Intercon Sentencing, Defamation, and Charity vs Charity Grudge Match

Chicago's Hall of Mirror Balls

Several people heard a "whoosh" sound while reading the April Fools Day Blog.  The BAN vs ERA of Canada - two recognized tax charities - defamation lawsuit was dropped about the same time.  But ERA's leader Bojan Paduh (a refugee of Bosnia during the 1990s civil war) is someone I got to know as a result of the lawsuit.  His anger at BAN is absolutely seething in a way I have not heard since Brian Brundage sued the NGO 6 years ago. (For April Fool reference, see email from BAN at bottom).

I told Bojan that I had indeed, more than once, considered a defamation lawsuit against BAN. Brian Brundage (like Bojan) had asked if I was interested in joining class action (shared legal cost) approach.  I spoke to an attorney about it in 2012, when Basel Action Network told a Chicago Newspaper that I was "lying through my teeth" and that the "state of the art" reuse and recycling facilities I had visited and eyewitnessed in Asia were a "myth". According to the reporter, BAN warned him against even listening to me, stating I was mentally ill and that everyone in the recycling community knew it.
"Most libel cases are filed by private citizens. There are reasons for that. Private citizens have a much lower bar to hurdle. They have to prove that the statement was factually wrong, that it was published, that it referred to them and damaged their reputation—and that somebody is responsible for it. That the person who made the statements was negligent." - Guy Bergstrom, "To Sue or Not to Sue: Libel"
Now BAN has learned a thing or two from their experience paying attorneys to defend them in defamation and liable lawsuits.  The 2012 attack on me was certainly explicit and personal, not against a company and not a vague "opinion".  They explicitly warned a reporter not to talk to me, and gave reasons why I was not credible.  Because BAN had to take the unusual step of apologizing and retracting their statements, I get contacted a lot for advice from others wanting to sue BAN. But they have learned to be a little more cautious in some cases (like using the term "likely illegal" against ERA, instead of "illegal", as they claimed in 2012).

Instead of suing, I accepted BAN's apology, which was run in the same Chicago Patch newspaper. I was not really satisfied with the apology, because it did not remove the insult or racial profiling I originally objected to. I was not the person being defamed, it was the Tech Sector overseas, the poor people who make a lot more money repairing rich peoples stuff than they can make repairing poor peoples stuff.

read Chicago Tribune, 4/12/2019  by 
Last week, I was invited to the sentencing hearing of Brian Brundage, who accepted a 3 year prison term for tax fraud and defrauding his recycling contracts (which claimed no export). I don't know anything about wire fraud and tax fraud, and would certainly not have any expertise in Brian's case. But when Brundage's attorney, James Greene, told me that Jim Puckett from Basel Action Network was flying in from Seattle to testify as an "injured party", I was shocked.  Jim was potentially requesting financial damages for cost defending itself in defamation suit be added to the sentence.

BAN attacked me personally in the same articles for suggesting reporters investigate the truth about State of the Art Recycling facilities in Asia, I knew something about whether BAN was a "victim". Why would a victim volunteer to apologize and ask their libelous article be withdrawn?

Of course, I had to visit Chicago.  It was an experience I could not pass up. I couldn't take pictures in the courtroom. 

The opening statement from Sean J.B. Franzblau and Kelly Greening of the Northern District of Illinois was a specific request to the Judge to dismiss me as a witness, and not hear my statement at all. I had never spoken to them... 

When Brundage's attorney countered that there is considerable leeway in testimony at a sentencing hearing, and the Judge declined to dismiss my testimony, the prosecutors requested that I be expelled from the courtroom during Jim Puckett's testimony.  Someone did not want me to hear what Jim had to say.

Jim had already succeeded in getting the prosecutors to object to my appearance.  That had to be based on something... some negative information about me, something so foul that the judge should not even allow me to speak about the defamation case in 2012 (the only thing I planned to testify about). That of course made me even more curious about his sworn testimony.

This was turning into a hall of Chicago mirror balls. BAN admitted to libelling me to a reporter in order to prevent the reporter from relying on my testimony. I'm called as a defense witness to testify to that. BAN then testifies behind closed doors as to why the court should not rely on my testimony about their statements about not relying on my testimony - in fact, that prosecutors should prevent it.

After Jim Puckett finished something like a half hour of testimony concerning his organization's status as a financial victim of Brundage, I was brought back into the courtroom.  Sean J.B. Franzblau again objected to my testimony.  This blog is in part directed to Mr. Franzblau and Ms. Greening. Just as the UK quietly released Joseph Hurricane Benson after listening to me, and INTERPOL quietly sunset "Project Eden", and universities began researching claims BAN made about 80% exports - a claim BAN was forced to retreat from - I'm only looking for full disclosure, lest other prosecutors lend their gravitas (as MIT did)  to an organization that does not deserve or merit it.

