Carmine: These bastards with the RICO. Everything is a criminal enterprise to these guys. Can’t a bunch of hard working immigrants place their money on the number anymore?
Steve: Carmine, these pricks got nothing to do. Crime is down to near zero, and you know the government ain’t layin’ off agents or prosecutors. So stuff that used to be look the other way, is now a big deal.
Carmine: This is really getting unreal. Sooner or later they’re gonna be lookin’ up here.
Steve: We’ll know first. So, what do I charge this guy?
Carmine: Quote him 100, but tell him that because of me, you’ll do it for 75 if he can do green.
Steve: You got it.
Carmine: Bring me mine in cash, I don’t want any consulting fee check on this one. Alright.
Steve: You got it.
Neely: That’s a great little snippet of dialogue to tie into our previous conversation about the mob and its not so imminent demise. But on a more personal level, I’ve seen that the marvelous thing about lawyer-writers is the deep well of peculiar cases they have to draw from. Can you give an example of truly bizarre cases that might even be too strange to use in a script?
Kevin: Sure. When I was in the DA’s office, my boss came into me and said that we had a case that was going to be high profile and they wanted me to take it. I’d been there maybe four years at the time and I was excited to hear that he was having some confidence in me; but the case itself was kind of bizarre. Chuck Jones who, at the time, was the publicist for Marla Maples Trump (Neely is already laughing), had been arrested and in his office closet they had found a hundred pairs of Marla’s shoes. They were going to charge him with burglary because the security at Trump Tower had placed a recording device in Marla’s apartment and had videotape of Chuck Jones coming in and stealing shoes from her apartment.
Now the backstory we learned from the building security guys and the cops who caught the case was this - Marla was staying at Trump Tower at the time and Donald was still married to Ivana. They may have been separated but he was seeing Marla and escorting Marla around town. Marla was referred to as the Georgia Peach and was a very very very nice woman. But the story goes that she would look for a pair of shoes to wear to an event that she was going to with Trump and she would say she couldn’t find her shoes. Trump thought she was crazy and started being concerned about her wherewithal. But she convinced him that someone was breaking in and stealing her shoes. So he had security put a video camera in the apartment. Well lo and behold, Chuck Jones, the publicist, had somehow gotten a key and was coming into the apartment and leaving with boxes of shoes. No one could understand what this was all about until security, on their own, grabbed Chuck Jones and called the police. The police were able to get him to consent to a search in his office and these shoes came tumbling out of the closet. So he was arrested.
We had decided that he obviously had some sort of shoe-foot fetish, which was a mental defect more than anything else. Mr. Trump wanted Chuck, who had a wife and kids, to get help; so much so that he asked if we would give Chuck a non-criminal disposition and he’d pay for his therapy. Mr. Trump was willing to pay for the therapy even though it wasn’t really a criminal case, so this was kind of strange. But Chuck denied having a problem. His defense was that Marla had told him he could have the shoes. And so, he forced us to go to trial because we weren’t going to dismiss the case outright. After offering every non-criminal disposition under the sun, his lawyer informed me that they were going to go to trial. Look, Chuck Jones was somebody who really wanted publicity; he wanted this to be a publicity case. He had a hatred for Mr. Trump and he thought that Marla Maples had screwed him over by not giving him proper respect because, apparently, he introduced them, or something like that. I don’t know. He was a very strange guy.
We were preparing for trial when the cops came in to put the evidence together. One of the cops then saw something in one of the shoes; it was some sort of stain.
Kevin: Yeah, sorry (Neely cackles). You said you wanted bizarre…
Neely: I do. This is just…
Kevin: So then we had to check every shoe and there were at least three shoes that had this stain… that we didn’t know what it was… So we sent those three shoes to the lab and the lab came back and told us it was semen in the shoes. We then moved for a blood order and took Chuck’s blood. It’s very important that everybody know that all along we were still offering the non-criminal disposition with therapy paid for by Mr. Trump. And you would think that the embarrassment of that next step would have pushed him to that but it didn’t; it emboldened him. We found that the blood type matched the person who had emitted the semen.
