Farewell Christina Noudga, who’s taken a plea deal, will work for human rights

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christina-noudga-and-dellen-millard

Dellen Millard with his ex-girlfriend Christina Noudga.”I deserve you and you deserve me,” he wrote to her in a letter from jail.

Goodbye and good riddance to Christina Noudga.

When Dellen Millard’s unpopular ex-girlfriend left a Hamilton courtroom Tuesday, after accepting a plea deal and pleading guilty to obstruction of justice, there was, more than anything, an overwhelming sense of relief.

The deal meant there would be no more Noudga. No recounting of what Crown attorney Craig Fraser described as “the horrific and soul destroying details of Tim Bosma’s murder.” No three-week-long trial to determine if Noudga should be found guilty as an accessory after the fact to the murder of Tim Bosma.

Instead, Noudga, whose trial would have begun this week, pled guilty to the lesser charge of obstructing the course of justice by destroying evidence. The deal meant Tim Bosma’s family would finally be able to end their painful involvement with the criminal justice system. “They believe Ms. Noudga is being held to account for her actions,” Fraser told the court. “The public interest…truly is best served by sparing the Bosma family another trial while still holding Ms. Noudga accountable for the role she played in destroying evidence.”

Christina Noudga, dressed in dark blue and black, dabbed at her eyes before the hour-long proceedings, began and as they ended. Although it was impossible to tell if she was wiping away tears, her attitude was markedly changed from the Bosma murder trial where she shocked the court time and again with her lack of empathy and failure to display any remorse. Smart, pretty and ambitious, she managed to leave even hardened homicide cops and veteran criminal lawyers shaking their heads in disbelief. After the trial, Tim Bosma’s mother Mary would describe her as “evil.”

During her week on the witness stand, Noudga laughed in court as if oblivious to the fact she was testifying at a murder trial in front of the victim’s parents, sisters and widow. She said she remembered little or nothing of many of the key events about which she had been called to testify. She appeared to have no sense whatsoever of right or wrong. Respect was a foreign concept.

In one of the trial’s most memorable moments, a letter Millard had written to Noudga from  jail was shown on the courtroom screens. “I believe we deserve each other,” Millard wrote. “I deserve you, and you deserve me.”

“That’s what he wrote to you?” asked Thomas Dungey, the lawyer for Millard’s co-accused, Mark Smich.

“Yes,”replied Noudga.

“Thank you,” said Dungey, “no further questions.” It was the last time Noudga had exited the Hamilton courthouse in the glare of the media.

This week, her lawyer Brian Greenspan said his client can change. She was just 18 when she met Millard and 21 at the time of the events in question. She has since graduated from university and plans to go to graduate school in health sciences. She has a job waiting for her once her legal issues are settled. And she’s doing grass roots work for indigenous peoples in Honduras. She’s joined Amnesty International.

The old days of Christina posting YouTube videos of herself cursing Ecuadorean immigrants and condescending to entire courtrooms are over. She’s rebranding as a human rights advocate and, though this was not mentioned in court, an artsy Instagram party girl.

Greenspan says Noudga accepts responsibility for those actions she engaged in — destroying evidence by wiping away fingerprints — but not for those conducted without her knowledge, by which he means the murder of Tim Bosma.

This question of what exactly Christina Noudga did or didn’t know about that murder would have been at the heart of her accessory after the fact trial had it taken place. To prove her guilty, the Crown would have had to have shown that she knew her boyfriend had murdered an innocent man when she went with Millard to hide the trailer containing Bosma’s truck and to move the incinerator used to cremate the victim’s remains.

Fraser said the prosecution was in a “strong position” but that its case was circumstantial and “inferences would have to go the Crown’s way.” He said there was no direct evidence of Noudga having knowledge of the murder.

What he most definitely did not express, however, is what Greenspan later told the Canadian Press — that it is “clear and accepted by everyone…  that (Noudga) was totally unaware that a homicide had taken place.”

Whether or not Noudga knew or didn’t know is a topic on which there will likely continue to be disagreement along with the question of whether justice was done. But to the people in the courtroom, the plea deal was the right choice. And its rightness was only reinforced when Justice Toni Skarica announced that he would have found there to be “insufficient evidence that would prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the accused knew about the murder that had just occurred.”

It was a surprising declaration from the judge and a reminder of why plea deals so often make sense for both parties. For better or for worse, they take the unknowns and the uncertainties out of the mix.

In exchange for time already served in jail, a sample of her DNA, and a criminal record, Christina Noudga was free to go. And the Bosmas, the police and prosecutors were free to never spend another minute in her presence. That was worth a lot to everyone involved.

Dark Ambition chronicles the Tim Bosma murder investigation and trial

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screen-shot-2016-09-16-at-2-37-55-pmDark Ambition: The Shocking Crime of Dellen Millard and Mark Smich went on sale November 8. (Yes, that day.) In between the wall-to-wall Trump election coverage, I did a number of radio and TV interviews about the book, two of which have been posted online.

If you’re curious, my talk with John Gormley can be found here, the last item on the November 9th list. I also spoke to Scott Radley of CHML in Hamilton, who wondered what more there was for the public to know about the Tim Bosma case after the very extensive trial coverage. You can hear my response by going the station’s audio vault and filling in the date (Nov. 9) and time (7:00 p.m.) of the interview and then fast forwarding to 7:42 p.m.

Radley is not the first person to ask me if they will learn something new from the book. Here’s what some readers said:

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Comments like this are extremely gratifying. One of my goals with this book was to take people inside the courtroom and help them understand in detail what it’s like for the police to investigate a murder, and then for the prosecutors to bring the case to trial. Another thing I try to do is give readers a feel for how this tragic and extremely high-profile murder  was discussed in social media and occupied armchair detectives at sites like Websleuths, which not everyone is familiar with.

You can buy Dark Ambition in most bookstores and order it online at Chapters/Indigo and Amazon although the hardcover version is temporarily out of stock until Nov. 17th at Amazon Canada. A few copies are still available at Amazon.com.