So I was sworn in at the Federal Courthouse at 2019 Dearborne St.  I explained my credentials (former regulator, consultant, degree in international relations, etc), the same ones that led the Chicago Patch reporter Chris Paicely to interview me in 2012.  In rebuttal to BAN's assertion on the Intercon case, I said that there were known and unknown facts

It was unknown what percentage of material Brian Brundage was exporting. Jim had stated on multiple occasions that reporters should assume that 80% is exported, or accept BAN's contention that 80% of what is exported was going to be badly managed. I stated as rebuttal that BAN had no reliable evidence to support either assumption, but that the claim about 80% bad outcomes was critical to their organization's financial objectives.  If the export by themselves did not establish guilt or crime, that BAN would have to find out whether used electronics were properly managed in places like China.  If BAN had to establish that fact, they would be forced to encounter (or hide) evidence of "state of the art" recycling facilities overseas.

In other words, defamation was not a biproduct.  Defamation is strategy. Libel is what BAN does. It is the first step in creating a public appearance of a problem.  If 80% of the [TYPE] people in Chicago are bad, then a dog that barks at every [TYPE] person might be considered a watchdog.  If the dog just barks at black people, and there's absolutely no evidence that a significant number of them are bad, the dog is the problem.

If this were not the case, I argued, then why did BAN have to attack me personally for telling the reporter that we did not at that point know how much was exported, and what percentage of the exports went to "state of the art" recyclers?  BAN told the reporter that "state of the art" recycling was a myth, that it did not exist at all in China, and that Robin Ingenthron was lying about it.

If I'd had more time, I would have liked to have drawn the parallel to Chicago WBEZ's "This American Life" interview with Mike Daisy the same year. In 2012, Ira Glass had produced a piece about cell phone manufacturer FoxConn (Han Hoi Precision) facilities in China, which Mr. Daisy contended guarded employees with machine guns, and depicted as primitive, dirty factories.  TAL had to revisit and found that Daisy's impugning was part of an act he performed... this was Puckett's China in 2012, too.

At a certain point the U.S. District Judge Joan Humphrey Lefkow seemed to tire or the focus on "80%" (which evidently was what Brundage's attorney focused on during Puckett's cross). She summed up "so this is about credibility". Which is basically correct. I was not there to defend Brian Brundage. I travelled to Chicago to prevent Jim Puckett from using a finding of "victim" status to claim he was vindicated in the defamation suits. 

 - - - - Not about Brian - - - - 

Prosecutor Kelly Greening cross examined me, and seemed not to like me very much, but I guess that's what cross examination is all about.  Her focus was on whether I claimed that Intercon Solutions and Brian Brundage had exported to "state of the art" facilities?  I admitted I did not know that and moreover had not even said that.  

My point is already clear, from the first 5 "Certification or Racketeering" blogs this year.

1. BAN gets the press to accept a fake statistic about 80% Waste being exported (one I'm told Jim distanced himself from in his testimony, but was definitely a part of the BAN press releases in the Intercon case of 2012).

2. BAN tells the press that Robin Ingenthron is deliberately lying about state of the art facilities even existing in places like China.  Places like EcoPark of Hong Kong, obscured from MoniTour maps during coverage of BAN's GPS tracking in 2016.  

3. BAN tells the press that language in the Basel Ban AMENDMENT is international law. That Amendment was introduced about two decades ago and NEVER PASSED.  The Amendment was BAN's attempt to remove explicit and plain legality of export for repair and recycling under the ACTUAL Basel Convention (Annex IX).

4. If 80% is exported, and there are no state of the art facilities in China capable of legally and ethically recycling used electronics, and the export for repair and recycling is illegal, than BAN is a watchdog that can bark at any exporter.  All they have to do is demonstrate geographic movement.

I ended by stating that BAN's commissions on E-Stewards therefore depended upon defamation. BAN had to defame the Geeks of Color. BAN had to defame people who had visited state of the art recycling facilities in China (or who claimed those facilities even exist). BAN had to defame any competing expert on the Basel Convention.

Robert Scoble [(]
Defamation is BAN's product.  While Intercon Solutions was an E-Steward Certified Recycler in 2011, no recycler in the country made more heavy use of the gross and defamatory press about China.  Fact is, I had real problems with Brian Brundage's depictions of Chinese export market, and would not have shipped him anything that could be reused because I thought he'd destroy it (a negative environmental outcome). It is pretty easy to accept that Brian is guilt of what he pled guilty to.  And so public defamation of anyone like Brian is part of BAN's 'enforcement'.  It is what BAN threatens to do to companies that don't pay them for certification. It is what BAN threatens to do to certified companies, like Total Reclaim and Intercon, if they don't follow BAN's orders.

