News & Reviews

Issue: "Panic at PBS?," Aug. 14, 1999

Hubbel, Trie trials: Judge assignments questioned
Smelling a scandal
The quiet assignment of two Clinton-appointed judges to oversee the trials of two Clinton cronies has Washington talking and press ears tingling. Ditching the court's usual random selection, U.S. District Judge Norma Holloway Johnson instead handpicked judges to handle the trials of presidential pals Webster Hubbell and Yah Lin "Charlie" Trie. "That just kind of smells," complained Senate Judiciary Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah). Smells fine, countered Judge Johnson. In a two-page letter to The Washington Times, the chief judge protested that "politics was not and is never a factor in our case assignments." She explained, "It is the responsibility of the chief judge to move the docket as expeditiously as possible. That is all that was intended by these assignments." Judge Johnson called an emergency meeting of judges to defend herself after the Associated Press broke the story of possible conflict of interest. The Times quoted anonymously one judge who attended that meeting: "She told us what happened, but she never said why.... She just doesn't understand how improper this whole thing looks. The price of ignoring the random draw is the public's perception of what we do and how fair it might be." To the Charlie Trie trial, Judge Johnson assigned Clinton appointee Thomas Friedman, who dismissed various charges against Mr. Trie. One of Judge Friedman's rulings was reversed on appeal, and Mr. Trie is to be sentenced this month, probably to probation, on a plea-bargained guilty plea. Judge Johnson used the same out-of-the-ordinary method to assign Clinton appointee James Robertson to a tax case involving another presidential friend, former Associate Attorney General Webb Hubbell. Judge Robertson acknowledged that he "worked on the periphery" of the 1992 Clinton campaign and donated the legal maximum $1,000 to Mr. Clinton while serving as a partner for former White House counsel Lloyd Cutler. Judge Robertson dismissed the tax case against Mr. Hubbell, who eventually pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor when an appeals court reinstated the case. The random computer method assigned him to another Hubbell trial, in which he tossed the central felony count in the case. Mr. Hubbell pleaded guilty to that same felony count on June 30 after an appeals court reversed Mr. Robertson's decision. Anti-gambling forces take casino cash
Hedging their bets
The son of Traditional Values Coalition founder Lou Sheldon raised $156,000 in part to help fight the expansion of new gambling establishments in five California cities. The unlikely source of the funds: casino execs who feared competition from the new gambling clubs. Steve Sheldon and his company received the funds since 1993, according to an investigation by a state agency that fined two casinos for failing to disclose money spent to defeat a 1995 gambling-expansion ballot initiative. The Orange County (Calif.) Register broke the story last week. James Lafferty, a TVC consultant in the group's Washington, D.C., office, says his group is not compromised by the revelation, noting that it's difficult to raise money to oppose gambling and that the casino money "did not alter what we were doing." Mr. Lafferty told WORLD: "We thought we put it to good use." Dobson chides Bush on abortion
Early warning
James Dobson is daring to discipline the Republican presidential frontrunner on the abortion issue: "George Bush is going to need to tell us what he really believes," the Focus on the Family president told Colorado's Rocky Mountain News. Most troubling to Dr. Dobson was Mr. Bush's refusal to outline a pro-life "litmus test" for judicial nominees, which he said will turn off Christian voters. "That concerned a lot of people," Dr. Dobson said. "In so doing, he's moving away from the concerns of a lot of people." Comedian Berle burned by ad depiction in homosexual publication
I'm not Aunt Milty
Comedian Milton Berle doesn't think being called a homosexual in a Century 21 ad is very funny, so he's suing for $6 million the real estate company along with a gay magazine. The ad, which appeared in the spring-summer 1998 edition of Lambda's Out!, uses a photo from an old TV sketch showing the entertainer wearing a dress while doing a parody of singer Carmen Miranda. "Our team of friendly professionals know how to cater to royalty," read the caption. "After all, every queen deserves a castle." Even though his old Texaco Star Theatre routines are seldom seen today, Mr. Berle dominated network TV during his heyday in the 1950s. Now the 91-year-old comic says his reputation among the Saturday Night Live and Seinfeld generations is being trashed by a bad ad. Mr. Berle's suit states that the TV legend "is a heterosexual male and does not now [engage], nor has he ever engaged, in homosexual conduct, nor does [he] wish to be viewed as being homosexual." Not that there's anything wrong with it, Mr. Berle's lawsuit assures. Uncle Milty "respects the rights of others in the pursuit of their own individual sexual orientation." The suit calls for damages from Century 21 and Lambda Publications Inc. for defamation of character and unauthorized use of his image. "We are deeply concerned that a generation of Americans unfamiliar with Berle's classic schtick is seeing Berle depicted as a homosexual within the pages of this gay magazine," attorney David Albert Pierce said. Century 21, which is owned by the New Jersey holding company Cendant, is far from being a small industry player. It boasts that it is "the world's largest residential real estate sales organization," with 6,300 independently owned and operated franchises and 110,000 brokers worldwide. FEC complaint against christian coalition tossed
