Vol 8, No 1 (2014): Perspectives on Terrorism

behindtheyellowtape:

Great blog here. Be sure to check them out. Lots of great resources by top minds in the field.
I’m both flattered and honored they sought fit to include my recent article in their suggested links.

Originally posted on The Osint Journal Review:

Table of Contents
Introduction to the Issue

Welcome from the Editors

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Alex P. Schmid

Articles

Perspectives on Counterterrorism: From Stovepipes to a Comprehensive Approach

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Ronald Crelinsten

Analysing Terrorism from a Systems Thinking Perspective

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Lukas Schoenenberger, Andrea Schenker-Wicki, Mathias Beck

Evidence-Based Counterterrorism or Flying Blind? How to Understand and Achieve What Works

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Rebecca Freese

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How Has September 11 Come To Symbolize A New Era of Terrorism?

The following is my response to an essay question posed to me by my professor in a Study of Terrorism course I am currently in the middle of.  I decided to share it with you as I felt it not only answers the question well but also articulates my growing concerns as I continue to study and report on this “War on Terror” we are in the midst of as a nation and international community. 

I felt it was a good beginning to my desire and plan for BTYT to have an increased focus on terrorism and to investigate, analyze and report on the people and politics involved. 

How Has September 11 Come To Symbolize A New Era of Terrorism?

The September 11 attack became a symbol of a new era of terrorism in a number of ways.
First it clearly proved the accuracy of a predicted trend toward asymmetrical warfare tactics used by terrorists (Martin 2014). This essentially turned the dynamic between terrorists and government from that of criminal and law enforcement agency to opponents in a war. This was indeed seen as a war as shown by the birth of the term “war on terrorism”.

However unlike a war between two sovereign nations this was a war between a tangible
entity, the government and an intangible phenomena, terrorism. Which raises new questions about what are the rules of engagement and how is victory determined (Martin 2014)?

Another clear indicator that a new era had indeed been entered, was the change of tone in how terrorism and our responses to it shifted from that of preserving a citizens safety to preserving a nations security and in some ways its sovereignty. This is clearly indicated by the establishment of the Patriot Act.

These above changes alone has been enough to cause understandable worry and debate
among citizens and government. While protecting the safety and rights of a citizen can at times require just as much aggression as we may see today from those in government and law enforcement, such aggression was tempered by the underlying intention to protect the rights of all citizens with her victim or perpetrator.

However when that underlying intention is replaced by a need to protect the government’s security and sovereignty, that aggression is no longer tempered but in many ways fueled. This in turn leads to the personal rights of the citizens being protected to fade into the background leading to many complaints (many justified) of rights being trampled and raising the question of how far is too far when acting in defense of your government.

If this alone wasn’t enough to inspire worry, anger and fear, then how much more are those emotions magnified and aggression further encouraged by the third and possibly most disturbing change indicating we are indeed in a new era of terrorism.

Terrorism has been the source of concern by government and its citizens for centuries.
However there has always been a certain solace taken by what was believed to be a core axiom in our understanding of terrorism (Hoffman 2002). Brian Jenkins articulated this axiom best when he observed that “terrorists want a lot of people watching and listening and not a lot of people dead” (Jenkins 1975). This conventional wisdom however was wiped clean by Osama bin Laden on September 11 (Hoffman 2002) . It now became clear to many that terrorists want a lot of people watching and listening AND a lot of people dead.

These above-mentioned shifts changed everything. Not just for America but for the
international community at large.

America has served as both a symbol of strength and conscience for many nations. Their example has been and continues to be emulated or debated. Regardless of which, America continues to influence and shape many nations and their interactions within themselves and with one another.

However these two virtues of strength and conscience are now clearly at war with each other and further complicating the above-mentioned underlying questions of what rules to guide our actions in this new kind of war and what does victory look like?

If by some miracle terrorism is eradicated from the earth but the cost was a nation that demanded we forever give up many of the rights we fought and died for and enjoy today; then who has won?

If we have raised bar of strength in both deed towards people and example to the world yet lowered the bar of conscience, then what has been won?

How different will the world be when our message of democracy and freedom is among the casualties suffered in this “war on terror”?

How terrifying, rather, how tragic would it be if future generations look back at this point in history and clearly see a nation who fought and bled and even died out of refusal to surrender even a shred of their rights and freedom to national sharia only to have instead surrendered all or most of both to national security?

This “war on terror” is very real, and very complicated. The stakes have never been higher because this “war on terror” is now being fought on two fronts; the terror within our borders and the terror within our hearts….. And the world is watching.

Works Cited

Hoffman, Bruce. “Rethinking Terrorism and Counterterrorism Since 9/11.” Studies in Conflict & Terrorism 25.5 (2002): 303-16. Print.

Jenkins, Brian Michael. International Terrorism: A New Mode of Conflict. Los Angeles, CA: Crescent Publications, 1975. Print.

Martin, Gus. Essentials of Terrorism: Concepts and Controversies. Thousand Oaks: SAGE Publications, 2014. Print.

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Backgound Story On Stephen Rakes

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By Joey Ortega and Sharon Branco

During our last broadcast on the Whitey Bulger case, we discussed the mysterious death of Shephen Rakes. Rakes was at one point set to testify for the prosecution to give an accounting of a claim that Whitey Bulger extorted Rakes to sell his liquor store to him.  However days before his death Rakes was informed that his testimony would not be used . It was our inquiry into this and his death that lead to even more questions and twists and turns that continues to define this case.  Her is what we have learned thus far.

  • In 1983, Stephen Rakes and his wife at the time, Julie Rakes, now Julie Dammers, were owners of  a liquor store in South Boston. They purchased a run down gas station in South Boston and turned it into a liquor store, at 295 Old Colony Ave. They had some construction work done on the property and opened in time for Christmas…the place was called Stippo’s Liquor Mart.  Stippo was a nickname for Stephen.
  • the story goes that Bulger and Weeks extorted Rakes to sell him the liquor store.  Bulger/ Flemmi and Weeks then made the liquor store their office and changed the name of course to the South Boston Liquor Mart.  90% of the story is true, but there was no extortion, it was a story spun by Rakes to get more money out of Bulger this is backed up by a 1999 document describing U.S. v. Stephen M. Rakes case#96:CR10131-001 (below) Image
  • According to Julie, she reached out to her uncle and Detective, Joseph  Lundbohm for help. Lundbohm said he knew of an FBI agent who may be able to help. That agent was John Connolly.
  • According to Julie, after the meet Lundbohm Reports to Julie that Connolly said he could help but would need her to wear a wire. She understandably refused.
  • Soon after Whitey summoned Stephen Rakes and informed him that he was aware of the feds being contacted and that he better drop the matter.

This lead to claims that Connolly gave Bulger a heads up. BTYT contacted Connolly for comment and he responded Julie’s uncle Lundbohm called Connolly and asked to meet with him.  They met at a restaurant called Linda Mae’s in Boston.  John told me the place was a hang out for cops. It was a nice place to eat, it just was popular with the cops off duty to grab a quick good meal for breakfast, lunch, or dinner.  Lundbohm knew other cops would see him with Connolly and word would get back to Bulger.  He wanted to scare Bulger and have the FBI look like the boogie man.

What further muddied the waters in trying to find out for sure what did or did not happen was the questionable background of Detective Lundbohm who would later be accused of a number of crimes, including racketeering.

It stood to reason that the prosecution maybe grew concerned that the amount of conflicting evidence and weak credibility gave them cause to pause and reconsider including him and his accounting in an already complicated case with a number of convoluted twists and turns that seem to come right out of a Mario Puzo novel .

To date we don’t know for sure how Rakes died. Let alone why but given what we now know, it seems nothing can be taken for granted. It would at first glance seem tempting to go with a “he got wacked” scenario but given that their were too many reasons to doubt that story and the fact that he was removed from the witness list prior to his death, it does not make sense to assume such a dramatic conclusion.

If one was to kill a witness for Bulger’s sake, why not go after one who will actually testify and may in fact influence the jury? Yet there were rumors that Rakes had a bombshell to add that may damn Whitey. Whether that is or whether it was even true, we may never know.

Regardless, we will continue to follow Rakes’ death investigation and kep you apprised of what we learn.

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THE MEET AT THE MERIDIAN

ImageBy Sharon Branco

 

Stephen Flemmi was Whitey Bulger’s criminal partner in the Winter Hill Gang.  Stephen and Whitey were also FBI informants.   Were Bulger and Flemmi told they would not be prosecuted for certain crimes?  Bulger’s early pre-trial defense claim was that he had immunity, and he was given that immunity by former organized crime strike force federal prosecutor Jeremiah T. O’Sullivan.   Did Bulger and prosecutor O’Sullivan have a meeting?  Investigative reports confirm they did. Strike Force Attorney (Assistant United States Attorney) O’Sullivan contacted Connolly and requested to meet Bulger and Flemmi. O’Sullivan’s primary concern being that, by protecting Bulger and Flemmi from prosecution for their criminal activities in their RICO case, he might be placing the life of the key Race-Fix case witness (Anthony “Tony” Ciulla) in danger. Former Agent Connolly then set up the “meet” for the Meridian Hotel, right across the street from O’ Sullivan’s office in the McCormick Federal Building. At the meeting which Flemmi did not attend, Bulger gave his word that no harm would come to Ciulla from them, pointing out that they had no control over others who might want to harm the witness. O’Sullivan said that Ciulla’s relocation should prevent retaliation from the others, and his real concern was him (Bulger) and Flemmi.

 

More importantly, O’Sullivan assured Bulger that he and Flemmi could continue to operate their gambling and loan shark business as cover for their FBI informant activities in reporting on the New England Mafia – but that violence could not be tolerated and such conduct would be subject to prosecution. Bulger agreed this was fair.

 

Government witness, Stephen Flemmi, confirms this meeting at the hotel between O’Sullivan and Bulger sometime in 1979. Flemmi was debriefed and interviewed several times from Sept 16, 2003 thru October 2004. He was interviewed by Mass State Police detective Lt Stephen Johnson, and DEA agent Dan Doherty.

 

Flemmi 10/29/02, DEA-6, Pg. 74, Par 160:

 

Flemmi also noted that he and Bulger were going to meet directly with 0′ Sullivan to discuss the situation, but that this gathering was cancelled for some unknown reason. FLEMMI SAID THAT BULGER ACTUALLY MET (STRIKE FORCE ATTORNEY) 0’SULLIVAN AT A LATER DATE IN A HOTEL, AND ALTHOUGH HE (FLEMMI) WAS SUPPOSED TO GO HE DID NOT.

