Posts Tagged ‘hoax’

The Mysterious Case of Zachary Tennen

September 5, 2012

***** UPDATE — 9/30/12 ****** According to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency the Tennen Family has asked that the hate crime investigation be officially closed:

The family wrote in a Sept. 24 letter that “justice will be best served by closing this investigation at this time,” according to reports. “The Tennen family is cognizant of the fact that substantial resources were expended to investigate these allegations and that there is insufficient evidence of a hate crime to go forward with a criminal prosecution,” the letter said.

How exactly will “justice be best served” by covering up such a heinous hate crime? Tennen’s father had already lined up “high profile lawyers” and had complained personally to the Anti-Defamation League. What justice is there in letting those evil Nazi-Klan-Skinheads get away with such blatant anti-Semitism?? Isn’t this exactly the way the Nazis got started to begin with?

Well… not so much.

A couple of days earlier several news outlets released the missing details from all other reports to date. Statenews.com reports that Mr. Tennen was, in his own words, “drunk and high” at the party that night, and he began to make unwanted sexual advances on several female party-goers:

According to the report, several female students told police Tennen made advances on them at the party, touched them inappropriately, asked them to make out with him and invited them back to his apartment.

One woman said after trying to avoid Tennen several times in the backyard, she was approached by him while she was sitting outside. Tennen came up to sit next to her and began touching her in a way that made her feel “extremely uncomfortable and scared,” she told police, the report reveals.
“I looked at my phone and ignored him in hopes that he’d walk away,” the witness said. “Instead he … placed his right hand across my chest and on my upper right thigh and then began to move lower to my private parts.”

The witness said Tennen was pushing against her so she couldn’t stand up or get away and asked her to make out with him.

After slapping his hand away, she went to get help from one of her friends — the man police identified as the suspect who punched Tennen.

Chivalry, it seems, is not dead after all, even among Nazi-Klan-Skinheads. Good for them.

So, what charges will be brought in this case? Will the Nazi-Klan-Skinhead face charges for the assault? It seems unlikely: “As of Thursday, no charges have been filed. In addition, no arrests have been made, and the case is not considered a hate crime.”

Will Zachary Tennen be charged with underage drinking, public intoxication and attempted sexual assault? Not likely.

Will Mr. Tennen be charged with filing false charges and promoting a hate crime hoax?

Despite some inconsistencies between the story Tennen gave police and witness accounts of the assault, Dunnings said there is no chance Tennen could be charged with filing a false police report.

“He believed he was assaulted, and he was, in fact, hit,” [Prosecutor Stuart]Dunnings said. “The fact that there may have been some erroneous reporting around the events does not make it a false police report.”

Apparently not. “Hate crime” laws aren’t about crime, after all, are they?

As for the “erroneous reporting,” here’s a link to an ABC News report featuring Mr. Tennen literally lying through his teeth, twice.

***** UPDATE — 9/17/12 ****** And the final word from the Ingham County Prosecutor’s office:

“There is no indication at all that this was a hate crime. None. Zero,” Prosecutor Stuart Dunnings III said Monday. “I think it’s a shame when one person makes an allegation and everyone takes it as the truth and gets up in arms about it.”

It is a shame, Mr. Dunnings, and hopefully your office will hold Mr. Tennen responsible for this reprehensible hoax. If societies are going enact subjective “hate crime” laws based on what the perpetrator was allegedly thinking at the time of the crime, then people who abuse those laws should be held to the same standards and punishments.

Maybe that would make the hoaxers think twice.

***** UPDATE — 9/14/12 ****** The Anti-Defamation League, (ADL), has issued a press release noting that “East Lansing Police have apparently concluded that while the student was the victim of a serious physical assault, the evidence does not support his claim that the assault involved anti-Semitic hate speech or gestures, nor does it indicate that the incident was motivated by his religion.”

The ADL then concludes that:

The story is a very sad one, on many levels.  However, based on the best information currently available, ADL does not believe this incident should be treated as a hate crime.

