Monday, September 08, 2008

Pumpgate updates
11-12-06 Dirt & the diplomat by Lenora LaPeter: The St. Petersburg Times' front-page story on PumpGate. our editorial special report

Sembler concedes [con't from top] Sixth Circuit Judge Mark I. Shames had called a public hearing on Dec. 28, 2006 for the purpose of hearing and acting on all outstanding pre-trial motons. But before the hearing commenced Mr. Englander, representing Ambassador Sembler and his wife, requested a private meeting between himself, the judge and Thomas McGowan, Ray Bradbury's attorney. During that hearing Mr. Englander announced they were dropping their charges of intentional infliction of emotional distress and of invasion of privacy--the heart of their case. The stalking charge, with its temporary injunction against Mr. Bradbury, remains the only active claim against Ray Bradbury.
We asked Mr. Bradbury for a comment after the hearing but all he could say is "I'm speechless." Tom McGown had this to say, "We're in a state of shock. We never thought thay had a case on the charges they dismissed. In the moment of truth they blinked. Our win, in large part, was due to Richard not caving. He kept fighting. When push came to shove, they caved."
Both sides have filed briefs on the stalking issue. But the case against Ray Bradbury as originally brought by the Semblers has been dropped. We left a message on Mr. Englander's answering machine at about 1045 EST on 12-28-06 asking for his comments. As of time of publishing, we had not yet heard from him but will give his comments when he returns our call.

12-28-06 PumpGate: Marlene McCord's deposition, part 1. page 1 pages 2-5

12-15-06 PogoWasRight, a blog dedicated to privacy issues, picks up on Sembler's penis pump claim link

12-15-06 "Mel Sembler's Penis Pump, Privacy Claim Headed To Trial" North Country Gazette

12-15-06 PumpGate tagged in ZoomClouds link

11-14-06 Amorous Propensities, a forum on "sexuality in its amusing, unexpected and baffling forms", links to The Times article on the ambassador's penile pump link

5-01-05 PumpGate becomes bad business for Sembler Company: the snowball is growing link

10-15-06 Wot Is it Good For covers [sic] "uber-freak" Mel Sembler and his penis pump

09-30-06 Mel Sembler's penis pump: Samsara's Buddhist notes

09-29-06 Jeb's Little House of Horrors on SWEDISH MEATBALLS CONFIDENTIAL The torture, his penis pump and all.

09-24-06 The Penis Pump, the Ambassador and our Medical Privacy Huffington Post

09-18-06 Ambassador Sembler finally deposed in PumpGate. We'll post transcripts as soon as they become available.

08-26-06 HAPPY BIRTHDAY PUMPGATE Today, Aug. 26, 2006, marks the third year of PumpGate, Ambassador Mel Sembler's civil trial to reclaim his discarded penis pump from Ray Bradbury. story

7-22-06 Penis Pump Trial Date Set A trial date has finally been set in the case of former US Ambassador Melvin Sembler against Richard Bradbury for allegedly trying to sell the ambassador's discarded penis pump on eBay. The date is Feb. 12, 2007. It is anticipated that a large number of former inmates from Straight and its legacy programs will be on hand to see the man responsible for their torture in the name of drug treatment.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Sembler caves

updated 1-25-07 PumpGate: Sembler Caves12-28-06 The long awaited trial was to have occurred on Feb 12, 2007. Sixth Circuit Judge Mark I. Shames had called a public hearing on Dec. 28, 2006 for the purpose of hearing and acting on all outstanding pre-trial motons. But before the hearing commenced Mr. Englander, representing Ambassador Sembler and his wife, requested a private meeting between himself, the judge and Thomas McGowan, Ray Bradbury's attorney. During that hearing Mr. Englander announced they were dropping their charges of intentional infliction of emotional distress and of invasion of privacy--the heart of their case. The stalking charge, with its temporary injunction against Mr. Bradbury, remains the only active claim against Ray Bradbury.

We asked Mr. Bradbury for a comment after the hearing but all he could say is "I'm speechless." Tom McGown had this to say, "We're in a state of shock. We never thought thay had a case on the charges they dismissed. In the moment of truth they blinked. Our win, in large part, was due to Richard not caving. He kept fighting. When push came to shove, they caved."

Both sides have filed briefs on the stalking issue. But the case against Ray Bradbury as originally brought by the Semblers has been dropped. We left a message on Mr. Englander's answering machine at about 1045 EST on 12-28-06 asking for his comments. As of time of publishing, we had not yet heard from him but will give his comments when he returns our call.

