Judge grills Dover official

| 79 Comments

Just when you think you have seen and heard it all, yet another witness is called to testify and proves you wrong.

Point in case, Alan Bonsell’s testimony evoked a strong response from the judge (page 126-)

the Judge Wrote:

THE COURT: All right. Assuming Mr. Gillen has some redirect, I’m going to exercise my prerogative before we break today, because you may have some lengthy redirect, is that a fair statement? MR. GILLEN: I think that I have accumulated a considerable list of questions. THE COURT: I want to exercise my prerogative, and I have some questions before we break today. I would like, Mr. Harvey, if you would hand up to me the witness’s deposition testimony, specifically as it related to the question of the $850.00 check. I believe it’s the deposition as taken by Mr. Rothschild in January of 2005. MR. HARVEY: Yes, Your Honor. My copy is marked up. Do we have an unmarked copy? Or if you want, I could just have it delivered to your chambers in a few minutes. THE COURT: I want it now, if you have it. Hand it up. And can you direct me to the pages, and specifically the pages, Mr. Harvey, that you referred to in your questions? MR. HARVEY: Yes, Your Honor. I read from page 13, line 6, through page 16, line 20. THE COURT: All right. Give me a moment, please. That’s fine. I see where you were. All right. Let me ask you. BY THE COURT: Q. When did you first become aware of the fact that your father was in possession of the $850.00 that was being donated to buy Of Pandas and People? A. Well, Mr. Buckingham gave the check to me to pass to my father. He said this was money that he collected for donations to the book. So I gave it to him. Q. So you were the conduit – A. Yeah. Q. – by which your father received the $850.00? A. Yes.

From the York Daily Record

“You tell me why you didn’t say Mr. Buckingham was involved,” a visibly angry Jones said, staring at Bonsell as he read from his deposition.

Bonsell said he misspoke. And then, “That’s my fault, your honor.”

Bonsell said he didn’t think it mattered because Buckingham had not actually donated any of his money. Rather, the money had been collected from members of his church.

But Jones pointed out that Bonsell had said he had never spoken to anybody else about the donations.

The judge also wanted to know why the money needed to be forwarded to his father, why Buckingham couldn’t have purchased the books himself.

Bonsell stammered.

“I still haven’t heard an answer from you,” Jones said.

“He said he’d take it off the table,” Bonsell said.

“You knew you were under oath?” Jones asked at one point.

Mike Argento, whose excellent articles already have addressed many of the follies reports

Mike Argento Wrote:

n the witness stand during Monday’s session of the Dover Panda Trial, Dover Area School Board member Alan Bonsell accused the press of just making things up.

Keeping that in mind, here’s a description of what happened Monday afternoon.

Wearing a nice gray suit, Bonsell answered every question to the best of his ability and was positively forthcoming and when the lawyers pointed out certain inconsistencies in his testimony, he thanked them profusely and offered expansive explanations for why he may have been misunderstood and cleared up any misunderstandings that may have arisen.

OK, all of that was made up.

Except for the part about Bonsell wearing a gray suit.

Actually, at the conclusion of his testimony, he was in serious danger of ruining that suit.

79 Comments

Wow.

I’m a little chagrined that the trial has come to this display of mendacity and incompetence by the Dover School Board. I’d much rather see the case decided on its merits than on the antics of these particular officials. It makes me really want to check into who’s on MY local school board.

The Discovery Insitute may have been clumsy with respect to the friend of the court brief (“We’re not running a law school here!). But I think they knew what they were doing when they got as far away as they could from this train wreck.

I’m watching this with amusement. I’ve often said that the reason why I am not a Creationist is that it requires me to lie and I try to avoid lying.

It appears here that the habit of lying is endemic to the Creationist state of mind as is a little fraud or larceny or what do you call what Bonsell did with that check…?

I’m a little chagrined that the trial has come to this display of mendacity and incompetence by the Dover School Board. I’d much rather see the case decided on its merits than on the antics of these particular officials.

What merit? Take the mendacity out of ID and there’s virtually nothing left. It’s not just the Dover School Board; Dembski, Behe, Nelson, the entire staff of DI are proven dissemblers; there’s not an honorable person in the whole lot.

It makes me really want to check into who’s on MY local school board.

