Wednesday, March 30, 2011

"That's Wedding Planner Esquire To You, Bub!"

County Dems nominate wedding planner to be DA. Couldn't they find an interior decorator?

Quote of the Day:
I have a great respect and admiration for wedding planners. They play a critical role in certain elements of high society,” said county GOP leader Andrew Reilly. “But when it comes to someone serving as Delaware County’s district attorney, our chief law enforcement officer, I would prefer to have an active, practicing attorney in that role.”

On a more serious note, why not?

Kendell Brown has a law degree and a legal track record and the DA's job is more one of management than it is of actually trying cases. Active, practicing attorneys have proven themselves to be drunks, child molestors, and thieves. The GOP nominee, Jack Whalen, is none of those things. But why not someone with a little business experience outside the cloistered world of the legal profession?

David Landau defends the selection of Brown:
“If you were unemployed, a mechanic, and you haven’t worked in two years because you can’t get a job, that’s still your occupation or profession,” Landau said. “She’s trained as an attorney. I don’t see an issue with this.”
Wait a minute, what's Landau got against mechanics?

"It's Just Money"?

Elwyn sues builder and former boardmember James DeLuca for $1.6 million. According the lawsuit, DeLuca failed to pay his subcontractors for two months last year on the nearly complete $11 million Wechsler Residential Building project.

To see the project finished, Elwyn had cough up the $1.6 million a second time.

"It's just money..." said Elwyn President Sandy Cornelius.

Just money?

My print column is up.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Adding by Subtracting

I love this idea.

FedEx Follies Continue in Newtown Square

After a month of embarassing shilly shallying in Newtown Square, it was announced last night that Gwen Toyzer, the FedEx account abusing secretary, would be suspended from her job for 20 days without pay.

I was not there, but I am told the disciplining was announced by Commissioner George Wood who read a prepared statement that declared the whole matter "political," announced the punishment and then gaveled the meeting to a close.

Then all hell broke loose.

An objection was raised by Commissioner Joe Catania that the matter had to be voted on by the whole board. But township solicitor Bruce Irvine advised that it didn't. He said Township Manager Jim Sheldrake had the power to unilaterally discipline the employee. Why it took him so long to do so is another question.

More later.

Getting Permission from the Arab League But Not Congress?

President Obama's speech last night to explain to the America people why he decided to bomb Libya didn't work very well for Victor Davis Hanson.
President Obama just gave a weird speech. Part George W. Bush, part trademark Obama — filled with his characteristic split-the-difference, straw-man (“some say, others say”), false-choice tropes.

His support for those “yearning for freedom all around the world” was the sort of interventionist foreign policy that a Senator Obama — if his past reaction to the removal of Saddam Hussein is any indication — would have objected to, especially in the case of sending bombers over an Arab Muslim oil-exporting country. Since Saddam was a far greater monster (gassing thousands is far worse than turning off the water to neighborhoods) than the monsters that Obama now wishes to slay, I think he has confused rather than enlightened his audience.

There was no mention of the Congress. Is he going to ever ask its approval? And if not, why the repeated emphasis on asking others such as the Arab League or the UN for their approval — given that their representatives, unlike ours, are largely not elected?
A fair point. The rest can be found here.

Blacks Flee Liberal States

Walter Russell Meade on the new migration.
Two milestones in the long, painful decline of the blue social model were reached this week and reported, of all places, in the pages of the very éminence grise of the monde bleu: the New York Times.

The first was a piece of national and historical news: The Census reported that waves of blue state blacks fled the stagnant job opportunities, high taxes and rotten social conditions of the mostly blue northern states to seek better lives for themselves in the south. Bob Herbert, for many years the only regular Black columnist on the New York Times‘ op-ed page, has written his last column before stepping down.
Now, if Democrats would unlock the doors to public schools (and allow vouchers), many black families would flee their schools as well. Afterall, the Times didn't actively prevent Herbert from leaving their plantation.

The failure of blue social policy to create an environment which works for Blacks is the most devastating possible indictment of the 20th century liberal enterprise in the United States. Helping Blacks achieve the kind of equality and opportunity long denied them was more than one of many justifications for blue social policy: it was the defining moral task that has challenged and shaped American liberalism for the last fifty years.
Meade's piece is a tour de force. Read it all.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Prohibition for Upper Darby?

First Cheers, now Mike Chitwood wants to shut down Fibbers just because of a little shooting. Why not make Upper Darby a dry township? Carrie Nation would approve.

Loving to Hate TARP

Robert Samuelson defends TARP.
One lesson of the financial crisis is this: When the entire financial system succumbs to panic, only the government is powerful enough to prevent a complete collapse. Panics signify the triumph of fear. TARP was part of the process by which fear was overcome. It wasn't the only part, but it was an essential part. Without TARP, we'd be worse off today. No one can say whether unemployment would be 11 percent or 14 percent; it certainly wouldn't be 8.9 percent.

That benefited all Americans. TARP, says Douglas Elliott of the Brookings Institution, "is the best large federal program to be despised by the public."

Sunday, March 27, 2011


I just saw Limitless with my daughter. It's about a guy who takes a drug called NZT and becomes way smarter and ends up running for public office.

NZT would explain Obama. But it wouldn't explain Obamacare.

Scott Shields in Life

Here's a column from 2008 that I wrote about C. Scott Shields. We ran it today's paper with a writer's note.

It was written while Scott was very much alive. That's how I wanted to remember him.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Attorney and Mayor C. Scott Shields Dies

Horrible News.

Media Attorney and Rutledge Mayor C. Scott Shields died today while skydiving in Monroe Township, N.J.

Details on what happened are sketchy but the Gloucester County Times posted this about a couple hours ago.
MONROE TWP. — A man died this afternoon following a skydiving accident at Cross Keys Airport, Monroe Township police Det. Lt. Joe Smart said.

He declined to identify the victim pending notification of family but said the man was skydiving at Freefall Adventures Inc., located at the airport on Dahlia Avenue.

The Gloucester County Prosecutor’s Office is investigating the exact cause of what Smart said has been deemed an accident.

“At this point in time, we don’t know the cause,” he said. “It could have been a health issue, it could have been mechanical failure, it could have been human error.”

Smart added that authorities don’t believe the victim was a novice jumper. A first-time skydiver, or “tandem jumper,” would have to jump with an experienced mentor.

“From what we’ve gathered, we think he was an experienced jumper,” he said.

A friend of Scott's called me at home to see if I knew anything about it. Apparently, at least some members of his family have been notified. Messages of grief and goodbyes have been left on his Facebook page.

Scott was an incredibly nice guy who never shied away from taking on an unpopular client if he thought their constitutional rights were being trifled with.

He used to post comments on this blog under the moniker Pro Christ Pro Gun. Always the gentleman, even people who disagreed with his politics couldn't help liking him. He had a huge heart and was a principled man.

This is a terrible loss.


I think this Hipster Puppy lost a church basketball league championship game last night and had five beers and two shots of Jameson to celebrate.

I know just how he feels.

The Commander in Chief

Meanwhile, Charles Krauthammer weighs in on how NOT to go to war.
President Obama is proud of how he put together the Libyan operation. A model of international cooperation. All the necessary paperwork. Arab League backing. A Security Council resolution. (Everything but a resolution from the Congress of the United States, a minor inconvenience for a citizen of the world.) It's war as designed by an Ivy League professor.

True, it took three weeks to put this together, during which time Moammar Gaddafi went from besieged, delusional (remember those youthful protesters on "hallucinogenic pills") thug losing support by the hour -- to resurgent tyrant who marshaled his forces, marched them to the gates of Benghazi and had the U.S. director of national intelligence predicting that "the regime will prevail."

But what is military initiative and opportunity compared with paper?

Read it all.

He's Anti-Anti Discrimination Law

Haverford's Fred Teal files suit to block the township's new ordinance that outlaws discrimination against gays. Here was my question for Fred: If you owned a restaurant would you serve a gay couple?

My print column is up.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Matt Scott Rocks! GQ, Not So Much

Last week, we reported on GQ magazine's inaccurate trashing of Philly sports fans. It included the claim that America's first hand transplant recipient was booed for dribbling a ceremonial first pitch to home plate.

He wasn't and he didn't. New Jersey's Matt Scott threw a high strike and was cheered by a huge Opening Day crowd. He remembers it fondly and well. He thinks the world of Phillies fans. He's one of them.

Meanwhile, GQ and the author of it's snide little hit piece have refused to admit to their mistake, preferring to whitewash it instead.

My print column is up.

UPDATE: An email from a young reader:
Mr. Spencer,

First off, I am actually emailing you from my phone in school. I'm a junior
at (name withheld) high school. I'm not suppose to be doing this but I
could not wait to write to you. The article about GQ in Wednesday march 23rd
was brilliant. As a philly sports fan, I usually enjoy not being liked by
the majority of people around the country. The only thing that bothers me is
when the media exaggerates or in this case makes up stories about us for
negative attention. I really enjoyed reading that you tried several times to
let GQ know that they messed up. And the fact that they changed it but never
replied is great because they probably felt so embarassed being the high
profile company they are. With that being said, reading this article made my
morning and killed about a solid half hour of class.


