Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Neighbors Helping Neighbors Celebrate Easter In The Hawthorne Neighborhood

Photo By John Hoff 


Never, in all the many years she's lived in her house in the Hawthorne Neighborhood has the resident I call "Patty Cake" experienced an Easter like this.

Ah, the peace. The quiet! The feeling of safety! What a new and novel experience for somebody living in the area we call "The Eco Village." This used to be one of the toughest corners of North Minneapolis but in the last few months...

...it has been experiencing weeks with NO CRIME, except of course the constant drug dealing going on inside 3020 6th Street North, which is not showing up on the crime map. But no matter. They're desperately hunkered down in that house, and looking at imminent eviction. The neighborhood has plenty of time to shop for items for the Hawaiian theme party which will involve DANCING THE HULA ON THEIR (FORMER) FRONT LAWN.

This is the meaningful, transformative adventure we have in our neighborhood. This is why would-be urban pioneers need to pack their hammers and head up here from sub-bore-ia.

"Patty Cake" came by last Saturday with Easter baskets for me, Hawthorne Housing Director Jeff Skrenes, and my son, pictured above. We drove to the SoLow store where I was able to get goat cheese for a mere 99 cents. I'll never lose weight with the SoLow store tempting me with bargain basement deals on gourmet cheeses.

"Patty Cake" splurged and bought me some strange foods I wanted to try, including pickled date palm fronds. She questioned me in her car as though I were in police custody: Why do I constantly sample strange foods? What drives me to do it? When and where did it all begin?

It began, with so many things, with my father. He went to a lot of different places all over the world during World War II. He told us stories about the weird foods he had eaten, sometimes out of pure desperation. It's a matter of historical record that military supply lines were stretched very thin in the battle to capture New Guinea. Enough said. We won't go there. Not everything tastes like chicken, some things taste like PORK.

My image of my father's worldliness, his manly adventures in exotic places, was inextricably bound up with the notion my father had TRIED EVERYTHING. I wanted to be just like him when I was little, and when I became older I wanted to beat and exceed him. Thus: eating exotic foods like silk worm pupae. (Which are not considered exotic where silkworm pupae is commonly eaten. Do you know what is considered strange and unappetizing in most of Asia? CHEESE!!! No, seriously!)

The thing is...I ACTUALLY LIKE EATING CRAZY STUFF. It's not like I'll have to choke down the pickled date palm fronds, which look a little bit like fishing lures.

In my experience--which is considerable--there's a whole world of foods that come in jars and/or cans and are all pretty much the same: the Tastes Like Pickled Cabbage family of exotic but somewhat disappointing foods.

Banana flower blossoms? Taste like pickled cabbage. Hearts of palm? Tastes like pickled HEARTS of cabbage. Kim Chi? Well, OK, that actually IS pickled cabbage, it just SOUNDS exotic.

Driving around after shopping at SoLow, we made a 911 call on a vacant, condemned house at 2127 Lyndale Ave. N. where a bunch of aimless young men had simply taken over the back porch, and even had a sentry posted out on the sidewalk with a cell phone, watching traffic. It was Holy Saturday, so it took the police a while and we didn't actually see if the police showed up, but about half an hour later, the porch was empty.

We're trying hard to bring the peace and quiet found in the Eco Village to the rest of the Hawthorne Neighborhood.

Relentless, never ending calls to 911 and 311 seem to make headway in that regard.

But Friday, Saturday, and Sunday of last week represented PROGRESS. Patty Cake could attend her church and give thanks instead of praying intensely that no intruders would get inside her bunker. I hear talk of so-called "investors" buying up a lot of property in North Minneapolis. One prays some of them might be flippers and not just wannabe slumlords. We've got a little something planned for wannabe slumlords, and it's coming in a future blog post.

From where I'm standing, we are WINNING the battle to create urban utopia out of the wreckage of the mortgage foreclosure crisis. And a peaceful, beautiful Easter in the Eco Village was part of the proof.

Judge Porter Seems Amused As The JACC Slander Suit Grinds Forward

Photo By John Hoff


The lawsuit filed by JACC "Old Majority" Vice Chair Ben Myers was grinding forward yesteday--kind of like one of my crappy vans used to grind forward when the ball bearings started to give out on the left front wheel. Though not quite a "Batmobile has lost its wheel" situation, Ben Myers was looking grim and seriously outgunned.

An individual was in the courtroom who is reportedly a member of the Professional Responsibility Board of the state bar, one Patrick Burns, looking not-too-happy.

There are people in law school who laugh at lawyer jokes--roughly 95 percent of law students, in my estimation--and then there are the ones who don't find lawyer jokes funny at all, and out of nowhere they mysteriously excel at Professional Responsibility classes; which most law students find to be a combination of terribly dry and incredibly scary.

Patrick Burns seems to be one of THOSE lawyers, an unsmiling shark among the sharks, quite willing to eat his own if they make a few incredibly stupid moves and deserve what they get. There's a job tougher than cleaning up after the elephants, and here it is: keeping lawyers honest.

(That was...um...supposed to be funny)

Burns was (apparently) there because one of the issues in the lawsuit concerns a complaint made to the State Bar. The complaint was filed by Megan Goodmundson against Ben Myers, who is an attorney. Thus, the right of a citizen to file a complaint with the state bar without fear of a retaliatory slander lawsuit is also at issue in this case, according to statements made by the defense attorneys.

Megan Goodmundson probably has very little appreciation for the arcane and rarified issues associated with her existence as a defendant, how something like this could become lasting legal precedent.

The happiest person in the courtroom appeared to be Judge Porter, who was...

...almost jovial, and seemed to be actually ENJOYING the proceedings.

Present from the defendant side of the case were Anne McCandless, Megan Goodmundson, and Dottie Titus.

Denny Wagner was not there because he "had more important things to do," according to one of the defendants.

One of the defense lawyers, Ben Loetscher, just got his bar exam results but Anne McCandless has told Loetscher he'll "be retiring before this is through." Defense attorneys David Schooler and Ferdinand Peters were also present.

The defendants sat on one of the soft, padded benches outside the courtroom on the 18th Floor of the Hennepin County Courthouse, sometimes reading a newspaper.

North Minneapolis was doing its share to keep the courts filled: the Larry Maxwell trial was taking place on the 10th Floor, and the T.J. Waconia sentencing is currently scheduled for April 16. Shortly before the scheduled hearing, Ben Myers approached and tried the door. It was locked. He didn't answer my greeting, "Good morning, Mr. Myers." He was exhaling quite a bit, frowning. He took a seat some distance away.

One of the defendants told me the word on the street is the "Council for Non-Profits" is following the two related JACC cases rather closely.

Waiting for the hearing to begin, Anne McCandless worked on a crossword puzzle. When the case began and the court reporter identified those present, Ben Myers said he was the only attorney there for the plaintiff "at this time." That phrase "at this time" sure does cover a lot of ground, doesn't it?

For the record, I'm not dating a model AT THIS TIME.

Nothing much was expected at this hearing. Nothing much was going to get resolved. Today was mostly a matter of scheduling stuff and--as one of the defense attorneys put it--pointing out "everything is written." The judge suggested doing "the other case" on the 12th and the 13th of May. Ben Myers said he has a "first degree murder trial coming up," so that just wouldn't work.

Judge Porter said "we are re-arguing a motion which was heard before Judge Howard, but which he didn't rule on before he recused himself." Defense stood to argue first, and referred to a case that was decided recently, an "anti-SLAP case." It might be good to discuss what a "SLAP" is in this legal context. First of all, it DOES NOT involve physically striking or slapping somebody...no, not even in a helpful way to uncross their eyes.

"SLAP" means "strategic lawsuit against public participation." A "SLAP" is when somebody uses the court system as a political weapon to stop citizens from using public process as part of democracy. So an "anti-SLAP" statute is aimed at preventing that kind of thing by, for example, making sure plaintiffs who file what turn out to be SLAPs are held liable for the defendant's legal bills.

Myers objected to the "unpublished ruling" being referenced by defense, and to not getting a copy of the unpublished ruling beforehand.

"Gotcha," Judge Porter said to Myers, which apparently meant something like, "Your objection is noted."

Side note: "unpublished" means something different to lawyers than it means to laypeople. Published cases might be cited as precedent--subject to some other criteria. An "unpublished" case certainly happened, and you can find a copy of the opinion, looking all so very "published," but the circumstances under which that opinion can be cited are limited.

One of the defense attorneys said, "With Ms. Goodmundson, the only thing alleged against her is that she made complaints to the Professional Responsibility Board." As for McCandless, said the defense attorney, she "supposedly accused the plaintiff of being a womanizer."

