Felony Case is Settled
Spring 2000 issue of this magazine contained an
account of the felony prosecution against me of taking bathtub
pictures of my now-9-year-old daughter.
that issue went to press, we were in negotiations with the Lorain
County Prosecutor's office to try to avert going to trial. The
prosecutor, Greg White, had been convinced to enter into negotiations
by a town which, in professor Marc Blecher's words, "turned
itself inside out and upside down in an act of communitarian
solidarity and heroism that should be the envy of the rest of
the country." People petitioned, protested, jammed phone lines
with calls, held a benefit concert and a candlelight vigil,
and ultimately convinced Prosecutor White to meet with a delegation,
a meeting which led to the negotiations.
result was a Diversion Agreement. The good news is that my family
is spared the ordeal of a prolonged criminal prosecution, and
our daughter (who was at the top of the prosecutor's witness
list) will not have to take the stand. The bad news is that
I had to agree that the prosecutor could destroy two of my photographs,
had to state publicly that these two photographs could be interpreted
as "sexually oriented," and had to agree to participate in six
months of counseling.
retrospect, this is not so much my story as it is Oberlin's
story. We feel that it is a story that needs to be told, and
the question became the venue in which to tell it. Although
we were besieged by national media, we limited interviews to
four local papers. All media were invited to a gathering on
Monday April 17, 2000, at which I could speak publicly for the
first time and thank my supporters.
following is taken from my remarks that evening:
daughter is wise. There are people who have told me that she
is an 'old soul.' I think she will be able to make her way
through the tangled web of contradictions that fate has handed
her. And once again her community came through, this time
to guide her. I have loved the qualified congratulations you
have given us. Having you recognize the enormity of what I
had to give up has eased the pain of giving it up, and those
have helped my daughter navigate and make sense of the events
that have swirled around us.
had no joy in the resolution to this case; it had come at
too great a cost. Then a funny thing happened.
I received another gift from my community. Your joy and your
relief have become mine."
Spring issue listed several Oberlin alumni who supported us.
There are literally hundreds of other college staff, administrators,
faculty, and Obies who contributed money, time, and energy.
To everyone who helped us, my family is deeply grateful. You
note: Cynthia Stewart submitted a list of donors she wished
to thank for their support. Space limitations did not allow
us to publish the hundreds of names, but each one will be acknowledged
personally by the Defense Fund Committee.
too, am one of the many admirers and former students of Professor
Bongiorno. Others may champion Freddy Artz or Barry McGill or
William Kennick, but when you say "Oberlin professor" to me,
I immediately think of Andrew Bongiorno. I studied only sophomore
literature with him, but with the wisdom of hindsight, I wish
I had taken more of his classes. I never had to cram for a final
exam because I had learned what I needed to know along the way,
in class. When I think of Hollywood's image of a good teacher--someone
who dramatizes his material, is very dynamic, entertaining,
witty, enthralling, etc.,--they wouldn't know what to make of
Professor Bongiorno: quiet, even stiff, polite, not at all showy,
I don't recall his ever cracking a joke, but he could explain
important ideas in ways that you got it! And he was always respectful
of his students. That's a good teacher.
Ward's memoir. Thank you for that.
was greatly moved by Andrew Ward's article, "In
Memory of Andrew Bongiorno." I took literary criticism
with Professor Bongiorno and felt that it was one of the most
important courses I ever took. In fact, I was there when he
entered the room for his last class before retiring. He stood
before us and said that because it was his last class he would
not lecture but just say goodbye, and we could leave whenever
we wished. We all stood up and gave him a standing ovation
as he left the room. It was an unforgettable moment. He was
one of the great teachers, those who made Oberlin a special
Doggett Smith '65
Valley, New York
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