Ray Bradbury prepares to enter the courthouse on Jan. 25, 2007 carrying his appeal to Judge Shames' ruling that rummaging through the trash is stalking. Where's the outcry from law enforcement and the press?
1-25-07 Bradbury files appeal. Mel Sembler dropped his case against Ray Bradbury on Dec. 28, 2006. But he left one element in and Judge Shames ruled on it. Rummaging through Sembler's trash is stalking. Ironically, the Semblers left in the one piece that is sure to keep PumpGate in the public eye for ever--can cops and reporters rummage through your trash. Will FBI agents be jailed for stalking terrorists if they lift DNA off a discarded cigarette? Will thousands of convicted drug dealers be released on appeal because of evidence gathered through the trash. Has Judge Shames written new law? On Jan 25, 2007 Ray Bradbury filed an appeal with the clerk's office to stop this outrageous ruling. See Notice of Appeal 1 2 3 4 and Amended Notice 3 4
12-29-06 The Huffington Post: Penis Pump Case Goes Limp, But Serious Issues Remain by Maia Szalavitz link
01-02-07 Transcripts of the concession hearing 12-28-05 link
12-29-06 The St. Petersburg Times' coverage of the capitulation by the Sembler camp link
12-29-06 Corrected St. Pete Times article link
updated 01-07-07 Blogs on the concession DailyRotten PenisPumpExperience LiveJournal RayleneFlaugher chatter zinsoprods teaoodle Majikthise penis pump PeaceTrain sexo penis-enlarge TrailRank Bot fornits

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Comments on St. Pete Times "Dirt & the ambassador"

an editorial by Wesley Fager

I once sat in on an unsuccessful intervention with a teenager's mother who was trying to talk her child into leaving SAFE, a second-generation Straight. There was an internationally known cult expert on our team. After hearing our stories of depravation and abuse by Straight I asked this person whether Straight fits his definition of a destructive, mind-control cult. He told me, "Wes, I usually deal with groups like &%&#@ and %^##!?!, groups that people generally recognize to be cults, but groups whose members would deny they are in a cult. If you guys were to tell them what you just told me, they would say, "NOW THAT'S A CULT!" " What he was saying is clear. Not only is Straight a destructive, mind-control cult, but as far as cults go it is among the worse!

Straight was founded in St. Petersburg, Florida by Melvin and Betty Sembler. For 17 years we learned of Straight's violation of civil rights and criminal activities from fine reporting by the St. Petersburg Times, a newspaper then managed by a recognized civil rights reporter named Eugene Patterson. In 1983 former Straight client Fred Collins, Jr., an adult, sued Straight in federal court in Alexandria, Va. for false imprisonment and abuse he had sustained at Straights in St. Petersburg, Fl. and Springfield, Va. Patterson sent his legal writer Milo Geyelin 1,000 miles north to Virginia to cover the celebrated trial. The jury awarded Mr. Collins $220,000 for false imprisonment--$180,000 alone was for punitive damages to send Straight a strong message to stop its outrageous behavior. From Dec. 3, 1982 to Aug. 11, 1983 The Times carried no less than 22 articles which mentioned the Collins' matter.

Eight years later on Nov. 9, 1990 a jury right there in Pinellas County awarded former Straight client Karen Norton $721,000 for abuse and outrageous behavior committed against her--$615,000 of that was for punitive damages. That's a half million more than Fred Collins and right there in The Times' own backyard! Yet, if you check The Times' usually excellent (and free) on-line achieves the only mention you will find of Karen Norton is in a letter to the editor written by Richard Bradbury in 1991. The Tampa Tribune traveled across the bay to cover the story and wrote articles on Nov. 3, Nov. 9 and Nov. 11, 1990. In fairness to The Times The Times did write (at least) two articles on the jury award on Nov. 10 but you have to go to the web page of cult tracker Rick Ross to find those articles. (See Straight Client Wins $721,000 Suit and Drug Treatment Center Loses Case.) It appears that The Times had been shamed into writing two articles on the case because it had been scooped the day before by the Tribune. And The Times has not allowed the articles to be included in its archieves.

What had changed was that Eugene Patterson had been replaced by Paul Tash and Andy Barnes. In 1988 this new duo hired Straight board member Bruce Epstein, MD as The Times' medical opinion columnist. Shamefully, a year and a half after the smoke cleared from the Norton award, on June 1, 1992 Dr. Epstein published a Times' article recommending his readers to use Straight, Inc.!

