Playing Chicken

The only way to convict a jail guard? Embarrass the court system.

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In April, jail guard Hector Delgado was indicted after being accused of deleting 3,000 temporary protection orders from the police computer system. A municipal court clerk discovered the missing records, and the purge was traced back to Delgado's log-on.

Prosecutors think he was attempting to delete an order involving himself, his baby's mother, and her old boyfriend. But instead of just deleting one, he inadvertently whacked 3,000. Alas, tampering with records is a felony.

Delgado's lawyer, Dominic Vitantonio, tells Scene that his client is innocent. Delgado simply walked away from a computer after forgetting to log out, says Vitantonio. Some other guy must have done it.

Delgado's trial has once again been bumped from Judge Janet Burnside's docket, and a new date has yet to be set. Though it's not unusual to see nonviolent cases pushed down the calendar in favor of more pressing matters, word around the Justice Center is that the prosecution and defense are locked in a weird game of chicken.

The theory goes that Delgado won't back down because he knows that, in order to prosecute him, police and court officials must admit how loose and disorganized the system is -- and how easy it was for a guard to erase thousands of judicial decrees.

"The system is too lax," says one court employee. "Everyone has access -- guards, police, bailiffs, clerks, lawyers. Anyone can get up in there. It's too many people in and out. Impossible to keep track. I know for a fact that [data she has entered into the system] has disappeared. When I told my boss, the answer was always 'We'll investigate' -- and nothing would be done."

Yet prosecutors would look foolish dropping the charges at this point. The bottom line: Somebody's got to blink.

The Network's down
When we last heard from Sam Firth, the Cleveland boss of the Wilhelmina Scouting Network was shining the floors of his new office just east of downtown ("Runway to Nowhere," August 20). It was the third home and the third new name in less than a year for Firth's biz, the local link to boy-band hitmaker Lou Pearlman's modeling agency.

But despite the new look, claims that Wilhelmina was ripping off wannabe models continued. Its Florida-based parent company is under investigation for unfair business practices.

Since Scene's original inquiry, Firth has traded in his keys again. Twice. First he moved from Prospect Avenue to Superior. Once the story hit stands, he was on the street again. Firth's revised tally: four different offices in less than 12 months. His company car is a U-Haul.

"That was a lot of fun," says Firth, who claims he sank $12,000 into improvements on his last two offices, which he occupied for a total of less than four months. "I have never in my life had my integrity questioned as much as I have since I bought this company."

He's now hired a lawyer to negotiate a break from Pearlman's company. His next move: launching a new model-marketing company.

Pencil envy?
Chuck Klosterman left the Akron Beacon Journal after the 2001 publication of his heavy-metal memoir, Fargo Rock City. He's now a senior writer at Spin and the author of a new book, Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs: A Low Culture Manifesto, which contemplates the resonance of the Dixie Chicks, the Lakers-Celtics rivalry, and the TV show Saved by the Bell (yes, the one with Screech).

You might say that Klosterman's a living dream. However, not all his former colleagues toast his good fortune.

In a recent review of Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs, a Beacon critic noted that an image of Klosterman's head is tacked to a dartboard in the newsroom. The critic, Denise Grollmus, then proceeded to trash the book. "He's flogging the dead horse of thick-framed geeks who couldn't figure out what to do with their English degrees except over-intellectualize Star Wars," writes Grollmus.

Indeed, Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs has met mixed reviews. Entertainment Weekly gave it an A; a New York Times critic found the author guilty of "nonsense and stubbornness." But Punch saw nothing to match Grollmus's vitriol. After faulting Klosterman's narcissism, she declares, "I really don't see much to be narcissistic about." (While we're on the subject of self-infatuation, it should be noted that the word I appears 10 times in Grollmus's review.)

Klosterman found the critique "weird," particularly because the Beacon normally relies on wire services for book reviews. "I certainly don't care what some random woman thinks of my book," he says. "However, it does make the Beacon look a little amateurish and unprofessional."

