Sex, Lies, Scandals, and Coverups - Move Along, Nothing to See Here
Last updated 6/9/2023 at 12:34am
America has become so divided that we practically live in two different nations. There is absolutely no room for compromise between the values of the Left and Right, yet they continue the façade of compromise to placate their base. There are very few principled politicians left on either side of the isle, and the vast majority are buried so deep in the swamp that you can barely tell them apart. Most of them pretend to represent what their constituents want, but behind closed doors they broker self-serving conciliations that does nothing but keep the elite in power and the peasants polishing their boots.
Where am I going with this? The First Amendment has been under attack since President Donald Trump took office in 2016. What started out as Big Tech and liberal media censorship of conservative voices has now become mainstay policy among Democrat and Republican politicians. Why? Because the fox is guarding the hen house. If one can get away with it, why not both? There is no more oversight because the oversight is just as corrupt.
If you think corruption only resides in Washington, think again. No matter where you go, there is some degree of corruption in your local government. Take for instance Hernando County. Do you trust most of your elected officials? Do you believe a few are corrupt or most? As someone who has reported news, independently, in Hernando County for nearly 13 years, I can say it's rotten to the core.
With corruption comes the need to hide one's transgressions from the public's eye. But when you have a pesky reporter running around who possesses the inconvenient quality of integrity and practices traditional ethical journalism, "Houston, we have a problem."
I won't bore you with the entire history of facts in this article as I've already produced a Documentary and written a book on the subject, Victim Shopping 101. No, I'm going to outline what has recently transpired in this "quiet" little subrural county, because no other publication or network will dare cross that line.
For the sake of time and in the hope of not boring you with an interminable diatribe, I'm not going to delve too deeply into each event. So forgive the brevity of each topic. I promise you this, the crescendo will be well worth the wait.
During production of my documentary in 2020, I was bombarded with attacks from the featured nonprofit, Sheriff Al Nienhuis, then-State Representative Blaise Ingoglia, the Department of Children and Families, and even Chief Judge Daniel B. Merritt Jr, were all doing their part to prevent the film's release. They failed and the film was released in February of 2021, but I lost everything, including my freedom.
After a three-year hiatus, the community pleaded for the return of a legitimate, truth-telling, independent journalist, and I answered the call.
In January 2022, I officially launched R News (Rnews.news) and began right where I left off. But it wasn't easy, and the enemies of transparency took notice of my return and immediately began launching attacks.
The first came during an incident in February 2022, when detectives responded to a local pediatric office on Mariner Blvd. After several hours, R News began receiving tips from numerous sources who claimed that human remains had been discovered in a toilet drain at the facility. During the investigation, R News received copies of official CAD notes from an inside source at the Hernando County Sheriff's Office (HCSO) that clearly noted detectives being concerned that a human fetus had clogged the drain. The word fetus was mentioned numerous times but when Public Information Officer Denise Moloney published a media release about the investigation, she stated that none of their detectives mentioned the word "fetus." She then preceded to shame R News on social media. I later published the autopsy report, which proves they sent material to the medical examiner, and CAD notes, proving that Moloney had intentionally lied about the investigation. R News dubbed the investigation "Fetusgate," for the unnecessarily absurd amount of controversy it created.
Due to the embarrassment of being exposed, Moloney and her side kick Michael Terry decided they would use their powerful positions as spokespersons for Sheriff Al Nienhuis to launch a slander campaign against R News on the agency's Facebook Page. Whenever I would post an HCSO related article, they would respond by telling the community not to trust R News because, "they are not a legitimate news source." They also began using the term "Blogger" when describing me personally - a form of insult to my publication. Interesting change of opinion because for 10 years they referred to me as the hardest working journalist in Hernando County. But what is the difference between a blogger and a journalist and why does it matter?
99% of what R News publishes is typical, objectively reported, daily news. Journalism is the process of gathering, assessing, creating, and presenting news information. A journalist, whether independent or employed by a major news outlet, is one in the same. There are no federal or state-issued credentials that gives one person more rights to practice journalism than another.
A blogger is someone who primarily publishes their opinion on various topics. There are no rules to being a blogger, unlike a journalist, who follows certain ethical standards. Bloggers are typically parttime writers who do not receive the majority of their income from blogging – Journalists do. But notwithstanding all the above, federal courts have ruled that bloggers and Journalists should enjoy the same Constitutional rights and protections. For instance, the government cannot compel a journalist to divulge their sources and that applies to bloggers as well. We'll talk about a move that Florida Republican lawmakers have taken that challenges that right a little later.
Media outlets are supposed to contact the PIOs of any given agency when requesting information about breaking news events. The purpose of having PIOs is to expedite public information, so journalists can meet deadlines and report facts to the public as quickly as possible. Since my returned in 2022, Moloney and Terry have completely ignored all my media related requests for information and refused to answer questions. Instead, they forward all my requests to the records department, which can take up to 14 days for a response. But they didn't stop there.
All media outlets in Florida depend on a single source to receive media releases from law enforcement agencies. Media-Alert is a private company that collect releases and disseminates them to media outlets who have a subscription to their service. I had a subscription for 10 years and obtained one again in January of 2022. With that knowledge, Moloney discovered another way to silence my news reporting.
In March of 2022, Moloney used her government email to contact Media-Alert and demand that they stop doing business with R News. Now, who do you think is going to win that battle, a law enforcement agency or a lone reporter who is known for exposing injustice. Exactly, Media-Alert revoked my subscription and refused to discuss the matter.