Straight went out of business in 1994 on the heels of massive lawsuits and state criminal investigations, and the Tash/Barnes Times abandoned the plight of the kids it had so ably defended for 17 years. Sadly, over 50 former clients have committed suicide. Instead of covering the continued fallout from Straight like the suicides and like the $11 million jury awards assessed against Miller Newton, Straight's former national clinical director and long-time resident of Madera Beach, The Times chose instead to work on improving the image of Straight's founder Melvin Sembler. A reporter named Mary Evertz was assigned to cover each and every glitzy social move the Semblers made. And when Mary Evertz herself became part of a Sembler story as when she traveled to Rome along with Times' columnist Bruce Epstein and retired Sixth Circuit Judge David Seth to attend "The mother of all toga parties"--Mel and Betty's 50th wedding anniversary, reporter Mary Jane Park was assigned to write the salutary gossip.

That is why Lenora LaPeter's article Dirt & the diplomat in the Sunday Times (11-12-06) is so amazing. Her "top of the front page" article is about a David standing up to a goliath. It is the story of a law suit brought by Mel and Betty Sembler against former Straight client Ray Bradbury. The suit claims Bradbury invaded their privacy and caused them emotional distress when he tried to sale Mel's discarded penis pump on eBay. The story takes up much of the front page and the entire inside of the back page. And there are many great photos. Essentially the article portrays Bradbury as a hero figure who was badly abused along with thousands of others at Sembler's Straight program who offered up the pump for sale as a publicity stunt to bring attention to the plight of Straight survivors. Mel Sembler refused to be interviewed for the article. La Peter's story uses interviews and deposition statements to give the Sembler side that Bradbury is a lose canon and a dangerous guy who is capable, they feel, of causing physical harm and who has no cause for his actions.

Unfavorable letters to the editor. Last week we reported on the stripped-down, e-version of the article which simply does not do justice to the printed report. The printed version is an excellent report though it could have gotten deeper into the harm Straight has caused to thousands, and into the darker aspects of Sembler's business affairs. Digging deeper would have explained the negative letters to the editor which followed the article. The Times printed seven letters to the editor in response to its article--all but one was negative. Two readers questioned whether the story had been an attempt to smear a prominent Republican by Democrats, and another stated that it was supermarket-style tabloid sensationalism. Sembler's Treasure Island neighbor Mary E. Lowe called Sembler, "This outstanding citizen of Pinellas County has given our community a great deal . . ." Had The Times also written about Sembler's dark business deals perhaps it would have been brought out that in 2003 Treasure Island Mayor Mary Maloof asked her neighbor Mel Sembler if his friends in Washington could help the rich people of Treasure Island build a new bridge out to their man-made Island community. Sembler's sometimes house guest and home-town congressman C.W. "Bill" Young, chairman of the House's Appropriation Committee, got $50 million of federal tax money to build a bridge out to the resort community, $113 million to name a monument in Rome after Sembler, $10 million for a stupid Roman Aids vaccine, and $2 million for Betty's new drug rehab, Operation PAR, which she infiltrated after being forced to give up Straight.

As LaPeter points out the Sembler's trash can is not the only one Bradbury has looked into. In his quest to document the crimes of Straight and to be a watchdog on the emergence of new Straights Bradbury found, for example, that on August 14, 1992 Straight-Orlando closed down. And on that very day Michael Scaletta, Straight-Orlando's executive director, opened Substance Abuse Family Education, Inc. (SAFE) out of the Straight facility. At breakfast the kids were in Straight, by dinner they were in SAFE! Bradbury also found a document that SAFE was using Straight's insurance policy making one wonder whether SAFE is Straight?

I am a former Straight parent. There came a time when our clinical director asked a father to leave a meeting stating he detected alcohol on the man's breath. The father invited him outside. I suspected there was going to be a fight and I was the only father who stepped outside to defend our director. When we had a raffle for an automobile, I sold more tickets than any other parent. I talked at least one family into joining Straight and I setup appointments with PTA's to recruit more families. But like Ray Bradbury when I found out about the abuse, I tried to change Straight from within. For this my wife of 23 years was asked to leave me because I was no longer good for the program. When others sued Straight I would have no part in it. I had been in a cult and even though had been spurned by Straight for speaking out it took me two years to realize I had been setup. By now most of Straights former clients have figured out that they have been abused and their families had been used. Not surprisingly, most parents will never realize it. I was one of Straight's biggest supporters. Today I am one of Straight's biggest antagonists.