The story is indeed a very sad one. If the ADL, the creators and promoters of many current hate crime laws on the books, believe that this is not a hate crime, they should be among the first and the loudest to call for the most severe legal penalties under the law to be brought against an intentional hate crime hoaxer.

Will the ADL do the moral thing, the right thing, by demanding justice? Will they circle the wagons around one of their own and cook up some cockamamie excuse for the alleged hoaxer, as so many special interest groups are wont to do in these situations? Will the ADL and the Media simply allow this case to case to drop down the Memory Hole and never speak of it again?

Only time will tell. Stay tuned for further updates, if and when they occur.

***** UPDATE — 9/6/12 ****** Andrew Silow-Carroll, Editor-in-Chief of the New Jersey Jewish News, offers some good advice on allowing the police investigation to proceed before making the very serious charges of anti-Semitism or “hate crime.”

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Another horrific hate crime story was in the news last week that bears watching for further developments. Like the violent attack reported by Lincoln, Nebraska, lesbian Charlie Rogers in July, the early media reports on the attack on 19-year-old Jewish college student Zachary Tennen have evolved into an entirely different scenario.

Charlie Rogers claimed she was attacked because of her sexual identity. Early media reports determined that “three white men”  had undoubtedly committed one of the most heinous hate crimes in Nebraska history. Lincoln police investigated her report as a hate crime, but after examining the evidence they have since arrested Ms. Rogers and are charging her with faking the attack and filing a false report.

Early reports on the Tennen attack say that the MSU journalism student was at an off-campus party early on the morning of August 26 when two males with “shaved heads”  approached and asked him if he was Jewish. When Tennen replied that he was Jewish, the two men allegedly made “Nazi and Hitler symbols and they said they were part of the KKK,” according to Tennen’s report.

At that point, according to the media, the Klan-Nazi-Skinheads proceeded to “knock” or “beat” (depending on the source) Tennen into unconsciousness and then “stapled his mouth shut.”

Hate crimes don’t come much clearer than that (unless it comes to “carving” slurs into the flesh of a lesbian) and the media had a feeding frenzy.  Once again, before the police had even begun their preliminary investigation, the usual special interest groups weighed in to register their “horror” at this obvious anti-Semitic hate crime.

At least the ADL had the common sense to deplore an “alleged attack,” and the Southern Poverty Law Center seems to be watching and waiting on this one, having been singed by the Charlie Rogers incident.

East Lansing Police have since painted a slightly different picture of the events that don’t quite line up with Tennen’s version.

  • Witnesses at the party did not see or hear any “Nazi symbols” prior to the attack.
  • Tennen was knocked to the ground by a single punch (There’s a difference between being kayo’d by a single punch and being “beaten,” just as there is a significant difference between “carving” and “scratching” words on a person’s skin.)
  • Witnesses who saw the punch said the two men left immediately afterward and there was no stapler or stapling involved. (Do Klan-Nazi-Skinheads carry Swingline staplers nowadays?). Photos and a video interview with Tennen show no puncture wounds to his face or lips.
  • Tennen did not report the incident to police until a good 12 hours later.
Click image to enlarge

In the days following the attack, the media backed off from the hate crime angle, and like the East Lansing police, are now suspecting that Tennen was one of countless college students across the country that night who had a few drinks at an off-campus party, said or did something to offend a fellow guest and found themselves lying in a crumpled heap on the ground shortly thereafter.

“Two witnesses said they saw the victim having an argument with two other males in the front yard and one  punched him (Tennen) in the face,” [Police] Capt. Jeff Murphy said.

“There was nothing about anti-Semitic statements or about his face being stapled,” Murphy said.

“It appears to be a one-punch-to-the-face type assault,” Murphy said

Tennen’s parents aren’t giving up on their son’s account, however. It was they who notified the ADL of the attack and they have since made several public allegations that the witnesses and police may be covering up the true anti-Semitic nature of the crime.