(Name withheld to protect the guilty)
Of course, this young man ought to be ashamed for not paying attention to what I'm sure was a very important class. But at least he risked detention in pursuit of reading high quality journalism.

"Law-Abiding" Citizen?

Yeadon's Former Finance Minister Teri Vaughn doesn't know where the money went. But we know where she's going.

He's a Big Boy

Meet China's youngest Sumo wrestler. Michele Obama would be appalled.

Is it racist to ask, can this poor kid see?

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

GQ White Washes but Doesn't Correct

There's been a new development in the GQ Magazine story naming Eagles and Phillies fans the worst in America.

As you may recall, last week, we ran a mention of a GQ magazine story. But after calling up the story from the mag's web site, I found what appeared to be a pretty serious factual error.

In naming Philly fans the worst, write Adam Winer included the famous incident of America's first hand transplant recipient throwing out an honorary first pitch and being booed for dribbling it up to home plate.

The only problem with Winer's story is that it didn't happen. A quick Google search produced a video of the event. It happened on the first day of the 1999 season. Phillie fan and recent hand-transplant recipient, Matt Scott, was invited to throw out the first pitch. He hit the catcher's glove dead on and was cheered accordingly.

I posted about it here.

I sent emails to GQ and Adam Winer last week to see if they could reconcile what was in Winer's piece and what the video showed. I didn't hear back from them.

But today I discovered on GQ's Web Site the Winer's piece has been rewritten to exclude the phony story.

Before the piece began:
Over the years, Philadelphia fans have booed Santa Claus, their own star players, and most absurdly, the recipient of America's very first hand transplant, whose crime was dribbling in a ceremonial first pitch—thrown with his freshly transplanted hand. Boooo!
Now it reads:
Over the years, Philadelphia fans have booed Santa Claus as well as their own star players. They've even booed a guy who just helped the city win a friggin' World Series title—while he was getting his ring. Boooo!
Nice whitewash, eh?

I contacted GQ's parent company Conde Nast this morning and talked to Stefanie Adlerstein in their publicity department. I emailed her some questions and she said she would get back to me.

Stay tuned.

A Nonessential Family Reunion

On a full flight, Michael Judge heads to Japan with his wife to visit her family. Life goes on amid a horrible natural catastrophe.
Given the fear of aftershocks and the ongoing crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant some 150 miles northeast of Tokyo, my wife Masae and I had joked that we'd be the only ones on the Saturday flight. Shortly before take-off, the Associated Press ran a banner on their mobile site saying that traces of "radioactive iodine" had been detected in Tokyo's drinking water. Spinach and milk were also "tainted." Foreigners were already leaving in droves—a mass exodus from the world's densest metropolis was feared.

Indeed, when we told friends and acquaintances we were planning to return to Tokyo, my wife's hometown and the city where we met 17 years ago this spring, some treated us like characters from Albert Camus's "The Plague." Didn't we understand the risks involved? Why subject ourselves to possible contamination if it could be avoided? Many governments were sending planes to evacuate overseas nationals. Washington warned against all "nonessential" travel to Tokyo.

Nonessential—a strange word. Was it nonessential to attend a family wedding we'd been looking forward to for months? When the wedding was eventually cancelled, was it nonessential to be near loved ones at a time when so many had lost theirs? My wife and I had chosen to live in America—we hadn't chosen to abandon our family in Japan.
Nice piece. Read it all.

Obama at War with Left, Right and Himself

The Obama Administration is being attacked from the both the left and the right on its decision to intervene in Libya.

From the left: Michael Kinsley
:Wait a minute. How did this happen? A month or so ago, massive bombing of Libya was on no one's agenda. Libya's government was just as tyrannical and its leader was just as loony then as now.
From the right George Will:
The missile strikes that inaugurated America's latest attempt at regime change were launched 29 days before the 50th anniversary of another such -- the Bay of Pigs of April 17, 1961. Then, the hubris of US planners was proportional to their ignorance of everything relevant, from Cuban sentiment to Cuba's geography. The fiasco was a singularly feckless investment of US power.

Does practice make perfect? In today's episode, America has intervened in a civil war in a tribal society, the dynamics of which America does not understand. And America is supporting one faction, the nature of which it does not know.
In fact, on this President Obama is under attack from Candidate Obama, as pointed out by Mona Charen:
"I don't oppose all wars ... What I am opposed to is a dumb war. What I am opposed to is a rash war. What I am opposed to is the cynical attempt by Richard Perle and Paul Wolfowitz and other armchair weekend warriors in this administration to shove their own ideological agendas down our throats, irrespective of the costs in lives lost and in hardships borne.

Regarding the justifications for war with Iraq, state Sen. Obama was unpersuaded: "I suffer no illusions about Saddam Hussein. He is a brutal man. A ruthless man. A man who butchers his own people to secure his own power. He has repeatedly defied UN resolutions, thwarted U.N. inspection teams, developed chemical and biological weapons, and coveted nuclear capacity. ... But ... Saddam poses no imminent and direct threat to the United States, or to his neighbors ..."

Sunday, March 20, 2011

No Regrets in Havertown

In my print column, Haverford Commissioner Larry "The Taker" Holmes does his Edith Piaf impression over the township's $5 million Swell bubble gum debacle.

It's better in French.

Be strong, Larry, be strong.

UPDATE: See Pat Biswanger's comment about the stuff I left out. But my favorite is Newtownsquarepa's.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Meanwhile in Haverfraud...

More drama As The Square Turns. My print column is up.

But this is nothing compared to the incompetence in Haverford Township where the commissioners are about to stick the taxpayers with a $5-plus million bill for it's eminent domain taking of the Swell Bubble Gum factory from the Fenimore Family.

They, the Fenimores, are suing and they are winning.

More about that in Sunday's column.

GQ Ranks Philly Fans The Worst but GQ Wins For Worst Reporting

Ho Hum. Old news.

But the least GQ writer Adam Winer could do is get the reporting right.

From the story:
Over the years, Philadelphia fans have booed Santa Claus, their own star players, and most absurdly, the recipient of America's very first hand transplant, whose crime was dribbling in a ceremonial first pitch—thrown with his freshly transplanted hand. Boooo!
But New Jersey's Matt Scott didn't throw a dribbler and wasn't he booed.

Here's the Sports Illustrated story about Matt's toss. No mention of the "dribbling" or booing. And here's a video of the event which occurred in 1999. (Go to the 56 second mark!)

See any dribbling? Hear any booing?

When it comes to reporting at America's top Metrosexual Men's Magazines, GQ ranks far down the list.

UPDATE: The only place I could find a mention of Scott allegedly dribbling his pitch and being booed for it was on a 2005 Cincinnati Bengals message board. (You gotta scroll down.)

A guy name "David" wrote:
•In 1999, fans jeered Dallas Cowboys receiver Michael Irvin as he lay on the field for 20 minutes, suffering from a neck injury that ended his career.
•That same year, fans threw D batteries at St. Louis Cardinals outfielder J.D. Drew, who held out for a year after the Phillies drafted him and eventually signed with the Cards instead.
•Matthew Scott, the only person in the United States to have received a hand transplant, was asked by the Phillies to throw out the ceremonial first pitch at the team's home opener in 1999. The pitch, from his transplanted hand, dribbled over the plate. The fans booed.
•Eagles fans famously blasted Santa Claus with a shower of snowballs at halftime of a game as St. Nick circled helplessly around the field before stadium officials rescued him. Snowballs with batteries
Is it possible Winer lifted a lot of his information about how terrible Philly fans are from this particular post?

I'll email him and see if he responds.

UPDATE II: I couldn't find an email address for Winer. But I just sent this note to GQ's publicity department.
To Whom It May Concern:

I enjoyed Adam Winer's piece on America's worst fans. But being from the Philadelphia area I am quite curious. Where did Mr. Winer get his information about the hand-transplant recipient being booed for dribbling his honorary first pitch at a Phillies game?

Contemporaneous accounts (and a video of the event) conflict with Mr. Winer's reporting.

I am local newspaper columnist and would appreciate any information you can provide that would clear up the disparity.

I look forward to hearing from you at your earliest convenience.

Thanks and Cheers,

Gil Spencer
Daily Times

p.s. I did quite like Mr. Winer's assessment of Duke fans.
Maybe Scott flubbed a first pitch attempt that wasn't captured on video or otherwise reported and Winer has a scoop. We'll see.

UPDATE III: No word from GQ or Mr. Winer but the A.V. Club Philadelphia blog has a good post today about this. (Out of vanity I checked the time of their post. Spencerblog beat it by 5.5 hours. Booyah!)