Thus I was not surprised to learn that Phyllis Eig of St. Petersburg (who had a child in Straight) wrote that, "The Semblers were not responsible for changes that they did not know about at the time, and to print a story from an individual who wants revenge is appalling. Ambassador Mel and Betty Sembler should be held in high esteem in this community for their sincere and generous contributions for the benefit of all. But Ms. Eig, Sembler did know.

Nor was I surprised about the letter from Diana Jay of St. Petersburg who wrote, "In 2001, with the help of a Sembler family member, my husband and I found one of those programs, SAFE . . . Our youngest child was out of control, flunking out of school and experimenting with all kinds of drugs. SAFE treats not only the child but the whole family. Today our son is a senior at a large out-of-state university, getting excellent grades and planning to go to law school. I thank God every day for SAFE and the Straight program from which it evolved." Ms. Jay's letter is precisely an example of one of our biggest complaints against these Straight-based synanons. Diana Jay has publicly admitted that her son was "experimenting with all kinds of drugs." Diana Jay has defended Mel Sembler, SAFE and Straight and helped them grow at the expense of defaming her own son!

The prey letter. LaPeter discusses a threatening letter sent to Bradbury from Sembler's attorney Lenny Englander telling him he is about to become the prey. And she writes that Englander acknowledges that he and the Semblers thought their "prey" letter would make Bradbury give up. It's incredible that an attorney would tell someone they are to become "prey." Look it up in the dictionary. Prey is something stalked and killed! How long will the Sixth Circuit let such a threat go unpunished?

A blog called PumpGate. Another significance of LaPeter's article is that she notes that there is a blog called PumpGate (the blog you are now reading) that is following the penis pump trial. This is the first time ever, we believe, that the St. Petersburg Times has acknowledged that there is a web presence representing the survivors of Straight.

Here's the real significance of The Times long overdue article. You have the Reader's Digest giving the Sixth Circuit, not one, but two broken gavels for judicial malpractice. You have the whole nation scrutinizing the Sixth Circuit's every move since George Greer pulled the plug on Terri Schiavo. Former TV talk show host / former US ambassador to the UN Economic and Social Council, Alan Keyes, who ran in the 2000 Republican presidential primary against George Bush, has even written a bio on Greer which speaks to Greer's part in Sembler's Cooper's Point land scam. Keyes got the data form our web page. And you have Columbia Law School releasing a study finding that the 6th Circuit leads the nation with an 89% error rate of death sentences.

The St. Petersburg Times and USA Today have reported on attorney Lenny Englander and 6th Circuit Judge Walt Logan's gag order to shut up KaneTM Furniture critic Manny Gonzales and Charlie Crist's role in the matter. The Internet has pointed out the Logan / Englander injunction against Bradbury. Also blogs abound about the Oklahoma judge (who claims his penis pump was given as a gag gift) who masturbated with the device during a murder trial. These blogs often include the story about the ambassador (who claims his discarded penis pump was medically recommended after a bout with cancer) who is suing a man in 6th Circuit to get the pump back.

Mary Evertz, Mel Sembler's former dedicated gossip columnist at the St. Pete Times is now a member of the 6th Circuit's Grievance Committee. There are blogs, radio talk shows and an e-newspaper talking about the 6th Circuit's unfair treatment to defrocked attorney Mark Adams resulting from a matter involving the law firm of Straight's attorney Anthony Battaglia. And there's the Mark Foley scandal coming out of Florida. Why Mel Sembler is still in this thing defies imagination. What more real harm he thinks he can levy on Ray Bradbury, none of us can see.

How much more harm and embarrassment does he intend to bring to his friends, associates and political bosses, and to Pinellas county and the Sixth Circuit? Bradbury won this case the day the Washington Post published its story on Mel Sembler's penis pump. Wonkette picked up on the story after that and the tale spread like wildfire (and continues to grow) on the world-wide web. The Times story finally validates and underscores what The Post already found.

I spoke to Bradbury recently about The Times' article. He told me that from the day the article was published until the day the earth crashes into the sun he will be satisfied knowing that a picture of Gumbo (his dog dying of bone cancer) made it to the front page of The St. Petersburg Times. Last year La Gaceta, the nation's only tri-lingual newspaper, did a piece on PumpGate. Two months ago laRepubblica, the biggest selling newspaper in Italy, did a story on Sembler's destructive Straight program. It's about time The Times stepped up to the plate to try to undo what it has done. Lenora LaPeter did a great job. Just what in the hell do Melvin and Betty hope to gain by letting this case on? Who else has to become a casualty of PumpGate?