“In each instance," said the defense attorney, "they chose to communicate…to procure government action.” In fact, Myers had sought with his powers as Chairman of JACC to have JACC sue the clients instead of himself. Documentation of this was in something called "the usual suspects email," because of the subject heading. Of course, Myers apparently had a few too many people listed as recipients and, well, the email ended up in the hands of--guess who?--"the usual suspects!"

Defense asserted the anti-SLAPP lawsuit requires the non-moving party to show by clear and convincing evidence that anti-SLAP doesn’t apply or that the various elements haven’t been met. However, the defense asserted, the items that would “knock us out of the anti-SLAPP ordinance” have not been shown.

Myers argued back, saying he thinks the court can reach a decision based simply on whether JACC is a government or not. He said if you look at Jerry Moore's affidavit, it is very clear the Jordan Area Community Council is not a government.

In this argument, to the amusement of at least ONE of the defendants, Myers apparently identified Jerry Moore as "the executive director...the former executive director...the CURRENT executive director" of JACC.

I confess to not catching that (allged) verbal slippage and would depend on a court transcript to show what was said.

Myers argued that JACC is NOT a subsidiary government of the City of Minneapolis, asserting JACC is some form of subsidiary by virtue of fulfilling certain obligations involving a contract with the city DOESN'T make JACC a subsidiary of the city. To which I say, "Yes, I agree with that. But that's not the end of it. Click here for a little essay on how and why JACC and other neighborhood councils are indeed subsidiary governments of the City of Minneapolis."

Myers said JACC can’t meet the definition of a "government." Furthermore, Myers said he has lost potential clients because of the statements made by defendants.

Myers next went after Megan Goodmundson, using a surprisingly un-lawyerlike argument which sounded like an undeveloped equity defense, i.e., IT'S NOT FAIR, IT'S SO VERY UNFAIR, AND FURTHERMORE SHE STARTED IT!!!!!

Indeed, said Ben Myers, a claim was filed (with the state bar) that had "nothing to do with me as an attorney, there was no reason for Goodmundson to go around and do that."

No, seriously, that was the argument made. Goodmundson had no reason to "go around and do that."

Kind of gives anybody hope they could succeed in law school, doesn't it?

One issue in the case is whether Myers is a "public figure." When it comes to the First Amendment, public figures have very little protection when it comes to slander. There is, however, something called a "limited public figure." This is somebody who straddles the line midway between private citizen and public figure.

Myers--who was featured in a widely-read article posing in front of the closed down Big Stop store with Jerry Myers, like he was some kind of neighborhood hero, click here, and THIS in his role on the JACC board--said, "I am no more a public figure than anybody on a board of directors" and "I am not a limited public figure for purposes of this litigation."

Myers also added that if JACC is a government organization, "then the city of Minneapolis would have to indemnify me."

In the end--which came with merciful speed--nothing was decided. The judge nodded, smiled, and went off to ponder these things. However, after many in the court room had left, I saw the person who was apparently Patrick Burns walk across the courtroom and enter the same door through wich the judge had exited, in the back of the court room.

Somehow, I didn't think that bode well for Ben Myers.

But the Maxwell case was going on downstairs, and I had other fish to fry.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Maxwell Mortgage Fraud Case: Prosecution Presses Its Advantage, Maxwell Seems Doomed, Football Punter And Joe The Plumber's Accountant Testify


Photos By John Hoff 

Though it seemed like the prosecution was warming up to argue for striking all the testimony of Charlotte Palmer, a rather under-qualified "expert" witness from Atlanta, Georgia, after lunch on Monday prosecutor Brad Johnson had a better plan: turn the defense witness into a prosecution witness...

Starting out with a seemingly-innocuous line of inquiry about what materials the expert witness had reviewed, and making use of his right to know what documents had been in the possession of the so-called "expert," Johnson somehow got his hands on a fat book of material from the defense. At one point the defense attorney made objections, trying to "retrieve the document" and arguing it was "attorney client work product."

Incredibly, Johnson got a document admitted as evidence that had been created by the defense, a kind of chart showing some of the players and their (possible?) roles. Clearly, this was a low moment for the defense. One strongly suspects "inadequate counsel" will be argued on appeal because of moments like this taken along with that whole "insolent, disrespectful, contempt of court, I fine you a hundred bucks" thing.

The jury was clearly paying rapt attention as the expert witness admitted she was now seeing documents which the defense had NOT forwarded to her. Perhaps expecting to be ripped apart by the prosecution, ("magnum" cum laude, cough cough) the witness at first seemed relieved, and then appeared to be actually HAVING FUN as Johnson took her through document after document, some of which clearly bore then name "Larry Maxwell" listed as a "loan officer" for World Link. 

(For an explanation about why this fact seems so important, check out some anonymous but incredibly specific comments made to the blog post directly below)

Using the surprisingly friendly and cooperative witness as a beach head to successfully press his attack, Johnson did a lot of damage to the defense. In fact, one of the jurors--"The Dude Who Loves Sports"--clearly seemed amused at Johnson getting his hands on a defense document and then introducing it as evidence, plus eliciting so many friendly, helpful answers from defense expert Palmer, many times over the repeated objections of defense counsel Larry Reed.

Despite Johnson's opportunistic use of the defense witness to get in his own evidence, there were still moments when Palmer's inadequacy as an expert was revealed, such as when she leaned over and asked the judge what she is supposed to do when an objection to her testimony is "sustained."

Finishing up with the witness, asking a few more questions about her background, Johnson managed to confirm Palmer's rather interesting claim to fame: she once did the taxes for "Joe the Plumber." Palmer also asserted every lender doing subprime mortgages has gone out of business. (Is that true? Any reader who can confirm or deny is invited to comment)

At this point in the proceedings, I noticed I was the ONLY spectator in the court room. The law students--logging in 50 hours of courtroom observation for a mentoring class at St. Thomas--were gone. Larry's wife, Vicki Cox-Maxwell, was gone. The small clique of angry-faced men worrying aloud the jury would "hang" Larry Maxwell were gone. It was just me. The prosecutor logs a 95 hour week, dealing with all these tedious documents, and where is everybody?

For that matter, Larry Reed has gone right to the mat for his client--risking reputation and law license--as though this case were somehow more important than most other cases. Something about this case seems to really, deeply matter to Larry Reed at a personal level.

So you have to wonder...what if, one day, somebody just blew the lid right off Twin Cities mortgage fraud--and nobody was there to watch? I'm glad I'm there to watch.

At a point near the end of Palmer's testimony--after Johnson was mostly done with her, and Reed was trying to rehabilitate some of her testimony--something Palmer said elicited the strongest reaction I've seen so far from Larry Maxwell, a man who ordinarily sits calmly, without reacting, without looking at the jury. Palmer discussed an email document which seemed to be addressing Larry Maxwell AS THOUGH HE WERE A LOAN OFFICER. The document talked about a transaction getting delayed because of a snow storm. Palmer said the sender of the email might have been, in effect, trying to keep everybody informed and in the loop because some kind of "customer service issue" had arisen.

There was an angry client wanting to know why the deal had been delayed. That's why you'd send an email like that. To this, Larry Maxwell threw up his hands as though to say, "THERE!!! There you go! Finally, somebody figured THAT out!"

It is unknown whether Palmer's flight back home will be a "midnight plane to Georgia." In any case, the prosecutor wished her a safe trip and Palmer thanked him, smiling broadly. Johnson clearly knows how to catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.

The defense called another witness to the stand, Gregory Jerome Coleman, who had a 12-year career as a punter, including with the Minnesota Vikings. Coleman is a resident of the Hawthorne Neighborhood in North Minneapolis, living at the luxury condos in the "Hawthorne Annex" area near Broadway Pizza, at 2313 Riverpoint Circle. The condos overlook the Mississippi River. He is also a sports commentator and an associate pastor at a church called Living Word, where Larry Maxwell is a parishioner, as well.

Coleman said Maxwell was "widely known in the community" for his real estate sales, and was also running the homeowner's association at the condos for a while, "up until 6 months ago." Maxwell was the "initial president" of the homeowner's association, according to Coleman.

Coleman said Maxwell had "recommended Coleman to a source to get financing." Coleman has known Maxwell for 4 years and had never known him to be a loan officer. Unlike Palmer's testimony, which took all morning and afternoon, Coleman's testimony was brief--rather like a punter's job on the football field.

Brad Johnson cross-examined Coleman, starting out by saying he wished they could have met under other circumstances, and said "When I was 10 years old I had your (football) jersey. Number 8!"

Brad Johnson approached Greg Coleman with the fake ID found in Maxwell's house, but then accidentally dropped the ID. FUMBLE! Oh, but then Johnson picked up the ID and, well, returned it. Larry Reed was not looking forward to questions directed at Coleman about the fake ID found in Maxwell's house, and whether any of this changed Coleman's positive opinion of Maxwell.

