Saturday, January 10, 2004

Party Boy
Robert Castellini, the Cincy produce dealer who hangs tight with Bill DeWitt and Mercer Reynolds, contributed the max amount, $100,000, to Bush's 2001 inaugeration shindig, according to watchdog group Every Vote Matters, which is suggesting boycotting all Castellini products and services. Castellini, Dewitt, Hauser, Bauer, Reynolds are all bigtime Republicans and buddies of the current unelected president. Despite this, the governor of Missouri, the Mayor of St. Louis and the St. Louis County Executive -- all Democrats -- support bestowing these wealthy "sportsmen" with hundreds of millions of dollars in public subsidies. The baseball stadium rip-off in St. Louis has truly been a bi-partisan, "team" effort. Robert "Top Banana" Castellini has profitted from other lucrative stadium deals in Cincinatti and Arlington, Texas.[Every Vote Matters]

Headlines from Havana:
The Lies, Fears and Stupidity of the Empire

The Bush Bund rattles sabers, again, accusing Cuba of subverting Latin American "democracies." Granma, a newspaper in Havana, hurls a petard of its own. [Cha-Cha-Che]

Company Man
Earl H. Harbinson Jr., a former deputy director the CIA, joined Monsanto in 1967, where he rose to be chief operating officer and president of the company. In 1992, he served as the chairman of the St. Louis Regional Commerce and Growth Association, the area's chamber of commerce. His tenure spanned the time when Monsanto manufactured a chemical component of Agent Orange for the Army. Harbinson also aided in mothballing Monsanto's PCB manufacturing plants in the 1970s.

A Judge in Chicago has been asked to recuse himself from price-fixing case against Monsanto, after it was revealed that in 1997 and 1998 he was listed as an attorney for the company by his former law firm -- St. Louis-based Husch & Eppenberger. [Read all about it!]


Go Bills!
Racing wire services such as the late Willie Molasky's Pioneer News are obsolete. Now you can bet your last dime online. Snooker, cricket, hurling, SLU basketball, you name it.[Baby Needs a New Pair of Shoes]

On the Bishop's List
No wonder he's stirring up trouble for Saint Louis University. School Board member Bill Haas is a Harvard man. You won't find him among the SLU donors who have been named to the DuBourg Society, a list of SLU's biggest contributors. But convicted felon Amiel Cueto, the lawyer for racketeer Thomas Venezia, is listed. Congrats, Amiel, you are, indeed, a pillar of the community.

Schoemehl Pooh-Poohs Conspiracy
Allegations by St. Louis School Board member Bill Haas are ludicrious, says Vince Schoemehl.

In an interview Friday with the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the former mayor and School Board member lab eled the claims that School Board leader William Roberti may have helped orchestrate a questionable land sale with Saint Louis University "ridiculous."

At issue is the SLU's purchase of Waring Elementary School on Compton Avenue for $1.25 million. SLU in tends to build a $70 million basketball arena at the site. By purcahsing the property from the School Board, the university saved tens of millions of dollars that it would have otherwise had to spend on property in Midtown.

Haas recently alleged that Rob erti targeted the school for closing solely further SLU's expansion program. In response, Roberti has filed a defamation suit against Haas in St. Louis Circuit Court.

But Schoemehl says the district and SLU had discussed swapping the school for other property on Washington Avenue in May before Roberti came onboard. Roberti took over the school board last summer, after Schoemehl and other school board members secretly hired Roberti's firm to reorganize the school district's finances. Subsequent layoffs and school closing have led to an acrimonious public debate. Last year, Schoemehl angrily called opponents of the school district reorganization "Nazis."

Advocates of a more reasoned response to the dispute, including Post-Dispatch columnist Bil l McClellan, support SLU for being a pillar of the city by not abandoning its Midtown location for the suburbs. They point out that the university has spent a fortune on redeveloping its campus. This is all true. But as a religious educational institution, SLU doesn't pay a nickel in property taxes for its vast property holdings. So the school district receives no tax money to support the educational needs of public city school students from the university.

No, it's not a conspiracy, Vince, it's just another rip off by private interests. These particular private interests just happen to wear clerical collars.

Dooley Reappoints Warmann
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported on Saturday that St. Louis County Executive Charlie Dooley had chosen to reappoint Gene Warmann, the brother of Democratic powerbroker Floyd Warmann, to the St. Louis County Board of Police Commissioners. Warmann, one of five board members, will serve another three year term.

Stoneking: The Movie
Media Mayhem's weekend entertainment section
Before I received the police and medical examiner's reports on Jesse Stoneking's death this is how I imagined the crime scene. But the reports indicate that the Post-Dispatch erred. Stoneking didn't die alone in the desert. His friend Michael Laurella and a Maricopa Deputy were there when he died. Somebody call the rewrite department.

Night. The outskirts of the small town o f Surprise, Arizona. Headlights of a car on a two-lane highway. The vehicle pulls off to the shoulder of the highway.

A hand pushes in the cigarette lighter. After it ejects, the red glow faintly illuminates the face of square-jawed man in his m id fifties. A MAN draws on the cigarette and EXHALES.

A cigarette burns in the darkness. The man turns on the dome light of the vehicle, illuminating a briefcase on the passenger seat. Empty fast-food bags, beer cans and a half-empty pint b ottle of whiskey litter the passenger side floor. The man opens the glove compartment and pulls out a .38-caliber revolver.

A GUNSHOT echoes in the desert, or perhaps the ECHO is instead the report of a SECOND GUNSHOT followed by the sound of SHATTERING GLAS S.

Dawn A pickup truck drives down the same stretch of road; radio tuned to a Mexican station. The sun is beginning to rise from behind the mountains on the horizon, casting a red tint on a thunderhead. As the truck approaches the vehicle at the si de of the road, its HISPANIC DRIVER slows down and stops momentarily. He rolls down his dust-covered window. Glass is strewn across the highway and the window frame of the car at the side of the road is splattered with blood A body is slumped ov er the s teering wheel.

Brown eyes squint in horror.

"Jesus y Maria!"

Truck tires GRIND swiftly over broken glass.

The truck speeds down the highway.

Medium shot
A black SUV parked next to a pay phone outside a remote gas station in the desert.

Close up
A man's mouth speaking into a telephone. There is a diamond ring on the little finger of the hand clutching the receiver.

Telephone caller:
"It's done."

Credits roll

song by Los Lobos, "Will the Wolf Survive."

Long shot from above
Morning rush in a Midwestern city.

Breaks screeching.

Male voice:
"Jesus Christ!"

Close up:
A man's hand changes the station on a car radio. Below the radio, an ashtray is filled with cigarette butts.

Radio announcer:
"Skycopter One has just indicated that motorists should avoid east bound I-64 between Skinker and Kingshighway due to an earlier accident.

Male voice:
"No shit, Sherlock."

Radio announcer:
" There will be a 50 percent chance of rain today. Stay tuned for weather details at the top of the hour."

Male voice:

Close up:
Finger pushes a button on the car radio changing the station.

Second radio announcer:
"The zoo will be hosting its annual Zoofari cha rity gala this Fr iday evening. It's a black tie event. So if you're into shelling out $250 to have dinner with the lions and tigers, call 621-3505. Seriously, folks, its all for a good cause. But don't get to too close to the wild kingdom or you could e nd up an entree yo urself. And now for this morning's local news roundup here's Sandy Beacon."

Medium shot
Sun glinting through the windshield. bumper-to-bumper traffic.

Close up
Hand rolling down the driver's side window.

Traffic noise.

Femal e newscaster:
"Police in Surprise, Arizona announced that the body of former federal informant Jimmy Rockman was found slumped over the wheel of his car on the outskirts of the small desert town about 60 miles north of Phoenix early this morning. Law enf orcement authorities are continuing the investigation into Rockman's death, but say that preliminary evidence indicates that he most likely died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head.

On a rosier note, the Cards face the Reds again tonight, game time is 7 o'clock and you can catch the game right here on KMOZ. This is Sandy Beacon reporting. Back to you Todd."

