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The Immorality Police (And Their Trusty TV Sidekick)

WFTV's Robert Maxwell: Absolute Tool

Rogue undercover agents manhandling strippers, having sex with informants, allowing an teenaged prostitute to ply her trade on their watch.

Welcome to the world of the Orlando-based Metropolitan Bureau of Investigation. The weekly newspaper in Orlando (which is edited by former New Timeser Bob Whitby and called, appropriately enough, Orlando Weekly), uncovered all kinds of wrongdoing by the MBI and published its findings for all to see.

The agency apparently got its revenge on Friday, arresting three ad executives for aiding and abetting (isn't that redundant?) prostitution. The MBI stung the newspaper, posing its agents as prostitutes to take ads in the newspaper. On its face, the arrest is a sickening abuse of power in the Pulp's book and an obvious revenge tactic. If every newspaper were responsible for everyone's actions who placed ads, there wouldn't be much fish wrapper in this world at all.

Good thing the other media in Orlando understood the vindictive and selective nature of this case, not to mention its assault on the First Amendment, and reported cautiously on the matter. Oh, wait ... no they didn't. This from a must-read response from the Orlando Weekly to the arrests:

On Oct. 19, just as affairs were winding down at the Orlando Weekly Job Fair on the second floor of the Orlando Downtown Marriott, the Metropolitan Bureau of Investigation decided to act on its two-year investigation dubbed “Operation Weekly Shame.”

The day had been going well, with more than 350 job-seekers visiting 17 vendors in hopes of a better career. But just before 1 p.m., a group of five men in black shirts, with “sheriff” printed in yellow down their long sleeves, barged in.

Outside the Marriott local TV news crews hurried to set up their shots. They had been tipped off by the MBI and told when and where to show up. Inside the officers started asking for Weekly classified director Jarrell Martin, who goes by the name Brian, and account executives Katherine Miller and Christopher Whiting. Officers reportedly pointed at the arrest warrants, then stuck them back in their pockets, before coming around the entry tables to grab and handcuff the three newspaper employees. In five minutes they were gone. (All three refused to comment for this story on the advice of counsel).

“They arrested all three of them,” says Weekly classified account executive Erica Dudley. “There were vendors out there looking, job seekers out there looking.”

Account executive Jon Strubel says there were at least 40 people in the lobby who witnessed the fracas.

Miller, Whiting and Martin were each charged with counts of deriving support from the proceeds of prostitution and aiding in the commission of prostitution. All three work selling classified ads.

After the MBI left with their targets, reporters approached the remaining account executives – Dudley, Strubel and Sean Stewart – with insistent questions about their alleged support of prostitution. They did not comment.

“Were you told to say ‘no comment’?” asked Robert Maxwell, a WFTV-Channel 9 reporter. “Off the record, do you condone prostitution?”

“No, we just have no comment,” they replied.

Maxwell dispensed with journalistic ethics altogether and pronounced Martin guilty on the spot. “So why are you selling ads for prostitution when you know it’s illegal?” he shouted as Martin was led to a waiting car. “Care to comment? Anything to say at all?” (Channel 9 managing editor Joel Davis did not respond to calls for comment on Maxwell’s interviewing techniques for this story.)

It was television Orlando viewers have seen again and again: the MBI making a splashy bust, the culmination of an undercover investigation with a catchy name – in this case “Operation Weekly Shame” – with the bad guys led away in handcuffs.

That's Robert Maxwell, folks, from WFTV-Channel 9, representing the worst (and most dangerous) kind of hackdom in the journalism business. What an absolute tool. And that's just the beginning of the story (if you're squeamish about the sight of an undercover agent taking pictures of his own penis, then don't click on the link above).

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Journalist Bob Norman has been raking the muck of South Florida for the past 25 years. His work has led to criminal cases against corrupt politicians, the ouster of bad judges from the bench, and has garnered dozens of state, regional, and national awards.
Contact: Bob Norman

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