 

SHORTLY BEFORE INDICTMENTS WERE ISSUED ON THE CASE, BULGER WAS TOLD BY CONNOLLY THAT HE (BULGER) AND FLEMMI WOULD NOT BE PROSECUTED. FLEMMI NOTED THAT AT A LATER DATE S/A CONNOLLY DIRECTLY CONFIRMED TO HIM (FLEMMI), ALL OF THE ABOVE INFORMATION THAT HE HAD RECEIVED FROM BULGER, REGARDING THE RACE FIX INVESTIGATION. FLEMMI ALSO TOLD CONNOLLY TO THANK O’SULLIVAN FOR O’SULLIVAN’S INTERCESSION. FLEMMI ADDED THAT THERE IS NO QUESTION IN HIS MIND THAT THE SOLE REASON, THEY (BULGER AND FLEMMI) WERE NOT INDICTED AND CONVICTED ON THE RACE FIX CASE, WAS BECAUSE OF THEIR INFORMANT STATUS.

 


 

 Flemmi, consistently, throughout ALL of his interviews and testimony, MAINTAINS THAT HE AND BULGER WERE AUTHORIZED TO ENGAGE IN NON-VIOLENT GAMBLING AND LOAN SHARKING AS COVER FOR THEIR INFORMANT ACTIVITIES ON BEHALF OF THE JUSTICE DEPARTMENT!

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Update on Bulger Trial – Prosecution Rests

ImageBy Sharon Branco

After 30 days of testimony and 62 witnesses, Assistant United States Attorney, Brian Kelly finally said, “at this time, the United States rests its case against Mr. Bulger.”    Bulger’s defense attorneys will present his defense beginning on Monday.   There are 15 witnesses Bulger’s defense plans on calling, 7 on Monday and 8 on Tuesday.    Will notorious Irish gangster Whitey Bulger take the stand in his own defense?   Defense attorney J.W. Carney stated to the court, the decision will be made sometime Monday.

The prosecution ended its case against Mr. Bulger with details of his capture in June 2011.  FBI agent, Scott Garriolla from the FBI’s Los Angeles Fugitive Task Force office explained to the jury how Bulger was tricked into a peaceful surrender.   Garriolla stated Bulger was cooperative showing the agents that came to arrest him all his guns, knives, fake ID’s, and hide outs in the apartment he shared with longtime girlfriend Catherine Greig.

Garriolla asked Bulger if he intended to use the guns for a shootout with cops.  Bulger stated no because he was concerned a stray bullet may hit someone.  Bulger asked for future consideration and leniency for his girlfriend in exchange for  his cooperation that day.    Bulger’s defense pointed out that the FBI office was only 3 miles from Bulger’s apartment!

Quid Pro Quo

Stephen “The Rifleman” Flemmi was Bulger’s criminal partner for 20 years.  He was also a FBI informant like Bulger.   He pled guilty in 2003 to 10 murders. He’s been in jail for 17 years.

Flemmi stated that he was an FBI informant and so was Bulger.  Flemmi testified that his relationship with the FBI was  “quid pro quo.”   Bulger’s defense attorney said isn’t that Latin for “rat?”   Flemmi answered back, “I don’t like that word, and Mr. Bulger doesn’t like it either.”  Bulger  looked up at that comment.

Defense was able to bring out of Flemmi that he lied in prior testimony before the grand jury and that while he was sitting in jail it crossed his mind that the government was looking for him to give up FBI agents.  Defense read off a list of FBI agents, then prosecutors objected.    Flemmi admitted he lied about John Connolly in the past about giving them (Flemmi and Bulger) information that led to murders. But Flemmi insisted he was not lying now.  FLemmi said Connolly gave us information and we acted on it.  The fact is Flemmi has given varying testimony in the past.  Why should the jurors believe him now.  Defense brought out that Flemmi had every incentive to lie.  He was spared the death penalty in OK and FL.  He was moved to better living conditions in prison.   Flemmi admitted he had a sexual relationship with his step-daughter.   Regarding the murders of two females, Debra Hussey and Debra David, Flemmi stated Bulger told Flemmi they both had to go, Bulger’s defense attorney said Flemmi killed Debra Hussey to prevent avalanche of sexually predator behavior from being revealed.

Whitey Bulger and Stevie Flemmi were not the first FBI informants that killed and they will not be the last.

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Irish Gang Wars: Quick Backgroud

I order to add some context to the Whitey Bulger case we are following we felt a short history lesson in its roots and that of organized crime in New England would be helpful.

The Irish Gang Wars

ImageBy Sharon Branco

The Irish gangs and the New England Mafia co-existed in the early 60’s but the peace between the Irish gangs wouldn’t last

Charlestown, Massachusetts 1961.  Charlestown is a historic town, one of the oldest Boston neighborhoods located north of Boston on the banks of the Boston Harbor and Mystic River.   The USS Constitution, a.m. “Old Ironsides,” is docked at the Charlestown Navy Yard and the Bunker Hill Monument is to the north.  On Halloween afternoon in 1961, the residents of Charlestown would be witnesses to a new historic happening, but this incident left no landmark to visit, it was the beginning of the Irish gang wars.

It was two o’clock on Halloween afternoon when Bernie McLaughlin of the McLaughlin Brothers gang walked towards Richards Bottled Liquors.  Casually observing the flurry of activity in the vicinity of a local utility street opening.  With the distraction caused by jackhammers and backhoes, he failed to notice a man with a yellow hard-hat emerging out of the other end of the gaping hole in the street.

Bernie was caught off guard, the man wearing  the hard-hat was Buddy McLean, from the McLean gang.   Buddy turned sharply and headed purposefully for Bernie.  Bernie desperately yelled, “Buddy, wait….hold it….we didn’t know….we woulda never…” 

Buddy didn’t want to hear no explanation.

“Tell it to the devil,” McLean yelled back as he pumped a slug from his .45 automatic weapon into Bernie’s eye socket and cheekbone.   He back-peddled along a sidewalk and fell to the ground from the impact.  McLean pumped more slugs into McLaughlin until he no longer moved.  A car pulled up and McLean jumped in and sped away.

Blood leaked from McLaughlin’s body  onto the sidewalk and into a nearby gutter.  The Boston police would estimate that close to sixty people witnessed the execution, but true to the Charlestown code of silence, nobody saw a thing.

The McLean gang  – They were from the Winter Hill section of Somerville, Massachusetts.  Headed by James “Buddy” McLean and Howard “Howie” Winter.  They were primarily hijackers, took part in the sale of untaxed cigarettes, loansharking and bookmaking.  They did not handle contract hits for the Mafia that was the McLaughlin domain.

The McLaughlin gang – Charlestown, Massachusetts.  George McLaughlin, Bernard “Bernie” McLaughlin, and Edward “Punchy” McLaughlin.  They ran most of the gambling at nearby Charlestown and much of the Boston waterfront.  They were also handling contract “hits” for the Mafia.

The McLaughlin’s were the Mafia’s useful, lethal idiots.  Local Irish hoodlums  didn’t trust the McLaughlins or the Mafia, but they would never admit it.  The term “hits” was actually coined in the Boston underworld of the 1950’s to describe the number of “contract” murders the McLaughlins carried out.

The Irish gang wars were a fairly welcomed war to the New England Mafia.  The New England Mafia was headed by Mafia Boss Raymond Patriarca who ran his business from his office on Atwells Avenue in Providence, Rhode Island.  His underboss was Jerry Anguilo located in Boston.   The New England Mafia controlled 70% of the organized criminal activity in New England during this period including the bulk of the gambling and loansharking but it wasn’t 100%.

Patriarca, along with Anguilo and Mafia capo Peter “Big Peter” Limone agreed that their strategy in the Irish gang wars would be: support both sides in the gang wars with guns, money and conversation.  The undisciplined, and super-violent Irish gangs would do the work for them.  When they killed each off, the Mafia would step in and take over.

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The Jester (th3j35t3r) Investigation Prologue- The Indictment of a Hypocrite….Myself

The Beginning……

This investigation finds its beginnings in early 2013 with the Steubenville case involving the rape of a minor which then morphed into allegations of citywide corruption and the  catapulted to new and dramatic level, when at the behest of media stalker, Michelle McKee, members of the hacking collective known as Anonymous injected themselves into this case.

The many events, wrongdoings, trauma and out right crimes perpetuated by these individuals as well as McKee is well documented in earlier parts of this and other blogs and I will look to you to refer back to them for any parts in which you need refreshing.

The Call To Chose Fight or Flight

In an effort to intimidate me off the case two cell groups, knightsec and nextsec  sent after me as well as numerous hate blogs associated with Michelle McKee at the time were encouraged to discredit me, via libel and mockery and if need be more.  I already had some background in cyber crime and the hacking world. My development as a private investigator led me to a specialty in stalking cases during a time when the internet use was reaching its peak.

That time in my career was a terrifying yet fascinating roller coaster ride of exploration and self-education. Over the years I began to meet true experts in this field who further helped me in my efforts to hone my skills as well as develop new ones. However as any infosec professional would tell you there’s always something more to learn and experts only remain experts as long as they continue to remain students as well. This was one of many rare traits this field had that intrigued and fascinated me.  It still does to this day.

By the time the Steubenville/anonymous media fiasco hit the world, practically overnight, I had some degree of competence in the cyber crime area though I would never call myself an expert. However this new fight with a group of self-proclaimed hackers and vigilantes  would eventually force me to not only questing my training but most of all my passion and resolve to continue to do what I set out to do.

The Threshold Into Unknown Waters

In the months that followed, my skills, resolve and especially my passion not only pass this test but were indeed strengthened and expanded.  I began to further my education in the areas of Internet related crime and most specifically hacking.  I surround myself with people much smarter and much more experienced than myself and began formalizing all the informal training I have received and finally breaking down and began actively pursuing some of those initials (CNEE, CNA, CEH, Security+, CISSP) that I feared would make me cocky and complacent as I have seen so many others fall victim to.  However, the classroom time, online training hours and stacks of books I was inundated with didn’t change the fact that I was needed out in the field at the same time.
Not only did I have to deal with Anonymous’ efforts to sabotage and intimidate my team, endanger my family, and undermine my reputation, I had to stay on top of the Steubenville case and try to see to it that an already messy case be not made more so by the interference of these vigilantes. I also felt a need and obligation to help bring to justice many who were terrorizing members of that community and inflicting much greater harm than I and my team had ever suffered.

However it seemed  favor was on me in some ways. Most notably was that although I didn’t have the benefit of my in class professors and mentors, I was not without benefit of expert guidance and encouragement.  The most valued of them I wish I could thank out loud but it was a great personal risk that many of them helped me and guided me through many activities and actions that would eventually assist in putting an end to the Anonymous infestation in Steubenville and help assure those involved in criminal activity were properly identified.

Challenges and Temptations

Sometimes the most simplest of lessons are often the most easily forgotten and many times lead to the most disastrous of errors.  Mama, one of my first Sunday school teachers always exhorted me to never forget that it is God who puts you where you are and that it is God who provides you with what you need so when you find yourself feeling overwhelmed or under equipped to not let your fear lead you to try to seek more than what he has already given and to not go the way of the countless people described in so many Bible stories who unknowingly and sometimes knowingly sought after shortcuts and deals with the devil and  then convince themselves of the need to succeed in a greater good to justify it.

