Monday, February 22, 2010

$100,000: The Price of Justice?

Here’s a question for you to think about: What will $100,000 buy you in our legal system?

I don’t mean who can you bribe for that sum of money, and I don’t mean how much legal representation can you purchase. No, I’m interested in looking at the crimes you would have to be accused of to be saddled with a bond of $100,000.

A random look around the web
at bail schedules shows the following:

In LA, you’d be required to post a bond of $100,000 for a felony that could land you in prison for 16 years.

In San Francisco, they’re much more specific. $100,000 would be required if you were accused of assaulting a government worker or car jacking.

In San Diego, you’ve got to be charged with kidnapping.

Note that most jurisdictions that have easily accessible bail schedules don’t list any infractions that have bonds approaching $100,000.

If you search for actual crimes where people had to post a $100,000, you also get some interesting results:

Earlier this month actor Rip Torn posted $100,000 in Connecticut for criminal charges including burglary, possession of a revolver without a permit and carrying a firearm while intoxicated.

Last month a Chicago area man had bail set at $100,000 after being charged with reckless homicide and aggravated driving under the influence.

In December a Seattle man charged with child molestation and exposing himself to a 14-year-old girl had bail set at $100,000.

Also in December a union president in New York City had bail set at $100,000 after being charged with embezzling more than $200,000 of union funds.

And just a little more than a week ago, Dr. Conrad Murray was released on a $100,000 bond after being accused of involuntary manslaughter in the death of Michael Jackson. Oh wait, my mistake. That was $100,000 in Singapore dollars! He was released after paying only $75,000 in US cash in Los Angeles.

So, it’s clear that $100,000 will buy you quite a bit in most places.
You have to have done some pretty terrible things to warrant being required to post such a huge sum.

But, here at Butler University, the situation is very different. Here at Butler University, if you ask for a fair disciplinary procedure, one in which you’re not publicly convicted prior to the proceedings and one in which you are permitted to see the evidence against you, you’re told you have to pony up $100,000. You can read their outrageous request here

Even more ridiculous, Butler’s president claims
he knew nothing about this charge made in his name.

Which sounds right: $100,000 for kidnapping, involuntary manslaughter, embezzlement, child molestation, reckless homicide, burglary with a firearm, or car jacking in most portions of the country or $100,000 to delay your appearance before a kangaroo court at Butler University?

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Rhetorical Gymnastics: A presidential Sport

Two pieces appeared in the latest edition of Butler’s student newspaper that I want to bring to your attention. The first was a news report about the settlement I reached with Butler. The second was an opinion piece written by Professor Bill Watts.

I very much hope that you read both pieces because, in very different ways, they are both amazing.

The news story addressed the fact that Butler demanded that I post a $100,000 bond to delay the disciplinary proceedings against me. Remember, I filed suit asking for a temporary restraining order against Butler because they had demonstrated that they were not prepared to undertake a fair
disciplinary process. The judge agreed with me.

The newspaper story broke some absolutely astounding news: “When asked about the bond amount, Fong said he had no knowledge that the action had been taken.” The president of Butler University claimed he didn’t know that his institution had demanded that one of its students post a bond of $100,000? Can anyone actually believe this

The president has a pattern of denying any knowledge of the most important actions taken by the university in this case. As I’ve pointed out before
, he also claimed he knew nothing about the decision to replace “John Doe’s” name with my name in the original lawsuit. Really? I don’t think anyone believed him last time and I doubt that anyone believes him now.

Frankly, though, I don’t know which is worse: that he is so out of touch that he doesn’t know what’s going on in the university in his own name, or that he authorized such an outrageous action and then opted to lie about it. Both options are shameful and embarrassing.

That wasn’t the only amazing piece of news in the newspaper story though. The sentence immediately following the one I just quoted in which the president denied knowing about the bond is also bizarre: “After speaking with university attorneys, Fong said in an e-mail that the bond was merely a legal formality that had to be added to the document for the restraining order to stand.”

Apparently the president is claiming that first
he heard of the bond demand was from the reporter, about two months after it was filed with the court, and, upon hearing about it, he immediately contacted the university attorneys (again, note the use of the plural – the university is certainly willing to spare no expense to attack their undergraduates) to ask about it. His response, as reported, is also beyond belief: “the bond was merely a legal formality that had to be added to the document for the restraining order to stand.”

As I’ve done with so many of the president’s earlier statements (see my posts on Oct. 15
, Oct. 19, and Oct 27, for example), let me explain the absurdity in what he has said. First, as I noted on Feb. 12, the request for a temporary restraining order that my attorney filed had a place for the judge to fill in the amount of money to be posted as a bond. The judge, as is his legal right, opted not to require any bond at all, for the simple reason that postponing a kangaroo court was not going to cost Butler University any money.

