How Doug Preston’s Wrong Claims In His MOF Afterword Were Often Contradicted In The Past

[Above: Said to be Doug Preston’s nice workshop in coastal Maine where he apparently makes his stuff up]

This is our own “afterword” to Kermit’s Powerpoint post below on Preston’s Afterword in which Kermit quoted original sources to back up all his claims.

Our profuse quoting of original sources, including many translated ONLY by PMF and TJMK from the original Italian, is what gives PMF and this site such strength as points of reference used regularly by media on both sides of the Atlantic.

Preston doesn’t really seem to be able to provide references for his own work.

In his deeply anti-Italy MOF book, he offers no bibliography, no footnotes, no overview of key documents, few sourced quotes, and interview quotes that often seem stretched and maybe flat-out wrong (as with the one with Madame Bene in the Afterword, about the claimed non-investigation of the screaming drug addict in the square). 

In a rather self-congratulatory comment Preston posted on the CPJ website 18 months ago, he claimed this.

Before publication [The Monster of Florence] was minutely vetted by no less than five attorneys in two languages in Italy, the U.K., and the United States. Since publication, it has been read by millions of people in many European languages. In all that time, and with all the millions who have read the book, not one significant error of fact came to light. Mario Spezi and I stand by every single assertion of fact in that book today just as strongly as we did when it was first published three years ago.

Really? Well, without sources to check, what exactly did all those lawyers do?  The Afterword claims were published only in English, so that very few Italians who do know Italy and the case ever got a chance to provide alternative points of view - a few did, though, and there are several sarcastic Italian reviews on Amazon. In Italy, the more credible Guittari version outsells it 10-to-1. 

Preston’s lurid and under-researched claims then of course went viral.

You can see his claims about Rudy Guede and the “14 hours” interrogation and the meanie Mignini and junk Italian reporting and the incompetent Italian justice system and anti-Italianism generally disseminated all over the web. Read things by Candace Dempsey and Nina Burleigh and Michael Heavey and Saul Kassin and Bruce Fischer and Nigel Scott and Joel Simon and you will see the Preston claims parroted there.

Even in Raffaele Sollecito’s book we are turning up some of the claims!

And yet literally dozens of correct statements of fact that contradict Preston’s MOF Afterword have been posted on PMF and TJMK and other sites and in various books over the past four years. These are just a few on the 14-page Afterword posted on this site alone.

1) Contradicting Preston’s claims about the incompetence of the Italian System.

    Click “They Were Held For A Year Without Even Being Charged!!”

    Click Why The Italian Judiciary’s Probably Less Prone to Pressure Than Any Other In The World.

    Click Why The Prosecutors In Italy Are Relatively Popular.

    Click The Chief Enforcer Of The Constitution And The Rule Of Law is Wildly Popular Throughout Italy.

    Click Italian Campaigner For Victims And Their Families Says The System Is Denying Them Justice.

    Click A Token Balance In The Italian System: The Voice In The Court For The Victim

    Click Compared To Italy, Say, Precisely How Wicked Is The United States?

    Click Why The Totality of Evidence Suggests Knox And Sollecito Are Guilty Just As Charged.

    Click An Overview From Italy Of The Galati-Costagliola Appeal To The Supreme Court Of Cassation

2) Contradicting Preston’s claims about the Knox “14 hours” interrogation

    Click Our Take On The Case For The Prosecution: #3 Raffele Sollecito’s Multiple Conflicting Alibis.

    Click Our Take On The Case For The Prosecution: #4 Amanda Knox’s Multiple Conflicting Alibis.

    Click This Testimony Does Not Seem To Have Gained Much Traction Here In Italy.

    Click Italy Shrugs: Why The Defendant’s Testimony Seems To Have Been A Real Flop.

    Click Dr Galati: Note An Example Of How Curt Knox’s Campaign Is Misleading American Experts And Audiences.

    Click Dr Galati: Attacks On Prosecution By Curt Knox’s Hatchet Men Becoming Shriller, More Fictional #1

3) Contradicting Preston’s claims about Rudy Guede and his central role in the events

    Click Understanding Micheli #2: Why Judge Micheli Rejected The Lone-Wolf Theory.

