My friends and former allies Bob Rivernider and Robert J. Ponte are now in Federal Penitentiaries, sentenced (respectively) to 12 and 7+ years plus five years supervised release. For men near my age, this is a virtual death sentence. LOTS of people die in American prisons….that’s a reality not everyone knows. I did not always agree with these two gentlemen, did not always (well, actually, never) understand their business plans, but one thing I am pretty sure: they are not and never were dangerous criminals. The real question is whether they were criminals AT ALL, in any sense. It seems to me that they are part of a growing universe of white men in white collar positions who are being punished for making bad business decisions. In essence, business failure, like poverty itself, is now a crime in America. In terms of their personalities, Bob Rivernider was gruff and cantankerous—perhaps why he got a 144 month sentence. Robert J. Ponte was much smoother and sweeter—perhaps that why he “only” got 7 1/2 years….
The names “Rivernider” and “Lincoln” have for a long time been hyper-linked in Google Searches, especially if paired with two other search terms: “Palm Beach” and “Orly Taitz.” Ok, we all know that anything that Orly touched in my life was a fricking disaster…. But Orly was not responsible for Bob Rivernider’s troubles—although the real power behind her, namely the lying and deceitful, treacherous American Executive Branch, certainly was.
The Orly phenomenon originated and found extravagant sponsorship in the local Washington, D.C., branch of the Globalist government by financial-military-industrial cartel. This Cartel, official leaders Larry Summers, John Shepard Reed***, Jacob Joseph (“Jack”) Lew, and their crowd of corrupt financiers, designated Orly as their “Clown Princess” and Jester extraordinaire to the Courts in defense of Obama’s qualifications to serve as Chief Executive after having been elected by the Bilderbergers. Orly, as a movement and phenomenon, was created in the brilliant “reverse logic” (Kafkaesque, or more to the point, positively Saul Alinskyesque) defense of Barrack Obama’s citizenship by absurdist attack. Only Orly Taitz’ ludicrous behavior could have made the world safe for Obama, the most Constitutionally unqualified and inappropriate president imaginable. Only Orly could have turned strict construction of the Article II Presidential eligibility clause into the laughing stock of the entire nation, and the world which once again had to endure the shakes of the 6 billion heads who live outside of the boundaries of “E Pluribus Unum” to wonder how Americans could possibly be so stupid and gullible.
This same cartel, for less obvious reasons, apparently found in Robert Rivernider an extreme threat and made him a “high value target” even before I first met Bob in 2008-9 at one or more of Bob Hurt’s seminar/conferences in and around the Tampa Bay Area, Florida. Bob Rivernider now wears an ankle bracelet and has a 7:00 curfew as he awaits final sentencing pursuant to a plea bargain he probably never should have entered. I know a thing or two or three about the U.S. Government’s ability to coerce plea agreements out of innocent people: “you agree to this or you’re going away for life while we impoverish your family” is extremely persuasive, no matter what the truth may be. But in Bob Rivernider’s case—they talked him into going away for life, or something pretty close to it, AS his plea bargain, after he had already started a trial. Since Bob was certainly never going to be subject to the death penalty, it was hard to see how he had struck a good deal here…..so I was anxious to hear his story. I had known and celebrated his birthday with him in 2009, but had forgotten all about it in the intervening years—but right now I can say I am only hopeful that (if there’s anything at all to Astrology, though frankly I doubt there is) my son will turn out to be a man of half the fighting character and spirit of resistance I see in Bob Rivernider. I would like to see Bob Rivernider on his birthday again, maybe before another four years have passed. It would be a bad thing, and a great loss to society, for him to be locked up for the next 25 or 30 of his birthdays. It would be a major miscarriage of justice….
Partly in Honor of my son’s 21st birthday, which I could not share with him because of choices apparently made either by him or his mother, and otherwise partly because of a frivolous motion filed against me in a case in the 15th Judicial Circuit Court in and for Palm Beach County, I came back to my old haunts in beautiful Palm Beach 33480 for the first time since just after Easter 2010.
