FYI – Interesting discussion with AP senior management about Nicolas Geranios’ AP wire story on the recent US Attorney’s Office press conference on RPS bond fraud and the death of Ms. Jo Savage in the RPS parking garage.

Ron the Cop

[Ed Note: HTML links inserted for reference]

Certified US Mail

September 22, 2008

Mr. Tom Curley , President
Associated Press
450 W. 33rdrd Street
New York, New York 10001

Re: AP Story – No charges in Spokane River Park Square case (Filed by AP Reporter Nicholas K. Geranios, Spokane, WA)

Dear Mr. Curley:

I am a recently retired police detective from Riverside PD, CA having served some thirty-five years, five of which as an economic crimes investigator. You20can read my attached bio and the significant cases I worked. I relocated to Spokane, WA for its many fine attributes. Soon after relocating here I discovered a level systemic co-option and corruption of the political and government structures in this community I have never witnessed before in my entire law enforcement career the. In my opinion The Cowles Co (An AP member and owner of The Spokesman-Review), and its surrogates, have systemically co-opted and or corrupted governmental officials both elected and appointed. The normal political and governmental controls have failed because of being so thoroughly co-opted and/or corrupted by this incestuous, insidious, and malignant ongoing criminal enterprise/conspiracy.

I too attended the 09-05-08 press conference held by the US Attorney’s Office in Spokane, WA (See attached press release). S-R reporter Jonathan Brunt was there along with AP reporter Nicholas Geranios. I’ve read the reports filed by both of them. I noted in Mr. Geranios made a major factual error. I pointed out this error to him and requested he issue a correction (See attached letter). The IRS not only questioned the tax-exempt status of the RPS bonds, it disallowed the tax-exempt status saying the, “casino was rigged.” The IRS found that the foundation set up by the RPS developer (The Cowles Co) that these bonds were issued “on behalf of” was a sham. I’ve studied the evidence of the RPS bond fraud, and the bogus tax-exempt status of the RPS bonds, as established by the IRS report about them, is at the very heart of this $100M fraud. Let me be very clear Mr. Curley: my law enforcement experience leads me to the conclusion, based overwhelming published evidenced, that an AP member used its media and AP connections to perpetuate this fraud. I have yet to hear from Mr. Geranios’ reporting on illegal status of these bonds that has the effect of furthering this fraud (See my attached letter). Was this simply an oversight?

In further examining the AP wire story, I noticed Mr. Geranios glossed over the significance of Ms. Jo Savage’s death in the RPS parking garage:

Investigators also concluded that no federal laws were broken in the 2006 death of Jo Ellen Savage, of Pullman, who died after her vehicle crashed through a wall on the fifth floor of the parking garage and fell to the ground. They referred the case to Spokane County Prosecutor Steve Tucker for his consideration, Westinghouse said.

I found the statements of Assistant US Westinghouse regarding the Savage death extraordinary. S-R Reporter Jonathan Brunt caught this significance as well. Mr. Brunt included these quotes from Mr. Westinghouse and these explosive comments by David Savage, the former husband of Ms. Savage, in his S-R article of 09-06-08:

Federal attorneys who investigated several controversies su rrounding the downtown parking facility said Friday no federal charges apply in the April 2006 death of Jo Ellen Savage, but County Attorney Steve Tucker should decide whether state laws on negligent homicide apply.

“There are, of course, various degrees of manslaughter that may be of some concern,” said Robert Westinghouse, criminal chief for the U.S. attorney’s office in Western Washington. “We pass no judgment, again, because that it is outside our purview.”


But the decision to transfer information on Savage’s death from a federal grand jury to the Spokane County prosecutor’s office is an “extraordinary step,” according to David Savage, Jo Ellen Savage’s ex-husband and a former president of the Washington State Bar Association. Savage, who said he remained close to his former wife after their divorce, attended Friday’s news conference.

Tucker said it was the first time during his 10-year tenure as a county prosecutor that he had received evidence from a federal grand jury.


Savage died April 8, 2006, after her car hit a garage wall and fell from the structure’s fifth level onto the entry ramp below. Savage said he believes there are “substantial grounds for a criminal prosecution for manslaughter” based on information he learned during a civil suit on the matter. Savage’s family received a settlement from Cowles Co.’s insurers “substantially” more than $1 million, he said.