A conference was called out of the hearing of the jury, most likely in regard to whether Coleman's testimony was that of a "character witness" and, therefore, whether the fake ID could be brought before the witness to see if Coleman's opinion about Maxwell's character would change. (A similar issue arose with another witness some days ago, which this blog didn't have a chance to report)

These are the moments that get interesting, when the jury is left alone in the room without the lawyers and judge present.

Four of the women jurors in the front row looked over toward "The Dude Who Loves Sports," seated at the end of the jury box just a few feet from Greg Coleman. They realized this must be a great moment for Dude, in a trial he found boring beyond endurance, to have a sports hero on the stand. Dude commented that he'd love to have this guy sign his football. Suddenly, the witness (Coleman) and the juror (Dude) were talking--not about the trial but the fact Greg Coleman had already met the juror. When the juror was a little child, Greg Coleman had signed his SHOE.

"I signed your dirty shoe?" Coleman laughed, shaking his head. These are the things you do when you're a sports star; you sign autographs for kids. If they want you to sign their dirty little shoe, you sign it. You smile, and maybe you genuinely enjoy it, or maybe it's kind of an act, but either way if you can pull this kind of thing off for 12 years you end up in the same place: living in a luxury 3 story condo unit, with an ELEVATOR inside, overlooking the Mississippi River within easy walking distance of Broadway Pizza.

To the mighty Greg Coleman, the Sports Loving Dude revealed he attended Orno High School and played "tight end." They nodded to each other. In their own way, they had both been "Mister Football." Here sat the mighty Greg Coleman, football star, but who had more power in that conversation? The juror. The guy with a swollen foot who had to elevate his leg, who played football in high school and, apparently, never even managed to play at a college level. But it was the "Sports Dude" who had the power to make the play, here, and send Maxwell to prison or, in the alternative, hang the jury single-handedly.

The conversation--though rather odd in a court proceeding--seemed quite innocent, no more than one might have in an elevator or standing, awkwardly, side by side at urinals. And moments like that happen in a court proceeding, all the time. The jury is sequestered and yet they wander the building during lunch, they bump into characters in the trial, and there are moments like this. I've talked to Dude in the elevator, for example. I asked him if his white stocking cap said "UND" or "Notre Dame," since the entwined letters look very similar.

"Notre Dame," he told me, and asked if my computer was an Apple. Yes, it was an Apple. He mentioned he used to have an Apple.

The prosecution either didn't get its way in counsel chambers or decided, given the late hour of the day, bringing up the fake drivers license with this witness just wasn't worth the effort. Send the jury home. Let the judge have her surgery and her day of recovery.

As the jury left, Brad Johnson made it clear they should STAY OFF THE INTERNET and not read the Johnny Northside blog. (OK, my blog wasn't mentioned but somehow I felt like it was STRONGLY IMPLIED) Johnson said the last thing they wanted to do was START ALL OVER AGAIN.

The jurors left, smiling, especially Sports Dude. Two days off and he had chatted with Greg Coleman! If only he'd brought his football, though.

"Counsel," said Judge Chu, in a serious tone, "I need to talk to you."

Outside the hearing of the jury, the judge needed to know if Maxwell would testify, and how many other defense witnesses would testify. Reed said somebody named "Larry Fitzgerald" might be a witness. As for Maxwell, his client is inclined NOT to testify, but he may change his mind on that, though he "probably" won't change his mind on that, but if he does change his mind the prosecution will get notice the day before. (By which I assumed Reed probably meant 11:59 pm)

Reed emphasized that "my client does not have to make a decision until we get to a point of closing."

The judge--who has never revealed exactly why she is having surgery, though removing a painful defense lawyer from her lower back comes to mind--said she would like the defense and prosecution to get a copy of the jury instructions "as they are now," and furthermore would like to accomplish something while at home recovering from surgery. The judge suggested a telephonic conference over the "Blakely proposed instructions."

These Blakely instructions will be used in a few days when the jury finds Maxwell guilty as all-get-out, guilty as charged, guilty as sin, guilty in a way only Jesus can forgive, and then needs to decide whether there were aggravating factors.

Defense Attorney Larry Reed said it is possible they may close on Thursday but Prosecutor Brad Johnson said a Thursday conclusion was contingent on rebuttal witnesses who may be called. And so the trial that has no end continues to march toward May Day but, in the meantime, Larry Maxwell can enjoy one more walk in the spring sunshine near the river, one more hot and cheesy takeout pizza, and the unrestricted companionship of his wife.

I hope the judge has made Maxwell turn over his passport. I really hope that's the case.

Leaving the courtroom, the judge cheerfully promised not to die on the operating table.

In the photos above, the woman walking in the front in the top photo, (obscured by a small tree) is defense witness Palmer. Behind Palmer is Defense Attorney Larry Reed, loaded down with documents. The man in the red tie, directly behind Reed, is the defendant Larry Maxwell.

A random passerby is behind Maxwell. The woman in the far right of the top photo, dressed in aqua, is Maxwell's mother.

In the photo below, a woman who may be Maxwell's daughter, on the right, Larry Reed, center, and Larry Maxwell confer at a tree planter in the public lobby of the Hennepin County Government Center.

A secluded area like this, with some trees, is sometimes known as a "bower."

This post was corrected in regard to the identity of the woman, who I initially believed to be Vicki Cox-Maxwell. It should also be corrected in this regard: if Vicki is in California, then Larry Maxwell would not, in fact, be able to enjoy her companionship even if the trial drags on prior to what I seriously expect will be a prison sentence.

Larry Maxwell Mortgage Fraud Case: Things Just Don't Add Up For A Lackluster Defense

Photo By John Hoff, 409 31st Ave. N., in which
Maxwell was involved but NOT part of this case


The "boredom death march" continued today for a much-put-upon jury in State of Minnesota vs. Larry Darnell Maxwell, (27-CR-07-124439) which involves numerous allegations centered around mortgage fraud, much of it in the Jordan neighborhood of North Minneapolis. The case is being heard by Judge Regina Chu.

A so-called "expert" witness for the defense named...

Charlotte Theresa Palmer took the stand this morning, and remains on the stand as of the noon break. (This quickie report is filed from the law library on the 24th Floor of the courthouse) The prosecution has argued against Palmer having any "expert" status, noting she has never held any licenses in Minnesota and her experience is primarily in Georgia, but Palmer was allowed to take the stand.

However, the jury appears to find Palmer's testimony less-than-enthralling. The jurors seldom take notes or appear interested during her testimony, not even the few jurors who habitually write stuff down and seem to follow the proceedings with some degree of interest. For most of the jury, this is the Maxwell Death March, and long slow painful demise by acute boredom appears imminent, especially for the young juror I call "The Dude Who Loves Sports."

Sometimes this juror can barely contain himself from dropping his jaw and making an expression like "could you possibly be more tedious?" On Friday, while the lawyers were out of the room, and jurors were chatting in an animated fashion, this juror said something like, "There's NO WAY these two people didn't know each other, I mean COME ON." Another male juror said, quickly, "Baseball. Baseball."

"Yeah," said Dude, stretching and yawning. "Whatever. Baseball."

The defendant, Larry Maxwell, sat in his chair and stared straight ahead, seemingly listening intently. It must have been excruciating to hear the jury chatting and laughing in this manner. At one point, when the jury was behind a closed door, their laughing and animated discussion was so loud--with Dude's voice floating above the rest--that prosecutor Liz Johnston made an offhand remark like, "They're having a PARTY back there!"

None of this bodes well for the defense. For some reason, however, a major portion of Larry Reed's questioning seems to thrust at the question of whether Larry D. Maxwell was ever a LOAN OFFICER. Given the complexity of the case, I am unable to discern at this point how this point would manage to negate some of the charges, but Reed is hitting this point hard and seemingly making some headway...though not enough headway for any of the jurors to be putting effort into note-taking.

Palmer--who is being put forward as an "expert"--indicated she knew Larry Maxwell for some time prior to 1985 when she lived in Minnesota, because they were (in Palmer's words) part of a small "ethnic community." Palmer testified at length about the customary procedures for loans and mortgages, based on her experience and research which--as prosecution managed to establish--involved looking up Minnesota's laws, since Palmer has never been licensed in Minnesota.

The prosecution appears to be laying the groundwork to attempt to have all of Palmer's testimony stricken from the record. During cross examination, a few rather interesting loopholes were found in Palmer's resume, including a statement that she'd been a broker since 1995, therefore 15 years. (The reader is urged to use his/her fingers to figure out how long ago was 1995. Here's a clue: it was less than 15 years ago, no matter how you slice and dice it)

The most excruciating moment had to be watching the witness--who habitually says the word "borrower" like "bower"--assert she had graduated from Dillard College in New Orleans "magnum (sic) cum laude." The prosecution said he'd never heard of "that one." Palmer seemed somewhat surprised to learn the correct spelling was "magna" not "magnum."