As well you should – there has been been a concerted campaign to put “stealth” fundamentalists on school boards for years – doesn’t everyone here know this? Where have people been? Here’s a Mother Jones article from 1994: http://www.motherjones.com/news/fea[…]3/galst.html

Creationism in public schools? Abstinence-only sex education?

Sad to say, but the curriculum battles faced by Mark Zingarelli and the residents of Stanwood, Wash., are not isolated incidents, but individual skirmishes in a war that could determine the fate of public education–and perhaps public life–in America.

Sound familiar? Read the whole thing and think about the next decade, having given the store away during the last one.

Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear. Judge Jones doesn’t sound very happy, does he?

Good Lord. This trial is getting to epic proportions of silliness.

-Schmitt.

Wow, the Judge just absolutely buried him.

It always amazes me how shallow the convictions of, what appears to me to be, most Creationists and evangelicals are. They pay lip service to Christianity but time and again when the chips are down they lie, cheat, and do whatever duplicitious thing they can to force their agenda. Don’t they still say “So help me God” when they take the oath to tell the truth? Supposedly that isn’t supposed to mean very much to me as an atheist… and yet I couldn’t even consider perjuring myself in a court of law.

I’m not saying there’s not some moral failings on my side of the fence… BUT they, the Christian right, claim to have a higher moral ground… It just disgusts me all the more.

I didn’t realize until I read that Argento column that the judge is a Dubya appointee. That’s a nice touch!

Steve: I think the judge is a Bush 41 appointee, not Dubya’s.

Matt wrote

The Discovery Insitute may have been clumsy with respect to the friend of the court brief (“We’re not running a law school here!). But I think they knew what they were doing when they got as far away as they could from this train wreck.

Actually, while the DI’s certainly insisting they have nothing to do with this, they should’t be allowed to get away with it. They backed the BoE and consulted with the creationists on it from very early on, well before the case broke the national news. They were probably instrumental in getting the change in focus from Creationism to ID, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they had been involved in crafting the statement (it’s way too sophisticated for the BoE yahoos). Even after they decided to keep their distance because of the legal ramifications and the heavy Creationist footprints, they sent their top team of experts as witnesses, and put substantial effort in the legal proceedings. Even now they are busy filing briefs etc.

Of course, they are well aware the case is near hopeless on the merits, and are trying to cover their behinds, but for them to claim they are against the Dover policy is just ludicrous. Mark Ryland being caught blatantly lying about this at the AEI panel discussion by none else than TMLC’s Thompson was a clear demostration of the DI’s strategy of disinformation. The public should continuously be made aware of the DI’s deep involvement with and support for the Dover BoE.

Morbius Wrote:

What merit?

On the merit that ID is intrinsically religious.

Judge Jones was a political protege of former Pennsylvania governor Tom Ridge. His previous public service (if I remember correctly) was as the chair of Pennsylvania’s liquor control board that runs the state’s $1.5 billion/year chain of liquor stores. Ridge was instrumental in getting him the Federal judgeship in 2001. I know nothing about Jones’s personal political views, but Ridge, when governor, was moderate and reasonably rational {pro-choice and sought to sell the liquor stores), the complete opposite of Dubya. Jones’s views are probably similar.

I’m not saying there’s not some moral failings on my side of the fence… BUT they, the Christian right, claim to have a higher moral ground… It just disgusts me all the more.

Well, we can decide these are just bad people. But I think that in their own minds, they DO have a higher moral ground - they are soldiers for Jesus. And anything is fair in this war, because the ONLY thing that counts in war is winning. So it’s OK to lie to the enemy. Indeed (as Russell wrote) lying is a virtue when you’re lying for Jesus.

I can only hope that some sensible person in authority will be formally introduced to how the controversy is presented when creationists control the forum. Dembski’s blog might be considered Exhibit A for “teaching both sides”.

So, could someone familiar with the legal system fill us in? What’s the usual procedure? Who brings the charges of perjury? Does that usually come after closure of the current trial?

When a creationist says “So help me God” in the courtroom, they probably mean that God will help them to cover up their lies.……

morbius Wrote:

What merit? Take the mendacity out of ID and there’s virtually nothing left. It’s not just the Dover School Board; Dembski, Behe, Nelson, the entire staff of DI are proven dissemblers; there’s not an honorable person in the whole lot.