Second radio announcer:
"Thanks, Sandy."

Traffic noise volume increases, radio voices fade into background.

Close up
The drive r's eyes reflected in the rearview mirror express panic.

Medium shot
A couple in the car behind him argue

Interior shot
The man turns his head quickly to his right.

Medium shot
A woman in a BMW is primping, looking in a vanity mirror.

Interior shot
The man swivels his neck the other direction.

Medium shot
A school bus slowly pulls up along side him.

Air breaks squeal.

Interior shot
The man glances up at the windows of the bus.

Medium shot
Inside the bus, kids appear to be laughing at him. One of them flips him the finger.

Traffic noise volume increases to an orchestral crescendo.

Long shots/fast cuts
Traffic jammed in all directions.

The Inspiring Story of How County Detective Pete Vasel Nabs a Commie Terrorist

At approximately 7:30 p.m. on Dec. 17, 1966, a shoe box containing two sticks of dynamite wired to a wind-up alarm clock exploded in the waiting area next to the Ozark Airlines ticket counter at Lambert Field in St. Louis. Fortunately, before the bomb went off police cleared the airport terminal and no one was killed or injured. The explosion did, however, do extensive property damage, destroying a bank of seats and a number of large windows. Three days later, a young engineer employed by McDonnell Aircraft was arrested for the bombing. The long-forgotten incident would shape the course of the accused man’s life.

After 27 years, the convicted bomber is asking President Bill Clinton for a presidential pardon. This is his story.

Lyon was born in Boone, Iowa. The time was 50 years ago. Somewhere World War II raged and the Cold War waited. Not in Iowa, though. No, the wake of these events would move at a glacial pace across the plains of the upper Midwest. Seasons turned. Lyon grew. Following high school, he headed east on U.S. Route 30 to the state university at Ames. The nascent Space Age had nurtured an interest in rocketry. He majored in aerospace engineering. But it was Lyon’s extracurricular activities on campus that ended up having more of a lasting effect on his career.

According to Lyon, the CIA recruited him as a student to be a part of Operation Chaos, an illegal domestic espionage network during the Vietnam era. The job of spying on campus anti-war activities paid $300 a month and came with a guaranteed draft deferment, Lyon says. After college Lyon says he decided to sever ties with the CIA, but the agency continued to contact him even after he moved to St. Louis and began working for McDonnell Aircraft. Ultimately, his stint of college intelligence work would lead to being falsely accused of the Dec. 17, 1966 bombing of the St. Louis airport, Lyon says.

After he jumped bail, Lyon eventually went to Cuba, where the story of the bombing was used by the CIA to support his fake identity as an anti-war radical, he says. Lyon’s rearrest and subsequent convictions would be postponed for more than a decade. But he finally served almost six years in Leavenworth, he says. During all this time, Lyon has steadfastly maintained his innocence and claimed that none of this would have transpired had he not been set up by the CIA initially and then later persecuted for breaking agency protocol.

“Everybody in the agency, I think, was watching my situation very closely,” says Lyon. “(I) had resigned, been a hard target, broken several of the agency‘s unwritten rules. Did so very deliberately. Defied them. Evaded them for two years. ... So I think they had a long list of reasons why they wanted me back. But I think the primary (reason) was to make an example of me and to show me that they were in control not me.”

On these points, it is difficult, if not impossible to confirm whether Lyon’s life was manipulated by the U.S. government or simply swept up in Cold War politics through his own volition. The truth is likely somewhere in between and still moving into the uncertain political milieu of the 1990s. To some students of the intelligence field, there is no such thing a “former” CIA agent. Other critics of Lyon question whether the agency would risk sending an employee on such a dangerous mission. It is more routine for the CIA to hire contract operatives for such purposes, they say. These caveats must be weighed in this case. But regardless of his veracity or motivations, Lyon’s interpretation of events represents an intriguing pawn’s-eye view of the zeitgeist of the 1960s.

If there is anything that hasn’t changed over the years, it may be Lyon’s voice. His speech is still steeped with the flattened upward inflections peculiar to natives of Northern states. The endemic accent remains despite years spent south of the Tropic of Cancer -- Havana to be exact.

From 1968 to 1975, Lyon worked as a scientist for the Cuban government, conducting cloud-seeding experiments in an effort to increase the island’s agricultural production. At the same time, Lyon says he passed an array of information to the CIA.

Since returning to Iowa 11 years ago, Lyon has worked for the Hispanic MInistry of the United Methodist Church, a social services agency that provides support to Latino aliens in the Des Moines area. He is also an active member of the Association of National Security Alumni, an affiliation of former CIA and FBI agents who have become critics of the intelligence community.

Lyon is now seeking a presidential pardon over the St. Louis airport bombing and his subsequent flight. “What I’m doing now has raised enough mitigating circumstances that the government has the capability of saying, `Ok, let’s put the past where it belongs and give you a fresh start. That’s basically what the pardon does,” says Lyon.

One person who believes Lyon was guilty as charged is retired St. Louis County chief of detectives Frederick Jacob “Pete” Vasel.

Vasel, 64 (in 1995), was at the scene in 1966 when the bomb went off. Eleven years later, he testified against Lyon at his trial. According to Vasel’s account, he walked up to the shoe box containing the dynamite and noted its contents. The government’s appellate brief states what happened next: “After walking a matter of 15 to 30 feet away from the device, it exploded, knocking Major Vasel down.” In a recent interview, Vasel recalled that the explosion hurled him back 14 or 15 feet. “It scared the shit out of me,” he says.

When asked whether the CIA had a hand in the bombing, Vasel says: No goddamn way. He (Lyon) wasn’t set up.” Vasel did say that on occasions he himself had contact with the CIA. His cooperation included providing profiles of individuals to the agency. But in Lyon’s case, there was no CIA interest whatsoever, according to Vasel.

Vasel does say, however, that there’s lot’s of mysterious elements to the case.” In his recollection, Lyon escaped from St. Louis in a limousine, and later traveled to the Soviet Union while in exile. The former detective suggests the bombing may have been an act of communist subversion. But he also has another theory on which to fall back. “He was going through a very upsetting time with his girlfriend,” says Vasel.

Vasel himself is somewhat mysterious. In 1963, he stated on a local public service television program that “secret crime societies” were not operating in St. Louis. The following year, his testimony helped convict mobster John Paul Spica of the contract murder of real estate developer John T. Myszak. Spica later died in a car bombing following his release from prison. Prior to his death, Spica gave closed-door congressional testimony on his knowledge of a St. Louis-based plot to assassinate Martin Luther KIng.

During his controversial 20-year career with the St. Louis County Police Department, Vasel was demoted, promoted, fired, reinstated and finally retired. He reputedly commanded the respect of criminals and had a network of informants.

According to the court record, Lyon became a suspect after a police captain from the City of St. Louis tipped Vasel off to rumors floating around McDonnell Aircraft. Vasel tracked down some of Lyon’s coworkers. One claimed he had overheard a telephone conversation in which Lyon talked about dynamite. Another employee said that Lyon had asked him about getting wires soldered to a pair of flashlight batteries.

When law enforcement authorities searched Lyon’s digs, on Wengler Avenue in suburban Overland, Mo., they found wires, blasting caps and dynamite. At the trial, this circumstantial evidence was bolstered by other testimony and exhibits, A hardware store owner from Troy, Mo. swore Lyon had purchased dynamite from him. Receipts were entered as evidence. Diagrams found in Lyon’s office desk were also offered up. His former landlady and another woman told the court that Lyon had asked them for shoe boxes.

But nobody ever saw Lyon at the airport.

As for the possession of the dynamite, Lyon has a plausible explanation. He says he had an interest in amateur rocketry dating back to ninth grade. Lyon bought the explosives for his hobby, he says. At the time, the young aerospace engineer had visions of being an astronaut and had won a NASA technical essay contest. In a newspaper account following his arrest, his younger brother said Lyon had promise to bring more dynamite back to Iowa for some solid fuel experiments.

