Return of the One-Source Wonder
WND's Jon Dougherty is back, laying out a case for freeing an imprisoned conservative -- his side only, of course.
By Terry Krepel
One knows what to expect when one sees a Jon Dougherty byline at the top of a WorldNetDaily story, and also what not to expect -- namely, balance and fairness.
Such is the case with Dougherty's May 13 one-source wonder. In it, he outlines the case made by William R. Kennedy, convicted in 1994 on mail fraud and money-laundering charges and sentenced to 20 years in prison, for seeking a pardon from President Bush. Why is Kennedy getting a push from WND? He is former publisher of a journal called Conservative Digest, and he has lined up some big conservative names in his quest to get out of prison, including two members of Congress, conservative activist Tim LaHaye, best known these days as co-author of the "Left Behind" book series, and James Dobson of Focus on the Family.
It's a one-source story, as indicated earlier; that would be Kennedy's attorney, Craig Parshall, who makes all sorts of accusations about prosecutorial misconduct and excessive sentencing. Dougherty makes no apparent effort to do any research beyond whatever documents Parshall supplied to him, and no prosecutorial or judicial source is cited or even noted as being the subject of a contact attempt by Dougherty.
A mere 15 minutes of rooting around on Google, however, turned up something that Dougherty would have found useful if he were a journalist who was interested in telling both sides of the story (you know, like almost every other journalist is): the 1995 ruling from the 10th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals affirming Kennedy's convictions on all charges.
The appeal gives a legal summary of the case, something Dougherty's story also lacks -- probably because it would make his subject much less benign.
Kennedy was the head of a company that, according to the ruling, "advocated the purchase of tangible precious metals as a hedge against inflation caused by certain world events" and acted as a go-between in precious-metals transactions. (WorldNetDaily, NewsMax and many other conservative sites are clogged with ads for similar services.) During a growth spurt, Kennedy's company began to run short of cash, yet the company still took orders despite the fact that it was between ten to thirteen million dollars behind in filling backlogged orders." The company filed for bankruptcy, listing 600 creditors with more than $18 million in unfulfilled orders, according to the ruling. After a five-year investigation, the government filed a 109-count indictment against Kennedy, accusing him of running "a massive Ponzi scheme to defraud numerous precious metals investors" and of diverting investors' funds to other uses, including Conservative Digest. Kennedy's primary defense to these allegations, according to the ruling, was that his company had failed to fill investors' orders "not because of fraud, but simply because of poor business practices and mismanagement." Kennedy was ultimately convicted on one racketeering count, nine mail fraud counts, and seven money-laundering counts.
Kennedy appealed his conviction on several grounds, including many of the usual ones: insufficient evidence, ineffective counsel, etc. One included the denial of extra help to prove his innocence -- he was considered an indigent defendant, so the government paid for his defense. The court had already paid for Kennedy to use a paralegal, an investigator, his company's chief financial officer and expert witnesses on the precious-metals industry and Ponzi schemes, but he wanted, among other things, more paralegals and help from the Arthur Andersen accounting firm, which were denied. The appeals court concurred.
Parshall's claim that Kennedy's sentence was too long because of, according to Dougherty's article, "a hyper-technical violation of the money-laundering statute, which resulted in a four-times more severe sentence" seems ludicrous considering that he was convicted on seven money-laundering counts. The allegations of prosecutorial conduct by Parshall are not addressed in the 1995 appeal.
Yes, there are lots of things Dougherty doesn't tell us, either through laziness or bias. Here's another: Who's paying for Craig Parshall? Is it the government, since Kennedy is supposed to be indigent? The answer can be found at JusticeForKennedy.com, a site devoted to furthering the cause for Kennedy's release. (What convict longing for freedom wouldn't have his own self-promoting Web site?) Between the letters from fellow inmates and Kennedy's favorite recipes is a history of the case broken down by year (from his side, of course). Under 1996 is the following entry: "Through the assistance of Bill's friend, Dr. Tim LaHaye, Craig Parshall is hired as Bill's attorney to investigate his case."
Dougherty shows no knowledge of that site, even though it would have helped his biased cause. But even then, he probably wouldn't have told his readers the newsworthy tidbit that LaHaye is apparently paying Parshall's legal fees.
The Kennedy site also provides a link to an article on the Christian conservative site Crosswalk which, though its main focus is the faith of Kennedy and his family, gives a little more detail on his relationship with LaHaye and makes sure to repeat the contention that he was convicted in "an unfair criminal trial." The case isn't discussed in the article, and no evidence is given to support the claim.
Is William Kennedy as innocent of his crimes as his attorney says he is? We don't know -- that's for judges and juries to decide, but the record is that they have thus far found him guilty of multiple charges that were affirmed by an appeals court. The point is, there are two sides to every story, and it is the job of a journalist to tell both of them fairly, accurately and completely.
That is, unless you're Jon Dougherty.