Wednesday, June 7, 2006

Bad week for media darling

When a "whistleblower" points his whistle in the "right" direction, the news media heels like an obedient dog and is willing to look past faults of its owner.

Joe Wilson of "Plamegate" fame was glorified by the national media because he took on a president it hates, even though Wilson was found to be lying about quite a few things.

In downstate Illinois, former Illinois State Police detective Michale Callahan is another media darling of sorts. He has enjoyed a string of positive press coverage ever since he filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against colleagues in his department and eventually won a $360,000 judgment. But his fortunes have abruptly changed.

As I pointed out earlier this week, Callahan had pointed a finger at my client, a Paris "businessman of interest" as being responsible for the murders of Dyke and Karen Rhoads in 1986. The only problem is that my client had nothing to do with the murders, as evidenced forcefully this week with the news that he passed an ISP polygraph exam and answered all questions of ISP and FBI officers without a lawyer present. It was the second polygraph he passed.

Without going into laborious detail, my examination of Callahan's work product in arriving at his conclusion was revealing. His memos outlining the "case" against my client were embarrassing pieces of work, riddled with factual errors, outrageous conjecture, and third- and fourth-hand hearsay unworthy of a professional.

A few days earlier, Callahan suffered an even bigger blow. The U.S. Supreme Court decided 5-4 in Ceballos v. Garcetti that employees have a First Amendment right to voice their opinions outside the office and they have the right to point out wrongdoing in the office through established whistleblower procedures. But the high court said that protection did not extend to employees who voiced disagreement with decisions while performing duties of their office.

That, in a nutshell, was Callahan's federal case: that he was transferred because he disagreed with his bosses. Legal analysts I talked to say it is likely that a court will now void Callahan's judgment.

The news media has been running with Callahan's side of the Paris murder case for some time now. But the facts are backing up on him. They are showing that Callahan was as much a bumbler as a crusader and that those who questioned his facts were not villains but co-workers who happened to be right.

Callahan's fame clock is at about 14:58 and counting.

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