In 1993, engineer Richard Atwood warned River Park Square officials of problems in the walls. He recommended the garage erect cables to prevent cars from hitting barriers or that the owners conduct more extensive tests. Neither action was taken, though mall officials have said they made other improvements and conducted other tests.

“For economic reasons the owners chose not to make the repairs or modifications, thus placing the economics of the garage ahead of public safety,” Savage said. [My emphasis]

Please note Mr. Brunt reports Savage “hit” while Mr. Geranios reports “crashed” into the parking barrier. I suppose this is a matter of semantics but I’ve read the police report containing the eyewitness accounts. This was a low speed impact that could be characterized as a “bump.” In my mind this S-R archive photo circa 1991 showing one of these barriers, which failed in the same manner that catapulted Jo Savage to her death, says it all. These barriers have failed multiple times in the ensuing years. The owners have been warned multiple times by several engineering reports that critical repairs were needed. This lack of action demonstrates the reckless lack ordinary care and due diligence owed to the patrons of the parking garage by its owners to perform critical maintenance and repairs.

From the US DOJ’s own press release:

At issue is whether faulty maintenance at the garage led t o the accident. The review determined there is no federal statue that would address the facts surrounding the accident. Whether the State statues proscribing negligent homicide have application to these facts is a decision better left to local authorities. . . Prosecutors sought and obtained permission from the court to provide certain limited grand jury materials to Spokane County Prosecutor Steve Tucker for his review.

As a career law enforcement investigator the significance of Assistant US Attorney Westinghouse’s press release and comments to the media did not miss my attention. As Mr. Westinghouse said using the resources of their grand jury tools, they found evidence in the Savage death that they felt warranted review under state law involving negligent homicide. They sought special permission to release this evidence to County Prosecutor Steve Tucker. As both Mr. Tucker and Mr. Savage are quoted in Brunt’s article this is unprecedented and extraordinary. What Mr. Westinghouse was saying in his understated way was that they found compelling evidence in the Savage death that they could not ignore and or dismiss that warranted review by local authorities under state law involving negligent homicide for the filing of possible criminal charges.

Was this too an oversight by Mr. Geranios? Why didn’t the AP run the additional information contained in Mr. Brunt’s article including the very damning statements by Mr. Savage? The Cowles Co. has been a prominent AP member for many decades, and a Cowles family member has often been an AP director. The Cowles Co was the developer of RPS, the owner of the RPS parking garage and is a potential criminal defendant in the Savage negligent homicide case. I consider this oversight to be highly suspicious. With the history of the Cowles Co and its relationship with the AP, a compelling argument can be made that the AP is “spinning” this story to protect one of its own. If this is found to be an intentional act, the AP could be drawn into this ongoing criminal enterprise/conspiracy after the fact as an aider and or abettor. Former Sheriff Tony Bamonte has announced his intention to file a class action lawsuit on behalf of the citizens of Spokane to recover from those directly involved and those who aided and or abetted this fraud.

Mr. Curley there is a simple cure. Direct Mr. Geranios to write a follow-up story correcting his error re the tax-exempt states of the first RPS bonds and report the real significance of the Savage death in the RPS parking garage. The lack of such a correction will show specific intent by the AP to aid the Cowles Co in its involvement in this death by “spinning” and understating this story. Not to mention a failure to abide by your own core values and principles:

For more than a century and a half, men and women of The Associated Press have had the privi lege of bringing truth to the world. They have gone to great lengths, overcome great obstacles – and, too often, made great and horrific sacrifices – to ensure that the news was reported quickly, accurately and honestly. Our efforts have been rewarded with trust: More people in more places get their news from the AP than from any other source. . .

That means we abhor inaccuracies, carelessness, bias or distortions. It means we will not knowingly introduce false information into material intended for publication or broadcast; nor will we alter photo or image content. Quotations must be accurate, and precise. . .

It means we avoid behavior or activities that create a conflict of interest and compromise our ability to report the news fairly and accurately, uninfluenced by any person or action. . .

And ultimately, it means it is the responsibility of every one of us to ensure that these standards are upheld. Any time a question is raised about any aspect of our work, it should be taken seriously. . .