They Don't Need No Stinkin' Badges

More on the cop test cheating fiasco.

This a professional tragedy for many of those involved, but it's an opportunity for others. There is no shortage of men and women who would like to be cops.

It's hiring time.

Last Call at Cheers

The LCB, the Upper Darby Police, Mike Chitwood and Commonwealth Court are all ganging up on Bob Herdelin.

Check out his new theme song:
Making your way in the world today takes everything you've got.
Giving the folks a nice place to go even though they might get shot

Wouldn't you like to get away?

Sometimes you want to go

Where hardly anybody knows your name,
but they always try to blame
You for what your customers do
their troubles are all a shame
You should head off to where nobody knows
Your name.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

FedEx-ed in Newtown: "For Reals Player?"

Newtown Square's FedEx-Gate is reaching a boil. My print column is up.

Was it the sound of popping champagne corks at the township building that led Joe Catania to suspect something was awry?

MPOETC Injustice

At least one defense attorney is pushing the idea that criminal convictions that involved any of the cops who have been decertified for allegedly cheating on the MPOETC test could face legal challenges.

Defense Attorney Mike Malloy Malloy said:
“I think it’s a serious issue. So much of an officer’s testimony is based on reputation,” said Malloy, explaining that a prosecutor brings out the length of time the officer has served and the number of courses he’s taken during his tenure as a policeman.
This is a ridiculous stretch.

First of all, as a matter of law, jurors aren't supposed to put any more credence into a police officer's testimony than they are anybody else's and this is made clear during jury selection.

Second, the more you know about this re-certification test stuff the more you know, "It's the stupidity, stupid." Not the corruption. Not the ethics. The dumbness. The dumbness of cheating on a test that's so easy "even a caveman can do it." (Hat tip: Bender)

Even smart, generally ethical people do amazingly dumb things that can have very sorry consequences. This appears to be one of them.

The leap from getting ensnared in this mess and perjuring one's self in a criminal trial is huge. It would be one thing if a cop was found to be seriously corrupt (taking drug money, threatening dealers and witnesses, etc.) then a defense lawyer might have a argument to make about overturning a conviction based on the officer's word in a drug case.

But this? I don't think so.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Janet Greenberg, R.I.P.

Sad news. Broomall's Janet Greenberg, deemed the state's Ambassador to Unclaimed Property due to her efforts to let people know they had money waiting for them they didn't know they had, has died. She was 79.

I first met Janet back in July of 2008 and wrote her up. That column was noticed by someone at the state's Department of the Treasury. She was honored with the title a couple of weeks later.

I wrote about Janet again last year and she sent me a batch of Hope's Cookies. Here's that column..

She was a nice lady and the best kind of busy body.

She died last week. Her daughter Rhonda called to let me know but I was out of town and didn't get the message until today.

May she rest in peace. God has reclaimed His property.

As The Square Turns II

I am told there may be a few fireworks in Newtown Square tonight when the commissioners get together for their bi-monthly meeting.

People are planning to show up to demand answers about the township's most recent government scandal: FedEx-Gate.

It turns out using FedEx to send personal packages while on Township time is NOT one of their "French benefits."

Welcome to Buttheadistan!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Molin Finale

In the end, Steve Molin's story didn't square with any of the forensic evidence at the scene of the crime. Meanwhile, a psychological test will be performed on him and whatever his disabilitiy is has can be taken into account for sentencing.

More here in what was supposed to be today's print column. (My bad.)

I will not be surprised if l hear from Steve by letter sometime in the next few days. I'll share any correspondence with Spencerblog readers.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Mama, Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up to be Cowboy Poets

Sen. Harry Reid, a never-ending source of amusement.
“The mean-spirited bill, HR 1 . . . eliminates the National Endowment of the Humanities, National Endowment of the Arts,” said Senator Reid. “These programs create jobs. The National Endowment of the Humanities is the reason we have in northern Nevada every January a cowboy-poetry festival. Had that program not been around, the tens of thousands of people who come there every year would not exist.”
Republicans and conservatives are having a field day. But nobody's come up with a better line than Mary Katherine Hamm:
John Boehner's America is a land in which cowboys would be forced into back-alley poetry recitations.

Explaining Public Sector Unions

Take it away, Andrew...

Meanwhile, the Obama Administration and its fellow Democrats are angling to give federal airport screeners collective bargaining rights. Why? Well, watch the video.

Friday, March 11, 2011

MPOETC Justice

The other shoe has dropped in the police re-certification cheating scandal. Up to 12 cops from a half dozen local departments have been notified that they have been de-certified, which means they can't legally work as police officers in Pennsylvania.

The investigation has taken more than a year and most, if not all, the local cops in question have been represented by FOP lawyer Skip Miller.

I talked to him about this back in December when there was a rumor circulating that the cops would be decertified before Christmas.

In explaining the case, Miller downplayed the importance of the test and the reason it is given. He said the exercise isn’t really about testing what a cop knows about doing his job, but how well the Municipal Police Officers’ Education and Training Commission does its training.

According to Miller, MPOETC’s stated goal for giving the test is to “be sure their curriculum is correctly presented.” In other words, the test is more for the teachers than it is for the students. (Of course, the problem with that line of argument is that if the students cheat, it deprives the test givers the chance to achieve their goal of knowing how well they presented the subject matter.)

Miller added that if a cop fails the test, he can take it again and again and again until he passes it. So why cheat on it?

I don't know, but laziness sounds about right.

Miller said there is no definitive proof that any "his guys" actually cheated or intended to cheat on the exam. But MPOETC came to a different conclusion.

The agency's only stated function is to certify and re-certify police officers across the state, supposedly to take sure they have the most up-to-date training required by law. MPOETC's testing procedure may be a joke, but that doesn't mean cops can send each other the answers to the tests in advance of taking them, any more than we are allowed to drive 85 m.p.h. on the Blue Route.

The difference is if we do get caught speeding, we get a ticket. We don't have our livelihoods taken away from us. And yet MPOETC makes it quite clear in it's rules and regulations, cheating is grounds for de-certification.

From MPOETC's website:
Revocation of certification.

(a) The Commission maintains the right to revoke certification after notice and an opportunity to be heard under Subchapter G (relating to notice and hearings) for one or more of the following:

(1) Failure to maintain employment as a police officer under the act.

(2) Failure to maintain first aid or CPR certification.

(3) Failure to qualify with firearms as specified in the Commission newsletter.

(4) Failure to successfully complete annual mandatory in-service training as specified in the Commission newsletter.

(5) Physical or psychological impairment which renders the officer permanently unable to perform his duties.

(6) Conviction for a disqualifying criminal offense.

(7) Submission to the Commission of a document that the police officer knows contains false information including fraudulent application.

(8) A certification issued in error.

(9) Cheating.
Some officers have already lost their jobs over this. It looks like more are on the way out as well.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Molin Guilty of Murder in the Second Degree

SNOW HILL, Md. - A Worcester County jury acquitted Darby's Steve Molin of first degree murder in the death of his 85-year old mother, but found him guilty of second degree homicide, which carries a possible prison term of 30 years.

After the verdict was read, and as Judge Thomas Groton III was ordering a pre-sentence psychological evaluation of the defendent, Molin abruptly stood up and asked to address the court.

"I would like to give a 10 minute speech," he announced.

The judge told him that it wouldn't be a appropriate at this time.

"I would like to read a poem to the court," Molin persisted.

His attorney finally convinced him to sit down. Groton told Molin he would be able to make statment at a later date before sentencing.

State Attorney Beau Oglesby, the prosecutor in the case, announced himself satisfied that justice had been done.

"While I don't necessarily agree with the verdict, I respect this verdict," said States Attorney Beau Oglesby.

"We thought First Degree was very appropriate in this case... (but) I respect the jury's decision and I certainly think justice was done.

Defense Attorney Burton Anderson declined comment.

Harry Collinson, a friend of Molin's came down from his home in Aston, Pa. to testify on Molin's behalf. For months, Collinson said he believed Molin was innocent off all the charges against him. But after hearing a summation of the evidence against him this morning, he had his doubts.

He called the prosecution's case against his friend, "compelling."

"I think the jury made a decison based on the facts presented," Collinson said. "I can undertand their decision even though I disagree with it."

Molin claimed that on the night of Aug 31, 2010, his mother fell out of his truck as they made they were making their way back to Pennsylvania from an unscheduled trip to visit his father's gravesite.

He told police officers that after he noticed his mother had disappeared, he backed up the truck and accidentally ran her over.

Forensic evidence at the scene and the injuries to Mrs. Molin led police to believe that accident couldn't have happened the way Molin said it did.

Further information, indicating that Molin had lost custody of his mother to a court-appointed guardian a year earlier, and that he was upset and depressed about the prospect of losing his home, led investigators to suspect foul play.