Second, if you read the document
submitted to the court in response to my request for a temporary restraining order (a document, by the way, submitted in the president’s name, even though he claims not to have been aware of the most important point in it), you’ll see that the last thing the university wanted to do was to have the restraining order stand; indeed the title of that document begins by calling itself an “Emergency Motion to Dissolve Restraining Order.” Nonetheless, what the president is claiming, is that their demand for me to post a bond of $100,000 was actually their way of doing me a favor. After all, according to his statement, had they not asked for the bond in that amount, my request for a temporary restraining order would have been thrown out and I would have been forced to participate in their kangaroo court.

If you’re as confused by the president’s rhetorical gymnastics as I am, I can’t say I’m surprised. As has been his pattern in every aspect of this case, he refuses to take any responsibility for any action, he refuses to acknowledge any possible errors or misjudgments, and he weaves stories that make absolutely no sense in the belief that people will simply accept them because he is, after all, the president.

This is all simply ridiculous.

As I said above, there were two pieces in the student newspaper about my case. The second
was an opinion piece written by Professor Watts. As he has done throughout, Professor Watts asks probing questions in his attempt to hold the university responsible for its actions. I can’t tell you how appreciative I am of his efforts on a campus where faculty are so afraid of what the president will do to them if they disagree with him, that they have to take confession with a priest to get their opinions to the public.

While I recommend his entire article to you, I want to focus on one part because he perfectly captured
one of the things that has been bothering me. He noted that “a high university official” explained the “aggressive campaign” against me because that administrator believed that my father was ultimately the force behind The TruBU. Professor Watts went on to say that this is “just another way in which the university has denied Jess his autonomy and personhood.”


The Butler administration seems to have such a low regard for Butler students that no administrator could believe that a student could possibly be responsible for bringing to light all that The True BU brought to light. They simply dismissed my competence and, by extension, the competence of all of my fellow students. Not surprisingly, I have felt incredibly demeaned by their position. Beyond that, why would these people want to be in charge of a university that, in their minds, enrolls such pliable students who are incapable of acting on their own? And why would the University want administrators who clearly hold their students in such low regard?

Let me, again
, say as clearly as I can: the information in The True BU came from faculty and staff members who were willing to provide information to me anonymously because they were too scared of administrative retaliation to speak openly. And let me make it clear that my father did not know that I was Soodo Nym.

Let me conclude today by asking why was “a high university official” discussing such incredible things with a faculty member? Isn’t this simply yet another way of defaming another member of my family, something that “high university officials” have felt comfortable doing regularly?

To be completely honest, I think it's about time the University got new "high university officials."

Friday, February 12, 2010

Secrecy and Discipline: The Butler Way – Part 3

In the first two parts of this post, I pointed all of you to public documents available to any and all, that summarized the struggle I was having with the Butler administration. In the first two parts of this post, because of Butler’s incessant and unfair demand for secrecy, I told you nothing more than what was present in those public documents.

Now, in part three, I will bring this part of the story to a conclusion, but, unfortunately, I will do so in a way that is particularly unsatisfying, at least to me. The overall outcome is certainly not unsatisfying, at least to me, in that Butler and I reached an agreement. But what makes it less than fully satisfying is that I can’t tell you any of the details. As before, I am limited to being able to point you to publicly available documents.

Let me recap briefly. As you can see from my request for a
restraining order against Butler, I was forced to go to court to ask that any internal disciplinary procedure be put on hold until the university could guarantee that it the procedure would be handled fairly. Butler’s attorneys responded by ignoring the substance of what my request was all about, instead opting to demand that I put up a bond of $100,000. They claimed that this was the amount of money Butler would lose if they could not discipline me in a secret hearing on campus. Ridiculous! My lawyer replied by further explaining the inappropriate actions Butler administrators had undertaken.

The resolution, except for the secrecy, was a wonderful one for me – and perhaps Butler administrators feel similarly. Upon reaching an agreement with Butler I immediately sent in applications to law schools. And, as I said, within days of filing my applications, I was admitted to one of my top choices.

There are three points that I want to make about all of this. First, my experience has convinced me that it is possible to fight abuses of power – and to win. In my mind, I clearly won, but as I’ll note in my second point, I didn’t win everything. I won not only because I was right; I won because I was able to generate a huge amount of support from people around campus and around the world who saw an injustice and were willing to support me. That support came in many forms, some public and lots private, and all of it was incredibly important to me.

Second, although I believe I was able to win,
I feel I lost a great deal in the process. Butler administrators from the president on down, on a regular basis, on campus and off, in public and in private, defamed me. They regularly said that I was guilty of actions they couldn’t prove and actions they knew they had no evidence to link to me. They used innuendo to accuse me of making racially and sexually intolerant statements. They used those same tactics to accuse me of threatening violent acts. And they abused their positions of power by telling anyone who would listen that they knew things about me they couldn’t share – things that were really terrible. The reality is, however, that none of those things ever existed, but it didn’t keep unscrupulous people from implying that they did in their misguided attempt to further their own ambitions.

