Saturday, July 16, 2016

Tobaccoland tipped off local Annapolis paper about Wayne Simmons/Ehrlich story

Last Sunday, I was reviewing online court records on for new information about the Wayne Simmons case when I found an extraordinary letter from former Maryland governor, Bob Ehrlich, that heralded the conman's alleged virtues, especially his patriotism. I wrote about this in my blog post titled "Former Maryland Governor Bob Ehrlich helps convicted conman". I pointed out that the Federal prosecutors in the case were "baffled" by Ehrlich's letter and his "uninformed commentary."

Jeff Quinton, a fellow blogger, wrote a post on his site titled "Bob Ehrlich called out by federal prosecutors". Quinton linked back to my original article in his post.

Given the significance of the story, I emailed a local paper here in Annapolis that many often refer to as "The Crapital" given the fact that it is prone to both sensationalism and factual inaccuracies. The local paper published an article titled "Former Gov. Ehrlich vouches for Fox News guest from Annapolis who admitted to defrauding the government". The article made no mention of me or this blog. Giving credit is typically called "hat tipping". Also, the article made no mention of the fact that the federal prosecutors called out the former governor.

Jeff Quinton took issue with this and followed up with another post titled "Paper ignores DOJ criticism of Bob Ehrlich". Quinton has had issues in the past with this local paper not giving him credit for articles.

The local paper does deserve credit for interviewing Ehrlich, who essentially said that he didn't know Wayne Simmons that well. The story was picked up by The Baltimore Sun and caught the attention of the federal prosecutors who followed up with a motion the day before sentencing, that stated, in part:
The United States of America, by and through undersigned counsel, hereby responds to the defendant’s filing of letters for consideration by the Court (Dkt. Nos. 112, 115, 117, 122) to raise the concern that the letters of support for the defendant may, in some respects, be unreliable and incomplete.

For example, former Maryland Governor Robert Ehrlich submitted a letter stating that he has “had occasion to get to know [the defendant] on a personal and professional basis” and has found him to be “above all patriotic,” and that “one would be hard pressed to find a person more dedicated to the security of the U.S.A.” Dkt. No. 117-1. The Baltimore Sun newspaper interviewed Governor Ehrlich with respect to this letter, and in a story published earlier this week (attached hereto as Exhibit A), reported that Governor Ehrlich stated he had met the defendant through his neighbors and had only had brief interactions with him. According to the Baltimore Sun, “[w]hen asked about any specific anecdotes [the Governor] had about Simmons where he exhibited the qualities he wrote about in the letter, he said ‘I couldn't provide (any) . . . I don’t have that kind of relationship (with Simmons).”
At his sentencing on July 15, 2016, Simmons received 33 months, which was close to what the Federal government recommended. The local paper followed up with an article where the writer finally made mention of the remarks from the federal prosecutors.

I sent an email to the writer for the local paper to ask him why credit was not given to this blog. He responded, in part, "I appreciate the tip, but you must realize that we must treat blogs as we do regular tips we receive over the phone or through email. In that we must independently verify the validity of the claim and then report on it as we would any other story. We only cite sources when aggregating information from other news sites and organizations, not when acting on tips."

I took the time to follow this case and to write about interesting aspects of it. No one else reported on the Ehrlich letter before me. I spotted it and sent them a decent story. I don't know what their problem is with giving credit to blogs, others do it, including The Wall Street Journal. It's not that big of a deal to me, because this blog is an occasional hobby. But others are out there trying to make names for themselves and they want and deserve credit for finding stories first.



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