dimanche 6 janvier 2013

The Slabbed Nation Part 1(a): Anne-Marie Vandenweghe aka unslabbed aka Whitmergate, the early years

"The distinction between past, present, and future is only a stubbornly persistent illusion." Douglas K. Handshoe on Slabbed

In Part One of this RealMalice series, the background of Slabbed Nation member Anne-Marie Vandenweghe, aka Anne-Marie Boudreaux, aka Anne-Marie Weiss, aka "unslabbed" aka, allegedly, "Whitmergate" and seemingly "viewfromhell," is for the first time brought together from public sources. 

The title of this blog, RealMalice, does not express the sentiment of the publishers, authors, or commenters here on RealMalice; rather the title defines the intent of this blog to unmask the true motive of those whose Internet commentary it covers: malice.

Ms. Vandenweghe's history as a public figure, and her social links provide substantive insight into motives behind Slabbed blog's publications from late 2009 to the present day, as the recent political corruption and landfill contract scandal in Jefferson Parish, Louisiana, unfolded. It is suspected that Vandenweghe takes on several anonymous personae on Slabbed, repeatedly pursuing "sock puppet" exercises to get her point across and make it appear there is greater support for Slabbed in the blog's comments section than is truly the case, much like in the recent blogging scandal in the New Orleans U.S. Attorney's Office.

Vandenweghe's background and connections raise serious questions about Slabbed's purpose and motives as it suddenly turned to focus on Jefferson Parish, Louisiana in early 2010.

It's notable that on August 28, 2011, on nola.com, commenter “Mencken1951” (then Assistant U.S. Attorney Sal Perricone) posted a comment on a story about Anne-Marie Vandenweghe's federal civil lawsuit against Jefferson Parish:

Could it be that SLABBED is the alter ego of the Plaintiff?

Born to parents who immigrated from Belgium, Vandenweghe attended Tulane University Law School, graduating in 1980. She attended Tulane at the same time as Jim Letten, who would later become the New Orleans U.S. Attorney as well as Jan Maselli, who would later become Letten's 1st Assistant U.S. Attorney in charge of criminal prosecutions. By their Bar Association admission dates, she appears to have been one year behind Letten at law school, one year ahead of Maselli. Jan Maselli would later marry Jim Mann. Her father was Joe Maselli, a New Jersey native, who went to Tulane and then in 1949 founded City Wholesale Liquor Co., a New Orleans distributorship. The Times-Picayune reported in his obituary:

Mr. Maselli founded the American-Italian Renaissance Foundation, oversaw an American-Italian Sports Hall of Fame and, with others, was an occasional White House guest when presidents going back to Gerald Ford wanted to consult local leaders on matters of ethnic or cultural heritage, said his son, Joseph Maselli Jr. 
A huge sports fan, Mr. Maselli counted among friends former Los Angeles Dodgers manager Tony Lasorda and boxing manager Angelo Dundee, his son said. 
Mr. Maselli participated in the civic life of New Orleans as well, as a member of the New Orleans Aviation Board, the French Market Board, the state Board of Ethics and the Metropolitan Crime Commission.
While fresh out of school Vandenweghe worked under attorney Roy d'Aquila who later played a role in Slabbed's theories about criminal schemes related to Aaron Broussard. She also reportedly clerked with the U.S. Department of Labor.

By 1991, Vandenweghe was a Director, along with Victor J. Trapani, Jr., of Resolution Management Corporation. Some sources indicate she was also involved with Trapani, Jr. in the New Orleans School of Gaming. Trapani's father was at one time co-owner, with Carlos Marcello, of the New Southport Club, a Jefferson Parish casino.

In November, 1992, Vandenweghe won a seat on Jefferson Parish Council, after running a campaign that attacked the council as a group concerned with personal profit rather than parish needs, according to the Times-Picayune. She took the seat of Larry Hooper, who was allied with Mike Yenni.

By June of 1993, Vandenweghe attracted public criticism for a sign she placed at an intersection of Clearview Parkway that implied she had paid for extensive beautification and landscaping out of her own pocket, when in fact the monies came from the proceeds of bingo games collected by parish government for a Community Services Fund. The Times-Picayune reported:

Top administrators for Parish President Mike Yenni are seething over what they consider a blatant public relations move on her part. 
Yenni officials have consistently argued for the bingo money to go to the general fund where they also can spend it and have frequently criticized the Community Services Fund 
"This is just symptomatic of the larger problem that they have this money to do whatever they want," Deputy Chief Administrative Assistant Paul Connick said. "We're all for beautification, but this is not something we should be underwriting when the funds for these projects are usually provided by private sources."
Vandenweghe stated: "If it's such a big deal, I'll pull the sign down."

On January 1, 1994, Vandenweghe lost her right to practice law in Louisiana for failing to pay her Bar Association dues. Her license was suspended by the Bar Association and the Louisiana Supreme Court, and was not reinstated until December 12, 1994. This was apparently not the first time her license had been suspended in at least 2 states.

Despite the suspension, Vandenweghe practiced law in 1994, representing gambling interests in the state. Yet her work for the Grand Palais riverboat casino project did not come to light until she was in the midst of a race both for a judgeship and for her council seat at the same time. She did not disclose what her spokesman said was $12,000 worth of work, until it was raised by third parties. As the Times-Picayune reported, she did the work "despite a state law against elected officials working for licensed gambling boats." That is, not only did she practice law while her license was suspended, she also violated state law against a public official providing legal services to the gambling industry, according to the Times-Picayune.

