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Bruce Wagner
05-21-2004, 07:19 PM
COMMENTARY
If activist turns silent, so will our conscience

5/21/2004

By DONN ESMONDE

Criticize him, call him a wacko, concede that he is obsessive. Just don't try to shut him up. If Dick Kern goes quiet, we all lose a conscience.
We lose the part of ourselves that is more concerned with causes than a career, more about convictions than commitments. Dick Kern has enough conviction for all of us.

He is a zealot who is maddening in his methods - and to some critics, simply mad. He's self-righteous, but usually right.

That's why we should care that he has been in court for three years on a harassment charge that commonly would've died long ago. Or that he hasn't been convicted of any of more than a dozen charges over the past decade. Or that the persistent prosecution, including refiling of dismissed charges, has partly muffled his voice.

Kern's cause is housing for the poor. He loathes a housing authority often criticized for being slow on its feet, stuffed with patronage jobs and partial to the politically connected.

What for others is a frustration is for Kern a crusade. At worst, it spills into personal attacks and unsubstantiated charges in his Internet newsletter. One can defend him even while sympathizing with his targets.

With his haunted eyes and high cheekbones, the silver-haired Kern looks the part of disciple for the downtrodden. He once broke into vacant public housing apartments and invited the homeless to move in. He can't fathom why the BMHA's political appointees don't share his passion for the poor.

Now the afflicter is the afflicted. Kern was in court Tuesday for an order of protection violation related to the moldy, once-dismissed harassment case. Given the turnstile justice common in City Court, the prosecution's persistence is curious. Indeed, Judge Tim Franczyk called it "the Rasputin (case) - you can't kill it, it keeps coming back."

Kern charges that District Attorney Frank Clark is an attack dog for the public officials whom Kern afflicts. Clark denies any persecution in the prosecution.

"Unless I feel there's a reason to question the allegations," said Clark, "the case goes through the system."

But the doggedness of the pursuit invites speculation that there's more to this than due diligence. The chilling thought is aggressive prosecution is being used to silence a tactless activist who annoys public officials. Kern is barred from the BMHA meetings he once haunted and feels beaten down.

"This is destroying what's left of my faith in the system," Kern said. "I studied to be Lutheran minister. I need to believe that things are reformable."

Kern is charged with harassing Charlie Flynn, a BMHA board member and former head of the local Independence Party. Flynn said Kern three years ago came to his private office, constantly phoned and once showed up at his house.

"He (harasses) anybody who doesn't agree with him," said Flynn. "He needs mental counseling."

Kern, in a sworn affidavit, denied going to Flynn's house. He justified the phone calls and office visit, saying Flynn failed to enforce the housing agency's city residency policy.

Former BMHA head Mike Clarke was a frequent Kern target, yet defends him.

"He's annoying, but public officials aren't supposed to get a free ride," said Clarke. "In terms of pointing out problems, he's correct most of the time."

Kern is back in court next week for the next round in the "Rasputin" case.

The longer it drags on, the more you have to wonder if the aim is justice, or silence.

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This is a case I have been working on for some time. I would be interested if others have had similar situations where public figures who have been criticized in the press have filed bogus charges against the author and had the charges pursued by the DA. Let me know.

Bruce Wagner, LPI
Omnscient Investigations

Dabra J Grant -
05-22-2004, 01:40 PM
Just a quick, but this is happening at all levels in great numbers. Thank you for bringing it out into the light and to where it can bring awareness. The end goal is silence. I'll be back when time permits, but a friend of mine has been "gagged by google" and a Senatorial hopefull in WA state is not being allowed to attend the Republican convention here. Later on this.

Bruce Wagner
01-03-2005, 01:51 PM
I've seen a bunch of you have viewed this thread so I'll give you an update. The local city criminal trial progressed today with jury selection. It just so happened that the jury pool was not suited to sit a city jury so the trial is further delayed. This was good for our side because we can now press the US Second Circuit for an expedited ruling in order to make the city trial moot. We are also pursuing a state stay. I cannot believe the waste of resources by the DA's office not to mention the cost to my client over a misdemeanor case. Talk about your "Much Ado About Nothing". I'll keep you posted.

Bruce Wagner
01-03-2005, 01:58 PM
I almost forgot. Last month my client was outside the area where a Buffalo Municipal Housing Authority meeting was held. When the meeting was finished, a vehicle nearly struck my client who was forced to jump up onto the curb. Guess who witnesses identified as the driver. Yes, you guessed it, the complaintant in the criminal matter. Now he is facing harrassment charges of his own. If the first amendment issues were not important as well as the waste of public funds and my client's money, this would be high comedy.

Bruce Wagner
01-03-2005, 02:11 PM
One last piece of information not in the article. The criminal complaintant, Charles J. Flynn Jr. was convicted of criminal tampering in 1994, prosecuted by none other than the District Attorney's office who claims the charges have merit. It seems that Mr. Flynn, after being released from his postition at a real estate firm, called up the electrical utility posing as the firm's owner and had the power shut off to the office. Mr. Flynn denied placing the call but the utility had him on tape. He was spared jail time and ordered to undergo psychological counseling.

Bruce Wagner
04-18-2005, 01:45 PM
Here's the final article. My client can finally stop paying legal bills!

Bruce Wagner, LPI
Omniscient Investigations

Copyright 2005 The Buffalo News
Buffalo News (New York)

April 10, 2005 Sunday
FIRST EDITION

SECTION: LOCAL; Pg. B3

LENGTH: 240 words

HEADLINE: HOUSING ACTIVIST TO GET DISMISSAL OF CHARGES

BODY:

Buffalo housing activist Richard Kern, who has moved to Minneapolis, was
granted a delayed dismissal of the latest of more than a dozen criminal cases
filed by prosecutors after complaints from by local officials.

Last week, acting Buffalo City Court Judge Philip M. Marshall granted Kern,
65, an adjournment in contemplation of dismissal on harassment, aggravated
harassment, stalking and criminal contempt charges.

At the request of Erie County District Attorney Frank J. Clark, the judge
also got Kern to agree to withdraw his request to reinstitute a federal suit
accusing Clark of false arrest.

Marshall also got Kern to agree not to to refile a criminal
complaint against
Charles Flynn, a member of the Buffalo Municipal Housing Authority board of
commissioners, or launch a civil suit against him.

At the request of prosecutor Michael J. McHale, the judge also ordered Kern
to refrain from contacting Flynn in any way for three months.

Marshall told Kern that, if he follows orders for the three months, his
latest criminal case -- the 13th filed against him here since the
late 1990s --
would be dismissed.

McHale told the judge the district attorney agreed to the unusually short,
three-month waiting period before dismissing the case because Kern
had moved to
Minneapolis.

After the court session, Kern again complained about the failure of the
district attorney and federal agencies to investigate his allegations of
wrongdoing by Flynn.

Jerome O Isaac--
04-25-2005, 12:50 PM
Greetings Bruce, I too would like to say thanks for posting this article for us newcomers, like me, Dabra has said it best with the quotes below.


But this is happening at all levels in great numbers.


Thank you for bringing it out into the light and to where it can bring awareness. The end goal is silence.

I wish you all the best with this assignment.

Have a great day.