Filed under: shameless self-promotion

The Spitzer Scandal *UPDATED*

CHECK THE BOTTOM OF THIS POST FOR AN UPDATE, ADDED 3/13/08. This entry was originally published 3/10, and has been updated for today to keep it at the top of the index page.

If you haven’t already heard, New York Governor Eliot Spitzer (D) has some ‘splainin’ to do. Quoting from the New York Times:

Gov. Eliot Spitzer, who gained national prominence relentlessly pursuing Wall Street wrongdoing, has been caught on a federal wiretap arranging to meet with a high-priced prostitute at a Washington hotel last month, according to a law enforcement official and a person briefed on the investigation…

That’s right, the Governor of New York, once a hardassed, vice-prosecuting attorney general, may have been doing some high-class whoring.

The “escort service” that allegedly “serviced” Gov. Spitzer (AKA ‘Client 9‘) was Emperors Club VIP. I’ve got a post up on Radar‘s “Fresh Intelligence” weblog about how the club’s web presence evolved over time:

A Look at the Emperors Club.

Nothing earth-shattering, but it may be enlightening, at the very least. Do not visit some of the links from my Radar post if you’re surfing from work. Please recommend the entry it if you find it interesting.

Additional link: Affidavit related to the case.

UPDATE, 3/13/08

I work for my readers. That’s why I can provide you with the following records of some web pages worth noting in relation to this story. They are all of alleged Spitzer call girl Ashley Dupre’s MySpace pages as they appeared about 24 hours ago, give or take. I sent all these docs to an editor at Radar last night, as well. (Here’s the entry where “Fresh Intelligence” utilized some of the files.)

I was waiting to see if Ms. Dupre would delete her “Nina Venetta” music profile and the associated blog. After thousands of (often hilarious) blog comments and hearings of her songs, she deleted the account sometime early this afternoon. It was interesting while it lasted.

The following documents are pdfs, and since that format is notoriously difficult to load in a Web browser, I’ve provided a route to loading the links easily, through PDFMeNot.com. The original pdf docs are hosted by my True Crime Magazine server. To see those, just remove the PDFMeNot portion of the link. To navigate any PDFMeNot file, just move the slider on the top right side of the page to enlarge the image, and click the radio buttons to page through each document. The last file, for example (#4), is 10 pages — if you’re not aware that you need to navigate that way, you may think the pdf has been truncated.

UPDATE 2

Weirdly, it looks as though MySpace “accidentally” deleted Dupre’s “Nina Venetta” pages. They’ve been restored:

http://www.myspace.com/ninavenetta
http://blog.myspace.com/ninavenetta

Do yourself a favor and read the comments on the blog. They are priceless, if you’re ever inclined to schadenfreude.

Faux Memoirist Margaret "Peggy" Seltzer: So I turned over some rocks…

I’ve been fascinated for a few days now with the story of author Margaret “Peggy” Seltzer and her fake memoir, Love and Consequences.

Seltzer wanted others to believe that she was Margaret B. Jones, AKA “Bree,” a half-white, half Native American woman who spent her youth as a foster child in South Central Los Angeles. Her book received cushy coverage from the New York Times after the its release, and that was Seltzer’s undoing. Her own sister called the Times to let them know the memoir was fiction. Truth was, Peggy Seltzer was a thoroughly white Valley Girl who attended the same private school made famous a few years after her graduation by students like the Olsen Twins.

Seltzer came clean and the book was pulled off the shelves. Naturally, everyone in the print media started going at the story hammer and tongs.

There may not be any major crime to write about here, but a literary fraud is still a fraud.

So I dug up some interesting stuff on Peggy Seltzer and the results have been published by Radar:

Seltzer Honed Homegirl Hosejob on AOL.”

Do me a favor if you like the story and recommend it — because dammit, I scooped everyone on this score. I scooped the Times, which has covered this story closely since Seltzer confessed her deception. I scooped Gawker.com, the infamous gossip blog, and they’ve been all over this story.

I guess I took it as a personal challenge when FishbowlLA wrote, “Motoko Rich owns the Peggy Seltzer story, and don’t even think of nabbing a tiny bit of it.” Sorry, FishbowlLA — that was just like waving a red flag in front of me. Motoko Rich at the Times really does own the majority of the story, but I took a big juicy bite, couldn’t help it.

I would also appreciate comments on the story at its location — Radar requires a very brief registration, but it’s worth your time if you want to leave comments on other stories later.

