LA Times v the Weekly on Haidl Rape Plea

moxley1.gifIf there ever was any doubt that LA Times columnist Dana Parsons is the laziest, most misinformed journalist in the Haidl Gang Rape saga, consider his new column. In the past, he's blamed OC District Attorney Tony Rackauckas (not the rapists or their lawyers) for torturing Jane Doe, the victim. He's alleged that the DA never considered a plea deal that would have saved Doe from testifying at the second trial. He's claimed prison would not be an appropriate punishment for the rapists and later, after sentencing and a great deal of pressure from outraged women, claimed he supported six-year prison sentences.

Those are three of the many errors Parsons has told over the years. (See our online Haidl Gang Rape archive and last Sunday's blog post: Parsons v Parsons.)

In today's column, Parsons does a clever if unsuccessful job of defending his latest mistake. He says he only learned on Friday that the defense had rejected a plea deal before the launch of the second trial in February 2005.

Parsons doesn't explain that this lone fact destroys his recent anti-Rackauckas column. Nor does he apologize or reveal why it takes him so long to get easily obtainable news.

OC Weekly readers have known for 56 weeks what Parsons sadly just discovered.

From the Feb. 10, 2005, issue of the Weekly: "In the days before Haidl II began, a plea-bargain deal was in the works: Haidl, Nachreiner and Spann would admit guilt, accept three-year sentences and a lengthy probation. The district attorney's office refused comment, but sources said the deal was ready to go until Cavallo nixed it the day before trial began."

Getting facts wrong about plea deals and other key events, remaining silent about slimy defense lawyer tactics, blaming the prosecutor for prosecuting the case, not bothering to attend an overwhelming majority of the hearings, relying exclusively on the defense team for information, etc.--none of that compares to the biggest mistake: Assuming the girl was not unconscious during the crime. That blunder fueled all of his numskull columns, including the one that had Parsons lecturing and blaming the 16-year-old victim. She was just as responsible for the gang rape as the three men, he argued early in the case.

If Parsons really wants to issue a mea culpa, he should apologize to Jane Doe for perpetuating the defense lie that she faked unconsciousness because she was "a slut." He should also apologize to his readers, who've come to expect more thorough research. In the late 1990s, I named him "best local journalist" for his excellent work exposing blunders in a high profile robbery case. What happened to the man who fought injustice?

The Times has a new slogan for Orange County: "Now More Than Ever," a cute play in OC on Republican Richard Nixon's 1972 slogan. (The paper craves conservative readers.) But if it's Parsons on Haidl, the slogan should be: Clueless More Than Ever.


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