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Peterson on Trial 

Medicine show

In the normally intensely competitive ENG (electronic news gathering) business, beefy camera guys are now operating with a giddy hive mentality--hollers and chirps from two-way radios telegraphing the anticipated flight of Swami--oops--Saami Shiabani.

Shiabani had been hustled out of the courtroom by Detective Art Holland, seeking the only refuge left--the now surely icy and uneasy confines of Jim Hardin's office, his departure presaged by him sitting, blank-eyed, watching his professional career collapse in one word.


Lordy lordy, David Rudolf: the master of disaster.

I thought I'd seen everything Monday when, amid a collective involuntary inhalation--a gasp really--Rudolf whipped out Blow Poke II and the side of the courtroom split open amid a great gush of cold, gray water accompanied by screams and great loss of humanity, lifeboats tumbling into the sea.

Pandemonium. And that was just Monday.

Unh unh. I hadn't seen nuthin'. "This is going to be fun." Rudolf spoke directly to me, scarcely able to conceal his glee, all but cracking his knuckles. A good old country ass-whuppin'--a "thorough and systematic beating" to quote boxer Lennox Lewis' veteran trainer, Emanuel Steward, on his victory over Tyson.

Rudolf scowled and blustered, he railed at the sky, voice etched with scalding blasts of caustic sarcasm, sneering and bellowing with outrage bordering on the biblical. "Righteous indignation," I scribbled even before Judge Hudson uttered it. Shiabani could only gaze at his assailant with seething, impotent hatred.

I sympathize with Jim. It ain't the first time I've been hustled. He with his odd mannerisms--cross between a machine and a Mongoose. Should have trusted that je ne sais quoi that made my skin crawl--he so smooth, so facile, so veddy British. Nothing like that accent to give a grifter a leg-up.

But Jim, Jim, Jim. Dude. Why didn't you vet the scoundrel? Here's what is available to anyone with a finger and a computer and 0.07 seconds of one's busy day.

The first hit of 114 (2,210 for Deborah Radisch and 1,660 for Jan Leetsma, for comparison) on Google is Saami's spirited defense of creationism on


I dunno. Creationism. I have nothing against creationism, no more than any other monkeys-flying-out-of-your-butt "theory" (I've got my own), but when one is trying a case based on hard science, I bleeb I'd leave the creationists out in the front of the courthouse on their soapbox with the rest of the wackos where they belong. And Liberty University? Now there's a lofty academic credential. Didn't surprise me. Liberty University under the fine tutelage of Jerry Falwell spits out great casks of the misinformed (and outright liars) with the velocity of a nail factory. Con artists of the ilk of Falwell and Shiabani have not a shred of compunction about looking you straight in the eye and filling your head with all sorts of tales--even after they're stone-cold busted.

Furthermore, lists a bunch of names including two adjunct faculty, Yuan K. Ha and Frank Spano. Ain't no Shiabani that I see. I guess "Temple" sounded good.

Shiabani was like the "professor" peddling Dr. Feelgood from the back of a wagon, unmasked and subsequently saved by Gary Cooper before a mob got to him with the tar bucket. I can see his denouement--flung out of Holland's Crown Vic at the Durham County line at dusk in a great tumble of tweed and leather, coming to rest on the centerline of Roxboro Road--"Well, now, not so bad. Got to pick yourself up and get on with it."

The guy is a pro-life Christian--and falsely represents his knowledge for the prosecution in murder trials? There is a dark, hot place for lizards like that. And my tenuous acceptance of the paid "expert witness" biz took a plunge with the necessary, painful medicine of exposing that--man. If the justice system means anything (and I have deep reservations about the quality of justice in this nation, anyway), to have a person running around performing his slipshod "science" undermines the shaky opinion many other folks have of the legal profession--and certain types of Christians. Thou shalt not bear false witness. The sanctimonious little creep got what he needed and I do hope he slides to a well-deserved irrelevance. I hear Harris Teeter is hiring.

After the sky had cracked open and the chaos had subsided, I tried to approach Rudolf through the gaggle of cameras; he's justifiably pleased with himself. There was no getting close to him.

So I called his office. I left him a message thanking him for ridding the legal system of this dangerous parasite. "That was one of the best things that I ever saw anyone do." I wished him a happy new year. And I meant it. That guy assisted the prosecution on nine murder trials. Run those consequences. Rudolf did a necessary purgation and God bless him.

And it changes nothing. OK, there's that dang blowpoke which I am about sick of, anyway. I don't know for the life of me why Hardin developed this unhealthy fetish about fireplace tools. I know it feels good waving it around, but honestly, what's wrong with "light, blunt object." The specificity of the murder weapon lent a perfect opportunity to "find" it. No big deal for someone with a Phi Beta Kappa in futzing up crime scenes.

But oh-mi-god, Rosenthal shot this perfectly delicious film noir--fast, grainy B&W, lit by flashlights, dripping with cobwebs and dead insects: psychologically perfect for "The Case of the Fatal Stairway."

All in all, a cute move--with the lifespan of a Dallas second.

The one thing the court and the public were never allowed to find out were the circumstances of the discovery of BPII. One of my rules when I taught English at the University of Florida was not to allow my students to use the passive voice, i.e., "It was found." But that's what they said.

Don' matter anyway. I expected them to be breeding like the brooms in the sorcerer's apprentice, and I was right. BPII was likely just a bluff. Rudolf and his team surely had the low-down about BPII and Shiabani months ago and had all the time to lay a calculated trap. For once, we see a case where the state is at a disadvantage. Rudolf is so well-funded and such a master of, as a friend put it, "skating on the edge of the ice," that he psyched Hardin out, knocked him off his game, to where he didn't know what sort of demon he was dealing with--never imagining that the BPII was just a set-up for the roundhouse--the classic rope-a-dope. So Hardin called his bluff, never believing that Rudolf could screw him twice. And who could?

And in the wake of this courthouse maelstrom, all the shoutin' over, the dust settling, we still have the matter of--oh yeah--the other dead chick who seems to have--poof-- disappeared. EndBlock

Contact Eichenberger at

Main Entry: char-la-tan
Pronunciation: 'sh...r-luh-tun
Function: noun
Etymology: Italian ciarlatano, alteration of cerretano, literally, inhabitant of Cerreto, from Cerreto, Italy
Date: 1618
1: quack
2: one making usually showy pretenses to knowledge or ability : Fraud, Faker
It is just after high noon on the sun-blasted plaza. A roving mob of videographers has the Durham County Judicial Building in lock-down. "We have the building surrounded," I yell at the upper floors. "You cannot escape. Come out with your hands up."

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