Klosterman says he enjoyed working at the paper and was disquieted by the implication that everyone there despises him. "In truth, there were only about three or four folks at that newspaper who I didn't get along with, and that was only because they were bitter people who were eternally dealing with the emptiness of their own life and the self-imposed prison of their own mediocrity," he says, delivering one of the most poetic slams of the year.

"But like I said -- that was only three of four people. I kind of miss everyone else."

Beacon Public Editor Mike Needs says the nature of Sex, Drugs . . . might have made the critique seem like a personal attack. "The book is Klosterman," he says. "I didn't see anything in the review that fell outside the bounds of a normal book review, with the sole exception being the reference to the dartboard."

But Lynne Sherwin, the deputy features editor who assigned and edited the review, did not care to discuss it. "It was a personal opinion, one person's review," she says. "I have no other comment. Thank you."

No stabbing Morrie
Though the Beacon Journal seems willing and eager to knife its own, the same cannot be said of the Detroit Free Press. So discovered South Euclid writer (and occasional Scene contributor) Carlo Wolff, who was commissioned by the Free Press to review The Five People You Meet in Heaven, the latest book from Mitch Albom.

Albom, who also wrote the bestseller Tuesdays with Morrie, is a sports columnist and resident star at the Free Press. By getting Wolff to write the review, the paper could avoid the perceived bias of having one of its own staffers review it. Yet it seems that Free Press editors never considered that Wolff might dog the book. Which is exactly what he did.

"How many ways can you define 'superficial'?" Wolff asks in his opening line. "Mitch Albom's new book suggests quite a variety."

He goes on to describe the text as "thin, mawkish," its "narrative sticky with clichés." In the realm of book reviews, where petty jealousies can leave authors gutted like 12-point bucks during hunting season, Wolff's critique is far from brutal. But Free Press editors weren't pleased with his take.

The review was scheduled to run September 21. Then it was bumped to September 28. Then assistant managing editor Sharon Wilmore called to say it would be killed altogether. It seems editors were hoping Wolff would deliver impartial gushing, rather than an impartial review. To avoid the problem in the future, the Free Press has decided not to review any more books written by its writers. "We thought we were doing the right thing," Wolff says he was told by Wilmore, "and I'm really, really sorry you got caught in the middle of it."

Worst of Cleveland
Not everyone was happy with our recent Best of Cleveland issue. Rover, the host of 92.3's morning show (yes, he's really named after a 1950s dog), took umbrage with our selection of fellow Xrtremite Rachel Steele as Best DJ. He was particularly upset that we urged the station to "move her to the morning show and spare us all that inane patter during our commute."

So Rover spent plenty of air time returning fire at the writers of this fair rag, denouncing us as people who wear hemp and listen to acoustic music in coffee- houses. Ouch! He concluded that anyone who uses big thesaurus words like "inane patter" must be pansies.

Yet his insults take a back seat to a threat delivered by one man offended by our choice for Best Hot Dog. "Bastards!" he wrote. "How could you tell people about Hot Dog Heaven? Those perfect slaw dogs, chili dogs, fries with just the right amount of grease (and plenty of malt vinegar). If I end up having trouble getting a table at my favorite Lorain County restaurant, I'm goin' Pat O'Malley on your ass."

Real degenerates
It looks like tenants of the Jay Hotel will soon be evicted to make room for real degenerates: yuppies. Centerpoint Properties has an option to buy the West Side flophouse. Word is the building will be remade into upscale apartments and condos, though Centerpoint man Adam Fishman is tightlipped about exact plans.

Neighbors seem happy to be finally rid of the hotel, but they're not especially excited about the prospect of upwardly mobile types who drink their wine out of glasses while looking down their noses. And while many Jay tenants ponder their next move, one resident, a guy named George, isn't ready to pull up stakes. "I dunno what I'm gonna do -- might not go anywhere," he says, zipping up his army jacket and slipping a brown-bagged bottle into his pocket. "I guess I'll have to see what they do to the place."

For some reason, he doesn't seem exactly the kind of tenant Centerpoint has in mind. The deal is expected to close in November.

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