for miles on 3 wheels after striking a couch and flattening his tire. Still going, he finally clipped a car and forced it off of I-75, crashing and killing an 80-year-old Fraser woman, a mother to 20 grown children. He pled and was happy to receive 17-and-a-half years minimum.
***Sandeep Sabapathy: The one-time medical student from Troy was lucky to get only a 5-to-15 year sentence on a manslaughter charge after a jury declined to convict on a charge of murder (the judge found that stories about beer pong and partying were too prejudicial). He killed a friend when he tried to drag race a friend on a snowy night after returning back to a party following a Coney Island snack.
What I will give Stallworth is that he did stop at the scene and admit what he did. Except for Wellinger, who never stood a chance and had an entire region wanting to lynch him, these guys tried to weasel out of it. Of course, if one could arrange for a 30-day sentence then there's not much more to weasel. 
The years of home confinement and lifetime driving suspension will be interesting, down the road. Let's hope he's at least sincere about his regret and learning his lesson.
In court what amazed me was the stance of victim taken by drunken driving offenders, put off because they did not mean to kill who they killed or hurt who they hurt.
And if the victim's family (in their private settlement) pushed for the 30-day sentence as a trade off for a payday, then I really feel sorry for the victim and sickened by whole thing.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Toy guns and real cops

They're not a good mix, but last week, a teenager in Troy was
extremely lucky
The situation came out this week, as a Troy police officer fired a
shot from his firearm at a 17-year-old who had been holding a very
real-looking toy gun, an Airsoft gun. The teen had been playing with
a group of other children and teenagers.
Some have questioned the officer for firing the shot, but I don't see
how he could have done anything else.
He was responding to a 9-1-1 call from a motorist, who had reported
seeing someone pointing a gun at a child.
A police officer cannot go to a scene, automatically suspicious of
the called in report.
So he arrives at the scene quickly and sees a teenager pointing a gun
at someone. He yells to drop the gun and the teen turns (saying later
that he thought the officer was one of the participants) and the gun
is in the direction of the officer. He shoots.
Luckily, he misses.
However, missing may be the only thing the officer did wrong. If he
thought that was a real gun and the holder of the gun refused to drop
it and instead turned, the officer had to fire. And police officers
don't shoot in the air as a warning or aim for legs or arms. They
shoot to kill when they perceive danger to the public or themselves.
That is the way it has to be, or we would have even more dead or
wounded officers.
Now, I'm not saying the citizen's report was at fault. He or she
thought it was a gun pointed at a child, and if you see that, you
must call the police and report it.
If the caller had reported that some kids were horsing around and
making too much noise or getting into the road while playing with toy
guns, the officer would not have arrived and pulled his gun.
But when the goal of play is to use realistic looking guns, people
not involved are going to assume they're real.
I'm not one to think that toy guns should be outlawed, it's just that
common sense would make bright-colored guns more acceptable. A little
red tip just isn't going to cut it.
It's too easy for people to blame the officer, but I remember the
Hazel Park officer who was responding to a simple nuisance dog
complaint made by a neighbor. She was looking out for a dog when a
drunken homeowner blasted a shotgun from the porch, killing her.
This recent incident was almost a perfect storm for a disaster.
Perhaps, the officer missed due to a subconscious last-second doubt
about the situation.
The teen is lucky and really has nothing to complain about.
PHOTOS: The top photo compares real guns with the Airsoft guns recovered from the teenagers. The bottom one is the complete haul from the teens. See, some of them had colored guns.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Don't go on Nancy Grace

It's a simple premise really: Don't go on Nancy Grace.
There are some simple rules in criminal justice. For instance, if
your spouse dies, assume you'll be questioned and looked at. If it's
not an obvious case, you'll be looked at closely.
Also, if a child dies, investigators naturally look at who was caring
for the child and a parent is to be examined.
And even if there is an obvious culprit, investigators look at
parents and their reaction to potential abuse, asking, Why was this
allowed to go on.
In the Oakland County Circuit Court, which I covered for about four
years, I saw dozens of cases of parents charged criminally or with
neglect when a child was abused by a boyfriend or some other family
member or friend.
It's natural and it makes sense to look at those closest to the child
or other victim.
So what is the mother of Nevaeh Buchanan, whose body police confirmed
was found late last week alongside a river, going onto the Nancy
Grace show?
She is one of the most opinionated news characters, going first with
opinion before any fact crosses the airwaves. And that works because
usually it is the parents and spouses. It's easy to accuse them,
while winking and pretending to be open-minded.
And we've all known about the sex offender (boy)friend, so of course,
Miss Nancy is going to jump on that and not let go like a hungry dog.
I'm not defending the mother; I'm just curious why she would go and
then flee the show, decrying the misrepresentations.
A show like Grace's is not looking for facts, just outrage and opinion.
I rarely watch Grace, but we passed it by this weekend and she went
from talking about the Navaeh case to boasting about her twins with
pictures. It's very disgusting.
Of course, the best part was the local video footage of the mom's
uncle pounding on the hotel room door to end the segment and the one
minute or more spent trying to remove the mikes. All very Jerry
Springer like.
Way to go CNN.