Mercifully, prosecutor Brad Johnson said, well, perhaps it was a typo.

During cross examination, Palmer said she used to work for Fieldstone Mortgage, which is now out of business, and also for "Novastar" out of Kansas, which is still in existence but has--according to Palmer--stopped doing loans. Twice during her testimony, Ms. Palmer's cell phone went off in her bag some five feet to my left, leaving me to wonder if she'd EVER been an expert witness before, since most individuals who spend much time in court learn to habitually turn off their phones.

I doubt if prosecutor Brad Johnson will ask this question, however. There's an adage more firm than "never fight a land war in Asia" and it is as follows: Never ask a witness something on the stand unless you already know the answer.

Given the pace of the witnesses, I have my doubts the defense will manage to finish up before the end of the day. There was much finagling with exhibits, trying to establish the correct exhibit numbers. This confusion seemed quite innocent for the first hour or so, but closer to lunch it began to come off as a deliberate stall tactic.

Watching the case for a few days, now, I've begun to view it differently than I did when it first started. It seemed to me that Maxwell was rather random, a bad actor who got his hand caught in a cookie jar where he'd already been caught once by the criminal justice system, brought down by bad luck and the random factor of an identity theft victim's spouse "going all Columbo" and launching a one-woman investigation.

But now I view things differently. Now I see this case as "The Lid," and beneath "The Lid" is a bubbling, complex, boiling pot of fraud layered thickly, richly, deliciously into the neighborhoods and suburbs of the Twin Cities, one thing connecting to another, the threads not random but part of a massive sweater. Keep pulling those threads, and heaven knows what is stripped naked: churches, community leaders, lenders, brokerages, and probably a politician or two.

This heavy, dark, evil lid on the witchy pot of mortgage fraud crime is being carefully, methodically lifted by Brad Johnson--a mild mannered prosecutor whose brilliance comes through not in showy flashes, but in layers of methodical cunning--and Liz Johnston, who seems like something of a beginner and yet she is intensely committed to her supporting role, serious and yet pleasant, even with opposing witnesses. There is something about Liz which makes a person think, "This is somebody who believes in MORALITY, in DOING THE RIGHT THING." She looks like the kind of person who would play a nurse in a war movie, who would hold the hand of a dying soldier and talk, cheerfully, of baseball and hot dogs until the soldier passed to the other side, then go take care of the next soldier because, really, there wasn't a moment to spare for ONESELF.

A few days ago, Liz was trying to stretch and I noticed the bottoms of her shoes were quite worn. What, I wondered, do they pay these prosecutors? While defense attorney Larry Reed has a selection of neckties straight out of GQ Magazine, Brad's neckties seem less flashy and more finely-aged, the sort of thing you might wear in sentimental remembrance of a fun-loving uncle, who didn't leave much of an inheritance.

Court is resuming and I return to my bloggy post.


Sunday, April 12, 2009

A Switch Of Perspective In The Jordan Neighborhood


Photos By Kip Browne

You can live next to a house for months, years, decades and never go inside. But this foreclosure crisis presents many opportunities to explore spaces we once passed every day, chancing upon interior revelations large and small. These two photos from JACC chair Kip Browne capture that odd shift in perspective when you enter the place where you were always outside...

The top photo shows a door that has been boarded over--seen from the interior--and check it out! The other side of the board is not painted gray.

You kinda have to reside in North Minneapolis to realize what a mind-bender that is. We see gray boards on vacant buildings every day. Then one day you see one of the boards from the other side and--whoah. THAT side isn't painted.

It's not quite Alice-through-the-looking glass, is it? But it gives you a moment's pause.

Well, maybe not quite a moment. Perhaps more like a split second. But the PAUSE is definitely there.

The next photo was taken by Kip and provides much more of a mind bender. This photo represents Kip looking at his own house from the window of the property across the street...a troublesome house that required many 911 calls by Kip before it was finally foreclosed and vacant.

How many times did the n'er-do-wells look from this very window and say things like, "Look, he's CALLING again. I can see him in his window with a cell phone. Mother (expletive) is calling AGAIN!!!!"

From this one can postulate some hypothetical future; wherein decent people come to own and live in the house, and the bedroom where dope dealers once looked from the window, furtively, becomes a portal of positive neighborly perspectives.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Ben Myers And Johnny Northside: Separated At Birth?!! Plus More Information On The Recent JACC Board Meeting


Top Photo By Pat Carney, Bottom Photo By
A Jordan Resident With Johnny Northside's camera


I'm not sure if it's any defense to say I was drinking bloody Marys at the Broadway Pizza "policy booth" when somebody goaded me into repeating my Ben Myers impression for the camera.

And speaking of Ben Myers! Here is a firsthand account of the "Old Majority JACC members" delivering their purported, alleged and self-styled "resolutions" at the lawful "New Majority" board meeting a few nights ago, as I previously reported...

Here's a firsthand account from somebody who was there:

As the meeting was gathering and right before it was to be called to order, Chair Kip Browne had noticed that a few of the board members were standing in the back of the room and not at the board meeting table. He addressed Ben from across the room and said "I'd like to get the meeting started, are you going to sit up here at the (big boy) table?"

(Insertion of words "big boy" by Johnny Northside)

That is when Ben replied, "No, I am not, and I'd like to take this time to present you with a resolution' as he walked towards the board table with a document in hand. Ben Myers said "This meeting is out of order due to the fact that this organization does not have any leadership" and he placed the document on the table. He said, "I am sure you won't be in agreement with this resolution but I want to document that it has been filed."

So he walked to the back of the room and sat there for a while before leaving. He was with Steve Jackson and Robert Wilson. A few minutes into the meeting, EB Brown had arrived. She was smiling and had a generally friendly aura, which was nice to see. However, instead of joining the meeting at the table, she sat away from the board table, and eventually she also approached the table and placed a document next to Anne McCandless. She did this without interrupting the meeting.

Shortly after that, another lady, who I believe is EB Browne's daughter, did the same thing, approached and placed a document with the secretary, McCandless.

The source also adds the following: "The former JACC accountant, Judy Gallas, has been deposed by JACC attorney David Schooler. She has handed over financial records, quick books records and some other stuff that she had. Discovery at its finest!"

In another development: One of the JACC agenda items at that meeting was about an opportunity to have a Hmong college student working 10 hours a week at no cost to the organization in a partnership with MCTC, CURA at the U, and the Hmong community, AT NO COST TO JACC.

However, an obstacle is the fact JACC has no office equipment available for this person to get any work done, so some kind of arrangement will have to be made to house the college student at some other office.

I say again...SOME KIND OF ARRANGEMENT WILL HAVE TO BE MADE TO HOUSE THE COLLEGE STUDENT AT SOME...OTHER...OFFICE!!!!!

Like...like maybe a NEIGHBORHOOD office?

6th Street Block Club Secures The Neighborhood

Flickr.com Image

The tightly-knit and efficient "6th Street Block Club" continue to fill the front lines in the revitalization struggle in their corner of Hawthorne, which is now arguably one of the more challenging areas since the Eco Village is pretty near cleaned up...

I was recently forwarded some of their emails in regard to 2301 3rd Street North. The house was condemned and vacant, yet lights were on, there was a television in the upstairs. The block club started to worry about what might be going on at the house, so they contacted Mary Etzioni with the City of Minneapolis, a frequent point of contact for this kind of thing. Soon after that, a high-ranking officer in the 4th Precinct went to check out the house, PERSONALLY.

Here is that officer's firsthand account:

I checked on this house last night and again today. Today I spoke to a new resident, (name withheld by JNS). He speaks English like I speak Spanish but I was able to learn:

He moved into the house within the past week. He has keys to the house. He might have recently purchased the home at auction. (This was a bit unclear) He lives in the house with his wife and three children. (The kids were at school today) A plumber was supposed to come soon to restore the pipes so they could get water service. Electricity is working.

I tried to explain to him that the house is condemned but I am not sure how much of that I got across. I also tried to explain to him that the city inspector would be contacting him and that the house cannot be lived in until it is inspected and is up to code. Again, I am not sure how much of that registered. He does have a phone number (Rugel passes on the number) but I suggest a Spanish speaking interpreter for any contact with him.

He did seem pretty cooperative and a nice fellow, but obviously this is a bad situation.

(End of officer's email)

This information caused the ultra-vigilant block club to be much less concerned about the situation, and just glad that the "right people" were involved.

You have to wonder how many more times this will happen, as auctions throw NOMI houses on the market at such affordable prices that some well-meaning folks might get in over their heads.

