Sunday, August 20, 2006

Once Upon a News Group - Part II

Let’s digress a little and consider the impact that crime forums, news groups, and web logs (blogs) have had on the criminal justice system in general, and murder trials in particular. Before the Internet became a source of instant news and vast information (some credible, some not so credible), we relied on local news sources for updates on criminal cases or current trials. While the Simpson trial was televised, most trials are not, and those of us with jobs and commitments don’t have the luxury of watching trials on Court TV.

Over the past 10 years (and exponentially in the last three years), numerous crime forums, message boards and blogs created the opportunity to follow a criminal case live from the earliest news reports through the verdict and aftermath. The age of instant communication changed the course of crime reporting forever. When I opened my blog in January 2003, I never predicted the kind of following it would attract because of my interest in the Peterson case. My blog was never specifically designed to be a “true-crime” blog, but the Peterson case took on a life of its own. I received leads, inside scoop, emails from people in Modesto and Fresno, tips from people in San Diego, and rather startling information from a person directly involved in the investigation. All because I had a blog that hosted a highly popular discussion section that was well monitored (no small task) and that weeded out the idiots, of which there were many.

Back in the early part of 2003, there weren’t many blogs that covered crime stories, and none that covered the Peterson case in any depth, so I was an unwitting pioneer in that regard. Because of my ability over the subsequent three years to attract a thoughtful and intelligent group of posters, and my ability to construct a well organized and researched summary of a case, I was contacted by parents and friends of victims, law enforcement, lawyers, district attorneys, and of course the random crackpot that threatened me.

In the past three years, blogs have become a reliable source of news, political discussion, inside information, and investigative reporting, and often scoop mainstream media because of their real-time, spontaneous format. Nearly everybody and his uncle has heard of blogs by now, most people with Internet service have read one, and all the news media have a stable of “bloggers” specializing in a specific subject.

By the time I began writing about the Brown case, I had been around for three blog years, which on the Internet is like dog years. I had attracted a wonderful community of posters that became friends in “real life”, as well as a slew of detractors that made a mini-career out of creating bashing threads in crime forums like Court TV and Websleuths to discredit and criticize me for everything from my eyebrows to my modifier-laden prose. Yes, cyber celebrity certainly has its downside.

This is the backdrop for the extraordinary events that occurred when I began to post at Usenet and report about the Brown case on my blog. Imagine all the nameless, faceless individuals reading the entries on my blog or following the various discussions on Usenet; people who know Sarah, knew Lauren, know Ted Kaldis, are coworkers of the defendant, are paralegals working for the defense or prosecution, grew up with the Brown family; countless lurkers who have one or two degrees of separation from the case. Imagine the scrutiny with which everything I and others wrote was under. Imagine how useful the debates among the posters at the news groups and my blog were for the people involved in this case. They must have sprung out of bed every morning with glee, rushing to see how we had helped them do their jobs. Did we realize that? Perhaps; but, blogging is essentially an exercise in vainglory, so the positive and negative impact one’s blog has on a particular case is secondary to its function as self-aggrandizing performance art.

Thus, it should have come as no surprise when we discovered that our conversations were being closely monitored; it was no surprise to me to see the IP addresses of law enforcement, media, government agencies, and an assortment of curious people on my blog daily. I was used to it. However, little did I know that a cadre of my detractors would eventually organize (thanks to my lack of foresight, but who can predict these things?) and produce a number of bashing sites dedicated to defaming me. I probably hold the dubious distinction of having more hate blogs devoted to me than any non-celebrity blogger in the blogosphere. Fortunately, because of Newton’s Laws, the universe has balanced this negative energy with positive energy, and I have attracted the most wonderful friends and supporters that any blogger could ask for.

I wouldn’t have bothered giving you the background of this if it were not essential to understanding the events that followed. Now that you have the big picture, we can continue our story.


As Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. once said in a commencement speech, “Life is full of good guesses and bad guesses.” So it is with discussing murder cases on the Internet. Unlike in the Peterson case where dozens of media groups reported every speck of bellybutton lint, the Brown case received scant news coverage. Where the court documents in Peterson became available within days after being filed by the defense or prosecution, we had no ready access to the motions or decisions in Brown. The autopsy report was sealed indefinitely, there was nothing forthcoming from the prosecution, and the normally publicity-grubbing Mark Geragos was uncharacteristically silent.

