dimanche 3 février 2013

"A foundation of straw": analyzing Slabbed's extrinsic and intrinsic evidence of supposed wrongdoing at Trout Point Lodge

In a February, 2012, post published just after a Nova Scotia Supreme Court judge found Doug K. Handshoe liable for $425,000 worth of defamation against Trout Point Lodge, Charles Leary, and Vaughn Perret, Mr. Handshoe laid out his total argument against them, including full elaboration of all the "evidence" he had.

Why is this important? Because over a period of years Handshoe has accused the Lodge and its owners of a series of felonies, including money laundering and racketeering,  purportedly based on his reliable "investigative blogging."

Handshoe says he invites debate, so let's go through his accusatory screed point by point.
With that said I welcome intelligent discourse on this topic from both sides of the border that considers all the blogging we’ve done.  Our readers may remember Leary asserted to the Times Picayune certain things about his, Perret’s and Trout Point Lodge’s association with Aaron Broussard, the guy who helped peddle minority ownership of the Lodge to certain connected area residents. Let’s start there:
Broussard, “does not and has never had any ownership or management involvement with Trout Point Lodge, Limited.” The message went on to say Broussard owns a “vacation home on the same road.”
Now we all understand that all the T-P’s reporting on Trout Point has been retracted and they repeated Leary’s meme in their retraction. Of course when the backtracking at the Times Picayune began we discovered that on a website controlled by the girls, Broussard’s name popped up along side Charles Leary’s as board members of the Billy’s Hill Trail Society. Just as quickly as I posted the link the girls took the web page down though it remains online at Archive.org to this day.  Now why is this important?  Actually it was a question that Richard Brennan asked me yesterday in a different way when said something along the lines of so what if they (the girls) handled  Broussard’s rentals. There is nothing wrong in them conducting business correct?  My answer was if  it were arms length absolutely nothing is wrong.  The better question is why did Leary insist that Broussard was completely unconnected to the Lodge, especially when it was not true.  After all the Mille Ball piece from 2001 featured the Aaron Broussard connection and clearly the girls were heavily involved with Ball in developing it. Funny how they had no objection to Broussard’s name being mentioned in connection with a travel piece on the Lodge back in 2001.
Handshoe says that if Leary, Perret, and Trout Point truly only had an arms-length business relationship with admitted federal felon and former Jefferson Parish, Louisiana, President Aaron Broussard, then "absolutely nothing is wrong." What is Mr. Handshoe'e evidence there there is wrong involving the Lodge and its owners? The first smoking gun? Handshoe says Charles Leary insisted that Broussard was "completely unconnected" to Trout Point Lodge. 

Where is his evidence of this? He refers to an initial letter Leary sent to the Times-Picayune asking for a retraction. Handshoe knows the full contents of the letter, because he published it on his Scribd account here, after it was posted on nola.com by the newspaper. Does the letter insist that Trout Point was "completely unconnected"? Quite obviously, no. It simply clarifies in great detail the exact relationship between Broussard's properties and the Lodge, and even refers the newspaper to its own prior reporting, making clear that there was no mystery.

In a comment to that same post, Handshoe explains his logic:
Tom the original allegation was Aaron Broussard used his position as Parish President to force Parish contractors and venders to rent his vacation property in Nova Scotia. The Louisiana Ethics Board could not bring the allegations home but given Karen Parker's plea deal it sure looks like the FBI is hot on the trail given what was said in her factual basis for that plea which I linked above. Leary and Perret inserted themselves into that news story. If they had simply said something like "We've handled Broussard's rental business since he became a property owner here and are greatly disturbed at the allegations, of which we have no specific knowledge…", this likely never would have mushroomed so on them and the process simply would have played out.
Ever hear the old saying its not the crime but the coverup that causes the problem. It applies here in spades.
Trouble is, Mr. Handshoe knows that Leary & Perret never "inserted themselves" into news about Broussard. They have made clear that no one in the media contacted them before making publication identifying Trout Point Lodge as belonging to Broussard and being the subject of a Metropolitan Crime Commission complaint to the Ethics Board. The Times-Picayune and WVUE Fox 8 simply published without checking their facts or contacting the Lodge. Truth is, as far as anyone can determine, Leary & Perret have never commented publicly about Broussard, the scandal, or his guilt or innocence.