All the same, my opinion is: this situation sounds better than slumlord ownership or demolition, not necessarily in that order.

Kenya McKnight Files A Challenge To Fifth Ward DFL Convention





Photos By Kip Browne


First, the more important story: check out these cool pictures forwarded by Kip Browne, Chair of the Jordan Area Community Council, which were taken at the recent Fifth Ward DFL Convention!

Those are some great images.

So, oh yeah, about Kenya McKnight:

...a source close to the action forwarded some documents by email--and let me make it clear the source of these emailed documents was NOT Kip Browne, lest my use of his photos lead anybody to suspect Kip.

The documents I was forwarded show Kenya McKnight, Jerry Moore, and renowned positive thinker Ben Myers have filed challenges to the 5th Ward Convention results, which were in favor of veteran council member Don Samuels.

The challenges--which actually utilized the proper form (apparently Ben Myers has started taking notes when Kip Brown lays it DOWN) --make the following claim:

"The Convention rules were not followed, no convention delegate/alternate notice was sent. Many delegates were not present at their caucus and submitted absentee letters and all delegates whose status was in question prior to the convention and eventually approved to be delegates were not made aware of their approved status nor made aware of the convention. The lack of notification to delegates/alternates kept many from participating in the process."

For some unknown reason, Kenya McKnight found it necessary to "electronically sign" her document. A source in the Jordan neighborhood tells me the "bunch of signed forms at the very last minute" is "classic Ben Myers." (Except for that whole "using the right form" part)

On the form, Kenya McKnight lists her address as 1230 Morgan (Avenue?) North, #2. This building is a housing coop, owned by "Common Space." Unit No. 2 is not owned by Kenya McKnight, but by a "Quiana Franks."

I'm not going to say much more at this point, since I don't have any further orders from Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth, long live the queen.

Mayor Rybak: NoMi Is Waiting To Welcome You!

Photo By John Hoff

I will never forget where I was when I first heard Mayor Rybak was selling his house. It was right after the Hawthorne Executive Board Meeting last night, in the front seat of Connie's little red sports car, in the parking lot of the "Secured Gas Station" (Winner Gas) at West Broadway and Lyndale...

A cop car was in plain sight, the officer apparently working security inside, but Connie was still hesitant to leave the safety of her vehicle. So she sent ME inside to buy two packs of Camels. Yeah, great, the brand that killed my Dad of lung cancer, pancreatic cancer, liver cancer, and prostate cancer.

All at once.

(Hey, at least he outlived all the shrapnel left in his body)

Anyway, I came back outside with the two packs in hand, and Connie was all, like, MAYOR RYBAK IS SELLING HIS HOUSE!!! She'd just read it off her Blackberry.

"Where's he moving?" I asked, casually.

"HE DOESN'T KNOW YET!!!!" she answered.

"Oh...my...god!!!!" we said, pretty much together. And then: WE HAVE TO GET RYBAK TO MOVE TO NOMI!!!!!!!!!!

Mayor Rybak, here are some of the many advantages of moving to NOMI. First of all, you won't get better housing bargains anywhere in the city on classic homes with character.

You can take that $700k or whatever you're getting for your OTHER house, and use it to retire in style. (No time soon, though)

Meanwhile, you can buy a house in NoMi for very little money, fix it up, and watch your equity grow as all the grand plans you've told us about--and they are grand, they are glorious, they are the bright utopia upon which we fix our tired gaze in moments of gritty urban struggle--come to fruition.

Imagine what people will say! THAT MAYOR RYBAK, HE WALKS THE WALK. Mayor, your mere PRESENCE will decrease crime within--I estimate--a four block area. There will quickly be a "ripple effect" of like-minded people copying your example, reasoning that if it's good enough for Mayor Rybak, maybe now really is the time to buy, buy, buy in NOMI. (Also, houses here are so affordable you can easily buy one BEFORE selling the other one)

Now, truthfully, so far you don't have much of a political opponent this year. A ham sandwich could beat Al Flowers on election day, even with wilted lettuce and no mayo.

But I say NO MERCY IN THE POLITICAL ARENA, at least not for a nut job like Al Flowers who heckles, disrupts, literally shoves from behind.

Mayor Rybak, now is your once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to rack up the election day vote score as high as possible for the history books. Sure, you've got the rest of Minneapolis sewn up, as long as you don't murder somebody before the election, but why not take all the votes in North Minneapolis, too? Now THAT would be a political mandate.

Consider: If Al "I Am The Community" Flowers can pick up a few stray votes anywhere, it's probably in NOMI. He's got FOUR VOTES FOR SURE up here, not counting his own.

Well, I say take away even those four votes: move to NOMI so the residents of this neighborhood--who have hung on for so long, endured so much, dreamed such big dreams for so long--will vote for a mayor who boldly walks the walk, throwing in his lot with the muddy troops fighting the revitalization battle here at "Ground Zero."

Personally, I'm partial to the Hawthorne Neighborhood and since I've got this blog, well, I can shout ALMOST as loud as Al Flowers.

But I'm not going to shout. I'm going to sing!!!!

Well, sort of. Here's a little song for you, Mayor Rybak. Click here for video. (Check out what the star of this video is carrying in his hands!)

Larry Maxwell Mortgage Fraud Case: Contempt Of Court For Defense Attorney's "Insolent" And "Disrespectful" Behavior

Photo By John Hoff 

Here is an update, posted from the Hennepin County Courthouse, using the law library server. Your tax dollars at work supporting the blogosphere.

Early this morning, prosecution and defense counsel met with Judge Chu outside of the jury. Judge Chu severely scolded Defense Attorney Larry Reed, found him in contempt of court, and fined him $100 which Reed...

...paid on the spot, approaching Judge Chu (without asking, "May I approach?") and quietly placing what appeared to be a $100 bill before the judge. Chu threatened to fine Reed $500 the next time, and then send Reed to jail if contempt of court took place a third time.

Typing rapidly on my laptop, I managed to capture most of Judge Chu's warning, which went a little somethin' like this:

First of all, here are the ground rules. If you have any objections to what I’m saying you put it in writing and provide it to me and I will put it in the record.

Your behavior yesterday was completely intolerable—you were warned before that you were not to interrupt me and last night you did and you started going on and on and screaming about how unfair everything is. You were warned, and you continued to do it, during the course of the trial you were insolent and disrespectful; when I was speaking and before I finished a sentence you would go to the next question and you made the comment or the question (when you were going through a document) and I sustained the state’s objection you turned to me and said, “Can’t I do anything with this document?”

That was incredibly inappropriate, disrespectful and insolent.

The statute (the judge cites the statute number) provides me with the authority to find you in contempt; and I do so find.

You’ve been warned, I’ve been lenient and patient. Your behavior is not helping your client’s case; the jury is not liking it either from my perspective. You are fined 100 dollars, the next time you interrupt me or act in a disrespectful manner or continue to ask questions where I have ruled the question is inappropriate, it’s going to be 500 hundred, and if you continue to do it I’m going to put you in jail and you will go after this case is completed.

(At this point Larry Reed tries to say something)

"No!" Chu says, loudly. "Put your objections in writing and give them to me and I’ll make them part of the record."

Somehow, shortly after that, Larry Reed managed to start talking about making a record of the proceedings, and from that he moved into what certainly seemed to be an objection, arguing about the trial record and how everything had to be properly recorded by a stenographer. The basis of his argument appeared to be that forcing him to put his objection in writing kept the objection from being properly recorded in the trial record.

Later in the day, it appeared the defense lawyer had obtained a defense lawyer of his own. A "Mr. Hassan" appeared and argued (effectively, respectfully) on behalf of Mr. Reed, who stood off to the side and said nothing. Reed argued to STOP THE PROCEEDINGS RIGHT NOW and allow the Court of Appeals to make a ruling. Chu said she wasn't going to stop the trial. The trial continued, with Reed much less heated in his arguments after the contempt of court ruling.

The majority of the morning was taken up by defense witness Belinda Coats, who had worked at title companies and handled some of the transactions at issue in the trial. Coats is a somewhat overweight black woman in her mid to late 30s. Though overweight, she wears clothes that fit her well; a sort of checked dress and matching coat with stiletto heel boots.

Though Coats came off as somewhat more creditable than Ricky "Mystery Bonus" Frey, and had a sympathetic and likable personality on the stand, her testimony was a mixed blessing at best for the defense. Presented with documents and a fake ID which had been used by Tyrone Williams (impersonating Donald Williams) Coats declared there had clearly been some illegal activity.

Her testimony might have been seen as pretty creditable, except Coats kept claiming no knowledge of some documents put in front of her-- and at one point there was an odd sort of negotiation with the prosecution, as Coats said she didn't know if prosecutor Brad Johnson would get the answer he was "looking for" and Brad Johnson answered he was looking for THE TRUTH. This exchange was repeated.