In summary let me be perfectly clear Mr. Curley, the prime suspects in this $100M fraud of public money and in the opinion one of this Country’s premier law enforcement officer, former Sheriff Tony Bamonte, are suspects in a First-Degree Manslaughter are two AP members. This imposes significant ethical and legal obligation on the AP. As a veteran criminal investigator I will be watching AP closely. Please feel free to contact me anytime if you need fu rther information.

The choice is simple Mr. Curley.


Det. Ron Wright (Retired)

3327 Indian Trail Rd., PMB135
Spokane, WA 99208
xxxxx (cell)

———- Forwarded message ———-
From: Oreskes, Michael
Date: Tue, Sep 23, 2008 at 12:11 PM
Subject: Thank You

Dear Detective Wright,

Tom Curley shared your note with me. Let me thank you for taking the
time to write such a detailed and professional summary of the case and
analysis of our coverage. If I understand you properly, you are raising
questions not about the facts of the case as we have reported them but
rather about our presentation of those facts–which facts we have chosen
to stress and which facts we did not stress or report at all in the particular
story you focus on. In the territory of news judgment there is always room
for differences. I can assure you that our reporters and editors had no
motive other than to report the story as accurately as they could. You,
in turn, have every right to challenge how well we succeeded. Since this
is an ongoing case, we want to make sure we understand the issues
described in your note before any further stories. So Jodie DeJonge, our
Washington State Bureau Chief20is planning to be in touch to discuss

Thanks again for your note

My best Regards,

Michael Oreskes
Managing Editor
United States News

———- Forwarded message ———-
From: rocketsbrain <>
Date: Wed, Sep 24, 2008 at 10:21 AM
Subject: Reply re Mr. Geranios and demand for correction of RPS story

September 24, 2008

Michael Oreskes
Managing Editor – United States News
The Associated Press

Dear Mr. Oreskes,

Thank you for your quick and courteous response. You did capture the essence of my complaint and demand for a correction/addendum of Mr. Geranios’ wire story. I am a student of the paradigm shift occurring your profession is undergoing. The key to surviving is going back to the basics of journalism as outlined by the Committee of Concerned Journalists that I had the privilege of hearing one of its founders speak. The traditional media no longer holds the preeminent position of the du jour source of the news. We are experiencing a major communication reformation as great or greater than that of Martin Luther’s time (Hugh Hewitt’s Blog and Glenn Reynolds’ An Army of Davids). The new/alternative media does not require large capital investments e.g., printing p resses and transmission networks of the traditional or mainstream media. The new medium of expression is essentially free for all to participate. The currency of the new media is the validity, reliability, and predictability of the information provided in one’s own daily life. The sources that best meet those needs will attract readers and grow. Those sources that lack credibility and/or don’t correct misinformation quickly will die. The emerging alternative/new media has the massive parallel processing power of a “smart” distributive computer network that can instantaneously transmit breaking news and has the ability to fact check and subject expertise that no newsroom can afford. There will always be a need for aggregators of the news that provide value added worth. I foresee an evolving blend between the new and the old media.

As I said in my letter both former Sheriff Bamonte and I concur the circumstances surrounding the death of Ms. Jo Savage in the RPS parking garage arise to the level of a first-degree manslaughter under state law. Her death is part and parcel of this ongoing criminal enterprise/conspiracy. I won’t go into the details why the US Attorney’s Office passed on the RPS bond fraud. While they found no “criminal intent” to defraud, the burden of proof in a civil class action suit that Sheriff Bamonte has announced he will file is much less. You may be interested that Sheriff Bamonte is none other than the person who was chronicled in the bestseller Breaking Blue by NY times reporter Timothy Egan. Please see my attached letter to County Prosecutor Steve Tucker regarding the referral of the Savage case to his office by the US Attorney’s Office and also a letter from Sheriff Bamonte. The death of Ms. Jo Savage is a very compelling case that can presented to a jury in a manner that won’t cause their eyes to glaze over as would the very complex bond fraud case with all its subtle nuances to show a common design and criminal intent.