It was during this time that I became aware of the Jester. He seemed revered and respected in so many different circles. He was hailed a “patriot hacker”, the dark night that may help turn the tide in what seemed like a hopeless war on terror and had the ire of Anonymous. I watched for a while as he tweeted his famous “Tango Down”s and his objection to the jihadi activities that provoked him to bring down the sites he said he did and I read  many studies, articles and interviews with and about him.

Though at the same time there were some who seemed dissident among what appeared to be thousands of fans and supporters. The fans and supporters seemed so much louder. There was no shortage of negative blogs and tweets that all seem to stand in agreement about these few dissident voices and their obvious mental instability and their less than honorable motives provoking them to try to soil the good name of this their hero.  It made it all the easier to dismiss them as well.

I mean how could somebody who hates terror and the hateful actions of so many extremist groups like Westboro Baptist Church be bad? I mean these horrible Anonymous people seem afraid of him as well. It was exactly what I needed….. Or what I thought I needed.

Little did I really understand how much I was in danger of falling victim to the same social dynamic that I had been exhorting some Steubenville citizens, main stream media and even Rosanne Barr to avoid. The constant juxtaposition of Anonymous and the overwhelming outrage at what appeared to so many as ignored rape, made it easy for them to ignore the obvious lies and self promoting actions of KYanonymous and his friends.

A seemingly shared desire to end what appeared to so many to be widespread corruption and disenfranchisement of young women made it easy for them to dismiss or ignore the increasing numbers of complaints against these thugs.  The few innocent voices who asked for help as they were slandered, stalked, threatened or even attacked were outweighed by the ravaging voices of the public who would at times chastise them for lying about their heroes or being so selfish or petty as to try and point focus on their complaints in the midst of the larger issue. After all this was “about Jane Doe” this was “for Jane Doe”.

In my shared outrage against terrorism (cyber or otherwise) and hate groups and  my perceived need for more help in a seeming unfair fight that was becoming exhausting,  I began to become guilty of the same mistake.  Through some outreach and the vouching of mutual acquaintances the Jester and I did become acquainted. All the logic and critical thinking and investigative acumen that I exhausted myself in sharply applying towards my fight against Anonymous and evidence gathering, lest the smallest of screw ups or oversights cause me to be squashed like a bug, went out the window when talking with the Jester.

I became a hypocrite and didn’t even know it.  I was searching for some supernatural hero to help and mold me into his likeness. I become concerned that I would eventually buckle under to the seeming endless attacks lodged at me and my team, afraid I would be the cause of one of them being harmed, afraid that I would break the many promises made to locals to not let Anonymous run me off the case, and terrified that all I would have to show for the months of work put into investigating and reporting on The Jane Doe case, Steubenville, and its plight, would be Sandra Goddard and her clearly sick agenda to betray our team and and worse her own hometown, for the sake of personal vengeance, vanity, fame and greed.

Into the Abyss

My contempt for all that ugliness made me blind to my own as I became what I have exhorted desperate locals in Steubenville not to become….willing dupes, selling their soul in exchange for false hope. I forgot the truth in my very own catch phrase  I would say at the end of each broadcast, partial justice is injustice.

I Not only allowed myself to take in his many claims and slogans without question, for a time I began to publicly parrot them in support of him.  Even more and more entertained the idea of becoming just like him. In one of our inbox conversations I expressed a desire to be, as I recall, “for Israel (who at the time was under constant attack by antisemitic groups and “anons”) and to Anonymous, what you have become for America and to terrorists”. What an idiot and blind fool I had allowed a few moment of fear and self doubt to turn me into.

I was so close to distorting all that I have learned, grown to believe and value and even the new skills and knowledge I was gaining during this case for the sake of becoming “powerful” enough to no longer fear failure and defeat. Like so many other goodhearted but desperate men and women everywhere, I too was about to trade in my character integrity and identity for a mask.

I clearly needed to somehow be smacked back to reality. That slap in the face did come…… from The Jester.

A Death and Reawakening

On March 23, 2013 I was preparing for my broadcast that was to be feature “white hat” hackers, the good guys. 2009 DC three winner, Robin Jackson was to be my guest. At this point Robin, a longtime associate of the Jester, and myself has established a budding friendship. The Jester and I had established a consistent good rapport. In the second half of that interview with Robin, the subject of the Jester came up. Soon after that somebody claiming to be the Jester called into the show.

http://www.blogtalkradio.com/behindtheyellowtape/2013/03/23/hacking-culture-infosec-the-white-hats (approx 95:00)

This was not the first time the Jester had made a public appearance of sorts though from what I understood it would have been the first time he made one via voice. It was well-known that given the many Jester imposters, that the he had an authentication process to assure people it was him and no one else. Given that no one really knew his real identity this was the only thing people can realistically can trust about him. Of course I did ask for authentication and he did give it via his Twitter account, even he admits that much.

It was an interesting conversation to say the least and definitely entertaining. It seemed clear to most that this person was either an incredibly eccentric personality for an incredibly intoxicated hacker.  It proved to be a very entertaining ending to our podcast I was talked about online by many.  Though days later he would claim it was not him. I didn’t bother disputing at the time but thanked him regardless since he did participate in some form and was helpful regardless.

I had begun writing music again and working on some new genres. I thought it would be an incredibly cool tribute to the Jester and that night, to take a series of memorable soundbites and put it to music I had just composed. It was to be a sort of anthem for him. He often claimed  he avoided money donation offers but supported Wounded Warrior Project, and so on the off-chance that there was any market value for what I just created I  released it as a preview track for an upcoming album I was working on. It hit iTunes first, then eventually to other major e-stores and live stream stations. I informed Robin and Jester that if there was any money to be made I would I would share it with them as well as give a portion of each sale to Wounded Warrior Project Jester’s behalf.

Don’t worry not trying to sell you. Here’s a link to hear free, lol.

http://www.jango.com/music/Z0ph0kl3z?l=0

In my embarrassing deluded state, I honestly thought I was doing a good thing for a lot of people. On the one hand I thought I was giving the Jester a cool and fun gift through this public and artistic show of honor and respect. Furthermore, I had reasoned that in a time where so many young people are feeling angry and disenfranchised and more and more to succumb to the temptation and allure that Anonymous offered them as an answer, that maybe what they needed was a different kind of dark hero of sorts to contrast the growing Anonymous publicity machine. I thought they needed someone who was far enough  removed from the mainstream they have grown to disdain yet well within morality to keep them from becoming another bot net zombie that seemed to make up the majority of Anonymous.

Contrary, the claims of some, it was never about money. I knew enough about the music industry and knew many people within it to know that one generally doesn’t get rich off a single album release, let alone a single track.

People seemed to take to the song. Local fans and followers seemed to get a kick out of it. Kids as far as Korea seem to be streaming it. Every voice that was featured on the track got a kick out of it……except Jester.

He was absolutely livid. He began ranting things that didn’t make sense, at times he would claim that he resents people trying to make money off of his fame I assured him  little to no money was expected to be made, and it would be shared. He would then move on to anger that I included his rant against Anonymous, telling me that I failed to understand the consequences of that if they heard it, I was even more confused since he’s renowned for his open contempt for Anonymous. It made no sense that he would now somehow appear for all intents and purposes, scared of what Anonymous would think or how they would react, the conversation went even more downhill from there, as he got more and more paranoid and said that he knew exactly what I was up to and what I was trying to do to him and that he was going to have to take action if I didn’t pull song. I said he was talking crazy and that I had given him no reason to think that I was out to get him but made every effort to show my support of him. I said that I will make every effort to try to address his concerns by making sure the descriptions on current publicity of the song (that was already well it an international release) would at least reflect his earlier denial.

However,  I felt it would be a mistake for him since it would undermine his own Twitter authentication process and cast doubt on future public appearances and interviews be it via, voice, chat, etc. I asked him just to give me some time to try to work on this. By the next day I was able to make some adjustments on the ready existing publicity as well as made a number of public statements reflecting my purposes for the song and acknowledgment of his earlier denial that it was not him on the phone call. He saw one of those public statements via TwitLonger and even Favorite it.  Then via a inbox chat, he seem to indicate he was okay when he gave a wink and “Peace”.

http://www.twitlonger.com/show/n_1rjngks

The next day, he again wrote me ranting as if nothing had changed and was still angry for the same things. Again I told him he was not making sense and was sounding crazy and paranoid. He again began making threats to take action against me if I didn’t take it down.

A Revelation

It was then that it really hit me. He wasn’t talking to me like an angry friend or acquaintance but like displeased master who demanded immediate obedience and clearly how he saw me now. I told him I had every good intention with him and that stupid song and made every effort to extend a hand in friendship but that he clearly fallen under the wrong impression that I was a fan boy or Jester worshiper beholden to his emotional whims. I told him to get a grip and remember who his friends are and that even Robin with whom he shares a much longer and deeper history and loyalty doesn’t see me or this project in the way in which he is accusing me. I told him I was glad to do what I could to make this right for everybody but that I won’t be ordered around nor threatened. That was pretty much the last of any friendly discussion between he and I.

I began to reflect on what had transpired. Spoke with the few people who knew him best, replayed our last conversation over again in my mind, I could find nothing to help me make sense of the crazy shift and paranoia.

I was already doing a series of shows on hacking culture, and wanted to do a feature piece on the Jester.  Even then I thought perhaps I was going to put to rest some of the rumors that were going around regarding phony hacks, manufactured enemy websites, cyberbullying and more.

The Atonement

However, I was not going to make the same catastrophic mistake, I made by letting a misguided sense of loyalty and friendship keep me from looking into the facts, or scrutinizing noted inconsistencies, as I had done with Sandra Goddard.  I wanted to make sure that people knew that whatever came out of my investigation would be the results of reason, logic and objectivity and weighed against good evidence.

Every effort to give the benefit of the doubt became harder each day as more and more inconsistencies are presented before me. Then came the May 2013 “hack” on  what was believed to be a website owned by Westboro Baptist Church called godhatesoklahoma.com by the Jester and the publicity that followed. My efforts to fact check that case became the point of no return when it became abundantly clear that the site and the hack were bogus… and the Jester knew it.

I had opened the damn that for three years held back swelling evidence of fraud, lies, and cyberbullying, and the endangerment of innocent people, and quite possibly our nation, all for the sake of fame.

The Transformation

This was where personal reflection ended a the formal investigation began. It is there in the next post and the ones that follow where I layout the who Jester really is. You will see how an investigation that intended to analyze the persona, public actions and the resulting threats and attacks that followed revealed more and more what the Jester really is and why it also became an investigation to the man and the people behind the charade.

I began this series of blogs on this investigation in this personal and candid way, for number of reasons. One is to offer the reader the full story. To unmask myself as willingly as I’m willing to unmask the Jester. Most importantly it is my hope that by knowing the shortcomings and embarrassing confessions of this writer, the reader can then move on from here and simply examine the facts and the evidence that I offer you without the distraction of others to get you to focus on the one offering it.