In court, Oglesby said Molin explanation for what happened that night "defies physics, science, medicine" And "common sense."

The defense had no answer to all forensic and medical evidence produced by the state.

After his conviction, on his way out of the courtroom, Molin looked back at a reporter and said what he's been saying all along.

"I'm innocent. It was an accident."

As the jurors filed, out one of them - a blonde woman carrying a container of food - wept.

Molin's Defense

One of the most startling things about Steve Molin's defense is that with all the talk about his demeanor at the scene of the crime/accident, his lawyer never put on any witnesses who might have been able to explain to the jury why Steve acted so strangely.

If he is autistic, as many of friends and relatives suspect, that might help explain his weird behavior that night when talking to police.

It wouldn't explain the discrepancy between his story and the laws of physics and science. But it would help his explain his demeanor and actions.

Knowing that Steve has a real and discernible disability might have been the difference between a jury finding him guilty of First Degree and Second Degree murder. Maybe even manslaughter.

Since no evidence was presented along those lines, all the jurors have to go on is their hearing of Molin's 911 call and a half hour portion a police interview with him. That, and his awkward behavior in court. Not very much.

UPDATE: And yet I just found this in the Journal of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law Online
Asperger's Disorder remains an under-diagnosed condition because of clinical unfamiliarity with its adult presentation. As forensic clinicians become familiar with the presentation of Asperger's disorder, it appears that affected individuals are over-represented in forensic criminal settings. Unique features of such persons may heighten their risks for engaging in criminal behavior. Both Theory of Mind deficits and a predilection for intense narrow interests, when coupled with deficient social awareness of salient interpersonal and social constraints on behavior, can result in criminal acts.... From a neuropsychiatric perspective, these disorders appear to have a biological underpinning for deficits in empathy, a finding that may have important repercussions when assessing remorse in criminal proceedings.
Asperger's is a form of autism.

Which is to say, opening the door about an autism diagnosis, might have allowed the prosecution to ask such an expert about the "heighten risks" of criminal behavior and all that other stuff.

Closing Arguments

SNOW HILL, Md. - In his closing statement to the jury in the murder trial of Steve Molin, States Attorney Beau Oglesby summed up the states' case with an effective and damning recapitulation of the evidence against the defendant.

He started by posting a photo of a smiling Emily Molin for the jury to see.

At the very beginning of the trial, Oglesby reminded the jury he used the words "Uncomfortable, unthinkable, unimaginable, inconceivable," to describe what Steve Molin was accused of. But in answer to the question "can a son kill his mother?" the answer, in this case, was clearly yes.

Oglesby scoffed at the notion that Molin "loved" his mother. Sons who love their mothers don't allow them to sit around in "urine-soaked" diapers or let family cats eat their food off their plates.

Mrs. Molin, 85, had dementia and had to be court-ordered into a nursing home where she could get the medical and personal care she need. And that both frightened and infuriated her son, said Oglesby.

Molin, Oglesby said, was "quick to anger" and "often agitated" after his mother was removed from his care. And he was worried about losing his home and livlihood. And so on the evening of Aug. 31 last year, he picked his mother up at the Sterling Nursing home in Media and without the permission of her legal guardian, drove her to Maryland where she ended up dead on a dark country road.

As for Molin's story that his 85-year-old mother fell out of his truck and he accidentally ran over her, not once but twice, Oglesby told the jury, "I suggest to you that is impossible... I submit that his version of events... defies physics, science, medicine. It defies common sense."

If Mrs. Molin had fallen out of the truck that night traveling 35 to 40 m.p.h. "there would be evidence of that happening." But there is no such evidence.

At the death scene, Molin is "cool, calm and collected."

"She fell out of the car," he tells police.

Said Oglesby, "He had just accidentally run over his mother multiple times and he sticks to that story like a dog with a bone."

He asked the jury to recall the testimony of Lt. Edward Schreier, the states crash expert. If Emily Molin had fallen out of that truck she would have tumbled and slide 80 feet forward in the same direction. Molin couldn't have stopped any faster than 162 feet. That means he would have had to have backed up 80 feet to run over his mother again.

Oglesby also reminded the jury how Mrs. Molin's injuries were not consistent with a fall from a moving vehicle.

"The only evidence that she fell out of a moving vehicle is Molin statements."

Again Oglesby said, "impossible, inconceivable and unbelievable."

He reminded the jury of Molin's past statements about how he would rather she his mother dead than in a nursing home. And of his depressed state on the night of his mother's death. And what he allegedly told a fellow prison inmate after his arrest: "She had something I wanted. She wouldn't give it to me. I was mad at her. She had to go."

After Oglesby's 40-minute closing, Defense Attorney Burton Anderson, did very little to controvert the evidence presented against his client.

He suggested that Molin's behavior at the accident scene was nothing less than cooperative. He did his best to answer questions and explain what happened but Worcester county and state police had "jumped the gun" and developed their own theory of what happened after mistaking smudges on the back of Molin's truck for his mother's hand prints.

After those smudges were sent to the state crime lab and the results came back inconclusive, "the whole theory of thier case came tumbling down."

Anderson claimed that the reason why Steve Molin was in Maryland that night was because "He simply wanted to spend time with his mother."

"The state," said Anderson, "has mistaken his love with anger... He wanted to take his mother in bosom of his chest," and out of that nursing home, "because of love and compassion, not vengence."

He talked about the people who came down and testified to Molin's good character and devotion to his mother. And then asked the jury consider the lesser charge of manslaughter if they ended up believing that Mr. Molin had been "negligent" in causing his mother's death.

It was, all and all, a pretty weak performance. During most of the trial he did nothing to challenge the findings of police or the testimony of any of prosecutions witnesses.

He did nothing to show the jury that Molin's behavior at the scene that night, his demeanor, might have had something to do with a mental disability that people who have known him for year have recognized. Anyone who listens to him speak and observes him for more than a few minutes would quickly realize there is something off about him. That he is slower than most people.

But even some of his staunchest supporter and old friend who testified on his behalf, listened to Oglesby closing found they could no longer believe Molin's story.

Harry Collinson, of Aston, was a sequestered witness so he couldn't listen to the evidence at trial.

Monday he said he would "bet his house" that Molin would never intentionally harm his mother. But after listening to Oglesby closing this morning, he has much stronger doubts.

"Compelling," was how he described Oglesby closing.

The best, he said, he was hoping for was a verdict of murder in the second degree.

The jury is out. How long, remains to be seen.

Daylin Leach: V.I.P.

I think my Pen Pal relationship with Sen. Daylin Leach is coming to an end. In response to my response to his response, etc. he writes:
Again, I don't get a free car. I pay for my car. I only get reimbursed for work miles.

And I didn't "flee the field". I just have a lot more important things
to do than engage in lengthy environmental debates with someone who
clearly has absolutely no knowledge of the topic just to give you
material for a blog which I'm guessing about 8 people read. Lets just
agree to disagree from this point forward.
As I understand it, Sen. Leach drives a state car from the state fleet, which means he doesn't have to pay to maintain the vehicle or insure it. All he pays for is gas, and he gets reimbursed for that when he drives for "work."

If my company gave me a car to park in my driveway and to drive wherever and whenever I wanted, I would consider it a nice (untaxable) perk or benefit, in so far as it would save me the considerable expense of buying my own car.

As for the rest, I have no doubt our fine state senator has a lot of things to do that he considers "more important" than having to defend his own silly statements and tax-raising proposals.

So, by all means, let's just agree to disagree.

Molin Trial: Day III

I received this email yesterday from Pat Angel:
I have been reading about the "Steve Molin" case and I just wanted to share some information with you.

I lived in Darby as a kid and I attended Darby-Colwyn High School. Steve Molin was several years older than me and graduated the same year as my sister. My father worked with Emily Molin at Conrail and was friends with her, as well. So much so, that they sat together on the train each evening on the way home from Philly.

Every evening Steve would pick his Mom up from the train or he would walk her home. I just find all of this very hard to believe that he killed his mother.

When I was in high school, word was that Steve was mentally retarded or slow. I don't know what the classification was, but he acted like a nine/ten year old kid.

He was, more or less, just pushed through school, as far as his classwork was concerned, with the exception of wood shop. He was an excellent carpenter. That said, I never, ever, remotely saw anythng to suggest he would harm anyone - especially his mother. Mentally, Steve seemed much, much younger than his chronological age and I can't see him even being able to take care of his mom. She took care of him.

Just to give you an idea of his behavior, at age 20, when he would see my sister (who he had a crush on) he would be screaming her name as he walked down the street, (first and last name) at least three, four, five times and Emily would have to intervene and tell him that was enough. This happened at least two, three times a week, every week for years. He was like a loud boisterous kid who couldn't wait his turn. As you can imagine, he was teased a lot at school, because he was very childlike and gullible. My sister always felt bad for him and was very kind and treated him well and he was crazy about her.

