CRAWFORD | On advice of counsel: A response to one attorney's 's - WDRB 41 Louisville News

CRAWFORD | On advice of counsel: A response to one attorney's 'suit-shaming' of local media

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) — I want to thank attorney Larry Wilder for his advice to local media. Everyone else is going on advice from counsel in this University of Louisville basketball scandal. I was starting to feel left out.

After ignoring most of its requests to speak to his client — a former Louisville escort who penned what she billed as a tell-all book about providing strippers and escorts for Louisville basketball recruits and players — while at the same time sending her on a tour of national media, Wilder spoke out Monday and criticized the Louisville media for “slut-shaming” his client.

I use the words in quotation marks because they are his words. They have not been used by the local media. Not on TV stations. Not by The Courier-Journal. Not that I have heard on local radio, though I haven’t heard every second, I confess. If you Google his client’s name, and the words “slut-shaming,” the only results that appear are from Wilder’s own mouth. If you Google her name and the word, “slut,” the only results are Wilder’s remarks from Monday, and a quote from his client in her own publisher’s newspaper on Oct. 3, when she said, “I think people will think that my daughters are sluts and I’m a bad mom and that I prostituted my kids.” Her words. Not the media’s.

Nonetheless, there Wilder was Monday, trying to direct the local media: “Rather than chasing my client through the city of Louisville, slut shaming her and making her the only bad guy in this deal -- if you believe what she wrote -- then you need to start changing your focus. You need to ask some of the people on high, who are protected by the media, protected by those folks who are on high with them, you need to ask them some questions."

Wilder must not read the papers, watch TV or listen to radio. Let’s think about what kind of questions we might ask Tom Jurich.

Things like: What was your initial reaction? Have you ever seen this woman on campus? Have you fielded any calls from recruits or parents about this? How aware are you of what goes on with recruits or parents on their visits? Have you spoken to Andre McGee? Is the NCAA investigating? Have there been results or progress in the investigation and what do you know? Is there video surveillance in Minardi Hall? Has it been reviewed in the time period in question? Do you know enough to know if there is substance to these allegations? What have your conversations with Rick Pitino been on this subject? How closely are expense reports of basketball coaches reviewed? Have you seen any irregularities in those? Besides surveillance, are there log books for entry to Minardi Hall? Do you have a timetable on the investigation? Do you have a sense for how many people have been interviewed, players or coaches? Have you or coach Pitino had any conversations with the team about prostitutes or escorts? Has surveillance video been turned over to the investigators? How could something like this happen in an environment like this without someone knowing? If the allegations are false, why would someone write a book about this? Was Chuck Smrt on retainer with the university prior to the allegations? What was your emotional reaction when you first heard the allegations? Does this have any connection at all to the Chris Jones case? 

Or, how about Rick Pitino? What kind of things could we ask him? Maybe something like: Did you speak to Andre McGee? Did he deny the allegations to you? Do you think the allegations have any substance? How did you first find out about this? How closely do you monitor recruiting activities and what goes on in the players’ dorm? In addition to logs and video, you have graduate assistants who live in that dorm, correct? Have you seen any of the alleged text messages or photos in the book? Have you talked to many of your former players and asked them about any of this? Who do recruits stay with on official visits? Is that monitored after hours by anyone on the coaching staff, that interaction? What goes through your mind with Andre McGee’s alleged role in all this? I mean, these allegations, from a parent’s perspective, these are their children, can you imagine what is going through their minds when they hear these allegations? How do you think these allegations will affect the vibe of the team and its season? What would’ve been the extent of McGee’s responsibilities in recruiting? How was he evaluated by you? How do you feel about the substance of this, you’ve described yourself as heartbroken, are you viewing this as being potentially true? How does this reflect on the program, and on the university and on you? Are you concerned about the effects of this on the 2013 title? Have you seen a list of players who were named? What can you say to future recruits and their parents? Are you heartbroken that these allegations have come up, or that you believe they are true?

I’m assuming Wilder is saying that those kinds of specific, detailed questions need to be asked of these “folks on high.”

Oh, wait. That’s right. Those questions WERE asked of Pitino and Jurich on the night of Oct. 2, when each took media questions for 20 minutes. A day later, Pitino answered more questions. And then, six days later, he appeared on WHAS Radio in Louisville, 50,000 watts in drive-time, and was asked by host Terry Meiners: “Have you changed your thinking on whether you will resign?”

Meiners said that the program is seen as a crown jewel, people are shocked by the allegations, the university president put out a statement praising athletic director Tom Jurich and not Pitino, and did that give him pause? Pitino was asked if the university would withdraw from one or more NCAA Tournaments. He was asked if perhaps his players were too frightened to tell him of the situation. He was asked how Andre McGee could have done this under his watch, and what he said to McGee when he spoke with him. He was asked about JaQuan Lyle reportedly confirming the gist of the allegations. He was asked where the money came from. He was asked if Tom Jurich had told him whether his job was safe.

And on and on. By my calculations, Pitino has faced at least 30 minutes of pointed questions from the local media. In fact, he talked so much that university attorneys finally told him no more. He’s under threat of NCAA reprimand if he talks about the investigation, even indirectly, anymore. 

Two longtime sports columnists in this city have said it is time for him to step down. Another columnist has said that time may well be coming soon.

These are not the actions of media that are in the pocket of a university.