Sheriff Bamonte and I working independently of each other arrived as the same conclusion that The Spokesman-Review (S-R), which is owned by the Cowles Co, is an instrumentality of this ongoing criminal enterprise/conspiracy to conceal its criminal activity from public scrutiny. There is an inherent conflict of interest between the Spokesman-Review, which it owns, and the Cowles Co business and real estate interests. This is done by the S-R’s active self-censorship of stories and censorship of comments in the S-R blogs that would be highly detrimental to this ongoing criminal enterprise. This is uncharacteristic of a paper of record that normally would be a driving force of public opinion. The Cowles Co will ruthlessly retaliate against other media in town that attempt to cover this story. S-R Editor Steve Smith has sought to marginalized and dismiss Sheriff Bamonte and I and others who would ask pr obative questions as, “whackaloons, nutsos, crazies, and little green men.” As Mr. Smith recently admitted in a S-R Blog and indeed may have maliciously libeled award winning investigative reporters Tim Connor and Larry Shook of Camas Magazine:

Good afternoon,

Messrs. Connor and Shook take issue with my assertion that they aired publicly the belief that the Cowles family may have deliberately burned down two downtown properties, one fire leading to a firefighter’s death.

They believe I have libeled them.

I clearly recalled that they aired these views on the Fuhrman show in the weeks before Fuhrman was dumped, singly or together.

I suppose I might misremember, and if that is the case, I do apologize. I certainly had no intention of libeling them.

Insulting them, marginalizing them, ridiculing them, well yes, that is often my intention with Connor/Shook. [My emphasis]

Now that I have apologized to them, how about my apologies for the slanders, libels, accusations, false assertions and accusations of ethical misdeeds that are part and parcel of their anti-Spokesman agenda.

Whoa, that isn’t going to happen. Apologies, for these two, go only one way.

stevePosted by Steven A. Smith | 3 Jun 4:09 PM

I would be happy to provide sources and references if you’re truly interested in seeking the truth. I have written extensively about the ruthless nature of the Cowles Co stranglehold on the flow of information in the Spokane market. You can read more in my attached letter to US Attorney Jeffrey Sullivan and a former associate at the Federal Trade Commission that I provided to the media present at the news conference. I assume Mr. Geranios received copies. Here’s an excerpt of my letter to US Attorney Jeffrey Sullivan:

During Tom Grant’s tenure at KXLY while he was reporting on RPS, KXLY was losing major ad revenue in the $100k of dollars from the Cowles Co. KXLY’s General Manager Steve Herling who I recently interviewed, confirmed he wrote this following email. He did caution that he was able to replace this lost revenue and that he did not feel pressured to remove Grant. He said although he didn’t consider it fair that KXLY was off the Cowles Co “buy list,” it was its right to do so just as it was his right to refuse advertising:


—–Original Message—–
From: Steve Herling
Sent: Monday, May 14, 2001 2:34 PM
To: memoda
Cc: Chris Gilks, Michelle McIntyre, Teddie Gibbon
Subject: Re: Tom Grant
We do not agree with that assessment. RiverPark Square alone is testament to our ability to forgo ad dollars for truth. We have been off their “buy” list for over 2 years costing us hundreds of thousands of dollars because we supported the reporting, whether Tom Grant or any of our staff (yes there were other of our reporters on RPS than Tom). We never have shied from the truth for dollars and we’ve proven it. We have reported negative news about car dealers and taken the hit….Tom simply is uninformed about our busniness practices. We only spent $3,000 on the personal grooming consultant (TV is a visual medium and we want our people to look their best) not the $10,000. And that expenditure took nothing away from our journalism budget. We hope to have an exciting announcement soon of a replacement for Tom. It does make a difference to me if you watch. Remember KREM, KAYU and KHQ are getting all of the RiverPark Square advertising budget. If I lose you too I have really been penalized for doing the “right” thing.

As recently expressed by local veteran KXLY radio icon Mike Fitzsimmons in his blog:

We know firsthand in Spokane about what can happen. The River Park Square story in Spokane, was deliberately and unethically under-reported by the Spokesman Review and one television station in our community, to protect the family that owned the mall and the media outlets. Imagine what might have been possible had this local media powerhouse controlled many more sources. The public might not have learned about this fiasco at all [My emphasis].

