Letter Entirely Unthreatening, Claims Reported from Feeney and Unnamed YEI Attorney Unfounded!
MSNBC Prime-Time Star's Original Unconfirmed, Unfortunate, Irresponsible Report Entirely Off-Base!
By Brad Friedman on 2/18/2005, 1:32pm PT  

In a text-book case of everything that the MSM might appropriately use to illustrate everything that can be wrong and dangerous about bloggers and blogging, a report filed just before Christmas on the Clint Curtis/Tom Feeney/Yang Enterprises Inc. (YEI) vote-rigging software scandal was published by a blogger.

The report included demonstrably false information passed on by the blogger on behalf of both Feeney and an unnamed attorney from YEI. The report was so poorly researched, so scurrilously irresponsible and so inappropriately damaging to a single American citizen, that if all blogs articles were like this one, we'd be the first in line calling for the immediate abolition of all such Internet web logs.

Unfortunately, that reprehensible report was filed on the "Bloggerman" blog of the mainstream media's (or MSM's) own Keith Olbermann of MSNBC's prime-time Countdown program.

As we reported back in late December of last year, Olbermann gave a wonderful Christmas gift to Rep. Tom Feeney (R-FL) and his longtime friends and clients at YEI by filing a one-sided, unconfirmed and unverified report on his blog, sourced only by Feeney himself and YEI's unnamed attorney.

The victim was, of course, Clint Curtis, who Olbermann didn't even bother to reach for comment before giving Feeney a national platform to say that Curtis had "slandered and defamed a lot of people." Neither did Olbermann give any examples of who Feeney was claiming to have been slandered nor how they were defamed.

(Attempts to reach Olbermann for comment after he posted his blog item went unanswered, but his producer, who asked to remain unnamed, distanced themselves from the "reporting" by telling The BRAD BLOG that "this was Keith Olbermann's writing. He didn't work with me or anyone else on this.")

There was a fair amount of other inaccuracies in his report, but it was this following chestnut, apparently not fact-checked in any way, from an unnamed YEI attorney (believed to be Tom Feeney's old law-partner and current contributor, Michael O'Quinn) that has really ticked us off over the last two months:

Its lawyer claims Curtis has previously threatened the firm and its top officers, in writing, and that they were sufficiently concerned to file a police report as a result.

...And what might have been, for actual reporters, a promising lead or break to look into in order to advance the story and perhaps add a new dimension to it, was dumped wholly unfact-checked on an eager public from Mr. Olbermann's high-profile perch.

The BRAD BLOG has spent the last two months attempting to track down this anonymously claimed threat to "the firm and its top officers". A threat, mind you, that was described as being "in writing" and apparently so threatening that it required a police report be filed.

Olbermann, apparently, thought it perfectly proper to pass that information on to the nation without asking the unnamed attorney if he might be allowed to review the alleged "in writing" threat, or to even contact the police to find out if, in fact, any such report had ever been filed.

Well, The BRAD BLOG did both.

After nearly two months trying to track down the unchecked Olbermann report, we've finally located the supposed threatening writing as well as the police report which was indeed filed. Though it was not filed at YEI's local police precinct in Oviedo, FL. Nor by "the firm" or its "top officers".

It was filed in Winter Springs, FL, the next town over, at the local police precinct of Mike Cohen, Curtis' co-worker and the executive secretary, at the time, to YEI's CEO, Mrs. Li-Waon Yang. The letter "sufficiently concern[ing] to file a police report" as Olbermann described it, seems very clearly meant as an attempt by Curtis to help his former friend and co-worker, Cohen, not to threaten him...

Cohen, for those who may not remember, was a friend of Curtis' while at YEI and was said in his affidavit [PDF] to have been one of only four people, along with Curtis, Mrs. Yang and Feeney to have been present at the October 2000 meeting where Curtis alleges that Feeney asked the firm to create a "vote-rigging software prototype." Feeney, at the time, was YEI's corporate counsel, their registered lobbyist, and also, the powerful incoming Speaker of the Florida House. He was also Jeb Bush's one-time running mate for Florida governor.

The police report was filed by Cohen on August 7, 2002 and is variously described in the report as being "(Information Only)" and "for documentation purposes only."