Tennen’s father, Bruce Tennen, is determined to play the hate crime angle to the hilt:

We are in the process of engaging a high-profile governmental attorney,” Bruce Tennen said in a statement Wednesday. “It’s my hope that the assailants will be apprehended soon by the East Lansing Police Department, brought to justice and prosecuted to the fullest extent under applicable state and federal criminal laws.

Mr. Tennen may be disappointed if there turns out to be very few state and federal statutes regarding a punch in the face.

Just as in the Rogers case, though, some special interest groups are hedging their bets so that even if this case does turn out to be another hate crime hoax the perpetrator’s actions will be justified.

Shortly after Charlie Rogers was charged with making a false report a coalition of Nebraska LGBT groups noted that “It is important not to focus on the actions of any single individual,” the statement read. “As residents of Lincoln we must continue to bring our community together to declare that violence and hate are not the values of our city.”

Oddly enough, up until Rogers was charged, these same groups were very much focused on the alleged actions of three white male individuals. If they had committed these heinous acts these groups would have done everything in their power to extract the most severe penalties under law.

Now that it looks like Ms. Rogers fabricated the entire crime they’re willing to look the other way and there is no cry from them to charge Ms. Rogers with anything more than the misdemeanor of filing false charges. How exactly does this double standard “bring the community together”? Where’s the outrage now?

In a similar vein, Alex Waldman, president of MSU’s Jewish Student Union, seems just as willing to turn a blind eye in the event that Mr. Tennen might have exaggerated the events of that night.

Regardless of what the outcome of this incident is, this is an opportunity for our campus to evaluate hate toward groups, whether it’s cultural, racial or religious; hate is always there, and (for) students our age, as young adults, it is our responsibility to eliminate that.”

Hopefully, Mr. Waldman means that it is also the community’s responsibility to eliminate the irresponsible misuse of hate crime laws in the furtherance of anyone’s personal agendas.

Police have since identified and interviewed two suspects, though no arrests have been made as of this writing. We don’t know all the facts yet. Maybe the suspects really are Klan-Nazi-Skinheads so this case is still open.

As with the Charlie Rogers case, it will be worth watching this one to see just what actually happened that night.

Stay tuned for details as they come in.

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The Mysterious Case of Charlie Rogers

August 10, 2012

*** UPDATE *** 3/01/2015 – While we had hoped that our previous update had brought closure to this sad case, recent news reports indicate that Ms. Rogers was re-arrested in February for breaking the terms of her probation.

***  UPDATE*** 4/22/13 – Charlie Rogers was sentenced to one week in jail, two years of probation and 250 hours of community service in response to her hate crime hoax.

Lancaster County Judge Gale Porkorny also ordered Rogers to submit to a comprehensive psychological exam and allow her probation officer access to her medical records.

“The evidence is overwhelming that Charlie Rogers’ narrative of July 22, 2012, was an incredible and outrageous lie the second it passed her lips,” Pokorny said.”

With any luck, this will close out this bizarre, senseless story.

*** UPDATE ***12/19/12 – On December 10, Ms. Rogers entered a plea of “no contest” in regard to charges of filing a false police report and was found guilty of same. Sentencing to follow.

*** UPDATE ***11/29/12 – Ms. Rogers has withdrawn her request for a change of venue, to the consternation of the judge in the case, who had already rescheduled court business to hear the request.

“We set aside an entire afternoon,” [Judge Gale Pokorny] said to Rogers’ attorney, Brett McArthur.

Hopefully, Ms. Rogers isn’t paying for Mr. McArthur’s legal advice.

*** UPDATE ***11/20/12 – Ms. Rogers has requested a change of venue for her upcoming trial, citing concerns that the publicity surrounding her case could taint possible jurors.

*** UPDATE ***11/14/12 – Ms. Rogers released a YouTube video restating her claims that her story is true and that Lincoln police botched the investigation of her case.

Ms. Rogers urges her viewers to “be responsible.”

*** UPDATE ***9/30/12 – According to a report in the Omaha World-Herald, Ms. Rogers is sticking to her story and has waived her right to a speedy trial. A judge has set a November court date to review the status of the case. Ms. Rogers is facing a single misdemeanor charge for allegedly filing a false police report. Stay tuned for details as they emerge.

