Filner? I hardly know her! (redux)

So it turns out that disgraced former mayor of San Diego, Bob Filner, has owned up to some small portion of his odious malefaction.

What better time to revive The Ballad of Sweet Old Bob?

Last 5 posts by David Byron

Comments

  1. SirWired says

    Ken-the-eternally-busy never did get around to answering my e-mail, so I'll ask here: Why do defendants/attorneys EVER spout out the routine press release "My client vigorously denies every one of these ridiculous allegations and looks forward to fighting them in court." When the truth is that nearly every single one of the allegations is true, and the lawyers for both sides, and the client, all know it. Furthermore, the defense is probably fairly sure that they are going to strike a plea deal/settlement, and would in fact like to avoid court at all cost. (With corporate defendants served a long and complex lawsuit, they often issue this PR crap before they could even have time to read it…)

    I can see the value in not 'fessing up straight away, but what's the point in issuing a press-release that contains rather well-known falsehoods? What's wrong with just good 'ol "No Comment"?

  2. EH says

    Why do defendants/attorneys EVER spout out the routine press release "My client vigorously denies every one of these ridiculous allegations and looks forward to fighting them in court." When the truth is that nearly every single one of the allegations is true, and the lawyers for both sides, and the client, all know it.

    Because they can.

  3. BaronLurk says

    Sigh. Another former Mayor/convicted felon.
    Makes me downright proud of my home town. At least the mud being slung in the process of replacing him isn't too deep – yet.

  4. JTM says

    @SirWired "I can see the value in not 'fessing up straight away, but what's the point in issuing a press-release that contains rather well-known falsehoods? What's wrong with just good 'ol 'No Comment'?"

    Three reasons, off the top of my head. I'm sure there are many more.

    1. The defendant has an uphill battle against the public perception (illustrated in your post) that where there's smoke, there's fire. This is particularly true when the government is the one making the accusations. We tend to treat all accusations are true, and neither the general public nor the media do a good job of questioning the foundations of the allegations (especially if the claims are especially salacious). When it comes to complaints, our initial reaction is often "why would they say that if it weren't true?" You want a strong denial early to at least put a pause in the conversation.

    2. Similarly, burdens of proof are real and important and they make terrible copy. In court, the complaining party has the burden of proving that the allegations are true. In the court of public opinion, we want the defendant to prove the allegations are false. After all, if he didn't do it, why doesn't he just say so? So saying "I didn't do it" is a heck of a lot better than saying "the plaintiff can't prove it."

    3. The media prints the stories they're given. If they get a ton of comments from the complaining party, and just a "no comment" from the accused, almost all of the story is going to be about how bad the accused is. That's why you not only say, "I didn't do it," but you come up with strong, media-friendly sound bites about how wonderful the accused is: family-oriented, gives heavily to charity, builds houses for the poor, reads to the blind, helps little old ladies across the street, and always buys his fair share of Girl Scout cookies (leaving out the Girl Scouts bit if it's a child-sex scandal). If you can make the news story half accusation and half "denial and glowing biography," you've done a good job.

    So there are some reasons for lawyers to issue denials rather than "no comments." Now, it's certainly not always appropriate to do a strong early denial. If there's video evidence of the accused robbing a room full of nuns and police sketch artists, you're probably going to want to shift from denial-mode to excuse-mode, and say "no comment" until you can talk with your client about his tragic, traumatic childhood.

  5. SirWired says

    I understand the theory, sort of, behind the defendant issuing a denial. After all, if they win, for whatever reason, they have a life to live.

    But for better or worse the "court of public opinion" doesn't have any rules of evidence or presumption of innocence. I just don't see a cookie-cutter, content-free, press release actually accomplishing anything. Yet, all these releases/statements have no specifics and say the same thing, and therefore they say nothing. They will, at best, get a sentence, maybe two, in a much longer piece that is built on the allegations themselves, which are far more interesting than a generic press release proclaiming innocence.

    And if the defendant loses the case, are there any circumstances in which this can come back to bite him/her in a legal sense? Legal reasons aside, it certainly does nothing for their credibility long-term. I would think a "no-comment" would be much better in that case.