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Phil Saviano, key clergy sex abuse whistleblower, dies at 69

Phil Saviano, key clergy sex abuse whistleblower, dies at 69

Saviano's story figured prominently in the 2015 Oscar-winning film “Spotlight” about The Boston Globe's investigation into children molested by priests.

BOSTON (AP) — Phil Saviano, a clergy sex abuse survivor and whistleblower who played a pivotal role in exposing decades of predatory assaults by Roman Catholic priests in the United States, has died. He was 69.

Saviano’s story figured prominently in the 2015 Oscar-winning film “Spotlight” about The Boston Globe’s investigation that revealed how scores of priests molested children and got away with it because church leaders covered it up. He died on Sunday after a battle with gallbladder cancer, said his brother and caregiver, Jim Saviano.

In late October, Phil Saviano announced on his Facebook page that he was starting hospice care at his brother’s home in Douglas, Massachusetts, where he died.

“Things have been dicey the last few weeks,” he wrote, asking followers to “give a listen to Judy Collins singing ‘Bird On A Wire’ and think of me.”

Saviano played a central role in illuminating the scandal, which led to the resignation of Boston’s Cardinal Bernard Law and church settlements with hundreds of victims. The Globe’s 2002 series earned it the Pulitzer Prize for Public Service in 2003, and “Spotlight” won Academy Awards for best picture and best original screenplay. Actor Neal Huff played Saviano in the film.

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“My gift to the world was not being afraid to speak out,” Saviano said in mid-November in a brief telephone interview with The Associated Press.

Born June 23, 1952, Saviano recalled going to confession as a young boy at St. Denis Church in tiny East Douglas, Massachusetts, in the 1960s and whispering his transgressions through a screen to the Rev. David Holley. The priest, he said, violated that sacred trust and forced the 11-year-old to perform sex acts. Holley died in a New Mexico prison in 2008 while serving a 275-year sentence for molesting eight boys.

“When we were kids, the priests never did anything wrong. You didn’t question them, same as the police,” brother Jim Saviano told the AP. “There were many barriers put in his way intentionally and otherwise by institutions and generational thinking. That didn’t stop him. That’s a certain kind of bravery that was unique.”

A self-described “recovering Catholic,” Saviano went on to establish the New England chapter of the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, or SNAP, an organization working to bring specific allegations of clergy sexual abuse to light.

His faith in the church shattered, Saviano instead leaned on politicians and prosecutors to bring offenders to justice.

“We’re putting our faith in legislators and prosecutors to solve this problem,” he told reporters in 2002.

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“Phil was an essential source during the Spotlight Team’s reporting on the cover-up of sexual abuse in the Catholic Church, providing other critical sources, research materials and the names of several accused priests,” said Mike Rezendes, a member of the Globe team that brought the scandal to light and a current AP investigative reporter.

“He also shared his own heartbreaking story of abuse, imbuing us with the iron determination we needed to break this horrific story,” Rezendes said. “During our reporting, and over the last 20 years, I got to know Phil well and have never met anyone as brave, as compassionate or as savvy.”

Saviano earned degrees in zoology and communications from the University of Massachusetts-Amherst and Boston University and began working in hospital public relations. Later, he shifted to entertainment industry publicity and concert promotion, working closely with Collins, a lifelong friend and confidante, as well as Ella Fitzgerald, Mel Torme and other artists.

In 1991, he became seriously ill with AIDS and went public with his childhood abuse the following year, becoming one of the first survivors to come forward.

“Father Holley forced me and two of my friends to have repeated sexual contact with him,” Saviano said in an interview with the Globe — the first of many that would lead not only to criminal charges against the disgraced cleric but widespread prosecutions of others as the enormity of the scandal became evident.

By the early 2000s, Saviano was spending 10 hours a day on the phone with victims and journalists. He was an outspoken critic of the Vatican’s reluctance to deal decisively with the fallout from the scandal. In 2008, when Pope Benedict XVI hinted to U.S. bishops during a visit that they’d mishandled the church’s response, Saviano questioned the pontiff’s decision to follow his remarks with Masses in New York and Washington.

