GET THE WHITE-OUT: We were pretty rough on local newspaper “employee” Leo Azambuja the other day in calling him “(h)yperbole notwithstanding, the worst reporter in the world at the worst newspaper in the world”.
But that statement is only problematic if you dispute the tag “reporter” given his lack of acumen and apparently after these many months, his ability- or interest in trying- to learn the job.
Therefore let us amend that- given his decades of pseudo-journalism on Kaua`i the “worst reporter” award has to go to courts and police beat reporter Paul Curtis whose controversial front page report yesterday alleging misconduct on the part of Prosecutor Shaylene Iseri- Carvalho was apparently based on a central “fact” Curtis created out of whole cloth.
In writing about a case in 5th Circuit Judge Randal Valenciano’s court Curtis’ lede read:
At face value, it looked like an open-and-shut theft case with the perpetrator caught on a grocery store surveillance camera.
That is until county Prosecuting Attorney Shaylene Iseri-Carvalho through Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Lauren McDowell announced she may seek enhanced sentencing against Dennis Louis Rego Jr. because of his petty misdemeanor theft conviction in 1987 in Honolulu.
But today, tucked into a corner of page 2 under the banner Corrections and Clarifications the SECOND correction was this little tidbit:
In the front-page story Thursday, “Battle brewing,” it should not have stated that county prosecutors are seeking enhanced sentencing against defendant Dennis Louis Rego Jr., and that the state Attorney General’s office never uses outside private counsel as special deputy attorney generals (sic), but deputizes prosecutors from other county prosecutors offices to take certain cases.
For those that missed the story, apparently, according to a filing by Rego’s attorney Mark Zenger, Rego and Iseri:
were boyfriend-girlfriend for nearly a decade, that Rego helped put Iseri-Carvalho through undergraduate and law school, and that Iseri-Carvalho prodded Rego into the 1987 theft of cosmetics from a Honolulu department store.
But no one apparently said anything connecting anything about any enhanced sentencing, which would be central to any allegation of misconduct on the part of Iseri who said she checked with the attorney general’s office regarding any conflict of interest before the case went forward and did not personally prosecute Rego.
The second part of the correction is bad enough because any experienced court reporter would know that deputy attorneys general (not “attorney generals” as any court reporter should know) aren’t used as prosecutors.
But in this case Curtis even writes that “Iseri-Carvalho in an e-mail advised against the newspaper printing ‘false statements’ but did not elaborate”.
You’d think that a good reporter would go back and figure out what the false part is, and, given that the rest of the allegations were contained in Zenger’s written filing, focus on the one thing that wasn’t in writing.
So what? Well if the 44 Comments on the article are any indication the peasants were gathering pitchforks and torches and getting ready to march on Iseri’s office today.
And given the placement of the correction, today’s “furlough Friday” may have been all that saved Iseri’s neck.
The worst part is, in an attempt to present a scandalous story with a “Battle Brewing” headline- we’ll give the benefit of the doubt that Curtis didn’t really try to “sensationalize” what would have been pretty sensational anyway were the story “true”- Curtis should have suspected something was wrong with his story based on Iseri’s statement about “false statements” and could easily have double checked with the deputy prosecutor that he’d gotten the story right.
Is there a “per se” libel case here? For that the article would have to not only falsely accuse Iseri of a crime- which although it does in saying she conspired with Rego to steal the cosmetics, he is quoting Zenger so it would have had to have been published with “reckless disregard for the truth”- but since Iseri is a public figure she would have to prove “malice aforethought” on Curtis’ part.
With over 20 years of experience Curtis should certainly known better and if he’s not fired he should certainly disciplined severely by the local paper’s editor and/or publisher.
Note: Somehow we left off the campaign contributions filing of Councilperson Tim Bynum yesterday. Here it is.
The on-line version of yesterday’s post has been edited to include Bynum’s numbers numbers.