Saturday, September 30, 2006


In Happy Birthday No. 3 PumpGate we stated that Sembler's attorney Lenny Englander and his wife served on a social function with other pertinent parties. Actually the social function was part of a foundation. And while Mr. Englander is on the board of that foundation he and his wife were not part of the referenced social function.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Happy Birthday No. 3 Pumpgate

Is there intelligent life on Treasure Island, Florida? When dumpster divers claimed they found a discarded Depends' wrapper in TV talk show host Larry King's trash, Mr. King simply replied that the adult sized diapers were not his! In 2003 when Ray Bradbury, a former employee of Ambassador Melvin Sembler and his Straight program, found Sembler's discarded penis pump in a trash can outside Sembler's Treasure Island home, Sembler's attorney promptly admitted in a court document that the instrument did in fact belong to Mel Sembler. What's more his client wants it back!

For 17 years Melvin and Betty Sembler operated one of the most destructive juvenile drug rehabilitation programs in the world. Ray Bradbury was a client in that program. And like all Straight clients he was physically and emotionally abused. But Straight practiced brainwashing and convinced parents and kids alike that what it was doing was a good thing. Bradbury was seduced by Straight's methods and became a paid employee of Straight upon graduation. This was typical of Straight graduates since Straight is a destructive, mind-control cult where you never really leave.

One day it suddenly dawned on Bradbury that he had become part of the abuse and he tried to correct Straight's faults from within--but to no avail. So he became a Straight critic. Ever since then Mr. Bradbury has combed the Semblers' discarded trash (the same way law enforcement does) looking for evidence to document Straight's abuse. To document Sembler's involvement in covering-up what he knew about the abuse but failed to stop it. And to make sure Sembler was not operating new Straights.

Only Ray Bradbury knows what documents he has found in the trash through the years, but the whole world knows that one day he found Mel Sembler's penis pump. Penis pumps are sold as sexual toys and also as sexual aids for erectile dysfunction problems. Essentially a penis pump consists of a glass or plastic cylinder open on one end which is placed over a soft penis. The other end is connected to an electric or hand operated pump that essentially sucks the penis hard. Sembler alleges that a medical doctor prescribed his pump.

Bradbury says the pump belongs to him because the ambassador threw it away. The ambassador says it belongs to him and he wants it back. Since Bradbury feels he is the new owner of a novelty item, he placed it for sale on eBay--the way others have sold teeth belonging to Elvis Presley. Bradbury says he hoped the stunt would be a gimmick to bring attention to the plight of former Straight detainees. And also he planned to help some of those survivors with the money he hoped to raise from the sale of the pump.

Ambassador Sembler says Ray Bradbury has invaded his privacy. So exactly three years ago today, Aug. 26, 2003 Leonard Englander, representing Ambassador Sembler, filed a "Temporary Injunction without Notice" against Bradbury to keep Bradbury away from the Semblers. This was the start of a law suit the Semblers have filed against Ray Bradbury claiming invasion of privacy. The "Without Notice" meant that a judge conducted a hearing affecting Ray Bradbury without Bradbury's knowledge. That judge was Florida Sixth Circuit Judge Walt Logan. Nine months before the same Lenny Englander convinced the same judge Walt Logan to issue a gag order against another man "Without Notice" whose work was being used by the state attorney general to expose alleged fraud at Kane's Furniture. That story made it to USA Today. Worse still, Judge Logan and his wife, the president of Kane's Furniture and his wife, Mel Sembler's son and his wife, and Lenny Englander and his wife served on a social function together!

Mel Sembler is Mr. Republican Party in Pinellas County, Florida. He buys people. Nobody in the Sixth Judicial Circuit which services Pinellas County wants to be associated with this bizarre case or with any implication of influence buying because the Sixth Circuit itself has come under national scrutiny twice by the Reader's Digest for having the country's worst judges. Circuit Judge Anthony Rondolino was originally assigned this case in 2003. To his, no doubt, delight he was rotated out of the case earlier this year even though the Semblers had filed a motion to keep Rondolino on.

Three years later and Mel Sembler has not even been deposed. Alas a new date for his deposition has been set once again. This one for Sept. 18, 2006. Three years later and there has not been a trial. A trial date had finally been set for April 10 - April 21, 2006. Former Straight victims from all over the country had been making tentative plans to be there to, hopefully, finally, to see the man they feel responsible for the horrors they endured at Straight. But then that date was postponed, in what has become the joke of the year, because at the last minute Mel Sembler was granted a motion to reschedule the trial because he decided to take his family to Israel for the Passover from April 10 to April 20!

