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Archive for June 25th, 2007

Perry WhatleyFrom The Houston Chronicle:

Perry ”Bit” Whatley, 84, a former Baytown refinery worker and lifelong Texan, spent his final days in self-imposed exile, a fugitive from a more than two-year-old fight with the state probate courts.

Whatley was living in Arizona when he died, but it was not where he wanted to be, away from his home, cut off from his family and his $2 million fortune.

It was an unlikely, but perhaps unavoidable, end for the retired machinist, a frugal man who had wisely invested his savings in Humble Oil, which became Exxon, then Exxon Mobil. The investment made him a millionaire nearly twice over, and yet for 20 years after his retirement he lived a simple life in a simple Baytown bungalow until last summer, when he fled the jurisdiction of Harris County Probate Court.

Whatley died Feb. 14 in a rental home in Tempe in the company of his longtime caregiver, Dawn Johnson Whatley, 63, whom he married in a bedside ceremony in January 2005. His wife was his sole heir.

The Whatleys, both seniors with serious health problems, abandoned their own home and went into hiding together last summer. They left to avoid a hearing and, later, orders issued by Probate Judge Mike Wood that declared Whatley incapacitated, took away control of his assets and could have forced him into a nursing home.

Perry Whatley’s sad saga started out as a dispute between his niece and his new wife, two people who professed devotion to him and who also sought control over his fortune, his health care and his basic life decisions.

But the fight, taken to court in April 2005 by Whatley’s niece, morphed quickly into a twisted legal free-for-all and a near-infamous example for critics who claim Texas probate courts have run amok. It also underscores how worries over a loved one — seemingly simple at first — can escalate into a costly and chaotic legal conflict.

It took decades for Whatley to make his money.

In less than two years, nearly $1.5 million has been spent on legal bills and court-authorized expenses for his probate case and related litigation, based on case documents.

And though Whatley is gone, the fight over what remains of his money is far from over.

Read the rest of this disturbing story at The Houston Chronicle.

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Paris HiltonConsidering that I regularly use the word “trash” to describe ultra-skanky heiress Paris Hilton, I found this a little amusing. From Yahoo News:

LOS ANGELES – So, how much would you pay for an empty dog-food can if you thought it was snatched from Paris Hilton’s trash? So far the answer is $0.

But the people from HollywoodStarTrash.com are counting on someone forking over at least $40. That’s the starting bid listed on eBay for the can that once contained a helping of Party Animal organic gourmet. Bidding closes Sunday.

As of midday Monday, the can had no takers. Nor had anyone put down a bid for the used toothbrush, the Hilton fan letter or the Hilton-autographed postcard also said to have been plucked from the hotel heiress’ garbage.

According to a video placed on hollywoodstartrash.com, a guy wearing an Uncle Sam mask tracked down Hilton’s address from a map to movie stars’ homes. Then he and a colleague, who remains off camera, sneaked into Hilton’s neighborhood before dawn on a recent Thursday and absconded with six bags of garbage.

“We discovered that Paris Hilton throws out a well organized and quite neat bag of trash, save for a few Cobb salads and banana peels,” says one of the two.

Neither immediately responded to an e-mailed request to elaborate.

Their Web site indicated that as time goes by they’ll be sifting through other celebrities’ trash and offering it for sale. A man identified as a lawyer, who appears on the video, tells them their actions are legal as long as they wait for celebrities to put their trash cans out on the street and don’t trespass on their property.

As to whether the trash is really Hilton’s, they place the following statement on each of the eBay offerings: “We guarantee that each item comes from the trash bins outside the celebrity’s home!”

And who wouldn’t believe a guy in an Uncle Sam mask?

Outside the initial amusement factor, though, I find this more than a little disturbing. The website doesn’t stop at empty dog food cans and used toothbrushes. It also has photos of prescription bottles and, although they have “censored” over identifying information, it’s not at all hard to figure out what those bottles contained. I also find it disturbing that these folks actually believe there’s somebody out there, so obsessed with Paris Hilton, that they’d pay for her used tissues and Q-tips. That’s beyond weird. It’s sick.

Also posted on ENM’s “The Rampant Anti-PAMite“. 

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[TiGirl is unavailable right now, so at her suggestion I’m updating one of her previous entries by posting a new article from my blog – ENM]

By now, most people have probably heard about the case involving Roy Pearson, a Washington, DC administrative law judge, who sued a dry cleaner for $54 million, over a missing pair of pants. Today, a judge ruled that he not only doesn’t get a dime from the dry cleaner, he will also have to pay the dry cleaners’ legal fees and costs.

Much more interesting, however, is what happened in the courtroom. Here’s a description from ABC News:

The trial proved nearly as dramatic — and unusual — as the plaintiff’s claims. On the witness stand, Pearson broke down in tears and had to take a break from his testimony because he became too emotional while questioning himself about his experience with the missing trousers.

In his opening statement, Pearson came out swinging, telling the court, “Never before in recorded history have a group of defendants engaged in such misleading and unfair business practices.”

Repeatedly referring to himself as “we,” Pearson sought to present himself as the leader of a class of tens of thousands, if not a half million people, consisting of local residents he believes are at risk of falling for such insidious business practices as posting “Satisfaction Guaranteed” and “Same Day Service” signs. Pearson said at one point in court filings that he planned to call 63 witnesses.

“Mr. Pearson, you are not ‘we.’ You are an ‘I,'” Bartnoff told him.