Twenty years later, he met my sister at the mall and the first thing he said to her was, "oh, you got fat." My sister and I couldn't stop laughing. By then, he was about 40 years old. That was typical for Steve, he was very immature. Mentally, he was like a kid. I just cannot believe that he would of purposely done this. Have the courts had him evaluated? Has he been found to be mentally competent?

This is so sad. His mother would be devastated that he is in this position. He will more than likely be used and abused while in prison. I left Darby over 35 years ago, and both my parents have been gone for over 30 years. I have not seen Steve or Emily in over 30 years, but I find it hard to believe that Steve Molin is in jail and being tried for killing his mother. I just don't believe it.

To Pat's question about whether the courts have had him mentally evaluated the answer is no. At least, as far as I know.

There are other people who know Steve, who also question his level of mental competence. But his attorney apparently decided this would be a fruitless road to travel down. Steve's character witnesses, most of whom Steve worked for as a plumber at one time or another, all testified to his competence and his reliability and as a plumber. One of the things they liked best about him were his "reasonable" rates. I would argue that it's possible that his rates were "unreasonably" low for the work he did. He may have been a competent plumber but he was a lousy businessman.

States Attorney Beau Oglesby made a point of asking Molin's business acquaintances about his "competence" in his work. To a person, they all sang his praises. In my opinion, Oglesby wanted to make sure the jury didn't have any reasonable doubt Molin had the mental ability to form the intent to commit of murder.

Outside of court, Harry Collinson, who has known Molin for 10 years, offered the layman's opinion that he probably suffers from some form of autism for which he has never been formally disagnosed. It would explain his child-like personality, his odd manner of speaking, and his occasional emotional outbursts.

Could such a person commit murder? I don't know why not. I think it is clear that Molin is "competent" to stand trial. He is assisting in his own defense. He obviously knows the difference between right and wrong. And he remains steadfast in his denials that he intentionally harmed his mother.

It would have been interesting to see him on the witness stand. He does, as former District Justice Tom Lacey testified, exudes the quality of someone who would have a hard time being deceptive.

While his story about what happened that night has holes in it that you could drive his 2,000-pound work van through, no one has been able to shake him from the core part of it. Whether this is just a matter of stubborness, rationalizing, or pure deception, I don't know. But I least suspect the latter.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

In the Molin Case, Everybody Rests!

Court let out at 7:20 p.m. I just sent this story to paper. You can read it here first.

SNOW HILL, Md - A Worcester County accident reconstruction expert testified this morning that if Emily Molin had fallen out of her son's truck on the night of her death, Steve Molin would have had to have backed up at least 80 feet to run over her.
That and a number of other factors led Lt. Edward Schreier to conclude that Molin's story, of his mother falling out of his truck and his accidentally backing over her to be not credible.

Based on the speed Molin told police he was going that night - about 40 m.p.h. - Schreier calculated, that Mrs. Molin's body would have ended up some 30 yards behind where Molin would have stopped his truck.

Nevertheless over the course of a 10 hours of being questioned by county and state police, Steve Molin never wavered from his story that his 85-year-old mother fell out of his truck and he accidentally ran over her on a dark country road just before midnight on Aug. 31 of last year.

He is charged with first degree murder and related other offenses.

Both the prosecution and the defense had rested their cases late yesterday with Molin never taking the witness stand

The jury did however hear a tape of Molin being interviewed by investigators the morning after his mother was killed.

On the tape, despite sustained efforts by police to get Molin to admit he intentionally ran over his mother, he steadfastly maintained that what happened was an accident.

"You know you did it," one detective tells him on the tape.

"It was an accident...," Molin replies. "I'm trying to be very honest."

Another detective summed up the opinion of the entire investigative team, when he said to Molin on tape, "I just don't believe your story."

Earlier in the day, Lt. Scheier pointed out that at the speed Molin told him he was going, said it would have taken him at least 100 feet to stop after noticing his mother was gone from the cab of his work truck.

Schreier testified that he combed distance between the spot where Molin's truck was discovered that night, looking for any evidence that his mother fell and skidded down the road but found none.

"I don't believe Mrs. Molin fell out of that vehicle," Schreier told the jury. "My conclusion was Mrs. Molin was standing behind the vehicle and was backed over."

Assistant Medical Examiner Laron Locke also said that the victim's injuries were not consistent with someone who had fallen from a vehicle. He said he would have expected "longer abrasions" and "scraping" on the body which he referred to as "road rash," but he didn't see any.

When graphic autopsy photos were introduced into evidence, a disheveled Molin abruptly turned his chair around and sat with his back to the jury and where the photos where being shown. Throughout the ME's testimony about his mother's terrible injuries, Molin held his head in his hands.

Also testifying for the prosecution was Carol Hershey, Emily Molin's court-appointed guardian, after the county applied for and served an emergency petition to have her placed in a Media nursing home in 2009.

Hershey described Steve Molin as uncooperative and often angry after a county court judge awarded legal custody of Mrs. Molin to her firm Guardian Services of Pa.

"He was upset and angry about it and towards me," she said. "He repeatedly said we were going to take everything from him."
Her attempts to reassure him, she said, were fruitless.

On the night he took his mother from the Sterling nursing home in Media down to Maryland, a nurse testified Monday that Molin told her that he wanted to "kill" Ms. Hershey.

Hershey testified that she called the Media Police and reported the threat.

Later that night when Molin still hadn't returned with his mother to the nursing home, Hershey said she attempted to reach Molin herself but didn't hear from him until after Mrs. Molin was fatally injured.

The prosecution's last witness was a jail house snitch named Nicholas Walter. He had just started a 6-month jail sentence for pot possession when he met Molin in a holding cell. He claimed Molin told him that on the night in question he wanted his mother to "do something" but she wouldn't do it.

"He said he was mad at her and she had to go," Walter testified. "It kind of freaked me out."

At that point, Molin yelled out, "I don't even know this guy."

His lawyer told him to be hush up.

Walter went on to say he came forward because he couldn't "sleep, eat," or "sit still."

"It kind of ate at my own conscience," he claimed.

When defense attorney Burton Anderson suggested that Walter was looking to ingratiate himself with authorities just in case he ever got busted again, he replied "Absolutely not."

After the prosecution rested, Anderson put on a stream of character witnesses, mostly people from Delaware County, who have known Molin for years.

They included former Darby Borough District Magistrate Tom Lacey, who said he's known Steve and Emily Molin for 32 years.
He described their relationship as "very close and very loving," and described Steve as "child-like" and honest, "almost to the point of an inability to fabricate."

Others described Molin as being "loving, kind, thoughtful, tender, reliable, considerate," and with a reputation for honesty that was "absolutely impeccable."

Closing arguments begin this morning and then the case will go to the jury. A verdict could come as early as this afternoon.

Molin Trial: Day Two II

SNOW HILL, Md - A Worcester County accident reconstruction expert testified this morning that if Emily Molin had fallen out of her son's truck on the night of her death, Steve Molin would have had to have backed up at least 80 feet to run over her.

That and a number of other factors led Lt. Edward Schreier to conclude that Molin's story, of his mother falling out of his truck and his accidentally backing over her to be incredible.

Based on the speed Molin told police he was going that night - about 40 m.p.h. - Schreier calculated, that Mrs. Molin's body would have ended up some 30 yards behind where Molin would have stopped his truck.

To make the point clear to the jury of just how far that is, States' Attorney Cheryl Jacobs walked a tape measure from one corner of this large courtroom to another and was still 14 feet short of 80.
Moreover, according to Schreier, Molin had a working rear camera display in his truck that night so that he should have been able to see anyone or anything behind that night.

Schreier made a few other strong points that undermine Molin's story.

He said that at the speed he was going, it would have been difficult for Emily Molin to push the door open and she would have had to have "propelled" herself away from the truck to avoid hitting the side of it on her way out.

Schreier also said it would have taken Molin at least 100 feet to stop after noticing his mother was gone.

Schreier testified that he combed distance between the spot where Molin's truck was discovered that night, looking for any evidence that his mother fell and skidded down the road way but found none.

"I don't believe Mrs. Molin fell out of that vehicle," said Schreier. "My conclusion was Mrs. Molin was standing behind the vehicle and was backed over."

Assistant Medical Examiner Laron Locke also said that the victim's injuries were not consistent with someone who had fallen from a vehicle. He said he would have expected "longer abrasions" and "scraping" on the body which he referred to as "road rash." But he didn't see any.

When state's attorney Beau Oglesby announced that he would be showing autopsy photos that some people might find "disturbing," Steve Molin turned his chair away from the defense table and started scooching away. His attorney Burton Anderson told him to "stop" and pulled his chair back to the table.

As the graphic photos were shown to the court, Molin sat with his back turned and hunched over, his head in his hands.

