Monday, December 10, 2007

indyundercover six feet under

the indyundercover blog is closing up shop. this is hardly a surprise, because as i said last month, the site's sole function seemed to be hatin' on bart peterson, so now that bart is on his way out, indyu has no purpose. indeed, when the blog actually admitted earlier this week that murders are down this year—and tried to credit mayor-elect ballard, who hasn't taken office yet—that was a sure sign that indyu was not long for this world.

but surely that can't be the whole story. so in "honor" of the blog that has spread more rumors than any other website in indiana—many of them false—let's look at some of the rumors surrounding indyu's demise.

one rumor going around is that indyu is shutting down because the person/people behind it are getting new cushy jobs in the ballard administration. this rumor resonates because two of the top suspects are on ballard's transition team—disgruntled cop robert turner and firefighter/outgoing councillor isaac "ike" randolph. randolph's name in particular has been tossed around as possibly behind indyu for more than a year, and last year someone forwarded gary welsh emails that were allegedly between randolph and local journalist abdul hakim-shabazz discussing what to post on the blog.

which brings us to abdul. abdul has been the top suspect for weeks, ever since an incident last month when abdul got word that a search warrant was about to be served against him. abdul quickly lawyered up and posted about it on his official blog, suggesting that the police were after him because he was investigating a story involving "alleged child sexual abuse by a very prominent and wealthy local Democrat". (more than three weeks later, abdul hasn't uttered another word about the democrat molester story, leading me to be skeptical about whether any such story ever existed.)

in that blog post, abdul confessed that he knew the "guys" behind indyu, including one particularly interesting tidbit: "I'll even admit it was my idea over lunch one day." things got even more suspicious when indyu, which had previously announced that it might shut down, posted in support of abdul, declaring that the blog was going to stick around because "someone has to keep our leadership honest!"

ruth holladay, who had long suspected that abdul was behind indyu, was reinvigorated by all this and became obsessed with unmasking joe friday, the blog's pseudonymous author. so after yesterday's announcement that the blog was being shut down, ruth called abdul for more information and got some intriguing answers:

In a phone conversation this morning, Abdul acknowledged he would occasionally "pass something along" to the blog, and vice versa, he says. "We had a mutual exchange of information."

But, he insisted, he was not IndyUndercover. "Here's the thing. That blog is not a person. Joe Friday is like Uncle Sam."

Abdul acknowledged, again, that he has a lot of cop friends and said what he's said before on his Indiana Barrister blog: that he advised a bunch of disgruntled officers over drinks a year and a half ago how they could start their own blog. "I thought the cops in this town were being treated crappy. My attitude was, 'Hey, if I can help, I will.'"

like i said in the comments, that nonsense about how "joe friday is like uncle sam" sounds like a classic non-denial denial to me. we heard almost identical crap from ernie shearer when he was outed as the indy chicken. what it means is that abdul is one of the people behind indyu, but he doesn't do it by himself. that allows him to make weasely statements that are misleading but technically accurate: thus "i am not joe friday" is technically true because joe friday is in fact abdul plus one or two other dudes.

then last night, fox 59's russ mcquaid unearthed more facts. (blue indiana has the youtube.) remember that search warrant that was supposedly issued against abdul? it turns out that it was issued because of an arson investigation which was damaged when the name of a confidential police informant was published on indyu. oops. but someone tipped off abdul about the warrant, effectively killing it: the subject of a warrant mustn't know that a warrant is coming because that gives them time to destroy evidence, et cetera. (notifying someone of a pending warrant is typically obstruction of justice, though mcquaid found someone who claimed that it wasn't in this case because the warrant was illegal.)

based on all this, i'm somewhat convinced that those emails that were forwarded to gary were real, and that indyundercover is abdul and ike randolph. i'm almost totally convinced about abdul; i'm just not positive that randolph was his partner. however, i don't expect either of them to confess anytime soon. already a dark cloud is surrounding abdul's reputation—i know i for one will be skeptical of everything he says until his role in indyu is made clear—and if he is one of the people behind indyu then that raises serious questions about his journalistic ethics. similarly, randolph has nothing to gain and everything to lose: rumor has it, he's being considered for a deputy mayor position in the ballard administration, which he surely won't get if he's outed as joe friday.

so i'm afraid the true identity of joe friday will remain a mystery, at least for the time being, and my suspicions will remain unproven. still, whether abdul was at the core of indyundercover as ruth & i suspect or whether he just played a minor ancillary role as he claims, he's now under a lot of scrutiny for committing a major journalistic faux pas: rather than reporting the story, he has become the story.

update: the entire indyundercover blog now appears to have been deleted. what are they hiding? of course, the site is still in the google cache, for the time being. in fact, the post that named the confidential police informant is still in the google cache if you know where to look, though i'm not going to link to it.

2nd update: ruth talks to ike randolph about those emails that were forwarded to gary welsh. randolph categorically denies being involved with indyu. but ruth is more convinced than ever that it was abdul's blog.

3rd update: from gary welsh:

When I read Randolph's exchange with Holladay, I was a bit taken back by it. As I stated earlier, Randolph told me he was in Mexico on vacation with his family at the time the e-mail in question had been sent and did not have access to his e-mail account. Now, he says he says he was at the firehouse when Shabazz contacted him about sending the e-mail and the word "indyundercover" was intentionally included in the e-mail's subject heading. Call me cynical, but someone isn't getting his story straight on this one.

uh-oh. i was already skeptical about ike's "bait" story, and now i'm pretty sure it was a lie. i must admit it was a sneaky way of trying to flip the allegations against him onto his political enemies, and it might have even worked if he hadn't told gary something else entirely.

incidentally, in his post, gary repeats the claim that "twice" he has been accused of being joe friday. this is not true; it only happened once, when jacob "the scribe" perry did it. despite what gary believes, steph mineart never said any such thing; he simply misinterpreted her post. this was repeatedly pointed out to him, but he has never acknowledged his mistake. i know this is a minor, irrelevant detail, so i didn't bother to point it out when the falsehood appeared in ruth's post, but i do want to set the record straight now that gary is still trying to push his mistaken version of events.


Wilson46201 said...

I wonder what WXNT, WRTV6 and the IBJ think about employee Abdul's tomfoolery...

ruth holladay said...

Well said.
I think Abdul fashions himself more pundit -- the word he used yesterday -- than journalist. So maybe he's not too worried about becoming part of the story. As he has said, it's all about the publicity.
But methinks he wore too many hats. Even for a head as big as his is, he couldn't take the weight.

Doug said...

Generally, I'm not a big fan of anonymous blogging. It makes it tougher to assess credibility. However, if it's just one anonymous blogger, blogging under the same name, that issue goes away after awhile. Past entries make or destroy the credibility on their own terms.

That becomes almost impossible if it's a group of people blogging anonymously. One member of the group might prove credible while another is not, and it all just gets muddled.

As an anti-Peterson vehicle, I guess it did its job. At least now, nobody needs to take the blog seriously if it claimed to be anything more or less than an anti-Peterson site.

varangianguard said...

The heavyweights weigh in...;)

And, all three with a good point or two.

It's a banner day, stAllio! :)

Steph Mineart said...

Hindsight is 20/20 - I wish I had ignored my disgust and archived the entire site just because of the legal issues.