In what seems a large but still rapidly-growing almost fungal dynamic in Cuyahoga and Ohio politics, with insider deal-making politicians at all levels being left alone to make their deals AND their tightly-woven cover stories to keep us "confident" and "believing" - once again and still, and in both normal and legal senses of the word, "Justice" seems have been been thoroughly pulverized. Sadder and more ironic still is that this time the deals, the stories, and the very blatancy of the abuse of power, reflect the pulverization of Election Justice - one of the few ways, if it were to truly exist, we'd have left to at least be able to "throw the deal-making bums out," or to get them to listen to us. Now it appears that even that is gone.
I write, however, not to make things look even more bleak. But I do hope that these new facts might also shock some readers, (as they continue to hit me with (now brief) shock) - enough to go and watch for yourselves, and say "no!" to such disconnection from the best our humanity has graced us with, and thus from justice, in all forms of the word.
What I also find shocking, and deeply sad, is that even the press either can't or won't follow these threads and tell us what's occurring. And that even when the good guy press knows, they've either sold out, don't have the revenue, or have become so thick skinned that they too just laugh it all off as "just politics," as they run to catch the next event they consider a better benchmark of tragedy, gore, or "government."
Remember the Cuyahoga Recount Trial where the jury convicted two CCBOE mid-level managers of feloniously handling ballots in the legally paid-for and legally-requested local recount of the still often nationally-questioned '04 presidential election between Bush and Kerry; and the judge sentenced them to 18 months in jail? (Also see film here.)
The trial that hit national and international news and struck relief in the hearts of many that maybe justice really did still live, somewhere in the system that's supposed to be serving us all equally? The trial that could possibly send some message to those who make the many big and small decisions about our election results - thus, about who "wins" and who "loses" & about who will be making the next round of decisions "for us" often behind closed doors where we can't see: that there can be negative consequences for deal-making and other illegal intrusions into our will.
The January '07 trial that evoked excited stirs among many election integrity activists that "things will be better now," a stir that still often remains resistant-to facts that the whole trial even in the courtroom was continually pulled into the realm of politics, not justice or truth, especially by the defense; and thus, often seemed far more an unspoken political battle and legal show (much like the recount in question) and about skirting the truth or justice, rather than getting to it.
Remember the trial that also evoked sadness and some curiosity among many familiar with the CCBOE in '04 and in '07 - that two mid-level, basically non-decision-making manager-women seemed to be quietly taking rap, and in March '07, were sentenced to prison for 18 months for decisions, that in the normal course of the CCBOE, seemed impossible and very unlikely to be able to be made or carried out by them alone; decisions far more likely and possible (and even with some evidence showing) to have been made, or were at least known about (but not stopped) by decision makers "above" them - member(s) of the board, and/or then Director Vu who often followed the orders of Board Chair Bennett, and/or Vu's Deputy, Gwen Dillingham (also the former sister-in-law of one of the convicted workers.)
No one could quite figure out what they had been promised, or were so afraid of, that would keep them so quiet so long, even while their stories wavered and didn't add up, and the lack of truth seemed so apparent.
Remember the trial that struck fear among many elections and other government workers nationally, that the same fate could befall them for following orders that do not coincide with the law and/or that they would get no good deals if they not follow orders?
Well, it seems that the entire matter, including their jury-drawn felony convictions and 18 month jail sentence in the Ohio Reformatory for Women is virtually over - with no jail time (they were out on appellate bond until their Nov.5, '07 "appellate hearing" - where their "probation deal" was announced.)
And it NOW seems it's BEEN OVER SINCE last Nov. 5, the day before the '07 election, when their "appeals hearing" was held (unbeknownst most, since it did not appear in their case dockets, nor on Judge Shirley Strickland Saffold's online docket) where their pre-set deal was announced.
And what was the November-announced (just in time to have the election distract us) deal between Kevin Baxter, Special Prosecutor appointed by Cuy. Prosecutor, Bill Mason; Roger Synenberg, former R-elections board member, in part along with Bennett; and Judge Saffold? (Here's a link to another blog, which contains some links to articles about Saffold. With this, I am neither indicating endorsement, nor non-endorsement of the opinions of that entire blog site, but certainly of the blogger's right to speak. The articles linked in this Saffold post, however, certainly represent facts accurately. And another Saffold link. It should be noted from this one, that one set of Baumgartner's charges in her 8-yr. ordeal you'll see in this article, included charges that Kevin Baxter, the Erie County Special Prosecutor assigned to this '04 recount case, and Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Bill Mason who assigned him to it, had a long history of trading cases where it appeared they wanted "to get rid of" the case or the complainant. Those Baumgartner charges which were found online via Google searches in '05 when Baxter was first assigned, seem no longer apparent.)
- That these women would be put in a special probation program, called "the Diversion Program" - a 6 - 18 month program for first time offenders, who had admitted guilt and remorse, thus signs of rehabilitation; and a program, if completed while "being good" the entire time, would allow each felon's record would be expunged.
- they of course, got the minimum time in the Diversion (probation)Program - 6 months, which had it ending around April 27, '08, - but which hearing Saffold put off (because she said she'd be out of town,) until March 27, 2008.
- Also Synenberg "asked", and of course was granted, per the deal, that no finding of guilt was to be found.
What's so special about that is that, per another deal apparently made between Bob Bennett and the womens' lawyers around the time the of the first grand jury indictments in September of '05, where either Bennett or the entire board agreed that when or "if" the indictees were found "innocent," the elections board/ the Commissioners/ and well... let's just say it, bottom line, the taxpayers would also pay all the womens' legal fees!