He never was afforded that opportunity. At a preliminary hearing before jumping bail, Lyon caught a glimpse of what he suspects transpired. “I saw an FBI agent who had been involved in the ... search warrant talking to one of my CIA recruiters. It wasn’t long after that I received a phone call to talk to one of the former recruiters,” says Lyon. Later, the CIA asked Lyon to travel to Washington, D.C. Once there, the agency made him an offer, Lyon says. The deal, according to Lyon, was “ the agency would help clear my name, after a length of time, and things had calmed down.” In return, Lyon agreed to work full time for the agency. The CIA “believed a mistake had been made (over the bombing), which always led me to believe that they had been involved,” he says. “Whether it was on purpose or whether it just developed this way, the fact that I was accused of being involved in that incident was later used to develop a legend for me.”

Lyon subsequently underwent training in Washington, D.C. and in Canada, while waiting for Cuba to grant political asylum, he says. After being accepted, Lyon worked for the Cuban Academy of Sciences, all the while funneling economic data and reports on foreign technicians back to the CIA.

Lyon says he was only scheduled to be in Cuba for two years. But during the course of his stay, he married a Cuban woman. The CIA would not allow him to return to the U.S. with his wife so he extended his tour. Then when the agency asked that he spy on his politically-connected inlaws, he refused, Lyon says. After three years, the self-professed spy had become assimilated into the Cuban culture and his attitude had changed. “I came to my senses,” says Lyon. “What we were doing there was not in the best interest of the United States, (and) they were obviously not in the best interest of Cuba or the people.”

Finally, in 1975 the Cubans caught on and deported him to Jamaica, Lyon says. With the United States having already refused to renew his passport and the bombing charges still pending in the St. Louis, he lived first in Canada and then Peru, where U.S. marshals apprehended him in February 1977.

At the trial, defense attorney Leonard J. Frankel subpoenaed all CIA records pertaining to Lyon. At first, United States District Court Judge John K. Regan ruled to allow the evidence. But when two minions of the CIA arrived at the court, their meeting with the judge and the defense counsel was held behind closed doors. They claimed Lyon had no association with the agency. According to the court record, the CIA file on Lyon “was opened as a result of information received from sources outside the agency.” The CIA refused to allow even the judge to see the file. Instead, the agency’s representatives summarized its contents. In some instances, the sources of the information were withheld on the grounds that naming them would compromise national security interests.

As a result of the closed hearing, Regan quashed the subpoena issued to the agency. According to Frankel, the judge’s reversal was most unusual from a legal standpoint and personally out of character. Frankel won Lyon’s appeal, but the decision was based on a faulty search warrant not the CIA issue. In the retrial, Lyon again was convicted and Regan meted out the same 15-year sentence.

More curious perhaps than the Regan flip-flop are the unnamed sources in Lyon’s CIA file. The secrecy smacks of star chamber ethics and leaves the Verne Lyon case open to speculation. Since Lyon’s trials, CIA documents released through the Freedom of Information Act indicate that during the 1960s and 1970s the agency had close ties to local police departments. One memo even mentions a 1967 training session “in the types of explosive devices manufactured from readily available commercial material.”∫

Friday, January 09, 2004

Bush is a Punk Ass Chump ...
And other tasteful bumperstickers available at GWBush.com

Secretary of Homeland Security Tom Ridge downgraded the terrorist threat to Code Yellow today.

Blogs for Bush
Seriously, that's the name of the website. [Blogs for Bush]

Suitable for Framing
See George W. Bush preaching the gospel. [say Amen]

Unfortunate Son
Cable viewers will have a chance to catch the documentary Horns and Halos Feb. 18 at 7p.m. on Cinemax. The film tells the tragic story of J.H. Hatfield, author of Fortunate Son, the unauthorized biography of Georg e W. Bush. St. Martin's Press pulled the bestseller from the shelves in Sept. 2000, during the presidential campaign because it found out about Hatfield's criminal record. Or was it because Hatfield interviewed Bush cronies, who discuss his cocaine snorting days. After St. Martin's drops Hatfield like a bad habit, Sander Hicks, a 29-year-old janitor from New York, coaxes Hatfield into allowing his basement-operated publishing company, Soft Skull Press, to republish the banned book. Filmakers Suki Hawley and Michael Galinsky follow the pair as they set out on a book tour. Hatfield later commits suicide. [Horns and Halos]

Media Mayhem's Web Site of the Day
Robert Parry, the AP reporter who broke the story on Oliver North's secret Contra supply network, has published the online Consortium News for many years. [Consortium News]

The Lord Works in Mysterious Ways
As governor of Texas, George W. Bush signed the execution orders for hundreds of people, including born-again Christian Karla Faye Tucker. The web site that chronicles Texas' deadly punishments is for sale![make a bid]

Today's entry from the St. Louis edition of the Devil's Dictionary
organized crime business as usual.

Project Headstart
Who's going to check out Ashcroft's old campaign finance reports in Jefferson City? Don't say I didn't give you a heads up.

Bankrupt Ethics
Has the headquarters of the Missouri Ethics Commission moved? When I last visited three years ago, the commission was located in the back of an industrial park/strip mall on the outskirts of Jefferson City. It couldn't have been in a more obscure location. It reminded me of the Amshack Station in St. Louis.

The Ashcroft Files

The origins of John Ashcroft’s rise to power have never been clearly told. Like most politicians of his generation, he shares the distinct advantage of entering the political scene in the last century. Past event s and relationships, many of which were never thoroughly reported at the time, are further shrouded by the gap between the days of hard copy and the advent of the electronic information age. Ashcroft’s long political career spans the gulf between these er as. The details that have fallen into the breach provide the current attorney general with a means to avoid the scrutiny that should be directed at those who hold the highest of public offices.

Some aspects of the news trade haven’t changed that much ov er the years. Ashcroft’s early resume still reads the same as it did in the early 1970s, when he first entered state politics. Even in the old days, newspaper accounts, written by chain-smoking reporters on Royal typewriters and transferred by printer’s devils to hot type, focused on a one-dimensional image of the man. Deadline pressure and a reliance on press releases are partly to blame, as is the misconception that reporters are objective in ways in which they present the news. Much of Ashcroft’s image was first sculpted by the now-defunct St. Louis Globe-Democrat, a Republican newspaper that employed Pat Buchanan as an editorial writer.

Based on the Globe’s creative writing style, a myth developed over the years, and Ashcroft has been stereotyped ever since as the hymn-singing, preacher’s son from Southwest Missouri; an evangelical Christian beyond reproach. In this respect, he plays the poor cousin of retired Republican U.S. Senator John Danforth, an ordained Episcopal priest. In a sense, these two GOP pols represent the prototypes for Republican virtue. They are righteous guardians of "good government," steadfast in their belief in God and country. In comparison, Democrats have been cast as amoral dealmakers, who -- by their very nature -- are subject to corruption.

The idea that any politician is above the influence of special interests because of his or her religious faith is a convenient and effective canard, of course. After he lost his senate re-election to the widow o f Gov. Mel Carnahan, Ashcroft was reborn, again. The conventional reason given for his nomination to the post of U.S. attorney general in the Bush administration has been that he is a strong opponent of abortion. Again, social conservative issues have be e n tro tted out to dismiss complex political decisions. Still widely ignored are Ashcroft’s Machiavellian skills, which were honed decades ago.

One Degree of Separation: The Ashcroft, Steinbach, Molasky Nexus

Though the paper trail has grown cold, a vestige of Ashcroft’s less-than-divine origins can be traced to his mucky gubernatorial candidacy of 1984, when Frederick Steinbach acted as his campaign finance director.

It remains uncertain where Ashcroft and Steinbach first crossed paths, but following the money is less difficult. In 1984, when then-Missouri Attorney General Ashcroft ran for governor, Steinbach raised nearly $3 million for his gubernatorial bid, with more than half the total coming in the last weeks of a hard-fought race against Democratic Lt. Gov. Kenneth J. Rothman. In those critical days before the election, Ashcroft unleashed a series of TV attack ads against Rothman that led to his defeat. In the end, the Ashcroft campaign had out spent its rival by $1 million.