I’d be happy to answer any questions you might have about the book in the comments section. Or you could come out and talk to me in person at a special literary evening on Thursday November 17th in Burlington. Writers Stephen Brunt and Brent van Staalduinen will also be there discussing their new books. There’s a $20 admission fee with all proceeds to the East Plains United Church.

‘Injustice porn’ like Making a Murder and Serial celebrates men who kill and abuse women

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Yet feminist critics of this new entertainment genre are missing in action

We are in the middle of what, for lack of a better description, I will call a radical feminist moment. Not a day goes by without some poor soul being shamed on the internet for a multitude of sins ranging from mansplaining and manspreading to not fully supporting affirmative consent policies or depriving women of jobs in the gaming industry.

Yet right in the middle of this media-fuelled, girl-power moment, something inexplicable has happened. A new favourite entertainment genre — let’s call it “injustice porn” — has emerged that celebrates the men who kill and abuse women.

Funnily enough, the usual feminist suspects have next to nothing to say about injustice porn’s woman problem. And even weirder, the genre’s most recent hits — the 2014 podcast Serial and the 2015 Netflix documentary series, Making a Murderer — are produced and directed by women who systematically minimize, dismiss and ignore crimes against women.

The result of our current over-fixation on things like everyday sexism and microaggressions has been not just to turn the trivial into the supposedly important but the inverse as well — it’s made the important trivial.

Thus when Steven Avery douses a cat and gasoline and throws it on a fire to watch it suffer, the directors of Making a Murderer suggest their protagonist was just goofing around and the cat mistakenly fell in the fire. Adding insult to injury, online apologists explain that this is how rural folk treat animals.

10 Questions about Making a Murderer

Dr. Drew Pinsky, an addiction medicine specialist, pointed out on the Reasonable Doubt podcast that Steven Avery looks like he suffers from fetal alcohol syndrome, but that doesn’t fit the lovable-Avery-clan narrative (Photo: courtesy of Netflix)

Likewise, when Adnan Syed, the hero of Serial, writes “I’m going to kill” on a break-up note written to him by his ex-girlfriend Hae Min Lee, journalist Sarah Koenig dismisses it as a “a detail you’d find in a cheesy detective novel” and a “stray thing” that could be meaningless. Never mind that 18-year-old Lee actually ended up murdered, her body dumped and half buried in a Baltimore park. Koenig can’t even be bothered to ask Syed about the note.

The Serial journalist also managed to overlook the fact that Hae asked a teacher to help her hide from Adnan and that, in her diary, she described her ex-boyfriend’s possessiveness as a problem, a direct contradiction of what was said on the podcast.  Yet despite Koenig’s consistent minimization of incidents that are classic warning signs of intimate partner violence, there has, in almost a year and a half, not been one serious feminist critique of in the mainstream US media. (Yes, early on a couple of Brits expressed shock, but they were pretty much ignored and then forgotten.) Instead, Serial won the prized Peabody Award for excellence in broadcast journalism.

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Hae Min Lee wrote a break-up note to Adnan Syed telling him to move on, accept her decision to end their relationship, and “hate me if you will”

 

Adnan Syed I'm going to kill note

Adnan Syed wrote “I’m going to kill” on the back of the note, which his supporters variously dismiss as a “stray thing” and so much teenage drama

Now, injustice porn history is repeating itself with Making a Murderer. The directors Laura Ricciardi and Moira Demos leave out key evidence about Avery’s possible guilt and history of violence against women. They never explain why he asked specifically for Teresa Halbach, the 25 year old woman he was convicted of murdering, to come to the Avery salvage yard and photograph his sister’s car. They fail to mention how he had answered the door in a towel on one of her previous work visits. Nor do they acknowledge that Avery used *67, which blocks the callers’ name, to phone her twice on the day she disappeared.

The filmmakers also portray Avery’s parents as kindly homespun hillbillies, showing his father tending to his garden and his mother spending years fighting to get her son out of jail. They skip over the fact that Avery looks like he might have fetal alcohol syndrome and don’t bother to mention that all three of Avery brothers have criminal records including multiple charges for assaulting women.

Older brother Charles was charged and acquitted of sexual assault in 1988. And then in 1999, his ex-wife accused him of sexual assault and wrapping a phone cord around her neck. Along the way, he pled guilty to disorderly conduct. Younger brother Earl pleaded no contest to sexual assault and two different sets of battery charges. He was also charged with sexually assaulting his two daughters.

As a result of these omissions — apparently no big deal in injustice porn land — the abusive and dysfunctional Avery family has developed quite the internet fan following. Stop by Reddit’s Making a Murderer forum and you can participate in threads entitled: Anyone else wanna give Steve Avery’s mom a big hug?, “I know you like lettuce.” – The incredibly endearing Allan Avery” and What can we do to help the Avery family?

In contrast, family and friends of the victim have been subject to internet abuse based on their treatment in Making a Murderer. “Mike Halbach seems awfully creepy,” tweets Kinsey Schofielda tv personality and journalist  to her 286,000 Twitter followers.

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“My “#MikeHalbach is the worst” tweet is still getting likes. I’m so happy people agree. Mike…you are the worst. #MakingAMurderer,” boasts Seth Lieber, who describes himself as an Actors’ Equity member.

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Empathy is not a requirement for injustice porn fans

While the filmmakers aren’t responsible for every idiot on the internet, this reaction was completely predictable. Ricciardi and Demos treated Mike Halbach, Teresa’s brother and the family spokesman, unconscionably. Every time he appears, he’s made to say something that’s just been carefully debunked for the audience. From his very first quote, about how the process of grieving his sister might take days (yes, days!), the directors never miss an opportunity to make him look bad. Halbach doesn’t get so much as one sympathetic quote. The only thing the filmmakers don’t do is play spooky music whenever he appears.

Such are the requirements of injustice porn. When the convicted man is your protagonist, the audience requires and will find someone to witch hunt. After Serial ended, Syed’s advocate-in-chief, Rabia Chaudry, joined up with two other lawyers to start the Undisclosed podcast, which, since its inception, has produced one conspiracy theory after another, smearing a long list of people along the way.