Many will say I am “jealous of Jester’s “fame””. To this I answer, how can one truly refute that? I can say it is not true, which indeed is the case but then one can say I’m lying. Its an easy out that can’t be fully refuted and Jester and his damage control team know this.

Many will say, I’m just trying to get “famous” off the Jester. To this I answer, what the heck does that even mean? I have a show, and anybody with a show does want to grow an audience and expand its reach. Yet at the same time, if audience for audience sake was my goal then why go after the subjects I do, often at needless risk of backlash, such as this case? Why not go with the mainstream media exploitation of the same one or two cases from beginning to end and cultivating the soap opera overtones that seem to draw in people, facts be dammed?

Many will say, Joey is trying to make money. To this I say, who doesn’t want to make money doing what they love? Yet having a PayPal link proves nothing. I don’t demand or press for donations from listeners or those who come to us with requests to take on a case.  At worst Ill mention it on rare occasions. Letting people know that we work for free because we love what we do and are passionate about in the justice we seek in each case.  We pay for everything we do out of our own resources and will gladly continue to do so. But leaving an option for some to support us and help offset costs as they see fit is no different then the proliferation of donation links whether it be via paypal, bitcoin, etc, that you find on many other sites…including those owned by Jester and Anonymous (the ones who have tried to use such arguments) and even they more often than me will remind you of an opportunity to spend your money on them, whether it be donation or merchandise. Yet a single button makes ME a “fraud”?

Finally, many will say I am  socially, psychologically and professionally unqualified to carry out this investigation. Some will say its because my company or investigative licensing, are no existent or invalid.  A simple online search will prove this to be absolutely false. Some will say its because of my long hair, rumored sexuality,  or likeness to some actor, or unfounded claims against my sanity. Well….If one really requires an answer these things before they even consider me credible on the subject at hand then they are not likely to understand anything I say anyway given that either their hate or ignorance is so severe that they are likely incapable of exercising the most basic of reason anyway.

A Closing Appeal

The bottom line is simple. Even if all of the above claims and the many others were to be true and in the most extreme or dramatic sense and it turns out that I am indeed some long haired, transgendered, flaming homosexual who desperately covets fame and the looks of Lou Diamond Phillips while, in the basement of my in laws hoping no one finds out about my illegal investigative firm and lack of investigative background, and staring at my Jester voodoo doll just knowing by taking HIM down that will be the key to at last changing it all AND finally afford some psych meds…….(catches breath…pant pant pant)……none of it will come close to PROVING anything I present to you as false. At best, it should inform you that it would not be wise to take me at my word alone, it would caution you to closely scrutinize what I present and weigh it against the external evidence……..The very thing I am telling you to do now, and what I always exhort my listeners and readers to do no matter what.

Whether I am the manifestation of all the baseless claims made by Jester and his fans in the hopes to divert people’s minds by trying to humiliate me or the Pope himself, the above exhortation remains valid.

The claims and accusations I make in this case, is based on clear reason and a preponderance of evidence.  It is my hope that your decision to agree or disagree with part or all of what I present is also based on the same.

The Jester (th3j35t3r) Investigation Part 1- The Myths, Claims and Rumors……coming soon.

Posted in Hacking | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Bitter, Brooding, and Self-Important

~ by Amy Lynn Burch

“…truee [sic] crime is entertainment and these people will latch on to anyone they think will get them publicity.” ~Michelle L McKee

It almost sounds as though she’s describing herself in that statement. This is just one of the many character exposing statements that Michelle L. McKee made to Joey Ortega via Facebook Private Message between February 11, 2012 and February 19, 2012 when she sought him out to ask for help stalking crime author and commentator, Pat Brown. As an abuse survivors advocate, I have significant difficulty ignoring blatant attempts by off-the-rails abusive personalities to exploit others for their own selfish purposes. Through her self-insertion into the Steubenville case bringing with her the likes of wannabe Anonymous and their near-criminal behavior, she has proven herself to be opportunistic and glory-seeking at the expense of crime victims. It is for that reason that I cannot remain silent. Michelle L. McKee has now apparently shifted her focus to Jacob Limberios and is apparently exploiting the death of this young man for her own purposes.

What readers’ must understand is that this isn’t about humiliating or “sticking it” to anyone. However, as a media and investigative professional which Michelle claims to be, she should clearly understand that everyone in the public eye is open to scrutiny particularly those who call themselves “influencers” and “high profile” figures in a given issue. This includes Michelle L. McKee especially since she seem more and more desperate to get people to see her as the one who brought in Anonymous in contrast to earlier denials, or so it seems.

It is with crystal clear confidence in the credibility of those Michelle L McKee essentially “slammed” in her messages to Joey, specifically Stacy Dittrich and Corey Mitchell, and their professional abilities that I seriously question and expose Michelle’s rather obvious selfish motivation in her vengeful behavior. Her credibility – if ever she had any– is utterly destroyed by her ruthless attempts to recruit Joey to do her bidding against Pat Brown. Furthermore, her antics in recruiting Anonymous wannabes into manipulating the Steubenville Rape Case only further damage, by her own doing, her and Alexandria “Prinnie” Goddard’s credibility.

Michelle L. McKee’s seemingly pathological desire to destroy anyone in her path whom she feels has crossed her is legendary within the so-called true crime community. It’s a shame, too, because at one time she had the potential to be a decent and engaging writer. It should also be made clear before I continue that at one time, Joey Ortega did, indeed, have an issue with Pat Brown referring to herself as a “criminal profiler” and it was this concern that apparently piqued Michelle’s interest in engaging him on her quest to… well, I’ll let you read Michelle’s own words on the matter.

As an aside, it is my understanding of the facts that Michelle L. McKee erroneously implicated certain people of wrongdoing in the case of Casey Anthony and without evidence, accused William Kevin Murtaugh of murdering Trenton Duckett as you will read in the following messages in her own words.  It is also my understanding that police officials after hearing these claims cleared Mr. Murtaugh of wrongdoing and have ruled him out as a suspect. With the exception of Joey’s opinions regarding Pat Brown’s failure to show any real experience and credibility as a criminal profiler – including her published works which were “unpacked” so to speak by established professionals and pioneers in the field, many of whom Joey knows personally and has interviewed professionally – Joey Ortega holds no ill will towards Stacy Dittrich, Corey Mitchell, William Kevin Murtaugh, or any of the other persons whom Michelle L. McKee has chosen to malign. It would appear that because Joey Ortega did not share Michelle L. McKee’s seemingly abusive agenda to have a personal war with Pat Brown, Michelle decided that Joey Ortega was something of an enemy and fair game to attack.

And now, let’s be on with it, shall we?

The first message that you see below is Joey’s message to me asking me to safeguard his copy of the messages in case his email was tampered with as has been so often threatened by various and sundry malcontents. Joey later gave me permission use his copies of the messages as I saw fit, and I see fit to post them here so that all can see, through reading Michelle’s own words, her true intentions when involving herself in sensational cases. Michelle engages in more than a moderate amount of projection in her lengthy caustic messages in which she tries unsuccessfully to engage Joey to join her smear campaign of Pat Brown. For those unfamiliar with the concept, projection is the term used in psychological term used to describe a predictable defense mechanism whereby a person attempts to shed certain personal characteristics by projecting those characteristics onto other people.

And with that I give you the following. Again, I have the permission of the rightful owner of the message copies to reprint this information at my discretion. The following messages exchanged between Joey Ortega and Michelle L. McKee between February 11, 2012 beginning at 8:31am (PST) and ending February 19, 2012 at 2:07pm (PST). As with the previously posted messages, spelling and grammatical errors committed by both Joey Ortega and Michelle L. McKee are left intact to protect the integrity of the messages with the exception of the removal of two email addresses of third parties to protect their information:

  • April 27

3:41am

Joey Ortega

Save this for me, on the off chance my mail is screwed with lol. Been meaning to pass on to you anyway. Pretty much outlines Mckees issue with me. She tried to get me to help with her stalking of Pat Brown because of my recent write ups on her back then. She seemed nutty but was going to call her as requested. then I asked the authors and stuff that knew here and was warned that my instincts were right and to stay away.

Was going to write her and let her know I had no need to work with her on the Pat issue and was prtty much done writing about it anyway but she flipped out three days later for not calling her fast enough lol. Either way, i left it at that…..she clearly didnt.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

8:31am

Michelle McKee

Hi, this is a piece I wrote a while back on In Cold Blog. The feed was picked up and archived here (thank God!) The incident that I talk about in this post is what started her obsession with me. I defended a friend against her abuse. She was trying to ruin him both personally & professionally because she didn’t like what he put on his blog. What she did to him, his late wife & those who mourned her death was despicable! Feel free to repost the link or the entire article. Best – M
http://www.crimecrawlers.com/?p=308

This attachment may have been removed or the person who shared it may not have permission to share it with you.

 

6:27pm

Michelle McKee

I know a LOT of the true crime personalities out there. Stacey Dietrich is an attention whore just like 90% of the rest of them. If she says she’s going to help you, don’t be surpised when she doesn’t. Want to know how owns WICI, go to Susan Murphy-Milano and ask her. She will tell you Pat Brown, in no uncertain terms. That site is a low brow piece of crap. BTW, my last gues writter was a US Congressman & Pulitzer Prize winners would come to me and ask me if they could contribute posts. When it comes to true crime, no one has been able to duplicate or top what I accomplished with ICB. I absolutely know what I am talking about. No one knows the Internet TC genre like I do, down to the readers & players. I am the best there is at tc promotion and in order to be the best I had to know my competition and demographic inside and out. Best – M

 

6:38pm

Joey Ortega

I wont deign to question the credibility of your blog. I am looking forward to knowing more about it and you and listen to you insights and input. I think you will quickly find that i am not quick to judge anyone and make every effort to treat people i deal directly with with respect, even those who may have an agenda towards me and with all people I find making every effort to respect the dignity of those you talk to and about, even when accusing them of serious offenses. It help ppl stick to the facts and emotion slowing quick resolution.

You have my ear and will listen to all you say and will follow up as well. All I ask is that i not be scolded, chided, condescended or cussed out on my own page. If offended you, know what ever I said was not intended to be a personal affront.

All that aside I really do want to talk with you about your experiences with APt and know that i will pursue everything. I am not one shaken or scared of a case once I start it. Pat is quickly learning this. Nice does not mean weak, not powerless.