The victory catapulted Ashcroft to a new stage in his political career. He won re-election to the governorship in 1988 and in 1992 moved on to the U.S. Senate, following the same path as his mentor, Sen. Christopher "Kit" Bond.

Steinbach’s polit ic al fortunes started out on a high note, too, but ultimately he did not fair so well. When the sprawling, 26-square mile community of Chesterfield incorporated in 1988, the St. Louis County Council named him interim mayor. The appointment received the bles sings of then-County Executive Gene McNary.

Later that year, Steinbach ran for a full mayoral term in the newly created suburban municipality, and Ashcroft endorsed his candidacy, lauding him with accolades. But within months of winning election, in June 1989, a St. Louis County grand jury, led by then-Prosecuting Attorney George "Buzz Westfall, indicted Steinbach for sexually abusing his secretary. Steinbach pleaded no contest to the charge, which was reduced to a misdemeanor by the court. Under attack from critics, including St. Louis Sun columnist Karen Koman, he resigned in January 1990.

Throughout his work for Ashcroft and his subsequent tenure as Chesterfield mayor, Steinbach’s business career never received much attention. A 1984 St. L ouis Business Journal story referred to Steinbach as the president of Display Information Systems Co., a St. Louis firm that monitors the sales of magazines in retail outlets. In 1988, The St. Louis Post-Dispatch identified him as the president of Steinbach Enterprises. Steinbach’s own campaign material featured a litany of his philanthropic endeavors and mentioned that he received a MBA from Mizzou. In addition, Steinbach was listed as a member of many public boards, including the Missouri State Bank, the financial institution that handles fiscal transactions for the state government. But the same flyer gave no details about his professional career, referring to the candidate only as a "successful businessman."

Steinbach, the successful businessm an and Mizzou alum, held his first fundraiser for Ashcroft in November 1982, when he sold 100 tickets to a University of Missouri basketball game for $100 each. The money continued to roll in during the course o f the campaign. Bet ween Sept, 6, 1984 and the election in November, Steinbach raised $1.6 million for Ashcroft. At the time, the amount spent by Ashcroft represented the most expensive political campaign in Missouri history. By any measure, the St. Loui s fund raiser ha d contributed greatly to Ashcroft’s success. Without the largesse collected by Steinbach, Ashcroft might very well have slunk back to Springfield and returned to teaching law at Southwest Missouri State College.

But after Steinbach’s indiscretions made headlines in 1989, his efforts on behalf of the then-governor were forgotten. There was no compelling reason to delve any further into the Ashcroft’s former campaign finance director’s background. Steinbach had fallen from grace. The sex charge had effectively cut the ties between the two. Ashcroft, the righteous singer of hymns, could not be blamed for distancing himself from the tragic sins of one of his chief supporters.

But cleansing himself of Steinbach’s stain had another unseen advantage for the governor. The separation ended the possibility of Ashcroft being tied to his finance director’s past. Missouri Secretary of State reports show that Steinbach previously worked for corporations controlled by Mark Molasky. In the 1970s, Molasky and his father, Allan H. Molasky, controlled a St. Louis-based magazine distribution empire with a long record of questionable business activities.

Nowadays, the late Mark Molasky is remembered, if at all, for being at the center of an other sex scandal. In June 1981, Molasky was arrested on charges of sexually molesting a three-year-old boy. The high-profile case stemmed from his part in videotaping his third wife having oral sex with her infant son. Molasky received a 32-year sentence. He w as later acquitted of plotting the assassination of Westfall, who had prosecuted him before being elected St. Louis County Executive. Molasky allegedly committed suicide in 1990 by overdosing on a prescription painkiller, while serving time at the Missouri Penitentiary in Jefferson City.

Less known about are the machinations surrounding the Molaskys’ far-flung business enterprises, which included multi-state and international distribution of paperback books and periodicals, including adult magazines. Steinbach, Ashcroft’s 1984 campaign finance director, was a vice president of two Molasky distribution corporations, according to 1979 Missouri incorporation records. His name appears on the 1979 registration reports for both SLF News Distributors and River City Inc. Steinbach is also identified as being one of the shareholders in another Molasky company, Gulf News Inc., according to a civil disposition given by Mark Molasky in November 1976. Besides Steinbach, Molasky named Pete Vasel, a former St. Louis County Police detective, as being connected to Gulf News. Other names appearing on corporate records are S. Leslie Flegel, Mark Molasky’s uncle (on his mother’s side), and F. Terrell Eckert Jr.

After Mark Molasky’s arrest in 1981, St. L ouis Post-Dispatch reporters Roy Malone, Claudia MacLachian and Dennis Hannon set about unraveling the confusing web of the Molasky-controlled companies. But Steinbach isn’t mentioned in the accounts. He does, however, show up as a fundrasier for Ashcroft the following year -- 1982. Two years later, in 1984, the St. Louis Business Journal, reported that Steinbach was president of Display Information Systems Co., a company with close ties to Flegel, Molaksy’s uncle.

Around the time that Steinbach worked for the Molasky syndicate, the United States and Canadian governments took a special interest in the St. Louis family’s business activities. In 1975, the U.S. District court in New Orleans fined Molasky Enterprises, Ltd., Mark Molasky a nd Allan H. M ola sky a total of $150,000 for attempting monopolize magazine and paperback book distribution along the Gulf Coast, from Brownsville, Texas to Florida. The indictment charged the Molaskys with using coercive tactic to buy out com petitors from January 1971 to September 1972. The federal judge susp ended a one-year prison sentence on Mark Molasky, but not before he spent more than three weeks in jail at Elgin Air Force Base in Florida. The Molaskys used similar cohesion between 1969 and 197 2 in the Canadian province of Ontario, which resulted in the enactment of the so-called "Molasky Law," restricting future foreign ownership of wholesale distributorships.

At its zenith, Molasky’s distribution empire covered more than a doze n states. After the empire began to fall into disarray, Mark Molasky continued to lead a playboy lifestyle, which included a lavish mansion in Creve Coeur, luxury cars and fast women. By the time of his arrest in 1981, his assets were so well-protected from creditors that he couldn’t raise bail. Those offering to help spring him included his father’s cousin, Irwin Molasky, a Las Vegas developer, who anted up a $110,000 unsecured loan.

In 1951, Irwin Molasky moved to Las Vegas from Ohio, where his father had be en a newspaper dist ributor. A few years later, he te amed up with Merv Adelson to form Paradise Development Co. In 1956, Irwin Molasky and Adelson joined forces with Allard Roen and Moe Dalitz of the Desert Inn casino to build the Sunrise Hospital in Vegas, with a $1 mil lion loan from the Teamsters, according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal. The partnership continued, with the union’s Central States, Southeast and Southwest Pension Fund providing $100 million to finance future developments, including a string of Vegas casinos and the Rancho La Costa resort ou tside San Diego. Two of the foursome had criminal records: Roen pleaded guilty to stock fraud in 1962 and Dalitz, the most notorious partner, had a rap sheet that stretched back to th e Prohibition Era, when he was a major bootlegger in Cleveland. In 1975, when Penthouse magazine published an expose alleging that La Costa was established and frequented by mobsters, Irwin Molasky and Adelson sued the magazine for libel. A jury cleared Pen th ouse of libel in 1982, but the case wasn’t over yet. According to former Houston Post reporter Pete Brewton, the judge who set aside the verdict had connections to some of the witnesses. Eventually, the case was settled out of court. Penthouse didn’t pay a dime in damages, but retracted the inference that Adelson and Irwin Molasky had ever been members of organized crime.

In 1992, the Las Vegas Organized Crime Strike Force named Irwin Molasky as a member of a sports betting ring. Given immunity, h e testified that in 1982 -- the ye ar after he generously loaned Mark Molasky $110,000 for bail -- he lost $350,000 betting on football.

