Mike Vandeman is an unlikely crusader for the environment against the scofflaw mountain bikers who ignore restriction signs on vulnerable trails and thereby cause soil erosion that can take generations to recover, and is dangerous to the intended users of these trails. On 11 April in Oakland in California he was sentenced to thirty days on a Sheriff’s Work Party, which most likely means picking up litter in an orange jumpsuit. Since he already spent eight days in a cell on remand, he’ll serve 22 days.
Vandeman was in the first instance accused of attacking mountain bikers with a saw. This is a laughable story. Vandeman has spent years writing letters about his passion, the walking trails of Northern California. He has no history of violence, and zero criminal record. He is a mild-mannered retired academic with a doctorate in psychology, and a successful polemicist. He doesn’t need violence to discomfit a bunch of stumble-tongue scofflaws.
Anyone who has paid attention can see that this old man, who merely wants mountain bikers to respect the environment and the law, was clearly railroaded on fabricated evidence. The amount of evidence the court threw out, and that the jury didn’t believe, is staggering. The accusations on which the charges are made were brought months after the alleged events. The key charge is that Vandeman attacked mountain bikers with a saw. We see no photographs of wounds, no scars, and the supposedly damaged bicycle tire couldn’t be produced.
So Mike Vandeman is sentenced on the word of a bunch of mountain bikers who came forward months after the incidents they alleged, motivated by an emotional upsweep attendant on allegations on which eventually Vandeman was found innocent. This has all the hallmarks of a conspiracy; it is the word of highly committed mountain biking fanatics against a lone crusader for the environment. It’s a classic railroad job.
What Mike Vandeman is in fact convicted of is of being unpopular in the mountain biking community for standing up for the law and the environment.
The only “reporting” on this travesty of justice is by Peter Frick-Wright.
Frick-Wright’s reports are so one-sided, we never heard that Vandeman’s accusers are a bunch of scofflaws, environment-wreckers, and erosion generators, all riding on trails clearly forbidden to them, and that the DA and the court stopped some of them giving “evidence” because they were clearly committing perjury. Why do you think the jury declined to believe so many of these charges?
Peter Frick-Wright is on to a good thing in the Vandeman case. In his own words,
“I’m going to be turning this trial into a short graphic novel with artist Pyar Anderson, and writing a more complete and carefully told version of this story for BIKE Magazine. Not that I’ve been holding back important things learned outside the courtroom, (I totally have, and they’re juicy. I’m sorry.) but I needed to have some limits so I could offer something new in those stories.”
So, all along this mercenary liar has been shaping the story to suit his money-making ventures. “Juicy.” This isn’t journalism, this is a sick travesty of reporting.
Here’s an example of Peter Frick-Wright’s shameless mendacity. We have, on the one hand, the reality of an old man, Michael Vandeman, stumblng into the path of mountainbikers illegally on a path, carrying his little trail-marking saw. Now watch Frick-Fright turning it into something he can use in his graphic novel, in short, turn a trial report (where we have a right to expect certain standards of veracity) into a lie.
“…on my way to the courthouse this morning, I witnessed something that gave me a better understanding of the charges—and now the verdicts that the jury reached this afternoon.
“About halfway to the courthouse, I stopped to watch a fight developing at a bus stop across the street. I didn’t see what started it, but it was between a smallish guy in sweatpants and a guy in a long black trench coat. It was just a bunch of yelling at first; it seemed they were going to go their separate ways. But as they separated, some comment sparked more. They turned back at each other and kept shouting, and Trench Coat pulled a weapon.
“Or, he tried to. Trench Coat had to check three pockets before he found the one with the knife, but once it was out I could see it glinting in the sun across four lanes of traffic.
“He held it down by his side, arm straight, maybe eight inches from his body—exactly the same position that witnesses described Vandeman holding the screwdriver.
“It was not an imminent threat to the other guy’s life, but it sent a message. Sweatpants could keep yelling, but he had to do it from 10 to 12 feet away. Trench Coat didn’t have to say anything.”
This is reporting? It is an outright, manufactured lie, in which Frick-Wright segues casually from old man Vandeman with his little trail-marking saw (already become a screwdriver!) to Vandeman the maniac who brings a knife with the intention of threatening mountainbikers with it. And Frick-Wright is so poorly trained, and so biased, and so smug, that he cannot see that what he’s doing right out in the open should disqualify him from reporting on the trial.
If BIKE Magazine publishes anything from this Peter Frick-Wright, and does not prominently label it personal and biased opinion, they will be committing a crime against journalistic ethics. Any attempt to put forward as reporting anything this greedy man Frick-Wright writes will be as despicable as he is.
One must also wonder what makes Frick-Wright think he’s a writer. Compare this:
“You could call the sentence a slap on the wrist, but it may be even less than that”
with this, a single sentence away:
“Twenty-two days on a work crew is no picnic”.
Which is it, Mr Frick-Wright, a slap on the wrist or no picnic? Or is it 50 cents each way on a sure thing, because you don’t know how to put your mind in gear? Or has your lipsmacking gloating so affected your judgment that you cannot remember what you wrote a single sentence earlier?
Peter Frick-Wright is a blot on an already adequately disgraced profession.