 

6:39pm

Joey Ortega

with Pat*

 

6:44pm

Michelle McKee

I’m sorry if I offended you. When you talk to me you’ll find out why WICI, Pat & a few others are a real sore spot with me. In Cold Blog was killed by Pat, Diane Fanning, Kathryn Casey and Murt. They sought to destroy it by ruining my reputatoin and credibility. I have permanent helth damage because of what these SOB’s put me through. I will never get better. Ever. People, their peers, stood idely by and watched as I was destroyed to the point of literally loosing my mind. No one should ever have to go through what I have. My crime? I had a HUGELY succesful blog & was veery outspoken. BTW, when my anxiety goes up I swear like a sailor. I’m a lot better than I used to be, but I’m still working on it. Seriously, I fucked up six ways from Sunday due to the bs they put me through. I damn near died. I get bent when anyone supports the people who, in my opinion, tried to get me to kill myself & those who were too cowardly to stand up and say “enough!”

 

6:50pm

Michelle McKee

This was In Cold Blog. I had over 20 contributors & could get anyone I wanted to write a post. Like I said, my last guest writer was a US Congressman. There is no other blog out there that was able to literally get Congressional approval for something like that. The Office of the President of the UnitesStates & the House of Representatives were regular readers.

http://web.archive.org/web/20100205113542/http://incoldblogger.blogspot.com/

This attachment may have been removed or the person who shared it may not have permission to share it with you.

 

7:03pm

Joey Ortega

So what exactly happend? What did Pat do, was it he or her fans?

please lets keep this on here now and off the wall. I try not to let the tone on there get to personal or socially uncomfortable.

 

7:05pm

Michelle McKee

Her, her fans & her “colleagues” from WICI. There is too much to put in a FB post, since it started in 2007.

 

7:05pm

Joey Ortega

Is it better if I call?

 

7:06pm

Michelle McKee

Yes. Do you still have my number?

 

7:07pm

Joey Ortega

Yes in my Gmail where you sent it. What is usallay best for you?

 

7:09pm

Michelle McKee

Anytime, really. I’m up all night and up early in the AM. I’m an insomniac. Whenever is best for you will work for me.

 

7:09pm

Joey Ortega

ok, please remind me what state you are in?

 

7:10pm

Michelle McKee

I’m in Washington. Seattle/Tacoma area.

 

7:14pm

Joey Ortega

ok, ill try to touch base this weekend if ok

 

7:19pm

Michelle McKee

That would be fine. I wrote for National Lampoon for a short time. This is what she left in their comments. You can verify with Nadine Rajabi, she was my editor. I’ll go pull the post that PB got bent about and then you can compare what I wrote to what she has to say. Needless to say, she exagerates in order to play victim & try to screw me. She made life so damn hard that my gig with Lampoon was short lived. You can’t image how much I hate that bitch.

 

 

7:22pm

Joey Ortega

How did NL respond to Pat’s post?

 

7:24pm

Michelle McKee

Nadine was pissed. Not at me, at her. They ignored her and never posted her comment. Oh, and for the record, I’m not a stalker & no one has sued me or filed anything against me. She lies as easily as you and I breathe. Gary C. King can confirm that she went to him looking for information about me. He’s a true crime author. We used to hate each other but we’re friends now. Everyone who knows me knows she is a liar. She even went after Andy Kahan!

 

7:25pm

Joey Ortega

Do you have a direct number for me to speak with Nadine as suggested?

 

7:26pm

Michelle McKee

I have her email addy. I don’t like to give out phone numbers without asking first. You can email her at [email address removed]

 

7:27pm

Joey Ortega

ok, is it ok if I say you referred me. Do you want to call ahead and let her know or give her my contact info?

 

7:28pm

Michelle McKee

Yes, tell her I referred you. She’s not with Lampoon anymore, but she should remember Pat’s comment. She was fuming! You could try to interview Corey Mitchell about what Pat did to him, too. Just don’t mention my name. His email is [email address removed]

 

7:29pm

Joey Ortega

ok, yes I know him. Why should I not mention you. Are you and he not on good terms?

 

7:31pm

Michelle McKee

If you go to Kathryn Casey and Diane Fanning and ask them about me. They’ll like their asses off. They came after me beause I dared to call the profiler out as a fake & would not leave In Cold Blog under their pressure. So, KC threatened me with career suicide and then followed through.

 

7:33pm

Michelle McKee

No, he hates me. He ended up buying into the bullshit. He destroyed everything I built. I will tell you all about it. Murt managed to turn him against me. Like I said, truee crime is entertainment and these people will latch on to anyone they think will get them publicity. Coreywas my closest friend, then he turned on me like a rabid dog.

 

7:33pm

Joey Ortega

Murt?

 

7:36pm

Michelle McKee

Murt is the sick POS that Alex has told you about. Pat and Diane snuggled up to him and whined and cried that I was their stalker. So, in the end, Murt was the one who pushed me into a nervous breakdown. He’s one of Pat Brown’s biggest fans! He used her as justification to cause harm. He’s a pig. Ask Alex about Murt. He wants to make the 2 of us into a skin dress

 

7:37pm

Michelle McKee

Murt has literally ran to Pat screaming that I was picking on him (paraphrasing)

 

7:39pm

Joey Ortega

ewww. so what is his full name

 

7:40pm

Michelle McKee

William Kevin Murtaugh. He’s in the discovery docs for the Casey Anthony case. Said he murdered Trenton Duckett (which is another story) and that he trolls the malls looking for children under 5 to victimize. He’s a cockroach.

 

7:44pm

Michelle McKee

http://murtwitnessonelive.blogspot.com;http://murtwitnessonelive.wordpress.com;http://twitter.com/MURTWITNESSONE

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7:59pm

Michelle McKee

Here, meet Murt. Nothing quite says “goober” like Murt on video. This one is when he faked his suicide online then tried to blame it on Alex.http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-2847306694763488112

This attachment may have been removed or the person who shared it may not have permission to share it with you.

 

10:31am

Michelle McKee

I changed my mind. Leave Nadine alone. She doesn’t need to be bothered with this garbage. Quite honestly, if you were interested in what I have to say I would have heard from you a long time ago. As far as “investigation” goes, I was an white collar crime analyst with the National Insurance Crime Bureau and worked on everything from insurance fraud to auto theft to terrorism (9/11), abduction, murder, arson and everything in between. According to NICB I’m a recognized expert on the Internet and Internet based investigations. I’ve worked with FBI, ATF, DEA, ICE, Homeland Security, Secret Service and state and local LEO’s. The high profile people on my FB I know personally or have worked with – except for John Douglass – and some of them are my very closest friends, including Burl Barer – who was not a writing partner with Alex. She interviewed him at my suggestion. My life was destroyed to the point that I can’t even get a job because of the shit that has been said about me by Pat and her cohorts. You’re expose on Pat isn’t going to make a bit of difference to anyone for one simple reason, your audience is not large enough – plus no one cares. I am quite offended by what I view as complete dismissal. I don’t know who you think I am, but I’m not some low level blogger or crime groupie and what was done to me should never be done to anyone. Maybe someday I’ll finally be vindicated, but I doubt it will be via you. Finally, to go after Pat while praising her blog is hypocritical and what I see is ass kissing in order to ensure the other writers their will do your show. I’m not impressed. You have pretty much told me that I don’t know what I’m talking about when it comes to WICI while telling me I have to prove I’ve been victimized. I don’t have to prove shit to anyone anymore. Google is your friend. When you finally realize I am who I say I am, I am what I say I am and that I do know what I’m talking about it’s going to be too late. I won’t have any interest in speaking with you. Good luck. I’m sure you’ll do fine. The crime groupie demographic is primarily female and they embrace men while the women they seek to destroy (unless they have some kind of pseudo-celebrity status). I’m done. Their are plenty of people who know what happened to me is very real and that I am telling the truth. But, like I said, if you actually wanted my information I would have heard from you long ago.

Ummmm… who exaggerates in order to play victim?

Notice that Joey never engaged her. Why? Go back to the original message posted by Joey to me asking me to safeguard the messages. Again, I remind you that I have express permission from the message copies owner, Joey Ortega, to reprint these messages.  He read her erratic messages, did some research, and decided to not engage Michelle L. McKee. Therefore, he didn’t. However, this doesn’t appear to be good enough for Michelle who couldn’t leave well enough alone so on September 4, 2012 at 7:33am (PST) Michelle sent the following to Joey Ortega via Facebook Private Message:

7:33am

Michelle McKee

I’m going to make this short and sweet: Alex Goddard and I are extremely good friends. I can easily say she is my best female friend. Hell, I’m one of the few people who know what State she is actually living in! Therefore, I know the truth about her involvement in the Big Red story. In fact, I helped gather the screenshots with her. The Big Red story, all the work involved, the entire story belongs solely to HER! I still have a lot of power in the true crime genre regardless of whether you have a clue as to who I am or not. So, here’s the deal: if you do not man up, tell the truth and delete that self-serving bullshit from your facebooks where you take credit for her work by morning, I am going to open a can of whoop ass using every tool at my disposal – including paid advertisements – and out you as the lying, unethical POS you obviously are! I am totally serious! Back off of her story, stop acting like it’s yours, drop the exaggeration about your involvement, delete your bullshit, or your ass is mine!

All I can say to that is, if she and Alexandria “Prinnie” Goddard are such good friends she would have known the extent of Joey’s involvement and support of Alexandria “Prinnie” Goddard from the beginning. Or maybe Michelle, herself, is just another piece in Alexandria “Prinnie” Goddard’s unethical and duplicitous living-breathing Chess game? Maybe.

Again, notice that Joey Ortega doesn’t respond even though she has made a direct threat against him and over the Internet, too! That’s something of a felony for those unaware.

Then, on September 13, 2012 at 12:59pm (PST) there’s this message sent from Michelle L. McKee to Joey Ortega, again via Facebook Private Message:

12:59pm

Michelle McKee

So, Murt has gone after Alex again and this time he’s involved himself in the Steubenville rape case. I suggest you step your ass up to the plate and follow through with helping her legally, since that was the promise you made. I doubt you can or will follow through and I have told her as much. My opinion is that you are completely full of shit. But, if you can help Alex then do it and do it NOW! I have only backed off from cleaning your clock because of Alex. Help her as you promised. Prove you’re not an attention whore who is just using her and everyone else you encounter for your own 15-minutes of implied fame.

Apparently, Michelle L. McKee wasn’t as much in the loop as she thought or she would have known that Joey Ortega had already backed up Alexandria “Prinnie” Goddard in every meaningful way possible including legally. Joey’s response was as follows on the same day, September 13, 2012 at 2:07pm (PST):

2:07pm

Joey Ortega

Michelle, I’m not sure what your problem is or why you continue to cast me as some sort of villain despite the evidence to the opposite. Alex and I a friends and colleagues and she needs no help from you or threats on her behalf. I’m well aware of Murts issues, and her and I stay in sync about how to respond and when.

At this point until you have anything productive to say then I would thank you to cease all contact with me. Do what ever it is you feel you need to do to punish me for whatever slight you continue to think I keep committing. I have no concerns and you won’t be the first or last who is just generally committed to trying to harm me for the sake of their own screwed up agenda or pathology. I have nothing to hide and have no concerns about what you think you can do to me. D what you want and like murt I’ll deal with it when I feel it is necessary, if ever. As far as I’m concerned your behavior clearly shows you two are no different and therefore just as deserving of the same concern, attention, or airtime….none.

