Stories That Made a Difference

And some we regret

But a three-month, pretrial Weekly investigation uncovered evidence of sloppy, deceitful law enforcement work that suggested authorities had tried to convert a tragic accident into a murder.

Gunshots fired at point-blank range generally cause circular wounds and show powder burns. Paramedics at the scene, a hospital surgeon and a medical examiner's lab had found no powder burns; each described the wound as star-shaped—evidence consistent with Molina's alibi. Nevertheless, Deputy Guest claimed Molina killed her son after she pressed her gun "up against the victim's head" and coldly fired.

On the opening day of the three-week trial, Deputy District Attorney Robin Parks held up a copy of the Weekly's pretrial story and declared it trash. But jurors learned during three weeks of testimony that the police fudged reports, offered suspicious testimony, and unnecessarily strip-searched and belittled Molina as they told her that her son had died in surgery. They also learned conclusively that Molina's story matched the government's own forensics evidence: the shot had been fired from as far away as two feet. The jury voted unanimously against all charges.

BOB HOPE
"Hope Springs Infernal" by Dave Wielenga, June 6, 2003

Illustration by Bob Aul
Former Weekly staffer Dave Wielenga hated Bob Hope. Hated him. Though he never really explained the reason for the hate, Dave had made it clear to us that there was an open invitation to party at his house the day Hope dropped. But Hope just kept on living. He turned 85, then 90, 95 and 99. By the time he turned 100, Wielenga unloaded in a piece that began: "So Bob Hope lived to be 100, and that's wrong. Bob Hope is everything that was wrong with America in the 20th century—lucky, opportunistic, selfish, two-faced, sophomoric, shortsighted, undeservedly rich, intolerably smug." It went on like that for 500 words. "Bob Hope is everything that is wrong with our immigration laws . . . Bob Hope is everything that is wrong with the 21st century . . . Bob Hope is everything that was wrong with Bing Crosby. And that dude was fuckedup."

Anyway, Dave's "Hope Springs Infernal" ran in June 2003. By July, Bob Hope, who'd survived two World Wars and Call Me Bwana, was dead. Sadly, Wielenga was in Mexico when the great day arrived and could not share it with his friends. Of course, he had shared with readers, and they in turn shared with him. Jack Ryan of Laguna Niguel wrote what I think is my all-time favorite OC Weekly letter in that it not only contained the usual anger but also seemed to capture the slow burn of incredulity many readers experience:

Dave Wielenga, you're everything that is wrong with human life, because there is something totally wrong about you living to whatever age you are to be able to write the vile garbage that you do about people like Bob Hope ["Hope Springs Infernal," June 6] who you wouldn't make a pimple on his ass. So go fuck yourself, you pinko asshole. Same to the rest of your asshole staff. Man, you people really suck! Why don't your anonymous cowards get some balls and face off on those people that piss them off so much?

I copied Ryan's letter, blew it up, framed it and gave it to Dave as a Christmas present.

SHAQUILLE O'NEAL
"The Shaq Trap" by Steve Lowery, June 18, 1999
This piece, in which Lowery declared the Lakers would never win a championship with O'Neal in the lineup, ran on Lowery's birthday, and it seems we still hear about it annually from readers: "Talk about famous last words, a bad case of foot-in-mouth . . . Lakers won't win championships with O'Neal? I am sure Steve's prophetic utterances included the caveat that we were to ignore the next one, two, three . . ." That came four years after Lowery mispredicted the future. What all these letters miss is that he was right. More than that, he provided the road map to a dynasty. "I wrote that the Lakers would never win with a center interested only in scoring, citing such great teams as Bill Russell's Celtics, who won because their center kept others from scoring through blocks, intimidation and cleaning up the glass," Lowery explains now. "And, indeed, the first year that the Lakers took a title with O'Neal, he averaged 3.03 blocks as opposed to a career mark of 2.69, averaged 15.4 rebounds in the playoffs as opposed to a career mark of 12.4. It's as if the Lakers read my piece and said to O'Neal, 'Do this.' It's as if . . ." You're not buying this, are you? Fine. Just please stop e-mailing us about O'Neal.

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