Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Open Letter To CPJ’s Joel Simon In New York: This Is The Fact Finding YOU Really Should Have Done #2

Posted by Kermit

Concerning CPJ’s letter to Italian President Giorgio Napolitano on press freedom (#2)

[Above: Knox lawyer Luciano Ghirga stated on 21 October 2008: “Amanda wasn’t hit. There were pressures from the police, sure, but we never said she was hit.” Well into Amanda’s trial, and shortly after her stepfather’s arrival in Perugia, she unexpectedly stated in court that she had been hit by police during her questioning. Watch the whole video yes at the Perugian blogger’s site.]

From the CPJ letter to the President of Italy and 20 other European and International figures:

“Sfarzo (real name Sforza) was released pending a trial in May. He faces up to six years in prison if convicted. “˜The police can count on the complicity of judges,’ Sfarzo told CPJ”

Now I’m confused: I thought that it was Mignini who utilized and had the complicity of the national police in his nefarious actions against the Perugian blogger. Now it seems that the blogger (or CPJ) is saying that the national police manipulate the judiciary to advance some terrible agenda, with the complicity of judges. Please clarify, for the sake of sanity, is it Mignini or the national police who are the source of the harassment that the blogger suffers?

[Above: Now let me get this straight: Amanda Knox hearing and trial judges such as Paolo Micheli (left), Giancarlo Massei (centre), or Claudio Pratillo Hellman (right) are beholden to members of the national police? Where will the Evil Conspiracy stop?]

Although motive is not necessary to any crime, having one helps to understand a criminal action. This alleged harassment makes no sense. Mignini presented his investigation report three years ago.  A guilty conviction was obtained, and the defendants are now in appeals, with different judges and new legal processes.

The case has for some time been out of Mignini’s investigative hands and is following its natural progression through different courts, under the guidance of the corresponding judges.

In the case of the national police, they don’t have any particular relation with the blogger as regards the Meredith Kercher murder case. Quite another possibility is that he has some other legal problem. Have you asked the blogger if he has any other legal question open, under his real name?

One question: if the blogger had been abused by Mignini or the Italian national police between October 2008 and September 2010, why is it only now that noise is being made about it?

In order to check out the blogger’s emotional state in the time frame of the alleged police attack, I took a look at his blogspot page for posts and comments in that time period.

The blogger’s last post before the alleged attack was on 10 September 2010. This post generated 586 comments, mostly before, but also some following the supposed attack on 28 September 2010 including comments by the blogger himself.

His first post following the alleged police attack was just a couple of days later on 1 October 2010. He writes “The mini media circus around the Meredith Kercher case materialized again in Perugia, surprisingly, for a closed door hearing “¦. Luciano Ghirga described her as showing a shorter haircut and as being concerned “¦”

In the 361 comments which this post generated, including comments by the blogger, I didn’t detect any indication that he had been through a harrowing experience at the hands of police officers who in some yet-to-be-defined-manner are remotely controlled by the prosecutor Mignini.

[Above: Business as usual. It’s 1 October 2010, just 48 hours after the supposed brutal attack which required the blogger to receive medical attention in the hospital. Yet his recovery is swift, and his texts don’t reflect the suffering he has gone through.  (Image: Perugia Shock blog)]

From the CPJ letter to the President of Italy and 20 other European and International figures:

“Oggi editor Umberto Brindani also received two “notices of investigation” that year—dated July 24 and September 2—in relation to the magazine’s coverage of the Monster of Florence case, CPJ confirmed.”

If the CPJ was able to confirm a couple of notices of investigation against the well established national magazine Oggi, why didn’t the CPJ also try to confirm any of the alleged abuse against the vulnerable Perugian blogger who is the main point of the CPJ text? You indicate that you had direct contact with him.

For example, you could have asked the blogger to show you a copy of a complaint concerning the alleged attack by national policemen on 28 September 2010. Or the CPJ could have spoken with the hospital psychiatrist who supposedly examined the blogger following that alleged attack.


From the CPJ letter to the President of Italy and 20 other European and International figures:

“Preston, Spezi’s co-author who suffered harassment by Mignini himself in 2006—and eventually was forced to leave Italy for fear of imprisonment—told CPJ he was still afraid of going back. He has been unable to clarify his legal status in Italy. In the summer of 2008, Mignini told third parties that he would have Preston arrested if the writer returned, Preston writes in the Afterword to The Monster of Florence paperback edition, published in 2009.”

If Preston was “forced to leave Italy for fear of imprisonment” in February of 2006,  then why did Preston go to Italy with an NBC “Dateline” filming crew in October 2006, just months after leaving under an alleged “threat” by Mignini, and four months after his interview in The Atlantic where he called Mignini “a sincere man and an honest and incorruptible judge”.

[Above: Many people are led to believe that Preston hasn’t been to Italy since his hasty departure after meeting Mignini in early 2006. In fact, he has returned with Dateline NBC to tape a show on The Monster of Florence. (Photo credit: Original source. And an alternative link to same story.]

Barbie Nadeau, an excellent and recognized reporter for Newsweek and The Daily Beast, wrote in a well researched article on Preston that he “also says that Mignini ordered him to leave Italy. Mignini says that he never asked Preston to leave the country, but instead suggested that Preston didn’t understand Italian and that he should get a lawyer.”

If you do further Googling, you will see that it appears that the only person who says that Preston can never go back to Italy (in spite of having gone back to Italy) seems to be Preston himself.

What Preston says he hasn’t been able to clarify, Mignini has repeated in a number of articles in the Italian and English-speaking press.