It was filed a week and a half after Cohen received what he describes in the police report as "a threatening e-mail" from Curtis on Saturday, July 27, 2002.

That email was then forwarded by Cohen to Mrs. Yang on Monday, July 29, 2002 under the subject line "Fwd: a note from Clint".

Mrs. Yang then changed the subject line and forwarded that forward about 50 minutes later on the same Monday to Cliff Steele (an attorney at the now-defunct Steele & Hanson, P.A., a law firm in Coral Gables, FL), with CC's to Steele's home email address, Hanson & Steele's John Hanson, Dr. Tim Yang (her husband and YEI owner) as well as to Cohen.

Mrs. Yang's forward included the original note from Curtis and the following text added above it [emphasis, and typos in original email]:

Subject Fw: A note from Clint Cutis to Mike Cohen

Cliff, I am forwarding an e-mail to you regarding the pressure that Clint Curtis conveyed to Mike Cohen. Also Mike accidentally replied to Clint instead of forwarding a message to me, which stated:

"I do not consider Clint's threat of going to jail seriously, however I take it as a veiled threat against me and my family. Clint has told me in the past that he owns a lot of guns and that he can become violent if someone does something against him. I know he is very desperate right now and do not want to become a victim."

I will call you later to discuss this matter.

Thanks.

LY

You'll note that, so far, we have found no record of the email which Mrs. Yang claims was sent by Cohen --- errantly to Curtis? --- in which, she says, he felt that Curtis' note was a "veiled threat against me and my family" or that "he can become violent if somone does something against him." etc.

That email, if it exists, was not included in the police report. Only Mrs. Yang's reference to it, in the email as you see it above, was included in the report.

Finally, Mrs. Yang's husband, Dr. Yang, then forwarded her forward on Friday, August 2, 2002 to another address with the email name of "MauoLaw". (UPDATE: Shortly after publication of this article, we were informed that the "MauoLaw" address --- we're leaving off the domain as a privacy courtesy --- belongs to YEI attorney Michael O'Quinn who signs his documents as "Michael A. U. O'Quinn")

And then, on the following Wednesday, August 7, 2002 --- a week and a half after Curtis had sent his original note --- Cohen went to the Winter Springs Police Station to file a police report "for documentation purposes only."

Here is the text of Cohen's full, hand-written, sworn statement to the Winter Springs Police:

I received a threatening e-mail from Clint Curtis on 7/27/02 regarding legal proceedings against myself & Yang Enteprises, Inc., my current employer & Curtis' former employer. Although the threat is not violent in nature I receive it as a veiled threat of violence against me & my family. I knew Clint for over 2 years while he was employed at Yang & he spoke often about the large number of guns he owns & that he was a very violent person in the past, especially, if provoked.

At this time I do not wish to prosecute.

At the bottom of the complaint form is the question: DO YOU SOLEMNLY SWEAR THAT THIS STATEMENT IS THE TRUTH, THE WHOLE TRUTH AND NOTHING BUT THE TRUTH, SO HELP YOU GOD?

Cohen filled in "Yes" and signed the complaint.

The officer who took the complaint, Cpl H. Sims, filed the following text in his section of the report:

On Wednesday I met with Mr. Cohen at the station. Mr. Cohen advised me that on July 27, 2002 he received an e-mail from Mr. Curtis. Within this e-mail Mr. Cohen feels that Mr. Curtis was threatening his family and himself. There is a large amount of history between these two men. There is a pending civil lawsuit involving both men in some way. Mr. Curtis has every reason to be angry with Mr. Cohen in his opinion. Mr. Cohen has known Mr. Curtis for over two years and during that time Mr. Curtis frequently told Mr. Cohen about owning a large amount of guns and his very violent past and nature. Mr. Cohen fears for his family and his well being. He is going to attempt to obtain a restraining order against Mr. Curtis. At this time this report is for documentation purposes only. Mr. Cohen did write a state. A copy of the email included.

So what was that "threatening e-mail" as Cohen described it in his statement? The one which he received from Curtis a week and a half before he decided was so "threatening" that he needed to file a police report for "documentation purposes only" after it had been seen by and discussed with at least three different attorneys associated with YEI?

