Tag Archives: Heidi Fleiss

Famous Reporter Many Never Heard Of

Accolades aplenty are rolling in for one of the best in journalism who is retiring with a 48-year career to her credit. She not only deserves all of them. She deserves more.

Yet, even though she not only wrote more stories than most journalists and her stories were no doubt read by more newspaper readers around the world than any other reporter of our times, Linda Deutsch Linda Deutsch is not a household name outside the worlds of journalism and the legal system. That’s because she worked for The Associated Press and even though AP credit appeared on her stories that newspapers published, more often than not Linda’s name didn’t.

Linda first entered my world more than two decades ago when I was a seasoned reporter-turned novice court information officer, on the job with the Los Angeles Superior Court for just three months when the Rodney King-beating trial began.

To my great fortune, Linda was tolerant and forgiving of my wet-behind-the-ears efforts to be a competent liaison between the Court and the news media. For the next decade, from Rodney King through Menendez brothers, Heidi Fleiss, O. J. Simpson and a host of other high profile trials that proliferated in the Los Angeles courts, I came to respect and even admire her objectivity, professionalism, tenacity in her reporting and for being an unparalleled champion of the First Amendment’s free press rights. After I left the court we stayed in touch and I was fortunate enough to be counted among her legions of good friends. Linda has more friends and the unique ability to make each one of us feel special than anyone I know.

In no way can I do her justice in this or even a year’s worth of blog posts. But I do offer a link to a Huffington Post piece that does a good job of capturing Linda the journalist, mentor and friend.

Even though I’ve heard many, many of her stories, both in private conversations with her and at conferences where she was a featured speaker, I’m right behind the writer of this piece, Judy Farah, in line to get a copy of Linda’s published memoirs.

Write on, Linda!

Ito–“Hollywood Madame” Convergence (Not!)

Heidi Fleiss is on.

“When you see her, tell her thanks.”

(Black book’s Ito-less)


Judge Ito joked with me the day Heidi Fleiss’ trial began. At a meeting with him, I said I had to go to the courtroom of Fleiss trial judge, Judith Champagne. Ito, with his usual dry wit, asked me to thank Heidi for not putting his name in her little black book. The joke was that when Fleiss was arrested and charged with crimes related to allegations that she ran a prostitution operation (thus, her media moniker, Hollywood Madame), business moguls and power brokers all over Los Angeles panicked for fear her so-called little black book would be a trial exhibit and that the names — i.e. theirs — in it would be made public.

The names, it turned out, didn’t become public.

Fleiss AND Simpson? Who Would Have Guessed

My People vs. Simpson haiku 20 years ago today:

Both Fleiss and Simpson.

A harmonic convergence?

Two trial dates set.

Hollywood madam Heidi Fleiss’s pandering and drug possession trial is set to begin the same date as the Simpson trial. One reason reportedly that made her case of such great public interest was that she supposedly had a little black book that contained the names of a number of high-profile politicians, celebrities and businessmen who would be highly embarrassed, to say the least, should the contents of the book be made public.

Despite the pressures and workload on Simpson trial judge Lance Ito, his quick wit was still intact when I told I had to run down to the Fleiss courtroom. The moment is captured on page 159 of Anatomy of a Trial, but here’s his quote:

“When you talk to Heidi,” Ito said as I headed for the door, “thank her for me for removing that certain page from her book.”

“Hollywood Madam” Gets New Gig, New Digs

Amazing how these defendants from my past keep popping up in the headlines.

Heidi Fleiss arrested on suspicion of DUI, marijuana possession in Nevada 

Not so amazing is that this story was posted under “Entertainment News”.

A Judicial Career From Beginning to End

News that Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Charles “Tim” McCoy is retiring was a bit jarring. His is one of the few judicial careers I saw from start to finish.

Little did I anticipate when he was a “baby” judge back in 1993 how he would soar to the pinnacle of the Court’s leadership.

And little did I know the assist he would give my publishing success, albeit indirectly.