From the CPJ letter to the President of Italy and 20 other European and International figures:

“We ask you to ensure that the politically motivated lawsuit against Perugia blogger Frank Sfarzo is immediately scrapped and that outside investigators are assigned to conduct an investigation into the September 28-29, 2010, abusive actions of Squadra Mobile officers against him.”

On what basis can you affirm that the alleged abuse suffered by the Perugian blogger is “politically motivated”? What link is there between the national police officers who allegedly committed said abuse and the prosecutor of the first trial against Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito which ended almost a year prior to said abuse?

Who is this Perugian blogger, if he isn’t “Frank Sfarzo”?  Is he a journalist? Or in fact is he closely associated with “opinion-makers” for the Amanda Knox cause?

I have no interest in knowing the Perugian blogger’s real-life name, but I would hope that as part of its investigation, the CPJ would have ascertained whether the blogger’s real life persona may explain why the event of 28 September 2010 occurred (and what motivated the visit of the national police) better than linking it without any real proof to the prosecutor who so enraged Doug Preston (at least from the end of 2007 onwards, following Meredith Kercher’s murder and the intense media coverage of this sad event).

One of the most well known members of the Amanda Knox on-line lobby is an American, Jim Lovering. He appears on many websites where the case against Knox is discussed, sometimes posting in his own name and sometimes under the pseudonym “Charlie Wilkes” (a 19th century American naval explorer linked to Puget Sound).

It is telling that Lovering-Wilkes is cited as one of the two collaborators that the Perugian blogger works with on his site.

[Above: The Perugian blogger counts on Jim Lovering (also known on-line as “Charlie Wilkes”) as one of his two collaborators. Lovering is one of the most prominent figures in the “Friends of Amanda” pro-Knox activist group.]

If you do some basic Google research (“Jim Lovering” “Friends of Amanda”), you will find that Jim Lovering is the moderator of the “Friends of Amanda” website.

Here below is the Perugian blogger and Chris Mellas, presenting the Friends of Amanda website:

[Above: The Perugian blogger and Chris Mellas ““ Amanda Knox’s stepfather ““ presenting the Friends of Amanda website.]

Lovering/Wilkes has made himself famous in the pro and con discussion boards of this case for his anything-goes pro-Amanda stand.

This includes the manipulation with a Photoshop-type program of an image of a footprint of Rudy Gudy, found guilty together with Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito of Meredith Kercher’s murder.

The manipulation adjusted the size of the Guede print taken in prison to the dimensions of a footprint made in blood found on the bathmat of the cottage where Meredith was brutally murdered (the matching of the footprints would support the “lone-wolf” theory of the Knox defence, that only Rudy was involved of the group of three young people found guilty, and therefore that Amanda should go free).

A simple gauging of the size of the print seems to show that when Lovering/Wilkes resized it, the print ended up much smaller than what it should be.

For further information consult this presentation with the satirical title: “Mr. Marriott, I Shrank the Black Kid”. Or review the on-line discussion of the issue by Googling: Rudy Guede “hobbit foot”.

Although the Friends of Amanda Knox group declares on its webpage that “We are not affiliated with her family”, some of its most prominent members are close friends to the Knox-Mellas family, as they themselves publish on Internet sites such as Facebook.

[Above: In this Facebook posting from September, poster “Charlie Wilkes” (Knox activist Jim Lovering) writes of his photo: “At the table are (Washington State Judge) Mike Heavey, Mark (Waterbury) and Michelle (Moore, wife of ex-FBI / ex-university security man / screenwriter Steve Moore). Chris (Mellas) is seated at the table in the background. I’m not sure who he is talking to. Christina Hagge and Edda (Mellas ““ Amanda’s mother) are standing on the right “¦. It was a very enjoyable gathering”. (Photo credit: Facebook ““ Perugiamurderfile.org)]

Judge Michael Heavey of the Superior Court of the State of Washington is a neighbour of the Knox-Mellases and has been involved with lobbying efforts for the family from early on (he now seems to not be a formal activist of FOA, although informally ““ as we see in this photo ““ he continues to support the cause).

In August of 2008, he wrote a letter to the Italian judicial council that regulates the activity of the country’s judiciary, decrying:

“”¦.On June 16, 2008, Judge Giuliano Mignini, The Public Minister of Perugia, closed his investigation concerning the horrific murder of Meredith Kercher.

“¦. Since November 6, 2007, the conduct of the prosecutor, police and prison employees has been to supply false information to the press to inflame public opinion against Amanda Knox, Rafaele Sollecito and Patrick Lumumba.

“¦. the prosecutor’s office (Kermit: ie. Mignini’s), police and prison employees have made illegal and false statements to the press.

“¦. Amanda Knox’s lawyers have no knowledge of my request to the distinguished and honorable members of the Consiglio Superiore della Magistratura.”

The English text and Italian original were published for a number of weeks in 2008 on Seattle celebrity lawyer Anne Bremner’s webpage. Bremner is another original member of the Friends of Amanda group.  Source: this webpage which has since been redesigned)

[Above: Heavey wrote a neither substantiated nor proven extra-judicial opinion of grave illegalities he ascribed to the investigators of the murder of Meredith Kercher, naming specifically the prosecutor, Giuliano Mignini. His opinion was sent to Nicola Mancino, vice-president of the Italian Judicial Council, and four other persons, including Italian President Giorgio Napolitano and Prime Minister Berlusconi.]