Gambling appears to be a Molasky family trait. As the story goes, Willie Molasky, Mark’s grandfather, won the exclusive rights to distribute the Racing Form in St. Louis and New Orleans from racing news czar Moe Annenberg in a poker game. Along with his partners Clarence "Gully" Owen and Paul "Bev" Brown, Willie Molasky operated the Pioneer News Service in downtown St. Louis from 1931 until 1946. Pioneer purchased the racing odds and results for tracks nationwide from an Annenberg company in Chicago and then resold them to bookies throughout the St. Louis area. During its heyday, Pioneer had two state senators on the payroll and paid off judges and the police. Its influence extended all the way to the governor’s mansion in Jefferson City. Moreover, Willie Molasky was one of the largest shareholders in Western Union, the wire service that transfer red the racing results. In 1940, the IRS convicted Willie Molasky of income tax evasion. He served a year in prison. President Harry Truman later pardoned him. After Owen and Brown died in the late1940s, W illie Molasky continued to operate Pioneer, which by then had been taken over by th e Capone Outfit of Chi cago. Local mob boss Frank "Buster" Wortman represented the Outfit’s interests in St. Louis. But when Willie Molasky testified before the Senate Crime Committee in 1950, accompanied by attorney Mo rris Shenker, he denied any affiliation with organized crime.

In May 1958, St. Louis police raided the Pierce News Co. at 2206 Locust St. and seized 21 publications alleged to be obscene material. The next month Willie Molask y and his two sons, Jerome a nd Allan, were arrested and charged wi th the possession and circulation of obscene materials. Willie and Jerome Molasky died within six months of each other in 1965, leaving Allan Molasky reluctantly in charge of the family business. By 1969, Mark Molasky had joined Pierce News as financial vice president and started making the business decisions.

Hundreds of miles away, in Springfield, Ashcroft was poised to begin his career, too. The next year he would be appointed state auditor.

The future was wide open.

Wednesday, January 07, 2004

Terrorist (Total) Information Awareness Examined
The Pentagon continues to access the efficacy of DARPA's TIA, after the electronic snooping operation was supposedly put to rest. [PEEKA-BOO ADM. POINDEXTER]

Homeland Security a Growth Industry
Seeking a career change or just surfing for Internet paranoia, check out the site that Beltway Bandits turn to most often when they're seeking meaning to their souless existences. [SHAKEY SECURITY OR SECURITY SHAKEDOWN?]

He's No Percy Green
"Deputy Dawg" Mike Jones is more like Wayman Smith, Robin's bro. Call em Smith & Jones; they both carry the honorary title of VP in front of their names, courtesy of Anhueser-Busch Inc. Smith had to bale out of the p olice commission a few years back, after beating his girlfriend in front of his manse on Lindel. Then-top cop Ron "Bubba" Henderson arrived on the scene to protect Smith, from the woman on the ground. But Bubba couldn't stop the scandal that developed an y better than he could stop himself or his troops from charging into Mardi Gras revelers.

Jones is way smarter. He works the inside at City Hall better than most and he hasn't seen a white man's boondoogle that he didn't like. Take the plan to revita lize downtown by Downtown Now! In June 1999, Jones and his buds, including John Danforth, Dick Fleming and Bob Baer heralded the rebirth of the city. The long-range public/private initiative was supposed to create 40,000 jobs, lure 20,000 residents and br ing billions in tourists dollars -- by 2025. What's the status of the plan now, Mike? Can we get an update from 2004, please. Will any of us live to see that bright day? [read the 1999 press release from 2004]

Media Mayhem, More Content Than a Tuesday Post or a Month's Worth of Riverfront Times

Making Hay While the Sun Shines

Part of the plan involves slamming margaritas and slicing a few golf ball. In between, a dozen or more congressional Republicans will spend the next four days wining and dining at the posh Arizona Biltmore Resort in Phoenix. The tab for the winter spree will be paid by the Western Business Roundtable, an affiliation of influential mining, power and railroad interests.

It's a quid pro quo arrangement. The energy sector folks will ante up fists full of cash to aid in the GOP lawmakers' re-election campaigns and, between rounds of golf and drinking bouts, the lawmakers will be handed a political agenda, which the industry representatives will expect them to carry out in Congress this session. Not surprisingly, the top priority is gutting the Clean Air Act.

Among the congressmen who have signed up to attend is Rep. Darrell Issa of California, the million Republican who bankrolled the "Get Davis," campaign last year, which resulted in the Terminator being installed as governor of that state. Issa and his ilk bitched about Davis' ties to Enron and the California energy crisis during the recall. Months later, after crying on camera, when he bowed out of the governor's race in the face of certain defeat from the Terminator, Issa is sucking up the sun and the payola.

Other patrons of energy attending the "conference" include Sen. Pete Domenici, R-N.M., chairman of the Senate Energy Committee, and officials from the Bush Bund's Energy and Interior Departments, as well a a pawn from the EPA

Other than "Cry Baby" Issa, House Repubicans confirmed as attending include Reps. Rob Bishop and Chris Cannon of Utah; Jim Kolbe of Arizona; Denny Rehberg of Montana; and Tom Tancredo of Colorado. [Western Roundtable Summit] [Clean Air Trust]

Bite This Berger, U2 Deb
Media Mayhem gadfly Ben Blown crashed the Ritz to schmooz at the gala charity sleaze fest over the holidays to find the same ilk in attendance as last year. Arts lover Floyd Warmann line danced with bro Gene, County police commissioner, and Madam Julia Von Wellen, aka,Dorothy Ann Pyron; while Fred Weber jefe Thomas Dunne kibitzed with CBC chum Tony Novelly of Apex Oil about off-shore biz in Bermuda, as Weber VP William Giordano listened in. Meanwhile, over at the Cedars, Hizzoner held court with cuz Gene Slay and Card's owner Billie DeWitt III, who appeared tan and rested after his busman's holiday to the Caymans. DeWitt and his bud Mercer Reynolds were overheard to say that they have already invited King George to the opening of the yet-to-be-built, publicly-financed-private-stadium. Billie quipped that the deal never would have seen the light of day without the help of "Atta Boy" Mikey P., who owns four points in the scheme.

Paris, D.C. Images Censored for National Security
Late last month, the Secret Service ordered that all aerial photographs of Washington, D.C. must be altered by blurring the White House and VP "Dick" Cheney's compound at the Naval Observatory, the Associated Press reported on Dec. 23.

It appears that the Fox television network has extended the censorship to include Paris Hilton's derriere. A recent broadcast of the Hilton's popular "reality" TV program, A Simple Life, digitally blurred the celebrity's rear cleavage, which was visible due to her low-riding jeans.

Revealing photographs of Washington and Paris are still available online, however, for those who dare. [see D.C.] [see Paris]

The Appearance of Impropriety
Would Joseph Pulitzer Jr. have employed mob lawyer Morris Shenker as the general counsel for the Pulitizer Publishing Co. and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch?

Safe Bet
Donnybrook panelists will discuss Senator Clinton's faus pas.

The Secret to Blogging Revealed
obsessive-compulsive disorder

Polite Politics
Definitions from the original Devil's Dictionary by Ambrose Bierce:
politeness n. The most acceptable hypocrisy.

politics n. A strife of interests masquerading as a contest of principles. The conduct of public affairs for private advantage.

politician n. An eel in the fundamental mud upon which the superstructure of organized society is reared. When we wriggles he mistakes the agitation of his tail for the trembling of the edifice. As
compared with the statesman, he suffers the disadvantage of being alive. [more devilish definitions]

News for Nerds and Classifieds, Too
Media Mayhem's web sites of the day: Real Politik and Craig's List -- St. Louis

Times Tripping
More than you ever wanted to know about the Times Beach Superfund Clean Up and related dioxin and PCB issues, all archived through the WayBack Machine online. Somewhere in the neighborhood of three dozen of my stories were published in the Riverfront Times between 1993 and 1998, which I featured on my now-defunct web site, The Urban Guerrilla Journal. [take me way back]

Fill Er Up, Sailor
Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton caused a stir Saturday night at a fundraiser for Senate candidate Nancy Farmer, when she said the late Mahatma Gandhi "used to run a gas station in St. Louis."

