We get a lot of comments and correspondence from our readers about our articles. Much of it is negative, as people will rarely take time out of their day to let you know they like something, or enjoyed your work.
I have long understood that is part of the business, particularly on the cop beat. When writing about arrests and criminal prosecutions, with people's lives at stake, the interaction can be quite emotional.
Defendants, and their loved ones, can't lash out at the police, prosecutors or judges, so we are an easy target. They hear only what their loved ones tell them, which is often not the truth, and the indignation begins.
This week's best irate, off-base commentary came from a business partner of gym proprietor and accused drug runner Gordon D. "Denny" Wilhelm, who was upset at the article I wrote about an upcoming court appearance for an apparent guilty plea scheduled in Wilhelm's case. The court calendar, in black-and-white, lists his case for a "plea and sentence" on Jan. 10.
I'm not going to publish her name, because 6 months or a year from now, when she is likely seeing things a little more clearly than she is at this point, she will probably regret some of the stands she took. She won't be the first.
Her social media diatribe (which conveniently doesn't mention her business relationship with Wilhelm) started with an accusation that the article was "false" and "completely inaccurate," as has been "75 percent" of our reporting on the case. Lacking from her prose was, you know, actual details of what was "inaccurate."
It was forwarded to editors here and to our Facebook page. Concerned that I may have screwed up, I reached out. What were the inaccuracies?
Two days later, I'm still waiting for an answer.
She replied that we incorrectly printed that Wilhelm was "denied" bail. Sorry, no such statement was printed in our paper or website this week or at any point during this case, according to our archives. She was upset that we (accurately) printed Wilhelm's height and college athletic exploits.
She wanted to know where I got the information. Each sentence that could be controverted has what we call "attribution" for the information, so that should be easy to figure out.
(I did find it ironic that this woman was a diehard follower of my Twitter postings during the Alexander West boat case, frequently interacting with me via social media during that trial. I guess my reporting was accurate enough for her then, but took a drastic turn for the worse a few months later, when it focused on a close friend of hers.)
What it comes down to, and she eventually wrote as much, is she was upset we published the article at all. My theory is, from what I have heard from police about Wilhelm's recorded jail phone calls, she has been getting his line that he is only going to serve a "couple" of years, when the plea deal offer is for a 9.5-year sentence, at the least.
Since Wilhelm and his family are well-known in town, and there is a lot of public interest in this case, I have reviewed the court file pretty much every week or so since the indictment was filed, to keep tabs on it.
It is full of sworn documents, lab reports, statements and police case file information. Again, more black-and-white documents to be used at trial, on which our coverage has been based.
It is unfortunate that Wilhelm, who many were optimistic had turned his life around after a 2011 drug arrest, is going through this. But I didn't play a part in his arrest, the alleged seizure of 17 ounces of cocaine from him or the videotaped confession that police compiled when questioning him after the drug seizure.
I'm just the messenger.
I know we are in the era of "fake news" and other such nonsense, where people just conveniently decide they won't believe what they don't want to believe. But sometimes we just have to take a step back and realize that maybe, just maybe, the information we glean from sworn public records and interviews with those integrally involved in a matter like this is a little more accurate than the rumor mill, or what you are being fed.
-- Don Lehman