Nobody would say that this is the best, or even a pleasant, time to come to South Florida. Late August is the heart of hurricane season. But even without any hurricanes, South Florida is hotter and more humid than New Orleans, and nowhere near as pleasant as Yucatán, México, in this season. This is true only because it rains so much more in South-pointing Florida’s North-pointing Southern opposite Peninsula just across the Gulf. The greater daily rainfall and cloudcover in México means that the full tropics of Southeastern México are actually cooler than the Florida subtropics just to the north in the USA.
It has turned out to be one of the best and most exciting weekends I’ve had in a very long time, primarily because I met my new lawyer, my new partner and representative, Dara Leigh Bloom, for the very first time when I arrived here Saturday evening, and other my new partner and expert witness in securitization and pooling analysis—Mario Kenny, on Sunday afternoon. It occurred to me while here that although I have worked hard, been worried, and been angry from time-to-time in Palm Beach County, this is one part of the world where I can truly say I have never been really unhappy or deeply depressed.
Sunday morning I got up early and went to 8:00 Holy Communion and Eucharist at Bethesda-by-the-Sea—a Parish Church significantly grander than Christ Church Cathedral in New Orleans, though not even half as old and lacking the same amazing direct connexions to Southern American history. Located just south of the Breakers at 141 South County Road, Bethesda-by-the-Sea is the Church where my son Charlie was Baptized on the Feast of the Epiphany in 1993. It was an honor and privilege to return here, and to sit a while in Bethesda’s beautiful gardens after the 8:00 service was over, contemplating the Rector’s sermon on Sabbath being a time for thinking, reflecting, and doing nothing.
Doing nothing, of course, was not a significant part of the plan for coming to Palm Beach. Just after 10:00 a.m., Bob Rivernider arrived at the Bradley Park Hotel at 280 Sunset, across from Publix and just five very short blocks from our old home here on the Island, where my son Charlie spent just over the full first year of his life, after being born on the eve of Hurricane Andrew while I completed my term as Judicial Law Clerk to Kenneth L. Ryskamp of the United States District Court, Southern District of Florida.
Bob Hurt of Clearwater, old friend, frequent recent critic, whom I had not so long ago written that I disowned writing, “I know thee not old man”….came down with his charming wife Maria to visit for the weekend and argue some more. I had walked to Bethesda before the morning service but by the time it was over, it was too bloody hot to walk back and Bob Hurt did me the courtesy of picking me up.
We arrived back at the Bradley just as Bob Rivernider was pulling up. And then Bob began to tell us his story…. to a small audience consisting of me, Dara Leigh Bloom, and Bob Hurt.
For two and a half hours, Rivernider expostulated to us regarding the devious, manipulative stratagems and trickery that the U.S. Attorneys’ Office (and his own CJA Attorneys) in Connecticut, used to get him, his former partner Robert Ponte, and his sister Lorraine Seneca, to plead guilty almost a month into a jury trial in Hartford, Connecticut.
I can’t say that I really understood Bob’s business before or now. It may have been a good business plan, it may not have been, but what it fairly clearly was, was an honest business plan, even if “high risk” was written all over it. Robert Rivernider and Robert Ponte somehow planned to generate high returns on investments in real estate and foreign exchange swaps to their clients, who invested hundreds of thousands, in some cases millions of dollars.
So far as I can tell, the great sin that Ponte & Rivernider committed in all this was to try to piggy-back on the real estate speculation in which the major banks of the world were so famously engaged in the middle of the first decade of the new Millennium. Because they were doing this, they were apparently “high value” targets to be designated “fall guys” for the fallout and collapse of this speculative roller-coaster. Everyone over the age of 14 knew that ONLY real estate speculation of the wildest and most absurd nature could have driven the market as it climbed up to its peak in 2007, triggering the collapse of 2008-9.
In 2008 the banks of the United States, along with other major industries (e.g. the automobile industry, especially the “Big Three” GM, Ford, & Chrysler) were effectively nationalized—although nobody important or “in control” used that term or word publicly, or if they did, not very much or very often, at least on prime time TV. Yet it was precisely at the end of the W. Bush’s term and the beginning of Obama’s that full scale Socialism was instituted in the USA.