    Click A Visual Guide To The Staged Break-In Via Filomena’s Window.

    Click Powerpoints #6: Trace Evidence Seems To Confirm More Than One Perpetrator At Scene.

    Click Powerpoints #7: Forced Entry Via Filomena’s Window Fails The Giggle Test.

    Click Powerpoints #10: Telling Evidence Against Sollecito The Experts Seem To Have Got Absolutely Right.

    Click Powerpoints #12: The Telling Case Of The Doctored Footprint

    Click The New 80,000 Pound Gorilla In The Room Introduced By The Italian Supreme Court of Cassation.

4) Contradicting Preston’s claims about the large knife and DNA in the house

    Click Understanding Why The DNA Is On The Knife.

    Click What We Believe Are The Hard Facts On The Double DNA Knife.

    Click Setting Out What We Know About The Mixed Blood Evidence Samples From The Massei Report.

    Click Conti-Vecchiotti DNA Review Is Weak, Tendentious, Cites Non-Existent Standards

    Click An Overview From Italy Of The Galati-Costagliola Appeal To The Supreme Court Of Cassation

5) Contradicting Preston’s claims about an evil Mignini and satanic illusions

    Click BBC Interview: Mignini Comes Across As Fair, Decent, Funny, And Quite Sane.

    Click Prosecutor Mignini Offers Some Helpful Advice To A Factually Challenged Reporter

    Click New Mignini Interview Makes Doug Preston Look Increasingly Incompetent And Vindictive.

    Click What His Florence Conviction Means For Giuliano Mignini And The Case.

    Click That Widely Watched LA7 TV Interview With Giuliano Mignini

    Click Open Letter To CNN Head Ken Jautz: Reports As Terrible As Drew Griffin’s….

    Click Full CNN Interview With Mignini That CNN SHOULD Have Reflected

    Click Mignini’s And Giuttari’s Florence Convictions Are Overturned As Florence Court Had No Jurisdiction.

    Click Dr Galati: Please Check Out What Looks Like A Mischievous Defense-Inspired Global Hoax.

    Click A Ten Part Series Showing How Mignini Was Misrepresented By Preston, Sforza and CPJ.

    Click Powerpoints #13: We Now Examine The Compelling Evidence For The REAL Railroading From Hell

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“Mario Spezi and I stand by every single assertion of fact in that book today just as strongly as we did when it was first published three years ago.”

Not exactly a denial. And yet he’s never going to climb down off his high horse and admit he was wrong. In fact he’s probably under contract not to say anything that could undermine the MoF movie.

Did Preston ever specify which of Kermit’s claims he said were false?

Posted by brmull on 10/23/12 at 11:34 PM | #

Hi brmull.

On the MOF movie this report was dated 25 January 2011.

As the book portrays Italy in a very bad light, and as George Clooney lives there a lot of the time and presumably likes it, he may drop to the fact that a movie might not be very smart.

This is from the Professional area of IMDB which was updated this month.

  Nathan Alexander
  Christopher McQuarrie Screenplay
  Douglas Preston Book
  Mario Spezi Book

  George Clooney ... producer
  Bruce Cohen ... producer
  Grant Heslov ... producer
  Dan Jinks ... producer
  Christopher McQuarrie ... producer

  George Clooney

Production Companies

Fox 2000 Pictures
Los Angeles, CA:
10201 W Pico Blvd
Bldg 78
Los Angeles, CA 90035
Phn: +1 310 369 2000

Jinks/Cohen Company
Smoke House [George Clooney’s company]
Studio City, CA:
12001 Ventura Place
Suite 200
Studio City, CA 91604
Phn: +1 818 432 0330
Fax: +1 818 432 0337

Posted by Peter Quennell on 10/24/12 at 01:26 AM | #

Here is some more news about the Clooney movie.

It is from last October and it says Clooney thought Knox was probably guilty.

With the appeal verdict he changed his mind. He was happy because he now had a real villain in the evil Mignini.

Does he realize that with the cassation appeal the worst is still ahead? And that Mignini is off the hook in his own case and doing very well, with all of Perugia and Italy supporting him?