Frankly, Wilder doesn’t need to worry about U of L. Its day of reckoning is coming. It is under a fast-tracked NCAA investigation. The NCAA was on its campus last week, talking to the current team. The university has double-digit open records requests from likely every media outlet in the city. U of L is conducting its own investigation headed up by an independent consultant. U of L police are investigating potential crimes, and in fact put into motion requests that have IBJ Book Publishing subpoenaed to appear before a grand jury on Thursday.

If these things happened — even some of them — U of L is in for every bit of difficulty and scrutiny Wilder so badly wants for it, and the questions and answers will get even more difficult.

He doesn’t really need to be concerned with that. And he certainly doesn’t need to be advising the media, because he clearly hasn’t been paying attention to what has happened in the media, if he can look at all that and say that neither U of L nor its administration have faced questions — and far more of them than his client has fielded.

I suppose I’ve posed some pointed public questions for his client. But I’ve not written anything about her lifestyle or vocational choices. The words “bad guy” or “girl” have appeared nowhere in any column I’ve written. But if you write a book, one of the things you have to do is answer questions about it.

I certainly have not and would not use the word “slut” in any context with her, even if her attorney did. The only questions I have raised for her were about her book, and her story.

She went on ESPN, which did a great job telling her story, but it was overwhelmingly her story. She went on “The View.” She went on "Inside Edition." But he told local radio host Jason Anderson that she wasn't going to be allowed to speak to local media because "she was never going to get a 'fair shake' by anyone in the Louisville media market." 

Wilder has it backwards. The protected party in this right now, at least from a media standpoint, is his client. If his worry is mainly who is legally protected, surely he understands, where the crime of prostitution is concerned, the person who receives the money is going to be the primary subject of prosecution. Though in this case, she may not be the only one.

Wilder seems upset that Andre McGee isn't being questioned more for his role in all this. He certainly has been criticized. But neither McGee nor his attorney, Scott Cox, has been making the talk-show rounds. They are saying absolutely nothing, save a news conference by Cox when the story broke, in which he faced some uncomfortable questions. McGee's role is under incredible scrutiny. If Wilder would like more, he can direct his client to release her journals and text message records to local media. I'm sure that would ramp it up a bit. But it also would ramp up the scrutiny of what she has said. That's how this all works.

She did, after all, write a book.

Nobody’s saying she’s wrong — at least not in the media. We’re just saying we don’t know how much of her story to believe.

If you tell us you had 22 parties in Minardi Hall but can describe only 11 in your book, some of us are going to have questions. If you say you made more than $10,000 — and this is an important detail — but some kind of questionable-looking journal page reprinted in the book shows just $5,820 from 19 shows, we’re going to have questions.

If your book says one of your daughters began to join you in strip acts at age 16, then you contradict that in media interviews, we’re going to have questions.

If your book describes you meeting McGee on your first visit to Minardi Hall, then you go on national radio and say you didn’t meet him until your second visit, we’re going to have questions.

If you go on multiple national media shows and offer your theory that U of L coach Rick Pitino knew about all of this, but write in your book of a 2013 party that didn't happen because the coach kept the recruits in his office too long, apparently, or at least potentially, oblivious to the party plans, isn't it incumbent on someone to at least ask when she asked Andre McGee whether Pitino knew? 

None of these questions make or break anyone's case. But they do matter.

Everybody who interviews his client asks why she did this, what motivated her to do this? And she talks about the desire to let people know what’s going on, young kids are being sent into brothels on recruiting trips. It's a public service.

Of course, if you read her book, there’s another reason for writing it. It’s right there in Chapter Five, reported as an entry from her journal: “I promise I’m waiting on the right time to take these bast***s down.” But that doesn’t play as well on camera or with the hosts of “The View.”

Her reason for doing it, in reality, doesn’t matter. And increasingly, for the outcome of this NCAA investigation, as I’ve written, neither does her book, or her story. The ball is rolling. The NCAA will get corroboration without her. She can show the journals and text logs she has, or not. The idea of immunity is far-fetched. Kentucky law really doesn’t provide for it, and U.S. attorneys are rarely inclined to give it. A grand jury already has been asked to take a look at this.

And his client, through all these interviews, has undermined herself to a degree. Last week on a syndicated radio program, she said, “Those are my journals. And how they interpreted my journals and wrote the book, is how they did it. People are still questioning, we’re still talking to the publishing company, you know, some things weren’t right.”

The NCAA, in its investigation, will get things right. I wanted, before a round of columns I wrote last week, to ask Wilder’s client the same kinds of questions we’ve asked Pitino and Jurich. I’m not interested in shaming her, or disrespecting her. The questions I have posed have nothing to do with her, and everything to do with her book, and the story she has put forward. When we weren’t afforded the opportunity to talk to her, it was only then that I published my stories without her voice. That wasn't my preference.

To be honest, I don’t know what the point of prosecuting her now would be, if she has left the life she once lived and her daughters are getting on with life. There are real criminals who pose much greater risk to society than she does. In a city where every other day we’re waking up to news of another shooting, it seems, I don’t see the point in going after an escort who is out of the business.

I’m not really sure what Wilder hopes to gain by his attempt at “shaming” the local media. He’s now done it twice, on local radio last week, and again on Monday. All the while his client has continued to pop up on radio saying contradictory things.

With a grand jury convening to ask questions of his client’s publisher, perhaps, at this point, it’s not the media that needs a change in focus.

Copyright 2015 WDRB News. All Rights Reserved.

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