Among the significant but lower profile announcements of the new Obama administration was that the Department of Justice would be going after “White Collar Crime” involved in and relating to the banking collapse. And it was then that Robert Rivernider, Robert Ponte, Lorraine Seneca, and so many others suddenly crossed over from being “the managers of distressed businesses” to “high value targets of criminal investigation.”
As a practical matter, targeting failed business enterprises like the Ponte-Rivernider-Seneca group was a way of declaring war on the White Middle Class which Obama so clearly despises. Ponte-Rivernider-and-Seneca were accused, among other things, of a “scheme to defraud” under 18 U.S.C. §1343 (“Wire Fraud”) of a scheme to manipulate real estate appraisals unrealistically high to obtain greater extended credit leverage from banks. Again, as every person who was at least 14 after 2000 must have known—well over half the population was playing Real Estate Roulette at this time (2000-2007)—not merely with the full cooperation and collusion but egged on by the banks and, for that matter, State and Federal lawmakers and regulators.
Scapegoats are always necessary in such situations—you can’t very well sacrifice the real criminals like Lawrence Summers, John Shepard Reed, and Jacob Joseph Lew, so you look for “little people” like Ponte and Rivernider.
After listening to Rivernider’s story, all I can say is this: (1) the U.S. Attorneys in Connecticut were prosecuting to cover up Bank misconduct and justify bank losses, (2) the C.J.A. (government-paid-defense) attorneys appointed to defend Rivernider at least (he told mostly his own story), were not accidentally incompetent, but active members of the prosecutorial team. Listening to Rivernider, it seemed that his defense team chronically and repeatedly failed to make proper and warranted objections, failed to offer well-founded affirmative defenses, and above all, pushed Rivernider, Ponte, and Seneca to plead guilty BEFORE the U.S. had even rested its case. The defense team did this after announcing that they would put on no defense whatsoever (and hence waiving what could have been a very strong defense on the part of the three defendants).
The U.S. District Court seemed to have cared much more about the jurors’ time and length of trial than whether the Defendants had full and fair opportunity to challenge the facts alleged against them. It seemed that the Prosecution’s consistent strategy was one of deception, disguise, and dissimulation ranging from willfully misrepresenting the obvious meaning of words and phrases in e-mails up to making outbursts in Court which we were taught in law school and bar review courses, and saw as practitioners, would have been grounds for immediate motions for mistrial (e.g. the prosecutor calling out “He’s Lying” during a witnesses’ testimony in front of the jury and later apologizing to the Court). It seemed that the Defense strategy was to meekly accept all prosecutorial misconduct and not to object.
Among the most disturbing direct quotes that Bob gave us were that his attorney told him, “I was hired to get you the best sentence possible” and the prosecutor admitting to the Court that certain behaviors alleged in the indictments forming the basis for a lengthy sentence recommendation were “not per se illegal.”
Bob Hurt chimed in at this point, “what does “not per se illegal” mean?” I opined that “not per se illegal” could be reasonably translated out of prosecutorial lingo into English as “not illegal at all”, i.e. “legal” meaning “the Defendants conduct was in fact lawful and therefore unimpeachable.”
Bob Rivernider says that his PSI “number” is 41, and that the prosecution is seeking a 25-30 year sentence, quite plausible given what I know of the Federal Sentencing guidelines (I think my PSI number was 5-6 when I agreed to give up my law license in Texas in August 2000 but I can’t remember exactly anymore). Bob said that Monday, August 26, 2013, was his 48th birthday. He looks a lot older than that, closer to 58 to me—and he’s significantly grayer than when I last saw him in the Spring of 2010.
Listening to Bob talk on Sunday and then again on Monday, seeing the obvious rage in his face and heart, I tend to think that his cause was just and that he should probably try to withdraw his guilty plea (even though that’s very difficult to do) or do an appeal, conditional or otherwise, on the constitutionality of the proceedings. I think that 18 U.S.C. §1343 has been stretched beyond its reasonable limits. Any law or statute becomes “void for vagueness” if stretched too thin, and “fraud” means very little if it is said that every business deal that turns out bad was “fraudulent”—although this is an argument consistent with Obama’s communistic hatred of free enterprise, which always implies reasonable assumption of risk, even in the simplest and most honest businesses.