This unofficial, private lobbying done on Washington State Superior Court stationery didn’t go over well, as you can imagine, with the Washington State Commission on Judicial Conduct, which proceeded to charge Heavey:

“[Mr. Heavey is charged with] violating Canons 1, 2(A)and 2(B) of the Code of Judicial Conduct by writing letters on official court stationary to Nicola Mancino, Judge Claudia Matteini, and Giuliano Mignini (members of the Italian judicial system) on behalf of criminal defendant Amanda Knox; utilizing court staff to type those letters; and speaking publicly on several occasions about that same pending criminal case in an attempt to influence the proceeding.” (Source: Washington CJC)

The CJC’s investigation later concluded that Heavey had violated the judicial code by:

using his status as a judge to attempt to influence a criminal proceeding in another country, thereby exploiting his judicial office for the benefit of another.

“¦. Respondent agrees he will not retaliate against any person known or suspected to have cooperated with the Commission, or otherwise associated with this matter; that he will not repeat such conduct in the future; and that he will promptly read and familiarize himself with the Code of Judicial Conduct in its entirety.”(Source: Washington CJC)

[Above: In spite of his reprimand in 2010 from the Washington State Commission on Judicial Conduct for - amongst other things - “speaking publicly” about the Amanda Knox case, it seems that Judge Michael Heavey has found a way to make this sort of activity compatible with the sentence of the Commission, and he continues to appear on her behalf (on his own time?). Recently on 4 April 2011 he appeared at Seattle University with other speakers aligned with the Amanda Knox cause to present the case for her innocence.] (Source: Youtube video uploaded by West Seattle Herald)

What is curious is Heavey stating in his letter to the Italian authorities that he was doing this without the knowledge of Amanda Knox’s Italian lawyers.

She has two heavyweights as her main lawyers: Luciano Ghirga ““ a well”“known and experienced Perugian lawyer ““ and Carlo Dalla Vedova ““ also experienced, and suggested by the American Embassy in Rome. In addition, there are all the experts in a number of areas that these two lawyers have introduced to the case as it has proceeded.

They will know what’s best for Amanda, and if she or her family have any questions about the legal strategy, then they should change the team. It’s inconceivable of persons close to her family taking extra-judicial measures to “help” her when those measures aren’t vetted first by her legal team beforehand in order to decide if it really does help or hinder the cause.

But that does seem to be the case here.

Between actions like Heavey’s and the not-stop media onslaught with programs such as the CBS 48 Hours series produced by Doug Longhini (starring Private Investigator Paul Ciolino who travelled to Perugia and tried to get a witness to the crime to open her door at night to talk to him ““ he has recently called that witness “crazy” from the safe distance of a Seattle auditorium) which questioned the correctness of the investigation, there was so much noise coming from America that Knox’s lawyer Luciano Ghirga actually had to go to prosecutor Mignini’s office and disassociate himself and Amanda’s defence from these opinion-making actions:

“There are people around the figure of Amanda who have no formal role in the student’s defence team, which is formed by myself together with my colleague Carlo Dalla Vedova. These people are not only not helping our client in the difficult judicial process in the Corte d’Assise in which we have to defend her, but on the contrary, they are harming her judicial position.”

(Source: La Nazione 3 February 2009- Alternate translation link here.)

Why in the world would anyone participate in an extrajudicial strategy of attacking a legal process, unapproved by the defendants own lawyers? The first answer that comes to my mind is that the party involved doesn’t have much faith in being successful in the legitimate legal process.

Paul Ciolino, the Private Eye who went to Perugia for Doug Longhini’s 48 Hours, recently participated in a seminar in Seattle University dedicated to Amanda Knox (co-speakers included Friends of Amanda founder Tom Wright, ex-FBI / ex-university security officer / screenwriter Steve Moore, and “¦ State of Washington Superior Court Judge Michael Heavey).

Mr Ciolino, I believe, more or less sums up the extra-judicial strategy for dealing with Amanda’s predicament by stating:

“She’s not going to come out of there because the Italians are nice guys and they’re going to admit that they made a horrible mistake and that the prosecutor yes indeed he is crazy but ... she may come out, she’ll come out in a year or two, that’s my best guess, okay, but she’s going to come out because the State Department is going to get involved, it’s going to become political.”

(Source: At 1:48:23 in the Youtube video uploaded by the West Seattle Herald)

I’m not saying that the Perugian blogger is a member of the Friends of Amanda group (which in any case doesn’t seem to be a “card-carrying” type of association “¦ it’s more a question of who wants to be publicly associated with it. Judge Heavey was “publicly” with the group until he decided to not be publicly associated with it.)

But it would be hard for the blogger to deny that he’s very, very, very close to this influence/lobby group, what with blog bed fellows such as his blog’s main collaborator Jim Lovering - the Friends of Amanda Knox website moderator - and what appears to be a personal relationship with members of the Knox-Mellas family.

I honestly believe that the Committee to Protect Journalists does fine and commendable work protecting journalists, who risk so much all around the world trying to do their work and keep people informed through a free press.

[Above: Truly threatened journalists around the world benefit from the support and awareness activities of CPJ. Bravo. (Photo credit: Committee to Protect Journalists)]

However, I encourage the CPJ to do further research concerning the news and blog personalities surrounding the Meredith Kercher murder case, and the alleged injustices they may have suffered.

Particularly worrisome for the preservation of balanced reporting by independent journalists is the hiring by the Knox family of the Gogerty Marriott public relations firm. This contract has been so successful that this PR firm uses their Amanda Knox campaign as a case study on their website.

At Gogerty Marriott we apply campaign strategies, disciplines and tactics to public affairs problems to help our clients achieve their goals “¦. We consider every project individually and assemble a team to suit the client’s specific needs. We then develop and implement a plan; usually integrating a range of tactics such as earned and paid media, community outreach, ally development, and government relations among other ways of reaching important audiences.”  (Source:  Gogerty Marriott website.)

It is ever so important for the CPJ to protect journalists around the world who are struggling in dangerous situations to maintain their independent voice and to promote free press.