Day Two

The second day of the Steve Molin trial starts shortly. There will be more testimony from police, including an accident reconstructionist who is expected to say that the accident that Steve Molin described that night couldn't have happened the way he said it did.

There will also be testimony from people who know Steve Molin. People who have seen him dote on and attempt to care for his aging mother Emily while she lapsed into dementia and incontinence.

They see him as a devoted, if somewhat incompetent, son and caregiver. What they don't see him as is a willful murderer.

The most serious problem the defense faces in this case is that Emily Molin did, in fact, die horribly while in the care of her son. He drove her out of the state without the permission of her court-appointed guardian and she ended up dead. Even if you believe everything, Steve says, he is guilty of being woefully irresponsible.

So far, it has been made clear by the prosecution that Emily Molin needed more and better medical and personal care than her son could provide at their home. Stories about her urine-soaked diapers and the family cats eating her food, suggest that the county made the correct decision to place in in a nursing home.

Still to testify is the woman, Steve hired to help take care of his mother. The minister from his church is also here. So is his aunt, who doesn't believe for a moment Steve would intentionally kill his mother.

Nevertheless, it seems a long shot that a jury hearing these facts, won't find Molin guilty of something. First degree murder may be a long shot. But second degree seems, to me, quite likely.

I'm off to court.

Fun With Daylin

Sen. Daylin Leach responds to my response to his response to my Sunday column. I respond.

Thank you for forwarding this to me. I sense that an environmental debate is pointless. People feel how they feel and nothing I say will change that. It's like debating abortion or the death penalty. Neither of (us) has time for that.

I still cling to some hope that you actually care about facts on legislative compensation. So I will take one more crack at that.

You may feel we're paid to much. You may feel we shouldn't be paid anything. That is your right, and you wouldn't be alone. But it is simply factually inaccurate to tell people that I make up to $150,000 per year and you must know that it is also inaccurate to count reimbursements as "compensation".

Lets assume for the moment that the Delco Times gets much more ambitious in their coverage of international affairs and sends you to Libya to cover the revolution there. Would the plane ticket they bought you be counted as income? How about your room at the Marriott Tripoli?

The per diems some of us get are to reimburse us for the hotels and food we purchase when we stay overnight in Harrisburg or elsewhere in the state more than 50 miles per home. We have the only job in the state where we are required to live up to 6 hours away from our jobs.

I would point out two additional facts. We didn't set the $163 figure, the IRS did. It is the standard amount they allow for per diems across the country in the public and private sectors. Second, the only two hotels in walking distance of the capitol both charge more than $163 per night we get and this does not count food. We often lose money on the per diems versus a straight receipt-based reimbursement. An its not just me who says that is not income. The IRS and the PA Dept of Revenue feel the same way.

You also misrepresent the car situation. I do not get a $7,800 car allowance. I have a fleet vehicle. I pay every cent of the cost of that vehicle for every mile I drive for personal purposes. The state pays only for the miles I drive for work, not counting miles I drive to and from my house to my district office which is considered personal driving. Again, if you consider mileage reimbursement income, you would be the only one who did.

If you are interested in being an actual journalist who tells a true story, I hope this is helpful. If you just have an axe to grind and only are interested in facts that support your pre-conceived notions, then obviously I've again wasted my time.

So, after sarcastically insulting me and accusing me of not having my facts straight and blatantly (but ineffectively) lying about what I wrote in my Sunday column re: the proper disposal of plastic bags in landfills, you flee the field. Did you learn that in law school or in Harrisburg?

But, I understand. And I think you are right that an environmental debate is pointless, especially with someone like you, who doesn't know (or admit to) the difference between "pollution" and "trash." As you say people "feel how they feel." If you "feel" trash and pollution are one and the same thing, what can I say other than I thought words had meaning to most lawyers. Of course, you traded that calling in to be a full-time politician. As we all know, politicians have a tendency to believe words have whatever meaning a politician dares to assert at any given moment in time.

Now, on to your attempt to justify your pay and benefits.

You claim that the IRS set the $163 per diem rate, as if you and colleagues were required to take it. Well, you're not. And you know it. Legislators in many other states don't. And where they do, they are paid substantially lower salaries. For instance in nearby Virginia, legislators get a per diem but they are only paid $18,000 a year. But then you guys do such a better job running our commonwealth than they do theirs, right?

That you don't consider your free car from the state fleet to be a "benefit" is telling as well. Most people in the private sector would consider a free car, a perk, a nice benefit, especially since it isn't considered a taxable one. After all, it saves you the cost of buying your own vehicle, as well as servicing, maintaining and insuring it.

I wrote Sunday that your pay and benefits add up to between $120,000 and $150,000. That was, I feel (as you like to say), quite accurate.

But if you would like to provide me a more detailed accounting of what you've accepted from the state in the way of pay, reimbursements and other benefits I will be glad to publish it. Please include receipts and your last three years tax returns.

In the meantime, readers/taxpayers can take a gander this story by Robert Swift of the Times-Tribune detailing all the goodies to which our elected public servants have entitled themselves.

You can read it too, Daylin. I'm sure you'll want to fire off an e-mail to Bob to lament his biased and pointless reporting, if you haven't already.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

End of Day One

Having spent the first day in his murder trial, calmly listening to witnesses for the prosecution recount how he said he'd would "kill" his mother if she were taken away from him, and how agitated, depressed and angry he'd been in the months after Emily Molin had been court-ordered into a nursing home, it was the sound of his own voice that caused accused murderer Steve Molin to drop his head and weep.

It was the playing of the 911 tape of his call to Worcester County emergency service, that caused him to lose it. And yet, the voice on tape, sounded oddly unemotional as Molin tried to explain to a dispatcher where he was and that his mother was hurt real bad.

"I need an ambulance. My mom's door flew open and I ran over her," Molin says. Asked where he is by a dispatcher, Molin replies, "I'm right next to her. I need help, please..." almost as if he's trying to order a meal in a restaurant.

He tries to tell the dispatcher where he is but then starts repeating himself. "The door flew open and the truck ran over her. I backed up... Come on, my mom's in pain. I don't know what happened."

He's asked if she's breathing.

"Barely," he replies.

"Is she trapped?"

No, he says. And then this: "I'm in horror. I'm in horror..."

He goes on... "I think I backed over her. Her leg is broken in half."

"Is she bleeding?" the dispatcher asks.

"There blood all over the street... I can't see my mom. She's in a lot of pain. How far are you?"

The dispatcher assures him help is on the way.

"Is she still talking to you?" she asks.

"I'm in shock," Molin says. "Where are they. My phone is going to die."

And all this he says in that slightly detached manner he has that has caused a number of people who know him to believe he suffers from some sort of undiagnosed autistic-like disorder.

It is at the end of the 911 call, Steve Molin drops his head in his hands and then starts reaching for tissues.

Before the playing of the tape, three staff members from the Sterling Nursing in Media, where 85-year-old Emily Molin lived for almost a year, testified, recalling uncomfortable encounters with her son.

He was frequently agitated and made it quite clear to anyone who would listen that he wanted his mother to come back to their Darby home to live with him. But she was increasingly disabled by dementia and unable to feed, bath or clothe herself.

The prosecution is painting a picture of a desperate man unhappy with the cost of his mother's care and afraid that it would leave him destitute and homeless.

Judith Sweeney, a nurse at Sterling helped take care of Mrs. Molin. She said Steve came to visit his mother frequently but ended up talking to "pretty much anybody who was around."

"He would talk to me about problems he was happing. He was unhappy (that his mother was in the nursing home) and how much it was costing him. How he would be left with nothing."

On the night of Aug 31, Sweeney recalled, Molin showing up late to take his mother out to dinner. When he didn't have her back to the nursing home by 9 p.m. she called him on his cell phone and left a message. It wasn't until 10:45 p.m. that Molin called back and told her that he'd driven his mother out of the state to where his father's gravesite.

"He was very upset," said Sweeney. He lashed out at his mother's court-appointed legal guardian Carol Hershey.

"I just want to kill Carol Hershey," Sweeney recalled Molin telling her.

But, she said, he said he would bring his mother back that night but it would take several hours because of where they were.

Worcester County Det. Robert Trautman testified that after being dispatched to the scene, he discovered Emily Molin lying in the road behind her son's truck with terrible injuries to her arms, legs, chest and head. But she was conscious. She was unresponsive to questions to kept repeating two words; "Hurry up, hurry up."

Under cross examination by Public Defender Burton Anderson, Trautman admitted, that he'd failed to record exactly where the body had been found in the road before she was transported to a local hospital. She died a short time later.

Molin Trial: Day One

SNOW HILL, Md - "Uncomfortable, unthinkable, unimaginable, inconceivable," those are the words Maryland States Attorney Beau Oglesby used to describe what Steve Molin did to his 85-year-old mother, Emily, in nearby Berlin last August.

