Tilting at Titans
Baltimore man sues Justice Department and The Washington Post
Published: November 10, 2010
What does William C. Bond do when he feels backed against a wall, armed only with evidence of alleged wrongdoing by members of Maryland’s federal bench and bar? He sues pro se—that is, without the aid of an attorney.
In September, the 46-year-old Baltimorean filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for Washington, D.C., accusing the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) of civil-rights violations for not pursuing his public-corruption allegations after initially opening an investigation. Bond also sued The Washington Post and one of its writers for fraud, intentional infliction of emotion distress, and civil-rights violations for publishing a scathing portrait of him after allegedly leading him to believe the article would focus on his legal crusade. He seeks $28 million from the Post and $35 million from the DOJ, plus a judge’s order that the department’s inspector general open a probe into the prosecutorial failings Bond alleges in Maryland.
Bond claims in his complaint that Post journalist Manuel Roig-Franzia entered into verbal agreements with Bond on a number of issues regarding an article that, with Bond’s cooperation, would focus on his crusade to expose the misdeeds of members of the Free State’s legal establishment. But Roig-Franzia wrote something else entirely. The piece—titled “A Killer’s Charmed Life,” published on May 31, 2009—only mentioned Bond’s robe-lifting efforts in a buried, two-sentence parenthetical. Instead, the article profiled Bond at length, describing his well-heeled life in Maryland since accepting a plea deal as a juvenile in Ohio for bludgeoning his father to death with a hammer in 1981.
An e-mail to Roig-Franzia seeking comment elicited a response from the Washington Post’s communications manager, Jennifer Lee, who said the Post “does not comment on pending litigation.” Kevin Hardy, the attorney for the Post and Roig-Franzia, did not respond to an e-mail or a phone call. The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Maryland also did not respond, but has a policy of not commenting on pending legal matters to which it is a party.
Bond, though, e-mailed a lengthy statement about his case. It does not mention the Post or Roig-Franzia, but focuses entirely on the “‘cover up’” he alleges occurred among “a bevy” of judges who comprise the “‘in group’” in Maryland legal circles; on the “silence” of The Baltimore Sun for “ignoring high level corruption in the US District Court” in Maryland; and on the DOJ for being “too afraid or lazy” to prosecute that corruption.
Bond’s 26-page complaint does not name the judges and lawyers he accuses of improprieties. They were left out, Bond explains, because he decided to give them “more courtesy in this matter than they ever gave me.” He adds, though, that “soon, at deposition, their identities and words will become well known” and that “it is still not too late” for them to “confess and repent for their very poor conduct.”
That alleged conduct is spelled out in the complaint, which sets forth a narrative beginning in 2001, when Bond learned that a copy of an unpublished book he had written, titled Self-Portrait of a Patricide, had been “stolen” by his adversaries in a child-custody case. He sued in federal court, seeking its return and to prevent any further unauthorized use, but lost. When he appealed, he lost again.
So, the complaint continues, Bond turned to the state courts, and the ensuing litigation over the manuscript turned up evidence and sworn admissions of perjury, withholding subpoenaed documents, and attorney and judicial misconduct during the federal litigation. In 2004, Bond made this information the basis of a federal criminal complaint to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Maryland, where the chief of the criminal division took immediate notice, since some of the players in the misconduct Bond was complaining of had previously been prosecuted by the office.
The criminal-division chief told Bond “he would be the Government’s ‘star witness’ in their forthcoming prosecution,” the complaint states, and also said “the venue of the case would have to be moved from Maryland because of the political stature of the future defendants. It was clear that the Government planned to go after the US District Judge and the prominent attorneys involved as well as the actors whom the Government had once convicted and/or fined.” The prosecutor was concerned about Bond’s “juvenile past,” though, and said Bond’s allegations “could not be the sole basis for their public corruption prosecution” in order to prevent the case from becoming “a ‘zoo.’”