And now there is talk that Sembler's camp may have violated federal HIPAA laws concerning Bradbury's medical history. At least a new trial date has been set for Feb. 12, 2007. The press is betting that Sembler will ask for a postponement again--this time to take his wife to Paris for Valentine's Day. How many more postponements? It's reminiscent of Lawrence Wallersheim's lawsuit against the so-called Church of Scientology (TM). How many more judges will preside?

Melvin and Betty Sembler brought this trial on, and now, because of it his penis pump has been discussed at cocktail parties all over the world. His hometown paper (The St. Petersburg Times) seems reluctant to discuss the case without first (apparently) clearing what it can say with Mel Sembler. But the Washington Post does not need his clearance. The Post has run the story. Even Wonkette, the mouth of the Internet, has discussed Mel Sembler's Penis Pump. Happy Birthday Penis Pump law suit! See you next year.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Sembler is now saying he wasn't in on the day-to-day operations of Straight. I've got real problems with that.

I'm upset. I was just reading the St. Petersburg Times. Another article by Mary Jane Park about St. Petersburg's royal family, the Semblers. This one was her first report on Mel and Betty's 50th wedding anniversary at their Magic Kingdom with the biggest rose garden in Rome. Everybody who is somebody in Pinellas County plus foreign dignitaries from all over the world were there. That was nice. But what upset me was something Betty said. Ms. Park noted that when the Semblers went to Rome hubby Mel had more than he could possibly do managing all those affairs of state, but what did the Misses do all day. Ms. Park wrote,
"Mrs. Sembler said one issue for her was 'finding a niche for myself. . . . It was easy for me.' She chairs the Drug Free America Foundation in St. Petersburg and is on the phone to the office nearly every day."
On September 28, 2005 Melvin Sembler voluntarily submitted a sworn affidavit to the Sixth Circuit in the matter of PumpGate in which he declared, "Neither my wife nor I participated in the day-to-day operations of Straight, Inc." [PumpGate: the ambassador's bizarre lawsuit against a former worker to reclaim his discarded penis pump and to sue the man for mental anguish.] If I told you that the Drug Free America Foundation and Straight, Inc. are the same organization, you'd probably see why I'm so upset.

In 1976 Melvin and Betty Sembler founded a juvenile drug rehabilitation program they called Straight, Inc. But Straight, Inc. was a teenage torture camp. Lawsuits became so routine and media reports about the abuse so prevalent that in 1985 Sembler created a shell corporation to protect Straight's assets (and his own hide). Straight, Inc. changed its mission, ostensibly to educate, and changed its name to Straight Foundation, Inc. A new treatment organization was created called Straight, Inc. (Smart ain't they.) The 1985-based Straight, Inc. continued to abuse kids until it finally closed in 1993. In 1995 the 1976-based Straight, Inc. (e.g.. Straight Foundation, Inc.) morphed once again into Drug free America Foundation with a new mission to help businesses set up drug free work places and to recommend national and international drug policy. (Sorry for the confusion, but that's how they elected to hide it.)

Since 1976 Mel Sembler has been bragging that he and Betty founded Straight; that they saved 12,000 kids at Straight; that they are proud of what they did there; and that they have been chosen for political assignments, not because they bought their way in, but because they are philanthropists who help kids get off drugs at Straight. But recently there has been a resurgence of former clients coming forward to tell the horrors of what happened to them at Straight all those years ago. And now finally the Semblers want to say they had nothing to do with the day-to-day operations of Straight.

So you see why I'm so upset. Seems to me what Mel is saying in that affidavit is this:
  1. From 1976 to 1985 there are allegations (and court judgments proving) that Straight, Inc. abused children. We may have founded that organization; we may have held directorships in that organization; and we may have received more press coverage than anyone else with that organization--but we were not involved in the day-to-day operation of Straight, Inc. when it was known as Straight, Inc.
  2. From 1985 to 1993 Straight, Inc. was a shell corporation named Straight Foundation, Inc. that buffered the assets for a brand new Straight, Inc. that was also accused of child abuse. And once again though we may have served as directors and though our names may have been in the press more than anyone else, we had nothing to do with the day-to-day operations of Straight, Inc. when it was known as Straight Foundation, Inc.
  3. From 1995 to present Straight, Inc. has been operating under the name Drug Free America Foundation. There can not be any complaints of child abuse because we don't treat anyone anymore; we are or have been directors and our names are frequently mentioned in the press with this organization, and Betty Sembler deals with Straight, Inc. under its name Drug Free America Foundation on a day-to-day basis.