“If he was really serious about the issue, that Mass would not be held in New York. It would be held here in Boston,” he said.

In 2009, suffering kidney failure and unable to locate a match among family or friends, he found a donor after SNAP spread the word in a nationwide email to 8,000 clergy sex abuse survivors.

The abuse that came to light as a result of Saviano’s work prompted Cardinal Law, Boston’s highest-ranking churchman, to step down. The Globe’s reporting showed Law was aware of child molesters in the priesthood but covered up their crimes and failed to stop them, instead transferring them from parish to parish without alerting parents or police.

When the archbishop died in Rome in 2017, Saviano asked bluntly: “How is he going to explain this when he comes face to face with his maker?”

In 2019, at the Vatican for an abuse prevention summit called convened by Pope Francis, Saviano said he told summit organizers to release the names of abusive priests around the world along with their case files.

“Do it to launch a new era of transparency. Do it to break the code of silence. Do it out of respect for the victims of these men, and do it to help prevent these creeps from abusing any more children,” he said.

Although there was a hard edge to much of his life, Saviano enjoyed traveling extensively and developed a soft spot for Indigenous art. In 1999, he launched an e-commerce website, Viva Oaxaca Folk Art, showcasing handmade decorative pieces he purchased on trips to southern Mexico and resold to collectors across the U.S.

He is survived by three brothers, Jim Saviano of Douglas; John Saviano of Douglas; and Victor Saviano of Boston; two nieces; and two nephews. A funeral Mass was scheduled for Friday at St. Denis Church in East Douglas.

/ Source: Associated Press

Questions in the death of Terrance Franklin

The following is an article from the plaintiffs investigator R. Steven Rogers regarding the facts in the death of Terrance Franklin. Steve worked a civil suit on behalf of the family with Attorney Mike Padden author of The Minneapolis Police Department:  Blue Code of Silence: The True Story of the Terrance Franklin Murder

County attorney Mike Freeman has written to the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension and has formerly requested their involvement in a new independent investigation.

 

Kowala Media has acquired the permission of the author in this articles publication.

I was recently featured in the Time magazine article ‘“Minneapolis Police Were Cleared in the 2013 Killing of Terrance Franklin. A Video Complicates the Story-and Now the Case May be Reopened”.  This feature highlights the work of Attorney Mike Padden and myself on the civil suit that Mr. Padden filed on behalf of the Franklin family after the death of their son, Terrance Franklin, at the hands of the Minneapolis Police on May 10, 2013.

In the days following the publication by Time of the article and documentary video, several questions have arisen in my mind based on my knowledge of the case.

The Time article was the first public mention of the letter by Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman’s office to the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension requesting an independent examination of the case. Freeman stated that “A key piece of evidence brought by the Plaintiffs in the civil suit is a recording by Jimmy Gaines.” This is correct to a degree, as the Minneapolis Police appear to have had the video within a week of the shooting. Our team did, however, obtain the full quality original from Mr. Gaines and submitted that into evidence later.

Notably, the file from the Minneapolis Police we received in the discovery process presumably was downloaded from YouTube, as the police never contacted Mr. Gaines who took the video, the file size matches the known compression ratio that is used when uploading to YouTube, and it was not known to be anywhere else at that time. (I compared the file obtained from the Minneapolis Police to the file gathered by our team from Mr. Gaines’ device that originally recorded it and the file size was about 7% of the original.)

Freeman also mentions in his letter that Mr. Gaines posted the video on YouTube and that the MPD never interviewed him about the video. When he became aware of this is unknown but is certainly relevant.

Freeman also told Minneapolis Public Radio that they had reviewed new evidence “that was not available to us at the time we took the case to the Grand Jury.” This statement is compelling to me and raises some serious questions.