Their friend and fellow Serial-obsessed podcaster Bob Ruff devoted show after 2015 show to innuendo and unfounded accusations that Don, the guy Hae dated after she dumped Adnan, was a far more likely killer even though he had something very important that Adnan didn’t — an alibi.

Nor is Injustice porn kind to victims although it often tries to disguise this with hashtags like #JusticeforHae #FreeAdnan, while ignoring the fact that freeing remorseless Adnan would be about the biggest injustice possible for Hae.

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Injustice porn fans turn the female victims into props designed to support the most ludicrous and offensive theories. For the purpose of finding her fantasy, anyone-but-Adnan killer, Rabia Chaudry suggested Hae, who took only the occasional puff of pot, was a weed smoker with a big enough habit that she would be visiting shady drug dealers after school, which was how she got killed. Hashtag victim blaming.

In a related vein, Making a Murderer uses footage of Teresa Halbach, talking about what would happen if she were to die, without putting it in context, namely that it was a university video project. As a result, Teresa’s mental health has been questioned and it’s been suggested she might have killed herself although how that would cause her cremains to end up in the Avery salvage yard is never explained. Hashtag more victim blaming.

Yet another fact that Making a Murderer withholds from its audience is that the people Steven Avery’s lawyers would have thrown under the bus — had the judge allowed the defence to name alternate suspects — were his two brothers, his nephew and brother-in-law. That was an inconvenient truth that didn’t fit the adorable Averys narrative and would have taken some explaining. Why bother when it was so much easier just to make Teresa’s brother and ex-boyfriend look bad and serve them up for the online lynch mob?

Essentially, the only reason the filmmakers were able to so successfully mythologize the Averys is because, in 1985, Steven Avery was wrongfully convicted of rape, a crime for which he was exonerated by DNA testing after spending 18 years in jail. The wrongful conviction was a result of tunnel vision on the part of the police, a mishandled identification process for the accused assailant, and the victim’s compelling yet mistaken testimony that it was Avery who had raped and viciously assaulted her. After he was finally released from jail, Avery sued the county for $36 million, but just as it looked like he was about to receive a fat settlement, he was arrested again for the murder of Teresa Halbach. Like all wrongful convictions, it’s a shocking tale — yet something of a challenge for Third Wave feminists preaching that the victim must always be believed.

None of this is to deny that Ricciardi and Demos make a convincing argument that some of the evidence used against Avery in the murder charge might have been planted. And it’s  also hard to disagree with their conclusion that Avery’s 16-year-old cousin was wrongfully charged and convicted, failed by everyone, including his lawyers, at every step of the way. As for Steven Avery himself, I have no idea whether he did it or not. But like his lawyers, I believe that whoever did kill Teresa Halbach was associated with the salvage yard.

In this respect Making a Murderer is very different from Serial, where there was — as the transcripts for Adnan’s trial and the police files of investigation clearly demonstrate — no miscarriage of justice. The prosecutor Kevin Urick was half right when he described the killing of Hae Min Lee as  “pretty much a run-of-the-mill domestic violence murder.”

Where he was wrong however was in his failure to understand that there is indeed a mystery at the heart of Serial. It’s just that it has nothing to do with Adnan Syed, whose unoriginal motive and story are as old as time. What made Serial a mystery was the presence of Jay, a Shakespearean character, who first goes along with Syed, becoming an accessory after the fact to murder, but later confesses his crime to police. His testimony sends Syed to jail for life plus 30, and left every Serial listener puzzling and arguing over why he did what he did.

The post conviction relief hearing recently granted to Syed and coming up in February is the exploitation of a legal loophole and most likely the result of the publicity the podcast generated. The defence is contending that Syed’s counsel was ineffective because she failed to contact Asia McLain, who was presented in the first episode of Serial, entitled The Alibi, as the witness who could have exonerated Adnan had his lawyer done her job. Never mind that Asia’s a total flake who appears to have her alibi days mixed up, she was part of the false groundwork Sarah Koenig laid to convince the audience that something was not quite right about the Syed case and that if they wanted to find out the truth, they would need to accompany her on her emotionally manipulative podcast journey.

The promise was not kept, however. Koenig copped out and never provided the truth. Her “I nurse doubt” cri de coeur was V.2014 of “if the glove don’t fit you must acquit.” Just like race beat out gender two decades ago at the OJ trial, allowing a wife killer to be transformed into a symbol of justice for African Americans, so, today, can Adnan can be hailed as a representative of the wrongfully convicted and the Averys celebrated as exemplary Americans while the Halbachs are trashed.

This is because, in the end, Injustice porn isn’t about either truth or justice. It’s porn, which means it can only supply a cheap frisson. If it leaves you with an uneasy feeling about the women victims, it’s because it should.

What a rape trial looks like: Inside the court room for eight days of a sexual assault prosecution

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OnTrialForRapeByAnnBrocklehurst

My series about a criminal rape trial is now an Amazon ebook.

This true story tells the tale of an alleged victim, seventeen years old at the time, and her alleged assailant, a star athlete on his way to winning a full sports scholarship to a US university.


“I said, ‘Stop, you’re being ridiculous.’ I kept repeating stop. I asked him, ‘Please take me home.’ He said, ‘You want it,’ and put the passenger seat back.”


She had substantial credibility problems on the witness stand. His testimony seemed far more convincing—most of the time. But this was more than just a “she said, he said”—or, as it turned out, “she lied, he lied”—case. There was an element of physical evidence against him: bruises on her arms and legs. The judge had to decide if the totality of the prosecutors’ case against the defendant was enough to send him to jail, brand him a sexual offender, and destroy his promising future.

Despite its sensational nature, this was a case that never made headlines. What I observed during my reporting was the farthest thing from a Jian Ghomeshi courthouse scene, with mobs of press and police. I was the sole reporter at the superior court trial and, on most days, the only observer not directly related to the case. The mother and grandmother of the accused, whom I will call Matthew in the reports that follow, attended throughout the trial. The complainant, who will be known as Ava, was supported by a representative from victim services and the detective in charge of her case.