At least, that's how I interpret Mr. Sembler's declaration and it just doesn't ring sound--to me. One and only one organization has existed since 1976, but under three distinctly declared missions, under three different names. Two of the morphs are associated with abuse. One is not. The Semblers have crowed for years that they are the force behind all three. Records show that at least one of them served as a director of some sort on all three most of the time. Now, when a new resurgence of the abuse surfaces, Mel Sembler claims he and Betty had nothing to do with the day-to-day operations of the two morphs associated with abuse; but Betty says she contacts the non-abusive morph on a daily basis. That's why I'm so upset, but that's just for starters.

There is truth in Mel Sembler saying, "Neither my wife nor I participated in the day-to-day operations of Straight, Inc." This is because what Straight did was to furnish a warehouse and stock it with 100 - 200 white teenagers and children. Some with varying addictions; some who had tried pot or alcohol; some with no addiction history at all. The one thing in common they had was parents with the ready funds, or the capability of getting funds, to pay them. Mel and Betty did not watch Straights' kids all day long--that was the problem. Few trained adults did? Kids further along in their treatment managed kids (and sometimes adults) with less time in treatment. As kids graduated they became junior staff. They were uneducated (thanks to Straight) and were paid minimum wage. There was some limited adult staff--including a clinical director and an executive director at each camp. A job of other adults (including directors and parents) was to raise money for the Straight cause and to encourage schools, parole officers and judges to send kids to Straight. Furthermore, directors and officers were responsible for managing Straight rentals back to itself and for telling Straight's attorneys to offer Straight's standard $37,000 settlement to those who sued.

Straight board members frequently rotated offices from time-to-time. For example in 1976 when Straight was first formed Mel Sembler was president of the board of directors. As such he enjoyed much public exposure. But in 1980 Guy Perenich was president and Sembler chaired the executive committee. On Wednesday December 10, 1980 Straight held its second annual banquet and used the occasion to announce to the 450 assembled guest and press representatives that Straight was considering the possibility of opening a facility in the greater Atlanta area. But it wasn't Guy Perenich, the president of Straight, who made the announcement. It was Melvin Sembler. Four days later Robert Coram of the The Atlanta Journal wrote an article about Straight - Atlanta. He mentions two (and only two) board members by name--but Straight President Guy Perenich wasn't even one of them. Mel and Betty were the two.

In 1982 the presidency of Straight had rotated to Jack Clark. Nancy Reagan visited Straight - St. Petersburg under Clark's watch. When Mrs. Reagan was handed a microphone to address the assembled juvenile prisoners she asked them what was the best thing she could do to help. A young inmate responded, "Help open Straights all over the country." And then, according to the New York Times, a voice seated behind Mrs. Reagan, chimed in, "Help the country correctly perceive the problem." Rightly that voice should have belonged to President Jack Clark. But you get the message. The New York Times said the voice belonged to a Straight board member. The Saint Petersburg Times reported that the board member was Mel Sembler. [New York Times, 2-16-82, p. B10; NBC News Magazine, 4-24-82; Saint Petersburg Times, 2-16-82]

Read Yer Dern Tuttin' Mel Sembler knew about Straight's abuses. Mel Sembler was always the force behind Straight just as he has boasted he was for 35 years--until Sept. 28. Regardless what position he held on paper, he was Straight. Let me give you another example. Nancy Reagan and The Reader's Digest did as much as anyone to make Straight the powerhouse it became. In 1982 The Digest did an article on Straight. The well read monthly quoted a man described as “a local businessman who was one of the prime movers in getting it started.” The “local businessman” had said, “At Straight, you don’t just dump your kid at the door and walk away.” But that businessman was not board president Jack Clark--it was Mel Sembler.

On Sept. 28, 2005 Melvin Sembler voluntarily submitted an affidavit to a state circuit court declaring, "Neither my wife nor I participated in the day-to-day operations of Straight, Inc." But in 1980 he told Atlanta journalist Robert Coram that he and his wife Betty keep a close eye on Straight activities because they don’t want a “personality cult to develop; neither do they want any ‘guru’ exploiting the enormous power the staff has over youngsters for a brief time in their lives, as has happened in some other drug-rehabilitation programs.” Coram wrote, “The Semblers stay in the background at Straight but keep a close eye on its activities.” How can you not be involved in day-to-day operations yet keep a close eye on its activities? What's the difference? [The Atlanta Journal, The Atlanta Constitution, and the Atlanta Weekly, 12-14-80]

On January 15, 2003 Ambassador Sembler gave a speech at Northwestern, his alma mater, in which he stated, " . . . we [Betty and I] founded and directed for many years a treatment program that rehabilitated over 12,000 young drug abusers." If he directed Straight, how can he now claim he was not involved in day-to-day operations of Straight.