I wasn’t able to include everything I found related to Seltzer’s online life in the Radar piece. I’m still working those angles, because they are truly weird and fascinating. If I can’t come up with something solid enough for the paying gig, you may hear more about it in this space.

I have to admit — something about this story pissed me off, personally. How many times have people with real stories been bypassed by the publishing industry in favor of fabulists like Seltzer and James Frey? And what is it with these writers from privileged backgrounds creating narratives about hardships they never experienced? There’s just something galling as hell about literary liars like Margaret Seltzer. I think Seltzer may have had an altruistic desire to give a voice to people like the characters she created, but what she really did was expose an incredibly condescending, peculiarly American viewpoint held by many from privileged circumstances.

Much of the commentary I’ve read about Love and Consequences has focused on asking why Seltzer’s editor and publishers didn’t fact-check her. While that’s a perfectly valid question, the most important question to me is this — who the hell did she think she was? Folks should be asking, “how dare she?”

OK — proto-rant over. Go read what I wrote and follow the links to get a fuller understanding of the story, and why it pissed me off.

NOTES:

FishbowlLA gives a nod to the scoopage described above — thanks, Kate.

Kevin Allman also takes note and follows up on an angle I couldn’t fit into the Radar piece — potentially a very interesting, strange angle at that. Go for it, Kevin.

Young Manhattanite acknowledges the find and spanks those crazy kids at Gawker a bit in the process.

The True Crime Weblog in the Chicago Tribune

A few days ago I spoke with Chicago Tribune Internet Critic Steve Johnson about web sleuthing, specifically as it related to Steven Kazmierczak, the young man who killed several people on the campus of Northern Illinois University before committing suicide on February 14.

Click the following link to read Steve Johnson’s article:

Web sleuths track killer online.

One thing I said when I spoke with Steve bears repeating:

Although much of the Web sleuthing that goes on is very good, Huff raises an important point.

“For a magazine like I write for now, we’ve got fact checkers,” he said. “As annoying as the fact checking is, it’s saving your butt. Bloggers don’t have fact checkers.”

And another characteristic of the Web is that once bad information is out there, it, too, tends to stay out there, believed by at least some proportion of the people who miss subsequent attempts to correct it…

If you aren’t prepared to be wrong, to screw it up every now and then, you probably shouldn’t publish your sleuthing online — at least not under your own name. I still do it because I’ve learned how to get it right, 98% of the time. I have my screw-ups when it comes to blogging here, but they are usually minor and rare. And at Radar, I’m not the only one vetting my work.

I’m just saying that if you think this is interesting, you’re right. But be aware that it is rarely as simple as churning up interesting stuff on Google and posting that willy-nilly. Learn to be your own fact-checker, as best you can. I’ve built connections with other bloggers and some folks who are just plain old web sleuths, and we tend to keep each other in check, but I didn’t have that when I began — so the fact that I had a lot of good info to post about various stories when I began publishing a true crime blog was in part pure, dumb luck. I’d also made my worst boo-boos (linking a blog that was simply written by someone sharing a name with an accused killer, for example) before more than 80 people a day read my blog.

Steve Johnson also interviewed author Loren Coleman for the article. Coleman’s take on the piece and the subject at hand can be read here: “Websleuths & NIU.

NOTES, 1/14/08

Yes, the pace of posting is slow, lately. I do have a new, crime-related post up at RadarOnline.com:

Pulp Fiction Co-writer Arrested on DUI, Manslaughter Charges.”

The title tells a lot, but check out the post and recommend it, if you like.

The following True Crime Weblog post has active commentary:

Who is Gary Michael Hilton?” — about the alleged serial killer recently arrested here in North Georgia.

— Check it out if you are interested in the case. I’ve also made a couple of new posts at my personal, infrequently-updated weblog, Random Lunatic News.

Gary Michael Hilton & Michael Scot Louis

Not so fast, AJC. Orlando Sentinel criminal justice reporter Willoughby Mariano has an interesting post up at the paper’s Orlando Homicide Report weblog. It refutes the Atlanta paper’s reporting on attempts to link Gary Michael Hilton with the mutiltation murder of 27-year-old Michael Scot Louis, whose dismembered remains were found in early December in the Tomoka River in Florida. Police in Ormond Beach see “no reason to link Gary Michael Hilton to the Ormond Beach case.”

Also related to Hilton and his possible string of murders throughout the south: “Gary M. Hilton(,) Serial Killer??