“You left your panties behind,” says the defence lawyer, who reminds me of Matlock.  “No I did not,” replies the weeping complainant


Ava’s family and Matthew’s father were not permitted in the courtroom as they were all considered to be potential witnesses. They spent much of their time in the courthouse hallways, pacing or sitting nervously. Like everyone else, they knew that the events unfolding on the other side of the courtroom door would deeply affect the two young people’s lives.

The first two chapters of On Trial For Rape can be read for free here. To read the entire story, you can buy the ebook on Amazon:

Part 1: She Said
Part 2: Are You Sure?
Part 3: Can the Complainant Continue?
Part 4: The Facebook Test
Part 5: He Said
Part 6: “I’m Not a Rapist”
Part 7: Closing Arguments
Part 8: The Verdict


The complainant is reporting someone to the judge for making faces in court. “It was the girl with black hair,” she tells Justice Trotter, referring to the mother of the accused


Buy On Trial For Rape on Amazon

I’ll be watching on Amazon for your feedback and reviews.

Relax, dog lovers, Popper cheats death in Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch

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If you are, like me, a dog, book and movie lover, you will feel a sense of dread when reading Donna Tartt’s new book, The Goldfinch. This is because it features a small white fluffster of a Maltese dog — called variously Popper, Popchik and Popchyk — who appears doomed from the moment he makes his entry into the novel, greeting with desperate shrieks the evil owner who has left him home all alone for almost two weeks.

Luckily for Popper, things change for the better thanks to Theo, the new teenage addition to his household,  and Theo’s bad-guy buddy, Boris. These two drug and booze-addled dudes let the little dog hang out with them, ending his life of isolation. The downside  is that their activities don’t exactly provide a safe and secure environment for the family pet, provoking many anxieties that he will go missing forever in a deserted Las Vegas subdivision.

Worse yet, when Theo and Boris encounter a mobster, it seems predestined that Popper will get what happens to so many movie dogs and end up lifeless on the front door stoop or kitchen counter with a threatening note attached to his collar.

Any half-serious movie goer knows just how often the loyal family dog meets a gruesome death, enough that there exists an entire website — www.DoesTheDogDie.com — devoted to answering this “most important movie question” and mentally preparing dog-loving movie goers for what’s to come.

That there is no literary equivalent to  www.DoesTheDogDie.com can be seen as a good thing  in as much as it  shows that tear-jerking pet death  has never been as big an issue for books as it is for movies. On the other hand, it also means there’s no quick reference guide to turn to if a reader does start to worry about a fictional dog’s future.

Therefore in the interests of calming the nerves of dog and literary fiction lovers reading The Goldfinch, I am hereby informing you that Popper survives this almost 800-page novel unharmed despite his many brushes with danger and long absences from the narrative.

And no, I did not forget the spoiler warning. The only thing this knowledge will spoil is a sadistic ride on the roller coaster of fear for an innocent little Maltese dog. Knowing Popper’s fate does not in any way affect the outcome of the rest of The Goldfinch.

Rest reassured dear Reader, Popper lives to a ripe old age.

Fed leak rumours shine spotlight on bigger problems with ‘media’ lock-ups

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Government never intended to become part of the high-speed trading infrastructure, but it can’t extricate itself without alienating Wall Street

Lock-ups, like the one the Fed is now investigating for a leak, make no sense in the age of the internet. The Fed and other agencies that announce potentially market-moving data could far more easily release it on the web, as Google’s Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt argues they should in this interview. But this is unlikely to happen anytime soon due to the simple fact that lock-ups have, over the past few years, become part of the infrastructure for so-called high frequency trading or HFT as its known.

Wall Street, a major donor to both U.S. political parties, would go ballistic if it no longer had access to the lock-ups through special fibre optic lines and, as of late, microwave networks. Instead of the data travelling straight to the Street via so-called machine readable feeds that allow profitable trades to take place in milliseconds, hedge funds and traders would have to figure out a way to get the data from the internet so they could then trade on it. It might take seconds like it did in the past and this is something, the masters of the universe wouldn’t be prepared to live with.

As a result of this most recent Fed leak investigation, several other leak and lock-up stories this year, and various ongoing SEC and FBI investigations, we’re likely to see two things happen in the very near (but far longer than milliseconds away) future. One, expect to hear more and more that lock-ups — originally conceived  to ensure the public received clear information in a timely fashion — have become obsolete in this era of global communications. And two, prepare for Wall Street to push back and tell us there will be market chaos if lock-ups are done away with. Financiers will argue that such a change would make the system unfair and susceptible to the horrible vagaries of regular old internet connections.

Access to lock-ups is so important to the HFT crowd that over the past decade, several trading companies have set up their own “news agencies” (yes, those are scare quotes) to gain the coveted entry key. Chicago’s JED Capital funded Need to Know News and then sold it to the Deutsche Börse. The Montreal-based proprietary trader Vigilant Global (formerly Vigilant Futures) founded the now-defunct Canadian Economic Press (CEP News) and, as a result, received direct feeds from lock-ups in Ottawa, Washington, London and Frankfurt. A Slovakian firm, World Business Press Online, cropped up in Bratislava, and started attending lock-ups around the world. Then came Econolive, also know as Empire News, which appears to be an Israeli firm, but this can’t be confirmed because no one there will return phone calls and their reporters don’t have the foggiest idea who owns the company. And last but not least there’s Buffalo-based RTTNews which — unlike many of the aforementioned new players — has been around since early internet days. In recent years, it’s had a makeover, however, and it too is now an active lock-up attendee.

All this activity eventually attracted the interest of the FBI, but failed to result in any arrests or prosecutions. Apart from the U.S. Department of Labor’s decision to kick Need to Know News and RTTNews out of its lock-ups in the spring of 2012, everyone’s still attending Washington’s other lock-ups and many go to similar lock-ups in the UK, Germany and Canada.

According to anonymous but proven-to-be reliable sources, it was never clear that there was indeed any illegal leaking by the new “news agencies.” Despite the suspicion and investigations, no evidence of malfeasance was ever found. Multiple insiders, who did not want to give their names, said the new “news agencies” profited simply because they were both more nimble and more sophisticated than bigger, better established news operations, which made them significantly faster in the age of HFT.

“While I can’t say if any of these (new) news companies were cheating, I can say they were light years ahead technology wise over DJ, Reuters, Bloomberg, AP, etc,” said one source in an email.  “They built highly optimized networks to transfer this data through ultra low latency switches and lines that the other guys never thought of.  They also were optimized to this single rifle shot of data through a network where the big legacy guys were using systems/networks optimized for throughput and continuously publishing hundreds or thousands of stories simultaneously and continuously.”

Since the invasion of the small news agencies beginning in 2005,  the big players have mostly caught up and just about everyone now offers machine readable feeds (you program your computer with algorithms that allow trades to be carried out in the blink of an eye) and low latency (ultra high-speed) services.

Many of the traders associated with new “news agencies” are said to have their own microwave networks, which are supposedly faster than even the newest fibre optic lines. In a study released after reports of the September 18 Fed leak, the large trading firm Virtu Financial confirmed that certain companies receive their data via microwave radio signals, a topic that traders usually don’t mention in public.

In August of 2012, the Chicago Tribune reported:

These microwave networks require a dish every 30 miles or so and Federal Communications Commission approval. High-speed traders, however, try to cloak their routes in secrecy. FCC filings do not list the traders themselves but limited liability companies with such nondescript names as Webline Holdings.

For this reason, it was unusual to see Montreal’s Vigilant Global publicly named when it requested antennae permits in both the U.S. and Great Britain. According to a source, Vigilant, Virtu and Jump Trading are confirmed to have their own microwave networks. Other firms who may own them are Allston Trading, Tower Trading Group, which owns the mysterious Latour Trading, and Final, an Israeli company that is a top volume player on the CME.

While some traders have said that they think the ongoing investment in proprietary millisecond-shaving networks is a costly war of diminishing returns, others are not yet ready to lay down arms. Jump is supposed to have “bought a de-commisioned NATO telco tower in Belgium to secure the fastest London-to-Frankfurt route,” said the source.

The source added that any one of these trading companies might own and/or be (exclusive) clients of the smaller news agencies accessing lock-ups. This conflict-of-interest situation is a huge annoyance to the legacy news agencies, who don’t make multi-million dollar trades on the side and must earn their profits solely by providing news. They’ve tried on many occasions to have the new players booted out of the lock-ups and their press passes revoked, but these efforts have been foiled partly due to governmental bureaucratic inertia and partly due to haphazard media accreditation systems devised by press gallery members themselves.

The whole situation is further complicated by the fact that it’s not just Wall Street that would be in trouble if lock-ups were abolished; Bloomberg,Thomson Reuters and Dow Jones would be cut right out of their profitable middleman role, which would undermine their entire business model. Last year, when Statistics Canada attempted to put information on the web before it was released from lock-ups, it was immediately forced to back down. Reuters reported that it and other news organizations had made “strenuous representations” to StatsCan and the minister in charge to block the change.  StatsCan was supposed to come up with an alternative proposal shortly, but there’s been radio silence ever since.

As much as the internet makes it possible to do away with lock-ups, powerful vested interests won’t let go of the keys to the money-making chambers without a fight.

Declining Dynasty: The Family of Accused Killer Dellen Millard

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Wayne Millard with young Dellen Millard

Wayne Millard with young Dellen Millard

I have a story on the Millard family and Millardair’s new Waterloo business venture in today’s National Post. It doesn’t seem to be online yet, but I’m sure it will go up eventually. Here’s the link.

The story focuses on Wayne Millard and his mysterious death.

If you have any information on any of the different angles relating to this story and Tim Bosma’s horrific murder, I would like very much to hear from you. You can reach me at ann.brocklehurst@gmail.com or @AnnB03 on Twitter.

In the meantime, here are the first two paragraphs from my article:

In his role as a business development consultant to Millardair’s new Waterloo airport venture, Al Sharif was happy to have only limited contact with Dellen Millard, the boss’s son and the guy in charge of hangar construction. As far as Mr. Sharif and other executives at the company were concerned, Dellen and his red mohawk spelled trouble.

“I thought he was just a spoilt little brat who had his way all his life and didn’t appreciate what his father was doing for him,” said Mr. Sharif. “He was an impediment to the hangar operation” who didn’t meet his deadlines, almost never arrived at work before noon, and refused to clear his collection of cars, jeeps, hot rods, jet skis and personal airplanes from the business premises.

CSIS hacking story appears in National Post

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The Post picked up my story on the CSIS hacking.

I’m still perplexed by the comment from Tahera Mufti, a media liaison officer at CSIS, who said the websites are fine, when they clearly aren’t. I can only think of two explanations:

  1. The charitable explanation: CSIS fixed the sites after I first posted about the problem here and the search engines just haven’t caught up.
  2. The non-charitable explanation: CSIS really does not understand the nature of the problem and didn’t see they had been hacked.

I also learned on the weekend that developer Sean Walberg had noticed the Viagra spam as far back as January. He took a screenshot of the hacking that shows it differently from my examples.

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Sean Walberg’s screenshot of the CSIS hacking

On Friday, you could still see this kind of result by viewing the Google cached versions of the infected www.csiscareers.ca pages but now those pages show a 404 message, which indicates to me that CSIS is actively clearing this up. As of this afternoon, Yahoo cached pages still show the infection, which makes sense since Yahoo (which is powered by Bing) doesn’t crawl as often and is slower to take account of changes.

Wattpad, What Pad, WTF Pad???!!!

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Wattpad is a bit of a tech darling as of late. Not only does it have the venture capital crowd on its side, it’s also got Margaret Atwood. In fact, credit where credit’s due, Atwood’s the one who coined the name “what pad,” which inspired WTF pad, whch sounds a lot like making reading and writing social, which is what Wattpad’s supposedly about. Or one of the things Wattpad might be about.

Except nothing about Wattpad, beyond the fact that it seems to have some very solid traffic and useage stats, makes much sense. If you don’t believe me, just go to their site and see if you can figure it out. I can’t and I’ve been dropping in once a year for a while now.

Although he makes a valiant attempt, this interviewer (I believe it’s Michael Healy)  seems equally perplexed by Wattpad. It’s almost as if he should have subtitles that read, “I don’t get it.”

In an attempt to get its story across, Wattpad often describes itself as wanting to do for writing what YouTube does for video. But that analogy doesn’t work for me for a number of reasons that I’ll only go into if someone asks.

Publicly at least, the Wattpad business model seems to be if we keep building it and they keep coming, we’ll find a way to monetize it. Think Twitter and Facebook. Fair enough, but we’re all still thinking about Twitter and Facebook, wondering if the former’s even profitable and if the latter’s ever going to live up to the hype.

Wattpad CEO Allen Lau is on the record for being a fan of  free and freemium (see video for just one example) and for talking — not all that clearly — about transactional relationships (the old way) versus gifting (the new way). Although at one point in his video interview he seems to advocate the write-for-free, sell-the-t-shirt-and-souvenir-book model, during the question period, he says he doesn’t want to get into the shrinking paper book market. It’s confusing if not contradictory.

For a company that’s all about story sharing, Wattpad either doesn’t have a very good story to tell, or they do but they’re not about to share it, which is kind of strange given that they’re hiring a PR manager when they’re not ready to divulge the plot.

In the past, I’ve called BS on some bizarre internet media companies — including Geosign which may have suckered U.S. venture capitalists out of a large chunk of the $160 million they invested — and I’ve turned out to be right. But I have a tendency to be overly sceptical and not see what I don’t know — like how Google was going to make a profit. Cough, cough.

In the case of Wattpad, I do think there’s a potentially viable business and this quote from the video (approximately 26 minutes in) is a clue, or one clue at least , to what the business model that Lau declines to talk about, might be.

A lot of people believe that on the internet we are going to get rid of all the middle men. I don’t think so. If you look at YouTube they are still a middleman, but the role of the middleman is quite different from the traditional world. (With the old model) the middleman is basically the gatekeeper, they would control the flow from the content creation side to the end user side. But for digital or for internet companies that role is changing. We are no longer the gatekeeper. We are the facilitator.We want to remove and reduce the friction between content creation and content consumption.

Lau also puts a lot of emphasis on being first and how one mega-player often reigns supreme on the internet in industries where competition used to be more vibrant. He cites Amazon and book-selling as an example.

My theory is that Lau wants to turn Wattpad into some kind of publishing marketplace where writers can use the social network as a focus group, get cover art, hire an agent, get publicity, find translators and much more.  Wattpad would collect commissions and fees from freemium users all along the publishing chain including present partners like Smashwords and Lulu.

Instead of helping writers monetize, which Lau says he doesn’t want to do, writers would help Wattpad monetize by paying for the freemium services they need. While only a handful are ever likely to break even or break out, they’re the ones who’ll provide the bulk of the revenues.

Wattpad has recently been asking published writers to put previously published works on line for free. Those who give it a whirl, like Jon Evans, have access to information about how readers read that they never had before.

Wattpad provides data

Lau  emphasizes the importance of data multiple times throughout the video. He also says on his blog that “the current ebook ecosystem is quite clearly just another bridge product” like Microsft’s Encarta encyclopedia on DVD. “Except for the output, the way ebook is written, edited, published and sold are more or less the same as the old traditional publishing system,” he writes.

That indicates to me that he’s aiming to make Wattpad the new ecosystem. I would be very surprised, however, if Amazon doesn’t understand all this just as well. Not only does Amazon likely have stats on how readers read every single ebook it sells, it’s also got its own publishing house and employs people who understand both traditional and “bridge” publishing models. It’s hard to believe that they wouldn’t understand that “the book” is evolving and that the future will be different.

As for the community aspect, Kindle Direct Publishing could build that out pretty fast and the big social reading sites have strong communities that are older and wiser than Wattpad’s mostly teen audience. They could move into the “new ecosystem” pretty fast if they wanted to.

End of Chapter One. I can now see if anyone’s interested and, if they are,  move on to Chapter Two in the Wattpad saga.

From the cutting room floor

Investigative Triangle

Investigative Triangle: Matt Kavanagh, Andrea Richard and Greg Rodzoniak (Photo by Mike Burgess)

Dark Ambition is more than 350 pages long but even at that length, there was material that had to be left out. For example, in the book, I mention the first police file manager on the case, Greg Jackson. Among other things, Jackson interviewed Igor Tumanenko, plotted key cell tower data, and took Dellen Millard’s iPhone to Apple headquarters in Cupertino for unlocking. But he eventually left the case and was replaced by Andrea Richard, whose name you won’t find in the book despite the important role she played.

Although dozens of officers from multiple police forces helped bring Tim Bosma’s murderers to justice, it was simply impossible to include everyone’s stories.

I did, however, want to post this photo taken shortly after the verdict by Mike Burgess because I think it captures the spirit of the team in charge: Matt Kavanagh, the major case manager; Greg Rodzoniak, the primary detective; and Andrea Richard. (Kavanagh had surgery on his leg during the trial and when he returned to court had to sit with his leg propped up on the seat for several days.)

Big thanks to Mike and the officers for this photo. You can see more of Mike’s handiwork in Dark Ambition including great shots of Sharlene Bosma and the three Crown attorneys talking to the media after the verdict.

 

 

Come hear about ‘Dark Ambition’

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Pre-order at Amazon or Chapters/Indigo

I’ll be speaking about my new book, Dark Ambition: The Shocking Crime of Dellen Millard and Mark Smich on Thursday November 3 at the Barbara Frum library.

Although Dark Ambition won’t be officially released until November 8, there will be special copies for sale on Thursday.

Also speaking will be Jeremy Grimaldi, author of A Daughter’s Deadly Deception, the story of the fascinating Jennifer Pan case.

Here are the details.

Hope you can make it if you’re in the GTA.