What we don’t know is whether this co-option and self-censorship extends to the AP and if so at what level whether intentionally or not. Mr. Geranios’ reporting provided a unique circumstance to examine this practice in action, hence my demand for a correction of Mr. Geranios’ article. The question is has Mr. Geranios under-reported previous stories on RPS over the last ten years? If so why? I explained to Mr. Geranios in my letter there was a significant misstatement of fact e.g., the IRS disallowed the tax-exempt status of the first RPS bonds. This goes to the very heart of the RPS bond fraud that will ultimately cost the citizens of Spokane $100M and is costing $1.5M in general fund revenue to service the debt.

Further if Mr. Geranios missed what Assistant US Attorney Westinghouse was saying in his understated way, S-R reporter Brunt caught it and courageously at some risk to his continued employment at the S-R reported and ran the explosive statements by Mr. Savage. It is our understanding normally a follow-up AP story would run that would have included this significant information in Mr. Brunt’s story. I am interested of course in the relationship between Mr. Geranios and t he S-R management, who has say over his work product and what may eventually released to the wire. This is not my area of expertise. I do share my information with Larry Shook. Mr. Shook too has sought clarification from Mr. Geranios but Mr. Geranios is not available for comment:

Dear Ms. DeJonge: Thank you very much for this e-mail. I understand from it that Mr. Geranios does not have the permission of AP management to grant me the interview I request. Beyond that, your response does not address the request I made of Mr. Geranios. For the record, I include my original e-mail to Mr. Geranios here:

Dear Mr. Geranios: Both retired police detective Ron Wright and former sheriff Tony Bamonte have sent me copies of complaints and correction requests they have made concerning your recent River Park Square-related coverage. I would like to interview you about the reporting in question and Det. Wright’s and Sheriff Bamonte’s complaints about it. I phoned your office but received neither an answer nor a voice mail option. Prior to the interview I request would you please provide me with a description of AP’s policy for handling stories concerning AP members? If there is a written version of that policy, please provide that to me. Thank you very much. Sincerely, Larry Shook

So I repeat my request to you and AP president Tom Curley: “Please provide me with a description of AP’s policy for handling stories concerning AP members. If there is a written version of that policy, please provide that to me. If no such policy exists, and if stories concerning AP members are handled like all other stories, please just tell me that. I am looking for clear, uequivocal responses to these requests. I reviewed the “News Values Statement” cited in your e-mail and find no information responsive to my requests. If I missed it, please point it out to me.
Thank you for taking the time to write to me, and thank you for your assistance. Sincerely, Larry Shook

Again I truly appreciate your courteous and concerned response. In summary there is a significant misstatement of fact in Mr. Geranios’ story that goes to the heart of the RPS fraud. Further Mr. Geranios appears to have missed the significance of the US Attorney’s Office press conference. This was not missed by Mr. Brunt. Whether this was intentional or not the effect is the same. It conceals that two AP members are potential defendants in the negligent homicide of Ms. Jo Savage. This is the lede.

As I said in my other letter:

. . . the prime suspects in this $100M fraud of public money and in the opinion one of this Country’s premier law enforcement officer, former Sheriff Tony Bamonte, are suspects in a First-Degree Manslaughter are two AP members. . .

Mr. Curley there is a simple cure. Direct Mr. Geranios to write a follow-up story correcting his error re the tax-exempt states of the first RPS bonds and report the real significance of the Savage death in the RPS parking garage. The lack of such a correction will show specific intent by the AP to aid the Cowles Co in its involvement in this death by “spinning” and understating this story.

From Ms. DeJonge email to Mr. Shook, Mr. Geranios has been removed from the loop. There is a major story here that the AP as of yet has covered. Perhaps as a mitigation the AP should consider commissioning Larry Shook the source expert and credentialed journalist to write this follow-up story.