However, a PR campaign which uses “earned and paid media” could perhaps, be analysed further before sending alarmist communications to high-profile international authorities and potentially wasting the scarce resources of your organisation.


From the CPJ letter to the President of Italy and 20 other European and International figures:

“It is unacceptable that journalists, bloggers, and writers on both sides of the Atlantic should censor themselves by staying away from subjects of public interest such as the Meredith Kercher murder case and the Monster of Florence killings because of Prosecutor Mignini’s inability to tolerate the scrutiny that comes with public office.”

If you read the thousands or tens of thousands of articles and blogposts written on the Meredith Kercher murder case, you will quickly find that few persons censor themselves or hold back in their comments, starting off with the Perugia blogger.

Please do go to the blogger’s site. Compare it to this True Justice for Meredith Kercher site, which has a different, victim oriented focus, or to any other of the many sites, and newspaper articles which have been dedicated to this case.

Each one has its angle which it has freely developed. You’ll see that the only censoring carried out is the prudent censoring of unsubstantiated libelous claims which once in a while must be done to guarantee the ongoing unhindered success of the sites.

A study of the Perugian blogger’s posts and his own comments (in addition to the people who comment on his site) doesn’t lend credence to the belief that his voice has been somehow repressed or threatened.

Let me wind up with the words of Andrea Vogt, an objective, bilingual reporter who has been providing great coverage on the Meredith Kercher case, writing about both things positive and negative for Amanda Knox:

“In real life, prosecutor Giuliano Mignini is not at all as he’s been portrayed in the mainstream American media. He’s been vilified as a conspiracy theorist out to get anyone who dares criticize him. I’ve done it (in print and in person) and he’s been professional and dignified, even when he heartily disagreed.”

(Source: the New York Post.)

You can not imagine the abuse received by that reporter (and other valiant journalists who dare have an open opinion on the Knox-Sollecito-Guede trials) from certain pro-Knox sectors of the online world. In a separate story, this same reporter provides us with insight concerning threats pervading the discussion of this case:

“Police are investigating complaints from a Seattle woman who says she was intimidated and threatened online because of comments she made about the Amanda Knox case.

The unredacted Seattle Police Department report, obtained by seattlepi.com, names a primary suspect and quotes the woman as saying that that the suspect “˜is engaging in tactics meant to intimidate,’ along with “˜the tacit consent’ of Knox’s stepfather, Chris Mellas.
“¦. Perugia Shock is hosted on a California server and financed by an American firm, according to the Perugia-based blogger who covers the case and operates the site under the alias “˜Frank Sfarzo.’

While fans say his blog poses alternative theories rarely discussed in the mainstream media, critics say his minimalist moderation results in an out-of-control comment section where posters “out” those who wish to remain anonymous, track their ISP addresses to reveal their physical locations, pose as people they are not—someone posted as Meredith Kercher, the victim, once—and make threatening posts about each other, as well as about the major players in the case, including Knox, her family, journalists, lawyers and prosecutors.

“¦. A similar address, .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address), which is cited in the police report, was also used to send two vulgar messages to a Newsweek reporter covering the case in Perugia. The message, sent from a Blackberry device, ended with the postscript, “˜You sound like you were abused as a child.’

“¦. (True Crime blogger Steve Huff) has been particularly surprised by the network newsmagazines’ “˜pro-active efforts’ to smear the prosecutor while painting Knox as “˜some innocent pixie college girl.’ “˜There’s some larger statement afoot in that about American views and our culture of looks over authenticity, in my opinion,’ Huff said. Huff said his opinion about guilt or innocence in the case is still flexible—he can see both sides and thinks the case could go either way, but the vicious online harassment—present from the onset but particularly intense just prior to the start of the trial—prompted him to dial back his participation.

“˜It was so pervasive and distasteful to me that as a blogger and now as a journalist I’ve all but washed my hands of covering the case,’ Huff said.”

Read more on the Seattle PI website.

Now that surely is interesting. Maybe you should talk to longtime professionals like Steve Huff, and learn why the threatening environment of this case ““ specifically from the pro-Knox camp ““ made him decide not to continue covering it.

Contact independent, credentialed, widely read, knowledgeable, bilingual (English-Italian) journalists such as Andrea Vogt (Seattle Post-Intelligencer, New York Post and other publications) and Barbie Nadeau (Newsweek, The Daily Beast) who have been at most or all of the Amanda Knox trial sessions.

Read their work and you will see balance in the information provided, including both that which supports Amanda’s cause and that which is not favourable. Ask them about their take on the judicial and reporting scene in Perugia concerning this trial. Ask them about the threats or abuse they have received. Consider offering them protection if they request it (I have not contacted them on this, take it as a tip).

Beyond these two journalists in particular, you will be able to find more.

I think you will see that you will have to rectify your letter of last 19 April 2011, or at least comment that in the media circus surrounding this sad, sad case of a bright young English girl beloved by her family who was brutally murdered, there is more than meets the eye.