The only way I can see that it is possible, with the information available, that the video was not available to the Grand Jury  is if one or more of the following is true :

1 : The MPD did not provide it to Freeman with the other evidence when Freeman decided to convene the Grand Jury. It is a reasonable assumption that the MPD would turn over all evidence to the County Attorney’s office when the decision to convene a Grand Jury was reached. I am not sure on the requirements here, but it’s possible there are some; or,

2 : For some reason due diligence was not done by the County Attorney’s office in looking at what evidence to provide the Grand Jury; or,

3 : The County Attorney’s office for some reason chose not to include the video in the evidence given to the Grand Jury (noting, of course, that they do have complete discretion as to what evidence is given to the Grand Jury.)

Of the first two, this would also raise the question if this case was on the radar at the County Attorney’s office at the time of the press conference on May 30, 2013. It certainly was on the radar at the MPD, as The Chief of Police issued this statement to WCCO that day (which was read aloud at the press conference), “If you have video of events from the scene, I request that you turn it over to me as it is evidence in an active investigation.”  At that press conference, Mr. Padden even remarked that, for all he knew, the MPD may have enhanced the sound already.

Here’s the timeline:

Now, as Mr. Gaines was never contacted by the County Attorney to testify before the Grand Jury, we know the video could not have been used by the Grand Jury, as Mr. Gaines would have needed to testify to lay foundation, which in non-lawyerese means they could not use it without him attesting that he took the video, and where and when it was taken.

While many media outlets are reporting that this is new evidence, I believe the information presented here in this article shows that it is not. Ironically, Fred Bruno, an attorney for Lucas Peterson came out today in a statement saying “The Gaines video was well known to and vetted by Freeman’s office long before the Grand Jury ruled in September 2013,” and “There is no new evidence, only newly procured opinions and shifting politics.”

The problem I have with this is no evidence was presented to support this statement, and at no time during this case, nor in my searches after for this article and other media interviews, have I found a single indicator that Mr. Freeman was aware of or in possession of this key piece of evidence.

Working backwards on the timeline, as we know the Grand Jury was not aware of this recording, we must ask where the system failed. Clearly it failed not only Terrance Franklin, but all of us.

“June 1st businesses across the state will reopen en masse,” says ReOpenMN Coalition

For Immediate Release: 5-26-20

Press Contact info:  Paul Anderson https://m.facebook.com/ReOpenMNCoalition/?

 

In the wake of Minnesota Governor Tim Walz's shelter-in-place order several groups formed on social media to take political action against what they saw as a violation of their Constitutionally protected rights.

In late May a large meeting was held by the owners of several businesses worried about their livelihoods to discuss reopening efforts in defiance of the governor's orders.

Recognizing the growing desire to open their businesses in a coordinated fashion, several of these social media groups came together in a combined effort, calling themselves "The ReOpen MN Coalition".

The group's Facebook page states, "This has gone on long enough. It’s time for Minnesota to get back to work. We’ve all done our part and flattened the curve. We’re ready. Now it’s time to open back up before everything we cherish is destroyed. Minnesota’s unique culture—the bars, restaurants, resorts, campgrounds, gyms, small businesses that make our communities unique are disappearing."

The groups post continued, "Let’s stop the carnage. On June 1 businesses across the state will reopen en masse. There is safety in numbers. We are collecting the names of businesses ready to reopen safely and will announce their reopening on Sunday, May 31 so customers can find and patronize them. If you want your business added to the list, sign up here: http://tiny.cc/reopenMN"

"We've seen businesses publicly announce their plans to reopen and even though local law enforcement is not shutting these places down in many cases, the Attorney General of Minnesota has taken it upon himself to threaten these business owners personally. We're keeping their names secret until the last possible minute, when people in the community will find out anyway."  Paul Anderson a spokesperson for the group stated.

The groups plan is to support and organize these businesses in preparation for a June 1st statewide reopening. The coalition plans to keep participating businesses secret until the day before they open. They have set up a Facebook page and a Go Fund me account to support this effort.

https://m.facebook.com/ReOpenMNCoalition/?