As importantly, early on, they also said to the Times-Picayune's Managing Editor precisely what Handshoe advises. They told the newspaper in January, 2010, that the Lodge handled the rental management of Broussard's properties, and that they had no knowledge of any alleged wrongdoing. The newspaper never published this information. Why would they? They retracted and apologized. That's what responsible journalistic organization do when they're wrong, Mr. Handshoe. So, the Slabbed assertions about Leary and Perret being involved in a coverup is simply nonsense.

Does Mr. Handshoe provide any evidence that Broussard owned or had management control over Trout Point?

Let's see. Broussard--who everyone knew owned vacation property in Nova Scotia--belonged to the "Billy's Hill Trail Society" with Leary and Perret. Now that's damning evidence of criminal wrongdoing, no? As the Toronto Star put it:
He refused to believe the correction and insisted for more than two years that Perret and Leary were part of the conspiracy, leaning heavily on the fact the two once managed Broussard’s cottages and that Broussard and the two men were members of the Billy’s Hill Trail Society.
“So I started investigating and the more I dug the more I found,” Handshoe said.
 Where Handshoe got that Leary, Perret, and Broussard were together on a Board of Directors for the society is unknown, the web page Handshoe refers to just talks about its members. The Society was never registered with the Nova Scotia government, which is allowed for informal societies, so Handshoe found no such evidence with the Registry.

Moving on, Handshoe continues to posit his proof of a massive, international criminal conspiracy:

Handshoe refers to the "retraction" published by the Times-Picayune, a major investigative newspaper. He fails to mention that the Pulitzer Prize-winning daily (as it was then) retracted not once, but 3 separate times, including twice before it was sued by Leary, Perret, and the Lodge for defamation. You can see 2 of those retractions, the first in January, 2010, here and here. Handshoe then relies on the fact that WVUE Fox 8 News had not retracted its reporting, suggesting that the TV station had actually said Trout Point Lodge was involved in crimes with Broussard.

But that's not true. Actually, WVUE always insisted that it never meant to refer to Trout Point Lodge in in its reporting, and all of its broadcasts only concerned Broussard alone (despite the fact they broadcast images of the Lodge and its web site while reporting on the Crime Commission allegations). That same month, Fox 8 would actually retract and apologize to Trout Point, just like the Times-Picayune. So there goes that theory, Mr. Handshoe.

By the way, it's untrue that Broussard resigned the day after the initial WVUE broadcast, though he did resign shortly thereafter. And he never said anything in his interview with reporter Val Bracy about owning or running Trout Point.

Handshoe's next bit of evidence of crimes? He refers to the Nova Scotia rumor-mongering tabloid Frank magazine. Actually, Frank was very careful in its portrayal, writing of the "perceived" association with Broussard. Gee, Mr. Handshoe, there's no evidence of wrongdoing involving Aaron Broussard here. Handshoe even joins Frank in finding it "understandable" that Trout Point wouldn't want to be drawn into a scandal. Is that so hard to fathom?

Handshoe then accuses Leary of lying, and getting a legal settlement based on a lie; that is: fraud. That's a serious allegation. Where's the evidence? Unknown. There is none pointed to by Mr. Handshoe.

As seemingly one-time Slabbed commenter "ds" recently put it:
Let's move on.

Handshoe then returns to one of his favorite topics to misrepresent and twist: a 2001 lawsuit by the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA) against Leary and Perret. Handshoe has mistakenly also said more than once that ACOA sued Trout Point Lodge, but there's no evidence of that at all.
But our readers may remember that the question of ownership of the Lodge and the failed cheesemaking venture La Ferme D’Acadie was the subject of litigation with the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency.  We found that case on April 26, 2011, less than 2 weeks before Leary served me with a notice of intended claim while telling Judge Muise in the Fox 8 case in mid May 2010 that I was an anonymous blogger and he needed a court order to find out who certain Slabbed commenters and I were.
Handshoe elaborated in a comment to the same post:
Regarding the ACOA loan, it is important because of the names that were named as owners of the Lodge itself. Leary, Perret and Abel, from a legal standpoint own Trout Point Lodge 100%. Their investors down here were sold shares in La Ferme D'Acadie, which as a legal entity existed for all of about 2 months in Canada.
In fact, the ACOA lawsuit and loan had nothing to do with Trout Point Lodge. Handshoe has no way to know anything about the percentage ownerships of Trout Point Lodge, and Nova Scotia government records show that the corporation La Ferme d'Acadie, Ltee existed for years, not months. Web archives confirm this.