Here's the the text of the email, in full, as included in the police report typos and all (we have removed the phone number given in the email):

Mike, I need to talk to you. My phone number is ###-###-####.

The tide is turning and I am afraid that you might be swept away in it. Both Mavis [Georgalis, the other Florida Dept. of Transportion whistleblower] and I have been reinstated. Two separate Circuit Court cases, two separate judges, same decision. DOT has claimed full ownership of the importer/exporter program (like that wasn't obvious) and Yang's civil case is just about dead. Counter suits are ready to be filed, and other affected parties are preparing suits also. Feeney is under investigation by the States ethics commitee, the House ethics committee, and the Bar Association. Several legal authorities are starting to give his involvement a good look. By now it should be obvious to you that money won't buy justice. Remember on the phone when Dr. Yang had you tell me that "it is not always who is right, but who has the most money". Sometimes it is just who is right. State newspapers as well as a couple of national media are contacting me on a regular basis. There are three criminal investigations underway looking into Yang.

That brings me to your problem. People I have spoken with seem to be more interested in you and Ralph's [ed note: Ralph Thompson was a VP at YEI] involvement than is healthy. I don't know if you are being thrown to the wolves or if there is just a feeling that you are an easier target.

We both know that Feeney is a crook and will probably wiggle his way out of this mess without any jail time. If the poo-poo really hits the fan the Yang's can hop back to China and still live like kings. That will leave you and Ralph to be held responsible for all this fraud and other illegal deeds. Ralph has signed his name to multiple lies against Mavis. If he spends the rest of his life in ail, justice may well be served. You on the other hand don't want to miss you daughter growing up. If the sentences are anything like I'm being told, you could well be an old man by the time it is done. It could be even worse since they may attempt to use this as an example type of case. The offenses are both lengthy and highly publicized. At this point it is more than just justice, the public trust must be restored.

I think I can still save you from this. You need to talk it over with Joanna. She will be affected greatly by your decision. If they pursue you as I think they are considering, you life with your family may well be over. Especially if the Yang's skip out and leave you holding the bag. Talk it over with your family. Go to a lawyer, not one that Yang has assiged you but an independent. Tell him exactly what they have done and how much you are involved. Tell him that the government has a witness that used to be an employee and is spilling his guts. Be completely honest with him. You will have attorney client privilege so nothing you say to him will be used against you.

If you decide to save yourself, DO NOTHING. Don't quit Yang. Don't talk to anyone until we can broker a deal with both State and Federal authorities. We will also need to broker a deal with all the affected parties to remove your civil liability.

Just give me a call so we can get the ball rolling. Time is vital. Once indictments are in place, I doubt that I will be able to help you.

Clint

Perhaps the "threat" that Cohen was concerned about in the above email was in fact so well-"veiled" that we missed it. It would seem to us that Curtis was attempting to help Cohen with this email, hardly threatening him.

It was sent not long after Curtis had won both his whistleblower suit and it's first appeal in Circuit Court after having been fired, without being given cause, from his new job at the Florida Dept. of Transportation (FDOT) not long after he --- and fellow FDOT employee, Georgalis --- blew the whistle on YEI's overbilling on their contracts with FDOT.

He also reported to the Inspector General at FDOT, about the spies he alleged were working at YEI, and the various chicanery concerning Tom Feeney.

(More on what became of that Inspector General, the whistleblower complaint filed by Curtis and Mavallis at FDOT and several other related issues next week!)

About the email, Curtis told The BRAD BLOG:

"I tried to get Mike Cohen to 'come over to the good side' before people started getting in trouble after I had talked to the Attorney General [of Florida] about all of this. That wasn't much of a threat...I felt that they were looking to pin it on Mike. They said, 'Mike knows this and that.' And I told him 'you might want to come clean when you can'"

Curtis explained, "They were asking alot of questions about how much does Mike Cohen know rather than what did the Yangs know...you know, this was Top Secret Clearance stuff --- and I figured they might be willing to pin it on him, and I wanted to let him know...I can't believe they would have filed a police report based on what I said, because it would be more damaging to them."