Also on the docket is “The Monster of Florence,” based on Douglas Preston’s true-crime book about an Italian serial killer. The movie has no director yet, but Clooney – who has a home in Italy – will definitely be playing Preston. However, the book features (and paints a very unflattering portrait of) the prosecutor in the case – the same one who recently presided over the Amanda Knox trial. And since Knox’s guilty verdict was just reversed on appeal, the ‘Monster’ script is currently being adjusted.

“I was very happy for that verdict,” Clooney says. “Because I was one of those people who thought Amanda Knox was probably guilty, and then I ended up changing my mind. And it will affect our screenplay, that verdict—and that mentality: get a conviction at all costs—because it’s the theme of the book and the screenplay.”

And Clooney definitely won’t be directing the picture, he said, because he only takes supporting roles in films he directs saying, “When you’re directing, you’re really doing everything—you’re really busy!” Which sounds like he might be up for a little real-life downtime. If there are no acting or directing projects for a while, he said, no problem. “I’m fine. I’ve got stuff to do.”

Smart thinking George: “that mentality: get a conviction at all costs… it’s the theme of the book and the screenplay”. That and shafting Mignini.

Posted by Peter Quennell on 10/24/12 at 01:45 AM | #

Preston is quoted below in an interview with The Atlantic.

That was three years before he came out with his MOF Afterword.

See any difference?

By the time of the MOF Afterword he had opportunistically created a very different Mignini.

Judge Giuliano Mignini, the public prosecutor who interrogated you, is another important player in the case. Was Mignini just doing his job? How much weight do you give to the idea that Mignini had it in for Spezi and you?

First of all, as a novelist I’ve written about what it’s like to be interrogated. I understood that it’s a psychologically daunting experience, but you really can’t have any conception of what it’s like to be strongly interrogated until you undergo it. It’s a humiliating experience. You have no power. And it’s especially difficult in a foreign language. In order to speak well and to be convincing you have to have tremendous command of the language. And when you don’t you sound like a liar even when you’re not. I remember in this interrogation thinking, “My God, I sound like a liar.

If I were Mignini, I wouldn’t believe me, stumbling, stuttering, and sweating, and using the wrong words, and backtracking, and saying things two or three times, and trying to explain what I meant.” I was thinking, “They’re going to take me from this room and put me in jail, and I’m not going to see my wife and kids again, or at least for a while.” I was terrified that I was not going to see the outside world again. Because of course the crimes they were accusing me of were very serious.

As for Mignini himself, I think he’s a sincere man and an honest and incorruptible judge. I don’t think that he’s a bad man. I think he really believed that I was guilty and that Spezi was guilty. I could see that in the interrogation he believed I was a liar. So, yes, I think he was doing his job the best he could. I think in many ways he was badly misled by Giuttari, the police officer who was running the investigation.

What Preston doesnt include here is that Mignini apparently suspected Preston and Spezi were planting evidence and using false names to advance their theory of the case.

Mignini in his interviews (linked to above and well worth reading) says he barely remembers Preston. He was seemingly pretty generous to simply let Preston go without charges. 

Also hard to believe is that that interview appeared three months AFTER Preston raised this faux storm

Indicted in Italy? Judicial harassment?

Did Preston lie to a huge trusting group of reporters? You decide.

Posted by Peter Quennell on 10/24/12 at 02:28 PM | #

Thousands of individuals all over the world are interrogated by the police and other authorities without any difficulties whatsoever.  Meredith’s UK friends did not have a good command of the Italian language and none of them, to date, have exhibited any of the fear that Preston related.

Sophie Purton was interrogated nearly as long as Knox and did not feel compelled to invent fanciful stories involving herself in Meredith’s murder.  Patrick Lumumba was seized from his home, trundled down to the police station, told there was an eyewitness to his involvement, and yet did not sign anything implicating himself or anyone else.

People like Knox and Preston find police interviews ‘daunting’ because they’re liars and not because of anything innately horrifying about talking to the authorities.

