First, until Sunday, I had never heard of globaltickets.com -- a ticket broker for all sorts of sports events and concerts -- nor had I seen the Facebook page "Freed Ryan Ferguson." But now I have, and frankly, they make me sad.
I am writing this while the Super Bowl is being played in Phoenix (I am not watching) while Ryan Ferguson and his father Bill are in the stands, having been provided a free all-expense paid trip by globaltickets.com.
The New York Daily News, having learned of this trip and this case, ran a lengthy story today about the Fergusons, and Heitholt's Nov. 1, 2001, murder in Columbia, Mo., at about 2 a.m. in the newspaper parking lot.
Ryan Ferguson, the headline says, was "wrongly convicted" in the case and is free -- thanks to the efforts of his father and many other people -- after some 10 years in prison.
Here is a link to the Daily News story: http://www.nydailynews.com/sports/i-team/ryan-ferguson-heads-super-bowl-wrongful-conviction-article-1.2099220,
I knew Friday that the story was being done when the main reporter, Michael O'Keeffe, contacted me and wanted to talk about the case. I'm certainly no spokesman for the Heitholt family or his friends, but I wrote a blog on Heitholt a little more than two years ago -- one of my most popular blogs-- and O'Keeffe referenced that.
Here is the link to that blog: http://nvanthyn.blogspot.com/2012/11/hey-now-heity-big-guy.html
I want to expand on some of the things I told O'Keeffe that didn't go in the story, my feelings about the case and about this free trip to the Super Bowl.
Short version: I think it is an ill-conceived idea. That's a nice way of saying it. Not-so-nice: It's a bunch of crap.
I told O'Keeffe -- who at the time we spoke was not clear about the sponsoring source but obviously found out -- that this is a "twisted" idea. The wrong people are being rewarded.
What the heck are Ram Silverman, the director of operations at goldentickets.com, and his cronies thinking? Why are the Fergusons being "rewarded" -- my opinion -- for this case?
|The Kent Heitholt photo the New York|
Daily News ran with the story Sunday.
Wish we didn't have to re-live all the case entails. Wish we didn't have to read the painful details again.
And I want to try to be fair. The law is the law, the courts are the courts, and I am no attorney; I was a sportswriter, just as Heity was. Ryan Ferguson was found guilty, then -- after a long process -- found wrongly convicted. So be it.
I can't blame the New York Daily News for doing this story; it's an unusual angle. It needed all the details to explain the case.
I can't blame Bill Ferguson for battling for his son's release. I can't blame the attorneys who helped him, or CBS News' 48 Hours program that first examined this case and started the impetus for Ryan's freedom.
I can't blame Ryan for trying to live his life, for starting over after 10 lost years in prison. He seems to be doing well; he has written and released a book, a "fitness survival guide" about his time in and after incarcaration. He is promoting it on the Facebook page mentioned above.
He has lots of support, and that's fine. And here is where globaltickets.com comes in.
When I looked up its web site, honestly I was dismayed to see that it is located in Plano, Texas -- and that's where Silverman lives, according his Facebook page. Plano is a place we visit.
On the "Freed Ryan Ferguson" Facebook page -- one of Silverman's "likes" -- it repeatedly says it was "a crime he didn't commit." The attorney most responsible for helping free him builds a good case tearing up the investigate process of the crime and the lack of substantial evidence. But she also implicates or questions -- repeatedly -- the sportswriter who was the last known person to see Heitholt alive.
The claim is that Heitholt was critical of this guy's writing, so there were hard feelings that night.
I can tell you this, and I believe all his friends will agree, that was not Heitholt's way. He was one of the easiest people to work with, a non-critical co-worker.
Who is to judge on this case, really? Who knows what happened? It was a mystery, and it is a mystery. I'll let my attorney friends sort it out.
But the young man, Charles Erickson, who two years after the murder had a dream in which he envisioned the murder scene and then implicated himself and his underage-drinking buddy of that night, Ryan Ferguson, remains in prison.
My view: Erickson's conscience might have been talking to him. Whether Ferguson was there or not -- and Ryan has insisted all along he wasn't -- well, no one else knows.
So my problem is the glorification of Bill and Ryan Ferguson, globalticket.com's promotion of this trip, the publicity-seeking angle by that company and by Ryan.
But, yes, if you're offered a free trip to the Super Bowl -- quite a reward for their travails -- and you've always wanted to go, take the trip. But when you brag about it, flaunt it, when it's publicized on your Facebook pages and on Ron Silverman's Facebook page, it just seems to me to laugh in the Heitholt family and friends' faces. It is disrespectful.
Our hearts always hurt for the Heitholts. Their loss is unchangeable, immeasurable; their grief is forever. A story likes this just pours it on.
So to globaltickets.com, you want to do something grand, something nice, do it for the Heitholt family. Show them some love. Give Deb and Vince and Kali a great trip, built them a house, pay their house note, whatever. That would be some really positive publicity.
I know the Fergusons, their friends and supporters don't see it this way, but what you did here stinks. That's just my opinion. It is a matter of respect.