 

Protesters demand Minnesota governor lift COVID 19 restrictions in St Paul

Protesters called on the governor of Minnesota to lift his 'stay-at-home' order and reopen the state's economy at a demonstration outside the governor's residence in Saint Paul on Friday. People at the protest stood closely together, with the majority not wearing masks, in spite of social distancing guidelines that aim to reduce the spread of COVID-19.

Demonstrators waved signs calling on Governor Tim Walz to "hire new modelers," while other signs demanded businesses be allowed to reopen, dubbing the current measures "tyranny."

The demonstration was organised by Liberate Minnesota activist Michele Even, with US President Donald Trump using the group's name on Twitter on Friday afternoon, along with similar movements in Virginia and Michigan.

Under Walz's order Minnesotans are directed not to leave their homes other than for jobs or activities considered essential, with many businesses forced to close and either furlough or fire employees.

There are around 2,000 cases of coronavirus in Minnesota, with over 100 people dying with the disease as of Friday.

Activists to protest Walz’ peacetime emergency orders

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE April 14, 2020 Contact: Michele Even Phone: 952-277-9114 Email: mnfreedom2018@gmail.com Liberate Minnesota - Reopen Our Lives Credit River Twp, Minn. – Gov. Tim Walz issued an Executive Order on March 13, 2020 declaring a Peacetime Emergency that he just extended into the middle of May. This has effectively put the entire populace in the state on hold that is now destroying our economy and people’s homes along with it.

 

“This overreaction by the governor has gone on long enough and we aren’t going to take it anymore,” Liberate Minnesota organizer, Michele Even, said in a statement. She continued, “All jobs are essential. People need to support themselves and their families. The governor and these legislators need to stop hurting us. We need someone to care about us. Give us our life back!”

 

Liberate Minnesota is seeking to send a message to the governor and legislators by exercising their 1st amendment right to peacefully assemble and use their free speech. “People’s lives are already in turmoil and the cure is worse than the disease at this point,” Michele said. “People are fed up with this lock down and want to get back to their jobs to support themselves and their families. This ‘Stay Home’ order has destroyed homes. Enough is enough!” she concluded. Liberate Minnesota will be holding a 1st Amendment peaceful assembly at the Governor's mansion on April 17, 2020 from 12:00 - 3:00 pm to send a strong message that people have had enough and they’re not going to take it anymore. It’s time to Liberate Minnesota now.

 

BOMBSHELL – MN Senator Scott Jenson says MDH may be promoting false statistics

During a video posted Tuesday April 7th, Minnesota (R) Senator Scott Jenson stated he had received a 7 page document from the Minnesota Department of Health on the handling of death certificates. He insinuated that the document may promote false statistics by using presumptive cases of COVID-19 on death certificates. Here is a link to that document. and a link to the video.

Stay At Home Order Extended to May 4th 2020

Governor Tim Walz extended the stay at home order on Wednesday until May 4th. This comes after the state has experienced only 39 deaths and is the #1 state in the country "flattening the curve" using the stay at home order and social distancing for businesses that are still allowed to operate.

Minnesota's rate of new infections have been doubling at 8 days instead of every 2 days when the Governor implemented the stay at home order.

Also of note is that Minnesota is the first in the country to have in place and be able to issue the $600 in federal unemployment assistance to the many of Minnesotans currently on unemployment since the COVID-19 pandemic has shuttered the state.

Small businesses can also apply for loans and even a $10,000 federal grant at www.sba.gov.

“I Expect 100% Compliance!” – Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey Means Business

"I expect 100% compliance by Minneapolis residents and visitors with the governors stay at home order. a failure to comply with this order will result in our city reaching peak cases sooner then we are ready to handle. and therefore a failure to comply with this order will result in lives lost. this is not optional, this is not a half measure. This is a mandate and i expect it to be followed for the sake of our great city." Firmly Stated by Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey during a press conference on Friday March 27.

He also stated:

"For most its not a matter of if, but when. the order is built not to reduce the number of people that eventually contract COVID-19 but to extend the time that we collectively have to prepare for the inevitable rate of infections. Its coming and we must be ready. by taking action now and enforcing the governors order at the local level, we can save lives."