Coats then denied, again, having any recollection of Larry Maxwell acting in the capacity of a LOAN OFFICER and said the documents DID NOT refresh her memory.

On cross examination, Defense Attorney Larry Reed appeared to have some small success by eliciting testimony that individuals other than loan officers were known to fill out "1003 forms." He also got information about another person working in the office, who could have handled the forms. Reed seems to be using a two-pronged strategy: make the evidence so complicated (and incredibly boring) that it's overwhelming to the jury, plus keep pointing out all the other possible suspects and bad actors who are NOT his client to create "reasonable doubt."

The problem with the second strategy is that Larry Maxwell seems to be right smack in the middle of a bunch of bad characters--or at least characters who had opportunities to commit fraud--and it seems hard to believe that, mixed up in this bunch of baddies, Larry Maxwell's hands are the only clean hands.

Also, Judge Chu announced she had been unable to reschedule her surgery--unless she were willing to wait SIX MONTHS--and so would be gone on April 14 and 15. It was hoped the trial could wrap up Friday and the lawyers would be busy preparing final arguments during one of the days the judge would be gone, anyway, which would not throw off the hoped-for conclusion by too long. (It appeared Larry Reed was objecting to the judge telling the jury about her surgery, from what I could overhear of the conference at the bench. You know, there are some objections that just aren't worth making, even if you think you can find a basis of argument)

HOWEVER, this trial was supposed to go THREE WEEKS and is now into its fifth week. The defense appears willing to delay matters by the use of questions that are vague, (and therefore elicit objections) questions without firm foundation, (therefore one must go back, laying foundation) and numerous volleys of defense objections which have a very low success rate in being sustained. (Roughly 9 to 1, by my estimation)

Therefore, I find it very hard to believe the trial will wrap up Friday. Notably, Judge Chu told Reed that if he committed two more acts of contempt, he would go to jail AFTER the trail. So derailing the trial by contempt of court apparently won't stop proceedings, either.

In the words of Judge Chu: The trial will go on.

Larry Maxwell Mortgage Fraud Case: "The State, Thankfully, Rests Its Case" And Talk Of A Widening Fraud Investigation

Photo By John Hoff

This is a thumbnail summary with, hopefully, a much more detailed account to follow later.

The prosecution in the Larry Maxwell mortgage fraud wrapped up yesterday with the words, "The state, thankfully, rests its case." This utterance by prosecutor Brad Johnson emitted laughter from a jury that has been on duty for something like five weeks, and is so clearly leaning against the defendant that it seems Larry Maxwell doesn't dare to...

...even LOOK in their direction.

Defense attorney Larry Reed put his first witness on the stand, but not until a long conference outside the presence of the jury in which Judge Chu seemed to strongly rebuke Reed in regard to lack of adequate notice to the prosecution over lack of timely notice to the prosecution in regard to the witness schedule.

Ricky Frey, a former employee of Worldlink, and now an employee of Detail Mortgage, took the stand after an elaborate and somewhat chilling Fifth Amendment ritual in which he was warned anything he said could be used against him. Outside the view of jury and witnesses, Prosecutor Brad Johnson told Judge Chu the state views Frey as "a co-conspirator of Mr. Maxwell," saying "there is an investigation into Frey, this extends to Design Mortgage."

This drew a sharp response from defense attorney Larry Reed, who said this was the first he was hearing of any such investigation into Frey.

Frey endured only brief questioning from defense attorney Larry Reed, then on cross examination was approached by Brad Johnson, who began offering up one document after another, including some pretty fat checks from Larry Maxwell which Frey visibly, painfully struggled to explain away as "bonuses" for stuff like "working nights and weekends."

Frey admitted when a home buyer appears at closings with two different names--as was the case with Tyrone Williams--well, something is clearly wrong with this picture. Frey admitted an incriminating document "might" be in his handwriting. Maybe. Could be. The document was admitted into evidence, over the vigorous objections of defense.

When asked to "tell the jury" his answer to a particular quesiton, Ricky Frey did not turn toward the jury, but instead kept looking straight ahead. It was my distinct impression the jury did not find Frey creditable within the first five minutes of testimony.

Frey--who has the barrel-like build of a barroom bouncer, yet projects very little confidence on the stand, appears to have walked right into a trap. Though Frey was sprung upon the prosectuion after a vigorous game of "shuffle the witnesses," still prosecutors "Johnson and Johnston" seemed well-prepped with a methodical sequence of documents and questions. One had the impressions of dotted lines being drawn on a side of beef, with sharp carving knives waiting in the wings.

FYI, Frey's last name does indeed appear to be pronounced like "fry."

This mortgage fraud fun appears poised to continue for at least another week. Today, Judge Chu announced she would be cancelling her scheduled surgery in favor of continuing the trial, as long as the surgeon was able to fill his schedule with another patient. Also, a juror with a bad back complained of his legs swelling up, asking for an opportunity to elevate his feet. Chu made arrangements to help the juror.

Today, a local lawyer told me Larry Maxwell is an excellent example of a defendant who should have pled guilty, but instead has "put the state to its proof."

There is a bright spot in all of this, however: Larry Maxwell's mother is prepared to take the stand as a defense witness.

It kind of gives you hope for the human race.

Neighbors Helping Neighbors: Hawthorne Loans Funds To Jordan For Spring Litter Battle

Photo By John Hoff

At yesterday's meeting of the Hawthorne Executive Board, after some energetic discussion and respectful disagreement, Hawthorne Neighborhood came together unanimously and agreed to loan "up to $2,500" worth of funds to the Jordan Neighborhood to assist with their annual spring clean up...

It was agreed that "neighbors help each other out" and, in the future, Hawthorne might need help from Jordan. Disagreement expressed early in the morning was chiefly based on worries Hawthorne might not get repaid if there was further upheaval on the Jordan board. One Hawthorne board member said JACC members file lawsuits if somebody "crosses their eyes" at somebody else. Ultimately, though, even the most concerned Hawthorne board members weren't going to leave their neighbor twisting in the wind like, well, litter.

The funds at issue are NRP monies with Hawthorne and Jordan sharing the same NRP rep. So even if there were further executive board upheaval, dozens of frivolous lawsuits, fantasyland formal complaints, plus Blackberries growing feet and running away from home to live a prodigal life on the mean hard streets, Hawthorne could still have a high degree of confidence in getting paid once the Jordan Neighborhood has money.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Jordan Neighborhood Controversy: "New Majority" Cleans House

Photo By John Hoff

Word comes from a reliable source about "spring cleaning" in the Jordan Neighborhood: three members of the "Old Majority" have been removed from the "New Majority" led board for--surprise surprise--not showing up for board meetings.

The removed members are...

...Shannon Hartfield, Robert Wilson, and Stevan Jackson. (Note: "Steve" Jackson is apparently spelling his name "Stevan" Jackson, judging by a document bearing his name and signature) The resignations leave four open board seats to be filled, since Bob Scott resigned in January.

Some members of the "Old Majority" did attend the most recent board meeting, however, staying just long enough for the "New Majority" Chair Kip Browne to count them as part of the meeting quorum--which was to Kip's advantage--and then hand-delivering documents styled as "NOTICE OF WRITTEN OBJECTION."

The documents were signed by Robert Wilson, Dokor A. Dejvongsa, Stevan (sic) Jackson, William J. Brown, Lafayette R. Butler, Ethylon Butler Brown and Benjamin Myers. With the exception of the name of the signatory, the documents all said pretty much the same stuff, as follows:

I, (name) am an officer/member (circle one or both) of the Jordan Area Community Council. (JACC)

(NOTE FROM JOHNNY NORTHSIDE: None of the documents actually have the dual choice option circled)

I hereby give notice of objection to the continued leadership, actions and/or votes at meetings of those who claim to be officers of this organization, namely Michael Kip Browne, Anne McCandless, P.J. Hubbard, and Robert Hodson. I have many and varied objections. However, I object to the misconduct of said individuals, including but not limited to holding an illegal, unauthorized, ultra vires meeting of the board on January 15, 2009.

(Paragraph break not in original document)

I hearby object to those named above continuing being officers and/or directors of this organization, because they have engaged in misconduct. Although I will try to raise this issue within the organization, I reserve the right to raise the issue in Court.

I am attending the April 8, 2009 "meeting" set by certain individuals claiming to be directors/officers of JACC, because they are claiming the right to oust me if I do not. I attend under protest and I am not waiving any objections. I am not voting on any issues at the April 8, 2009 meeting, and no record of JACC should indicate that I voted.