Good day

What a shame it is that Joey Ortega had no reason to assume that Alexandria “Prinnie” Goddard was anything other than what he described her to be at the end of this post: a “friend and colleague.” Sadly, Alexandria “Prinnie” Goddard’s true character has been revealed to be anything but as well as Michelle L. McKee’s.

~Amy

Posted in Steubenville | Tagged , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Lies, Lulz and Lunacy: Romancing the Mask

Image

By: Amanda Blackburn

Part I:

He who fights with monsters might take care lest he thereby become a monster… And if you gaze long enough into an abyss, the abyss gazes also into you.

-Friedrich Nietzsche

At approximately four o’ clock in the morning on Valentine’s Day, I stepped out of my own car, in which I had ridden as a passenger, carsick, head throbbing and confused. The air was frigid, the sky was uncertain and dark, but the view was nevertheless breathtaking.

We were away from the crime scene. That part was over, at least. Thinking about it made the pressure in my head intensify. I hadn’t had a migraine in over a year. My mind was reeling. I had no idea how to process everything that had just happened. I knew I was angry at Don, but I was so scared and far away from everything and everyone I knew. I was in way over my head. I wanted to vomit as I looked at the sparkling lights of Pittsburgh.

My car was parked alongside the Mount Washington overlook with two delirious and mysterious men who looked little more than boys sitting in the backseat sleeping. I didn’t know their names. All I knew was that they were supposedly members of the “hacktivist” collective Anonymous, and they claimed to be “on the run.” It was a situation Don had thrust me into with no warning.

Don didn’t want to bring the “anons” back home to his apartment; they had been there already apparently, partying noisily, and Don’s roommate prohibited guests as a result.

Thus, Don brought me and our anonymous guests in my car up to Mount Washington. It was a last-ditch effort to turn a delirious night of secrecy and paranoia into a romantic memory for me for Valentine’s Day. It was also a small last-ditch effort to take the two men that were with us somewhere other than Don’s apartment. He had already grown tired of playing host. He had been “playing” for days. It wasn’t fun anymore, probably because I was so mad.

My head was throbbing. I didn’t understand why these men were with us on Valentine’s Day, and I didn’t know what they were running from, though they claimed it was the FBI. They both looked so young, barely out of high school. It was hard to believe such young men could be any kind of fugitives.

The lights of Pittsburgh glittered, reflected in the river. The still dark sky was ominous, and there were only a few cars on the road. I took a picture of the view, which was deceptively placid, with my phone then turned to Don. “I’m cold.”

“Happy Valentines Day, baby,” he offered with a kiss.

I just looked at him. “Yeah,” I said without a smile.

We returned to the car. One of the men in the backseat was awake, and he and Don talked briefly about waiting for a bar to open. We needed a place to take “the fugitives” until they could catch rides out of town. But Don was broke, and no one had the money to spare. Don finally decided to “sneak” everyone into his room past his roommate.

We stumbled into the cramped, dark room.

The two “anons” sat on the loveseat. I sat on the floor. I had brought an air mattress to sleep on, but Don was afraid the noise would disturb his roommate, who was apparently already angry. We’d already argued about running the pump earlier in the night, but I was so tired and sore. I really wanted to sleep on a bed.

“I don’t want to sleep on the floor again,” I nearly pleaded.

“Please don’t be mad at me,” he said, awkwardly pressing his forehead to mine in an effort to connect us deeply when I was angry and upset. I pulled away from him. There were two men just sitting there on the couch. The whole night felt very wrong. The affection left me feeling physically ill.

I attempted to make conversation with the other people in the room so that Don would not forget they were present. They introduced themselves as Papadopoulos, or Pops for short, and Baws. I was not told their real names.

“What are you running from?” I think I asked, though I’d already heard them making vague references to the FBI and a black SUV. It seemed too much like a movie to be true. I struggled to believe it.

“Feds.”

I looked at them and nearly laughed. They looked like kids. How dumb did they think I was? Yet, the situation was so eerie and odd. What was going on?

They talked with Don about the interview they were planning to do. Supposedly, they were going to “unmask” on video. Baws, who was rather impaired, stood up and demonstrated to me what “Anonymous Un-pantsed” would look like. He dropped his pants and looked at me with eyes that looked like they had no thoughts behind them. He swayed on his feet laughing about it. I was taken rather off-guard by the display. There I was just sitting on the floor. He practically put his genitals in my face. Don just stood there uncomfortably. Pops sat on the couch laughing.

I didn’t know exactly what to do. He was just standing there looking at me, and it was kind of creepy. I took a picture with my cell phone for some reason. I laughed uncomfortably as I did so. Perhaps, the picture was to prove to myself later that it had, in fact, all really happened. Then again, I think he was encouraging me to take his picture at the time.

Within minutes of that odd encounter, Baws had passed out sitting on the loveseat with his pants, thankfully, in proper position. Pops, delirious, fell rapidly asleep beside him.

Don wanted to cuddle me there on the floor. I was practically sickened by his touch, irritated by the whisper of his breath against my face. I tried to sleep. Don managed. He snored against my shoulder while I lay awkwardly on my back staring at the ceiling and wondering into what exactly I had gotten myself, and what was I going to have to do to get away. Of course, I could just leave. I couldn’t understand what any of it was about anyway, but surely that business with the car had nothing to do with Jane Doe or Steubenville, at all. I had no place being involved. Don snored away beside me. I was scared and feeling paranoid. I almost started to hate him.

Just like always after a fight, though, there was an apology presented to me when Don woke: two long-stemmed roses and a small heart-shaped box of chocolates. Don was extremely sweet and upbeat about the One Billion Rising event we were about to cover, despite the exhaustive, sleepless night.

It sort of felt like the events of the previous night were simply a paranoid nightmare, even though I hadn’t slept at all.

___

When I watched the video that Knightsec released regarding the August gang-rape of a teenaged girl in Steubenville, practically my hometown, I cried. This was back in December before Christmas. When I heard about what happened to her, I thought about something that had happened to me, something that has happened to many of the women I know. Rape is a widespread problem that is ridiculously underreported for reasons of shame, much like my own. I was touched by the young lady’s family’s search for justice. I wanted to help in any way I could. The original video that was released was shocking and threatening. Many people, myself included, disagreed with the threats to release private information about minors such as social security numbers, and eventually that part of the threat, as well as a few extreme sentiments, were withdrawn.

Knightsec stated that the purpose of the rallies was to show the young lady support and peacefully call attention to the case. I fully supported these efforts. For many months, I like many others, struggled to separate the myths from the facts, but my intentions never wavered. I was going to the rallies to support the young lady, a goal which did not change, even if the facts of the case were skewed by heavy public interest.

My sister, Heidi, and I, both being Jane Does, were very passionate about this goal. We were so proud to see any woman, let alone such a young woman, have the courage to stand up and seek justice. We volunteered to help get the word out about the rally. I personally compiled a giant list of media outlets for press releases, a task which took days, and I contacted groups like RAINN about the January rally.

That rally turned out to be huge. Thousands of people came to show support, and media outlets from around the world came to record the event. Heidi took dozens of beautiful photographs of the event, which she donated to Anonymous later, and they used them in multiple slide shows, etc.

It was an emotional day for many people in the crowd, as the event drew the attention of many sexual assault victims. I watched women and men step up before the crowd and share their stories. I was struck by the number there were and the bravery it took to speak up. The refusal of victims like myself to report and speak up for fear of shame is a tragically damaging form of self-censorship, I realized, and is one of the biggest reasons many rapists are never brought to justice.

I was moved to share my story. Afterward, a woman in a ski mask who told me she was a Big Red mother and afraid to show her face, hugged me and thanked me for sharing my story. It was a powerful moment that stuck with me. Why should a woman, like myself showing support, have to hide her face? Of what, I wondered, was she afraid?

Don Carpenter entered my life via the #OpRollRedRoll Facebook page a week or two before the rally, I think. He had stated on the page that he was looking to build a team of independent journalists in the Ohio Valley, and he was looking for volunteers. I quickly volunteered, boasting my MA in English and my willingness to work.

After the rally that day in Steubenville, Don messaged Heidi and me from Plain Jane’s, a lovely little restaurant/bar in Steubenville. We met him and a few friends there. They were having beers. It seemed very laid-back. I had a beer, too, and I asked Don a million questions about journalism. He looked like Allen Ginsberg to me; he had that sort of homeless bohemian writer charm with his curly gray hair and huge puppy-dog eyes. He was funny.  He didn’t take anything too seriously, and I was charmed. From Plain Jane’s, the group went to the Spot Bar. The people at the Spot Bar were completely friendly to us all in spite of joking expectations that the group would be less than popular. Don didn’t have any cash, and I bought him a beer. “Saving the world doesn’t pay,” he joked sheepishly. I would hear this joke again and again.

I didn’t think much of it, because I consider myself to be a modern, independent woman. I had no qualms with footing the bill sometimes. We drank more beer, and Don sat close to me, talking excitedly about independent media and saving the world. They were all things I wanted to hear.

We went to Triple Play from there. The group was joking about the rumors about Triple Play that had been perpetuated by the Local Leaks website. At Triple Play, Adam Rahuba, a friend of Don’s who would become a friend of mine as well, bought most of our drinks. I got pretty tipsy, and I had a wonderful time dancing with Heidi and Don’s friends. Don sat nervously at the bar, pretending to be taking notes for a story. It was funny and adorable. We tried to get him to dance. He shook his head, red in the face. “Your loss,” I said and continued to dance with the others until the bar closed.

Feeling quite a bit tipster than I had allowed myself to get in years, I was in no condition to drive. Don suggested we go to an “After Hours” club about which someone had told him. We all thought it sounded like fun. I had never heard of such a place. I was intrigued.

Don, who claimed he had only had a couple of beers and was sober, drove us to this “club,” which turned out to be in downtown Steubenville, and, on the way past the statue in front of the Steubenville courthouse, one of Don’s friends, a dark-haired woman named Cassandra, joked about stopping so she could take a picture of the statue wearing her Guy Fawkes mask. Don refused to stop the car.

I didn’t know much about Cassandra. She was pretty drunk by that point and getting pretty obnoxious, and we dismissed her stories about knowing KY Anonymous and how Bat Cat (who were, at the time, the two most “infamous” characters involved in #OpRollRedRoll) was supposedly “so in love” with her. She was just loud enough that I wondered if taking her to yet another club was… well, a terrible idea.

The “club” was downtown, but I knew nothing else about the neighborhood. The streets were eerily vacant. I didn’t see a single car. There were just a few street lamps casting muddy yellow pools of light on the otherwise cracked and abandoned road.