Posted by Stilicho on 10/24/12 at 09:18 PM | #

Is not the Italian court verdict holding some scientists guilty of manslaughter for not accurately predicting an earthquake going to make the Italian Justice system look incredibly foolish?

How in the name of heaven did the prosecutors decide to file such charges, and how in the world did it not get thrown out of court before going to trial?

Posted by Gonzaga on 10/25/12 at 02:55 AM | #

Hi Gonzaga

It initially surprised me too. The US headlines made it look like they simply hadnt predicted the earthquake. But we of all people know to be careful of US headlines!

In fact the tremors had certainly been worsening in Abruzzo and a researcher Giampaolo Giuliani had predicted a big quake. The city and citizens were very anxious. Italian stories explain that the court concluded that information released after a rushed and very irregular meeting made no scientific sense. Here is one report:

“Bernardo De Bernardinis, then deputy director of the Civil Protection Department, said, “the scientific community tells me there is no danger because there is an ongoing discharge of energy.” Most seismologists, including several of the indicted, consider this statement to be scientifically incorrect.”

Many lives were lost in that quake. The Berlusconi-era machinery did not perform well. As usual the scientists do have two automatic levels of appeal, and the Italian system is a learning system where lessons learned are often acted on. Maybe heads will roll, maybe some will be left with a clean record. Things will be done differently in future. 

European eyebrows are often raised at the US court system too. An incarceration rate 6X Italy’s, executions, elected prosecutors and judges who promote a hard line, Casey Anthony, OJ Simpson, not much remediation in the prisons, private for-profit prisons…  Both systems have their merits and things they could do better, and some lawyers read here because the ongoing comparison can help both.

Posted by Peter Quennell on 10/25/12 at 04:02 AM | #

@ Gonzaga

There is an ongoing debate in Italy, but the case is basically different from what you seem to believe.

The scientists are not convicted for their predictions. They are basically charged because they took part in a bogus meeting of a government commission, which was a kind of puppet meeting, a staging; they did not discuss (not all members of the commission were summoned), they did not issue an official transcript of their work, everything was irregular from the formal poiint of view.

This “meeting” was organized by the government as a ruse for the media. The purpose of this meeting was to produce a false communication to the local press and local authorities in order to counter the demands for security measures that were made by citizens and local representatives.

The cluster of quakes in the city area in the previous two months was unprecedented, a previous estimation, issued in 2008 by another group of seismologits from the National Council of Research, yielded a prediction of about 30% likeliness of a major quake in L’Aquila area in the years to come between 2008 and 2013. The population demanded a new estimation of risk, asked to organize an evacuation from old buildings and more presence of emergency forces (they had only 15 firemen in the centre that night).

The commission was totally reassuring and said there was absolutely nothing abnormal in the cluster of quakes.

The big problem in this, is the bogus nature of the comittee meeting, in which the scientists naively accepted to take part. This has to do with a major outrage by the population towards the Civil Protection, an agency which in Italy was factually the branch more directly corrupted by the government.

Currently, trials related to this are not limited to the case against the 7 members of the seismologists commission. The former head of the Civil Protection is under trial on major corruption charges, as well as the whole system including former ministers. The matter is a huge scandal, with trials ongoing in Perugia, Rome, Naples, L’Aquila and Milan.

Posted by Yummi on 10/25/12 at 05:31 AM | #

Thanks Yummi.

There is a parallel to this Berlusconi-era situation in the US national emergency preparedness group which performed abysmally when Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans.

The president had stripped the budget and put an unqualified crony in charge. Around 1500 people died, many of them preventably. Almost nobody was held to account.

Posted by Peter Quennell on 10/25/12 at 05:58 AM | #

The Katrina situation is really quite different.  The people running FEMA were and are likely incompetent but they did not actively participate with federal and state officials to conceal the extent of the disaster.

It would have been similar if the National Hurricane Center had issued false statements about the strength and vectors of the storm.  As we know, the citizens of New Orleans were warned to evacuate but that many of the lower income people were simply unequipped to do so.  That evacuation order and planning was simply beyond the scope of any existing agencies.

Posted by Stilicho on 10/25/12 at 08:13 PM | #

Thanks Yummi for telling the details.