The expected criminal prosecution of Bond’s allegations quickly tanked, though, when then-U.S. Attorney for Maryland, Thomas DiBiagio, lost his job in late 2004. Months later, the complaint explains, Bond received a letter from the U.S. Attorney’s Office saying the case was being abandoned. Bond pressed the office to reconsider, but was rebuffed.
So Bond went on the attack, filing pro se lawsuits against the players in the case involving the manuscript for “fraud upon the court,” the complaint states, and suing the U.S. Attorney’s Office to obtain its “‘final report’” of the investigation. These two cases also failed in district court and on appeal. In a last-ditch effort, in late 2008 and early 2009 Bond appealed the matters to the U.S. Supreme Court—and he contacted the Washington Post to publicize what he’d uncovered and the lengths he’d had to go to in seeking justice. “The Washington Post quickly agreed,” Bond’s complaint states, and Bond hoped the coverage would be published prior to the Supreme Court deciding whether or not it would consider his appeal.
Roig-Franzia had already written about Bond, without his cooperation, back in 2001 when the child-custody case was in play. That piece, Bond’s complaint states, “essentially was a take-down piece complaining about how” Bond “was living large as a free man in Maryland,” despite murdering his father. In order to assure that this time it would be different, Bond’s complaint says he gained an agreement from Roig-Franzia that “the story had to focus on [Bond’s] long legal battle to reclaim his stolen manuscripts culminating in the US Supreme Court litigation and [Bond’s] complaints of corruption in the Maryland Federal Court and discrimination against his person because of his juvenile record.”
In the ensuing months, as Roig-Franzia was working to get the piece published, Bond’s petitions to the Supreme Court were denied. But Bond made the news when the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Maryland filed court papers that did not object to Bond’s motion to unseal portions of the record in the corruption case against former State Sen. Thomas Bromwell, who pleaded guilty in 2007, and others.
Bond sought to unseal records he believed would shed light on “issues of either ‘attorney disqualification’ or ‘prosecutorial misconduct’ alleged in the case,” in which two attorneys—one of whom had figured in Bond’s litigation over the stolen manuscript—swapped defendants and were ultimately disqualified shortly before jury selection was set to begin. Bond’s motion was denied, both at the district court and appellate levels, despite filings by the U.S. Attorney’s Office stating it had no objection to unsealing the records.
When the Washington Post piece was finally published in late May 2009, Bond was “very surprised and humiliated,” his complaint states, since the article “completely recreated the 2001 Washington Post story” and “was not even remotely close to what” Bond had “agreed to cooperate with by the agreement” with Roig-Franzia. Bond contacted the paper’s ombudsman, who “agreed” that “a correction was in order,” the complaint states, “but the reporter refused to make any adjustments to the story.” (Disclosure: Bond has met with City Paper Editor Lee Gardner to discuss his advice column/web site Dear Bill.)
Perhaps the most surprising part of Bond’s complaint is its assertion that he had two meetings in the summer of 2010 with “the sitting US Fourth Circuit Judge” who had denied Bond’s appeals in the manuscript litigation. Of the “many things” this judge told Bond, the complaint states, “of most note” is the contention that DiBiagio lost his job as U.S. Attorney “in part, because of Plaintiff’s very case,” which prompted “powerful interests in the DOJ” to decide “they were not going to prosecute a federal judge and important attorneys in Baltimore’s close-knit legal establishment for the complaints of a juvenile killer.”
Bond calls DiBiagio “totally right and a hero. I find it ironic indeed that a ‘country club of federal judges’ was involved in his ouster.” A message left with DiBiagio at his law office was not returned.
Noting appearances of improprieties due to social connections among district and appellate judges, as well as between them and prominent attorneys, Bond adds that, “clearly, it is time that the DOJ gave the Maryland judiciary the same scrutiny it gives the executive and legislative branches” of government, because “the idea that there is not a criminal element in the federal judiciary or that they can supervise themselves is absurd.”
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