So, let's put this into perspective. A representative for a powerful government agency sends a libelous statement to a private corporation, demanding that they not do busines with another private corporation, in an effort to destroy said private business. Which words come to mind, maybe tortious liability, defamation, abuse of power, constitutional/civil rights violations. I'll touch on that at the end of this article.
The other way law enforcement agencies distribute information is through their social media sites. When HCSO destroyed my relationship with Media-Alert, the only way to obtain releases from any agency in Florida is to follow their Facebook pages. Around September of 2022, I published a serious of articles on sexual misconduct occurring within the ranks at HCSO. One article revealed details of a current lawsuit filed by a former deputy who says he was terminated by Sheriff Nienhuis for not bringing his girlfriend to agency-sanctioned sex parties. Shortly after running that article, Moloney blocked me from the agency's Facebook page, preventing me from viewing or commenting on agency posts. This is a BIG no, no, according to a recent federal appeals court decision.
In 2019, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a lower court ruling that Louden County, Virginia, Board of Supervisor violated the First Amendment rights of Brian Davison. On February 3, 2016, Davison posted that he believed board member Phyllis Randall was taking kickbacks. Soon after, Randall removed his post and banned him from the page. Twelve hours later, Randall reconsidered her decision and reinstated his account. Davison filed a lawsuit, claiming his First Amendment rights were violated.
A panel of four judges ruled unanimously that Davison's rights were violated because a public official's Facebook page is a "public forum." Government officials cannot block people from their pages because of the opinions they hold. Numerous lawsuits have followed and there are several still pending in various jurisdictions around the country.
R News is still blocked from HCSO's Facebook page to this day – a continued violation of our First Amendment rights.
During my investigation into Fifth Circuit Judge Joel Fritton's alleged threats against his estranged wife and her new lover, Commissioner Steve Champion, HCSO's Maj. Phil Lakin attempted to hide documents pertaining to the case. When I made a public records request for the case documents, Lakin wrote an email to their Information Technology Manager and told him, "Get me a list of all persons who have read this case before I asked you to hide it." Meaning he already told IT to hide documents before they reached the records department. He also asked for all emails that I have sent to and from HCSO and listed all of my known email addresses. Did Lakin need to make sure he sealed up all possible leaks?
Lakin has a history of hiding things from the community and HCSO. According to a record search, Lakin was investigated for an alleged domestic battery against a female deputy he was dating in 2004. According to a report, Lakin grabbed the deputy by the hair and smashed her head into a side mirror on his vehicle. The victim later signed a waiver of prosecution for reasons unknown.
There are also allegations that Lakin and his current wife were involved in a rollover crash on the Suncoast Parkway several years ago, where numerous deputies say they were engaged in "sexual relations" during the crash. There are also allegations that Lakin was intoxicated and traded places with his wife to avoid a DUI charge. Oddly, all records of the incident have been purged from all agency databases.
During production of my documentary, Judge Daniel B. Merritt Jr. became furious that I was interviewing court employees and immediately ordered that I stop or face contempt of court charges. Following that threat, Merritt ordered that video recording would no longer be allowed in the Hernando County Courthouse without prior approval. I guess you can thank me for that unconstitutional prohibition.
R News has written several articles on Sheriff Al Nienhuis's refusal to implement body cameras within the Sheriff's Office, but I'm not going to rehash the entire narrative in this article. You can find all those details on the R News Website. Nienhuis is among just a handful of Florida Sheriffs who refuses to consider body cameras at all.
And here's a big one that most of you probably have no idea is coming to Hernando County. Like other agencies around the country, Nienhuis has decided to expedite the implementation of new digital radio system that would encrypt all radio traffic. So, to all those who enjoy listening to dispatch traffic with Law Enforcement and Fire Rescue, your radios will soon fall silent. According to a records manager with HCSO, there was no mention of the program cost in this year's annual budget. So how would the public have an opportunity to challenge Nienhuis's decision to silence radio traffic? No body cams, no radio traffic, silencing investigative reporters, hiding public information, hmmm.
I could go on and on and on with examples of how this county's elected officials have done everything they can to suppress free speech and access to public information, but then I would be writing a novel.
I leave you with the most recent attempted attack on free speech, and it comes from an unlikely source. Florida Senator Jason Brodeur (R) introduced a bill last month that would force bloggers who write about elected officials to register as lobbyists with the State. Brodeur wants to track bloggers who are paid to write about elected officials, because he believes they are acting as agents for campaigns. Basically, a candidate can pay a blogger to write a negative article about his/her opponent and then cite the piece as legitimate journalism in mail outs. This is similar to how Senator Blaise Ingoglia allegedly uses the Hernando Sun to publish articles in support of local "chosen" candidates and publish negative pieces against their opponents. It's unknown if the Hernando Sun is paid to accommodate Ingoglia's control of local elections. In 2016, Ingoglia offered the former Real News Real Fast (RNRF) $250,000 if they stopped investigating a local corrupt nonprofit that he supported. When that offer was declined, he began using mafia style tactics to rid RNRF from the community.
Through the services of Attorney Jonah Dickstein and the Institute for Justice, R News has decided to seek damages for First Amendment violations and defamation of character, perpetrated by Sheriff Al Nienhuis and other top officials with the Hernando County Sheriff's Office.
Ironically, this week happens to be National Sunshine Week, which celebrates free access to public information and encourages transparency in government.
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