More than two years after agents of the federal Drug Enforcement Administration staged a middle-of-the-night raid on the home of former Windsor County State Sen. Will Hunter, the feds have finally brought charges against him. On Monday, Will the Rhodes Scholar entered 10 not-guilty pleas to mail fraud and one not-guilty plea to bankruptcy fraud. But guess what? No drug charges. What's up?
To Hunter's wife, April Hensel, it's a crystal-clear case of the government trying to save face. She's written Janet Reno to complain.
According to an Inside Track source, the decision not to charge Will the Rhodes Scholar with any money-laundering or drug-related offenses was one made at the Department of Justice level. That would help explain the delay in bringing charges. After all, this has been one high-profile case. It's already made the CBS "Evening News with Dan Rather."
Asked about the role of D.C. higher-ups, U.S. Attorney Charles Tetzlaff, told Inside Track, "I take full responsibility for the charges we bring or do not bring."
Mr. Tetzlaff may take full responsibility, but his statement does leave the door ajar as far as Washington's involvement in the case of Will the Rhodes Scholar goes.
The Hunter prosecution is taking place on the watch of James Bradley, the "charming" and "chatty" head of the DEA in Vermont. That's how he was described in the Sept. 2, 1995 edition of The Spectator magazine. The suave and sophisticated DEA baby boomer cut his teeth in the great drug war in the early 1970s with the Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs, the forerunner of the DEA. He's since worked his way up the ranks and came to Vermont in 1994 after five years stationed at DEA H.Q. in Washington. The Spectator reported Bradley considered Ms. Hensel to be "some kinda flake." As for her letter to Attorney General Janet Reno that received no response, Bradley quipped, "If someone in England wrote to the Queen, would they get a reply?"
Unfortunately, Bradley isn't very chatty with the local press. He referred all questions about Will the Rhodes Scholar to Charlie Tetzlaff.
Monday Judge William Sessions III penciled August 18 in as opening day for the trial of William A. Hunter IV. (Can I get a fifth?) But Hunter's attorney, Peter Hall, indicated at the arraignment Monday that he was representing Will the Rhodes Scholar "for the arraignment only." Hunter said he'll have a new attorney in 10 days. Sounds like Hall doesn't want to defend Hunter on a pro bono basis. The Spectator reported Hunter was raking in only about $20,000 a year, and that was before the Professional Conduct Board suspended his license to practice law. Can you say "Will Hunter Defense Fund?"
Prosecuting the Hunter case is Assistant U.S. Attorney Paul Van de Graaf. This will be the second scalp of an ex-Vermont legislator he's sought. The first was Brian Burns, the former rep from Burlap who rose to Lite-Gov, who similarly was nailed on fraud charges. Van de Graaf builds a case like a master carpenter — every nail in its proper place. He loves all the little details. And once this prosecutorial pit bull wraps his jaws around you, he never lets go.
The challenge will be to find a jury of Hunter's peers. How can they possibly find 12 Rhodes scholars with Golden Dome experience?
Media Notes — A national television news trade publication is carrying a WCAX-TV classified ad for a new news anchor "who will complement male weather and sports anchors." No, not a replacement for Marselis Parsons — he's there for life. Rather, WGOP is trolling for a replacement for morning news anchor Sera Congi. Congi referred our inquiry to Parsons, who confirmed Sera has had it with rising at 3 a.m. "She's a damn good reporter," says Parsons. Fact is, she'd rather be a reporter than just another pretty face on the anchor desk reading the teleprompter.
Speaking of pretty faces, Tiffany Eddy, the rookie news anchor at WVNY, the local Al3C affiliate, is getting great reviews. Many say Ms. Eddy's got the best delivery and presence in town, despite anchoring the newscast that consistently finishes dead last in the ratings.
Bernie Watch — Due to a recent unfortunate run-in with Lady Gravity, yours truly spent last week in a reclining position. On Wednesday and Thursday afternoons C-Span turned into the Bernie Sanders hour. Ol' Bernardo was one of the designated spear-carriers in the floor debate. His amendment proposed chopping 5 percent out of the estmated $30 billion post-Cold War "intelligence" budget. Great debate. Rep. Charles Bass (R-New Hamp-shire) opposed it. Called it "not responsible legislating." Bernie's baby got 140 votes and lost.
The next day Sanders' amendment proposed adding $19 million for payment in lieu of taxes to municipalities choked with federal lands. This time not only Bass but Rep. John Sununu, too, rose in support of our favorite socialist. "I thank my colleague from Vermont for the excellent work he's done on the amendment," said the son of Mr. Crossfire.
Media Notes — Over in radio land this week, the buzz is over the birth of a new all-classical masic station, WCVT at 101.7 FM. VPR once cornered the classical audience, but things change. Today VPR is much more of a news station, from "Morning Edition" to "Switchboard." Still, VPR head honcho Mark Vogelzang concedes, "Some people will find [WCVT] a very attractive alternative to VPR."
Back on the boob tube, meanwhile, WCAX and the Rutland Herald have struck a mutual admiration society-type agreement. You may have caught the Herald's Sunday writer, John Dillon, on Ch. 3's Friday newscast plugging his upcoming story on non-point source pollution in Lake Champlain. Why not a link-up with the Burlington Free Press?
"Because the Rutland Herald is the best newspaper in the state," replied Marselis.
But congratulations are in order. It seems everyone in the media is aware that the Freeps pulled in a plateful of awards a couple months back in this year's Gannett competition. The less-than-well-regarded newspaper chain dubbed our local daily "most improved," and Jennifer Carroll won for Best Editor. But there was no victory announcement in the Freeps. The CW is they held off on publicizing their awards because readers would have laughed out loud. The Freeps may be "most improved" in the eyes of the Martians down at corporate headquarters in Virginia, but for folks in Vermont, the "improvement" has been nigh impossible to detect.