BAN had libeled me, and admitted to doing so and asked the Chicago paper to take the article offline.  What I want people to examine is why, and therefore, whom else?  BAN defamed the Tech Sector and State of the Art Recyclers in China, as they've done in Africa.  BAN defames companies like ERA that do not pay for certification. Whether or not BAN turned out to be right about Brian Brundage, if they were wrong about 3 other people in the Chicago Patch article (other Chicago recyclers like Willie Cade, Chinese buyers, and me), then they are not a "victim" of having to hire lawyers to defend them.

In fact, BAN's claim never, ever to have claimed 80% of exports are bad, and Jim Puckett dissembling on the topic of 80% on the stand, and the prosecutor focus on getting me to admit I did not know whether Brian Brundage's specific exports went to state of the art factories (THE VERY POINT OF MY 2012 interview to Chicago Patch!) should give prosecutors pause. I could only say that the majority of CRT importers I had seen in China during that time were state of the art recycling, and that whether Brian knew them to be or not, statistically it was more likely that any CRTs he exported were properly managed than dumped... but that none of us can know for sure. BAN's methodology is to prevent anyone from looking for habeus corpus in export markets, because we'd discover smart people doing good things, which would remove the very lynchpin of BAN's mission.  A watchdog that just barks at colored people isn't much use, especially in a city like Chicago.

So back to the current defamation lawsuit, and the ERA v BAN "Charity Grudge Match".  Bojan Paduh, like Brian, had hoped that his defamation suit would create a pool or class action response.  Bojan, like Brian, saw I'd been defamed by BAN and asked if I'd join him.

While BAN's apology to me and retraction of claims about me to Chicago Patch offer some proof, they are also the main defense in a defamation case. If you sue someone and they retract the claim before the trial is heard, you have to prove financial damages occurred during-and-due-to the defamation. To get your legal fees covered, the organization you sue has to have the resources to pay them.  I told both (and others) not to sue out of pique or anger... suing gives you a warm feeling that lasts awhile but leads to regret. Like peeing your pants.

Instead, I LOVED Bojan Paduh's latest response, to donate working laptops to a Seattle Washington non-profit (a third charity), and putting a press release out.  He showed his clients in Canada that he's not afraid of BAN, and held the donation even in BAN's front yard.

How would one expect BAN to react to the donation?  See email from BAN to the Chicago charity below.  I smiled at the second to last line, "In full disclosure..."  Really?  Seriously, BAN? Since when has your organization offered a shred of nuance, much less "in full disclosure"?  Trying to convince the court not to allow my testimony, excluding me from the courtroom during Jim Puckett's, dissembling on the Basel Ban Amendment, legality of repair, and your own 80% false claims, does not sound to me anything like "in full disclosure".

BAN makes money by barking at people. They want us to believe that they only bark at bad people. But the facts are that in 2012, BAN barked at everyone in the tech sector, and their false claims about Agbogbloshie (to INTERPOL in 2010) led directly to the framing via GPS tracker of "Hurricane" Joe Benson, whose 60 month sentence is the most serious crime ever committed in the name of e-waste.

If not but for BAN's defamation assembly line, Benson would not have faced a charge of 80% export based on "common knowledge" (UK barrister's term) being not for reuse but 'primitive' recycling.  

I've no doubt that Franzblau and Greening are fine people, and Brian Brundage is certainly no Joe Benson. But I have found that over time, each person at EPA or INTERPOL or Basel Convention that I meet with, and who listens to the facts, comes away appreciating the warning. Over time, I trust Franzblau and Greening may as well.  Regulators and former regulators and prosecutors are the people who most appreciate the nuance of public accusation. In the ERA and Bojan Paduh case, BAN says they were represented "pro bono" by Davis Wright Tremaine offices in Bellvue, Washington... the same firm that represented BAN in the Brian Brundage / Intercon Solutions defamation case in 2012.  I hope one of the attorneys there (perhaps Ambika Kumar Doran) has the time to look into the case of "Hurricane" Joseph Benson, which happened before she took BAN's defense against Brundage. Bruce E.H. Johnson and Caesar Kalinowski defended James Puckett and BAN in the ERA case.  They might want to get together and see how BAN's claims in 2012 (80% export, "myth" of state of the are facilities in Asia) compare with BAN's claims today.

BAN's product is defamation, and most of the defamation rests on the postulation that Geeks of Color don't exist. Denying the existence of repair and recycling expertise based on the race, nationality, creed or geography of the technician is a particularly ugly and non-Progressive stance. If the City of Seattle is indeed "an e-Stewards Enterprise city, it should be ashamed of itself. 

As a reminder, the whole BAN GPS tracking study in Canada yielded a very low percentage of export. They put 5 devices at ERA's one shop, and tracked 3 overseas. Most people donating to ERA are not sabotaging their electronics and covering it up to make it look working or repairable. The charity that does that to another charity deserves what they get.

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