Republican critics and other more earnest defender's of Gandhi's legacy now charge that Clinton's remark was insensitive and promoted racial stereotyping. Clinton has since apologized, saying her comment was a lame attempt at humor.

Safir Ahmed, the former editor of the Riverfront Times and a spokesman for Farmer's campaign, told KTVI-TV that it was ludicrious to conclude that Clinton was a racist because of her off-the-cuff comment. Ahmed added that former President Bill Clinton and Senator Hillary Clinton are treated like rock stars when they visit India.

I have to plead ignornace on this matter. I never knew that accusing an Indian of operating a gas station in St. Louis was considered an ethnic or racial stereotype. I thought the stereotype was that Indians run cheap motels in podunk towns like Carurthersville, Mo.

Besides, what's wrong with operating a gas station in St. Louis or a motel in Carurthersville? How is that considered an ethnic or racial slur? Good, honest, hardworking immigrants, putting their life's blood into a small business, putting bread on the table, and paying their taxes.

The insinuation of both sides in this flap points to the unrecognized caste system in Western society.

Ahmed, an Indian himself, countered the Republican hogwash by saying that the Clintons are treated like rock stars when they visit India. How noble of him to make that comparison. John, Paul, George, Ringo, Hillary and Bill. After all, Mick Jagger is now a knight of the Invisible British Empire.

Maybe it would be more stereotypic to say that Indians idolize lawyers. The Clintons are both lawyers and so was Gandhi. The lawyer who rallied a nation and defeated British colonialism -- without firing a shot -- couldn't end sectarian strife in his own country, howeve r. On J an. 30, 19 48, Gandhi, whose first name means "great soul," was shot to death by a Hindu newspaper editor.

So what's wrong with being a Hindu gas station owner in St. Louis or a Muslim motel owner in Caruthersville? Maybe Hillary, a flower child of the 60s, was picking up on a vibe. Maybe Ghandi has been reincarnated and is still out there, pumping gas on a cold winter's night here in St. Louis. I'd like to think so.

Oh, I forgot it's self-service nowadays.

Tuesday, January 06, 2004

Move On in a Tizzy

Move On, the Democratic progressive organization with a dumb name is concerned about recent criticism it received because of its "Bush in 30 Seconds" campaign, a political ad contest. Two of the thousands of submission s compared George W. Bush to Hitler. The Republican National Committee chairman attacked the ads on a Sunday morning public affairs broadcast. Yesterday, the NRC continued the to make political hay by releasing a press release to the same effect. Now Mov e On is running for cover, claiming that the ads weren't authorized by the organization.

A better tact would be to embrace rather than deny the characterization of Bush as a Nazi. He wasn't elected. He launched invasions against two countries since bein g appointed by the Supreme Court. He's essentially suspended the Constitution in many respects. If he walks like a Nazi and he squawks like a Nazi, it's a pretty sure bet he is a Nazi.

Although I didn't submit an ad to Move On's contest (I thought it wa s rather pointless), I just came up with a slogan: "There is a Terrorist Behind Every Bush." What is that supposed to mean? you ask. Absolutely nothing. I'm just mimicking, in reverse, the alarmist prattle that comes out of appointed
president's pie hole everytime he opens it. Oh, the terror! Code orange, batten the hatches, maintain battle stations. Report all almanac readers to your local law enforcement authorities. Get a grip. [Let's All Move On]

Forget About It

On January 22, 1988, Col. Robert E. Sheetz, then-Chief of the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department, submitted a report on organized crime to the Senate's Committee on Governmental Affairs. Lt. John M. Letz and Sgt. Ha rry B. Hegger of the department's Intelligence Unit compiled the report. The following is the summation of the report and its conclusion:

"... As the chronology indicates, the power of the LCN (La Costa Nostra) and other traditional organized crime gangs in t he St. Louis area became somewhat ineffective, when you copare their present status to that of past history. Murder, imprisonment and death by natural causes greatly reduced the recognized leadership of these mobs. However diminished the strength of these groups may be at present, there exists an element which remains entrenched in local union leadership positions and influence. ...

"... As a final note on this summary of traditional organized crime in St. Louis, it is important to note that there presently appears to be efforts of rebuilding and reorganizing the LCN through anewly emerging Sicilian element which operates through the framework of the old La Costa Nostra. Their criminal activities appear to be in the area of narcotic trafficking and money laundering. ..."
-- expcerpted from Organized Crime: 25 Years After Valachi, Hearings before the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations of the Committee on Governmental Affairs, United States 101st Congress, Second Session, 1988.

So according to the Hoodlum/Red Squad, the crooks in 1988 still controlled certains unions in St. Louis and a new, unidentified element of the traditional Mafia had gained a foothold not in high-stakes gin rummy, but narcotics trafficking and money laundering. That must have left Trupiano out of the game. Maybe the cops made it all up just to get more tax dollars thrown in their direction.

It's history, forget about it.

See No Evil

When Eastside racketeer Thomas Venezia was on trial in the mid-1990s, St. Louis Post-Dispatch described him as a businessman. Years later, a federal prosecutor told me that authorities suspected foul play in the death of at least one person who was drawn into the investigation of the illegal gambling operations controlled by Venezia. If the Post reporters would have bothered to look up Venezia’s file in their own newspaper morgue, they could have padded their trial reporting with background on Venezia’s earlier business career on this side of the river. In the early 1960s, the Eastside racketeer was arrested twice for the murders of two laborers. But, surprise, surprise, the St. Louis cops never charged him. By coincidence, his partner in crime, lawyer Amiel Cueto, once served as a city cop. After serving lengthy federal prison sentences, the two pals are out of jail. It is unknown whether U.S. Rep. Jerry Costello, Cueto’s lifelong friend, is entertaining the notion of going into business with either of them, again.

A Dead Man’s Tale
When Jesse Stoneking Died in the Desert Last Year, He Left a Trail of Classified FBI Memos as His Legacy

FBI informant Jesse Stoneking died on the outskirts of Surprise, Ariz.of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head on the night of January 19, 2003. He didn't die alone, however. As exclusively reported last week by Media Mayhem, a Maricopa County sheriff's deputy and a close friend of Stoneking's were at the scene of the crime. The circumstances surrounding his death were never accurately reported by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Indeed, police reports from the Arizona authorities paint a starkly different picture of Stoneking's last hours. Questions of why he chose to kill himself -- after having a flat tire on the highway -- may never be answered. But this much is known:

Between 1982 and 1984, Jesse Stoneking lived a dual life. In one of his incarnation he acted as the top lieutenant for Eastside mob boss Art Berne, who died in 1996. In his other identity, he became a FBI snitch. Information gained from Stoneking led to numerous federal convictions of organized crime figures in Southern Illinois and Eastern Missouri, including those of Berne and the late Matthew Tr upiano, leader of the St. Louis Mafia.

Berne was convicted of attempting to extort money from PT’s, which operates strip clubs on the Eastside. At the time, Berne was concerned that PT’s, a Denver-based company, was siphoning off business from locally-controlled topless bars and not paying any protection money to the local mob. Stoneking also helped put away Fernando "Nando" Bartolotta, who was inducted into the St. Louis Mafia at the same time as the Trupiano. Bartolotta had a close association with Dennis W. Sonnenschein, the local massage parlor kingpin who entered federal prison last week.

In the early 1980s, the FBI estimated that there were 17 made Mafia members in the St. Louis family. Most organized crime activities in St. Louis were under the control of the Chicago Outfit, according to FBI records. Based in part on Stoneking’s information, the feds believed Berne had to clear decisions through Chicago. After the series of convictions that resulted from Stoneking’s informant work, news about organized crime activities in the St. Louis ceased. The one exception was a spate of car bombing in the early 1980s between warring factions of the Syrian organized crime faction.

After Ronald Lawrence retired from the St. Louis Post-Disp atch in 1989, the newspaper essentially quit reporting on organized crime. Post columnist Bill McClellan made a joke out of the feds busting Trupiano for running a gin rummy game. Trupiano was cast as a pathetic, compulsive gambler, who couldn’t make a profit on his bookie operation. Post feature writer John McGuire eulogized the death of the Mafia in the Everyday section.