I have some idea about the committees. In a committee, nobody feels responsible and generally go with the flow. Essentially, nobody believes that they have a role to play and they always refer to what is bureaucratically called “collective decision”- whatever that may mean.

Committees have perks- incentives that make members go with the rest even if they are personally against. Sometimes they are called to the meeting with a very short notice and it is not surprising that many may not know about the details of the agenda. Some members never open their mouths. They are the hot favourites in all committees.

You will get the idea if you take a hard look into how the members are selected. Also you should look at the queue people are waiting to be members of any committee- I mean any committee.

In this particular case, I can perhaps guess what happened. Somebody, some political person perhaps, asked: what are the chances for the earthquake: 50%, 10%, 1%? Some scientist perhaps accurately replied: something between 1-5%. It was a wrong decision to consider 1-5% as an acceptable risk. But then someone calculated that if we spend money 100 times, it is going to be useful only 5 times!

Americans have a different concept: spending money by the govt is always welcome. You see, the committee was actually trying to save the govt some money and it just happened to be a bad idea!

All committees are deadly: nobody is safe from them! Universality of the human nature!

Posted by chami on 10/25/12 at 09:51 PM | #

We agree that the Italian situation looks to be worse. Katrina politics however were similarly murkey if you can believe the fired FEMA director Michael ““Brownie, you’re doing a heck of a job” Brown:

“Unbeknownst to me, certain people in the White House were thinking, ‘We had to federalize Louisiana because she’s a white, female Democratic governor, and we have a chance to rub her nose in it,’” Brown said, speaking before a group of graduate students at the Metropolitan College of New York on January 19, 2007. “‘We can’t do it to Haley [Mississippi governor Haley Barbour] because Haley’s a white male Republican governor. And we can’t do a thing to him. So we’re just gonna federalize Louisiana.”

New Orleans is better than before in my recent experience and the huge seawall is awesome.

Posted by Peter Quennell on 10/25/12 at 09:52 PM | #

FEMA couldn’t have done anything about the botched evacuation plans anyhow.  That’s a different agency.  The US is also very very different than Canada or Italy, too. 

During the Winnipeg Red River Flood of 1997, federal troops were engaged in building levees.  This was impossible in Grand Forks, ND, and much of its central business district was destroyed in the same flood.

It’s a different way of doing things:  in the US the federal government cannot simply plant troops into the middle of a city to help with flood control.  That requires several levels of permissions.  Here the government is actually expected to react like that.

Posted by Stilicho on 10/26/12 at 01:11 AM | #

@ chami

your wrote: ” In this particular case, I can perhaps guess what happened. Somebody, some political person perhaps, asked: what are the chances for the earthquake: 50%, 10%, 1%? ....  “

It was possibly worse than that.

The head of the Civil Protection was already under secret investigation; there was a wiretapped phone call between Guido Bertolaso, head of the Civil Protection, and Enzo Boschi, a geologist head of an agency for assessment of geological risk.

The phone call was on the same day of the meeting, a few hours before. There are statements as follows:

Giudo Bertolaso:“they asked me: are new tremors expected?” ... “(...) you know the meeting of today has this purpose, so it’s true that we are not going to tell the truth ” (...)

Then he instructs Boschi about what to do at the meeting: 

Bertolaso: “you will make your press release at the end, with the usual things that are said about the topic of possible tremors, and we won’t talk about the real purpose of the meeting. All right?”

Boschi: “Don’t worry, you know our attitude is extremely cooperative. We do a press release, and we’ll submit it to your approval before …”

Posted by Yummi on 10/26/12 at 02:13 AM | #

The wiretapped phone call between Bertolaso and Boschi:

If you listen to the phone call you hear how the scientist, on this occasion, is not behaving as a scientist; instead he takes orders from his “friend” Guido.

Posted by Yummi on 10/26/12 at 02:21 AM | #

I don´t know why Preston reminds me of Dan Brown.

Posted by aethelred23 on 10/26/12 at 11:12 PM | #

Is that an outside toilet? where anything Preston writes belongs anyway.

Posted by Urbanist on 10/29/12 at 02:55 PM | #
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