Yes, but we’ve got a whole new layer of mendacity forming that’s so deep that the judge isn’t even going to have to dig down to the original layer, which unfortunately may mean that that layer isn’t going to be exposed for what it is until some other court case.

So, could someone familiar with the legal system fill us in? What’s the usual procedure? Who brings the charges of perjury? Does that usually come after closure of the current trial?

Since it is a criminal matter, the usual procedure is for the Court to refer the issue to the U.S. Attorney. Given the somewhat unusual, sua sponte questioning by Judge Jones (and his rhetorical question about whether Mr. Bonsell knew he was under oath), it sure seems he is p*ssed and so may have something like that in mind.

Here’s the thing: perjury, whether in state or federal courts, is rampant. Everyone involved in the judicial system knows it, including judges. Way back when I was stuck doing divorces, I was surprised folks were not growing long noses on the stand. Graduating to commercial disputes and the like in federal courts did not improve my impression of humanity’s bent for truthfulness.

But you have to be slick about it (not that I am advising that people commit perjury, with the caveat that they only do it well). What went on here re: Dover is so brazen and inept, and such an insult to the Court, my mind reels. Couple that with Buckingham’s quite incredible denials that he ever, EVEN ONCE, uttered the word “creationism” – when Fox News has him on tape saying exactly that – and Judge Jones may be concluding he has a pack of liars on his hands in the defendants. (During the cross-X of Buckingham, Judge Jones advised the plaintiffs’ lawyer that he - the lawyer - had been “effective” in impeaching Buckingham.)

These Dover Idists make the DI look like models of sophistication and probity. And that is damned hard to do.

Yes, but we’ve got a whole new layer of mendacity forming that’s so deep that the judge isn’t even going to have to dig down to the original layer, which unfortunately may mean that that layer isn’t going to be exposed for what it is until some other court case.

Oh, I don’t think so. Remember, it is not unconstitutional to teach bad science. But it is unconstitutional to teach something religion masquerading as science for a religious purpose in public schools. Hence, all the silly posturing and denial that churches and Bible talk were ever at all involved in School Board doings re: Of Pandas and People. Why no one – no one I tell you – ever uttered the word creationism, or collected money for the textbook at church. Because such activities go to the unconstitutional purpose for the policy under review; hence, they did not happen, you see.

All this apparent perjury about whether creationism was discussed, and how the money for the textbook was obtained, strongly indicates that the motives for the Dover ID policy were religious, and the defendants know it. Hizzoner will have no difficulty establishing that prong of the test.

And do you really think he will be disposed to believe the testimony that “creationism” was a mere “placeholder” in Pandas, until they settled on “Intelligent Design,” which absotively, posilutely is NOT creationism? Bah. This judge clearly knows mendacity when he sees it. My guess is he has about had his fill of it.

This is usually what happens when a judge detects perjury. A referral to the U.S. Attorney or District Attorney is rare. (I’ve only seen it happen once in 20+ years, and charges weren’t filed.) I’ve seen a federal judge conduct his own questioning several times and it’s almost always bad for the witness.

From the transcript, it appears the judge beieves that perjury was committed.

Personally, I think this is great. One problem with these cases is that the get appealed. The chances of reversal are much lower if the trial judge has indicated that one side committed perjury.

This is especially important if the whole thrust of the case is that ID is a sham for creationism. With perjury in the record to support that conclusion, appealate reversal is much less likely.

I concur w/ Joe McFaul that it is rare for a Court to refer suspected perjury to the U.S. Attorney. But if the suspected perjurer is to be personally punished, that would have to be the procedure.

I also agree that this augers very well for making Jones’ expected decision less reversible. For one thing, the suspected perjury is entirely material to a crucial legal question, namely, whether there was a religious purpose in devising the Dover school board’s policy. The apparent falsehoods all are attempts to remove religious commentary and activity from the chain of events giving rise to the policy under review, because at some point the defendants became aware that their religiously-motivated antics could be fatal to that policy.

OK, after I stopped laughing I started to have the same thoughts as Matt. We have a truly perfect setup here- a hanging curve ball with bases loaded- but, I wonder if there will be an appeal? And if there is no appeal, how significant will the result be outside of Dover?