Even with the firm statements he also reiterated that he expects the community to step up to their responsibilities as individuals and that law enforcement would only intervene if absolutely necessary.

 

 

Minnesota Ordered To Shelter In Place For Two Weeks

Minnesota Governor Tim Walz has ordered all Minnesotans to shelter in place for at least the next two weeks, starting this Friday March 27th.

 

What does that mean for Minnesotans?

While the order is to remain in effect for at least two weeks, Tim Walz stated that the length of the shelter in place order may be extended beyond the two weeks. The order is expected to slow the spread of COVID-19 the novel coronavirus and allow the state to continue to prepare for the pandemic that is expected to infect up to 2 million Minnesotans even with these measures the Governor said Wednesday.

 

Minnesotans may leave their homes for these necessities:

  • Health and safety activities
  • Outdoor activities
  • Necessary supplies and services
  • Essential and interstate travel
  • Care of others
  • Displacement
  • Relocation to ensure safety

 

What will still be open?

  • Hospitals
  • Clinics
  • State legislature
  • Food (Grocery stores, delivery, take out, etc.)
  • Pharmacies
  • Food shelves
  • Convenience stores
  • Liquor stores
  • Child care facilities
  • News organizations
  • Gas stations
  • Funeral homes
  • Banks
  • Hardware stores
  • Postal offices

 

What will be closed?

  • Dine-in restaurants
  • Bars and nightclubs
  • Entertainment venues
  • Gyms and fitness studios
  • Zoos
  • Museums
  • Arcades
  • Playgrounds
  • Bowling alleys
  • Movie theaters
  • Concert halls
  • Country clubs
  • Salons and barber shops
  • Tattoo parlors
  • *Note - this is not a complete list

 

Walz also said the closure of the schools and the use of distance learning will be used through May 4th.

Waffle House Closes 365 Locations in U.S. – Why that matters.

Waffle house has just closed 365 restaurant locations across the U.S. due to the SARS-CoV-2 (coronovirus, COVID-19) pandemic that is sweeping the world. The breakfast-chain announced the news Tuesday via their facebook page.

Why is that a bad thing?

"If you get there and the Waffle House is closed? That's really bad..." Says Craig Fugate, the former head of FEMA.  The Waffle House Index is an informal metric measurment named after the Waffle House restaurant chain and is used by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to determine the effect of a storm or emergency and the likely scale of assistance required for the disaster recovery.

The Measure is based on the reputation of Waffle House for having a great disaster preparedness and staying open during extreme weather, or reopening quickly afterwards.

What are the levels in the Waffle House Index?

Wikipedia states The index has three levels, based on the extent of operations and service at the restaurant following a storm:

  • GREEN: full menu – restaurant has power and damage is limited or no damage at all.
  • YELLOW: limited menu – no power or only power from a generator, or food supplies may be low.
  • RED: the restaurant is closed – indicating severe damage or severe flooding.

The term was coined by FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate in May 2011, following the 2011 Joplin tornado, during which the two Waffle House restaurants in Joplin remained open.

The measure is based on the reputation of the restaurant chain Waffle House for staying open during extreme weather and for reopening quickly, albeit sometimes with a limited menu, after very severe weather events such as tornadoes or hurricanes; for example, assembling and training "Waffle House jump teams" to facilitate fast reopening after disasters. Waffle House, along with other chains (such as Home Depot, Walmart, and Lowe's) which do a significant proportion of their business in the southern US where there is a frequent risk of hurricanes, have good risk management and disaster preparedness. Because of this, and the fact that a cut-down menu is prepared for times when there is no power or limited supplies, the Waffle House Index rarely reaches the red level.

The Waffle House Index sits alongside more formal measures of wind, rainfall, and other weather information, such as the Saffir–Simpson Hurricane Scale, which are used to indicate the intensity of a storm.

In a world of uncertainty and with a rapidly expanding pandemic this is just one more statistic to add to the pile, which is sure to grow even larger.

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