We got out of the car and walked to the building to look at the address. The street was oddly silent, but there was hushed rumble of what sounded like a party in the distance. A beautiful woman in a spandex dress and stiletto heels walked past. I watched her walk to the end of the block, stop like a soldier, turn and walk back. She never made eye contact, but I suddenly felt just a little nervous.

We approached the building entirely perplexed. It looked like an abandoned business, one of many down town. However, the closer we got, the clearer the sound of that “party” seemed. The noise became less of a rumble. We could clearly hear people, a crowd having a good time nearby. Music was playing; we could feel the vibrations of the bass. “This is the place,” Don said.

I walked to the front door. I could smell marijuana smoke stronger than I had ever smelled it before just from the outside of the building. A massive amount was undoubtedly being enjoyed inside.

The whole group of us, fueled with ignorance and alcohol, began walking around to the back door. Everyone was starting to get nervous, I think, but it seemed like there was an alcohol-fueled confidence game going on.

It was Adam who spoke up and said, “Ok, I hate to have to be the grown-up here, but I think somebody has to.” He went on to say that he had a really bad feeling about the club, and no one really disagreed.

By this time, the bass vibrations had grown more powerful; the music had become distinct. A man with his hands stuffed in his pockets walked around the side past us. He did a double take. “You all be careful now,” he said.

Just around the corner, there was a huge crowd of people, mostly men, standing around. The air was thick with smoke. The loud music turned suddenly menacing as almost every man standing there in the alley turned to stare at us. It was obvious that we had no business at that particular “club.”

One of the men approached us. Cassandra, Heidi and I stood square in front. Don was behind me.

“You going in there?” the man asked us.

“I- I think we’re in the wrong place,” Cassandra stammered.

The man simply nodded.

We walked back to the car, shaken but unharmed. Everyone was completely dazed about the encounter. Why had we been sent there? Cassandra speculated that it was some kind of “set up,” that we had been sent downtown to the wrong place for some kind of beating or scare or whatever might happen if we had walked into that club, which was obviously a private club.

Don stammered to explain that the man who had told him about the club had described it as a kind of rough, “no rules” type of place, but Don also claimed he hadn’t expected anything like that. Sobered by the encounter and honestly quite shaken up, we returned to Triple Play, so I could get my car and go home.

When we arrived at Triple Play, the DJ and some of the other staff were loading equipment and cleaning up. Cassandra went running out of the car, suddenly possessed with the courage of a lion to scream at the DJ. Why? I struggled to understand. Don said the information had come from elsewhere. I approached long enough to see that the situation was under control. The staff who remained at Triple Play seemed genuinely shocked and sympathetic to the hysterical woman, but they also seemed highly perplexed. I left while they were talking.

That night, I jumped on Facebook, and there was already fearful talk of the encounter on the event page. Don said he thought he was the “target” but asked me to stop publicly talking about what had happened. I thought, for some reason, this meant he was reporting the incident to the police.

___

How did I fall for the man who stood behind me when he was scared?

It’s complicated. Really complicated.

I had already started to fall into the old trap again. I was allowing myself to believe in a reality I wanted to believe in. Don presented himself as a caring man, looking out for my best interests. He assured me that I would be safe, and I never questioned the obscene audacity of such a statement. Don Carpenter, who lived two states away in Pittsburgh at the time, was going to protect me.

I did some research about the club to which we had gone, and I think I found some information on it. The club boasted a long and violent history:stabbings, gunshot wounds in the parking lot. It was reputed by some locals to be a gang “safe house.”

The fear was overwhelming. I found myself looking at strangers with strange eyes, grappling with the reality that someone had sent us to that place, where we obviously had no business, possibly to be hurt or killed. Paranoia and sleeplessness began to distort my reality. I lived in a world where no one could be trusted, no one but my closest family and…

Don reached out like a knight. The name Knightsec actually comes to mind when I think about this heroic, valiant persona. Just as Knightsec promised the women of Steubenville justice for rape, Don promised me protection from violence and with a comparable amount of credibility to back his claim. But people like to believe in heroes, and I am no exception. Don told me he could keep me safe, and he offered to take me to an “action” in Pittsburgh to teach me about live-stream and “Independent Media.” Heidi and I went to stay with him for a couple of days, excited by the opportunity and honestly eager to get out of town for a bit.

Pittsburgh was a stark contrast to the paranoia I was feeling at home. People around us were friendly. The action, “Is UPMC a Public Charity?” was a blast. I was impressed by the professional attitude and planning involved in such an action. I got to see citizens exercising their first amendment right to speak out about issues that pertain to their lives, and the city was actually quite receptive. It was amazing to see civic action working in legitimate and positive ways.

It was fun, too. The action ended with a march, and I enjoyed the challenge of live-streaming it. Covering a march means a lot of running down the street backwards to stay in front of the subject-matter. This was challenging and fun. I ran backward into a telephone poll at least once.

Charged with adrenaline, Don, Heidi, a photographer with whom Don was acquainted named Tom Jefferson and I went, upon Don’s suggestion, to buy beer to take back to “the office.” We went to one of Pennsylvania’s state beer stores, walked into a cooler and began to wander around.

“What kind of beer are we getting?” Tom asked to anyone in particular.

Don shrugged. “Pick out whatever you guys want. I’m fine with anything.”

Tom looked at Heidi and me. We both shrugged, and we all ended up opting for the classic and affordable, Pabst Blue Ribbon. When we checked out, Don wandered away out the door. He left Tom just standing there to pay for the beer. I felt a little awkward and gave Tom some money to split the cost. Don perplexed me a little bit.

“The office,” where I would come to learn Don lived and we were to stay, was a small room in another woman’s apartment. In the little room I noticed a television, two computers, a loveseat, a computer chair and desk, a small end table, some weird tubes that looked like pieces of ductwork perhaps but Don later explained as “lock boxes” for lock-down protests, full riot gear, a small bottle of vodka and a partial bottle of whiskey. That was about it.

I was confused, but we had already decided to stay there. And it didn’t feel particularly great back home. Besides, we had already purchased the beer.

We sat around the small room drinking. Heidi and Tom sat on the loveseat. Don sat in the computer chair. I sat on the floor. I didn’t think much of it at first. I was having a good time. I had already decided to stay up there for the night, so I decided to cut loose and enjoy the alcohol.

I had several beers and a few shots. For me, that is quite a lot of alcohol, bearing in mind that with my medication, I shouldn’t really drink any, but I wanted to just relax.

We watched the Dr. Phil show in that fashion, and Don had the wonderful idea that we should live-stream our reactions. I know I, for one, made a bit of a fool of myself, but we were having fun. It felt good to be in another city, and it felt good, buzzed in the glow of the alcohol, to be with Don. Everything was fuzzy. I felt fuzzy. There was a sense of warmth and comfort in everything.

In the kitchen, the two of us stowed away and talked, just the two of us. Don told me his tragic story. He said he had once been engaged, but his fiancé was killed fighting in Afghanistan. He told me he had served his country, too, that he had done things that would forever haunt him. He described watching a security checkpoint in Iraq, “blowing away” anyone who would not stop, even women and children. I knew that war confronts soldiers with ugly realities like the one he described to me, so I never questioned the truth of the story. Who would lie about such tragedies? I felt like he had bared his soul to me, like he had shared his darkest moments with me. I felt trusted. I felt close to him.

I held him, as he told me these stories. He didn’t cry. He spoke of it all very glumly but very distantly. He told me other things, too. He told me he had once been a police officer and a very different person. “You wouldn’t have liked me then,” he said. “I was really different.”

Touched by Don’s honesty and more than a little buzzed, I felt so close to him. I felt like I should share something with him. I told him I hadsurvived an abusive relationship, one that became violent and ended withrepeated incidents of rape. I told Don about all of it and how I was too ashamed to get help. I tried to deal with it on my own, and I nearly ended up killing myself. I fell into drugs for a time and nearly lost my entire sense of self. I suffered a psychotic break and would always have to deal with symptoms like paranoia and occasional breaks in reality.

It wasn’t that I wanted pity. I felt like it was something that was important to share, because the scars from that incident defined me in manyways. Being close to me, I felt he should understand these things.

I was content with that, but the drinking continued eventually, and laterDon blurted, “I love you.” Drunk, I blurted it back.

In those warm fuzzy hours I meant it, and I was no longer thinking about things like trust issues and things that scare me. I was happy to be having a good time with a good (at least I really thought so) man.

I was a little bit surprised to learn there was no other room with a bed in it for me to sleep on, however. Don and I slept on the floor. I took it as a sign of age that lying on the floor made my bones hurt. It somehow didn’t seem to bother Don. He reminded me that at Occupy Pittsburgh he had slept in a tent on the ground. I wasn’t going to argue about the poor man not having a bed somehow, but he could have warned me. He didn’t, and he didn’t warn Heidi or Tom, whom he had also invited to stay and had to sleep awkwardly sitting on a loveseat. We were all very uncomfortable about the situation, but no one wanted to hurt his feelings and say anything.

And I somehow fell for him anyway.

Like I said, it’s complicated.

___

My relationship with Don, the work, Don’s friendships with activist organizations, the stories we covered, the lies, all of it started getting really confusing really fast. I loved Don, but it seemed like we were always running on no sleep or drinking and then running with no sleep. We were often angry and fighting; even when we were getting along, I later would reminisce, we were fighting. I had distorted perceptions of situations and people, because Don sometimes failed to communicate important details. It was always a stupid mistake though.  We were never angry long.

Don was getting increasingly obsessive, which I did logically, at least, recognize as a warning sign, though I would say I ignored this for a while. He sometimes called me five times a day. He asked me about everything I did and to whom I had spoken. I thought he was just really hung up on me. At first, it was almost cute. I felt somehow guilty for the amount of attention he gave me. It was overwhelming and confusing. He wanted to know everything about me.

Yet, he seemed to remember nothing. He was drunk often, I had already begun to notice. He forgot details. He forgot conversations. He would ask me the same question days in a row and grow very defensive if I pointed this out.

I tend to feel uncomfortable having personal conversations on the phone and prefer the faceless nature of text messages. Don texted me a lot, which was fine for a while, but even that became tiring eventually. If we weren’t talking on the phone, it seemed like we were texting or talking on Facebook or sleeping. I was exhausted by the attention and started letting his calls go to voicemail every once in a while. I was tired of explaining myself all the time to a man I had just started dating.

I’d always feel guilty, though, and end up apologizing even when I was legitimately busy doing chores. It somehow seemed like Don’s loneliness superseded my need for independent space. I felt selfish and constantly somehow in his debt. I didn’t understand how it had happened. We were supposedly equals in work and in our relationship, but I always felt like I was wrong.

I won’t lie. I was a little wary about all of this. As I previously stated, I have been in an abusive relationship before. I was not blind to the signs I saw initially: the obsessive behavior and the guilt/emotional manipulation cycle. But I ignored those signs at first. I rationalized his behavior. I thought he was just “crazy about me.”

In a way, maybe he was.