As this Metropolitan News-Enterprise story says, McCoy was appointed to the bench by then-California Gov. Pete Wilson after a 17-year career with a law firm, then serving on Matthew Fong’s staff during Fong’s tenure with the State Board of Equalization.

Although I remember McCoy at his enrobing ceremony — an event at which new judges are officially presented with their black robe and presented to the court — which is amazing, given that I attended all of those twice-yearly ceremonies during my nearly 12 years with the court and each ceremony included half-a-dozen or more new judges, he really popped onto my radar when he started a program soon after he became a new judge.

The program, which McCoy called “One-to-One”, was a one-man show. He sought out and invited at-risk youth, one at a time, to his courtroom, preferably accompanied by a parent, to show them in dramatic fashion what it was like to be a defendant in the criminal court system. The visit included a tour of lockup, with McCoy describing rather graphically where the kid would sit in the tiny space that contain only one short bench a toilet, and a chat in McCoy’s chambers. McCoy always gave the teen his business card and an invitation to call him any time. He also encouraged them to write to him and promised he would reply.

When I sat in on one of the sessions and talked with McCoy later when the program had been in place for several months, he pulled open a desk drawer and showed me files full of letters his young guests had sent him. He had, he said, replied to each and even had an ongoing correspondence with a few.

What I found amazing about McCoy embarking on such an undertaking was that (1) as a brand new judge, he had a pretty full plate trying to learn the ropes — and there were many, and (2) his background was in administrative and civil law and there he was presiding over a criminal courtroom. So his learning curve was doubly steep.

One thing that set him apart from the norm, to my thinking, was instead of focusing inwardly, i.e. I’ve got such a tough row to hoe here, he looked outward for some adjunct way in which what he was doing could benefit others.

That characteristic was captured in a book, Judicial Outreach on a Shoestring, written by another Los Angeles Superior Court judge, Richard Fruin, and published in 1999 by the American Bar Association.

“There must be a way, Judge McCoy thought, as he watched the daily parade of criminal defendants coming through his court, to make these sad cases useful in some way,” Fruin wrote about McCoy and his “One-to-One” program.

After paying his dues by serving in a criminal court — new judges are often initially assigned to either criminal or juvenile courts as most judges consider them the least desirable,so don’t often volunteer for them, and it gets judges like McCoy who have no criminal or juvenile experience up to speed quickly in those areas of the law and court procedures — McCoy moved on to the civil courts.

I had a number of encounters with McCoy during his civil-court years, including his assignment as one of the first judges assigned to serve in a newly created complex litigation court. While there he sought my assistance in interfacing with the news media on a tobacco-litigation case with a $3 billion jury verdict for punitive damages.

Then came the 2002 publication of his book, Why Didn’t I Think of That. He gave me a signed copy with a generous inscription.

I left the court shortly after McCoy’s book came out, moved to Wisconsin and began to consult in court-media relations, which included serving as faculty with the National Center for Courts and Media at the National Judicial College in Reno, Nevada.

People kept urging me to write a book about my experiences as an information officer with the largest trial court in the country that had seen such high-profile trials as the Rodney King beating, the Menendez brothers, Hollywood madam Heidi Fleiss and, of course, O.J. Simpson, among others.

I finally called McCoy for guidance about how to go about getting a book published. He put me in touch with his literary agent. From the agent, I learned how to prepare a proposal. He, however, was unable to find a buyer. The primary problem, he said, was I was just offering old news and a string of anecdotes. Publishers, he said, wanted books to “say something,” offer insight or conclusions, and/or present something new.

After a few years and being deep in consulting, which included working with courts, lawyers and journalists in other countries, I saw the negative effects media coverage of the 1995 O.J. Simpson trial and the miss-perceptions of that trial and participants were having on court-media relations all over the world.

Shedding light on that and proposing a better way for courts and the media to interact was the book I decided to do. That book, Anatomy of a Trial: Public Loss, Lessons Learned, sold. Here’s the link to my Anatomy of a Trial websitehttp://www.anatomyofatrial.com/

My thanks to McCoy for opening the door to his agent and for that agent helping me understand important ingredients a book must have to sell.