But long after Stoneking disappeared from public view, the FBI appears to have continued to milk him for information on labor racketeering, gambling and prostitution in the St. Louis area. Most of the FBI memos, which are based on these interviews, are heavily redacted. The special agents names are blacked out along with the identity of the informer. But the context of the reports suggest that Stoneking hadn’t retired. Media Mayhem has confirmed through multiple sources that Stoneking lived in Southern Illinois as recently as the winter of 2001. Ten years prior to this, it is likely that he provided the FBI with the following information:

[disclaimer: the veracity of the following verbatim transcript of a redacted FBI report, released through the Freedom of Information Act, cannot be confirmed.]

Date of transcription 6/18/91

[redacted] provided the following information to Special Agents [redacted] and [redacted]

[redacted] stated that while he was [redacted] ARTHUR BERNE, the head of the eastside outfit, BERNE had told him that RALLO CONSTRUCTION COMPANY in St. Lou is, Missouri, belonged to [redacted] of the Chicago La Cosa Nostra (LCN) at that time. BERNE told [redacted] that if Chicago wanted to buy property, businesses, get loans, or some other financial transaction, it would be done through RALLO CONSTRUCTION CO MPANY in St. Louis. [redacted] further related that once a year around Christmas season ARTHUR BERNE and others would get a payoff from contractors in the St. Louis, Missouri area for labor peace. The recipients of this payoff money would include (when he was a live) ANTHONY GIORDANO, the head of the St. Louis LCN; John Vitale, the underboss of the St. Louis LCN, and upon the death of GIORDANO, the head of the St. Louis LCN. [three lines redacted] and MATTHEW TRUPIANO, the current head of the St. Louis LCN.

[redacted] stated that initially the money would go to ANTHONY GIORDANO and he would then disperse it. [remainder of page redacted]

investigation on 5/22-23/91 at St. Louis, Missouri file#183A-773

SA [redacted]
SA [redacted] :bjb Date dictated 5/29/91

He's Bad, He's Nationwide
Porn Star Dennis Sonnenschein's Far-Flung Empire Expanded From Brooklyn (Ill.) to Tampa
In August 1998, Tower Records' parent company, MTS Inc., filed a federal suit in Sacramento, Calif. alleging that Futurescape Inc. of Tampa, Fla. had ripped off its web address to lure Internet surfers to porn sites.

Tower Records, which sells music and videos, claimed that Futurescape had intentionally registered an address that would misdirect Tower customers to adult-only sex sites. For months, Futurescape used www.towerecords.com as its URL so Internet users who left out the second "r" in the address would be linked to its porn sites, the suit alleged.

A an article, which first appeared in the Sacramento Business Journal named Dennis Sonnenschein as a principal actor in the scam. The Journal, however, misidentified Sonnenschein as being a player in the St. Louis and "New York" skin trade. Apparently the business reporter misconstrued Sonnen schein's Brooklyn, Ill. operations as having been centered in the New York burough of the same name.

In its Aug. 24, 1998 issues, the Seattle and Tampa Business Journals ran the same story. Here's an excerpt:

The company (Futurescape), whose di rectors include a convicted felon and veteran adult club owners from around the country, operates various online adults-only Web sites from its offices at 2301 N. Dale
Mabry Highway in Tampa.

" ... Incorporated a little more than a year ago, Futurescap e's principals
include Dennis Sonnenschein, a convicted felon and major player
in the St. Louis and New York massage parlor and exotic dance club scenes.

Sonnenshein was sentenced in 1987 to five years in federal prison and fined $10,000 after pleadin g g uilty to conspiracy to avoid paying taxes on $114,000 earned from a pyramid scheme. He also was slapped with five years'probation for fraudulent use of credit cards, which were used by patrons of a Brooklyn massage parlor. ..." [search the Biz Journal archive]

To the Post-Dispatch Everday Man
"When nations grow old, the arts grow cold and commerce settles on
every tree." - William Blake

Monday, January 05, 2004

Exploit This
Counter terrorism programs initiated by the FBI in the wake of 9/11 include the Document Exploitation Working Group or DocEx. The FBI claims that it is part of a coordinated analysis of various forms of intelligence gathered from Afghanistan, Pakistan and "elsewhere," which has led to 10,000 new investigative leads [add your name to the list]

Post Mortem
Look forward to future tributes to past Posties Carlos Hurd, Paul Anderson, Connie Rosenbaum, Carter Stith and others. There, but by the grace of God, go you.

The late St. Louis Post-Dispatch editorial page editor Irving Dilliard taught me how to tie my shoes. Imagine the current editor doing the same.

All in the Family Not
Correction: A recent Media Mayhem entry incorrectly implied that reporter Todd Frankel was related to a retired editor at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Relying on a faulty memory, MM's aging editor-in-chief misassociated former Postie Donald Franklin with young Frankel. The Post'sfamily tree does include Peter Shinkle, the cousin of Florence Shinkle and Kathie Sutin, who is the wife not the daughter of Phil Sutin.

Note: Media Mayhemshuns all suggestions of nepotism. The blog's contributing writers include: Ambrose Bierce, Jack London, Jonathan Swift and J.J. Maloney -- dead white guys, all. In an effort to diversify its content, MM will soon add Frederick Douglass and Mary "Mother" Jones to the list.

Long Shot
Smart Money says that Dennis Sonnenschein's prison term will not discussed on Donnybrook this week.

Queer Eye, Crooked Guy
Besides his "business" holdings in Brooklyn, Ill., Dennis Sonnenschein was or still is involved in a gay strip club in Centreville, Ill. The Centreville liquor license for that club, Boxers 'N Briefs, was filled out by Robert D. Hollenbeck, who listed his address as 4334 I Arrowtree Dr., St. Louis, MO. 63128. The trade or partnership name listed on the application is Platinum Inc., DBA (doing business as) Boxers 'N Briefs.

The application indicates that the club owners didn't own the property. The property owner is listed as Entertainment Ill. Inc. The address of the corporation is given as 10282 N. 103 Place, Scotsdale, Ariz. 85258.

In 2002, The Illinois Secretary of State's office shows that the registered agen t for Platinum Inc. was Sherry DeeMarsala. The secretary was Linda Sonnenschein, Dennis W. Sonnenschein's recently-divorced wife. The president was James Lichty.

St. Clair County property records show other names assoicated with the land sale as Sonnenschein, Rainbow Land Trust, Commercial State Bank and Relmss Serv Inc.

Another Gruender
The late J.J. Maloney, was the founder of the online Crime Magazine. As a young man, he was convicted of murder here in St. Louis. After his release from prison, Ma loney, a native of Webster Groves, went on to become an award-winning journalist for the Kansas City Star and Orange County Register.

Before his death in 1999, Maloney wrote an article on the assassination of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. Part of Malonie's story referenced reporting that I had done on the same subject for the Riverftont Times. Unfortuately, I didn't know about Maloney or his work until after hi s death. Maloney claimed to have inside information on organized crime in the 1950s and 1960s because his stepfather -- Julius "Dutch" Gruender -- was an assoicate of Eastside rackets boss Frank "Buster" Wortman. Gruender served twelve years for the murder of an M aplewood grocer during the Great Depression, according to newspaper clips. After his release from the Missouri pen in 1950, he resumed his criminal assosications. As a child, Maloney claimed that his stepfather frequently took him over to the Paddock Lounge in East St. Louis, which was owned by Wortman's brother.

A spokesman for Ray Gruender, the U.S. Attorney for Eastern Missouri, says he never heard of anybody named Julius "Dutch" Gruender.

Here is an excerpt from Maloney's story that refers to his stepfather, Julius "Dutch" Gruender:

My stepfather, Julius "Dutch" Gruender, was a close friend of Wortman's. They
had served time together in Leavenworth (before Wortman
was transferred to Alcatraz), and Dutch had done time with
Elmer Dowling, Wortman's chief lieutenant (until he was
murdered in the early 60s).