I will conclude by stating that:

  • In spite of collaborating on his website with Jim Lovering, one of the prominent leaders of the Friends of Amanda opinion-making lobby group, the Perugia blogger isn’t necessarily a member of that group, if the group actually has formal membership. I am in no position to state that (nor deny it). However, with Lovering/Wilkes by his side on his own blog, the Perugian blogger is very, very, very close to them.
  • nor is there evidence that the Perugia blogger is an element of the Gogerty Marriott pro-Knox PR campaign, a campaign which may use “tactics such as earned and paid media”.
  • However, in case that the Perugian blogger is an opinion-maker, or is simply caught up in an opinion-making framework, is he still to be protected by the CPJ? Can journalists ““ if the blogger claims to be a journalist ““ be lobbyists, or associated with lobbies and still benefit from the protection of the CPJ, if they actually are threatened? Would the CPJ protect FOA leader Jim Lovering / Charlie Wilkes who helps the Perugian blogger with his posts,  if Lovering/Wilkes claimed that Mignini had sent police to beat him up due to writings on the blogger’s Perugia Shock blog where Lovering/Wilkes is a collaborator?
  • of the examples you gave in the CPJ text concerning the supposed threats and abuse suffered by the Perugian blogger, the blogger’s own video of the event on 28 October 2008 seems to contradict your description of several national policemen approaching him and hitting him and pushing him (in front of Meredith Kercher’s family and preserved by the cameras of the press in the media scrum?). The example of national policemen looking over his notes in the press area at the back of the courtroom doesn’t seem to jive with the physical layout of the courtroom. The example of the Perugian blogger supposedly being beat up by policemen on 28 September 2010 may have happened (or it may have happened in another manner), but there is information lacking as to why these policemen showed up at the blogger’s door and which superior of theirs in the national police sent them. I see no link to Mr. Mignini there nor have you shown any. As far as motive is concerned, Mignini closed his investigation case file on the murder of Meredith Kercher three years ago. The case is out of his hands and now is at different levels of appeals in the courts. Why would he send a goon squad after the blogger?  (If anyone tells you that Mignini is an evil, satanic-obsessed, rogue prosecutor, then please tell them that they are mistaken, that role was assigned by a famous American writer years ago to an Italian policeman who the famous writer doesn’t talk about anymore.)
  • the insinuations that Mr. Mignini has some sort of private police force at his beck and call don’t fit in with the procedure-based workings of the relations between the Italian judiciary and the different police forces.

I would ask you that you reopen your investigation of this matter. I would exclude contact with persons who have a financial or any other interest in Mignini being painted in a specific light. And ““ as a good journalist ““ I would seek out “the other side” of this story.

I thank you for your time and attention. Please feel free to contact me if you require any further information or if I may be of assistance as you become more familiarized with this case.

Very sincerely,


A Main Poster on TJMK (.(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address))

Copied to:

His Excellency Giorgio Napolitano, President of the Italian Republic
Angelino Alfano, Ministro della Giustizia
José Manuel Barroso, Presidente della Commissione Europea
Herman Van Rompuy, Presidente del Consiglio Europeo
Baroness Catherine Ashton, Vice-Presidente della Commissione Europea e Alto Rappresentante dell’EU per gli
Affari Esteri e la Politica di Sicurezza
Viviane Reding, Vice-Presidente della Commissione Europea e Commissario per Giustizia, Diritti
Fondamentali e Cittadinanza
Neelie Kroes, Vice-Presidente della Commissione Europea e Commissario per la Digital Agenda
Jerzy Buzek, Presidente del Parlamento Europeo
Heidi Hautala, Presidenza del Sottocomitato sui Diritti Umani del Parlamento Europeo
Jean-Marie Cavada, Presidenza dell’Intergruppo per i Media del Parlamento Europeo
Thomas Hammarberg, Commissario del Consiglio d’Europa per i Diritti Umani
Ferdinando Nelli Feroci, Rappresentante Permanente dell’Italia presso l’EU
Hillary Rodham Clinton, U.S. Secretary of State
Michael Posner, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor
Philip H. Gordon, U.S. Assistant Secretary, Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs
John Kerry, Chairman of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee
Richard Lugar, Ranking Member of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee
Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Ranking Republican Member, U.S. House Committee on Foreign Affairs
Howard L. Berman, Ranking Democratic Member, U.S. House Committee on Foreign Affairs
Giulio Terzi di Sant’Agata, Ambasciatore Italiano presso gli Stati Uniti
David Thorne, U.S. Ambassador to Italy

[Above: Joel Simon of the CPJ, left, with “Frank Sfarzo”, Chris Mellas, and Doug Preston]


This is a masterpiece. Well done, Kermit. If Mr Simon wants a “real name” to associate with this, I am sure Peter will happily do so, as will I, as will many others.

Posted by Janus on 04/26/11 at 08:49 PM | #

Hi Kermit,

I couldn’t agree more with Janus. Your open letter to Joel Simon is a masterpiece. I hope that Joel Simon has the courage and integrity to publicly address all the points you have raised on the CPJ website. If he refuses to do so, it would be a shameful act of moral cowardice and as far as I’m concerned his position at the CPJ would be untenable.

Posted by The Machine on 04/26/11 at 09:15 PM | #

Kermit, thank you for telling the “other side” of the harassment issue. This side has not exactly jammed the airwaves.

Posted by Skeptical Bystander on 04/26/11 at 09:42 PM | #

Insofar as Frank Sfarzo is not a real name, I can’t see how Joel Simon could justify not addressing the issues raised in this open letter on the grounds that “Kermit” is a fictional entity. It is odd that the fictional entity “Bruce Fisher,” who was most likely recruited by Jim Lovering and Chris Mellas, just happens to sound exactly like them and shares their obsession with shutting down certain journalists and some obscure blogger in Seattle who moderates a message board.

Posted by Skeptical Bystander on 04/26/11 at 10:15 PM | #

Hi Kermit,

Thanks for exposing all the names of the people who are involved with the Friends of Amanda PR campaign.

Your exhaustive fact-filled posts certainly opens the curtain for the world to see the incestuous relationship between all these Friends of Amanda hucksters who are lobbying on behalf of convicted murderer Amanda Knox.

Shame on all these Friends of Amanda hucksters who attempt to subvert Italian justice for poor Meredith Kercher and paint themselves as victims.