Det. Ron Wright (Retired)

3327 Indian Trail Rd., PMB135
Spokane, WA 99208
xxxxxx (Cell)


September 24, 2008

Jodie DeJonge
Washington State Bureau Chief
The Associated Press

Re: Demand for Correction of AP wire story of US Attorney’s Office press conference

Dear Ms. DeJonge,

Thank you ever so much for your call this morning regarding my complaint. As I understand it you will discuss with Mr. Geranios that he will correct the misstatement of fact re the IRS disallowing the tax-exempt status of the RPS bonds. Further we discussed the significance of the US Attorney’s Office action in referring the death of Ms. Jo Savage in the RPS parking garage for review by County Prosecutor Tucker under state law involving negligent homicide. I expressed my concerns regarding Mr. Tucker’s capacity to impartially conduct this review. You indicated that you will be following this case and when appropriate make contact with Mr. Tucker. You also said Mr. Geranios’ report was his own based on his attendance at the press conference and that his report was not filtered by or influenced by any outside source. I will take you at your word at this point but as I cautioned there is an expected behavior of news outlets in this town that may have influenced his report in a subtle fashion. I will leave this inquiry to you and will be watching with interest further AP coverage on this continuing story.

As you suggests Mr.Oreskes said regarding Mr. Geranios’ story is a matter of perspective:

. . .which facts we have chosen to stress and
which facts we did not stress or report at all in the particular story
you focus on. In the territory of news judgment there is always room for
differences. I can assure you that our reporters and editors had no
motive other than to report the story as accurately as they could. You,
in turn, have every right to challenge how well we succeeded. Since this
is an ongoing case, we want to make sure we understand th e issues
described in your note before any further stories.

Very true but my perspective as a professional who similarly attempts to seek the truth from divergent and sometimes uncooperative sources, is that Mr. Geranios missed the lede of this story that was not missed by S-R reporter Brunt in his story. You raised the additional point while this issue may be very important to us locally, this may not be of interest to your national media clients and members. You expressed that we may be expecting too much of the AP to do the in-depth coverage of this story. True but if the contents of S-R Brunt’s story is not made available to the AP wire service, you limit the ability of your clients to determine the newsworthiness.

As I explained the Cowles Co media stranglehold on the flow of information in this market has led to the dysfunctional political and governmental climate that has allowed this ongoing criminal enterprise/conspiracy to exist. As I expressed previously both Shreriff Bamonte and I are interested if this self-censorship and filtering occurs with wire service stories. Without an inquiring media to ask the probative questions, there is no public hue and cry to force those who have a duty under their oaths of office to act. It’s a vicious circle of the chicken and the egg. This story needs national exposure to root out this incestuous and insidious evil from our midst.

I have attached as you requested the US Attorney’s Office20press release that indeed covers the Savage death. Further the IRS condemning report of the RPS bond fraud can be downloaded from this page. I am also linking to the Francher Report that can be downloaded from this page. Its findings ,when it was written in the late 70’s,are as true today if not more so. I’m also including my letter to US Attorney Jeffrey Sullivan and my letter to a colleague at the FTC that I sent in an earlier email to Mr.Oreskes as background. I’m also including again letters sent to Mr. Tucker by Sheriff Bamonte and I [Link here to my letter].

As an aside as to the ability of the new media to dig on stories here’s a link to the developing story on Sarah Palin that I mentioned:

Anti-Palin Smears Connected to Axelrod/Obama?

BTW “Dr. Rusty,” the founder of The Jawa Report is an AKA of political science professor to avoid the scrutiny of his educational institution. And also here’s the fascinating aspect of the serial murder/pedophile Joseph Duncan case that I mentioned:

Serial Murder Joseph Duncan & using the Blogos to force leverage scarce police resources

It was a pleasure talking with you. I understand you are to be my contact for this issue as you are here in Washington. I would hope you will extend the same professional courtesy to Larry Shook that has spent seven years on this story attempting to deliver the truth to the people. As I said I’m a strong supporter of a free press as a check on the abuses of our government that WE THE PEOPLE empower to govern. Without objective reporting we cannot hold our elected/appointed accountable. This is what is at the root of the corruption in Spokane. There are not multiple voices asking the probative questions, as they have been co-opted or marginalized. This is the lede of a national story I believe that would be of interest to all of your media clients. The S-R is not capable of writing that story.

Det. Ron Wright (Retired)

3327 Indian Trail Rd., PMB135
Spokane, WA 99208
xxxxxxx (Cell)


Later stories on this topic:

Challenge to AP to run correction on RPS bond fraud story

Shades of Spokane re political corruption?