God's Wrath

The PD pays tribute to . . . Jerry Falwell?

Jerry Falwell, circa 1984, when he was content to ride large farm animals instead of blaming terrorist attacks on gay people. - AP PHOTO/DAVID BRESLAUER
AP Photo/David Breslauer
Jerry Falwell, circa 1984, when he was content to ride large farm animals instead of blaming terrorist attacks on gay people.
The Reverend Jerry Falwell died last week, ending his reign as general in the war on sin, depravity, and vaguely effeminate TV characters named Tinky. Falwell was felled by cardiac arrhythmia, a condition believed to be caused by accidentally watching Ellen. Heaven admissions officers immediately assigned him to the Truman Capote Wing.

Here on Earth, many large newspapers -- including The New York Times, The Washington Post, and Los Angeles Times -- chose not to pen editorials about Falwell's death, no doubt caught between his work as a political pioneer and his status as America's Next Top Sociopath. Other papers chose to mourn his death while lightly chiding his lapses in cognitive stability, like the time he called civil rights "civil wrongs" or blamed the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on gays. Additional hits included his claim that AIDS was the "wrath of a just God against homosexuals" and that tennis elbow was caused by "Candle in the Wind."

But here in Cleveland -- which officially seceded from Earth in 1996 -- The Plain Dealer made the odd choice of lauding Falwell's "Herculean efforts" and surmised that his parents would be proud.

"Our editorial chose to focus on the undeniable fact that he was a major force in American politics," says editorial page director Brent Larkin. "If you guys want to write that you're glad this fucking guy is dead, that's fine. But I don't view that as our role as a mainstream, large, metropolitan newspaper.

"When he went around the bend and said those almost inexcusable fucking things he said . . . he at least had the decency to almost immediately and profusely apologize," Larkin added. "Scald us if it makes you feel better."

Thank you, Brent. It does make us feel better.

Insurrection at Case
It appears Athletic Director Dave Diles isn't the only official gathering critics at Case Western Reserve ["Saving Coach Harris," May 2]. Twenty-four tennis players recently penned a letter to the school's president, demanding the removal of head coach Nancy Rahn.

The students claim "Rahn lacks requisite knowledge to offer constructive technical and strategic advice, and is incapable of conducting productive practice sessions." Which is their way of saying she really should be selling crockery at Bed Bath & Beyond.

They also assert that Rahn padded her résumé to get the job and that she often skips practices and disparages players. All 24 said they'd quit the team if Rahn stays. "Her actions extinguish the enthusiasm and motivation we have had prior to playing under her," they wrote.

Case is investigating, says Diles.

Roetzel in the crossfire
The last time we checked in with Joanne Schneider, she was at the center of one of Ohio's largest securities-fraud cases ["The $60 Million Pyramid," April 19, 2006].

It all started when Schneider decided to take on an ambitious project in Parma Heights that included a gated community, waterfalls, three restaurants, and two arcades. Problem is, Schneider raised $60 million from more than 700 investors through promissory notes -- formal IOUs that she had no way of paying back. She was quickly hit with a cease-and-desist order from the state Division of Securities.

But according to stiffed investors, her attorney, Ken Lapine of Roetzel & Andress, didn't tell her to stop issuing the IOUs. Instead, Lapine allegedly used Roetzel's clout with former Attorney General Jim Petro to stall any prosecution of Schneider. After all, Roetzel was responsible for one-tenth of Petro's donations. And the Laziest Man in Law Enforcement ™ had a sturdy reputation for turning a blind eye to anyone willing to pay.

As Schneider continued to rake in investors, Roetzel collected fees approaching $1 million.

Now Schneider faces 163 counts of fraud. And she doesn't seem interested in going down alone.

Until now, Lapine has refused to reveal anything about his work for Schneider, claiming attorney-client privilege. But last week, Schneider waived said privilege, which means Lapine can now be deposed. And that may produce some rather unseemly headlines for one of Ohio's most connected law firms.

"This is huge," says Josh Cohen, who represents investors. "[Schneider] put herself in peril by doing this, but we are convinced that there's a strong case against Roetzel & Andress. Their political pull is terrifying."

Jackson's moment of truth
Despite heated competition, Cleveland's school board may be the most incompetent government body in Ohio -- which is saying a lot. Its accomplishments include presiding over fake attendance numbers, dismal test scores, and a massive construction project that's running millions of dollars over budget while delivering far less than promised.

So you'll be pleased to know that come June 30, five members will see their terms expire. They include Chairman Larry Davis, who long refused to monitor district spending; Louise Dempsey, an assistant dean at the Cleveland-Marshall College of Law, who's spent nine years cheerily watching the district crumble; and Rashidah Abdulhaqq, an outspoken advocate with a gift for talking it far better than she walks it.

Applications to fill their positions were due last Friday. Unfortunately, all five have reapplied for their posts. Even worse, Mayor Frank Jackson has the final say over who stays and who goes.

It won't be long till the district once again comes hat in hand, asking you to pay for its latest round of blunders (see North Coast). Now is your chance to urge Jackson to appoint people with IQs above room temperature to oversee it all.