Kent State · Love After Lockup · The Frenchie Black Market

Plus a Leah Sottile longread and a Blake Bailey explainer

We teased that Lady Gaga dog-napping update repeatedly last week and didn’t come through — sorry about that! The AP reported a week ago that 1) five people face charges in the “violent theft” of the pop star’s pooches, and 2) the motive had nothing to do with Gaga, but rather with the value of her dogs’ breed. Kudos to the news org for the hed — “Prosecutors: Suspects tailed Lady Gaga’s dog walker” (hee, “tailed”) — and here’s a snip explaining why her Frenchies got nabbed:

Three men drove around the Hollywood area in late February, on the prowl for expensive French bulldogs to steal, prosecutors said. … The Lady Gaga connection was a coincidence, authorities have said. The motive was the value of the French bulldogs, a breed that can run into the thousands of dollars, and detectives do not believe the thieves knew the dogs belonged to the pop star.

A woman who, earlier in the investigation, was thought to have no ties to the crime and claimed to have found the pups tied to a pole is now charged as an accessory, as well as with receiving stolen property higher than $950 in value.

The prime three suspects remained in jail with high bond as of the AP’s filing; everyone’s due back in court on this tomorrow, May 11. While you wait, here’s the AKC piece from March that accompanies the photo above, talking about how French bulldogs became the nation’s second most popular dog. Probably not a ton of mysteries therein (compact/good for city-dwellers; short hair; cute AF…can you tell I used to crap out content like this on the daily as a pets editor?) but if anyone can source those tights at non-Frenchie prices, I’m listening. — SDB

Another piece we ought to have surfaced way sooner: Leah Sottile’s piece from early March from Home Country News, “Did James Plymell need to die?” (Said piece comes with a content warning up top; I’ll add another one here for images of a deceased person, and an evocative description of his demise.) The subtitle, “How homelessness is criminalized in small cities and towns across the West,” suggests that before even reading Sottile’s article we can guess that no, Plymell did not need to die; and why Eve and I both kept stepping around the longread as a bleak and enraging look at how law enforcement continues to see every problem as requiring a forceful solution…despite the fact that it’s from Sottile, host and reporter of the outstanding Bundyville podcasts from OPB and Longreads.

Here’s a snip from Sottile’s timeline of the confrontation that ended his life — a very effective sequence, writing-wise, that underlines how needlessly and quickly situations involving cops and the “non-compliant” mentally ill get out of hand:

“You’re gonna get tased if you don’t get out of the car,” Schroff warned as she tugged at Plymell’s arm. She drew her Taser — a black device, shaped like a gun — and removed its barbs, preparing it for “drive-stun” mode, in which the device is pressed directly against the body for “pain compliance,” the use of painful stimulus to control an uncooperative person. Plymell yelled “OK! OK! OK! I’ll get out! I’ll get out!” He put his left foot on the ground just as Schroff pushed the Taser toward him. He flailed his arms, batting the device away.

At the moment Schroff’s Taser began to click, she had been at the scene for 42 seconds.

Go on your phone, go to the clock, and use the stopwatch to time out 42 seconds. It’s no time at all.

Certainly Sottile’s piece takes longer to read, and it isn’t a smile, but the textured quotes from friends and exes of Plymell’s; the flagrant, and efficient, dispensing-with of the investigation into his death by Albany, OR PD; the brief history of Taser technology; the photos of what Plymell left behind…it’s powerful stuff. — SDB

We also missed the fifty-first anniversary of the National Guard shootings at Kent State. (…We need another word for “anniversary” in the context of crimes and tragedies, the same way we swap out “birthday” when the person is no longer living. “Anniversary”’s suggested synonyms include “jubilee,” which, my point. “Commemoration”? “Remembrance”? Help a tired lady out here.)

Leave a comment

Reading over the summary, it doesn’t seem like a lot’s changed in terms of “protest management,” eh what? Especially the bit at the end:

In 1974, at the end of a criminal investigation, a federal court dropped all charges levied against eight Ohio National Guardsmen for their role in the Kent State students’ deaths.

Waited a nice long time; let Watergate become an all-consuming distraction; absolve law enforcement of wrongdoing. …I will note, not exactly in the Guardsmen’s defense but as pertinent information (and probably not for the first time, so forgive the repetition in that event), that my father was a tank specialist in the Pennsylvania Guard during the back half of the sixties and a couple years in the seventies. Dave Sr. has always said that, after basic training, their periodic “drill” consisted almost entirely of riot-control exercises — conducted, absurdly, in some hayfield outside Harrisburg; as well, not for nothing, but this literally is his alibi for a couple of the Zodiac murders, so — because this was all the Guard was doing at that time, rolling into cities and cowing the angry citizenry. Dave Sr. has also consistently expressed relief at never getting called on to, in his words, “rattle into South Philly and threaten a bunch of other skinny 22-year-olds who weren’t as lucky as me.” The man’s unflappability is legend and I don’t think anyone, including him, thinks he’d have fired into a crowd even if ordered to. I’m not saying punishment shouldn’t have been handed down if the proof was there, but terrified kids weren’t in short supply on either side.

Annnnnyway: people tend to remember two things about the shootings, and one of them is Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young’s “Ohio,” which had the effect of keeping the pointless ugliness of the massacre alive for classic-rock-radio listeners to young to remember the actual events. Ultimate Classic has a history of how the song came to be, and came to endure, though many of the elements will be familiar to readers of a certain age.