In 1978 Sembler probably had a hand in having a state worker fired for investigating Straight for criminal child abuse and he probably had another threatened 10 years later for trying to close Straight for failure to correct repeated violations. [See The Clary Report.] Melvin Sembler wasn't there when Miller Newton threw Leigh Bright by her hair and he never ordered anyone to spit in S. B. 's face. Nor did he order A.N. to supervise the breaking of Nancy's finger. But the record is pretty clear that Mel Sembler knew of Straight's abuses and did not stop it. Rather he thwarted attempts to stop the abuse and positioned himself to be protected from lawsuits and prosecutions. Blocking major attempts to stop ALL the abuse is day-to-day operation at the very HIGHEST level. It is a thousand times more destructive than breaking one little girl's finger.

The Semblers may have already committed perjury in PumpGate by telling the court they were not available for depositions when they were. When Mel Sembler and Joe Zappala were nominated for ambassadorships in 1988, Sembler let Zappala tell the Senators he was a Straight cofounder, but the records do not show that. When Straight Cincinnati closed, Sembler let the lie be told that it had closed for economic reasons. He let the same lie be told when authorities closed Straight - Dallas. When Bernadine Braithwaite sent a correspondence to Straight parents asking for more money saying that salaries had been cut back at all levels, did Sembler know about it and allow it--even though her own salary and the salaries of Straight's top five highest paid workers had all increased! Now he's saying he wasn't involved in the day-to-day operations of Straight!

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

The joke of the year. Mel Sembler tries to stall his trial by going to Israel for the Passover

12-14-05 .

On Aug. 26, 2003, Lenny Englander (who is Melvin Sembler's attorney in Pumpgate) filed, and was granted, a motion for expedited discovery including deposition and interrogatories from Ray Bradbury. Judge Walt Logan signed the order. The Semblers thought Bradbury would just cave under their might, but he did not. At some point it must have dawned on the Sembler crowd that once Ray Bradbury is deposed, Mel Sembler must be also. Today, all the principals in PumpGate have been deposed except for--except for Mel Sembler! Sembler pushed early on for an expedited trial, but now, over two years later, it is Sembler who is delaying.

But his latest delay takes the cake. A trial date has finally been set for April 10 - April 21, 2006. Former Straight victims from all over the country have been making tentative plans to be there to, hopefully, finally see the man they feel responsible for the horrors they endured at Straight. But now, in an almost laughable motion, the Semblers have requested that the judge delay the trial because they, with their families, will be going to Israel for the Passover from April 10 to April 20!

For over two years Lenny Englander has been handling this case for the Semblers, but this time Mel Sembler personally filed the motion. He told the judge that the vacation dates can not be changed because other family members are going with him. He even tries to set the judge's mind at ease telling him this is not just another stalling attempt. He writes, "This motion is being filed in good faith and not for dilatory purposes." "Dilatory"--that's just a stupid comment to make. It's like when CNN's Peter Arnett claimed in the first Gulf War that the Americans had bombed a baby milk factory in Abu Ghraib. US intelligence said the camouflage plant was making biological weapons. Arnett showed film footage of technicians rummaging through debris sporting white medical-type frocks with the words BABY MILK FACTORY emblazoned boldly on the back in English--of all languages. There are no baby milk factories. There are milk companies that make skim milk, 2% fat milk, baby milk and cottage cheese. And these corporations have names like PET, Inc. or Bordens--not Baby Milk Factory. You just don't tell the judge this request is not a "stall tactic."

Poor Judge Rondolino. There is no way in hell he would grant such a request to Ray Bradbury; but if he denies Sembler's personal request, that, we fear, could be the end of his judgeship as we know it. Obviously, Judge Rondolino must comply and reschedule the trial to fit National Lampoon's Vacation. But we must advise Judge Rondolino not to reschedule for Sep. 23, 2006 to Oct. 10, 2006. If you do Sir, we can assure you that Sembler will pack up Betty and the kids and head to Mecca for Ramadan!