*** UPDATE ***8/22/12

Well, as mentioned, there really is no good outcome for this story. The media is reporting that Charlie Rogers turned herself in to Lincoln police on Tuesday in response to warrant issued for her arrest. The charge is filing a false police report and could carry fines and up to a year in prison.

Police listed a number of details they discovered in the course of their investigation that included some very damning evidence:

  • Rogers was identified as buying the zip ties, cotton gloves and box cutter used in the alleged attack, by a clerk at Ace hardware.
  • Rogers sent a photo of a cross-shaped cut on her chest to a friend a few days before the reported attack.
  • Rogers announced that she was planning a dramatic incident on Facebook, a few days before the attack: “So maybe I am too idealistic, but I believe way deep inside me that we can make things better for everyone. I will be a catalyst. I will do what it takes. I will. Watch me.”
  • Rogers said that the three men forced their way into her home and beat her, but there was no evidence of any forced entry and there were no bruises on Ms. Rogers.
  • Rogers said the men cut slurs into her stomach, arms and legs and then rolled her over on her bed in order to cut the backs of her legs, but police found no blood on the bed and described the bedspread as “undisturbed.”
  • Police say that the cut marks on Rogers’ body were too symmetrical to have been made during a violent struggle, all the cuts were made in areas Ms. Rogers could reach herself.
  • Media reports repeated used the term “carved” to describe the cuts on Ms. Rogers’ body, but police called the cuts “superficial” and believe that Ms. Rogers either made them herself or allowed an accomplice to make them.
  • The DNA found inside the white gloves belongs to Ms. Rogers. Rogers claimed that the gloves were worn by the men during the attack but no trace of male DNA was found. Rogers also said she had never seen the gloves before.

There are no “winners” here, beyond the Hate Industry vigilantes who claimed this attack actually happened before the police had even begun their investigation. Almost none of the media outlets carrying the story included the descriptor “alleged” in their reporting, and thus enjoyed a burst of lurid interest during the slow summer months.

A Lincoln tattoo shop was offering $50 dollar “NO H8” tattoos, with ten dollars from each sale going to the victim. At the time that story was written more than 50 people had gone under the needle in support of Ms. Rogers.

Now that news of the arrest is public, all reports on the case include “alleged” and the frothing comments that accompanied the early stories (and pilloried anyone who expressed doubts about the incident as a “homophobe” and “hater”) are now drinking deeply from the cognitive dissonance Kool-Aid.

“Well, if this is a hoax, she must have felt she had no other choice.”

“Things like this happen to LGBT people all the time, so she didn’t really do anything wrong.”

The coalition of Nebraska Gay Rights groups that originally called for the most severe charges possible to be brought against the three white monsters who committed this crime are saying that now is not the time to concentrate on the actions of any one person.

Again, it is important to recognize that Ms. Rogers has only been charged with a misdemeanor, and that she is presumed innocent until after she has her day in court.

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[Original post — 8/10/12]

Several weeks ago, a very disturbing news story broke reporting a violent attack on a lesbian in Lincoln, Nebraska. The way the media has reported this story, the wording of these reports and certain details and conclusions make this a story of interest to those of us who study hate in America and the Hate Industry in particular.

According to police reports, in the early morning hours of July 22, three men wearing ski masks allegedly entered the home of the 33 year old woman, pulled her from her bed, stripped her naked and bound her hands and feet with zip ties. The men then allegedly proceeded to “carve” anti-gay slurs into the woman’s arms and stomach, spray-paint the same slurs on her basement walls and then poured a small amount of gasoline on her kitchen floor, which they ignited.

Because the woman was allegedly attacked because of her sexual orientation, Lincoln police are reportedly investigating the incident as a possible hate crime.

NOTE: All violent crimes are attacks on the safety and liberties of individuals, and hate crimes are among the most serious, and so it is the job of law enforcement officials to investigate all claims thoroughly. As of this writing the Lincoln report is still being investigated by the Lincoln police and the FBI and no definite conclusions have yet been reached.