The only real victims in this case are Meredith Kercher and her family.

Posted by True North on 04/26/11 at 10:56 PM | #

Very thorough, Kermit. Hopefully this will get through to some decision-makers at the CPJ. Thank you for all your hard work.

Posted by Fuji on 04/26/11 at 11:02 PM | #

The main body in the world protecting the media and its freedom of speech is UNESCO in Paris. I had a little to do with its campaigns as my branch of the UN represents UNESCO in the field in many countries. The carefulness in getting the hard facts of a case would be immense, as campaigns could so easily backfire and governments become actually more hard-line.

Presumably he doesn’t mean it, but Joel Simon’s very sloppy letter, maybe drafted in total by someone like Doug Preston, reeks of the same strident anti-Italianism and anti-Mignini-ism that we can see in Preston’s semi-fictional MOF book. That aint good for a start.

This case has been reported left, right and sideways, and the idea that the real truth is known only in the US and UK and that Italians are being hoodwinked by a subservient press bears no resemblance to reality.

There has been some superb reporting in Italy and a number of TV group talk-shows covered every possible angle. Frank Szfarzo was invited onto NONE.  And does Joel Simon watch ANY American TV? He seems unaware that bad journalism in this case has spread in the US and UK like a bubonic plague.

The post below these two on Doug Bremner and the REAL state of Italian justice makes a strong accompaniment to Kermit’s excellent points.  Italy has 1/6 of the population of the US but only 1/30 of the number of people in jail of the US. Not exactly a strong sign that it is ITALIAN justice that is running amoke and jailing people wrongly in the absence of a press that pushes back.

So in what way does Joel Simon think he is going to help in going up ill-researched and with condescending attitude against a government that runs a very good justice system and has already had it up to here with external lecturing and is consistently taking a firm line? With the approving nod of US State and the Embassy in Rome? 

And the idea that Frank Szfarzo is a vital whistleblower almost alone in defense of Knox is of course seriously absurd. His site gets far less reader traffic than this one, for example, and it is posted in English, so it is barely on the radar of most Italians. 

Till late in 2008 Frank Sfarzo was very pro-Meredith, and he had no time for those who stood accused.

Suddenly he turned almost overnight to dumping Meredith’s cause and getting the extreme hots for Knox. Frank has admitted his site gets American funds, and he has been consistent in ridiculing witnesses, police, prosecutors and judges in any sneering way he could figure out. His comments area is consistently libelous against both Italian officialdom and really neutral reporters on the case.

Kermit’s research in response to Joel Simon is real whistleblowing research - here directed against a sloppy, hurtful and probably libelous CPJ. His post is being translated into Italian and attention being drawn to it in the same places as the original was beamed.  At minimum it might help neutralise Joel Simon, and possibly reverse him in his tracks.

Kermit’s is our longest and most complex post ever. In this situation, so much needed. Really well done.

Posted by Peter Quennell on 04/26/11 at 11:18 PM | #

An outstanding, well researched, highly accurate, and vital report Kermit.

I have one complaint.  You are giving Seattle-based Judge Michael Heavey way to much credit. In describing the stationery of his notorious “letter to Italy” you attribute to him membership in the Washington State Supreme Court.

Heavey will, unfortunately, never get that far in his judicial career.  As the stationary itself reveals, he is but a “county” judge in Washington State, and considering his abuse of office as regards this case will surely retire as such.

Posted by Fly By Night on 04/27/11 at 12:09 AM | #

Kermit, you are peerless! What a valiant defense of Mignini in a call for truth. You challenge CPJ to do an honest job of fact-finding before they falsely connect Mignini to police brutality and press intimidation on the word of a hysterical Frank Sfarzo.

Yet you stand up for CPJ in the good work they do to protect the press from real oppressors. Marvelous!

Posted by Hopeful on 04/27/11 at 01:03 AM | #

This is a en excellent post from a knowledgeable main poster and I echo the Machine’s sentiments that if Mr Simon does not address the issues raised by Kermit then that would be an act of moral cowardice, and not only that but his personal credibility and that of CPJ will be shredded - particularly in the eyes of the serious and reputable journalists whose interests the CPJ purports to defend.

Like the Idaho Innocence Project the CPJ is a non profit organization dependent in the main on voluntary donations.

I have nothing against voluntary organizations. I have volunteered my services for free myself and I am full of admiration for people who give their expertise, knowledge and dedication for free to worthwhile causes and enterprises - though there are often in such organizations some paid positions.

Here in the UK we have a government which, probably quite rightly since bailing out the banks, has embarked on a savage programme of public expenditure cuts, with the result that local government has had to make similar cuts and consequently countless voluntary community organizations, charities and projects- not funded just by donations from the public but dependent on local grants - have gone to the wall.

The CPJ should have no such worries as yet (and I wish it and the Idaho Innocence Project well) but the financial crisis affects everyone and is far from over and as a result there has to be more then a little inventiveness in fundraising nowadays.

I just hope that standards and integrity are not compromised as a result.

Posted by James Raper on 04/27/11 at 01:39 AM | #


Kermit, WOW!

I haven’t the time to read it just now but have scanned it.  Will read it this evening.


Posted by thundering on 04/27/11 at 01:57 AM | #

To exend on James Raper’s point about the importance of Mr. Simon addressing the issues raised by Kermit, I would say that it would be sad indeed if Mr. Simon gave the impression of being reluctant to subject the work of the organization of which he is the steward to honest scrutiny when that is clearly called for.

Posted by Skeptical Bystander on 04/27/11 at 04:29 AM | #

Hi Skeptical Bystander.