So, we went to trial and it was the front page of the (New York) Post for a couple of days. Mr. Trump testified; Marla Maples testified. It was a very silly case because the defendant was obviously guilty. His defense was that he had these notes from Marla that said that he could have the shoes. He presented those notes and we were able to bring in a handwriting expert to say that the notes were forged. Don’t know if he forged them but they were not in her handwriting. He was convicted and he actually went to jail because it was a burglary charge and under New York statutes at the time…
Neely: With that many shoes and given what they must have cost, it must have been grand larceny.
Kevin: It was burglary and grand larceny. Burglary was the violent felony because, at the time in New York, going into someone’s house unauthorized and committing a crime, and that was taking the shoes, was a class C felony which was mandatory jail time. So he got 1 1/3 – 4 years in jail. The postscript on the Chuck Jones case is that he did go to jail and he went to Federal court to have it overturned. The case was overturned on a technicality. And then he came back in front of the court again where he refused to plead guilty to a non-jail sentence and the case was retried. My friend from the DA’s office retried it; I was in private practice at the time and was one of the witnesses because Chuck was alleging that I had some malintent when I was prosecuting him the first time. That was the most bizarre case ever and Chuck Jones is the most bizarre defendant that I ever came up against.
Neely: Did he go back to jail?
Kevin: Yeah. He had to go back to jail because he had gotten out…
Neely: What was the technicality?
Kevin: It was a situation that involved a snow storm on a Friday morning during the first trial. The previous day, Thursday, Chuck Jones had been up on cross-examination. The jurors were unable to come in on Friday because of the snow storm, and the judge put the case over until Monday. What happens when you’re in the middle of cross examination during the week, you’re not supposed to talk to your lawyer about what the cross examination is. And the judge, it was a really crazy day that Friday morning because only some of the staff was able to get in – the judge forgot to tell Chuck that he could talk to his lawyers over the weekend. Chuck took the position that because the judge ruled on Thursday evening that he could not talk to his lawyers, he did not have an opportunity to consult with them over the weekend. Therefore on Monday he had missed two days of being represented by counsel.
That was never raised during the trial; he never came back and said anything, but it became this issue. The Federal court did what Federal courts will do; they looked at things in a vacuum. The bottom line is that it was just Chuck getting more publicity. It’s what he wanted and it’s what he got, but he had to go to jail for it.
Neely: How long in total?
Kevin: I think he did another 6 months. His first sentence was a year and a half and he did a year and then got out on the technicality. He had time owed so he had to go back in. Bizarre guy and bizarre case.
But as a result, I got to know Mr. Trump and became friendly with him. I saw him about a year ago in New York when I was there for something else. He remembered me and we had a nice chat in front of Trump Plaza. He asked me to come to the “Celebrity Apprentice” finale. He sent me tickets and I went; it was fun. But that was a bizarre time in my life.
Neely: Your wife is also an attorney. Has that ever led to professional conflict?
Kevin: No. My wife’s probably tougher than any client or any cop I ever dealt with. She’s a corporate attorney. She’s a negotiator who works for a Fortune 100 company. She does global contract negotiations and she stays out of the criminal side. She’s extremely committed to civil rights and we agreed with those issues, especially when I was a criminal defense attorney. She opened my eyes as I started to learn that the justice system is kind of more gray than it is just black and white. She was very supportive of that notion; that’s the way she always felt. As for her job, she’s on the phone with China, Europe, South America negotiating contracts… really anyplace in the world where her company does business.
Neely: Where did you meet?
Kevin: We met on a political campaign. A friend of mine was running for Congress and she was a family friend of his family.
Neely: You gave up your career during its ascendency. What prompted that action?
Kevin: I have twin boys and both were premature. One of my sons, Justin, had to stay in the hospital for 10 days after birth; we brought Killian home with us. As a result of Justin staying at the hospital, we had some early intervention through Westchester County and Justin made incredible progress and was catching up to Killian. But after 24 months, it was Killian who totally fell off the radar screen and began sitting in the corner and wouldn’t answer to his name and wouldn’t talk anymore (he’d had language before that). We didn’t know what was wrong with him and we took him to specialists all over New York because we thought he might be deaf. We finally found a specialist who said that Killian had PDD which is Pervasive Developmental Disorder.