As awful as it is to contemplate, Oglesby said in his opening statement to a jury of 8 women and 4 men, "family members steal from other family members. Husbands beat their wives. Fathers molest their daughters" and "sons do murder their mothers."
Molin stands of accused of "intentionally" killing his mother late on the night of Aug. 31, "running her over multiple times" with his work truck.

But what Oglesby called a "willful, deliberate and premedidated," act, defense attorney Burton Anderson called a tragic "accident."

In his opening statement to the jury, Anderson said the prosecution was attempting to "put a square peg into a round hole."
He said his client spent his entire adult life living with and ultimately taking care of his mother.

"Everything he did, included her," Anderson told the jury.

He brought his mother down here that day to visit the town where she grew up and to visit relatives and his father's grave.
He said that on the night in question, somehow the passenger door Emily Molin was sitting next somehow opened and "she fell into the roadway."

He said a distracted Molin, backed the truck up, felt it run over her, and then pulled forward running over her again.
"This was an accident," said Anderson. "I don't care what the pictures show or how they twist the evidence or how they pick and choose their words to fit the story...

"This is a case of the blind leading the blind," Anderson told the jury, "and the question is will you follow."

The prosecution's first witness was Jane Ervin, a Delaware County process server. She testified that when she attempted to serve a emergency court order in Aug 2009, - an order that required Mrs. Molin to be removed from her Darby home and placed in a nursing home - her son became agitated.

"I'd kill her before I'd let you people have her," Ervin quoted Molin as saying.

A little more than a year later, she was killed in what was either an accident or a homicide.
Roberta Wilson an investigator from COSA, testified that after 10 to 15 visits during the summer of 2009, it was determined that Mrs. Molin, who suffered from dementia and Alzheimer's was not being properly cared for at her home and needed institutionalization.

During jury selection, Molin, wearing a white shirt, tie and dark slacks, quietly stood with his hands clasped in front of him looking absurdly innocent, his thatched and unruly hair, going off in all directions.

A handful of people, some who will be character witnesses, drove the three hours down from Delco to lend him support.
Roy Rasnake of Essington and Lou Zigmund of Upper Chichester were there.

Zigmund, a retired music teacher from Darby said Molin was a special education student at his Darby High, when he was there. What he remembered about Steve was that though being special ed student, he built a beautiful grandfather's clock in shop.
He even got his picture in the paper for it.

Both men said Steve, a plumber by trade, has done work for them, good work, at reasonable prices.
"We want to let him know that there are still people who care about him," said Rasnake.

Steve Molin: Accused Murderer & Poet

Jury selection is about to begin for the trial of Steve Molin.

One of the last things he sent me from the Worcester (pronounced "Wooster") County jail was an "Editorial" that he titled "Thought for a Life Time." It's written as if it's meant to be a poem.
Our parents will become our children
We will become our parents, Our children
are watching us take care of our parents
Our children will become Our parents and
We will become their children, We must
care and protect our elders, we must never
turn our back on them putting them in
a waiting station with strangers called
a nursing home, they are us and we are
them in 25 years if God is Willing
God only gives our parents 1 life, we must
not steal their Golden Years Away from them
Not to let the Grim Reaper of Death take
our parents away in a cold nursing
home with Strangers, Our Parents/Children
would rather be with us than anyone else.
in the world, we will aways feel
good inside, the care and love we gave our parents
God gives us one life to use or lose
Our parents happiness & Love will become our happiness &
Love. All through Time.
I think it is safe to say that Steve is losing it.

Daylin Leach Reponds

Sen. Daylin Leach responds to my Sunday print column. And I respond to his response.
Mr. Spencer

I read your column (pasted below) in the March 6th Delco Times. It was truly bizarre and surreal. I'm not sure what I am in most in awe of. Your environmental indifference was stunning. Your assertion that "trash is not pollution" was ground-breaking in a way that even James Inhoffe would admire. And your theories about the "well known" benefits of building a single landfill to hold all of America's trash for the next 1,000 years...well all I can say is that you should be grateful that your editor is not an obsessive fact-checker.

But I put all of that aside. You clearly have your view, and I can't imagine that any silly factual argument I would make can change it. I also leave for another day any comment on your head-spinning juxtaposition between the pollution of petroleum products in the Pacific and the Pennsylvania legislative pay-raise. As I follow your argument, since we get paid something, we have no moral right to vote on anything. Fair enough.

I write only to point out that we do not in fact receive pay and benefits that add up to "$120,000 to 150,000 per year". Just a gap that big in your guestimate of a salary which is public knowledge suggests a certain lack of obsession with accuracy. Tricky for someone in the news business, but then again I guess we can all agree we aren't living in the age of Edward R. Morrow anymore.

To the extent the truth matters (I know, naive again) our salary is a little more than $79,000 per year. We also receive health care and a contribution towards are pension. The Pension contribution varies depending on your plan, but is in any event under $10,000 per year. Health care coverage is a little more difficult to quantify, and we do contribute towards it. But I agree it was fair to attribute another $10,000 to it. So as you can see, we make less than $100,000 per year. Just to give you some perspective, a 24 year old first-year associate at a Center-City Philadelphia law firm makes about $140,000 per year the first year, and much more after that.

So you were 20-50% off. Well done! That said I'm sure your underlying point, that we should be fine with dumping tons of ever-lasting garbage into our forests and oceans instead of using simple bio-degradable plastic, is still valid. I mean, I'm sure you wouldn't say anything that wasn't true.

Yours in service,


Well, hello my new friend. Let's not bother with the formality of Mister. Please, call me Gil. But I must say that I am amazed that a sitting state senator of Commonwealth of Pennsylvania does not know the difference between "trash" and "pollution."

One, is "the introduction of contaminants into a natural environment that causes instability, disorder, harm or discomfort to the ecosystem i.e. physical systems or living organisms." (That's pollution, by the way.) The other is commonly defined as "worthless or discarded material or objects; refuse or rubbish."

You seem to be under the misapprehension that the two are synonymous. Either that, or you are intentionally blurring the distinction between the two in order to advance an increasingly unpopular political agenda of higher taxes and more government regulation.

But do you really think it is accurate or fair to attribute to me the opinion that it is "fine" to dump "tons of ever-lasting garbage into our forests and oceans instead of using simple bio-degradable plastic"?

I mean, that might work in a campaign ad against a political adversary, but it's actually sort of stupid to do in an e-mail to a newspaper columnist.

You actually read the words I wrote, right? About "properly" disposing of plastic bags and putting them into landfills where they do the neither the world nor people any harm. I wrote nothing that remotely promoted the idea of dumping garbage into "our forests and oceans."

Also, excuse me for mentioning the work of Clark Wiseman of the Gonzaga University who came up with the calculation of a 44 mile-square, 120-feet deep landfill that would be able to hold all of America's garbage for the next 1,000 years. Of course, he didn't do this to suggest the "benefits" of actually building such a facility. It wouldn't be practical, as I clearly stated in my column. The idea was to point out that America doesn't lack space in which to dispose of our garbage.

I have not seen the accuracy of Prof. Wiseman's 20-year-old calculation challenged anywhere. Just because you personally are not familiar with it, why insult my editor?

As for your pay and benefits as a state legislator, you claim they only add up to $100,000 and that I am off in my calculations by 20 to 50 percent. But come on now, Daylin, what did you forget? What did you leave out? You know! That famous $163 a day per diem you guys voted yourselves.

Democracy Rising points out that from 2008 to 2009, 41 state senators took some $775,000 in per diems. That averages out to $18,902 a senator. Throw in your $7,800 car allowance/benefit and that takes you over the $120,000 mark. (Of course the four legislative "leaders" are paid much more than that.)

You are smart to avoid the subject that Pennsylvania has the most expensive state legislature in the country, not to mention one of the most corrupt. And thanks for the perspective about what a private-sector lawyer makes, but it doesn't pass the laugh test.

A more reasonable comparison would be to compare your salaries and benefits to people who do THE SAME JOB in other states. For instance, Texas pays it's legislators $7,200 a year, plus a per diem when in session. Sounds fair to me, especially for what was supposed to be a part-time job.

What do you say we put it on a referendum and let THE PEOPLE vote on it? Schedule it for 2 a.m. on a Sunday morning. I'm willing to bet we would see the greatest voter turn-out in Pennsylvania history.

Yours in being serviced,

Monday, March 7, 2011

Snow Hill Murders

Snow Hill, Md. - I arrived in this quaint little river town here late this afternoon for the trial of Steve Molin that starts tomorrow. I am staying at bed and breakfast called the River House Inn. The courthouse is just down the street.

The new owners of the place, as of last December, Rick and Dwayne, aren't here. But they left the door to the cottage open for me.

For a late lunch I went to the only bar open in town, The Harvest Moon Tavern. A local defense attorney was in there for a couple of belts before going home to his wife's "Chicken Surprise."