While it is true, as Cohen mentioned to the police, that Curtis owns several firearms, given the circumstances and events he has found himself in over the last several years since blowing the whistle on YEI, Feeney and the various Chinese spies that Curtis alleges to have worked at YEI --- and, indeed, at least one, Hai Lin "Henry" Nee has been confirmed and convicted of being a spy as recently as October of 2004 - one might conclude that being well-armed in Curtis' position only makes very good sense.

On the other hand, despite Cohen's statement to the police, no restraining order was ever filed against Curtis by Cohen, or anyone else to our knowledge.

Neither have we been able to find anyone who corroborates Cohen's claims --- seemingly first mentioned by Mrs. Yang in her forwarded email --- that Curtis has a "violent past and nature" when threatened or otherwise. In fact, before we were able to track down the police report, several sources who have known Curtis for many years described the idea that he would threaten anyone as "completely out of character for Clint."

The BRAD BLOG welcomes, however, anyone who may wish to contact us who is willing to share any information they may have about Curtis having a "violent past" or "nature".

And as to Mike Cohen's thoughts on all of the above?

Well, we have attempted over the past two weeks to contact him by phone so that he might give his side of the story here. We'd have been more than willing to share any information he may have had about Curtis' alleged "violent past" or "nature", or to allow him to tell us what ever became of the restraining order which he told the Winter Springs police he had intended to file against Curtis.

We had also hoped he'd be willing to share with us what it was in Curtis' email that he viewed as "a veiled threat of violence against [him] & [his] family."

And maybe he would have explained to us his opinion on why YEI, their spokesmen, attorneys and vice-president, Lowell Weaver, still claim to this day that convicted Chinese spy, Hai Lin "Henry" Nee, has never worked at the company as either employee or consultant despite public records published by The BRAD BLOG, which show quite definitively that Nee did, in fact, work there.

The fact that Nee worked at YEI is confirmed by several emails sent to Curtis by Cohen and other YEI employees. And to make matters worse, Cohen indicates in at least one of those emails that he believed Nee to be an illegal alien, which would be a strict no-no for a company with the type of Top Secret security clearances that YEI has in order to keep its contracts with NASA and others. But perhaps that's just one of the reasons he didn't feel like chatting with us.

By the way, Cohen no longer works at the YEI Headquarters in Oviedo as Mrs. Yang's executive secretary. He now works for YEI, about an hour's drive from his home at the Kennedy Space Center where YEI continues to have a multi-million dollar contract to develop software.

We held this story for over a week in an attempt to get Cohen's side of the story on all of these matters. It seemed only fair. And after several unreturned calls and emails to him, we finally got lucky when Cohen picked up the phone at his home earlier this week. The call didn't last long.

In short, it went almost exactly like this:

MIKE COHEN: Hello.
BRAD BLOG: Hi...Is this Mike Cohen?
MC: Yes.
BB: Hi, Mike. This is Brad Friedman from The BRAD BLOG. I was wondering if I could ask you a few questions about...
MC: Please do not call me or email me anymore. I have nothing to say to you.
BB: Well, I'm about to run a story concerning you, and I'd like to give you an opportunity to give your side of...
MC: Brad, Brad, BRAD!... I don't want to be rude, but I'm gonna hang up now. Good night. [click]

Oh, well. We tried.

We would still be more than happy to speak to him at anytime and share his side of the story. He has our phone number and email address. That offer goes for anyone else at YEI who may wish to chat. We respect our sources and keep them confidential unless otherwise discussed.

That same offer to chat, of course, is also open to Congressman Feeney, by the way. We'll be happy to speak with you too. Even print an unedited interview if you wish. You also know how to get in touch with us.

Several calls to YEI's attorney O'Quinn of Fowler & O'Quinn, P.A. (formerly Fowler, Barice, Feeney & O'Quinn, P.A.) have so far gone unreturned. We will update, as always, if we are able to get any further information from him on any of the above.

We do our best to treat everyone fairly and allow them to air their point of view if they would like.

We only wish that Keith Olbermann --- who, unlike most bloggers in the world, gets paid extremely well to do his job --- would consider doing the same thing. It seems only fair.

...CONTACT...
Keith Olbermann, MSNBC's Countdown
KOlbermann@MSNBC.com