The link takes you to a forum at Websleuths.com set aside just to discuss this case and Gary Hilton. If you’re already a member of that forum (I posted in the past as “misterallgood,” and just recently decided to post as “SteveHuff”), you should join in, and if you’re not, look into joining the discussion. Websleuths is one of the more troll-free true crime message boards around.

NOTE, 1/16/08

I’ve got another post up at RadarOnline.com. While this one isn’t crime-related, it did involve a wee bit of websleuthing:

Pranksters Invade American Idol Return.

Fallen Idols, My Awesome Wife, Trolls and Other Stuff

Radar has published a “Fresh Intelligence” post I wrote about the ultimate fallen American Idol, Jessica Ann Sierra:

Idol‘s Hands the Devil’s Playthings.”

Yes, it has to do with crime. Check it out — I even included some of Sierra’s singing with another Idol felon from season 5. (If you like the post, you can click “recommend it” at the bottom of the piece. Please only click once, and be sure check out other posts by other authors in “Fresh Intelligence” and recommend them — if you like them — as well.)

I don’t have a lot of blog entries up on “Fresh Intelligence” — there are several other contributors — but so far, some of the most fun I’ve had as a blogger has come from writing for Radar. The subject matter here at The True Crime Weblog is usually quite serious, and while my Radar blog posts (as opposed to articles I’ve written for them, which are more straightforward reporting) still frequently touch on crime, there’s more room for snark there, and it feels good to loosen up a little. Having editors who are savvy, funny, and good communicators helps a helluva lot, too.

(NOTE: For some added wrinkles in Ms. Sierra’s story, you just have to go here. Wow.)

*****

I’m a “crime blogger,” and my wife Dana is an “edu-blogger” (incidentally, the image you’ll see in the header of Dana’s education weblog is a non-photoshopped pic taken by yours truly at an actual intersection near downtown Atlanta).

In fact, Dana is becoming a popular and well-regarded edu-blogger. Dana is a quiet, modest (though occasionally persnickety, occasionally spunky) woman, so seeing her begin to get recognition for her own blogging and develop a strong readership really means a lot to me. Unlike her husband, Dana Huff doesn’t really have a self-promoting bone in her body. She earns every good thing that comes to her from her blogging honestly. I’m very proud of her. Dana was the person who inspired me to try my hand at blogging in the first place.

I’ll say more about what’s going on with her as we hear more. In the meantime, you can also check out Dana’s Harry Potter blog here.

*****

My personal weblog receives about 10% of the traffic that this blog gets, and I’m fine with that. Kind of prefer it, actually. However I happened onto a captivating website this weekend, and I recommend it here, at Random Lunatic News.

*****

If blogging is light here today and tomorrow, it’s because I’m working on another writing project that is rather complicated and time-consuming. Anything big breaks, though, I’ll do my best to write about it.

*****

These notes strike me as being a little like Norm McDonald’s Larry King impression from SNL a few years back. Random. Terse. Tangentially related at best. Whaddya want? It’s Monday.

*****

Some final notes on blog comments vs. message boards, trolls, etc…

Some of my longtime readers — and you’ll know who you are — have fallen into trolltraps on various discussions taking place on this weblog. Screen names (and e-mail addresses matching them) of folks who have been leaving intelligent, thoughtful comments on my crime blogs since 2005 are engaging with new commentators who are — to me — obvious and dedicated trolls. As a result of this troll fighting, a few of you have, God love ya, started to become a bit troll-like yourselves.

Stop it. Don’t engage them. Don’t respond to insults, to nasty plays on your screen names, any of it. Quit leaving comments on those posts if you can’t ignore the assholes. Remove your hands from the keyboard. If you have respect for me — and from your track records of visiting my blogs, I suspect you do — give me a break and do as I ask.

Several posts on this blog have more than a thousand comments; one has more than 2000. Any blogger will tell you (as long as most of the comments are on-topic and reasonably smart) that this is awesome, and a source of pride — people are responding to your work.

But this also means that as the sole active administrator of this weblog, there’s no way in hell I can respond to every single complaint, no way I can police every troll all the time. Especially now that my freelancing has kicked up several notches (a very good thing), the last thing I want to do is police comments. I’m sorry, but that’s how it is. Some bloggers would just change to full moderation 24/7 or even (as I believe Michelle Malkin did for a time) have no comments at all.

So I need the long-time readers whom I tend to trust to help me out by not feeding the trolls. The one thing a troll can’t abide is being ignored. So — ignore them. Additionally, the moment others cease responding to troll-like commentators, some of the white noise is reduced for me, and I find it easier to pinpoint the troll and ban them and delete their offending comments.