And this truth-challenged individual is running for reelection to the school board, isn’t he?

Gary Hurd: If defendants do not appeal, then we have one district court case that, outside of its jurisdiction in which its holding is mandatory, constitutes persuasive authority. As the only Court so far to consider ID, that is more than the IDers would have next time around.

Now, of course, we want the defendants to appeal. The DI I’m sure would be adamantly opposed to it, but the Thomas More crew clearly do not take their orders from DI. What the Thomas More guys would conclude to be in their client’s best interest, and whether the client would be guided by that advice, are hard to predict. And, then, there is the fact that the school board becomes differently constituted in, I believe, January. It is hard to know how a new board would feel.

Just speculation; suppose a pro-science board is elected and chooses to appeal (assuming free legal representation). They could appeal all they wanted to, with or without TMC support, or DI objections.

I think I like that.

And this truth-challenged individual is running for reelection to the school board, isn’t he?

Yah, you betja

Oh, goodness.  Perhaps Americans United would be willing to finance an appeal just to make things even worse for the IDiots?

Sorry, I didn’t realize this wasn’t my own private rut.  I’ll get my mind out of it.

Gary, I like the way you think. That is the kind of stab in the face maneuvering absolutely necessary in a case like that. Kudos.

One incentive the board could have to appeal is that if they lose, I believe they are saddled with plaintiffs’ atty fees. We are not talking chump change, here. But if, for whatever combination of reasons, it would not be in the school board’s interest to appeal, I would doubt that even a pro-science board would do it. That body’s first allegiance is, and should be, to the Dover Area School District.

It’s a pity they didn’t bear that in mind all along rather than using their positions on the school board to take a stand for “someone who died on a cross 2000 years ago.”

Whenever I see this sort of thing, whether it’s a court case where creationists contradict things they said previously or a debate where they deliberately misrepresent scientists, and remember that one of their main reasons (so they say) for promoting this stuff is to restore morality and ethics to the country after such qualities had been destroyed by the godless secular evolutionist atheist bad guys, I honestly don’t know whether to laugh or cry. The really sad thing is that so many people believe them when they claim to be the ones taking the moral high road in the face of a lot of hard evidence to the contrary.

Assuming there is an appeal, does anyone know anything about the political/ideological makeup of the appeals court?

I see where confusion may have arisen - I’m afraid I will need to go into a little detail about the UK constitution, in which both setting and implementing policy are considered to be executive functions, performed by the Government rather than Parliament. The law provides the framework within which the executive can operate; the function of the legislature is to alter the law, to change the limits of executive power, rather than to change its goals.

Because of the relation between the UK legislature and executive, the actions of the legislature will be dictated by (executive-set) policy; the democratic process and constitutional precedent prevent (in theory) the resultant changes in the power of the executive from approaching too close to tyranny; and, if they fail, the mob takes to the streets to influence the executive in a more direct fashion. :)

The crucial issue, though, is that all policy-related aspects of government are considered executive in nature - the legislative immunity from personal suit applies to none of them.

Rev Dr Lenny Flank - the point I was trying to make was “Why should the plaintiffs’ kids suffer?”

Because their school district is run by idiots who didn’t give a flying fig about their education.

The alternative is to let the idiots off the hook “for the kid’s sake”.

And that will only lead to more idiots.

And more uneducated kids.

remember it was the plaintiffs that filed the lawsuit

Remember whose fault it was that they HAD to.

who will set forward to be a plaintiff if the outcome is “as utterly painful as possible”

Someone who wants stupid people to stop doing illegal things.

We don’t let cops tear up speeding tickets because the speeder can’t afford it. When speeders get tickets, it’s THEIR OWN FAULT. No one else’s. When Dover’s board bankrupts the district with their religious crusade, it is THEIR OWN FAULT. No one else’s.

They deserve all the consequences. They BEGGED for them. They ignored all the advice to the contrary. They wanted to be martyrs. They succeeded. I hope they enjoy their martyrdom. (shrug)

BTW, I thought I was clear that I was referring to making it as painful as possible FOR THE SCHOOL BOARD. The whole mess is, after all, entirely and solely their own fault.