The exception to the above, is that I will attempt to raise objections to the misconduct of the claimed officers/directors. And if appropriate, I will vote on that issue. However, I will only vote on that issue if the process is appropriate, and if that vote is not tainted by those who have an interest in preventing a valid vote on that issue--in order to protect themselves in their claimed role in the organization. I am requesting and moving that any claimed officer/director who is the target of the below misconduct resolution not be allowed to vote on such resolution, based on conflict of interest.

I am offering the following RESOLUTION: it should be mailed to all directors:

1. On January 15, 2009, Michael Kip Browne, Anne McCandless, P.J. Hubbard, and Robert Hodson held a non-regular, unpublicized, secret, unlawful, non-authorized or otherwise improper meeting of the board of directors. Only certain members were called by telephone, it was not an actual meeting, it did not pass muster under the by-laws for special meetings, and there was an effort not to call and/or not to reach board members that these individuals thought would vote against their effort to change the signatories on the Franklin Bank account.

(PBNIID)

All those who voted at the improper meeting (and it was obvious it was improper), are also identified as having engaged in misconduct: Daniel Rother; Vladamir Monroe; Tyrone Jaramillo; Dave Haddy; Todd Heintz; and Keith Reitman.

2. On January 26, 2009, executing a non-authorized resolution/documentation for the Franklin Bank, to change the signatories on the Franklin Bank account.

3. Upon information and belief, improperly utilizing segmented funds of JACC.

4. And other misconduct.

I am seeking the immediate resignation and/or ouster under the by-laws of those above-listed.

(Signatures)

(End of document)

Comment by JNS: this reminds me of when I worked on a military psych ward, and there would be meetings of the "patient government" to pass resolutions about, for example, drippy faucets. One consistent division in these "patient government" meetings was the division between patients who had "acute situational crisis disorders" (life making you crazy) versus the truly mentally ill. (Those who not only heard but interacted with "The Voices")

I don't think I really need to say which factions in the Jordan Neighborhood correspond to the two main factions of the "psych ward patient government."

However, I will pass on a message from The Voices:

Ben Myers, JACC called. They want their bluetooth and digital voice recorder.

ADDENDUM: This post was corrected as follows: there are indeed four open board seats, but only three members of the Old Majority were removed at the most recent meeting. Bob Scott had already resigned. His seat remains open. 

Larry Maxwell Mortgage Fraud Trial: The Apparent Identity Of The Fake "J.F." Plus A Peak Inside 1564 Hillside Ave. N.





Photos By Council Member Don
Samuels

(NOTE: This blog post has been substantively updated to reflect the fact "Kenny Wilson" may not have been the name muttered by Defense Attorney Larry Reed in what one local lawyer called his "Minnesota adjusted Southern Drawl." Read addition at bottom) 

First of all, let me say this: prior to yesterday, I didn't know the name "Kenny Wilson" from "Adam In The Garden of Eden."

However, while watching the Larry Maxwell trial, one thing became clear in regard to the name of the person who stole the identity of "J.F." (as investigators call him) and bought 1564 Hillside Ave. N., pictured above, over and over.

Either nobody in the trial actually knew who this guy was or...

...they were going out of their way to avoid saying his name, instead saying "The fake (J.F.)." And why, I wondered, was THAT exactly?

But, at one point in the proceedings, while cross examining prosecution witness Glen Miller, defense attorney Larry Reed seemed to let the name slip in a sort of aside--a kind of winding up to his question--something about when "Kenny Wilson" was impersonating this J.F.

My ears got all pointy and I quickly typed the name into my laptop. I remember feeling a sort of disappointment: some in the Jordan neighborhood were theorizing the fake J.F. might be none other than Jerry Moore, but instead I was stuck with the name of this unknown person: Kenny Wilson. Well, the truth is the truth: that's the name that (apparently) came from the lips of defense attorney Larry Reed. I figured during a break I'd call a source in the Jordan Neighborhood and ask who was this Kenny Wilson.

I ended up texting the info. Soon enough, the call came back:

KENNY Wilson? That would apparently be KENNETH Wilson. Who was he? During the time Ben Myers was the Chair of the Jordan Area Community Council, at some point KENNETH Wilson was functioning as the "safety coordinator." He was, said my source, a "buddy of Jerry Moore." (The former executive director, fired by the "New Majority" JACC Board in the recent Jordan Neighborhood controversies and upheavals)

Well...suddenly I could differentiate the name "Kenny Wilson" from "Adam In The Garden of Eden." Why, Kenny/Kenneth was a "Safety Coordinator" for the Jordan Neighborhood, hard hit by mortgage fraud. (Kenneth or anybody who knows Kenneth is free to come here and add further info, including a defense or denial of Wilson's alleged actions in regard to 1564 Hillside Ave N.)

And another interesting tidbit was introduced into court, though this was on Monday: two documents entered into evidence included information that Jerry Moore had received a $5,000 "referral fee" for the house at 1564 Hillside Avenue North, pictured above. According to both the documents, the money came from the SELLER'S side. This seller would be, of course, Keith Reitman, who is currently a member of the JACC Board and aligned with the "New Majority." One source says Reitman has verbally confirmed having at least one conversation with the FBI over the matter of 1564 Hillside Ave. N.

These photos show the condition of 1564 Hillside Ave. N. when it was sold for around $189,000. (The exact figure from the fraudulent sale to the fake J.F. is not listed in online city or county records at this time) The photos were taken by City Council Member Don Samuels, who provided the photos to a number of people, including one person who forwarded the photos to me. (So the images didn't come DIRECTLY from Samuels, but Samuels gets the photo credit)

Nothing that can't be fixed by a little paint and new shag carpet. (Sarcasm font is broken, notifying the reader manually)

ADDITIONAL INFO: It has come to my attention the fake J.F. is apparently an individual called "Jerome L. Kingrussel." In his odd little verbal aside, Larry Reed may have said "Kingrussel" instead of "Kenny Wilson" with his rather interesting and difficult-to-decipher "Minnesota adjusted sourthern accent" which must surely be a nightmare at times for court reporters.

The fact there may actually BE a Kenny or Kenneth Wilson closely associated with issues in North Minneapolis is just one of life's little mysteries. Consider this post a correction, made in as timely a way as possible as soon as the matter came to my attention. And see, also, New York Times v. Sullivan.

However, to my dying day I will swear the name which seemed to come from the lips of Larry Reed sounded much, much more like "Kenny Wilson" than "Kingrussell"

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Larry Mortgage Fraud Maxwell Trial: Thumbnail Summary of Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday Events

1564 Hillside Ave. N.,
Photo By Council Member
Don Samuels


The prosecution has finished with its last witness in the case-in-chief, and defense has completed cross-examination of that final prosecution witness; Investigator Glen Miller.

The trial is now in a "redirect" questioning of Glen Miller by the prosecution, amid a volley of strenuous and often repetitive, fruitless objections by defense. At one point, Judge Chu literally made a gesture like "I'm going to tear my hair out" as defense and prosecution stepped on each other's verbiage while she tried to rule on objections.

Though prosecution "redirect" was not complete as of...

... the end of proceedings today, still there appears to be relatively little redirect left before the defense begins its case tomorrow, with proceedings starting at 8:45 a.m., 10th Floor, Hennepin County Courthouse.

Defense has a witness list with 57 names, but defense attorney Larry Reed says he plans to call approximately one dozen witnesses. Reed won't say WHICH one dozen, however, and appears not to know himself, which visibly frustrates prosecutors Brad Johnson and Liz Johnston. One suspects the last ditch Maxwell defense will be a desperate ad hoc effort staffed by whoever actually shows up in response to frantic pleas to help Larry Maxwell, not unlike the messy and ugly "Task Force Smith" situation at the Battle of Osan.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Task_Force_Smith

After two days of observing the jury, it appears obvious they are leaning hard toward the prosecution. At one point, one young male juror was nodding and smiling at a prosecution line of questioning, and at another point two female jurors appeared visibly irritated when Larry Reed tried to ask a question which had just been overruled by the judge a moment earlier. The jurors seemed grim and only lightly interested in the defense cross-examination, but noticeably sat up, became animated and even smiled and laughed when the prosecution did its redirect.

Most notably, during a break in proceedings when Judge Chu and lawyers for both sides left the room, the jury members stretched and chatted. However, none appeared to make eye contact with the defendant, nor did the defendant dare to look up and seek eye contact with the jury. One female juror appeared to sneak a look toward Maxwell with detached interest while Maxwell sat in his chair and looked straight ahead.

If I had to make a prediction right now, this trial is no longer a matter of whether Maxwell will be found guilty; rather it's a matter of whether he'll be found guilty of every count against him and whether aggravating "Blakely" factors will be added to the sentence. Sure, this thing ain't over until it's over, but unless somebody steps up and deliberately takes the spear for Maxwell, admitting to being the guilty party who did EVERYTHING, Larry Maxwell is headed for prison.

