(Updated: See the latest here.)
This post has taken several hours to write. To be honest, it took a couple to even decide to write about it at all, because I’m about to get a little mean toward something I’ve always held in high regard. Back in October 2005 a new newspaper was formed here in Loudoun County, the Loudoun Independent. I wrote about it at the time and I recall feeling rather excited at the prospect of seeing the continued work of then-editor John Geddie. I didn’t always agree with Mr. Geddie and we had a couple of e-mail exchanges over things in the news and in his paper that could be termed… terse. But I never questioned the paper’s journalism. That assessment has held true after Mr. Geddie’s death and the subsequent taking up of the reigns by his son.
Front and center of the Loudoun Independent’s web site – and soon, no doubt, of the print edition due later this week – is a story about Republican candidate for the Virginia House of Delegates seat for the 32nd District, Tag Greason.
“This event never occurred.” That was the message from Thomas “Tag” Greason, Republican candidate for the 32nd district of the House of Delegates who continued, “When I was in the military, there was never any question regarding my conduct and I received the highest ranking possible as an officer even after this period.”
Greason spoke to the Independent in response to charges made against him in Nov. 1996 by a female enlisted soldier who claimed that Greason had acted inappropriately in her presence while both were stationed at Fort Polk, La., in 1994.
Please read the whole story so you can get it as the Independent intended. For my part, I’ll summarize it here. The Independent reports that a female soldier who was assigned as Greason’s driver back in 1994 filed charges against him for allegedly exposing himself. In this day and age neither the reporters on the story nor the editor (possibly the same person, in this case) can seriously claim they don’t know that even the mere mention of something like this is devastating to a man, most especially to one aspiring to public office. You would presume that if they were intent on being fair journalists, they’d make absolutely certain that any such story would be airtight in its sourcing and be completely up front with how they know what they’re printing is true. That hope would be dashed the second you make it past the first two paragraphs. The woman in question is granted complete anonymity. Aside from being told that she’s still in the military, we are given no information about her whatsoever. The Independent shields her completely while giving the full scope of their readership over to her accusations. Who is this person? What could her motivations be to continue these accusations these many years later, and only coming out of the woodwork when Greason runs for a statewide office?
The accusations themselves are a joke. Or, would be if it weren’t so serious. This event supposedly happened in 1994 but she doesn’t report it until late 1996. The story itself shows the inconsistencies starting as she claims she reported this event to her master sergeant a week later but the statement given in 1996 says it was her sister that did the reporting. Which is it, her or her sister? Seems a fairly simple question to ask and get an answer for but the story doesn’t say. Did she refuse to answer or did the reporter just not ask? The accusations were turned over to the US District Court who then filed charges as a result – over 2 years after the fact, recall. From there, they pressed forward by doing… nothing. After rather quickly reducing the charges from the Class A felony to a “disturbing the peace” charge they did nothing more than ask for continuances throughout 1997 and 1998. Finally, in 1999, they asked for a continuance with no set date. From there, the case sat until it was dismissed in 2006. The story says the dismissal came “after an apparent lull in any active prosecution.” After an “apparent” lull? The charges were filed in 1996 and 10 years of a fat lotta nothing is an “apparent” lull? No, it’s a “lull”, plain and simple. Actually, it’s not even a lull. It’s a bleached-bone dead zone reserved for bogus cases for which there is zero evidence of anything remotely resembling an offense.
Did the reporters actually check with the US District Court as to why the case was dismissed? Lack of evidence? Judicial outrage? Lawyerly boredom? We can’t tell – the story doesn’t address that. If the charges were dismissed because of a technicality that’d be one thing. If they were dismissed because the prosecutors recognize a specious charge when they see one, that’d be another, now wouldn’t it? Proper reporting would have said which one it was. Assuming that call was ever made, of course. Greason himself says that records show he wasn’t even on a field exercise that day. Did the reporters find those records? Do they show he was so assigned or not? Are there any records whatsoever that would confirm anything about this story? We don’t know because the story doesn’t tell us.
The story goes on to say that the woman in question told the reporter of more incidents that occurred on the base and in her unit, harassment by her fellow soldiers and non-comm officers. Any charges filed with those? If so, what happened to those cases? Were they also dismissed on lack of evidence or were any of the charges borne out? Knowing this would allow the readers to assess the credibility of the person leveling the accusations but the story doesn’t give us anything like that.
And how, exactly, did this story come up? The report says the woman expresses “concern” for Greason and hopes the incident doesn’t impede any good work he’s doing now. First off, what moron would think that an accusation like this wouldn’t hurt a person’s reputation and impact any work they’re doing? If she was so concerned about it and considers this “something in the past”, as she’s reported to say, then why come forward about it now?
Unless she didn’t come forward. Unless she was actively pursued by the reporters. Which, if true, calls the reporters’ motivations into question.
What we have here is a 12-year-old baseless accusation that was given the attention of legal analysis of both military and civilian court officers, the sum assessment of which can be summed up in 1 word: bogus. I’ll give you a few more: baseless, false, untrue, fabricated. And this is what the Independent considers newsworthy? They’d print this kind of made-up-from-whole-cloth fairy tale as if it were news, giving it a weight that it never warranted, and leave so many critical questions unanswered but giving full air to the whole sordid story and this is supposed to be journalism?
Disappointing. Disgusting, frankly. I’d like to know who gave them the tip that got this ball rolling and I’m suspicious I already know. It doesn’t speak well of the Independent’s independence and it sure doesn’t lend any sense of credibility for their investigative reporting if they’ll toss this kind of obvious campaign-bomb up on their front page.
(Updated: See the latest here.)