As Pearson explained the details of the missing pants, he struggled to get through his hour and a half of testimony, most of which concerned his credentials and his background.

He became visibly emotional when he reached the point in the story in which he recounted a confrontation with Soo Chung from the dry cleaning store.

“These are not my pants,” he testified, and said he told her, “I have in my adult life, with one exception, never worn pants with cuffs.”

Pearson testified that Chung insisted, saying, “These are your pants.”

Pearson then rushed from the courtroom, overcome with emotion.

From that description, I think it’s pretty obvious that Pearson is more than a little off in the head. I’m not saying the pants presented were his pants, because I’ve had a lot of dry cleaners screw up on my stuff so it’s very possible they made a mistake; but at the same time, $54 million over a lost pair of pants? Give me a frickin’ break.

Obviously, it was a frivolous lawsuit which should never have been brought in the first place (after all, the Chungs at one point offered him $12,000, which is more than enough to make up for his lost pants). It has damaged the Chungs’ reputation, their credit rating, and generally destroyed their lives. One of the Chungs said that they just want to go back to Korea after this fiasco.

So I think paying the Chungs’ attorney fees and court costs just is not enough. Allow them to amend their counterclaim, if necessary, then grant them major damages for what they’ve endured. That not only will be a step in the direction of making this right again for a couple of hardworking immigrants who have suffered greatly at the hands of a man who intentionally abused our system of justice, it will also serve to warn others who might be tempted to do something that stupid.

Then again, I think you really need to be crazy in order to think you’re entitled to that much money just because your pants were lost at the drycleaner’s, so even that probably won’t serve as a deterrent to other crazies who think something that small is worth zillions.

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From Seattle Times:

Jane Balogh had a pretty good idea who was calling when the phone rang and the caller asked for Duncan M. MacDonald.

Duncan is the dog Balogh registered as a voter seven months before the November 2006 election.

Duncan’s absentee-ballot envelope was signed with a picture of a paw print.

“You can’t sign with a paw print,” the election worker told Balogh on Nov. 9.

“I said, ‘he can if he’s a dog,’ ” answered Balogh, a 66-year-old grandmother and Army veteran who lives in Federal Way.

The election worker told her a supervisor would call, but she never heard from anyone.

After making her point — how easy it is for a voter to register illegally — Balogh will be arraigned in King County Superior Court on Tuesday on a misdemeanor charge of making a false statement to a public official.

If she declines to plead guilty, prosecutors told her in a letter this week, they will file a felony charge of providing false information on a voter-registration application. She doesn’t plan to contest the misdemeanor: “I’m not going to claim to be innocent when I know I’m guilty.”

Balogh’s crime was signing Duncan’s name on a registration card under a declaration that he meets all the requirements to vote. She submitted ballots in his name in the September and November 2006 and May 2007 elections. She wrote “VOID” on the ballots, and didn’t cast any votes.

Balogh, who lives with Duncan, an Australian shepherd-terrier mix, and four other dogs and four cats, registered her dog as a protest of a 2005 state voter-registration statute that she says makes it too easy for noncitizens to vote. She put her phone bill in Duncan’s name, then used the phone bill as identification to register him as a voter.

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“I wasn’t trying to do anything fraudulent. I was trying to prove that our system is flawed. So I got myself in trouble,” she says.

If she accepts the plea deal offered by prosecutors, they won’t ask for jail time but will recommend she be sentenced to 10 hours of community service, pay a $250 fine and commit no other crimes for a year.

Acting Prosecuting Attorney Dan Satterberg says his office “can’t simply look the other way. They say you should let sleeping dogs lie, but you can’t let voting dogs vote.”

I can’t help but wonder how many other people have done something like that. After all, if she had put a signature on it, instead of a paw print, no one would have noticed.

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I1connect News: Ralph Nader and Daniel Imperato “More Voices and More Choices”

In what has been one of the busiest weeks for independent political activity, corporate activist and former presidential candidate, Ralph Nader, has indicated that he is exploring another run at the White House in 2008.

During a televised interview with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer on Thursday, Nader stated that America needed “More Voices and More Choices.”

Nader has gained some significant media coverage since New York City Mayor, Michael Bloomberg, announced that he is splitting from the Republican Party and declaring himself as an independent. The move was widely seen as a precursor to a 2008 Presidential run.

Thus far, leading the independent charge has been Florida businessman, Daniel Imperato. Imperato has been consistently the most active independent campaigner, and has recently started working with Libertarian Party in an effort to gain ballot access.

Imperato has openly stated that he is interested in working with members of the Green, Libertarian, Constitution, and Reform Party as well as other independents for a 2008 Presidential bid.

Now, with Ralph Nader in the presidential fray, perhaps an Imperato Nader collaboration could be a possibility.

Imperato brings a strong corporate background, and a no-nonsense style of governance, and straight talk that could be very appealing in the upcoming election.

Nader is a corporate whistleblower who brings an activist philosophy to a potential President-Vice Presidential ticket, and already has previous presidential election experience.

Both candidates are grass-roots oriented and rely very heavily upon strong organization.

Also a potential Green and Libertarian Party collaboration would increase the voter base, viability, and ballot access status of any third party presidential ticket.

So with Imperato, Bloomberg, and now, Ralph Nader on the table for the American public, America may now have more voices, and more choices for the 2008 presidential election.

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