With this dearth of official documentation, we were left with our speculation and reading between the lines of Ted Kaldis’s strange and cryptic posts on Usenet. Many of us had valid theories regarding the incident on November 8, 2000. I predicted that Brown was in debt, that he had poor communication skills, that he had probably run through a series of shallow, physical relationships that resulted in ill will, and that he married a woman ten years his elder for her financial security and geographic location. Some of my guesses were proven to be accurate, others will always remain presumption. This is not rocket science; most people accused of murdering their spouse or child share many personality and lifestyle traits. Like amateur profilers, we look for patterns and statistics; however, we bring our prejudices and projection into the discussion and sometimes this taints our point of view. In the news groups, the fact that Ted Kaldis was Brown’s brother-in-law, and that he had made so many enemies in Usenet over the years because of his obnoxious behavior, his support of Brown was instantly suspect and summarily rejected. In retrospect, it would have been far better for Kaldis not to have introduced the Brown case to his associates in Usenet at all. I believe he did far more harm than good to his twin sister’s husband’s case.

Unfortunately (but predictably) for Team Cam, Kaldis was incapable of stifling himself. What we didn’t anticipate was that his sister Patty, the defendant’s wife, would eventually post in my blog and on one of the hate blogs using her own name. Whether she did this out of a reckless desire to refute some of my speculation about Brown, or because Ted’s participation had spiraled out of control, we may never know. What we do know is that because she chose to participate in bashing me for having my opinions, theories and the audacity to publish them, she made herself vulnerable. Although I didn’t have the time or resources to investigate Mrs. Brown, several loyal friends and supporters did. What they discovered about the Brown’s financial profile was even more dire than we had speculated. This unflattering reality was substantiated recently at the first trial. But, this wasn't the only thing we found out because of Patty Brown's participation in "Muttville" (my pet name for the bashing blog)...

To be continued.


loretta said...

No, I never posted on Usenet before July 2005. I had only read here and there in the alt.true-crime news group.

Ronni said...

Just as I remember it.

I'd have to say that I learned something from all this. That is that, if you put any sort of personality into what you blog, you will eventually be bashed for it. People tend to assume that a blog HAS to be "politically correct;" presenting both sides of an issue, avoiding negative opinions, always being kind and gentle to commenters, etc.

Not true.

A blog is essentially a personal journal. A crime blog is the journal of a person who researches crime. Nowhere is there a set of bylaws that states that blogs must be politically correct. The tone, point of view and rules of a specific blog are strictly under the control of the owner. That is the function of a blog.

As CountryGal said a couple of entries ago, if you want "fair and balanced," go watch FOX.

If you feel that the tone of this blog is antithetical to your point of view, start your own. It's easy--even I can do it!

CountryGirl said...

Good morning. I'm enjoying the series Loretta. Just the small taste I've had has added to the respect I already had for you.

Thanks to a guy who partied way too much and passed out in his shower in the room above us, I woke up to a flood in our bathroom coming from the fire sprinkler in the ceiling. They found him and shut off the water.

Hitting the road in a few minutes after my sober husband gets his shower.

Ronni said...

Sounds like he might not even have to turn it on!

loretta said...

More added to this entry above. See below ~~~~ lines.

Ronni said...


ken said...

Ronni said (on the previous message board):

As for "living in the sticks", it's a choice. If you know very much about Florida you are probably aware that the areas known as "sticks" are becoming more few and far between. But life here is beautiful. There is virtually no crime. I know all 5 of my neighbors quite well, and their dogs too. We have the creature comforts of electricity, water, septic tanks and telephones but we have something you get in those cities. Peace and quiet, lightning bugs, wild deer and even a few Florida black bears, 100 year old oak trees fishing holes that no one else has ever heard of. So I gave up my high-speed cable modem and I drive a little further to get groceries, but I grow my own fruits and vegetables so they are always fresh. I have to go into the city weekly and try to make all the necessary stops in one day. It's all worth it.

While I don't live "in the sticks" per se, I'm far enough from the city to walk out of the house in the morning like I did today, to be greeted by the sight of a doe and her two new fawns munching contentedly on the lawn. While the center city is only half an hour away, the major ski resorts are only fifty minutes away. Up here, I don't have to breathe Denver's foul air [not to mention smell the Greeley winds!], and we've never needed air conditioning. Our cat learned that she was not at the top of the food chain, btw. You'll occasionally see coyotes, bears, foxes, and impressive herds of deer and elk -- I've yet to see a cougar, but they're here, and you can amble across a print.

I worked in Ventura, and it was a pleasant place ... but I can think of worse places to live. [Cleveland comes immediately to mind.... ;) ]

loretta said...

That wasn't Ronni, that was Breezy talking about living in the sticks.

As far as Cleveland, it is in its best months right now. September is about the best month. I live right on the lake, and this is as good as it gets.