Third, even though my victory is very real for me, it has to be an incredibly hollow one for the Butler community and for the broader community composed of people who care about civil rights. I believe that it's clear that Butler administrators abused their power and the university’s financial resources in their attempt to stifle criticism. Members of those communities have demanded an apology
from Butler’s administrators for their unconscionable actions, but none has been forthcoming. The same administrators who did all of this are hoping that their veil of secrecy will protect them. If we, you and I, let them refuse to take responsibility for their actions, they will never apologize, and they will likely abuse others in the future. I hope you do at least two things to help prevent this from happening. I hope those of you who have not yet signed the petition asking for an apology sign it now. And I hope that some of you begin asking the Butler administration just how much money they spent in legal fees in their persecution of me. At a time when Butler is cutting budgets related to teaching, if not related to the provost’s remodeling schemes, don’t you think that this money could have been more profitably spent?

Again, I want to thank you for your support.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Secrecy and Discipline: The Butler Way – Part 2

In part 1 of this post I did a number of things. I broached the subject of the cloak of secrecy that Butler uses to cover all actions, thoughts and events it doesn’t like. I explained how I have been ordered by that administration to refrain from providing any details about Butler’s internal disciplinary process – even while university administrators felt comfortable proclaiming my guilt to anyone who would ask. And I presented a document filed with the Marion Superior/County Court in an attempt to correct much of the wrongdoing that those same administrators were perpetuating.

I also mentioned that the document that was filed on my behalf elicited a firestorm of response from Butler and its high priced lawyers. As I did in my last post, I’m going to be very careful about what I write because I know very well how Butler administrators and their attorneys will come after me if I poke even the smallest hole in their cloak of secrecy. It’s for that reason that I’m not going to say anything at all other than what’s already in public documents easily accessible to anyone who wishes to read them.

The document that my attorney’s filed was a request for a temporary restraining order. The purpose of a temporary restraining order is relatively simple. It’s used to stop one party from doing something that the other party feels is illegal or unfair until a hearing can be held to determine whether the action is actually illegal or unfair. A temporary restraining order has to be presented to a judge who then makes a determination about whether or not a hearing is warranted or whether the disputed action can continue. Because temporary restraining orders are often used in business disputes, and because when a business is kept from undertaking some business it could conceivably suffer a financial loss, the judge issuing the temporary restraining order has to determine how much of a bond the person asking for the order should post. In my case, my attorney requested that Butler not be permitted to have a disciplinary hearing on the date they selected because of the obvious unfairness they had already demonstrated. The judge agreed and determined that since no business interests were involved, no bond needed to be posted.

As you can read for yourself in the inflammatory document submitted by Butler and its attorneys (yes, all of Butler’s legal documents seem to have multiple attorneys signing off on them, perhaps simply to boost profits, perhaps in a misguided attempt to intimidate a student), none of this went over very well. Let me point out two of the most amazing points that Butler made. First, Butler University accused me of filing for the temporary restraining order at the last minute in an effort to subvert them. In reality, I waited that long because I simply didn't want to have to do it, but the continued unfairness of the internal disciplinary process left me with no choice. Second, and even more amazing, they demanded that the judge require me to post a $100,000 bond.

Let me say that again. Butler University demanded that a student post a bond of $100,000 simply for asking that an internal disciplinary proceeding be delayed until the court could determine that the process would be a fair one. Indeed, on the final page of their motion, Butler's attorney writes that the court should order me to "post a bond in the amount of One Hundred Thousand Dollars ($100,000) which represents the minimum damages Butler will incur if it is found that it was enjoined wrongfully."

Since my request for a temporary restraining order meant only that an internal disciplinary hearing would be delayed, Butler obviously was not going to suffer financial losses from any delay. No, the real reason for such an outrageous request was intimidation – a strategy that has been fully in keeping with every action the Butler administration has taken in this case. They hoped that all of those zeros would scare me into backing down. I’m pleased to say that, this time, Butler and its lawyers failed to intimidate me. My lawyer, on my behalf, filed a response that made it clear that we would fight for my rights.

I’d like to make two additional points. First, as is the case with every attorney/client relationship, I consulted regularly with my lawyer and no actions were taken or petitions filed without my approval. For it to be any other way would violate the basic ethics of the legal profession. I raise this point because Butler’s president likes to say that his lawyer consistently acted without his knowledge. Second, I never said that I was unwilling to participate in a campus disciplinary hearing. Indeed, the petition filed in court said that I was willing to participate if a fair process could be guaranteed. After all, I had absolutely nothing to fear from a fair process since I did not act inappropriately. On the other hand, however, I had everything to fear from a process that included the president and all of his minions declaring my guilt to all who would listen before the process began.

In part three of this post, I’ll share with you, to the extent that I can given Butler’s demand for secrecy, the outcome of all of this legal maneuvering and let you draw your own conclusions about the situation.

Let me end with an acknowledgment that I’ve made often over the past months: none of this could have been possible without your support. Thank you.