That also moves Cooper and the DI closer to liability for anything Buckingham subsequently did in conformity with that advice. This really could get very interesting, if the DASD ends up saddled with in excess of $1 million in atty fees and costs, and they wish to be indemnified for that burden by any whose legal advice they might wish to argue resulted in it.

It was also clear from Buckingham’s trestimony that he spoke to Cooper as an agent of the School Board. So, would a school board suit aginst the DI eliminate the “privilege.”

Two posts in a row row I bet you think it’s sweet you clever boy (Hi ‘Dr Rev’ .. do you like Radiohead?)

no…seriously… answer the question?

IF you were were a plaintiff?

would YOU? be prepared to sacrifice your kids for a principle?

.. I don’t think we need you on our side…?

would YOU? be prepared to sacrifice your kids for a principle?

Um, no one’s kids are being sacrified for anything. (shrug)

As noted before, even the most broke and destitute of schools MUST meet the state education standards.

Hi ‘Dr Rev’ .. do you like Radiohead?

More of a Metallica and Megadeth kind of guy. :>

That also moves Cooper and the DI closer to liability for anything Buckingham subsequently did in conformity with that advice. This really could get very interesting, if the DASD ends up saddled with in excess of $1 million in atty fees and costs, and they wish to be indemnified for that burden by any whose legal advice they might wish to argue resulted in it.

Interesting.

What about the fact that it was the Board’s own (eventual) TMLC lawyer (Thompson) who first suggested to the board they they introduce the ID textbook “Pandas” that resulted in the entire case. What does that do about TMLC’s responsibility or liability in the whole affair?

The IDists will certainly try to spin the massive attorney’s fees they have to pay to the ACLU, however, the ACLU lawyers have to be paid somehow, and it might help make the next schoolboard to consider teaching intelligent design think long and hard about how they are about to financially ruin their school district.

Exactly. That is precisely why the Dover School Board should be hurt as much as possible. Consider it a lesson for everyone else out there in Kansas and Indianapolis and Florida and etc etc etc.

Dr Rev,

if?… you had kids???

would your first instinct be to put them in the front line? (sounds like a neo-Darwinesque, E.O Wilson type, non-squeiture to me).… [trans for real people] … Rev Lenny needs to chill - it goes without saying that no-one is ever (i.e plaintiff) going to do this again if all it results in is a world of shite for their kids?

So whats the point in having a local school board? -if you can always aspire to being broke and destitute… then…???

Um, no one’s kids are being sacrified for anything. (shrug)

As noted before, even the most broke and destitute of schools MUST meet the state education standards.

FIGHT ID..! IF THE WORST HAPPENS YOU CAN BE ALWAYS BE BROKE AND DESTITUTE! - seriously Dr Rev? put forward a good arguement to the parents of the next lot of kids that have to suffer this… ( perhaps along the lines of.…) “Well, if I was you.….”

It was also clear from Buckingham’s trestimony that he spoke to Cooper as an agent of the School Board. So, would a school board suit aginst the DI eliminate the “privilege.

Yup. In order for a client to sue his lawyer, he has to reveal what was said that constitutes negligent advice. The lawyer, in turn, has to be able to reveal his version of what was said to defend himself.

If DI told DASD ID had nothing to do with religion, that’s cool. Imagine being able to put a bunch of ‘em on the stand to explain the Wedge and other documents, in light of any such representations they might have made? It wouldn’t be like Dembski’s web site, where unpleasant questions can be deleted.

As for the TMLC, I certainly wonder what they told the DASD (or didn’t tell them) about the possibility of atty fees and costs if they lost any litigation. How did TMLC induce confidence that it was safe to employ them, as opposed to counsel from their insurance company?

Yup. In order for a client to sue his lawyer, he has to reveal what was said that constitutes negligent advice. The lawyer, in turn, has to be able to reveal his version of what was said to defend himself.

In the current case, who would believe Buckingham and Bonsell’s version of the dialogue? We’ve got a whole collection of people here who have undeniably perjured themselves.

TMLC promised the DASD a “first class defense”, free of charge. DASD was notified by their own attourney that they would be liable for plaintiff’s fees if they lost

I don’t really think that the TMLC lawyers have put up that bad a performance in court - they just don’t have _anything_ to work with.

On the other hand, if it was TMLC who said to the board “Just deny that anyone ever said the word ‘creationism’, and you’ll be fine”, which appears to be what has happened, then, yes, they’re negligent.

