In February 2022, Binghamton, New York police charged brothers Yaron Kweller and Leor Kweller with rape in the third degree; a class E felony, 42, and Jordan Ringden with criminal sale of a controlled substance in the third degree; a class B felony and criminal sale of a controlled substance in the fifth degree; a class D felony based on allegations made by two women stemming from a gathering on November 27, 2021.
We cannot undermine the importance of protecting victims and understanding how difficult it is for people who have been through trauma to come forward. It is also as important for due process and the rule of law to be at the heart of any investigation and public accusations. It is admittedly, a difficult balancing act – how do you ensure equity and fairness, justice for a victim and for the accused at the same time, while managing public expectations and political pressures.
The @Metoo movement enabled people who had no voice to be heard, but it also made it possible to cause malice and harm to those accused when the allegations are false. Traditional media and social media alike have hit some of those wrongfully accused like a tidal wave, as pressure to protect a movement became more important than protecting the innocent. Some public officials, those who care more about popular opinion than facts and law, have become as complicit as the media in this when it is convenient. We once abided by what is known as the Blackstone Ratio, “It is better that ten guilty persons escape than that one innocent suffers” Now, unfortunately, for what I am certain are many good and bad reasons alike, there is a significant part of society that feels it is more important to let an innocent man suffer if that means more truly guilty men go to prison.
Last week, in the ongoing case in Broome County, New York, the defendants moved for the dismissal of their charges. They argue that prosecutors have withheld exculpatory Brady evidence and have acted overzealously in their attribution to the @MeToo movement. In this case, it just might be true.
Leor and Yaron Kweller have maintained their innocence since first charged, and recent evidence suggests that indeed they may not have been involved in the alleged crime.
According to court documents, a DNA test has confirmed
that neither Kweller could have been involved, and that in fact, two “other samples” were present. Additionally, and even more substantial, are messages between the alleged victims
have been revealed, detailing a plan to set these people up. The messages were detailed and do not paint a sympathetic picture of the accusers. The evidence was only obtained through various attempts at discovery and Broome County District Attorney Mike Korchak, who is running for reelection this Spring, was fighting to prevent the defense lawyers from seeing it.
The motion in redacted form is attached here
. It is worth a read, as anyone who sees might appreciate why DA Korchak tried to squash it. These are just some of the messages between the accusers:
- “okay so i’m slightly panicking at work because i was just reading my texts from the day after the incident and i said to XXXX that it was consensual and that I knew what was happening. but the whole day after the incident i was questioning if i got raped and I thought it might be classified as consensual because i didn’t say no.”
- “Trust me I was panicking too [about the text messages] Bc i said in the group chat that night “I’d fuck”
- “i told him i said it was consensual”
- “i’m just worried that I said more than once it was consensual”
- “i said something about it being consensual”
- “I just don’t XXX’s parents to judge me for saying it was consensual”
- “I’ve deleted all my posts and changed my user name to no last night and trying to delete all my republishes”
- “I’m settling for nothing Less then a million”
- “I don’t want anyone to know….” “And it was consensual. I knew what was happening. But those guys should be fucking disgusted with themselves.”
- “I want the Benz and the Beamer” “And both their houses” “I want all their bars . . .”
The case against Yaron Kweller has been clouded with a rush to judgment and political motivations from the prosecutors. The prosecution has been heavily influenced by the movement, leading them to act overzealously and to try and withhold exculpatory evidence. It is a wanton disregard for justice in favor of political concerns.
It is important that the prosecutors uphold the principles of justice and ensure that all relevant evidence is presented in court, including the DNA kit results that exonerate the Kwellers.
It is not hard to presume that the prosecution’s pursuit of justice has become a crusade, rather than a fair and just process.
The defendants’ motion to dismiss the charges will be decided in the coming weeks, and many are watching closely to see how the case will develop. If the charges are dismissed, it could have significant implications for all parties, but more for a society that may have promoted a movement’s import over the foundations of law in this country. It is frustrating enough when random people on social media try and bring someone down believing they are champions or justice warriors, yet it is far more discouraging when media stops being objective and takes on the role of judge and jury. More frightening, it is by all stretches dangerous for a democratic society when public officials, those who are elected and trusted by the people and those who are entrusted to protect us and our laws, choose to yield to mob rule, either for selfish or self-righteous reasons.
Not all cases are like this one, but the DA should be ashamed of himself here.
Digital Replacing Print
For much of the print media industry, the shift to digital consumption and social media has been close to a death sentence. Alternate media forms, like TV and radio, have historically threatened the print publication business, whether knocking out failing short-comers or converting the industry’s top players. But today, with much of the world online, the inevitable demise of strong print media seems likely, and yet certain segments continue to hang on tenaciously.
Typically, print publications have adopted digitization to ultimately improve the inner workings of their business model — that is, reaching a larger audience, facilitating operations and cutting costs in the supply chain. By shifting toward competing contemporary media forms, print media companies have buoyed their way through the ebb and flow of the industry. However, even then, some of the shapeshifters drown.
While digitization has snagged many print publications, most recently O, The Oprah Magazine
after a 20 year run, for some companies their lag in updates isn’t because of inability or inefficiency. Rather, the digital atmosphere is antithetical to their business model and overall brand.
Many of the persisting print publications weather the storms of decreased advertising revenue and contemporary media competitors for the sake of intimacy. As intimacy remains a founding and fortifying pillar of the print business, consumers, editors and writers alike value the personalized craftsmanship and closeness of print.
“There’s an irreplaceable intimacy attached to tangible print and magazines,” said Marc Lotenberg
, CEO of Surface Media
. “The pride and intricacy that goes into print editions supersedes that of digital. Once print is done, it’s done, there’s no editing or going back.”
“Surface has always been about the printed word,” Lotenberg added. That being said, print is more and more becoming a luxury, and I anticipate more demand and anticipation for limited-edition and more coffee-table style publications.”
The connection fostered by luxury magazines, combined with the audience and aesthetic they frequently target has isolated them as one of the remaining holdouts of the print media landscape. While the struggle to adapt to digitization has consumed numerous media brands over recent years, many luxury outlets continue to lean on their strengths and continue to focus on the readers, and the style that they know best.
“Media is also becoming more niche, and in a sense becoming more about the audience; Surface continues to be for the design industry; and we’re planning to lean into that on all of our channels,” Lotenberg said.
It’s an unconventional take in a landscape filled with publications shifting in every which way to garner wider audiences and exponential pageviews. Rather than alter who they are in an effort to claw for highly-coveted advertising dollars, outlets like Surface Magazine are sticking to what they know best, catering to the industry that helped to build them. And hoping their content, the content that built their brand, will carry them into the future.
While it has been a slow death for many print media publications, the future is still very much unclear. And while the divergent approach that luxury publications like Surface Magazine have taken has kept them afloat, the future landscape of media consumption is one that is still to be determined.