Saturday, November 10, 2012

NBC Terre Haute airs scorching reports on IL Eavesdropping Act, Annabel Melongo case; Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez refuses to be interviewed

Patrick Fazio (source)
This week, NBC2 in Terre Haute, Indiana, broadcast a strong two-part story by investigative reporter Patrick Fazio about the Illinois Eavesdropping Act and the Annabel Melongo case, arguably the most extreme application of the controversial statute.

Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez -- whose office's six-year prosecution of Melongo resulted in a July article by the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press -- refused to be interviewed.

Click here to view Part I on NBC2's website.
As NBC 2 has investigated for the past year and a half, citizens have faced felony charges for recording audio of law enforcement.

Now we've found an Illinois woman who's actually spent time behind bars because of the state's eavesdropping law.

Annabel Melongo was arrested and jailed for more than a year and a half for recording her conversations with an on-duty law enforcement official.

For the first time ever, Melongo is talking about being locked up for recording possible government corruption.
The first segment also reported that the eavesdropping case grew out of previous charges filed against Melongo in 2006 for allegedly destroying computer files of the Save-A-Life Foundation (SALF).

A politically-connected Chicago nonprofit that reportedly obtained almost $9 million in federal and state funds, SALF has since been the subject of dozens of media exposes and has been under investigation by the Illinois Attorney General since 2010.    

Click here to view Part II of Fazio's report which tags Anita Alvarez for selective enforcement of Illinois law.

The high-profile Cook County State's Attorney is apparently camera-shy about the Melongo case. She refused to be interviewed. 

Here are the two segments stitched together:

To date, no Chicago mainstream media outlet has reported about the Melongo case.

According to Mapquest, Terre Haute's about 200 miles south of the Second City.

Lucky for those interested in her case, Patrick Fazio and his NBC2 crew were willing to make the drive.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Was country music star Luke Bryan lyin' about being rescued from choking? Not even his mother will back up the story

Luke Bryan performs "Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye" at Country Music Association Awards show, Nashville, 11/1/12 (source)

About six weeks ago, I reported about this claim made by popular Nashville singer Luke Bryan in an interview published in the October issue of People Country magazine:
I had a friend do the Heimlich on me in a pizza restaurant. It was pretty freaky there for about 30 seconds. A piece of flatbread pizza flaked off and got lodged in my airway, and I went down. He picked me up and got it out of there!
Since then I've made all best efforts to verify the facts with Bryan, his representatives, and even his mother.

None of them will back up his story.

Per my previous item, when I tried to get answers to the following questions, Bryan's publicist declined to participate and his Nashville managers failed to respond to multiple inquiries.

  • What was the date of the incident?
  • Who was the the friend who rescued Bryan? 
  • Did he lose consciousness? 
  • Did he seek medical care? 
  • What's the name and address of the pizza restaurant?

Next I informed People Country editor Cynthia Sanz that Bryan's representatives wouldn't back up the story and asked if she intended to fact-check it.

She declined.

Meanwhile I've thrice-tweeted Bryan:

No reply.

Since Team Bryan was giving me the silent treatment and People Country apparently didn't care whether what they published was accurate, I decided to ask Luke's mother, LeClaire Bryan of Leesburg, GA.

Normally I wouldn't bother a relative, but Mrs. Bryan didn't appear to be a shrinking violet. On the contrary, she's been quoted in a number of media reports about her famous son and per his website, they've even co-hosted a TV show.

Host Nan Kelley, Luke Bryan, LeClaire Bryan, Great American Country TV, May 2010 (source - and click here for the video)

Also, what mother whose son was rescued by the Heimlich maneuver wouldn't be tickled to hear from Dr. Heimlich's son?

I speak from experience. Since my father introduced the treatment in 1974, countless people have told me that they or their loved ones were saved from choking by the maneuver and would I please thank my father on their behalf? 

That wasn't Mrs. Bryan's reaction.

Although she was extremely cordial and gave no indication that my call was an intrusion, she refused to discuss the purported choking incident and informed me I'd have to talk her son's managers.


I explained that I'd already made repeated attempts to do so and that the only reason I was reaching out to her was because they wouldn't provide me with the information.

Again she insisted that she wouldn't discuss the matter, so I didn't press it.

However, I did ask if she'd forward my questions to her son. She agreed and shared her e-mail address with me. I then e-mailed her my questions and a subsequent follow-up asking if she'd forwarded the information to Luke.

I didn't receive a reply from her or from anyone else. (Page down for my correspondence.)

Coran Capshaw flanked by his clients, Dave Matthews and Boyd Tinsley of the Dave Matthews Band (source)

Next I contacted Coran Capshaw, the founder/president of Bryan's powerhouse management company, Red Light Management. Capshaw -- who launched the Dave Matthews Band and whose company handles a stable of big name talent -- was second in this year's Billboard Power 100 list of major players in the music industry.

Later that day his assistant Zach Peters got back to me via a receptive e-mail. At his request, we then had a cordial phone call. Peters wanted to know more about the story I was reporting, so I showed him my previous blog item and explained that I hadn't reached any conclusions, but I didn't understand why no one would provide answers to my questions.

Peters promised to make inquiries and to provide me with the answers to my who/what/where/when questions.

Weeks went by and I didn't receive any responses to the follow-up e-mails I sent him and his boss. (Page down for that correspondence.)

So did the choking incident really happen?

If not -- and I repeat if -- why would anyone fabricate such a claim?

Per my previous item, choking rescues involving celebrities generate a passel of positive media coverage.

The Bryan story was no exception -- it was picked up by dozens of country music websites.

If the story is fiction -- yes, another if -- I wonder if first responders and others who have participated in life or death choking incidents would be amused?

Since Luke Bryan and his people seem to be playing hide and seek with me, there's not much more I can do except send them the item you're reading with an invitation to respond.

I hope the story turns out to be true.

One last if.

If any Sidebar readers ask Bryan or his representatives about this, I'd be interested in learning the results. Click here for his tour schedule.

APPENDED 11/8/12, 12:35pm: My invitation to Red Light Management to respond to the above item:

My correspondence with LeClaire Bryan:

My correspondence with Red Light Management, October 10-November 2, 2012: