Category Archives: News Media

Nashville’s Fox 17 Omits Key Details From News Reports About Army Officer Caught Up In Murder Investigation

Recent news reports aired on Fox 17 in Nashville might have caused viewers to think Army Maj. Christian “Kit” Martin is the only “person of interest” to investigators trying to find the person(s) responsible for several dead bodies found Nov. 19 in Pembroke, Ky. Why? Because reporter Sabrina Hall omitted many key details in her rush to inform viewers about events in the small town near Fort Campbell. I know this, because I spoke with her by phone multiple times before her stories aired.

This undated photo shows Maj. Christian "Kit" Martin with his three biological children.

This undated photo shows Maj. Christian “Kit” Martin with his three biological children.

Before I continue this piece, it’s worth noting I wrote much of the information in the paragraphs below with the intent of highlighting only the flaws in Hall’s first report that aired the evening before Thanksgiving. In fact, I had transcribed every word spoken during the report. Then, after organizing it into an article and having it ready to publish it, things changed dramatically and the scope of this report expanded. Now that the turkey and pies are gone, I share this expanded set of observations. 

THE FIRST FLAWED REPORT

Hall’s first flawed report was 86 seconds long and appeared on the station’s website under the headline, Person of Interest in Kentucky Triple Homicide Found on Online Videos.

For reasons I’ll explain later in this piece, that report is no longer visible on the Fox 17 website; therefore, I’ll use word pictures to describe Hall’s report and then leave it up to you to decide if she gave viewers a fair and balanced account of what’s happening in the world of Major Martin, a 47-year-old attack helicopter pilot who served multiple combat tours in Iraq.

The report opened with two images — yellow crime scene tape followed by a closeup of a logo on the driver’s door of a Christian County Sheriff’s Office vehicle — as Hall spoke in voiceover mode: “When it comes to three people being murdered, the Christian County Sheriff’s Department says Major Christian Martin isn’t talking, but Fox 17 did find this online.”

Major Christian "Kit" Martin

Major Christian “Kit” Martin is shown behind his desk at home in this screengrab from a copyrighted Skype interview Sept. 2, 2015.

Next, a short excerpt from a Sept. 2 interview I conducted with Major Martin via Skype appeared. Shown seated behind a desk in his home office, surrounded by military memorabilia and with a “Don’t Tread On Me” flag on the wall behind him, the major said, “They did a secret surveillance on me I didn’t know about for six months.”

Maj. Christian “Kit” Martin stands in front of his AH-64D Apache Longbow helicopter in Balad, Iraq, in 2008. Though he’s piloted a many of the U.S. Army’s most-sophisticated attack helicopters, nothing prepared him for his battle with the military justice system.

Maj. Christian “Kit” Martin stands in front of his AH-64D Apache Longbow helicopter in Balad, Iraq, in 2008. Though he’s piloted a many of the U.S. Army’s most-sophisticated attack helicopters, nothing prepared him for his battle with the military justice system.

The piece continued with viewers seeing a floating image of the Army officer dressed for battle and standing in front of an AH-64D Apache Longbow helicopter in Balad, Iraq. At the same time, Hall’s voice filled the air again, saying, “Here, Major Martin talks about the criminal charges he faces: sexual assault, molesting two children and not properly caring for classified information.”

The report cut back to a clip from the interview, with Major Martin saying, “They gave me a three-hour polygraph. I did not expect it to take that long.”

As I reported Sept. 28, Army investigators conducted an extensive, six-month investigation of the major based on allegations made by his ex-wife and one other person. In turn, they found the allegations completely without merit except for the watered-down charge of “not properly caring for classified information” which still stands against him and is something I’ll discuss in a future article.

Next, the on-screen image cut to the exterior of a home, located across the street from Major Martin’s house. Inside that home, investigators had found the body of Calvin Lee Phillips, 59, Nov. 19. Hall continued in voiceover mode: “According to Major Martin’s own attorney, one of the main witnesses who planned to testify against him is now confirmed dead,” she said very dramatically. “Calvin Phillips, shot to death in his own house. Phillips’ wife and neighbor are still missing, although deputies found two bodies burned up in a car. The Christian County Sheriff’s Department says deputies found evidence at this crime scene, leading a SWAT team to swarm Martin’s house.”

What Hall did not say in her report is that the major’s lead defense attorney, Bill Summers, had as much interest in questioning Phillips as Army prosecutors did. Why? Because Phillips was that “other person” mentioned earlier in this piece — the one who stood alongside the major’s ex-wife in making the long-ago-proven-false allegations of theft and international spying. Heck, Summers even told Hall about this Tuesday, she reported it Tuesday evening, and I mentioned her report in a piece the next day.

Instead of mentioning that detail, Hall cut to a clip of Capt. Chris Miller, a spokesperson for the Christian County Sheriff’s Office, saying, “…and we did obtain some evidence out of that home. Can’t say specifically what it is or what it relates to at this point…”

From there, the reporter continued in voiceover mode as short video clips — the first showing a man walking from an SUV in a poorly-lit area and two more showing sheriff’s vehicles — appeared on screen.

“Martin spent four nights locked in Fort Campbell barracks but it now out and back home,” she said. “Detectives say they are working closely with the Army in investigating this case. In these online videos, the major claims his innocence in the charges against him, filed by his ex-wife.”

In reality, Major Martin was not “locked up,” and I had told her as much over the phone. Specifically, I told her what I had been told by Army LTC Chevelle Thomas, a Fort Campbell Public Affairs officer — that is, “Commanders of Fort Campbell have the authority to put administrative limitations (on personnel) within their command.” On top of that, I described his circumstances, for lack of a better phrase, as “house arrest,” and told her the major was not in any kind of a jail cell. Why she opted to use the word “locked” instead? It must have sounded more dramatic to her — or, perhaps, her producer.

As the end of her report neared, Hall cut to the “money shot,” Major Martin behind his desk again, saying, “…and her immediate response was, and I quote, ‘If you divorce me, I will ruin your career. I will ruin your life. I know how to do it.’”

The major’s image remained on screen, his voice fading so that Hall’s could be heard replacing it as she ended her report with the words, “Now, Major Martin has more explaining to do to homicide detectives.”

If it wasn’t so serious a topic, I’d say she sounded like Ricky Ricardo on the old “I Love Lucy” television show, but without the Puerto Rican accent.

Nowhere in Hall’s report did she mention the possibility someone other than Major Martin might have some explaining to do. Among those people is the major’s aforementioned ex-wife, a woman who pleaded guilty in Christian County Court Oct. 14 to a felony charge of bigamy (i.e., she admitted to having married Major Martin without telling him she was still married to another man). Interestingly, this plea came only weeks before the major’s military trial — on the sexual assault allegations she had made — which was scheduled to begin at Fort Campbell. As I reported two days ago, the trial has been ordered delayed indefinitely by a military judge.

And nowhere in Hall’s report did she mention Major Martin’s bigamist ex-wife is, since pleading guilty to the felony count Oct. 14 in Christian County Court, living under judge-imposed travel restrictions, not allowed to travel outside Christian County except to travel to the country where her only legal husband — and father of her second and third child — lives. In addition, she stands to forfeit her $5,000 bond and/or go to jail if she violates those restrictions prior to her sentencing in February.

Though tempted to add details about other omissions by Hall, I’ll save them for future use and wrap things up on the first flawed report.

After watching Hall’s report, I sent her an email message, advising her she had used my excerpts from my copyrighted video without permission. Later, I received a reply in which she asked how much I would charge for use of the video. When I did not reply quickly enough (on the evening before Thanksgiving), she messaged me again to let me know the station would take the video down. And they did, though I later advised her I wouldn’t really charge the station for using the video.

At this point, the report remains off air and, as Martha Stewart might say, “That’s a good thing.”

THE SECOND FLAWED REPORT

The second flawed report, a screenshot of which is shown below in case it, too, disappears from the Fox 17 website, was published Thanksgiving Day under the error-filled headline, Fort Campbell Major Investigated in Pembroke, Ky., Quadruple Murder Investigation.

Screenshot of article on Fox 17 website Nov. 27.

This is a screenshot of an article as it appeared on the Fox 17 website Nov. 27.

Quadruple murder investigation? Fox 17 is the only news outlet to report four murders in relationship to this case. Perhaps, they know more than the rest of us. Needless to say, I won’t waste anyone’s time reporting the content of the video segment that appeared beneath that headline.

Stay tuned for more developments as they occur.

UPDATE 12/7/2015 at 8:15 a.m. Central: A military judge continued the military trial date for Army Maj. Christian “Kit” Martin to sometime in March 2016, though no specific date has been set.

UPDATE 12/10/2015 at 11:10 a.m. Central: I’ve learned that Major Martin’s military trial date is set for March 14-18, 2016.

For links to other articles of interest as well as photos and commentary, join me on Facebook and Twitter.  Please show your support by buying my books and encouraging your friends and loved ones to do the same.  To learn how to order signed copies, click here. Thanks in advance!

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Air Force Times Newspaper Report About Airman’s Acquittal on Sexual Assault Charge Reveals Extreme Bias in Coverage

Read the Air Force Times article published yesterday about the acquittal of Senior Airman Brandon Wright on a charge of aggravated sexual assault, and you’ll find the headline is the least-biased part of the article.

Click on image above to read Air Force Times article about SA Brandon Wright’s acquittal.

Click on image above to read Air Force Times article about SA Brandon Wright’s acquittal.

Below the headline, Airman acquitted of sexual assault charge, the article begins with four paragraphs — including two paragraphs about the acquittal, one paragraph of quotes from Airman Wrights’ defense attorneys and a recap paragraph of the accusations and charges brought against him at Aviano Air Base, Italy. After that, one must question whether the newspaper is, per it’s own description, “the trusted, independent source for news and information for the Air Force Times community,” or a politically-correct propaganda rag more suitable for use as a birdcage liner.

The next nine paragraphs of the article — that’s right, NINE PARAGRAPHS! — read more like a print advertisement for Protect Our Defenders, a nonprofit organization Air Force Times staff writer Jeff Schogol describes as a “victims advocacy group.”

It’s too bad Air Force members no longer have a truly independent publication to which they can turn for unbiased and objective reporting of the news.

Be sure to read other military justice cases I’m following.

UPDATE 10-30-2015 at Noon Central: I should have read the Stars and Stripes article about Airman Wright’s acquittal before publishing the piece above. Not surprisingly, it’s bias — thanks to PC writer Nancy Montgomery — might exceed that of Schogol in the Air Force Times as one needs only to read three paragraphs before the “woe is me” comments of the defense appears. Just like Schogol (almost as if she they were working in cahoots with each other), Montgomery threw in several paragraphs about the Air Force’s bogus sexual assault prosecution of Lt. Col. James Wilkerson for good measure.

For links to other articles of interest as well as photos and commentary, join me on Facebook and Twitter.  Please show your support by buying my books and encouraging your friends and loved ones to do the same.  To learn how to order signed copies, click here. Thanks in advance!

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National News Media Outlets Ignore Current Oklahoma City Bombing Trial During Week of 20th Anniversary Milestone

Thanks to our nation’s news media paying scant attention to the case, few Americans are aware that a second Oklahoma City Bombing trial has been taking place in federal court in Salt Lake City for several years. Even during the week leading up to the 20th anniversary of the deadly man-made disaster, I could find only three minor media outlets mentioned the plaintiff attorney in their coverage. Only three.

In this trial exhibit, two Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building surveillance cameras are shown, circled in red.

In this trial exhibit, two Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building surveillance cameras are shown, circled in red.

Despite the fact Judge Clark Waddoups, the federal judge handling the case, is expected to make a decision within the next few months, the nation’s news media seemed interested only in the official government narrative when it came time to cover the milestone anniversary.

Despite the fact that Judge Waddoups threatened the FBI with contempt of court for their behavior during the trial.

Despite the fact that Judge Waddoups was asked to appoint a special master to investigate allegations of FBI witness tampering against an FBI agent who was arrested a short time later on disturbing, but unrelated, charges.

The only things plaintiff attorney Jesse Trentadue seeks to obtain via the Freedom of Information Act lawsuit he filed against the FBI seven years ago are copies of surveillance camera videotapes taken from cameras in the area of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City during the minutes prior to the deadly blast at 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995. Both government documents and sworn affidavits from witnesses — including members of more than one law enforcement agency — point to the FBI as having taken possession of the videotapes in question soon after the bombing. The FBI, however, seems to have reason(s) to want to keep those tapes out of Trentadue’s hands — and, in turn, out of public view.

Click image above to read other OKC Bombing-related articles.

Click image above to read other OKC Bombing-related articles.

To learn more about this trial, which I’ve been covering for six years, click here.

For links to other articles of interest as well as photos and commentary, join me on Facebook and Twitter.  Please show your support by buying my books and encouraging your friends and loved ones to do the same.  To learn how to order signed copies, click here. Thanks in advance!

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Journalists Jump to Conclusions Re: Tom Schweich’s Death

Unlike so many who work as journalists, I refuse to label two recent and much-publicized deaths in the Show-Me State as suicides until those in charge of investigating those deaths make such declarations public.

Thomas A. "Tom" Schweich and Robert "Spence" Jackson

During the past four days, I’ve written and published three articles related to the tragic deaths of Tom Schweich, 54, a second-term Missouri state auditor and declared Republican candidate for governor Feb. 26, and his official spokesperson, Robert “Spence” Jackson, 44, only 30 days later. In the most recent article, I revealed two facts other media outlets have, thusfar, failed to share with their audiences.

First, I shared a statement received via email Monday from Dr. Mary E. Case, St. Louis County’s chief medical examiner. Among other things, she explained that the autopsy, including complete toxicology testing, is complete. She did not, however, say that the death had been ruled a suicide.

Second, I shared a statement received from Clayton (Mo.) Police Chief Kevin Murphy. In an email message about the investigation into Schweich’s death Monday, he wrote, “Currently, the investigation is not closed.” As was the case with Dr. Case, Chief Murphy did not say that the death had been ruled a suicide.

Many in the local, state and national news media, however, have been quick to gloss over the fact no one in any official capacity to make such a statement has said definitively that Schweich committed suicide. [FYI: I have yet to look into the matter of whether any such official statement has been issued regarding Jackson’s death.]

Click on image above to link to article.

Click on image above to link to article.

The most recent in-state example appeared in the Sedalia Democrat April 3. One didn’t have to read beyond the headline of a column by Bob Satnan to see that the editors at the central Missouri newspaper were comfortable publishing a statement not backed up by anyone authorized to confirm it:  Lessons to be learned from 2 suicides.

Click on image above to link to article.

Click on image above to link to article.

Virginia Young of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch waited until the seventh paragraph of her April 1 Political Fix column, but she still used the “S” word without its use substantiated by anyone in an official capacity.

Media outlets outside of the state have done the same thing.

The “S” word appeared in the headline and first paragraph of an April Fools Day piece, Two Suicides Rock Missouri Politics, in The Daily Beast. Notably, the piece was written by Missouri’s own Eli Yokely. A graduate of the University of Missouri School of Journalism, he should have known better than to use the term without official confirmation.

The “S” word also appeared in the subhead of Luke Brinker‘s March 30 piece in Salon and in the first paragraph of Stacy Hatton‘s March 24 piece in The Huffington Post.

Perhaps things have changed inside journalism school classrooms during the 30-plus years since I received my degree in the subject. I do know, however, that I would have received a failing grade had I used the word, suicide, without verifying it by way of an official report and attributing that verification to the individual or agency that provided it. Until such verification is provided by someone authorized to offer it, I will use terms such as alleged, apparent, possible and suspect in front of the the word, suicide.

Stay tuned for more updates. To see previous articles on this topic, click here.

For links to other articles of interest as well as photos and commentary, join me on Facebook and Twitter.  Please show your support by buying my books and encouraging your friends and loved ones to do the same.  To learn how to order signed copies, click here. Thanks!

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Medical Examiner Says Tom Schweich Autopsy ‘Complete’; UPDATE–Clayton Police Chief Says Investigation ‘Not Closed’

Dr. Mary E. Case, St. Louis County’s chief medical examiner, told me today her agency’s autopsy on Tom Schweich, the second-term Missouri state auditor who had recently launched his Republican campaign for governor, “is complete.” Based on a separate communication I had with a member of her staff, I suspect the autopsy findings will be released tomorrow. UPDATE RECEIVED TODAY at 4:28 p.m. Central:  Clayton (Mo.) Police Chief Kevin Murphy sent me a message in which he said, “Currently, the investigation is not closed.”

Reply from Dr. Mary E. Case 4-6-15

The news from Dr. Case arrived in the form of answers to seven questions — and they arrived exactly two minutes after I had published today’s first update to my Friday piece related to the autopsy findings on Schweich. My questions (Q1 through Q7) appear below, followed by Dr. Case’s answers (A1 through A7) and, as necessary, my comments in italics after four of the answers:

Q1. How long does your average autopsy take when it involves what law enforcement officials initially suspect is a self-inflicted gunshot wound?

A1. The average autopsy with toxicology takes 4 to 6 weeks to complete.

Q2. On average, how many autopsies do you perform annually on individuals in cases law enforcement officials initially suspected involved self-inflicted gunshot wounds?

A2. We probably do about 50 or more GSW (i.e., gunshot wound) suicides/year.

Q3. Have you completed the autopsy on Mr. Schweich’s body?

A3. The autopsy is complete.

Q4. Please describe the tests you performed on Mr. Schweich’s body.

A4. We did complete toxicology testing. Interestingly, Dr. Case does not mention any other types of testing, such as gunshot residue testing. That’s probably a police matter anyway. Any cops out there want to answer that question for me? If so, leave a reply in the comments section below.

Q5. Why is it taking so long for the findings to be released?

A5. We do not announce the findings of autopsies. If you wish to have a copy, you may request it.

In response to Dr. Case’s reply to Q5, I sent the following message:  “Thank you for your reply.  Please consider this a request. Can you email it to me?” Twenty-six minutes later, I received a response from Kathy Sparks, an office services specialist in the ME’s office. Sparks wrote:  “Per Suzanne McCune- Forensic Administrator; this case is currently on hold, you may contact Suzanne on Tuesday 04/07/2015 at 314-615-0801. Thanks for your patience.” Does that mean there is going to be a public announcement of some sort? Methinks there might be, but Dr. Case does not. In a separate email exchange, I asked her if she knew of any such announcement forthcoming, and she replied, “I do not know anything about such an announcement.”

Q6. Have you set a date on which you plan to release the findings? If not, why not?

A6. See A5 — and, especially, my comment that follows it!

Q7. Were you the only medical examiner to perform an autopsy on Mr. Schweich’s body?

A7. I did not personally do the autopsy. This response prompts at least one additional question:  “Was the autopsy conducted by someone within your office or by someone outside of your office?” I forwarded that question to Dr. Case. A few minutes later, she replied, writing, “The autopsy was done by Dr Kamal Sabharwal who is an assistant medical examiner in this office and he was on call that day for cases.”

One person who has not responded to the single question I asked of him two times today — at 10:42 a.m. and 1:45 p.m. — was Clayton Police Chief Kevin R. Murphy. I suspect he knew the answer when I asked him Friday whether the investigation into Schweich’s death is ongoing or has been closed. Why? Because I suspect he knew the autopsy had been completed by then. Rather than come out and say it, however, he decided to wiggle around the answer in his reply to me, the full length of which appears below and in my Friday piece:

An autopsy was conducted on the morning of the 27th, at 0730.  I didn’t say the results would be available then.  I believe we are waiting on the completed, written, autopsy report.  In any event, only the Medical Examiner’s Office can release an autopsy report.  We are not authorized to make a secondary release of the information.

Having spent years in politics and public relations, I recognize “I believe” and “In any event” as defensible words — the kind politicians and PR folks use when they know they might need to wiggle out of a statement at some future date.

That’s all for now. Stay tuned for the next update!

For links to other articles of interest as well as photos and commentary, join me on Facebook and Twitter.  Please show your support by buying my books and encouraging your friends and loved ones to do the same.  To learn how to order signed copies, click here. Thanks!

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