Updates re upcoming Millard, Smich trials, and Kickstarter

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I’m not going to lie to you, readers. My Kickstarter campaign to cover a rape trial and what promises to be the very interesting, upcoming appeal is doing decently. But it’s not like when Kristen Bell raised funds for the Veronica Mars movie and received millions of dollars in the first few hours. If it were, I’d be sending this newsletter from Hawaii. Instead, it’s coming to you from Toronto as the Kickstarter campaign enters its critical final week and backers are still needed to help meet the funding goal and/or spread news of the project.

Take me to Kickstarter now. I want to read this series

One of the things that’s fascinating about this particular trial is that just two people testify — the complainant and the defendant. There’s no forensic evidence at all. When I tell people this, many are surprised to hear that it’s even possible to have a trial with such limited evidence, but it is indeed and it happens more often that you might think.

In a sense, this is a story about how the courts determine what is truth and whether judges and juries any better at finding truth than the rest of us. How do you decide to believe one person’s version of event over another’s completely conflicting account? Or can you not decide?

When I was down at the Court of Appeal earlier this week I had a chance to read the arguments lawyer Marie Henein will present at the November appeal and why she believes the judge erred in his search for truth and therefore in finding the defendant guilty. If the Kickstarter kicks into action you will hear all about thia trial, the verdict, the sentencing, and the appeal.

Extra, extra read all about the project at Kickstarter

On another topic, while down in courtland Friday, I stopped in at a quick “up and down” appearance put in by Dellen Millard relating to his upcoming murder trial for his father Wayne. Millard, who had planned to represent himself at this and the trial for the Laura Babcock murder, has since changed his mind. The court was informed he’s in the process of retaining counsel.

Mark Smich, who was in Toronto earlier this week for the Babcock case, will be represented by Tom Dungey as he was at the Bosma trial. I didn’t see Smich and only caught a very brief glimpse of Millard, but a colleague told me they both looked pretty rough.

In related matters, on Friday afternoon, Matthew Ward-Jackson and Matthew Wawrykiewycz were committed for trial on weapons trafficking charges. Ward-Jackson aka Iisho aka Krucifix14 is well known to readers of this blog and anyone who followed the Tim Bosma murder trial closely. Among other things, he is alleged to have sold Millard the gun he and Smich used to kill Tim Bosma.

Perp walk with kiss

After the judge delivered the bad news to the Matthews, Ward-Jackson was led out of the Old City Hall courtroom in handcuffs. His girlfriend (or possibly his new wife if I heard what I think I heard) approached and gave him a quick kiss. Matthew Number Two and homicide Detective Mike Carbone looked on in surprise at the impromptu and unsanctioned PDA before Iish’s police escort hustled him off.

Unlike modern courthouses, Old City Hall lacks special designated courtroom entrances for prisoners. As a result, defendants in handcuffs and shackles can regularly be spotted in the hallways among the tourists who have stopped by for a look at the interior of a historical building. It’s surreal enough under the usual circumstances, but this courthouse kiss took things to a whole new level.

And finally, Matthew Odlum, the third Matthew to be charged with weapons trafficking is currently slated to stand trial separately next year. This decision was made a while back due to the unusual delays involving the preliminary hearing.

Crowdfunding Diary: Part 2

Back in 2008, a theory was born: Any creator with 1,000 “true fans” could make a decent living with a true fan being defined as someone willing to pay $100 per year for the creator’s work.

It remains a seductive theory, and inspiring, because 1,000 seems like a manageable and attainable number.

The problem is that, according to a lot of people in a position to know, it’s actually very difficult to accumulate 1,000 true fans.

The available data seems to suggest that in order to find 1,000 true fans, you have to have tens of thousands of casual fans, which is no mean feat.

When I started my crowdfunding campaign I was eager to find out how many of my readers were “true fans” and how many of the subscribers to my free newsletter would be willing to pay for content. At present, the newsletter has just over 1,000 subscribers, who I know next to nothing about.

My most optimistic projection was 10% would back the campaign. My realistic projection was 5%. And my pessimistic projection was anything under 5% with a worst case scenario being less than 1%.

So far, the number of backers is not heartening, but what has surprised me was how many people have paid more than the suggested $10 price tag. I didn’t expect that at all so if any of you generous backers are reading, big thanks. I’m grateful to anyone willing to pay $10 let alone ten times that, which makes you the very essence of true fans.

With 11 days to go, the campaign officially has 20 backers who’ve pledged $840. Another crowdfunding-phobic backer has promised to send a cheque for $100.

That’s not bad, but it’s not great. Successful campaigns tend to rake in as much as 50% in their first few days. I was hoping for $1,000 to $2,000 by now.

I’m going to have step up the marketing and try some different strategies.

Expect to hear all about them in this diary.

Back the campaign 

Crowdfunding Diary: Part 1

How much is a piece of journalism worth? As much as my fellow journalists  and I wish it were otherwise, the value of our work is, unfortunately, what the market will pay – not what we feel we deserve or used to earn back in the good old days.

Over the past decade, as the news industry has imploded, editors and publishers have been paying less and less for articles. And it’s only going to get worse.

If I want to earn what I believe my work merits, there remains just one option – to reach out directly to readers.

With my newly launched crowdfunding campaign, I’m doing just that. My goal is to find at least 500 readers prepared to pony up a minimum of $10 each for a series of articles about a fascinating and important sexual assault trial, a surprising verdict, and the upcoming appeal. Backers will receive the articles via an email newsletter and be publicly thanked if they so wish.

I set my total funding goal at $5,000 based on the value of my time and because I believe I have a decent chance of finding 500 readers. It’s a leap-of-faith business plan inspired partly by the reaction to a similar but different series I wrote last year for the Walrus magazine. By all measures, that series was a major success. It got loads of page views, great reader feedback, and a National Magazine Award nomination.

The only problem was that I was paid next to nothing for my weeks of labour – $1,500 to be exact. At the time, I was okay with that. I had embarked on the series as a kind of loss leader and the strategy worked. It helped convince Penguin Random House to contract with me to write Dark Ambition: The Shocking Crime of Dellen Millard and Mark Smich. Two other publishers have since approached me about more court-related projects. And the Walrus recently suggested I might like to write another courtroom series.