Yes as James Raper says the budget cuts are hurting everywhere. The CPJ may be especially vulnerable to financial blandishments now, which sadly might already explain the biased PR release as an open letter, and why absolutely no fact checking.

Rather amazing that Joel Simon copied his open letter to all those top people - and yet could not check the truth even with Mignini. That is a terrible international demonization of him, and so unfair.  That would be a firing offense if Joel Simon were in the UN.

I do hope Mignini (or the President of the Italian Republic) seriously straightens him out if he wont recant.

Posted by Peter Quennell on 04/27/11 at 04:36 AM | #

Editorial note. The top image on the first post of Joel Simon etc is dropped down to the end of the second post. We needed to do this as we are printing this out for mailing to the same list Joel Simon used. Paper copies are often more effective than email ones.

Posted by Peter Quennell on 04/27/11 at 04:44 AM | #

Fly by Night - Ha! Thanks, I’ve now cut Heavey’s rank down a level or two to superior.

In fact, all this is no laughing matter as you are all aware. I was going to produce a fast reply to Joel Simon’s CPJ letter. However, as I worked on it, and dug up old facts and connected both old and new issues, I just got angrier and angrier, and at the same time, more and more motivated. This is a big question, not just for clarity and truth in finally getting to closure in the murder of Meredith Kercher, but in general as regards the behaviour of the Press.

The question is: to whom is the Press (media outlets and specific reporters) beholden, if it isn’t beholden to the Truth?

And if it isn’t beholden to the Truth, what are the consequences, for individuals and for society?

When large, influential media chains broadcast opinions of supposed experts whose only knowledge of a case are the queue cards someone has prepared for them, where’s an element of social responsibility?

Prepackaged comments like this one, by a so-called-Amanda-Knox-expert barely (or not-at-all) familiar with the case does not speak well of the major media chain which brought him in:

“the most egregious international railroading of two innocent young people I’ve ever seen”

Other comments like this one, by someone who purports to be a reporter (i.e. he should have a reporter’s values and code of conduct) for a major media chain, say little about the state of responsibility in the Press, and neutral stances by journalists:

“She’s an innocent woman. And I would stake my reputation as a journalist [on that] and I have been in this business for a quarter century.”

Posted by Kermit on 04/27/11 at 11:40 AM | #

Very well said, Kermit.

All this is so true, and so needed to be brought to everyone’s attention.

All the points that you so emphatically and correctly bring out are precisely what the FOAKers wish were left unsaid.

The fact that you and your letter have attracted so much commentary in the usual ‘hangouts’ of the fanatical FOAKers speaks volumes for your letter’s importance and validity.

Posted by bahia ben on 04/27/11 at 03:21 PM | #

Congratulations Kermit,

Thank you for spending the time and energy to debunk the false allegations made in Joel Simon’s letter.

It is ironic that you had to do the journalist’s job for him, just to get the facts straight.

The whole purpose of protecting journalists, is to protect the truth. Nowhere has the truth been so distorted by so-called journalists than in this case.

I would like to hear a response from the recipients of both letters.

Posted by bedelia on 04/27/11 at 04:49 PM | #

Nice touch to add Ai Wei Wei’s case to show where precious resources should be focused.

Posted by bedelia on 04/27/11 at 05:13 PM | #


Thank you for this meticulous unraveling of misinformation.  It is a well known fact that you, Kermit, are an extremely viable internet spokesperson in the Meredith Kercher murder, and have carefully, accurately and continuously brought forward the inconsistencies that have arisen for over three years now.  This collection is brilliant and is a must read for everyone.  A masterpiece.

Now waiting for the response…


Posted by Tara on 04/27/11 at 05:40 PM | #

Wow, Kermit - this is just amazing. Seriously. Thank you.

You wrote (in a comment above, not in the post):

“The question is: to whom is the Press (media outlets and specific reporters) beholden, if it isn’t beholden to the Truth?

And if it isn’t beholden to the Truth, what are the consequences, for individuals and for society?”

This is a very interesting point. I agree with you that the press ought to be beholden to the truth. To comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable. But since newspapers and media outlets are companies they are beholden to their shareholders and hence to making a profit and so they print what they think will sell more newspapers (or bring more readers to click on ads online.)

A large part of the media constructs stories that it thinks people want to read and the tale of “poor pretty white middle class American girl abroad getting framed for a nasty crime against a non American in a foreign country” appeals powerfully to myths of a scary, “third world” where innocent, blonde all-American girls can come a cropper. Add the instant pull of the FBI tag, and the tough American male who must save the pretty damsel and you’ve got a potential ratings puller. The PR agency knows this, that’s why Moore was brought on board. Otherwise this story would have no interest in the USA, since Knox is convicted.

Secondly, part of this issue is laziness on the part of reporters who instead of digging into the truth - unlike, say, Barbie Nadeau - just grab the press release given them by the PR agency and print it. It’s easier and faster than ploughing through long documents or trying to translate things from Italian. Imagine you’re looking for a good story and you get a chatty PR rep calling you up about poor Foxy Knoxy and promising an interview with a down-home FBI expert with his loyal wife.

So it’s good your letter and this site demonstrate that the public, or large parts of it, actually want the truth and not lazy fiction.

Posted by lilly on 04/27/11 at 05:40 PM | #

If it does any good, and if it makes any difference, I have contacted the CPJ at the link below, encouraging them to read Kermit’s letter and study its contents carefully.


Posted by Janus on 04/27/11 at 07:08 PM | #

Simply wonderful work Kermit. Very concise and incisive. Your post makes the ones on the Pro Knox side of things look silly and amateurish. I note the ever increasing hysteria eminating from Seattle of which the letter concerning Mignini is a prime example.