Mr. Handshoe again fails to mention other relevant facts, like that the lawsuit was settled out of court a year before he "found it," or that Leary had serious counterclaims against ACOA. Handshoe has no idea what the settlement with ACOA was. But the significant fact is, there was at that time no lawsuit at all. The fact it was settled was public record while Handshoe was publishing far and wide that the lawsuit was ongoing and that Leary & Perret had defrauded the Canadian government.

Here's how a Nova Scotia news site that focuses on court cases characterized Leary's win in the Nova Scotia Court of Appeals, something Handshoe also never mentions:
Not surprisingly, the out-of-court settlement occurred shortly thereafter. Maybe investigative blogger Handshoe should decry destruction of evidence by a government corporation involved in litigation. Does he do this? No.

And what about Doug Handshoe not being an anonymous blogger in 2011? He did not start putting his actual name to his Slabbed publications until 2012. Can Leary & Perret reasonably be blamed for not suing someone until they were absolutely sure who it was? Can they be blamed for giving Handshoe advance notice that if he was Slabbed's publisher and the anonymous poster "Sop81_1," that he should stop defaming them with criminal accusations or he would be sued? A reasonable person might stop making such publications upon receipt of such a notice, or at least carefully check his facts; Handshoe simply continued. In August, 2011, he told Frank magazine that he was "screwing with" Leary & Perret, "the girls."

Handshoe's February, 2012, post then launches into a grand concatenation of unfounded assertions. He accuses Leary or perjuring himself in Nova Scotia Supreme Court, supposedly lying about ACOA documents that had been lost in Hurricane Katrina. His proof? "I called them out for lying about Abel as he had no law office in New Orleans in 2005 instead practicing law with Aaron Broussard out of the Super 8 Motel on Clearview Parkway in Metairie before moving to the offices of Dr Manuel Mariano De La Rua on Williams Blvd in Kenner . . . " 

In fact, Daniel Abel lived and worked out of a home office in Slidell, Louisiana, (a place familiar to Mr. Handshoe) when Hurricane Katrina struck in 2005. He lost everything, including the records relevant to negotiations with ACOA, which started when Perret & Leary lived in Louisiana. Sound reasonable? Abel's place was, in fact, "slabbed." It's simply a lie that Abel worked out of the Super 8 Motel in 2005, or that he practiced law with Aaron Broussard at that time. In fact, as recently attested to in an affidavit filed in federal court, Abel was never law partners with Broussard. He has had no law partners since the 1990s. Handshoe has repeatedly published otherwise, explicitly stating the Abel was in business with Broussard. 
Handshoe then states: "Abel and his girls are known down here as professional plaintiffs dating to their days working for Wendell Gauthier." In fact, Leary and Perret were never represented by Wendell Gauthier in any litigation. Professional plaintiffs? A search shows Leary & Perret as parties in a single lawsuit involving condo association fees in the 1990s, nothing else. Is that a professional plaintiff?
Handshoe then offers more "evidence" of wrongdoing:
Beyond that though the girls claimed and filed affidavits with the courts in court swearing they were the only owners of La Ferme D’Acadie yet David Loeb identified himself as an owner of that venture in an affidavit sworn before the Nova Scotia courts in the Fox 8 case and claims to own La Ferme D’Acadie on his professional website.   The investors down here were not sold Trout Point Lodge LP. Instead they were sold minority interests in La Ferme D’Acadie, the original business entity set up to hold the cheese farm and Trout Point Lodge.
In fact, there's nothing to show that investors were sold shares in La Ferme d'Acadie; it was simply the early name of a yet undeveloped project. The Nova Scotia Registry of Joint Stocks shows that Leary and Perret were the sole partners in the partnership La Ferme d'Acadie, just as they stated in their affidavits. That partnership was then dissolved with the Registry, and a corporation with the same name was formed when they started to make cheese, an activity best pursued by a corporation. Anything sinister there, Mr. Handshoe?