The other thing people tend to remember is John Filo’s Pulitzer-winning photograph. What they may not recall — I didn’t — is that the girl at its heart, Mary Ann Vecchio, was only 14. Last weekend, WaPo had a piece on Vecchio and “how her life turned out.” Vecchio had responded to truant officers’ threats in her hometown of Opa-locka, FL by hitting the open road “in her bare feet” three months prior to her date with “Kent State Pieta” destiny. Here’s a snip from Patricia McCormick’s piece about the immediate aftermath of the gunfire:

Mary Ann just remembers running. She didn’t know anyone at Kent State; she’d known [Jeffrey] Miller [whose body she’s kneeling next to in the photo] for only 25 minutes. But she saw National Guard troops herding students onto buses, so she followed in a daze. Some two hours later, when the bus arrived in Columbus, the soldiers told everyone to get off. Many of the students ran to waiting parents. Mary Ann stumbled around the streets of the city; she’d never even heard of Columbus.

Back on campus, students were yelling at John [Filo], calling him a pig, a vulture. John yelled back. “No one’s going to believe this happened,” he told them. “This,” he said, pointing to his camera, “is proof.”

Vecchio’s journey didn’t get any easier for a while — ratted to juvie authorities by an Indy Star reporter; called an agitator by her home state’s governor; exploited by her father via novelty t-shirt — and I wasn’t happy to be reminded how many Kent locals wished the Guardsmen had shot more protestors, but there’s uplift of a sort here too, and it’s an excellent read. — SDB

We love finding you excellent reads. (And trashy watches, too. …You’ll see in a sec.) If you’d like to help us do that with a paid subscription, we’d love it!

Or just let a friend know you like what we’re doing.


If you find yourself only dimly aware of the allegations against Blake Bailey, Philip Roth biographer and cretin, Constance Grady of Vox pulled together a repository for you. (Full disclosure: Two days later, Grady published a oral history of the Crying Dawson GIF which turned out fantastic despite her having interviewed me extensively for it (heh), but while that is how I came to follow her on Twitter and to see the tweet above, that’s not why I’m linking to the Bailey thing.) The timeline Grady has built does indeed merit two variations on the word “exhausting,” as she takes us carefully through the publication of Bailey’s Roth bio; the lone voice of reviewing dissent; the accusations, the belated distancing, etc. and so on. It’s enragingly familiar, but if the bulk of the story had missed you so far and you weren’t sure where to catch up, this is the place. Here’s a snippet:

“These allegations are serious,” said Norton’s statement. “In light of them, we have decided to pause the shipping and promotion of Philip Roth: A Biography pending any further information that may emerge.”

Later the same day, the story took a new turn. The New York Times published an article detailing a new rape allegation against Bailey at the home of one of the paper’s own book critics — and evidence suggesting that Norton knew of that allegation several years ago.

I mean, I don’t know about y’all, but I just assume when these allegations surface that the publishers knew full well about them and didn’t give a shit, so I am saddened — but neither shocked nor stunned. Grady appears to concur in her kicker: “Of course. All of it is horrible. And, horribly, none of it is shocking.”

About a week after Grady’s piece, Slate’s Josh Levin, Susan Matthews, and Molly Olmstead dug deep on Bailey’s time at that New Orleans school and the behavior that, as so often happens, let “cool teacher” behavior disguise what is in retrospect very obvious grooming:

Our reporting has revealed a clear pattern. Time and again, Bailey would become deeply involved in his students’ personal lives. He’d flatter their intellects, or their looks, and win their devotion, only to abuse that loyalty as they became young women. Nearly everyone we spoke to said Mr. Bailey was one of the best teachers they’d ever had. They also described a man obsessed with getting deep inside his subjects’ psyches. That habit has paid off for Bailey as a biographer. It’s also been his tool of choice as a predator.

The piece snarks on biased “magnet” and “gifted” programs shortly thereafter, which is gratifying, if also depressing. — SDB

Speaking of “gratifying, if also depressing,” this is how I might describe the experience of watching Love After Lockup. I won’t repeat my pro-LAL screed from last year — er, one of them — but I will say that, while in many ways it’s exactly the over-edited garbage you’d expect, it’s also a useful document of carceral and post-carceral lives that refuses to judge the “carceral” parts of those lives.

Not that WE seems to understand that, because it refers to the show as viewers’ “guiltiest pleasure” in a new promo for a fourth season, dropped by the network yesterday on Twitter.

Unless that’s wordplay on “guilty” as in a verdict, which is both well above WE’s usual marketing product and exactly in their tackiness lane. Who cares! Point is, the show’s back in June, and I initially was like, sweet, plenty of time to tackle the handful of episodes I have backlogged…but June is in three weeks, ew.

In any event, my fellow LAL-watchers, I look forward to meeting this new crop of couples along with you (and to putting a few of the recent seasons’ sadburgers in the rearview). — SDB

This week in Best Evidence: Holmes’s bankroll, hot pursuits, and…Tom Arnold’s sister?

What is this thing? This should help. Follow Best Evidence @bestevidencefyi on Twitter and Instagram. You can also call or text us any time at 919-75-CRIME.