Also there is a new heading saying that American Students are avoiding Italy. words fail me when I read something like this. I suspect that just like ‘The Birthers’ who believe that Obama was not born in the United States, There will be some of the Knox crowd who will maintain her innocence to the bitter end, The gullibility of some of them is just sad and I really wonder what they will do after next month?

I had a heated discussion with a friend of mine recently. He maintained her innocence which I found hard to take since he is a college professor in history and as always I am puzzled as to the motivation behind his thought process. Particularly when faced with so much evidence to the contrary. Then I realised that he has a daughter almost the same age. It’s clues like this that maake me understand Heavey etc: I look forward to the attacks to your post Kermit. When the truth is told there will always be gainsayers.

thank you once more for keeping the memory of Meredith in the forfront of our minds. We will never stop until justice is served

Posted by Grahame Rhodes on 04/27/11 at 07:56 PM | #

I see Preston has wasted no time in milking the CPJ letter for self publicity.  He has posted on The Book Trib blog.

Just a few quotes –

The investigation and trial were “in violation of both Italian and European judicial and evidentiary standards.”  Really?  What the **** is he talking about? 

“The Committee for the Protection of Journalists has made public the results of their own, independent investigation into the actions of Magnini, the police, prosecutors and judges in Perugia, Italy.

” Investigation?” ” Independent?” Give me a break!

The CPJ “letter reads like a horror novel.” Well Preston should know - he wrote it!

Is there no end to this man’s cynical self promotion?

Posted by James Raper on 04/27/11 at 08:33 PM | #

I have sent the following message to CPJ. I wish I had seen Doug Preston’s shameless use of this letter as more fodder for his self-promotion mill. It is truly shocking:

I have already written once to express my indignation over CPJ’s support of a “journalist” (blogger) who has allegedly been harassed for his “coverage” of the Meredith Kercher case. I and many others find it outrageous that this individual, closely allied with an aggressive advocacy group and ethically questionable PR-driven media campaign, is being hailed as a victim-hero. Nothing in your published letter indicated that due diligence had been done to verify his claims.

As the victim of an anonymous death threat on his blog, which he did not remove until others insisted, and a blogger myself (I host a pro-victim message board that has angered advocacy journalists and the family of one of the convicted murderers), I am wondering why you would protect someone who has no qualms about this sort of thing. I filed a complaint with the police for online harassment in connection with this case. An article was published on this subject, yet I did not hear from CPJ that it was interested in defending my right to host a public forum whose members are interested in discussing this case, in particular the aggressive media effort led by a PR firm.

The comments section of the protected blogger is in fact rife with outrageous comments about two of the women journalists who have courageously covered this case from Italy. Both have been threatened and harassed online by the family and friends of Amanda Knox and their associated advocacy groups. No attempt is made on the part of the protected blogger to defend them or denounce these attacks.

In other words, from where I sit it looks very much as if CPJ has been coopted by a partisan agenda. With the involvement of Doug Preston, a founding member of the advocacy group (FOA) an influential member of your effort, perhaps this should come as no surprise. But it does. It is a huge disappointment.

I and others await your public response to the very detailed and factual post that appeared yesterday on TJMK.

Posted by Skeptical Bystander on 04/27/11 at 09:18 PM | #

Thank you Kermit! A beautiful piece of hard work and, clearly, meticulously researched.  Just brilliant!

Posted by rach on 04/27/11 at 09:30 PM | #

Doug Preston is being jubilant on his blog? Really?

If you google “Joel Simon” and “Perugia” right now there are 18.100 hits. Kermit’s expose on TJMK is Number One.

If you google “Joel Simon” and “Italy” right now there are 21,700 hits. Kermit’s expose on TJMK is Number One.

If you google “Joel Simon” and “Amanda Knox” right now there are 22,300 hits. Kermit’s expose on TJMK is Number One.

If you google “Doug Preston” and “Joel Simon” right now there are only 9 hits. Still, Kermit’s expose on TJMK is Number One.


Posted by Peter Quennell on 04/27/11 at 09:52 PM | #

I too thank you Kermit for your thorough and informative document detailing and exposing the false accusations by this excuse for a journalist. The PR campaign launched by the FOA has become desperate and in my opinion slimy. They would rather use slippery tongued mouths or in this case a cowardice letter writer rather than face the facts of the case. These three murderers will not prevail as long as the facts are allowed to be told. Again, so well said Kermit and please keep up the good work and we will all see justice for Mez. Thank you

Posted by friar fudd on 04/28/11 at 05:33 PM | #

Kermit, Thank you for your clear headed analysis in this letter to Joel Simon.  Your comprehensive knowledge of this case and your sound reasoning helps to fit all the pieces together.  All the spinnings from a highly paid PR firm in Seattle cannot un-ring this bell.  The unsubstantiated attacks against Mignini by the FOA are mind-numbingly repeated daily online in the hopes that the readers impression will be swayed.  Since no factual information of such impropriety exists, this is the best they do or hope to do.  Once again, I thank you and Peter for shining the light of truth for Meredith and the Kerchers.

Posted by jodyodyo on 04/28/11 at 08:38 PM | #

And once again Kermit I thank you.
I have a worry though. This rabid pro Knox group are getting desperate and therefore it would not surprise me to find that they have done something stupid. Or to quote my old SAS training “Always expect the unexpected”
That being so, an attempt on Mignini’s life is not out of the question. In my experience it would take very little for some deranged person to make such an attempt. I don’t wish to sound paranoid but such things have happened in the past Therefore I hope that Judge Mignini takes precautions in this regard
sincerely Grahame Rhodes

Posted by Grahame Rhodes on 04/28/11 at 11:11 PM | #

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