However, a drawn out appeal is all-but-certain, as defense attorney Larry Reed appears to be laying an extensive appeals groundwork on questions of evidence, validity of search warrants and opportunities for cross-examination. Defense motions prior to the trial show Reed's capacity for finding arcane technical issues to argue extensively.

Many individuals in the Jordan Neighborhood are interested in the role of former JACC Executive Director Jerry Moore, and have pressed me for information about any mention of Moore during the trial. Here's the summary about what little was said regarding Moore:

Two documents were introduced mentioning Jerry Moore and the $5k payment he received. Read aloud by witness Glen Miller, the two documents make it clear Moore received the $5k as a "referral fee" and the money came from the SELLER, I say again, SELLER.

At the end of today's proceedings, defense attorney Larry Maxwell seemed to be reading off a long list of "potential bad actors" who might be available to take the blame instead of Maxwell. Larry Reed asked witness Glen Miller if he knew Jerry Moore "worked at a mortgage company" and was also the boyfriend of Tynesia Snoddy. (Snoddy's name has come up repeatedly as a "bad actor" in the alleged crimes)

Miller indicated he knew these things. Then, in response to a question by Larry Reed, Miller answered he was not aware of any current investigation into Jerry Moore.

In a conversation with his co-counsel that took place in my presence, prosecutor Bradley Johnson indicated he put in 95 hours last week.

Your tax dollars, hard at work.

Monday, April 6, 2009

PART ONE: Larry Maxwell Defense Has A Bad Day In Court

1564 Hillside, Photo By
Council Member Don Samuels


The trial of accused mortgage fraudster Larry Maxwell is moving toward an end, but that conclusion won't be happy for Maxwell if Monday was any indication.

I attended Monday's proceedings--enduring the tedium so readers won't have to--and what I saw seemed a one-sided butt-kicking for the prosecution. The fact it was the prosecution's side of the case skews perspective, certainly, but at one point I was keeping score and it was something like SIXTEEN OBJECTIONS OVERRULED ON THE DEFENSE. Anything the defense managed to score as an objection quickly found its way back in by rewording.

The proceedings...



...started out with a trial conference between the attorneys and Judge Regina Chu, with the jury not present. The attorneys were negotiating over jury instructions, with a lot of comparisons being made between the proposed instructions versus the guideline instructions. A local attorney who knows the style of Maxwell defense lawyer Larry Reed says Reed's style is old school criminal defense; he fights on every technicality, he just keeps grinding away.

(In an interesting side note: Reed is closely associated with Congressman Keith Ellison. Apparently, at one time, Ellison worked for Reed) 

Monday, Reed didn't seem to be making much headway. At the conference, there was discussion about looking at "identity theft elements" and "theft by swindle" elements. Reed kept emphasizing his desire to have instructions that were "right out of the book" while the prosecution appeared to be leaning toward what it called "simplifying" matters.

Chu--who was wearing a conservative black and white woolen weave with understated shoulder pads, rather than a judicial robe--sat at the juncture of the defense and prosecution tables to sort out the complex jury instruction issues. Sometimes things were going so badly for the defense that Reed just sat and slowly shook his head. Often, Reed was forced to settle merely for getting things "on the record."

On the prosecution side sat Bradley R. Johnson and Liz Johnston. Brad's laptop screen saver featured a picture of a baby, wearing a blue cap, which provided a surprisingly tender and touching insight into a prosecutor who appeared hard-as-nails toward the (alleged) crimes of Larry Maxwell, who often sat just three feet away; constantly wearing an expression of wounded dignity. 

To me, Brad Johnson looks a lot like one of the actors in The Princess Bride, click here for a video. While Johnson was making his arguments, I kept thinking, "Never go in against a Sicilian when DEATH is on the line!" Brad's "partner in crime," Liz Johnston, has short brunette hair and dressed in a conservative dark blue pants suit, complimented by a lavender shirt. She is attractive but not flashy--possibly late 20s--and didn't appear to be wearing any makeup or jewelry. 

At one point, there was talk about "JIGs" (Jury Instruction Guides) and Brad Johnson said, "JIGs are, by definition, guides." Reed snapped in response: "Don't be condescending to me!" Then he added, "You see what I mean, Judge?" 

Reed kept raising the messy question of "who (exactly) are the lenders?" and said the jury instructions supported by the prosecution made incorrect factual assumptions. Reed wanted the phrase "the state alleges" placed in the instructions in regard to who the actual lenders were. Chu looked at Reed, blinked a couple times, and said, "I have NEVER seen that kind of terminology in jury instructions."

Johnson chimed in saying he hadn't seen it either. Soon Reed was back to slowly shaking his head, back and forth.

"Object?" Reed asked. "What's an object?" When Bradley Johnson tried to answer that it might include a fake drivers license or fake Social Security card, Reed said, "How's the JURY supposed to know that?"

These things are funny to non-lawyers. But the folks at the table weren't finding any of it amusing.

The name of the victim with the initials "J.F." surfaced during the proceeding. It was said many times in the public hearing. Since law enforcement has made such an effort not to reveal the name, I will refrain from publishing it, also.

At another point, Reed tried to argue "there's no allegation that Maxwell verified rent or deposits!" In response, Bradley Johnson brought up VickLar Corporation, an entity name apparently formed from LARRY Maxwell and VICKI Cox-Maxwell. Reed wasn't able to keep arguing THAT point very well, once VickLar was brought up. However, it would be unfair for any reader to conclude Reed is not a competent lawyer. In fact, the judge complimented Reed on his level of preparation on the specific issue of the jury instructions. But that didn't mean Reed was going to win many arguments.

The prosecution and defense weren't ALWAYS at odds, however. At one point, Reed said, "Anything with (J.F.'s) signature on it is a forgery" and Brad Johnson quickly said, "Agreed." At another point Reed said, "But we never argued good motive!" (by Maxwell) to which Johnson said, "We agree on something!"

Though the jury was not present in the room during these discussions, their presence was felt. Legal notebooks sat in the jury chairs, some turned to the current page of notes, it appeared. The jury chairs are high-backed, padded and comfortable, capable of swiveling, it seemed. The spectator seats, though not as nice as the jury chairs, were still quite comfortable. The courtroom is small, but attention has been lavished on woodwork details and a kind of layered, lighted ceiling, giving an illusion of greater height. The room might be a nice place to hang out if an aura of human vice and suffering didn't permeate the very fibers in the carpet.

Blakely. The name "Blakely" kept coming up, though Blakely was nowhere in the case, except in the law of the case. "Blakely factors" are a kind of post-guilt consideration, and involve "aggravating factors" which make a crime even worse, and therefore meriting a stiffer sentence. A local attorney told me, using DUI as a comparative crime, having a young child in the car could be an aggravating factor. Later in the day, one could see some possible prosecution play toward "Blakely factors" by soliciting an answer from investigator Glen Miller as to which area of the state was the hardest hit by mortgage fraud.

The answer--and it came in despite defense objections, overruled--was North Minneapolis.

So, outside the hearing of the jury, much Blakely discussion took place. The issue arose of whether the trial should be "bifurcated," with the jury returning a verdict and then, when the verdict was "guilty" (oops, I mean, ha ha, IF the verdict was "guilty") should the jury be sent out to deliberate AGAIN on the Blakely factors?

The prosecution said it didn't want to "bifurcate out" the Blakely issues. Better to just do all the deliberation at once. Reed tried objecting to this, but it was brought up that he didn't object earlier. 

"Well," Reed said, "I'm objecting now to the extent everybody assumed I knew what was going on." 

Reed's objection was noted. And overruled. The judge's law clerk, Brannon Stephany, was writing all this down. 

The conference wrapped up, and it was time for the lawyers to have lunch before bringing in the jury. At one point, I heard Larry Maxwell speak to a woman in the court--who appeared to be Vicky Cox-Maxwell--that he didn't know if he could take this, anymore. She urged him to leave the courtroom and walk around.

In an upcoming post, I will discuss how the proceedings went on Monday in front of the jury, which is composed as follows: Six white women, all at least in their 40s, with one clearly a senior citizen. Three of the women were wearing variations of pink on Monday.

Eight men; all white except for one Asian. One of the men has slightly olive skin. One of the men was wearing a jacket that said "Edina." One had a business suit. Another of the men appears college-aged and is movie star handsome. Two of the male jurors appear to be having difficulty remaining awake.

Future posts will, hopefully, cover the continuing trial as well as the rest of Monday's proceedings. However, riding along to the grinding conclusion is hardly necessary to call this one:

Larry Maxwell is toast. He should start making long lists of the books he plans to read in prison.