In fact, it was that suggestion from the Walrus that caused me to decide that $5,000 is my bottom line and pushed me to embark on this experiment. While I know that people want to read what I write, I still don’t know how much they are prepared to pay for it, if anything. Now, I’m about to find out.

At this point, you may be wondering if $10 is too steep a price for a series of articles when you can get a high-quality magazine for less, but I would argue that none of those magazines offer what I’m offering. As a reader, I know I’m prepared to pay $10 to read original material about a topic that interests me.

As my Kickstarter campaign to crowdfund a series of journalism articles officially launches, I have no idea whether it will succeed or fail. I’m hoping for the best and prepared for the worst.

Click here to see the campaign and back the project

Next on the diary: The theory of 1,000 true fans.

Marie Henein, true crime podcasts, and judges gone wild

Dear readers,

It’s been a long time since my last newsletter, so thank you for your patience.

There are a number of things on the agenda this issue including Marie Henein, true crime podcasts, and judges gone wild.

Let’s start with Jian Ghomeshi’s brilliant and polarizing lawyer, who has taken over as appeal counsel in a sexual assault case that I’ve been following since last summer when Li Peng was tried and found guilty of rape.

Marie Henein wants the verdict overturned

screen-shot-2016-09-16-at-1-58-42-pmThere were only two witnesses at Li’s trial, the defendant and the complainant, an aspiring model, who said he raped her during a photo session at his home. Although the complainant emailed Toronto police within hours of leaving Li’s condo, her email sat unnoticed and unread in their mailbox for months. Partly as a result of this delay, there was no forensic evidence gathered. The trial was the very essence of a “he said, she said” case based almost entirely on the only two witnesses’ testimony.

In the end, the judge believed her not him. Henein is arguing that the verdict was flawed and unfair. She is asking the Court of Appeal to quash the conviction and acquit or order a new trial for Li.

If you would like to follow this story as it develops, please head over to Kickstarter for the details. If I get enough potential readers, I will produce a full series of articles on the case taking you inside the courtroom for the trial, the verdict, the sentencing, and the appeal. It’s a fascinating story that raises lots of questions about the red hot topic of sexual assault and how it’s treated before the courts.

If you have any questions, just let me know at ann.brocklehurst@gmail.com or in the comments.

So many true crime podcasts, so little time

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While my dog rolls in the snow and on the grass, I listen to podcasts and (in the future) the War and Peace audiobook

I listen to a lot of podcasts while I walk my very stubborn and slow moving dog twice a day. In past weeks, I’ve been binge listening to true crime including several recently released new podcasts that I can highly recommend. You can subscribe to all of them for free through iTunes.

Accused

This is the fascinating story of a 1978 murder case, where the accused was acquitted at his murder trial and then found not liable in a civil case. But despite the fact that two juries didn’t believe he did it, police and prosecutors remained so convinced he was guilty, they refused to pursue other possible suspects.

This series is not as slick as Serial, to which it pays nudge nudge, wink wink homage, but it has a better underlying story to work with. The reporting team, led by Amber Hunt, has also managed to score interviews with just about all the key players, a feat which eluded Serial’s Sarah Koenig.

And, added bonus, Accused comes out twice a week, so you don’t have to wait a full seven days to get your fix.

Up and Vanished

When I first started listening to this one, I had a sinking feeling. The producer, host and writer Payne Lindsey seemed awfully green and episode one was rather formulaic. But the case of Tara Grinsted, a small town teacher and beauty queen who disappeared in 2005, was compelling enough to keep me listening, and I’m glad I did.

By episode two, Payne was getting all sorts of Georgia good ole boys to talk, racking up the scoops, and putting his grandma in the podcast. While she baked Cowboy cookies, it was revealed that she knew someone who knew something about the missing woman. Payne was adorable. No wonder everyone was spilling their guts to him. Not to mention that he held a Cowboy cookie giveaway.

The podcast is on a short hiatus as Payne gets married this weekend. You can catch up on all three episodes while he’s on his honeymoon. Congratulations to the bride and groom.

In the Dark

Just as this podcast about the unsolved 1989 abduction and murder of Jacob Wetterling was about to launch, the killer confessed. Needless to say that caused some last-minute revamping of a project that its creators had already been working on for a year.

The first three episodes have been both timely and strong as they look at why it took 27 years to bring a killer, who should have been a suspect very early on, to justice. The big question for me is whether they will be able to keep it up for five more episodes now that the murderer has confessed

Reading list

screen-shot-2016-09-16-at-2-37-55-pmJust a reminder that my book, Dark Ambition: The Shocking Crime of Dellen Millard and Mark Smich, is coming out in November. You can read more about it and pre-order by clicking here.

Christie Blatchford’s new book Life Sentence: Stories from four decades of court reporting – or, how I fell out of love with the Canadian justice system (especially judges) will be for sale next Tuesday and a piece on judges gone wild is excerpted in the National Post.

I can’t help wondering what she would have to say about the judge’s decision in the Li Peng case, which brings me full circle.

If you’re interested in the Li Peng story, please back the Kickstarter project. It really is a doozy of a case, and it is only going to get more interesting as Marie Henein steps into the courtroom this fall. So far, there haven’t been any other reporters in court.

Click here for coverage of Li Peng case

Have a good weekend, everyone. Next newsletter will be next week.

AnnB

How much is Dellen Millard worth?

Just how much Dellen Millard is actually worth has always been one of the mysteries surrounding the convicted murderer.

Receivership documents filed with the courts in November 2015 indicate there’s a severe cash flow problem.

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Millard’s major asset, a shareholder loan of $4.2 million made to Millard Properties, may not be good and even if it is, he may never be able to collect it for all sorts of legal reasons.

While these documents make interesting reading, two key figures are still missing: the value of Wayne Millard’s estate and how much the hangar sold for. That makes it impossible to estimate how much money remains in the Millard family coffers and how much, if any, may end up coming Dellen’s way.

Also of interest are the claims made by the Bosma family against Millard and the fact that Millard’s mother Madeleine Burns had to go to court to free up $75,000 to pay various legal fees for both herself and her son.