He wasn't very familiar with the Molin case but he knows Molin's lawyer, a public defender named Burton Anderson. He said he's a good guy and a very competent lawyer.

Having been overheard telling the bartender Tammy, that I'm here for the murder trial, a couple of ladies asked me "which one?"

In 2007, a young mother of two named Christine Sheddy went missing. The case was treated as a missing person's case until a year ago, Feb 27, when detectives got a tip from a prison informant where they could find her remains.

Turns out she was killed and buried about 20 yards from where I am laying my head down to sleep tonight, right on the property of the River House Inn.

The 19-year-old brother of a former gardner for the River House Inn property has been charged with the crime. He goes on trial in June.

The Internet here is goofy. I'm going to try to straighten it out. More later.

Molin Murder Trial Starts Tomorrow

The murder trial of Steve Molin begins tomorrow in Snow Hill, Maryland. I'll be heading down there shortly to cover it.

Molin, of Darby, is accused of intentionally killing his 85-year-old mother, Emily, by running her over a couple of times with his truck. Steve claims it was a "horrible, horrible" accident.

Much will depend on the physical evidence in the case and whether Molin's story (if he testifies) makes sense to the jury. Many people who know him don't believe he would ever, in million years, kill his mother. His devotion to her was known to many who knew the both of them well.

Still, he was distraught that she was put in a nursing home against his wishes. And he admits to saying she would be better off dead than living there.

Over the course of the last several months, Molin has written me numerous letters, about prison life, about how hard he worked to take care of his mom when she came down with Alzheimer's. He also wrote about people he thought were trying to steal from him and his mother. His letters show him to be a loving son and a sweet guy but also a bit deranged, paranoid and obsessive.

Did he intentionally kill his mother that night last August? I don't know. I'll be very interested to hear the case the Md. prosecutors put on.

Daylin Leach: Bag Man

State Sen. Daylin Leach thinks a new tax on plastic bags is fantastic idea. I don't. My print column is up.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Friday Funnies

Or he could just flee to Illinois.

UPDATE: For an even bigger chuckle, check out Iowahawk's "Beltway Adventure." It's four months old but still as fresh as a daisy.

As The Square Turns...

A township employee friendly with a township supervisor is found to have been running up hundreds of dollars in FedEx bills for a side business at township expense.

Any questions?

My print column is up.

UPDATE: Newtown Square resident Regi Siberski reacts:

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Krugman Schooled

Dave Burge schools Nobel Prize winner Paul Krugman on how to evaluate student performance across states.

Race figures in. And when you figure it in, black kids in Texas are doing better in school than black kids in Wisconsin. And white kids in Texas are doing better than white kids in Wisconsin.

Read the whole thing.

Spencerblog sez Dave Burge deserves a Nobel Prize for his efforts. Krugman's.

Child Pornographer's Light Sentence

A guy who sexually abused two children, made videos of his crimes, and shared them with others, is looking at a "possible 30-year prison term." Sound like a lot? Not for that crime. Not when just down-loading and viewing kiddie porn can get you 12 1/2 to 25 years.

This guy should get 300 years for his crimes. He should never see the light of day again. And he could. He is 48 years old, he would be released at 78. That's way too soon.

Paper or Plastic and Demogogues

State Rep. Daylin Leach wants a 2-cent tax on plastic grocery bags. Here we go again. Another dumb liberal idea posing as a way to save the planet.

According to the story:
Leach said the bags might be useful while buying groceries, but questioned the wisdom in trading 15 minutes of convenience for 1,000 years of pollution.

“We talk about sacrifice and the sacrifice of the greatest generation, and how we admire sacrifice, but we are unwilling to sacrifice even the infinitely momentary convenience of these bags, despite the environmental damage they do,” said Leach. “There are millions. They never go away. They are a form of plastic, most of them, that does not biodegrade.”
First of all, a properly disposed of plastic bag is not pollution. It is trash. And just because it doesn't biodegrade like a banana peel that doesn't mean plastic bags are a danger to the planet. They aren't. They are an amazingly light and convenient way to transport groceries, allowing one person to carry in one trip, perhaps twice the amount of stuff they could carry in a paper sack. Given the choice between paper or plastic, most people choose plastic for this very reason.

There is not a single, serious environmental reason for this war on plastic. This is all about aesthetics. For instance, recyling makes people feel virtuous but it doesn't "save the planet." It doesn't even save money in a lot of cases.

There was much to be said for the war against littering back in the 1960s. Back then people didn't talk about it saving the planet, they talked about it making their little piece of it, their neighborhood, their communities, their country look nicer. A public campaign was waged to stigmatize littering. Fines were imposed.

But a properly disposed off plastic bag is no threat to the environment. And people who say that it is, are charlatans. The busybodies who tell us that our dumps and landfills are full up, that we are running out of room for all of the garbage and trash we create are liars. If America built one landfill that was just 44 miles square and 120 feet deep it could handle all the garbage we produce for the next 1,000 years.

Of course, because it would be too expensive to truck all that garbage to one place, we build much, much smaller landfills all around the country. When we fill them up, we cover them over, plant grass and trees and make parks out of them.

Daylin Leach and his eco-friends scoff at the convenience plastic bags provide the millions of people in this country who live in cities and walk their groceries home.

The "infinitely momentary convenience" is how Leach awkwardly describes it. What he is promoting is inconvenience for inconvenience sake. These eco-goofs aren't asking for shared sacrifice for any worthwhile cause - to defend democracy, to free the oppressed, to promote human liberty. They simply want to impose a tax on things and behavior they find unpretty. They want to clerks and store owners to have to collect it and turn it over to the government.

It is their behavior that is objectionable, intrusive and unattractive.

UPDATE: From the comment section Novemberose sez:"
UMMM - so are you also going to be taxed for each plastic item you put IN your plastic bag too? I mean the companies & supermarkets package their items in plastic (lunchmeat from deli, meats, fresh produce etc) And does the senator plan to tax children for each toy they purchase in plastic bubble packs? Plastic grocery bags aren't the ONLY plastic things in landfills. I mean what ARE you supposed to put your trash in? At lease we recycle the plastic bags and use them for trash. Guess that senatorial brain storm will be in another update courtesy of our tax dollars paying him to think up these things that how many others have thought of... AND if people are taxed for choosing plastic - where exactly is that money going - I mean REALLY going? Wonder if the Senator signed his name to this proposal with a disposable plastic pen that will be tossed when empty? (being very sarcastic through all) Pardon me while I'm off to Wawa to get some coffee in a plastic cup on my way to work, then eat my sandwich at lunch which was wrapped in plastic... "
Typical Scorpio; smart, sexy and to the point.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Strange Day In Court

The black line of today's paper is Case Against Janitor Unraveling. It's a good and accurate headline. The case is unraveling because janitor Robert Strange was wrongly charged to begin with based on a misreading of the pennsylvania criminal code.

Not long ago, teachers and school employees were included into the list of people who did jobs, that our state legislature deemed worth of special protection. The list is long, and it includes law enforcement officers, firemen, politicians, office holders, medical personnel, child services workers, etc.

What the law does is up the penalties for attacks on such persons while on the job. The idea is that these people need and deserve special protection in the way of making it a more serious crime to attack them, as opposed to people doing less dangerous work, like construction, news gathering or trash collecting.

The law does not cover "students." In fact, the law was passed specificially to protect teachers and school staff from unruly and violent students, among other potential miscreants.

Oddly enough, the 11-year-old in this case could have been charged with aggravated assault for slapping the janitor in the face with a rag. After all, the end of the rag could have scraped the poor janitor's eye, damaging his cornea. Believe me, children in this country have been brought up on criminal charges for a whole lot less.

Defense Attorney Larry Dworkin pointed out the statute was misapplied in this case. Deputy DA Mike Galantino should have known better, but he didn't. After reading a copy of the law, Galatino admitted as much. DJ. Horace Davis threw the charge out.

What should have been clear to everybody by now is that this is not a case of even simple assault but of inappropriate horseplay. It shouldn't have been criminalized. And if all the adults involved had been more thoughtful, it wouldn't have been.

But then, there are hundreds of cases of children being charged with crimes on even skimpier evidence; i.e. drawing a picture of someone shooting a gun.

The scuttlebutt is that the parents of this young man are looking to cash in on the incident with a lawsuit against the school district. Certainly, criminal charges filed in the case would help such a suit.

So Robert Strange finds himself bound over for trial on simple assault, reckless endangerment and disorderly conduct.

The DA's office is now publicly invested in seeing to it that he pleads to, or is found guilty of, something. Going to trial is expensive. Strange is out of work and has no money coming in. The best he can probably hope for is ARD.

He is, by all accounts, a good worker and a good father. He made a big mistake in thinking that he could be friends with the kids in the school where he worked, that he could treat them like little brothers and roughhouse with them. Not in today's world.

Cindy Scharr's story is here.

My column is here.