Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Those black eyes

Krauze over at Telic Thoughts has sought to defend Mirecki in a post titled Those black eyes. I thoroughly support him doing so, and I have from the beginning said that it is possible that Mirecki's story, though implausible, could nevertheless be true. I normally would not have commented (bold and in square brackets) on Krauze's post except he seems to be commenting on a point that I made about Mirecki not getting the number plate of his assailants' vehicle.

Those black eyes
Posted in Media on December 10th, 2005 by Krauze

Blogs and news service are buzzing with speculation regarding the reported assault on Kansas University's Paul Mirecki, with some suggesting that Mirecki isn't telling the whole story. While I believe there are good reasons to be skeptical, I also think that some of the arguments offered are far from convincing. [It is not just critics who are suggesting that Mirecki isn't telling the whole story, it is also those best in a position to know, including the police, who according to Mirecki himself, are treating him "like a criminal", seizing his car and computer:

He said he was not pleased with the sheriff’s investigation because he had been "treated more like a criminal than a victim." He said he was interviewed by officers several times, "once for five hours straight. They keep asking me the same things over and over. They seized my car; they entered my office and seized my computer. They said they need them for their investigation but it didn’t make any sense to me."
Also, Kansas University, instead of supporting Mirecki's story, the day after the alleged beating, his own colleagues demanded his resignation and Chancellor Hemenway is saying only that Mirecki "was apparently attacked"!]

For example, some people find it just a little too convenient that Mirecki didn't get the number plates of his attackers' car. I find it perfectly believable. The attack was reported to have taken place a 6:20 in the morning, at which time it would have been too dark to read the plates. And even if it had been bright daylight, I wouldn't blame a man who's getting over the chock of being physically assaulted for not remembering to check such a thing. [If this was referring to me, it is not my main point, which was about why Mirecki's assailants would park their vehicle so close that Mirecki could read their number plate:

Why would Mirecki's assailants park their vehicle so close that Mirecki could read its number plate? Remember, Mirecki says above that, "two men in a large pickup truck began tailgating him and he pulled over" and that "they pulled up real close behind." So Mirecki could have read their number plate and given a detailed description of the vehicle, but did not. Maybe Mirecki was too dazed to do this, but his assailants were not to know this.
That is, my emphasis was not on whether Mirecki could read the number plate, but on the fact that his attackers' would not know that he could not. Unless his alleged assailants planned to kill Mirecki, they could not guarantee that he would not get their number plate. Maybe they turned off their vehicle's lights, but Mirecki did not say that. Besides, according to this article, the area in which Mirecki claims he was beaten had "well-lit streets":
Mirecki lives in a subdivision about two miles south of the Lawrence campus. Given the time of day, around 6 a.m., and the place of Mirecki's residence, skeptics are hoping that the Douglas County Sheriffs ask Mirecki to which breakfast establishment he was driving. Most places open at that time of day and would be in Lawrence proper. Mirecki's trip to town is all along well-lit streets.
However, Lawrence Journal-World has a video which was shot apparently in the area at the same time and if so, while there appear to be no street lights, there is quite a bit of pre-dawn light. Also, remember that Mirecki could see well enough to know that he did not know the men, that they were "between ages 30 and 40" and what they were wearing:
"I didn’t know them, but I’m sure they knew me," he said. ... The sheriff’s department is looking for the suspects, described as two white males between ages 30 and 40, one wearing a red visor and wool gloves, and both wearing jeans. They were last seen in a large pickup truck.]

The second example is related to the first. I've heard many people express incredulity that Mirecki only called the police once he arrived at the hospital, rather than as the crooks drove away, giving the police a chance to hunt them down. It's easy, sitting in front of the computer monitor, to reason out what you would have done and said in a situation. But if Mirecki was assaulted, I can't blame him for being shocked and confused, and acting less than 100% rationally. [The point was made in one of the articles (and also in the same video above) that Mirecki had two different accounts of where he phoned the police from:

Also, there was conflicting information about whether Mirecki reported it at the scene or at the hospital. In an interview Monday with the Journal-World, he said he called police from the side of the road, but sheriff’s officials said they were dispatched to the hospital. Mirecki declined to clarify the discrepancy when asked about it Tuesday outside the sheriff’s office. "I can; I just don't want to," he said.
There is BTW an additional problem. According to Mirecki's police report, he reported the beating to police 20 minutes after it began:
The sheriff's report, which is classified as an aggravated battery, says that Mirecki suffered minor injuries. It says the incident started about 6:20 a.m. and was reported about 6:40 a.m.
Now, according to this map (which has to be zoomed out), the hospital is some distance (there is no scale) from the area given by Mirecki:
Key facts about the reported attack remained unclear Tuesday, including exactly where it happened. A report released by the Douglas County Sheriff's Office said the location was "unknown" and listed it as south of 31st Street on either East 1400 Road or East 1500 Road. Louisiana Street turns into East 1400 Road outside the city limits. Haskell Avenue becomes East 1500 Road.
and presumably there are many traffic lights in between? It would be interesting for someone in Lawrence to run a test to see how long it takes to get from the area mentioned by Mirecki to the hospital. I suspect it would take a lot longer than the ~15 minutes Mirecki would have left after the beating to get to the hospital. If so, then again Mirecki could just have been mistaken about the time, but the more these discrepancies mount up, the more the suspicions increase that he is not telling the truth, especially when he declines to clarify them. Why not? Those who have nothing to hide have no need, nor reason, to not "want to" clear up such discrepancies. But those who are not telling the truth have every reason to not say anything further in case they make matters worse. I still remember a wise boss of mine from the 1960's observing that one of the great things about telling the truth, is that you don't have to remember what you said!]

