ON MARCH 10, just a few hours after the Saint Paul Pioneer Press broke a barn burner about academic fraud in the University of Minnesota's basketball program, Off Beat received an anonymous tip from a reporter at the Newspaper of the Twin Cities. The gist of his message was that the Strib'sPaul McEnroe had spent his morning storming through the newsroom whining about how he could've nailed that same scoop two years earlier had editor Tim McGuire not killed the story.Then Off Beat learned that the American Journalism Review had received a similar tip and was going to run a story about the flap. When we called to get the scuttlebutt, McEnroe's investigative partner Chris Ison acknowledged that in the spring and summer of 1997, while looking into allegations of sexual assault against former Gopher Courtney James, he and McEnroe had come across documents suggesting academic problems in coach Clem Haskins's program. He also confirmed that higher-ups at his paper were not enthused about following up. "There was some internal discussion and some disagreement about how good a story might've come from what we'd gathered," Ison told us. "and we just ended up moving on to other stories." Were there bad feelings about the decision? At that point Ison referred us to McEnroe, who took the opportunity to deliver a lecture on the ABCs of journalism, denying he'd thrown a tantrum, insisting AJR had nothing worth phoning home about, and challenging us to "do the right thing" and not sensationalize a rumor. Now, having read this month's AJR piece, Off Beat wonders whether McEnroe delivered the same stern words to the magazine, which quotes him exercising a great deal of 20/20 hindsight. "When we saw the Saint Paul Pioneer Press story...I was extremely impressed, and I was extremely jealous at the same time," AJR has McEnroe saying. "I felt like...we would've gotten there too." He felt "something way beyond the definition of frustration"when his editors didn't go for the Gophers story back in '97, he adds, speculating that maybe top brass didn't want their paper to be perceived as "piling on" Haskins's embattled program. Oh, and his is not a case of "sour grapes"; he was just disappointed that the competition had "legitimized" a story he'd been poised to pursue. Will McEnroe's bosses think he "did the right thing" by spouting off to the national press? Excuse us while we check our voice mail.
Adding Insult to Insult
SEEMS MINNEAPOLIS CITY officials aren't satisfied with having made Dennis Williams's life miserable for five years by blocking his attempts to get a menial job on the city payroll, or with keeping him in jail for six months on charges that he threatened public employees (see Beth Hawkins's February 10 cover story, "Rage Against the Machine," and the April 28 followup, "Menace No More"). Three weeks after a Hennepin County jury acquitted Williams, who was jailed after asking his doctors to help him get rid of violent thoughts, city attorneys are gearing up for another round in court. Last week Assistant City Attorney Karen Herland notified Williams's lawyer that the city wants to extend a six-month-old restraining order barring Williams from visiting the city's Human Resources department or having contact with three of its workers. In the letter, Herland wrote that she hoped to have the order extended for the maximum allowable time (two years, under Minnesota law); she now tells Off Beat she hasn't decided whether to pursue the matter. Williams's attorney, former chief Hennepin County Public Defender Bill Kennedy, says his client plans to fight the extension by arguing that there is "no factual basis for it. [Williams] was acquitted of making any threats." If the city insists upon going ahead with a May 17 hearing on the issue, Kennedy adds, he will "subpoena everybody and put them under oath and, so help me God, we'll have another trial." The Minneapolis Park Board also requested a restraining order against Williams last fall; its attorney did not return Off Beat's calls.
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