But there were good times too. That was what it was all about for me. I thought we were covering and supporting Anonymous in Steubenville, but I didn’t think we had any actual involvement. We did other actions, too. We covered an Anti-Fracking demonstration in Bessemer, PA, the Summit Against Racism in Pittsburgh, and we were going to cover One Billion Rising. Don said he covered activism, and that was his only connection.

I never questioned that before Valentine’s Day.

The days leading up to Valentine’s Day were a little bit weird and kind of paranoid. Don would send me vague messages about being scared about something, but he wouldn’t tell me what it was. To be honest, I thought he was having some kind of PTSD flashbacks or something, but I was a little put off by the way he was talking.

One minute he would excitedly tell me the action (One Billion Rising in Pittsburgh) was going to be great. Oh, and, by the way, he was going to get an interview with two “anons.” Everything was great.

Then he would send me weird, vague texts like, “I’m so scared right meow.”

I didn’t know what to make of it. I was getting a little bit scared. I asked him what was going on. I asked him if I should even come up.  He immediately clammed up. He said it was fine. He said he would tell me more when I came up.

Part of me had a really bad feeling about it. I thought about cancelling, but I had already agreed to Live-stream One Billion Rising. Don didn’t have a phone he could use to do it. He had said before that people were counting on me.

I waited until about midnight, I think, to even leave home. I had been busy helping my father with some roof-repair for a family member for most of the day, so it was late by the time I was cleaned up and ready to go. I also was hoping that, by arriving late, I would miss any crazy drama that might be going on (I still didn’t really know what those texts were about).

I brought Heidi up to Pittsburgh with me, because she and Tom were going to go to One Billion Rising too to take photographs. I’m pretty nervous about driving around Pittsburgh alone, so I picked Don up at his place first, before dropping Heidi off at Tom’s studio.

After we dropped Heidi off, Don opened up immediately. He told me that the “anons” had stayed with him for a few days, and they had quite a party. It sounded like a lot of fun. I didn’t understand. “Did you get the interview done?” I asked.

“No,” he said. He told me they were planning to do that hopefully tomorrow, but they had rushed out of the house in a hurry shortly before I arrived. He said something about a “raid,” but it wasn’t at Don’s place. I had no idea what was going on.

“Look, you’re tired, and I’m tired. Let’s just forget about it,” Don said.

When we got back to Don’s place, I carried my survival luggage, which included snacks, an air mattress and instant coffee as well as the necessary clothing and toiletries (I was NOT going to be stuck up there another day without food or coffee). I unpacked the coffee and snacks and proceeded to unroll the air mattress.

Don actually was going to help me air it up before he turned on the air compressor and realized it was rather loud. “That’s too loud,” he said. “My roommate’s asleep.”

I tried to turn it back on, but Don pulled it away from me. “She’s already pissed at me,” he said. “Please, don’t be mad at me.”

Despite his plea, however, I was livid. I didn’t want to sleep on the floor again. It seemed like a really big deal at the time. When I finally resigned, I laid down on the carpet, listening to the floorboards creek just beneath me. My back hurt, and Don wanted to cuddle close to me, which was just making me angrier. I tossed and turned.

Meanwhile, Don’s phone was going off like crazy. “That’s just Cassandrafreaking out,” he said.

“About what?” I asked.

He wouldn’t tell me. I pushed, though, and he told me a little. “She wants me to ask you if we can use your car.”

“For what?”

Don fell silent for a moment. “Let me ask her.”

Don babbled something about needing to move somebody’s car. It didn’t make a lot of sense to me, but I couldn’t imagine that he was trying to involve me in anything illegal.

“Now?”

“Apparently, she’s freaking out about it or something.”

I sighed. “She’s drunk. Isn’t she?”

“I don’t know.”

“Fine. I’m not f***ing sleeping anyway,” I said.

Don looked at me like he was very sad about this statement, but he didn’t say anything.

We got into my car again. This time Don drove. It was probably a twenty minute drive through Pittsburgh to Cassandra’s house. She lived in a small suburban neighborhood. We had to park a little down the road, so we got out and walked there.

Don messaged her on the phone to tell her we were there, and she eventually came outside. It was very cold and very late and somehow kind of eerie standing outside of Cassandra’s house just waiting for her to come out. When she did, she looked really upset. “I saw a black SUV driving past my house,” she said to Don. She looked like she’d been crying. “This shit is getting serious. I told Baws, I can’t deal with this. I can’t help him anymore if he’s going to be this stupid. She then hugged me. “Thank you so much.”

I was completely perplexed at this point.

Two guys who looked barely older than High School graduates eventually came out of the house. One of them, the one I would come to know later as Pops, came over and spoke to Don for a bit. They spoke rather quietly though.

The other, Baws, was walking like a zombie. He looked like he had just gotten out of bed and was not really awake at all. He had a bag with him, and he wrapped himself in a blanket. He was carrying a plate of lasagna.

The two of them got into a vehicle together, I think an SUV, though I am no longer sure I remember. Don and I walked back to my car, and noticed I needed gas. Don motioned to them that we had to find a gas station, and they followed us as we did.

At the gas station, Don actually got out and pumped my gas. “Just be cool. Everything’s fine,” he said. He spoke with Pops as the gas filled up.

I heard Pops say, “I need to talk to her.” He leaned into my window and asked, “Do you know who we are and what we’re doing?”

I don’t know why I said “yes.” I didn’t know their names, I didn’t know what they were running from, and I certainly didn’t know why they had to follow my car in another car. But I was honestly freaked out, and Don had told me to “be cool,” so I did my best to play cool.

Don’t ask me why. I don’t know. I guess I didn’t want to admit that I was actually getting scared in the middle of all that childishness. I was feeling very paranoid, but I didn’t know what was going on at all. So I pushed my paranoia away. I tried to, at least. I tried my best to rationalize everything in my mind. I had lost my grip on reality before. Maybe this was one of those times. Quite honestly, though, I knew it wasn’t. I had been on the correct medication for years; it had been a long time since I had an all-out break with reality.

Something was really wrong, and I knew it.

Don drove my car through Pittsburgh. I don’t know if we left Pittsburgh or not. It was a long drive. The “anons” were right behind us.

I played with the radio nervously. “Where are we going?”

Don looked at me and seemed to smile. “They’re going to drop that car off. They need a ride back.”

“Drop it off where?”

We drove silently on. I turned the nob on the radio manically, barely hearing the snippets of songs and static as I did so, something welling in my throat. The road was lined with anonymous pine trees silhouetted against a dark purple sky. We drove for a while. Thirty minutes? Forty-five minutes? I couldn’t tell. I drifted in and out of paranoid fits of sleep, staring out the window at the pine trees or the buildings or the stars staring blankly back at me.

I don’t know where we went. I am pretty sure it was a Home Depot. I think it was in or around Pittsburgh. It seemed we were driving uphill, and when we got to the Home Depot we were on top of a precipice looking down at sprawling highway. There were commercial vehicles on the road but not much else.

The “anons” parked the car and fumbled around inside of it for quite some time. We sat and waited.

“Why are they leaving the car at Home Depot?”

Don didn’t answer for a while.

“That’s a stolen car, isn’t it?”

Silence.

“Are you kidding me?” I think I yelled, maybe with a possible expletive. The two guys were still inside the car. It had been quite a while.

“The person who owns the car lives states away. Relax. No one is going to find it. Not for a while anyway.”

“These places have cameras on the parking lots now,” I said. I was thinking of my old job at Wal-Mart, though. I don’t really know if Home Depot does that or not, but it seemed possible.

“Do you see any cameras?”

“That doesn’t mean they’re not there.”

“Relax!” Don was practically laughing. “I used to work here. There are no cameras.”

“Seriously?”

“Yes.”

I sighed. “Still. I can’t believe this. Someone is bound to have seen us. I drive a ***** red sports car! It’s not exactly subtle.”

“But no one knows they’re looking for us. Relax.”

I just looked at him. “What the **** is going on?”

Don hopped out of the car and checked inside the other car. He came back. “Baws can’t find his phone.”

It seemed like something straight out of a slap-stick comedy: he had lost his phone in the stolen car right when they were trying to get rid of it. It was absurdly funny in those stressful moments. It occurred to me that if we were assisting fugitives, they were certainly the most bumbling and ineffective fugitives I had ever seen.

Finally, Baws found his phone, and the two strangers approached and got into the cramped, garbage-filled back-seat of my Monte Carlo. Baws was still carrying the plate of lasagna, which he was eating.

I didn’t know whether to be amused by their idiocy or irate at Don for involving me in a crime. I didn’t know what to think. They acted like teenagers.

Don drove us around aimlessly. “Please don’t be mad at me.”

I didn’t want to talk in front of strangers. I felt like a hostage in my own car. I didn’t know what to do.

“Do you want a cup of coffee?” Don offered.

“Yes, actually, I do,” I said.

We stopped at a small store. My head spun. All I could fixate on was getting that coffee and doing whatever I had to do to get rid of those guys. What had I just been a part of? Whose car was that they had taken? Who were they running from?

They looked like boys, for God’s sake. It just didn’t make sense. We went inside. I found a hot drink dispenser and got myself some toffee-flavored cappucino, which I had not realized I was actually buying myself.

Pops and Baws came in the store to buy smokes and chew. Baws was still carrying his plate of lasagna around in the little store. The more I watched him drag himself, the more I wondered what it was he was using. His eyes were bloodshot. He was helpless. He was high. I only know this because I have had my own fair share of battles with drugs. I know the signs for which I am looking.

I bought my cappuccino. That was apparently when Don got the idea that perhaps he could pacify my anger with some sort of romantic gesture. The Mount Washington Overlook, he decided.

That would fix everything.

“Who’s car was that?” I asked the men in the back seat.

“The less you know,” Don told me, “the better.”

It sounded overly dramatic and silly to me, but I didn’t know what to think anymore.

“It’s my fiancé’s car,” Baws said. He explained, “I wouldn’t have taken it, but we had to leave really fast.”

I looked at the men in my backseat  They were not really boys; they were probably just a few years younger than myself. I didn’t know anything about them.

Yet, there they were.

Happy F****ing Valentine’s Day to me.

_____

I started to wonder four things that night. Who were those strange young men on the couch? What had they done? Who was Don? Who was I becoming?

I had fallen blindly into a really strange situation. Am I the kind of person who assists criminals?

I could leave. I knew I could dial 911 for the nearest police, but I had been involved. They had used my car. I was confused, paranoid, afraid.

Perhaps, that is how they slept so easily. I didn’t sleep at all.

I woke Don briefly about it. “We did the right thing,” he said.

I wanted to cry or laugh, but instead I watched silent television images while Don snored at my side on the floor. He wouldn’t turn the volume up for fear of bothering his already angry room-mate. I waited impatiently, nervously for the hours to pass. The sun rose slowly behind the blinds. I waited. My eyes hurt.

I didn’t sleep.

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