Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Wine Club Crushes It

PhillyVoice/Tracie Van Auken
By Ralph Cipriano

On Saturday morning, 28 men gathered outside a South Jersey warehouse to crush 25,000 pounds of grapes.

Stacked in the yard on grass and gravel were 680 36-pound boxes of grapes arranged in 17 stacks. The men were using hammers and crowbars to pry the lids off the boxes, so they could dump the grapes into two automatic crusher-destemmers.

As the machines roared, Guy Ferranti strolled through the crowd looking like a football coach on the sidelines carrying his laminated play cards.

Ferranti is the CEO of the Vino Degli Amici wine club, which loosely translated means "wine among friends."

The rest of the story can be read here.

Monday, September 18, 2017

State Attorney General's Office Tries To Keep Sandusky Probe Secret

By Ralph Cipriano
for BigTrial.net

What do you do when you screw up royally?

If you're the state Attorney General's office, you try to keep a top secret lid on everything, even if its years after they put Jerry Sandusky in jail.

That's what our A.G.'s office is up to. On June 28th,  Jennifer C. Selber, executive deputy attorney general, wrote Assistant U.S. Attorney D. Brian Simpson in Harrisburg, about all of the files the A.G. turned over to the feds three years ago from the state's grand jury investigation of Sandusky.

Selber's concern was that the U.S. Attorney's office not turn any of the A.G.'s records in response to a long-running FOI battle being waged by Ryan Bagwell, a former newspaper reporter and candidate for Penn State trustee. When Bagwell couldn't get any records out of the state, he filed FOI requests with the U.S. Attorney's office in 2014, and so far has recouped some 1,000 pages of documents.

The A.G.'s office wants to make sure no further documents are released.

"Initially, it must be understood that the investigation of Sandusky PSU and TSM [The Second Mile] was done through two Statewide Investigating Grand Juries," Selber wrote. "As such, all of the materials gathered by the OAG and provided to your Office were subject to grand jury secrecy."

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Inky Readers Hit Paywall

By Ralph Cipriano
for BigTrial.net

At 10:30 a.m. on the Tuesday after the Labor Day weekend, visitors to philly.com ran into a big surprise -- a brand new paywall.

If you were one of those readers who had already read 10 stories on philly.com that month, you were out of luck. No more freebies. Your only option, besides hopping on another computer, or accessing the site from another web browser, was to sign up for "unlimited digital access for 99 cents for four weeks, and $2.99 per week thereafter."

By the next day, Sept. 6th, philly.com, the formerly free website of The Philadelphia Inquirer and Philadelphia Daily News, recorded 67,804 "meter stops," meaning 67,804 readers had just ran into that paywall. "Of those who 'hit the meter,' we had 1,736 new digital subscribers sign up," wrote Fred Groser, chief revenue officer, in a Sept. 6th email to all employees of Philadelphia Media Network.

Monday, September 11, 2017

CNN Smears Joe Paterno With Old News From Tainted Source

By Ralph Cipriano
for BigTrial.net

On Saturday, when the Nittany Lions were defeating the Pittsburgh Panthers 33-14 to go 2-0 on a promising young football season, Sara Ganim of CNN posted a blast from Penn State's nightmarish past -- a big scoop that supposedly further tarred and feathered the ghost of the late Joe Paterno.

What startling new evidence did Ganim have to attack what was left of Paterno's credibility? A one-page police report about a 16-year-old incident from a tainted source in an investigation marred by blatant police and prosecutorial misconduct. And what did Ganim and CNN do with that police report? She claimed it "bolsters evidence" that Paterno "knew years before Jerry Sandusky's arrest that his longtime assistant might be abusing children."

You had to dig deep into Ganim's intellectually dishonest story to discover what her main new allegation was -- that Paterno supposedly knew about a 1998 incident where Sandusky was accused of hugging a naked 10-year-old boy in the shower. An incident investigated by the Centre County District Attorney's Office at the time and determined to be unfounded.

An incident that happened three years before the infamous 2001 Mike McQueary shower incident, where McQueary, according to the state attorney general's indictment, supposedly saw Sandusky anally raping another 10-year-old boy in the showers. Even though McQueary later admitted what the attorney general wrote wasn't true. And the alleged victim of the most infamous act of child abuse in the history of America never came forward to testify. Despite tons of publicity and a potential multimillion dollar payout.