And while the benefit of the doubt always should go to the person reporting such incidents, the law enforcement agencies investigating this report have not ruled out the possibility of a false report, or hoax, as is the standard operating procedure in all criminal investigations.

As Will Rogers used to say, “All I know is what I read in the papers,” and in the 21st century news appears online simultaneously and in addition to being printed in the newspapers. All we really know is what has been reported on the Internet and in the Blogosphere and it’s these reports that warrant closer inspection.

One of the most striking features in the news reports of this case is the lack of the use of the standard qualifier “alleged” when describing events that have yet to be proven. You might expect this from bloggers, who are not professionally trained and some tend to have partisan views, but so-called Mainstream Media outlets ought to know better.

According to the Columbia Journalism Review, the consensus of the Associated Press and New York Times style books is that the modifier “alleged” should never be applied to an accused person, but to an event that has yet to be proven to have taken place.

The Lincoln Journal Star made no such qualifying comments in its early reporting of the story:

Hundreds of people gathered with rainbow flags and candles outside the Capitol for a nighttime vigil sparked by a woman’s account of a violent, hate-fueled attack that spread rapidly over the Internet on Sunday.

The paper’s account gives the impression that events happened as described and that the motive was undoubtedly anti-gay hatred. The paper also left no room for the very plausible possibility that the report was false.

Omaha TV station WOWT responded likewise:

Police are looking for three men who bound and beat a woman, before setting her home on fire. It’s an attack that many in Lincoln are calling a hate crime; they say it was because of the victim’s sexual orientation.

It wasn’t until several days later, when the Lincoln police announced that they would be looking into the possibility of a false report, as a matter of course, that the media began to qualify its statements on the story, and even then it referred to the woman as “the victim of an alleged attack.”

Well, as the CJR and the aforementioned style guides point out, calling her an alleged victim is inaccurate, but can one be a victim of an attack that has yet to be proven? The choice of language leads the consumer to foregone conclusions. The media is leading the witness, your Honor.

Several stories describe the three men as “possibly white,” but otherwise police have no leads on them. It’s definitely unusual for the media to release such sketchy details regarding race, and it can be legitimately questioned if they would have done so if the perps had been of any other racial group. How many times have you read of police seeking a dangerous killer or rapist on the loose only to be given the useless information that “the suspect was last seen in blue pants and a dark cap”?

Another curious gaffe in the reporting of this story was that, while the woman requested anonymity and went into hiding after making her report to police, the local media gave all kinds of reckless information about the woman’s identity.

While WOWT had the common sense to limit its report on the location of the alleged attack as “the 1000 block of South 22nd Street,” the folks at the Journal Star blurted out that “officers were called to 22nd and E streets.”

If the woman was indeed in fear for her safety, thanks to the Journal Star, any boob with access to Google Maps could pinpoint her neighborhood and even obtain street view photos of the homes there.

Click image to enlarge

CNN went one better by reporting the name of the next-door neighbor to whom the bleeding, naked woman turned to for help after the alleged incident.

After the attack, the woman made her way to the home of a neighbor, Linda Rappl…

Other sources identified several close friends of the woman by name. So much for protecting the woman’s identity, or those who would help her. Doesn’t this kind of information invite copy-cat attacks on the woman and retribution attacks on her friends?

As it turns out, once the word came out that the police were investigating the false report angle, the woman came forward and revealed her identity as Charlie Rogers, a former women’s basketball star for the University of Nebraska.

Click image to enlarge

It’s at this point that other aspects of the story become mysterious.

According to media reports, the three perpetrators “barged in,” “burst in,” or even “broke down the door,” yet police could find no evidence of a forced entry.

The woman’s hands and ankles were bound with zip ties, which would be a fast way of doing it for three thugs in a hurry. It’s also a fairly easy way for Ms. Rogers to do it herself, even binding her own hands behind her back.

Police report that anti-lesbian slurs were found cut into the skin on Ms. Rogers arms and stomach, although the word “carved” is the most common descriptor. While “carve” is a relatively ambiguous term, it tends to imply cutting that is somewhat deeper than, say, scratches.