They are negligent in not advising the BoE to plead guilty. At least they ought to be, though I must confess that I don’t know the law of the matter. The costs they are likely to be saddled with would be far, far lower if they’d just rolled over…

Let’s hope the DI get settled with the atty fees. There’s a bottom to every barrel, even one the size of the DI. And it would hurt them to be mixed up in something like that.

I don’t believe that the DASD needs to crash and burn. Even if the BoE escapes the $1M check, they - and everyone else who isn’t terminally stupid - should still get the point. And hitting the DI is eminently worthwhile in and of itself. If they are saddled with the cost - of even a significant percentage of it - it should provide them with a powerful, ah, incentive to keep their noses out of similar cases.

- JS

Well, when I was a PI (private not principal) case conferences focused on who had the money. (As opposed to case comferences when I taught medicine). TMC and DI are both well heeled (being a bunch of heels). That would be all the “law” that many lawyers would need to start. In this case, I think we have much more.

The DI did post their version of events that was such a pathetic “it is not our fault” whine, that I am sure that they think they lost in the Panda Trail. The TMC is claiming victory, so I think they know they lost too.

Dean Morrison: I do not know if you have much actual experience as a parent trying to raise kids in a religious school district. I do.

I assure you, there are plenty of parents out there who are willing to put their kids’ needs above school board financial problems. There are plenty of parents who think that a nontoxic learning environment is more important than money.

I have faced the question myself - and y’know not once did it occur to me to not fight for my kids’ rights based on concerns that it might cause hardship to the school board or the neighborhood.

In my case, I thought about whether the case was strong or weak. I thought about whether it was really important or whether I was just making a mt of a molehill. I thought about what would happen to my kids - how much abuse & harrassment they’d get, and whether I think they’re able to handle it. I thought about whether the world would IMO be a better place if I filed the suit. I thought about the costs of filing the suit, and the costs of not filing the suit.

However, when I calculated the costs, I didn’t even bother with the question of whether innocent kids would be deprived school services or benefits as a result of my actions. Why? Well, mostly because I think the education the kids WOULD get from such a lawsuit - that the law of the land must be obeyed whether you happen to agree with it or not - would be far more valuable to the kids in the long run than any temporary financial hardship. Also because there are people who are responsible for guarding the school’s financial resources, and I don’t happen to be one of those people. That’s their job.

Socking it to the Dover school board would save more money, and hurt fewer children, in the long run. Protecting people from the consequences of their actions equals encouraging the behavior.

-D

Hi DennesL,

I’m actually in Britain where we don’t have constitutional separation of church and state - although it doesn’t stop the majority of us from being sceptical about both. I commend your courage in facing up to the religious bigots who want to impose their views on every one - I’d like to think I’d do the same. The purpose of my comments was not to advocate compromise with the principle of standing up to these people - rather it was to sympathise with people like the plaintiffs and yourself who actually have; this at a time when it seemed to me some people were in danger of crowing about ‘winning’ the case. It seems to me that ‘success’ would be somewhat qualified if damage was done to the education of the children of the people who brought the case in the first place. Locally elected politicians in the UK would not be able to so easily escape the consequences of their actions. The only hope of redress in the US seems to be if the Dover board decide to sue their lawyers or the DI. If the C.A.R.E’s candidates get elected tomorrow how does this affect the chances of this happening? I was thinking of suggesting that the readers of ‘Panda’s thumb’ could show their gratitude to the Plaintiffs by having a collection? - to buy some textbooks perhaps? Or perhaps as a magnanimous gesture the ACLU lawyers could waive their fees and not seek punitive damages from the board. This would show who really cares about education, and would mean that at least the plaintiff’s kid’s don’t pay the price. I’m unemployed at the moment, but I’m willing to cough up a fiver(sterling) if necessary - it’s been worth it for the entertainment value alone.…

I was thinking of suggesting that the readers of ‘Panda’s thumb’ could show their gratitude to the Plaintiffs by having a collection? - to buy some textbooks perhaps?

The Dover high school library already has a world-class science section:

http://www.geocities.com/lflank/dover.html

;>

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This page contains a single entry by PvM published on November 1, 2005 11:26 PM.

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