With the so-called Penn State sex abuse scandal, it's getting harder and harder to separate reality from myth. All Ganim has done with her latest effort is to throw a fresh coat of mud on the situation and emphasize the need for independent scrutiny of the tainted investigation of Sandusky, as well as Ganim's central role in it.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Franco Harris: Graham Spanier Trial, Jail Sentence A Ridiculous Farce

By Ralph Cipriano
for BigTrial.net

Franco Harris thinks that former Penn State University President Graham Spanier got screwed.

Harris, 67, the former Penn State star and NFL Hall of Famer with the Pittsburgh Steelers, went on John Ziegler's "World According To Zig" podcast on Sunday to describe the trial and subsequent jail sentence of Spanier as a ridiculous farce.

 "They had this secret witness who was guarded by 1,000 police take the stand," Harris said, laughing. "It was a farce, it was staged."

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Big Ron Previte Dead At 73

By George Anastasia

Big Ron Previte, the mobster turned government witness whose cooperation brought down three crime bosses and changed the face of the Philadelphia mob, died last week after suffering a heart
attack, according to family members and friends.

A former Philadelphia police officer who once said he learned the most about how to be criminal while working as a cop, Previte as a larger-than-life figure who never tried to sugarcoat who he was or what he had done.

Six feet tall and sometimes weighing 300 pounds, Previte [pronounced previ-i-tee] was an imposing and intimidating figure, but he was also a shrewd and astute criminal entrepreneur. He described himself as a "general practitioner of crime" and admitted his involvement with almost every mob gambit . . . with the exception of murder.

To read the rest of the story, click here.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Lawyer For Former D.A.'s Bodyguard Claims He Was Retaliated Against For Cooperating With Feds

AP/Matt Rourke
by Ralph Cipriano
for BigTrial.net

Pierre Gomez had a front-row seat when it came to watching former District Attorney Rufus Seth Williams in action.

In 2010, Detective Gomez went to work on the personal detail for the new D.A. "As a member of the detail, Detective Gomez provided protection for Williams, which included traveling with Williams to events and other personal meetings," Robert J. McNelly, a lawyer for Gomez, wrote in a letter to Interim D.A. Kelley Hodge that threatens a federal lawsuit. "During this tenure, Detective Gomez gleaned much information regarding Williams' activities."

Gomez was on duty at the Union League the day the D.A. had lunch with Joseph Sullivan, then a chief inspector assigned to Homeland Security, and Mohammad Ali, the Jordanian-born businessman who pleaded guilty to bribing Williams.

Gomez was there the day Williams picked up a red 1997 Jaguar XK8 convertible from Michael Weiss, the owner of a Philadelphia gay bar who testified under a grant of immunity about bribing Williams. So the FBI came to Gomez in 2015, when the detective was assigned to the Drug Enforcement Agency, and asked him to cooperate with the federal investigation of his former boss. Gomez was granted immunity and cooperated with the federal investigation for two years. His reward, his lawyer says, was to be retaliated against by his bosses.

Cameron Kline, a spokesman for the D.A.'s office, did not respond to a request for comment. Gomez also declined comment.

Penn State Confidential: What Mike McQueary Heard And Saw, Part 2


PART TWO:  Editor’s Note:  Here is the second and final excerpt on Mike McQueary and Allan Myers from The Most Hated Man in America: Jerry Sandusky and the Rush to Judgment, by Mark Pendergrast.

By Mark Pendergrast
for BigTrial.net

McQueary's Quandry [From Chapter 12]

On Friday, Nov 11, 2011, Sara Ganim, who had publicly identified Mike McQueary as the “graduate assistant” in the grand jury presentment who had supposedly witnessed Sandusky sodomizing a boy in the shower, wrote that McQueary was “getting blasted by the public for doing too little.” 

He had received several death threats. The same day, newly appointed Penn State President Rodney Erickson announced that McQueary was being placed on administrative leave “after it became clear he could not continue coaching.”  Erickson pointedly continued:  "Never again should anyone at Penn State feel scared to do the right thing.”

McQueary was hard to miss around town.  He stood six feet five inches, topped by short bristles of bright orange-red hair, which gave him the nickname Big Red.  Now people were asking one another, “Why didn’t Big Red stop it?”  

On Tuesday, McQueary had called an emotional meeting with his Penn State players.  He looked pale and his hands were shaking.

 “I’m not sure what is going to happen to me,” he said.  He cried as he talked about the Sandusky shower incident.  According to one of the players, “He said he had some regret that he didn’t stop it.”  

 

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