Has the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia--which you might think would be interested and knowledgeable about perjury in its own chambers-- or anyone else (except Mr. Handshoe) ever accused Leary of perjury? No. 

What's more, the affidavit of David Loeb linked to by Handshoe says nothing about La Ferme d'Acadie at all. The fact that Trout Point Lodge has minority investors with accommodation privileges has never been a secret. La Ferme d'Acadie, though, has not existed since the early 2000s. Is that a crime?

Handshoe then again accuses Leary of perjury, stating that the theft of a safe reported to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police is somehow contradicted by the fact that the Lodge doesn't give out room keys to guests. With respect, Mr. Handshoe, it's hard to follow that reasoning. What do room keys have to do with whether a safe was stolen or not?

What's the next piece of evidence of nefarious wrongdoing, perjury, and coverup provided by Handshoe. The fact that Trout Point Lodge changed its web site. "One of our readers noticed Leary broke a link and took down a page at the Trout Point Lodge website regarding them."
So the question remains, why the big coverup?
Coverup? Really? In fact, an examination of web archives show that at some point Trout Point stopped representing River Bend Lodge, and that new units were added. So who knows what happened, but it's certainly not criminal. No coverup here, Mr. Handshoe.

What does Mr. Handshoe offer up next? He uses a letter that Trout Point provided as evidence precisely of its arms-length business relationship with Broussard in the Fox 8/WVUE lawsuit to say the opposite, that Broussard controlled the Lodge. 
According to Richard Brennan at the Toronto Star, Leary indicated to him the Lodge never did consolidate insurances with Broussard but that is also besides the point as he clearly mislead the local media as to the true nature of his business relationship with him.  here we are back in 2008 and Broussard and Leary are talking about coordinating insurances.
In fact, as stated by the Toronto Star reporter, the Lodge declined to follow Broussard's urging about insuring a building that he co-owned. So, not doing what Broussard says is proof of Broussard's control of Trout Point? Sorry, Mr. Handshoe, again your logic simply doesn't follow.

Handshoe concluded with a Factual Basis filed in the guilty plea of Broussard's ex-wife Karen Parker, which alluded vaguely to a holding company having investment property somewhere in Canada. The innuendo was later cleared up when the U.S. Attorney's Office made plain that it believed Broussard has used a Louisiana company named "Nova Scotia Enterprises" to enrich himself with monies from government contractors and vendors. That enriching activity, which took place through the sale of LLC memberships and Broussard's subsequent sale of his share, took place in Louisiana, not Nova Scotia. Were Trout Point Lodge, Leary, and/or Perret mentioned anywhere at all? No. Sorry again, Mr. Handshoe, no smoking gun. Was Broussard indicted on any charges related to Trout Point Lodge or Nova Scotia? No. Did he admit to any wrongdoing at Trout Point or involving Nova Scotia? No.

Honestly, has Doug Handshoe ever thought that he might be wrong about Leary & Perret, having accused them over and over again of a litany of crimes based on what appears to be no evidence--a concatenation of false facts and unfounded conclusions? Well, in fact, yes. According to court filings, Handshoe said that Leary, Perret, and the Lodge may have had no role to play in Broussard's admitted or actual wrongdoing, but that he really doesn't know, so maybe they're guilty and maybe they're not. 

So, what's motivating Mr. Handshoe? Why would he continue, especially when he was privately given notice in April, 2011, that he was wrong in defaming  Leary, Perret, and Trout Point? Wouldn't it have been better for all involved if he had simply heeded that notification? 

One can only speculate as to Handshoe's motivations. Ego. Hubris. Vendetta. And, oh yes, Real Malice.

From the perspective of responsible journalism or even "investigative blogging," shame on you Mr. Handshoe. Shame on you.

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