90 percent elation
In a victory for the Christian Coalition, which is plagued with more than $2 million in debts and the recent removal of its tax-exempt status, U.S. District Court Judge Joyce Green threw out accusations by the Federal Elections Commission (FEC) that Coalition voter guides unfairly touted Republicans. "We are absolutely elated," said Mike Fuller, the Christian Coalition's lead spokesman. "For 90 percent of a case to be dismissed with a summary judgement is unheard of." Even so, Judge Green deferred to the FEC with a yet-to-be-determined fine against the Coalition for improper assistance to the 1994 campaigns of Newt Gingrich and Oliver North. And with the courtroom victory came charges from former Coalition leaders that the organization has misrepresented its membership and voter-guide distribution numbers in recent years. Ranked in 1998 as the seventh most powerful lobbying group by Fortune magazine, the Coalition reported a membership of 2.8 million, with 40 million voter guides distributed. The Coalition estimates its membership now to be between 1.8 and 2 million. "We never distributed 40 million voter guides," said Dave Welch, the Coalition's former national field director. "State affiliates took stacks of them to recycling centers after the election. A lot of churches just put them on the back table." Other former members accused the organization of inflating membership lists with inaccurate names and addresses. Mr. Fuller responded by attributing the voter-guide criticisms to a "disgruntled employee." He explained that membership lists do not include state chapter databases, which would place numbers even higher. He brushed aside predictions of pending doom: "I don't think any organization could be around for 10 years and not experience some turmoil." Atlanta father-in-law overcome
The Barton funerals
Having already lost his daughter and wife six years ago, Bill Spivey broke down in tears when the time came to bury his grandchildren. The service for Matthew and Mychelle Barton was in an Atlanta chapel decorated with teddy bears and the inscription, "Gone to be with Momma." At the funeral, Mr. Spivey staggered with grief. The Barton children were beaten to death with a hammer by their own father, Mark O. Barton, America's deadliest daytrader. A suspect in the death of his wife and mother-in-law six years ago, he also killed his second wife Leigh Ann before opening fire at two brokerage offices in Atlanta, leaving another nine dead. Mr. Barton finally shot himself in the head, leaving his body slumped over his steering wheel in the parking lot of a BP gas station. "Pray for our city," Mayor Bill Campbell implored on TV as police closed in. Mark Barton left behind a confession letter blaming others: "I love Leigh Ann, Matthew and Mychelle with all my heart. If Jehovah's willing, I would like to see them all again in the resurrection, to have a second chance. I don't plan to live very much longer, just long enough to kill as many of the people that greedily sought my destruction." stranded sailors finally win freedom
In God We Trust
Capt. Maqsood Ahmed says seeing "In God We Trust" on a $10 bill inspired him to steer his doomed Pakistani ship Delta Pride away from the coast of Tampico, Mexico, where he had been stranded for months with no supplies and no identification. The company that owned the ship went bankrupt, and a dispute with Mexican officials led to the seizure of the ship's documents and the crew's passports. So the men lived off rainwater and whatever fish they could catch; like sailors from ages past they developed signs of scurvy and had no clean water for bathing. Last November, Mr. Ahmed found a $10 bill in a drawer and assumed that he could get some help in a country which says "In God We Trust" on its money. The desperate crew used the last of their fuel to sail the derelict ship 300 miles to the Texas coast. Yet, lacking papers, they sat again for several more months. Finally, they came ashore in March and auctioned off the Delta Pride. Mr. Ahmed said that if he had not found that bill, "I would not be alive today. I would have died." Now he will finally see his 2H-year-old daughter, who was 6 months old when he left Pakistan. "I'm going to pick her up and hug her," he said. "I want to see what she looks like." Henry Boss
Goodbye, friend
WORLD lost a faithful friend and ally with the death on July 25 of Henry Boss of Orlando, Fla., at age 81. For more than 20 years, Mr. Boss had served on the Board of Directors of God's World Publications Inc., the non-profit organization responsible for the founding of WORLD in 1986 and its publication since then. Mr. Boss grew up in the Grand Rapids, Mich., area and prospered in the home furnishings business. He was devoted to Christian education and, with his wife Helen, gave generously so that not only their four daughters, but many other young people as well, could enjoy the benefits of Christ-centered learning. That same commitment to a Christian worldview drove Mr. Boss's good-spirited devotion to WORLD and GWP Inc., where for many years he chaired the marketing committee. The No-Comment Zone

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