I had known Wortman most of my life. His brother, Te d
Wortman, had married my mother's cousin. As I was
growing up my stepfather often took me to the Paddock, a
tavern that served as Wortman's headquarters. After I was
lock ed up, Wortma n tried to help me in whatever way he
could. Had James Earl Ray gone to Wortman for help - and
had Wortman actually hidden him out - I would have learned
of it through my stepfat her.

See Dennis Ride
See cowboy pimp Dennis Sonnenschein ride his his horsey in Colorado. [click here]

Lost in Translation: U.S. Attorney Guilty of Misprision
Last summer, federal prosecutors for the Southern District of Illinois charged massage parlor impressario Dennis W. Sonnenschein with misprision of felony:

The offense of concealing a felony committed by another, but without such previous concert with or subsequent assistance to the felon as would make the party concealing an accessory before or after the fact.

When the feds on t he Eastside issued the indictment, nobody else was charged. This begs a question -- to which specific crimes is Sonnenschein guilty of concealing? The St. Louis Post-Dispatch stories that chronicle the federal case against Sonnenschein indicate that he obstructed an investigation into th e Eastside prostitution rackets. The Post further reports that the federal charges were based on the solicitations in Missouri publications -- which drew customers across state lines to engage in illegal activities. The a lleged crimes for whic h Sonnenschein is charged took place between 1996 and 2000. It sounds like Sonnenschein refused to roll over. As a result, he was slapped with a one year sentence, a $250,000 fine and ordered to give a $1 million to Eastside charities.

The solicitations, which are the foundation of the federal case, were paid to newspapers that publish in Missouri. The publication that obviously is used most often to advertise Eastside strip clubs and massage parlors is the Riverfront Times. But when as ke d about this very subject, as recently as 2002, Ray Gruender, the U.S. Attorney for Eastern Missouri, told me he didn't have time to waste on such cases. In other words the U.S. attorney on this side of the river i s turning a blind eye to alleged org an ized criminal activities within his jurisdiction. In that respect, it appears that Gruender himself is guilty of another form of misprision. -- the maladmistration of public office. Here's the legal definition:

"a contempt against the sovere i gn, the government, or courts of justice, including not only contempts of court, properly so called, but also all forms of seditious or disloyal conduct and leze-majesty; maladministration of public office; neglect or improper performance of official duty ..."

A Day at the Beach
After selling the Riverfront Times to the Phoenix-based New Times chain for an estimated $5 to $10 million, RFT owner Raymond P. Hartmann purchased a luxury condo at the Yacht Club at Portofino in Miam i Beach, according to Miami-Dade County property records. Hartmann paid $350,000 for the two-bedroom, two bath unit.

For the next two years, the former publisher continued to write his commentaries for the newspaper. New Times paid him a salary of $125,000 a year, according to a former editor at the newspaper. Part of the money came out of the inflated editorial budget, which New Times bragged profusely about. New Times was supposed to use Hartmann as a pitch man for the newspaper chain. He would travel the country, extolling the virtues of the New Times takeovers to the journalism community and public at large. That didn't happen.

The honeymoon ended when New Times booted Hartmann's popular opinion pieces from the inside cover, where readers of the RFT had turned first for more than two decades.

Hartmann began visiting his corner office at the RFT less and less, choosing instead to spend the bulk of his time in the Florida sun. During this period, Hartmann would fly back to St. L ouis every week to appear on the popular Donnybrook public affairs program, which appears on KETC-TV, the local PBS affiliate.

But some habits didn't change. Whereas staffer had to submit their copy two days earlier, Hartmann continued to literally s top the presses. The paper couldn't be put to bed on time every Tuesday because he hadn't finished his commentary. One day, he called Amy Cook, the editorial assistant, from his cell phone, asking for background information on either the football of baseball stadium controversy. Essentially, he was rewriting a past editorial. Cook had to ask Hartmann to speak up because she couldn't hear what he was requesting. There wasn't anything wrong with the cell phone reception. Hartmann was calling from the beach, and his voice was being muffled by the roar of the tide.

The Naked Truth

[first published in the April-May 2002 issue of Whats Up magazine]

It's eleven o'clock on a Friday night at the Crystal Palace in Centreville, Ill.Inside the bar, a young female dancer pulls her g-string aside to expose herself and thrusts her pelvis rhythmically within inches of the face of a very fat man seated at the edge of the stage. A disc jockey spins 70s rock music and shouts vulgarities int o a microphone. Blacklights illuminate murals of nymphs with bouffant hair. Glittering globes dangle from the ceiling, casting spangles of
swirling light. Strippers, with stiletto heels, strut around translucent columns of bubbling fluid the color of uri n e. It all seems surreally retro except for the flesh.

In any given set, one or more of the four women on stage may engage in a series of escapades: spreading their thighs, caressing their breasts, simulating copulation on t hei r hands and knees, or draping their legs over the shoulders of an admiring onlooker. Across the road at PT's Show Club, the masters of ceremonies, a balding man, in a sports coat and tie, oversees a game that requires audience members to crawl between the legs of a line of bare-breasted women. The ostensive objective is "not to touch their koochie," the MC says. As
participants are eliminated, the women giggle and squat closer to the floor. Outside of the carnival-like atmosphere of these bawdy shenan i gan s, in the darkened aisle leading to the men's room, another customer is receiving more private attention from a woman who is straddling his lap. Back in the limelight, the MC barks that a mere $5 entitles patrons to a handful of personal visits from a bev y of beauties.

Whatever is going on here has more to do with capitalism than eroticism. Millions of dollars a year are generated at such clubs -- much of it in cold cash. Often "spas," referred to in court documents as "brothels," crop up near th e clubs. Those profiting most are not women having $5 bills shoved down their g-strings. Men reap the handsomest rewards. They are or have been lawyers, police chiefs, elected officials, bankers, real estate developers, executives and
publishers. They hal e from Belleville, St. Louis or more distant locales: Miami Beach, Malibu, Denver and Phoenix.

Centreville's commercial sex industry, at the junction of Illinois Routes 157 and 13, is not unlike clusters of skin trade in nearby Sauget, Brooklyn and Wash in gton Park in St. Clair County. As is evident from the license plates of the pick up trucks, SUVs and muscle cars parked outside the Centreville clubs, the clientele come mainly from Missouri. In part, residents and visitors to St. Louis are drawn to th ese out-of-state establishments by provocative ads placed in the Riverfront Times , St. Louis' weekly alternative newspaper.

Indeed, quarter-page spreads, which cost as much as $475 a week, are the principal means of advertisin g t he se xually-oriented enterprises.

Over the past decade, a series of federal indictments brought in the Southern District of Illinois, have resulted in the conviction of topless club owners, businessmen and public officials on racketeering, prostitu tion, bank fraud, obstruction of justice and money laundering charges. In the most notorious case, federal prosecutors named a U.S. congressman as an unindicted co-conspirator. But a former federal official, with knowledge of the Eastside rackets, says th ere is not hing illegal about the RFT's advertisements for Illinois strip clubs and massage parlors. If anything, he says, it's just an ethical lapse
on the part of the newspaper.

Given ample opportunity, RFT publisher Terry Coe declined to comment.

Bob Haida, the Illinois state's attorney for St. Clair County, could not be reached for comment. A spokesman for St. Louis Circuit Attorney Jennifer Joyce says the prosecutor has no plans to investigate sex ads in the back pages of the alternative weekly. Ray Gruende r, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Missouri, says enforcement of prostitution laws is the responsibility of local authorities unless it involves crossing state lines. "Prosecutors don't operate on coulds or shoulds or woulds," adds G ruender. "We have to have evidence." Even if the feds were conducting an inquiry into such matters, Gruender could not publicly discuss the subject, because that would violate Justice Department policies. In closing, however, the U.S. attorney made one
th ing perfectly clear: "I'm not going to dedicate my life to it."
[read more]

epilogue: RFT publisher Terry Coe, a 16-year employee of New Times Inc., was fired shortley after this story appeared..

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