The prohibition, part of the Riverboat Economic Development and Gaming Control Act, bans elected officials from engaging in any business activity - except as a patron - with a riverboat gambling licensee. It specifically mentions "legal services" in the definition of business activity.
Vandenweghe's excuse for the law license suspension was that she had mailed the check and never got notice it wasn't cashed. Yet the Times-Picayune reported that the 1994 suspension was one of four since 1986.

In March, 1995, problems with the way Vandenweghe was conducting her campaign began to pop up. The New Orleans daily newspaper reported on a situation involving campaign supporter Republican Sheriff Harry Lee:

One of the latest disputes in the hot 24th Judicial District Court race is whether candidate Anne Marie Vandenweghe's campaign literature hoodwinks voters into thinking she has a current law practice in Florida.  
Most recently, in a March 27 letter from Sheriff Harry Lee paid for by the Vandenweghe campaign, he writes: "Anne Marie received her law degree from Tulane Law School and has maintained her law practice in Louisiana and Florida." 
In fact, an official with the Florida Bar Association confirmed Thursday that Vandenweghe has been ineligible to practice law in that state since Jan. 31, 1992, because she failed to meet continuing education requirements. A second grounds was added July 25, 1994, for failure to pay bar association dues, said Jeanie Lahon of the association.
In late April, 1995, Vandenweghe got into a public conflict with U.S. Representative Bob Livingston over his agreement to give specifically-qualified support to Vandenweghe because she was a fellow Republican. Livingston gave Vandenweghe specific parameters about what she could use in one piece of campaign literature, a one-page flyer that would not indicate formal endorsement and would not bear his signature. Despite this, Vandengweghe produced a four-page flyer as well as a postcard that reproduced his signature and attributed supportive words to Livingston. The Times-Picayune reported:
"I'm embarrassed, I'm angry and I have to live with it," Livingston said. "But I'm not going to live with people putting words in my mouth."
Vandenweghe called the situation "inconceivable."
"If he didn't want to support me, he shouldn't have supported me," Vandenweghe said. "And if he had a change of heart, I wish he had called me personally. I would never have put him in this position. I wish he hadn't put me in this position."
Vandenweghe said she personally faxed every piece of literature to Livingston's district aide, Rick Legendre, for approval.
Legendre said he received only one piece of paper from Vandenweghe - the single flier that he and Livingston say they approved.
Her opponent in the race and Livingston's friend called it "an issue of integrity."

In November, 1995, another scandal surfaced surrounding Vandenweghe's judicial campaign:

Jefferson Parish Councilwoman Anne Marie Vandenweghe received $2,500 from a consulting firm less than two weeks after she bypassed a committee's recommendation and chose the firm for road work in her district, her campaign finance report shows. 
Vandenweghe said the timing was coincidental because the road services contract had been on the Parish Council's agenda for several months before she made her selection.  
"I was not aware they had made a donation," she said, saying that a certified public accountant handles her campaign fund.
Vandenweghe's ill-fated campaign would take yet another twist before ending in defeat.
In an opinion piece entitled "Contemptible Attack Ads," Times-Picayune columnist James Gill summarized many of the events listed above, but what really disturbed him was a Vandenweghe TV commercial going after her competitor named Rothschild. Gill commenced with:

It no longer seems important that Anne Marie Vandenweghe, councilwoman and candidate for Jefferson Parish judge in Saturday's election, has hardly ever set foot in a courtroom.  
Vandenweghe has run a campaign so utterly devoid of integrity that no amount of experience could make her fit for any role in the administration of justice. 
We may be inured to gutter politics, but her recent attack ads come straight out of the sewer.
Noting her powerful supporter in Sheriff Harry Lee, Gill then passed on to describing and commenting on the TV commercial scandal and its implications:
Now, up she pops in a television ad strolling through a Harahan neighborhood where a young girl was allegedly raped by her father and his friend.
Rothschild, as an assistant district attorney, reduced the charges so that the men could go free, return to the neighborhood and inflict further trauma on the child, a grim-faced Vandenweghe announces.
In a lurid fiction that would make the author of a dime novel blush, she adds that the girl is in a virtual prison of Rothschild's making as the rapists "taunt her from their porches."
Viewers might wonder how Rothschild could have made a living as a prosecutor all these years if he could pull a stunt like that, and the ad seemed so ludicrous that it was more likely to harm the Vandenweghe cause than to help it.
The Rothschild campaign nevertheless went to court to have the commercial suppressed and produced a mess of documents and witnesses to show that he had nothing to do with the case and that the assistant DAs in charge of it had reluctantly allowed the suspects to plead to lesser charges because the victim was too distressed to testify and a conviction seemed impossible.
As a condition of the plea bargain the two men could not so much as drive down the street where the girl lives. Documents filed in court by Vandenweghe's attorneys contained no evidence that Rothschild played any role in the case.
Judge Robert Burns nevertheless ruled that, however "personally offensive" he found the ad, constitutional guarantees of free speech prohibit government officials from enjoining political commercials. Dismissing Rothschild's suit, he pointed out that the law provides other remedies for people who have been defamed.
That means Rothschild is entitled to seek damages for libel, which is scant consolation with the election a few days away.

But it is a mistake to think you can run to the courthouse and muzzle people who say unkind things about you. You have to fight free speech with free speech . . .

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