It’s 11pm and I really should be sleeping right now so that I can talk legibly in the morning. But, you know, there’s always stuff to worry about like North Korean missiles traveling trans-Pacific in the middle of the night. A lonely, cold trek across thousands of miles of ocean just to blow up Mt. St. Helens and a few million people in southern California.
You’d think that the Buncich trial I covered today would be the biggest part of my radio day. Or the broadcasts we’re doing in radio and video from the Cal Ripken World Series. I stopped by there tonight, also.
The real story today is possible nuclear war. North Korea is saying they’ll throw missiles at the United States, and what instruments we have agree that they can. In response, Donald Trump said he’ll release a “fire and fury like the world has never known.”
That’s not good sleeping weather.
So let’s review here for a moment. The three or four of you remember that the reason we do this whole “My Radio Life” thing is to record the death of radio. Someone, somewhere has to write it all down as it is happening. And that someone, at least for you, is me.
Tonight, I stopped by the Cal Ripken World Series again to check on our broadcast crews. I walked up to the fields at 7:15 and one of the games was just ending. It turns out the game went three hours and 15 minutes. Yikes. We still had another game to do between Hawaii and St. John. That one’s still going on.
“They’re watching it in the bars of Hawaii, and Alabama,” Doyle Godbolt, the tournament director, told me. “Somehow they hook up your Facebook feed and they’re having watch parties.”
That’s good to know, but it’s also evidence that the death of radio is nearer than the three or four of you might think. I did a few videos today – the morning show, an update from the Buncich trial, and something else I can’t remember. And St. Catherine Hospital did their show, and Will Glaros did his show. And Harlow did his show. And then, of course, we Facebook Lived four games from the Cal Ripken stuff. All tolled, we put together at least 20,000 views today.
Granted, many of those views are not in our local market. But is that really the point?
Part of what’s going on is that I check my phone every couple of hours to see how many views our recent videos have had. This is a similar process to when I traded. I checked the market all day, all night, even when I woke up in the middle of the night to piss. It was a constant reminder that there is money to be made… or was I simply addicted? Whatever it was, I rarely went an hour without checking the market – even on vacation. Now, instead, I just check Facebook to see how many views we’ve had.
… I was a little disappointed with a Facebook Live video I did around noon at the federal courthouse in downtown Hammond. That’s where Lake County Sheriff John Buncich is on trial.
The trial started yesterday with Phil “Bulldog” Benson laying out his case how, in his mind, tow truck operators paid bribes to the Sheriff for favorable towing areas. The defense is saying the monies were for campaign fundraiser tickets.
Here’s the thing I’m trying to figure out – when is it legal or illegal to purchase campaign fundraiser tickets? If you buy tickets for a mayor’s campaign, and then he gives you a contract to build a bridge, how do you tell if that was illegal or not?
I’ve been asking a number of people who deal with this stuff, and I get different answers. The one answer I did get that makes sense is to donate to a party or a political action committee, where the rules aren’t as strict. If you give money to a candidate, in whatever form, you open yourself up to all sorts of federal laws.
Yesterday, a tow truck operator named Scott Jorgensen testified that he told the feds about the bribes and then agreed to wear a wire. “Evil men prosper when good men do nothing,” he said on the stand. Jorgensen testified that he wore a wire for four and a half years.
Now this didn’t make any sense. Why would the government make a guy wear a wire for half a decade? The answer came out in testimony this morning. That’s when Tim Downs, the former chief of police for Buncich, said that he collected money from tow truck operators for campaign donations once a year. Evidently, Buncich had one big fundraiser a year and that’s when Downs would drive around and pick up the money.
So, I’m guessing, Jorgensen didn’t necessarily have to wear a wire all of the time. He just had to wear one when the fundraiser came around every year. That started in 2012 and went through 2016.
So Jorgensen was working with the feds, and after the FBI picked him up, so was Downs. From the stuff said today in Judge Moody’s courtroom, Downs was guilty of picking up the money on county time in a county vehicle, and he also handed the checks and cash for the campaign to Buncich in the county office.
Now, I’m not a lawyer, but this somehow leads to Downs being guilty of wire fraud. At least that’s what Downs pleaded guilty to and agreed to wear a wire and testify against Buncich.
Why would Downs, who worked for Buncich for decades, agree to testify against his boss? I’ll look at my notes. Here it is – so that the judge could come up with a sentence that could:
“possibly go in my favor if I cooperate.”
There is a lot of intrigue here. You have the tow truck operator, the whistleblower former cop, leading a double life as a tow truck operator and paid informant for nearly five years.
You have the chief of police, after he gets popped, also wearing a wire for the feds.
And then you have a guy named Willie Szarmach, aka, in court testimony, as “Cocaine Willie.”
Now Willie is also a tow truck operator who gave money to Downs and Buncich. He looks a little like Johnny Cash, and when he walked into the courtroom this morning from the special witness room that they have off the main courtroom, I thought “Ring of Fire” was gonna break out.
“Cocaine” Willie actually looks a little like Johnny Cash, with the cowboy boots and the look of a man who has partied some in his life. It’s a worn look, the look of a man you want to have a drink with but not necessarily piss off.
“Cocaine” Willie has also agreed to testify against John Buncich, as Downs mentioned, so that the sentence could “possibly go in my favor if I cooperate.”
So you have Scott (whom I called “Sonny” in my Facebook Live video today) Jorgensen, Tim Downs, and Willie Szarmach all testifying against Buncich.
That’s as far as I got today. Szarmach started his testimony in the morning, saying, basically, that he gave Buncich money to get more tows. Judge Moody broke up the testimony for lunch, and I did my video on the steps of the federal courthouse.
I drove over to El Taco Real, where I ran into five different groups of people that I know somehow. The most dangerous was Danny Burns, who was there with his dad. Danny wanted me to sit with them and have a beer. I declined, believe it or not, and after a lunch of chicken enchiladas made “Ray’s way,” I went back to work.
did After lunch, I had to go back to work, and, later, I had to check on the crews at the Cal Ripken World Series. I just don’t have the time to sit in a courtroom for at least a week. After lunch, I went back to the WJOB studios on the campus of the Purdue Northwest Commercialization Center.
Will Buncich be found guilty? I don’t know. That may have something to do with the rules regarding campaign fundraiser tickets. Did Buncich report all of the money given to him? Did the tow truck operators give him money every year so that they could get something in return? Did they get that something in return? Was it quid pro quo? These are tough questions that the jury of 15 people will have to answer.
…. There’s a lot of confusion in this world, and reason to stay awake. I get this feeling that something really bad is gonna happen to us as a nation. I got this feeling, I may have mentioned to the three or four of you, before this latest dustup with North Korea. And radio is dying. Facebook Live video is taking over our operation, yet I haven’t figured out how to make real money off of Facebook Live yet. Soon, but not yet.
And I’m covering a trial that I can only do half ass. I don’t have the time to sit there like the Times and the Post-Tribune and even WGN reporters do. I can only pop in every once in a while. That sucks, not only because I can’t give decent coverage, but because there’s so much drama in the trial. It really is interesting to sit in the audience and watch Tim Downs, the seasoned cop, point across the courtroom at his former boss, also a cop, and denote him as a criminal. That’s a dramatic moment you can’t get at the counter at The Wheel for two eggs over easy.
Back to my disappointment with the video about the trial. I did the summary of the trial at noon on Facebook Live and only got 1.2K views so far. Yesterday, when I interviewed the kids from Hawaii, I got 2.5K. What’s that tell you?
Time to go to bed. We’ve talked long enough.