(For download here - See the letter from the third indictee's lawyer, presented to the CCBOE for payment of his legal fees after that woman was found innocent by the jury in January, presented per those prior arrangements. )
Now isn't THAT "special!"
You see, it seems that the 9/05 indictments were nothing more than an attempt at a "bone-throwing" - a "see-justice- (wink, wink) is-being-done - to the many activists who volunteered and and paid and were at the December '04 recount; and who knew for certain that the recount ballots had been illegally pre-selected and pre-counted, making the Recount of the also highly questionable '04 election results, also nothing but a fake show.
Possibly because undeniable incriminating video later showed up from election integrity activist Kathleen Wynne, who's now in Texas; or because there really was a (bi-partisan) political pissing-match-deal "war" going on between the defense and the board, and the prosecutor's office, (as it seemed all through the trial;) or because of other unseen deals, the jury trial ended up ensuing. The jury came up with the felony convictions, and the judge sentenced the women to the max.
Thus, with the Nov. 5, '07's "no finding of guilt" and looking toward expungement of records, immediately after that less than 1-hour deal announcement/"appellate hearing" - Synenberg was pronouncing the women's "innocence" (!-two very different things) to the press - an important concept for him, and to anyone else who may have been footing parts of his bill since before the Sept. '05 indictments - meaning it could all be paid....by the taxpayers.
His approach to Cuyahoga CCBOE and /or the Commissioners for that money, seemingly remains the main "other shoe to drop" in this deal - if it has not dropped already...
But that's not all!....
So what ELSE was so very special about their 11/07 deal that has just recently shown up? On March 27, '08 after again seeing nothing on her docket about the "end-of-Diversion" hearing, I called Saffold's bailiff, (who could not be described as forthcoming, nor non-inquiring about my identity and my interest,) to find out if the hearing was proceeding that day or sometime in the future.
He told me to call the Prosecutor. I called Baxter's office, and after a few tries over the past months, someone in his office finally suggested I call the Probation Department. A call to the Cuy. Probation Department, again not met with forthcoming information nor lack of interest in my identity, did get me transferred to the Diversion Department - and got me to one of the most refreshing women with whom one would ever want to speak.
- She told me what an odd case this one was... that though there was a journal entry that the women had been put in the Diversion Program - she had never seen them, they had never been clients of the Diversion Program, and they had never shown up.
Then with the recent help of another, I found out last week, what ELSE was so special about that Nov. 5, '07:
It seems that part of their Nov. deal, that kept them out of jail, and promised to get their records expunged, and possibly to have taxpayers pick up their massive legal tab for what they did and would not speak about, was also that they NEVER WERE REQUIRED TO SERVE ANY DIVERSION OR PROBATION duties or responsibilities or time either! They - and everyone involved - just walked off Scot Free!
No one - but US - essentially had to pay consequences (over and over and over again) for what was illegally done to us - faking our '04 presidential recount, which prevented us from seeing what may have also been illegally done to our '04 presidential election results, when "Bush took OH"
(Though Kerry won Cuyahoga, it is the overall numbers as accumulated into state numbers that matter. A small shift here, as in some other counties, could have aided the larger strange shift statewide, to cause the small-margin Blackwell/Bush "victory")
And remember - by November, '07 Vu also had been long gone from his approx. $120K Director job here, off to San Diego, since approximately the previous March, hired by a previous Utah election-crony for his next election stint, as Assistant Registrar of Voters at about $130K/year; after being allowed to "resign" here (per Bennett's insistence) despite a number of especially Dem calls for his firing or demotion; and allowed to take with him another $40K from Cuyahoga coffers as separation/consultancy agreement.
And by that time Bennett and the rest of the previous board were also long gone, removed by the SoS in the first half of the year, Bennett with a struggle, for which he stated plans to have taxpayers also pay for his lawsuit against the SoS too.
His public post-trial rants and campaigns of disinformation about the trial, the '04 election, the Prosecutors (who wouldn't deal the trial away - though on second thought, maybe they should have just done that. It would have saved us all alot of money, time and hoping things could turn out differently in Cuyahoga) and on other items have seemed to have quieted. (I don't know what he's doing behind the scenes.)
And by that time, Gwen Dillingham was also long gone, with her "resignation" and her March $40K "separation/consultation" agreement, which was also negotiated by none other than the same former board member, trial "defense" attorney, her good friend, Roger Synenberg, who it appears originally brought her to the CCBOE around '92, under his board tenure, as his "administrative aide."
(You can see this '92 early mention of Dillingham in this 18/15/92 PD article, available for download here, as it was saved from library-card accessed, PD archives. For more context about that article, and a review of the many '92 happenings/"foul-ups" as it is termed, at the CCBOE under Synenberg's CCBOE board tenure, refer to this 12/31/92 PD article, available for download here, also from library news archive. And for those of you who have access to such newspaper archive searches, after reading below, you might find it interesting to search many of the '91- '93 articles written by then PD-reporter, Bill Sammon. THAT was what journalism is supposed about.)
Will there be an end of "Diversion-That-Never-Was" hearing? Will Cuyahoga taxpayers also get stuck (or have they already gotten stuck) with the massive legal tab, for not only the Prosecutor, but also these womens' deal-making "defense" lawyers - seemingly working against us/against justice/against election justice? I don't know.
What will you do to try to find out, and do something about this, and other such continuing, entangled, ugly messes?