McCoy went on to be elected by his fellow bench officers — some 500 of them — to serve as the court’s assistant presiding judge for 2007 and 2008, then president judge for 2009 and 2010.

That was during a time when he needed all the creative thinking he could muster to keep the court afloat in the midst of the most draconian budget cuts in its history, thanks to the Great Recession of 2007-2009.

He not only navigated the court with distinction, he received a Person of the Year award for 2008, a recognition Los Angeles legal newspaper, The Metropolitan News-Enterprise, bestows annually.

The MetNews story announcing McCoy’s retirement said he thought it would be more appropriate to discuss his future plans after he’s officially retired, which will be the end of this month.

Suffice it to say that whatever he chooses to do, it will be with an eye on how it might benefit others.

Best wishes Tim McCoy.

What Difference Do Cameras Make?

“Is it really the trial of the century if only a few can see it?”

That is the question raised by a Boston Herald story about the James “Whitey” Bulger-trial camera ban. “Massive media contingent not daunted by camera ban”  http://bostonherald.com/news_opinion/local_coverage/2013/06/massive_media_contingent_not_daunted_by_camera_ban

My question is, would the Bulger case be the trial of the century — or a trial of the century, given that a good half-dozen trials held in the 20th Century were called the trial of the century — if cameras were not banned?

In my experience with dozens of trials of significant media interest, including a few that might fall into “the trial of the century” bailiwick, cameras access might affect how news organizations cover a trial, but not necessarily whether they will cover it or the level of public interest in it.

That was my conclusion in one of the most popular stories published in the National Center for State Courts The Court Manager was my 1997 “What A Difference A Lens Makes,” which contrasts media coverage and public interest in two cases that had two trials each; one with cameras and one without. http://www.anatomyofatrial.com/pages/images/Difference1_000.jpghttp://www.anatomyofatrial.com/pages/images/Difference2_000.jpg

The 1995 O.J. Simpson criminal trial, involving the murders of Simpson ex-wife Nicole Brown and her friend Ronald Goldman, had camera coverage. The subsequent wrongful death civil trial didn’t. The 1993 Menendez brothers parricide trial had camera coverage, the 1996 retrial did not.

My belief is bolstered when I name several high-profile trials at presentations I do about high-profile trials and ask the people attending which of those trials had camera coverage. Most get at least one wrong.

My list generally includes:

  • Martha Stewart insider trading
  • Rodney King beating
  • Scott Peterson murder
  • Michael Jackson child molestation
  • Heidi Fleiss pandering
  • Menendez brothers parricide (yes and no)
  • William Kennedy Smith rape
  • Casey Anthony murder

So whether or not the Bulger trial rises (or sinks, depending on one’s point of view) to a “trial of the century” level will depend far more on how the media cover it than on whether their cameras can record or air it to the public.

The Great Leap from Iran to O.J. Simpson

I wrote an essay about a former life — an Air Force wife with my family in Tehran, Iran, in 1978-79.

The essay was about memories the movie “Argo” evoked of our being in that country in the early stages of the Islamic Revolution and being evacuated with little more than the clothes we wore.

The essay is scheduled to air on Milwaukee’s public radio station, WUWM 89-7 FM, Saturday, Feb. 23, at 3 p.m. and again the next day– Sunday, Feb. 24– at the same time, on the station’s “Lake Effect” program. It will also be streamed online at www.wuwm.com (click on the red “Listen” button).

That experience triggered an epiphany that led me into the world of journalism in which I worked as a newspaper reporter and editor for more than 12 years before segueing to Los Angeles Superior Court when I spent another decade as court information officer and media liaison.

Those years were replete with high-profile trials, the first, the Rodney King-beating trial, opening two months after I joined the court. That was followed by the Menendez brothers I & II (the first ending in hung juries), Heidi Fleiss, O.J.Simpson and many more not quite as notorious.

Who would have ever thought that being evacuated from revolution-ruptured Iran would have led to me writing a book about the impact media coverage of a has-been star athlete’s trial on murder charges! Maybe I’ll come up with an essay about that.