Carved implies that the flesh was cut through to the muscle, or possibly through the muscle itself. To date, no descriptions of the weapon have been given, or photos of the wounds, but there is evidence to suggest that carved is a bit inaccurate.

For one thing, as the photo of Ms. Rogers above shows, (as does the KETV interview footage), she’s sitting on a tall chair or stool and not showing any signs of discomfort for one who may have received deep cuts and possible stitches on her stomach and arms just days earlier.

Another factor that seems strange is that while Ms. Rogers claims she was stripped naked during the attack, and the “carving” of the slurs was seemingly meant to disfigure her, the perpetrators chose areas that were easily covered by clothing, rather than, say, her face, and did not disfigure her chest area, which seems incongruous with the nature of the attack.

Ms. Rogers’ arms and stomach are also areas she could easily reach herself. Her neighbor, Ms. Rappl, also states that Ms. Rogers was bleeding from the forehead after the incident, but close-ups of Ms. Rogers’ face show no scars or cuts on her forehead.

The key anti-lesbian slur referred to in the story is “dyke,” which can be a disparaging name for lesbians, but not necessarily between lesbians, just as certain unutterable racial slurs are frequently exchanged between members of certain groups.

The term “dyke” also turns up in the next phase of the attack, where at least one of the perpetrators spray painted the term and other remarks on the wall of her basementGiven the violent nature of the described incidents, wouldn’t the perpetrators choose a far more visible site for their hate slurs? Say, the living room walls or even an outside wall?

It just seems unusual that three men would commit to undertaking this crime, which almost certainly would carry the most severe penalties if they were caught, only to hide their dirty work where no one would see it.

Hopefully, police officials are also considering the actual writing itself to see if there are similarities between the lettering and the handwriting of known criminals, or even of Ms. Rogers herself.

And the final mystery is the use of a small amount of gasoline to start a fire in Ms. Rogers’ kitchen. Allegedly, the gasoline was poured on the kitchen floor and soon burned itself out, doing about $200 dollars in damage.

Why bother? For a lousy five bucks the perps could have pumped enough gas into an everyday, ordinary lawnmower gas can to set the entire house on fire, while attracting exactly zero attention at the gas pumps.

And why just a piddling puddle in the middle of the floor? If the intent was to burn the house down, and presumably kill Ms. Rogers in the process, why not pour it on the bed, the couch or anything that would maintain and spread the flames? Why not, God forbid, on the victim herself?

As hate crimes go, this one seems to have been designed to maximize outrage while causing the victim a minimum of discomfort in the aftermath. It certainly seems like an awful lot of risk for such little actual damage to Ms. Rogers and her property.

So what is the aftermath of this story? As the numerous media accounts cited show there was a large anti-hate rally held on the grounds of the state capitol building in Lincoln, with hundreds of people attending.

Several fundraising efforts have been made on behalf of Ms. Rogers, including dozens of people who got “NO H8” tattoos because a portion of the proceeds would go to the victim. Ms. Rogers says she will not accept a dime until police definitely rule out the possibility of a hoax.

And of course, all of the usual non-profits and special interest groups, like the Southern Poverty Law Center, jumped to denounce this crime before police have even determined that there was a crime committed. The legal brains at the SPLC did at least have the common sense to go back and add a proviso to their earlier statements, however:

Editor’s Note: Police subsequently said they had not ruled out the possibility that the attack was staged.

Perhaps even the SPLC has learned that, while hate crimes are all too real, there are some who make false claims to further their own agendas, as seen here, here, here and here.

Sadly, it’s because of craven hoaxers like these that there is a need to examine Ms. Rogers’ story. Several bloggers have performed statement analyses on Ms. Rogers’ interview statements and found them suspicious, though the accuracy of these analysts is anyone’s guess. Until the final police report comes out we have no way of knowing exactly what happened that night.

All we do know is that a crime was committed. Now it’s up to the police to determine who the victim or victims turn out to be.


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