Finally, some find it suspicious that, after having allegedly been attacked with a metal object, Mirecki had so few bruises that his class barely noticed them. Mike just posted a link to an article with this picture of Mirecki. [This discrepancy was evident in Mirecki's original story and was what first made me suspicious, that after being beaten by two men with "a metal object" (note the vagueness again) all that Mirecki had to show for it was "some bruises and sore spots":

He said the men beat him about the upper body with their fists, and he said he thinks they struck him with a metal object. He was treated and released at Lawrence Memorial Hospital. "I’m mostly shaken up, and I got some bruises and sore spots," he said.
What was this (again unspecified) "metal object"? An iron bar or a tool like a spanner or a hammer, or a golf club? Whatever, you don't attack someone with "a metal object unless you intend to cause serious injury. Indeed, it would be difficult not to. I would have thought that being beaten by "two men ... with a metal object", being struck "repeatedly on the head, shoulders and back" even for only "about one minute":
Mirecki said two men beat him for about one minute with a metal object, striking him repeatedly on the head, shoulders and back.
would produce far more injuries than just "some bruises and sore spots" and "a broken tooth" (see below). Yet Mirecki's police report says that on a scale of 1 to 5, his "Type of Injury" was only a 1, with an "m" (presumably for "minor") added. Note BTW how Mirecki's story has changed, with the "metal object" being demoted from the sole proximate cause of Mirecki's injuries, to just a bit player, mentioned only as an afterthought: "the men beat him about the upper body with their fists, and he said he thinks they struck him with a metal object" (my emphasis)!

There are other problems with Mirecki's story. He originally claimed in the student newspaper, The University Daily Kansan, to have suffered a broken tooth in the beating:

Mirecki said he spent between three and four hours at Lawrence Memorial Hospital, where he received X-Rays and a CAT-scan. He said he suffered a broken tooth but didn’t specify other injuries he may have sustained.
But as far as I can see, he has not claimed that since, and the only news articles that I have seem which mentioned it, CBS, Topeka Capital-Journal, and Wichita Eagle, all cite the Daily Kansan as their source. As far as I am aware, the main newspaper covering the story, Lawrence Journal-World, has never mentioned Mirecki's broken tooth. I find this to be really strange, since a broken tooth is tangible proof of a beating, and you would think Mirecki would be mentioning it constantly, instead of only once. Maybe he has realized that you don't get a broken tooth from a beating without severe bruising and/or broken skin around the mouth and Mirecki does not have that. Remember that Mirecki's wife, Amy Beecher-Mirecki is a public relations consultant at KU, so there is a limit in what Mirecki can say, without her knowing it to be false. There is also another problem, in that all the photos I have seen of Mirecki, except the one above where he is showing his black eyes, he is wearing glasses. Mirecki claimed that "the beating began almost instantly":
Mirecki said the beating began almost instantly. The men punched him about the head and shoulders and struck him with a metal object, he said.
so what happened to his glasses which should have been between Mirecki's face and the assailants' fists and "metal object"?]

Those black marks you're seeing aren't black eyes, but are collections of blood underneath the skin. An acquaintance of mine had similar marks when she passed out, hitting a kitchen sink on the way down. Such marks require considerably more force to produce than a simple punch to the face can account for, but are consistent with someone having been hit with a heavy object, say, made of metal. Another thing to note is that it takes a couple of days for the blood to accumulate, explaining why it wasn't more visible when Mirecki taught his class, later that day. [Most critics (including me) do not deny that Mirecki sustained what he said, "some bruises" which was sufficient for the hospital to give him X-Rays and a CAT-scan (although again, that is only mentioned in the University Daily Kansan) and for the police to classify them as "minor injuries." But that someone has two black eyes and a bruise on their arm (which is all that can be verified), does not necessarily mean that he was beaten up by "two men ... for about one minute with a metal object, striking him repeatedly on the head, shoulders and back", which was his original claim. Indeed, I still maintain that they are inconsistent with that claim (Krauze's opinion notwithstanding), and presumably the police, who would be the experts in that field, think so too, since on Mirecki's own admission they are now treating him "more like a criminal than a victim"!

BTW, if Krauze's "acquaintance" really did have "similar marks when she passed out, hitting a kitchen sink on the way down," then maybe that is the true explanation of what happened to Mirecki? That is in fact one of my alternative explanations, Mirecki "had an accident (e.g. fell over) or got into a fight, sustaining minor injuries."

However, again, notwithstanding that I (and presumably Mirecki's colleagues and administration at KU, and the police) find Mirecki's story to be implausible, I accept that it is possible that he was attacked by Christian fundamentalists in retaliation for his comments like:

"The fundies want it [intelligent design] all taught in a science class, but this will be a nice slap in their big fat face by teaching it as a religious studies class under the category 'mythology'"
and that the culprits will be caught, completely vindicating Mirecki (indeed, making him a hero!). But perhaps the strangest thing about this whole case is that Mirecki himself does not seem to believe that is going to happen, but rather he is resigned to the fact that "his career was ruined" and "At this point, I just want this to be over" (not "I just want the police to catch the culprits"):
Mirecki said his career was ruined and that "speaking engagements that I had lined up now have been canceled." ... At this point, I just want this to be over."
That sounds like the resignation of someone who knows that the police will never catch the culprits, because they don't exist, at least as described by him. Indeed, even if Mirecki continued as a tenured Professor of Religious Studies, who "had received more than 2,500 e-mails and letters from academics around the world supporting him", that hardly warrants Mirecki's claim that "his career was ruined". That is, unless Mirecki knows that his claim is a hoax hate-crime for which he is likely to be prosecuted.]

Stephen E. Jones, BSc (Biol).
"Problems of Evolution"

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