To hear Rivernider talk, the government’s case against him sounds flimsy and borderline insane, justifiable only by deep-seated hatred and anxiousness to make him (and Ponte and Seneca) suffer for the government-sponsored, bank sponsored rampage of speculation that led to the financial collapse of 2008-2009 AND (not coincidentally) the election of Barack Hussein Obama.
Bob asked me to try to help him promote “the truth” and all I can say is, that’s the best present I know how to give him, and this little write-up is about the best I can do based on the state of my knowledge at this point. I have not defended Bob’s business plan, but I do not think it was inherently or even tangentially fraudulent, because “fraud” implies (and requires) “intent to deceive as to material facts.”
My only truly analytical thought is this: I wonder whether Bob (& Ponte & Lorraine) would have been prosecuted if he (they) had taken out “business liability insurance” which would have covered all losses, like the Government’s FDIC and similar programs, TARP, for instance, to bail out the banks. Does purchasing insurance against likely losses make one more honest or more obviously aware of the likelihood of loss? Would anyone be willing to ensure real estate practices such as those in which the Banks engaged OTHER than the U.S. Government?
Are we so afraid of the “failures of freedom” and free enterprise that we would or should require every business to carry “loss insurance”, or stay out of business? Is that a productive and constructive way to advance science and industry, or to create new wealth? Or should we point our fingers at the banks, as Rivernider, Ponte, and Seneca, were given some sort of authority to do in February 2013, shortly before the pled guilty.
Rivernider says that his defense attorneys hired a psychiatrist to convince him that he did not understand the wrongfulness of his own conduct, due to a psychological “executive function deficit” of some sort, and that he could receive lenity at sentencing by acknowledging his condition. This, again, is a rather extraordinary element of Rivernider’s story. I had never heard of “executive function deficit” before (although it sounds fairly applicable to about half a dozen recent Presidents I can think of, and several dozen current and recent bank Presidents and high officers).
I strongly doubt, however, on listening to him, Bob Rivernider’s “Executive Function” operates at a lower level than, say Orly Taitz’ or Barack Obama’s—unless surviving and doing what you were assigned to do (e.g. Keep Obama immune from Constitutional attack, in Orly’s case, dismantled the U.S. Constitution as a whole, then institute communism, in Obama’s case) is the SOLE test.
Rivernider’s prosecutors seem to have twisted facts and misrepresented circumstances and presented an altered, fractured, reality consistently enough to the Court as to constitute actual “witness tampering” and obstruction of justice (and only coincidentally, I guess, thereby effecting a denial of due process of law). Orly also has twisted facts, misrepresented circumstances, and presented an altered, fractured, reality to MANY courts. Orly has done so quite incompetently, although as noted above, her monotonously consistent incompetence appears to have been her intentional modus operandi and raison d’etre, and Rivernider’s defense attorneys seem to have done something quite similar, or aided and abetted the prosecution to do so.
My friends, as I have written on these pages many times before, do not judge harshly anyone you know or hear of who is prosecuted these days. “Everybody knows that the system’s rotten.” Good people go down every day, and the American jails are filled with innocent people, whom you might be proud to know and happy to have to your home as guests. The American Criminal Justice system is BROKEN, CORRUPT, and needs to be torn down to the ground and rebuilt from the bottom up—if at all.
Perhaps the power to identify, prosecute, and punish criminals should be returned to the people, as it was throughout history, essentially until the 20th century, everywhere.
***”There’s no clearer example of the collusion between government and corporate finance than the Citicorp-Travelers merger, which — thanks to the removal of Glass-Steagall — enabled the formation of the financial behemoth known as Citigroup. But even behemoths are vulnerable; when the meltdown hit, the bank cut more than 50,000 jobs, and the taxpayers shelled out more than $45 billion to save it.” http://billmoyers.com/segment/john-reed-on-big-banks-power-and-influence/