Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Fickle Finger of Fate--Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Bill Mason

Actually it was "the Flying Fickle Finger of Fate" an award (pic) given by Rowan and Martin on the 60's television show Laugh-In.  According to TV

"Flying Fickle Finger of Fate Award - Called the Rigid Digit, the Winged Weenie, Wonderful Wiggler, Friendly Phlange, and the Nifty Knuckle, this weekly satirical award was presented by comedians Dan Rowan and Dick Martin on the weekly comedy variety series ROWAN & MARTIN'S LAUGH-IN/NBC/1968-73 for the dumbest/craziest news item of the week. Gold/Silver in color, the award was a "hand" mounted on a trophy base. Its index finger adorned with two small wings rotated in a 'Whoopee!' circular motion. Recipients of this 'uncoveted' award included then Los Angeles Chief of Police, Ed Davis who suggested that 'gallows' be put in all airports for the hijackers so they could be hung on the spot; the City of Cleveland for their Cuyahoga River (It caught fire due to its high pollution levels); and a Wonderful Wiggler went to William F. Buckley for his philosophy 'Never clarify tomorrow, what you can obscure today.' Top awards went to the Pentagon. They won five times."

As readers of the Bad Lawyer blawg, one of the themes of this journal is the fickle nature of justice, and as I read accounts of "justice," more often injustice I am struck by the sheer randomness of crime and punishment.  You would think a 55 year old, 28 year veteran lawyer would be cynical enough to let it all roll off his back, but you must bear in mind that I am a Bad Lawyer.  I still struggle to find some sort of narrative to make sense of it all. 

This morning my pal, rightwing Chuck the retired tax-denier, sent me a link to the Cleveland Plain Dealer article about the county prosecutor, Bill Mason.  This crime fighter, according to accounts from local attorneys told his high school classmates he planned to be President of the United States by age 50, apparently it's not working out.  Mason enjoyed a run of luck, though, succeeding the legendary late-Stephanie Tubbs Jones, who vaulted from the county prosecutor's position to Congress succeeding longtime civil rights pioneer Lousi Stokes, brother of Carl Stokes, the first Black Mayor of a major American city which Cleveland was in the 1960s.  All of this is by way of digression,--but it does indicate that there was a path available to Mason if he was good prosecutor.  But our man Mason fell in with a bad crowd, a county bribery and corruption scandal involving his closest political allies is dragging the blue-eyed wanna-be-president-of-the-united-states down.

I don't know Mason, personally, but a Judge I know related to me how he, the Judge,  had won the endorsement of his political party for higher office and was ORDERED by Mason, and his corrupt political cronies to stand down from the office the Judge aspired to, in favor of someone clearly less qualified but someone more politically important to Mason, et al.   Mason threatened the Judge with the promise that his political life would be turned into a living hell if he did not comply.  The Judge refused to stand down, and the position was snatched from him anyway. 

Mason also has been known to do the bidding of the corrupt former Sheriff.  There are well-documented instances where Mason prosecuted fabricated felonious accusations against lawyers involved in security scuffles identical to the ones discussed here, where ill-trained security officers of the corrupt Sheriff claim non-existent injuries after pounding the snot and pepper spraying  a lawyer. The lawyer who objected to the rude treatment of citizens entering and exiting the Justice Center where Mason and the disgraced sheriff have/had their offices.  

Mason was also behind the indictment of a Cleveland-area mother and father of the "special education" student-football captain who was raped by a local female teacher--the parents obtained and turned over evidence including digital photos taken by the kids who were having sex with the teacher.  The parents' crime? They were indicted for posession of child porn while the charges were ultimately dismissed the parent-victims ended up paying attorney fees and were required to enter a diversionary program!  What outcome did the school teacher, "star" of the child porn images get?  Count 'em, three days in jail.  Good job, Prosecutor Mason! 

Mason is one of those lawmen like Sheriff Joe Arpaio. Mason runs an operation more notable for its public relations claims than for actual achievement unless you count his striking blindness or indifference to the pay-for-play operation run by his foolish friends who are all headed to federal lock-up.  One of the mysteries of the scandals in Cleveland was how Mason seemed to have a teflon like quality as all around him, others were being indicted, charged, targeted in lengthy federal charges as the subject of the bribery schemes.  Part of what was going on was a changeover in journalism in Cleveland.  The Plain Dealer transformed itself into a serious muckracking enterprise with a laser-like focus on the things that matter, or should matter to the citizens of northeastern Ohio. 

Mason and a drinking buddy were recently pulled over for drunk driving.  The cops cut these guys a major break, a break they would not cut you or me.  Mason's buddy, a Cleveland-area politician was intoxicated and driving.  Mason, the passenger, was given a free pass.

Mason appears to be in the media cross-hairs, and in large part it's largely because of thieving lawyers.  The Plain Dealer piece by Mark Puente relates how Mason apparently has a pattern of willful ignorance where it comes to corruption.  Not only does Mason not see, hear, smell or speak it when it involves County Commissioners, political bosses, County Recorders, of his own political-persuasion--it doesn't occur to Mr. Mason to prosecute a former associate, the lawyer-pal who steals $300,000, from a client--while a laundry list of relative petty thefts by other lawyers land those lawyers in prison.  Some pay, some pay all, some pay nothing. 
My friend Gayle after reading this blawg suggested that I read, Heinrich Von Kleist's Michael Kohlhaas.  The 1811 novella was an apt recommendation.  Kohlhaas is an upright citizen, a successful horse dealer by trade, and someone who readily embraces the law.  One day Kohlhaas is in transit with two beautiful black horses he intends to sell in Dresden.  He is waylaid at a minor aristocrat's property by a demand for a toll and a permit that had not been required of him previously.  What ensues is a legal nightmare. The denial of any justice including "a justice center scuffle" fataling injuring Frau Kohlhaas ultimately drives Kohlhaas to armed insurrection. 

My mocking tone about fickle finger of fate, is to highlight the argument that the reason for law is the need for certainty, or, at least predictablity in human affairs.  We all need to know what the rules are, we all need to know and agree what our rights are, and we all need to agree what the consequences, leavened with mercy--should be.  When public officials like Bill Mason use their very powerful offices to favor friends, and enable injustice--they degrade respect for the law, for justice.  ENOUGH!

Oh,  it does seem that the Flying Fickle Finger of Fate has finally found a worthy honoree.


  1. hoe come yet another mason " attorney crony"
    hasn't been indicted in addition to a recent P.D. article we have the brother of the doctor now on trial for poisioning his wife went to the middle east to bring the doctor money to live on the brother was accompanied by his (the brothers) attorney MR Zuckerman known to covertly raise substantial funds for candidates favored by mason

  2. Anon 6:01 -- you raise an intersting point. My guess is that there are a couple of different sets of eyes looking at the attorneys involved in that muder case you mention. Disciplinary counsel may be the least concern for the attorneys who spirited money out of the country to a fugitive.


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  4. Bill Mason isn't the only bad apple out there you guys should look into the sex-scandal involving the Erie County Prosecutor, Kevin Baxter and his former grand juror witness, Krista Harris.

    Also, Krista Harris' former attorney Steven L. Howland was murdered and it was covered up by quite a few corrupt public officials in the Cleveland area.

  5. Is this guy related to the attorney that shuck and jived a jury into declaring Dr. Sam Sheppard guilty, even after the real killer was discovered? If so, I hope he busts hell wide open, when he dies.

  6. I don't believe so..