Friday, June 5, 2009

See, why the short jail sentences

Earlier this week, we saw two prime candidates to prison receive short jail sentences. Some readers expressed outrage over the judge handing the down the sentences, but it really has to be the change from the state. This is something I understand, as I think it became too easy just to send 'em to prison. You can keep sending them away, and our state's prison population reflected that, but were we any safer?
No, is the simple answer.
Crimes keep being committed and it will only get worse as more people are broke, unemployed, bitter, frustrated and looking for ways to relieve the stress, leading to drug and alcohol use and abuse.
So the state is expanding its reduction of prison funding, announcing today the intention to close 5 prisons and 3 camps. It has to be done because if you're going to cut the budget, you cannot ignore the largest part of the budget, prison spending.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Good day for prisons on a big day for courts

It was a busy day in Oakland County courts today, Wed. June 3, as
judges resolved a public official's alleged public sex, a teacher's
extra 'efforts,' and a woman leaving the scene of a late night hit-
and-run accident (we always wonder about the booze).
All (kind of) admitted something was wrong and were in court to be
sentenced after pleading to their charges.
And none went to prison, perhaps a sign that that state is really
keeping the doors harder to open with easing guidelines and forcing
judges to look elsewhere for punishment. Prisons suck up more than 20
percent of the state budget, which will just keep on shrinking.
County jails are the other option, and twice that was used today.
The public official was sentenced to just probation, despite a police
report that indicated he was naked and having sex. His wife denied
it, and County Commissioner Kim Capello only answered the judge that
he was urinating (is that a biker thing?).
The judge gave him an opportunity to withdraw the plea, saying he
didn't want an innocent man to face a punishment. Capello declined,
and though he had -- thru statements -- indicated that the media and
police reports were COMPLETELY wrong, he declined to answer
questions. But his wife put out a statement, reinforcing his innocence.
Everyone feels bad for the wife, but hey, where's Capello to tell his
Answer some questions, or else zip it.
Then later, the former Holly teacher who had sex with students was
sentenced to 9 months in jail. I recall a couple cases where women
went to prison for this, and that was from a judge who was not one to
inflate sentences.
And later on, a young woman who left the scene of a late-night hit-
and-run accident got four months in jail (though the 4,320 hours of
community service might actually be crazy -- 108 weeks at 40 hours a
If the crime was so bad to go nuts with the community service
(described by the judge as the time she would have spent in jail for
six months, and the math works), then put her in jail.
Either she did a terrible crime and deserves incarceration, or she
deserves a break and should be given a break.
In this case, another man (who has not been charged) also hit the
victim, and no one is sure who hit him first and where he was in the
road when hit.
Just seems like she is being set up to fail.
And not many people can afford to work a full-time job for two years
without pay.
So my guess is this will have to be revisited, probably with a
violation of probation hearing.
Maybe prison won't be left out of the equation after all.

Sidewalk sex, but it was 2 a.m.

Many have wondered why Kim Capello, the county commissioner who pled to a charge related to a police allegation of public sex, would go for it on a public sidewalk -- if he was indeed having sex. 
I want to qualify the allegations, because Capello is having his wife deny the charges, though he hasn't answered any questions about it yet.
But as for the incident, and people wondering why he wouldn't simply take it indoors, I only point out that at 2 a.m., or last call, the entire world is a bedroom.
Or a bathroom.
Just shows what some people think of their communities.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Fewer dealers, few options? No, but higher prices....

I'm afraid that the answer to that will be, yes.
I don't see any other way around it. I've finally heard some of the
rumblings about this, today on a business report on CNN's Headline News.
But it makes sense. You have fewer places to buy a car, then you have
less competition to get you into the door.
Worse for us in the newspaper business is that dealerships are top
advertisers. So if we lose three or more dealerships, we lose
potential advertisers.
Even worse, though, is the surviving dealerships may feel less need
to advertise because there is less competition. Why run as many ads
if suddenly there are 30 to 40 percent fewer dealers within a 10-
to-15 mile radius of your location.
Shoppers -- who will, eventually at least, need new trucks and cars
-- will come in to see what you have going on.
So beyond the obvious lost jobs, this overall trimming of such a
substantial industry will have deep and painful impacts.
My initial thought that closing dealerships might lead to some quick
savings this summer, and I'm in the market for two vehicles by the
early fall, has been overwhelmed with the long-term impact this will
have on my community, my industry and my home.

Monday, June 1, 2009

PAY your taxes

Much has been said about Detroit Councilwoman JoAnn Watson's
performance, as WDIV's Roger Weber put it in his blog, regarding her
failure to pay her proper amount of property taxes.
Bills normally in the thousands suddenly went down to $68 a year
after a mistake led city records to indicate she lived on a vacant
lot. Her explanation during her press conference, I mean performance,
included the idea that some unseen (or quickly repaired) storm damage
led her to believe the city had simply recognized the true value of
her home.
Then she asked if anyone would offer up to pay more if someone made a
Many might not, but I would, especially for a little mistake where
someone, like a cashier, would take the hit.
But I know I would have called about those taxes, because I had a
roommate at Albion College who figured out quickly that calls to his
girlfriend in Kalamazoo were not being charged on his phone bill.
So for a semester and a half, she would call and then he'd hang up
and call right back. It was the free call; no long distance charge.
Of course, that was until the phone company and university realized
the mistake and sent him a corrected bill, counting all the calls for
something like four or five months.
It was a bill for hundreds of dollars, a lot for freshmen who
appreciated a $20 for the weekend.
He fought it but lost, able to make payments instead having to cover
it all at once.
I learned then, don't assume a free ride is really free, and it's why
someone with common sense won't let something like that ride
unquestioned. It could come back to bite you, and for an elected
official to believe it was not her responsibility to check out, then
she's a fool.