As a result of that diagnosis, my wife dove into the community on the internet and found organizations that were looking at autism in different ways. She went to a conference in Philadelphia and said that we needed to move to Naperville, Illinois because she had met a doctor that she thought could help Killian. The kids being young and my wife being determined and both of us wanting to do whatever we could for our son, we, in pretty short order, moved to Naperville. The doctor began treating Killian right off the bat and Killian progressed slowly but steadily under her care.
Traditionally autism has been looked at as a disability that had no cure; that people who had autism were born with autism and it was a disability that they had to deal with. It was thought to have affected 1 in 20,000. There seems to have been an epidemic over the last 10 years.
Neely: It might not be an epidemic. It may actually be better diagnosis.
Kevin: The CDC says that autism rates are now 1 in 80 in boys and 1 in 240 in girls, averaging out to 1 in 110. So if you did the math, there would literally be 100,000s of people in their 30s, 40s, 50s and 60s who would have autism; autism meaning non-verbal. And we don’t have that; that doesn’t exist.
Neely: The name of the disease is autism spectrum disorder and when they’re talking about autism, they’re talking about a spectrum of systems, not necessarily just non-verbal activity. On the CDC website they indicate that they feel this great increase in numbers may be due to a broader definition of autism and better diagnosis. They do not, however, rule out a true increase in the number of people with the disease.
Kevin: I’ve done a lot of research in this issue and the numbers are too great to be accounted for in better diagnosis. So something else had to have happened. In fact a UC Davis M.I.N.D. Institute study published in the January 2009 issue of Epidemiology indicated that the seven-to eight fold increase in the number of children born in California with autism since 1990 cannot be explained by either changes in how the condition is diagnosed or counted – and the trend shows no sign of abating (NIH synopsis).
Neely: There is a nationally prominent lab at USC run by Pat Levitt at the Zilkha Institute that is studying the contribution of environmental factors to this increase, and although I’m not negating that there may be an extraordinary increase in numbers, I’m just saying that I think the numbers in the past were probably higher and it was being called something else.. I have a Master’s degree in Speech and Language and was a pediatric Audiologist for a school district that handled all the handicapping conditions in St. Louis County. Quite a number of what would be termed Autistic children now were put in our language delayed and developmentally delayed (normal intelligence) classes. It was a pretty large program and we had classes and classes of them; but they weren’t diagnosed as Autistic. They were looked at from the standpoint of what they could and couldn’t do.
Kevin: The CDC also says that 1 in 4 children today have learning disabilities. There’s no way that that number… I mean when we went to grammar school, did you see 1 in 4 kids with learning disabilities? I certainly…
Neely: We didn’t know what learning disabilities were at that time. We called those kids stupid. In grade school they were in the “dumb class” and in high school they were in the “basic” track.
Kevin: I don’t know. I didn’t have that many stupid kids when I was in grammar school and after that. I remember my grammar school years pretty well and, yeah, there were one or two kids who were behind the others and didn’t act in a way that most people would have thought of as normal, but… look, it’s an open argument…
Neely: Is the CDC only referencing the United States?
Kevin: Yes. The reality is that most kids with autism have a debilitating disease that is not being addressed by anybody in government…
Neely: …I have to point out here that there has been a tremendous influx of government funding into autism research. I am personally aware of prestigious labs at UCLA, USC and the Salk Institute that are conducting government funded research into the disease.
Kevin: Also there are the effects of autism on the family. I can tell you that most parents with kids with autism are divorced; most of them do not have the financial wherewithal to get their kids any kind of rehabilitation. Insurance does not cover any autism treatments because they look at it as experimental. It’s bankrupting a segment of society that has children who need help and aren’t getting help. Those people have no time to speak out; and those people have no time to fight.
Neely: I know you had difficulties with the schools when you arrived in Naperville. How was that situation resolved and how much time and effort did it take?
Kevin: When we got to Naperville, we were told that they had an autism program that would be great for Killian. What we learned was that they treated the kids with autism very much the way they treated the kids with mental retardation – in other words, that they can’t learn. I know nothing about mental retardation but I do know my son can learn. I was very disappointed and we immediately spoke to lawyer about the potential of suing the school district.