And lastly — I don’t know how many times I’ve said this, but I’ll repeat it: BLOG COMMENTS DO NOT A MESSAGE BOARD MAKE.

I see comments on posts here constantly calling this a “forum,” or a “board.”

No. This weblog is neither. I once ran a forum, or board. It was sheer hell. It was like trying to deal with a few thousand tattle-happy toddlers on crack, half the time. With a 6-year-old and a 4-year-old here at home, I have all I can handle, thank you very much.

OK — the discussions taking place on blog entries here are identical to discussions folks might have on message boards. People do the same things — update the stories blogged with new links, with (often fascinating and well-written) speculation.

But you need to understand what you’re doing when you leave comments on a blog post. It isn’t the same as a message board. You can’t create your own profile with private messaging, you can’t upload avatars. Message boards have mods and admins, but generally, they can be pretty egalitarian (not always, I know). Blogs are not. This is my weblog. I have some guidelines I expect to be followed when people post comments here or any other blog I run. If I wanted to run an “open forum” where anyone could say anything about whatever, I would. But I don’t.

What you write is even more temporary on a blog post than it would be posted on a message board. It could be gone in 5 minutes — all I’d need to do is change this blog’s template.

And this is important — your words are your responsibility, not mine. If you libeled someone in my blog’s comments and a lawyer [EDIT: subpoenaed] your IP and e-mail info, I’d be hard-pressed to stop that action. This brings up a catch-22 you should think about: while your words are your responsibility, under American laws, that is, I still have administrative control over your post once it is up. Many message boards allow users to go back and delete or edit their posts whenever they want. Once you’ve made a comment on a blog — you’re done, son.

So temper your posting activities with these things in mind. Leaving comments on a blog and posting on a forum just ain’t the same.

Finally — if I began a MySpace group for this weblog, would you all consider using that for extended discussions of various cases? Caveat lector — you’d have to make a MySpace profile to join and leave posts in such a group. Add to that — if I made such a group, could I get someone to volunteer to moderate or lead the thing?

I have another, final idea related to the above. Some popular forums have paid memberships. I’d consider running a message board again, but this would be the catch — you’d only have access if you paid a nominal fee. There are aspects of this with which I’m not too comfortable though, so I only float it as an idea, one I may end up rejecting.

These notes went on longer than I intended, but I guess I had something to say….

MyCaseDotCom.com

Back to your regularly scheduled crime blogging shortly…

But first — I did want to be sure readers knew that the Court TV special I’m a part of (wrote about it here) now has an associated website:

MyCaseDotCom.com.

There’s a page on the case being covered in the special: the disappearance of Taylor Behl. There’s also a page about me, the contradictory guy: Cyber Detective Steve Huff (I’ve never referred to myself as such, but I’m certainly cool with it).

Go check it out!

A note — any readers who catch the promo being run on Court TV for this special, please let me know if you happen to get it with your DVR.

Remember: MyCase.com airs at 10:30 p.m. ET on Wednesday, November 7, 2007, on Court TV.

I’ll be live-blogging the event from the start of the show through 11:30 as well, so stick around the site for that.

NOTE, NOVEMBER 3

Yes, it is my birthday and I am taking it easy. I did want to show you this, though — it’s a raw clip from MyCase.com:

Huge thanks to Lynne Hoppe for letting me know it was available! The same clip can be seen here.

By the way — Lynne has posted a question in the comments below. Respond with your thoughts on the matter if you’re inclined.

Radar Magazine!!

This feels like a killer birthday present (no pun intended, seeing as how this is a crime blog).

It looks like I’ll be writing for Radar Magazine.

Not only that, I recently discovered that fellow Crime Library alum Seamus McGraw is writing for Radar, and there may even be opportunities for Seamus and I to tag-team some stories that will be of interest to any reader of this blog. Seamus occasionally gave me great advice about this kind of writing when we both were publishing for CL, so it will be awesome to share either online or print space with him again — because not only does Radar have an excellent website, you can find it on the shelves at your local bookstore, too. I will be submitting both web exclusives to the mag as well as print pieces.

I’m serious about the birthday feeling.

This blog isn’t going anywhere, of course, in case that question popped into your head. The sorts of stories Radar might like and what makes it to print here are not always the same, so there will be no overlapping of content, though I will certainly point you towards anything I publish online for Radar.

I’ve had two professional goals since I realized what I was doing with this whole crime writing thing. One is writing a book. Hopefully more than one. The other goal is writing for a publication like Radar.

More later, I’m off to float around a bit.