I would, however, gladly live in a few places I have visited, and am not going to defend Cleveland!

loretta said...

Here's a new song by Kris Kristofferson about "The News" that references the Peterson case:


It's rather heartbreaking.

ken said...

Loretta said (after correcting me; mea culpa):

I would, however, gladly live in a few places I have visited, and am not going to defend Cleveland!

That is wise.... :)

Ronni said...

Sad song, and so true.

Kent Wills said...

At one time, loretta wrote:

I would, however, gladly live in a few places I have visited, and am not going to defend Cleveland!

But Cleveland rocks. I heard it every Wednesday for at least a year at the start of every Drew Carry show. And TV wouldn't lie, would it? :)

loretta said...

To rock or not to rock; that is the question.

I would say that in a sense, Cleveland does "rock." It represents the heart of the rock & roll culture and its demographic during the 50s, 60s and 70s. Not so much after that.

There is a pretty good music tradition here, as well as 3 of the finest music schools in the world and a world-class symphony orchestra.

Cleveland is a small town compared to most cities. Its redeeming qualities (between July and October) are its cost of living, its accessibility, and its variety of entertainment, including three pro sports teams (The Tribe, The Browns and The Cavaliers), and possibly hockey again, but I don't keep track of it.

Nobody I know lives in Cleveland proper, and the 'burbs have good school systems, are low in crime and are cheap, relative to east and west coasts.

So, while we loathe the months between November and June, we can afford to visit you!

CountryGirl said...

PSP, I'm back and so is MY DELETE KEY.

Ron said...

During the days of the trial, it appears that so many people waited for the jury to come to verdict. Now as we wait to begin again, lets all say a quick prayer for the families affected by this senseless death. I think so much about that day, and wish that Lauren was still with us.

Zack said...

Does anyone know when the Jury selection begins? What is happening between the now and the trial? When does jury selection begin? Is the courtroom open to the public when they retry the case? What about buying transcripts?

Ronni said...

Will it be the same judge? Is Geragos still on board?

So many questions!

Skye said...

Unsinkable Turd strikes again!

Nowhere is sacred to Kaldis. Such a pity Ted and Patty have no empathy toward precious, little Lauren. Not even enough to use the her given name.

All the statements made by '&' appear to be things she has been told. Nothing is first hand information. 'Pat says', said it all for me.

Where were you during the Trial? Why did GerEgo keep you off the Stand? Or are you another figment of the Kaldis imagination? If it wasn't so pathetic, it would be funny!

Yes, you generate more questions than you answer.

Sarah, you experienced the worst 'kicking while you were down' by this awful family, but you have proved yourself to be way above them in class and dignity.

They don't fool anyone.

I hope you find some sort of inner peace.

ken said...

Skye wrote:

Unsinkable Turd strikes again!

Toad Anus. is back? His obsessive-compulsiveness knows no bounds. You'd think he'd get the message after having his posts removed for the twentieth time, and I assume they have all been offensive and accusatory.

Nowhere is sacred to Kaldis. Such a pity Ted and Patty have no empathy toward precious, little Lauren. Not even enough to use the her given name.

To Ted, Lauren's death is merely an opportunity for him to get a Maybach. She wasn't even human to him, or even to Cam. Classic disassociation.

Ted, get help. Straight up, I mean it. You are mentally ill.

Skye said...

Ken, I really think you are right about Ted being mentally ill.

Blaming a 4 year old for her own death is just the most appalling thing I have heard.

You really have to wonder at the state of his Frontal Lobe. Something definitely missing in that brain.

Can you find out whether Ted will be taking his turn in the Witness Box next time round?

Nevermind, I'm joking!

Mgt said...

Oh, I forgot to mention something to '&'.

The fact that Cameron Brown knew his daughter over the period of a year and not 14 days, makes his crime even more appalling.

loretta said...

Toad came on here to promote his alleged upcoming book. I presume he has a signed contract from a publisher; otherwise, there is no book except the one in his mind.

His writing style is so sedating, syrupy, supercillious, arcane and affected, it would take an army of editors to make it palatable.

I'll eat my hat and everyone else's hat if Ted Kaldis's ponderous and pompous prose ever makes it between the covers of cardboard - unles it's a xerox with staples.

Skye said...

I think our hats are safe, Loretta. The man couldn't write a Sandwich Board!

Ronni said...

No, but he seems to do well at finding stolen photos so that he can repost them in hopes of humiliating the person pictured. Maybe he can parlay that talent into a contract. Nice try, Ted!

loretta said...

And now for Part III ^^^^ new post above.