Neely: Before that, though, how did the school block you? Did they say “this is our program…
Kevin: …Yeah. “This is our program and this is what we think works and this how we’re going to treat Killian.” By showing up at school unannounced, we found that the program consisted of a teacher in a room who let the kids run wild. Kids with autism need to have constant supervision and constant direction; they need to be kept in a safe environment that also gives them the opportunity to learn. If you can sit down with most kids with autism, you can motivate them to learn; they can learn at a very good rate. But their vestibular systems, their sensitivity to hearing, their sensitivity to light is different; and each kid with autism is different. For the most part, given their druthers, they will run around and cover their ears and want to play certain games and don’t want to sit down and do work.
Neely: Well that’s always a challenge.
Kevin: When I showed up there unannounced a couple of times and saw what was going on, I knew it was not an appropriate educational curriculum for Killian. I began to negotiate with the school district and found that they were not negotiating in good faith. I learned everything I could about the IDEA, Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, and went to a seminar by a lawyer who gave a presentation. It’s hard for a lawyer to hire a lawyer, so I decided I could do this myself and instituted a law suit against the school district. They fought for about 9 months until they settled with us and Killian was placed in a school that was geared toward teaching children with autism spectrum disorder.
Neely: Aren’t public schools required to have an IEP (Individual Educational Plan)?
Kevin: Yes they are and they had an IEP. The IEP said that he would be placed in their program.
Neely: There were no goals in that IEP? IEPs are supposed to be very specific.
Kevin: But their goals were very very low. It would be that Killian would know the ABCs by the end of the year. But Killian already knew the ABCs. The bottom line is that, unfortunately, most school districts do not have the time or resources. I would argue that they do have the resources. Through a Freedom of Information Act request you can find out how much money school districts are paying lawyers to fight parents who have kids with disabilities. You’d be astounded.
Neely: Actually I wouldn’t.
Kevin: Well I think most taxpayers would be. The reality is that if they took the money that they spent on fighting parents and they used that to train their teachers to deal with kids with autism, you’d have much better results.
Neely: It’s not that I disagree with you, and I hate the position that many school districts take when they fight parents, because it’s almost always parents without the means, but it’s not as simple as training teachers how to deal with kids with disabilities. Under IDEA, children with disabilities are entitled to special programs and special teachers, and the vast majority of school districts can’t afford to supply that in the case of severe disability. They can, in many cases, afford to send isolated cases to special schools, but then it not only costs them the money to do that, it also takes away the money that the state pays per child and opens them up to other lawsuits by parents whose demands may not be as reasonable. And then we have the recent vilification of teachers and the tax payers’ refusal to increase revenues for schools. It’s pretty much a no-win for anyone.
Kevin: The school districts are in a unique situation because they’ve never had this influx of kids with these disabilities before, certainly not in such numbers; or they didn’t deal with them in the way that they’re dealing with them now. Some parents of kids with autism believe that their children can learn and go forward at a rate that a typical kid can learn, and some parents don’t. The ones who do believe that will fight the districts and say “You can’t treat him like he can’t learn because he can learn. You can’t just have these tiny incremental bumps in his IEP, you need to challenge him.” My son does math on a 4th grade level, he reads on a 4th grade level, he’s a 4th grader; but, he can’t communicate the way that typical kids communicate. As a result, he has a one-on-one aide in Manhattan Beach and that aide is well-versed in teaching kids with autism. She does an amazing job and the program is overseen by a woman who’s the best consultant I’ve met in the country for teaching kids with autism. Manhattan Beach is the place to be if you have a child with non-verbal autism like we do. We didn’t just land here. I came to this area because I met the autism consultant and fell in love with her understanding of our kids.
But going back to Naperville. We sued the school district, the school district fought us, the school district settled after 9 months. Two years later they tried to bring him back into the district. We fought them again and that case went to Federal court; and we were successful at the Federal level after a hearing before a judge. Killian continued to go to a special school that was found for him. But the amount of money they spent on legal fees could have easily taught 2 to 3 kids with autism. Unfortunately that’s the system right now and I’ve always hoped to try to change it because, as a lawyer, I think it’s a waste of money.
Neely: I know your experience in Manhattan Beach has been good, but I can tell you that they also had a history of forcing parents to sue them in order to get the appropriate education for their handicapped students. It’s nice to see that the school district learned something along the way.
This leads rather naturally into how you got to the third part of your career, and that’s what we’ll talk about in our next and final chapter of “Recovering Justice” Part III. Stay tuned.
To Be Continued (again).