Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Michael Miner helps to heap dirt on a murdered cabbie

This week, we here at The Reader Sucks feel we must set aside our usual drolleries and get serious. Here’s why:

This past February, a Chicago cabbie named Haroon Paryani died after a confrontation with a passenger escalated in a bizarre and tragic way: Paryani slipped and fell down in front of his cab, which was quickly commandeered by the angry passenger -- who proceeded to run him over, then to back up over him, then to run over him a third time before speeding away, according to witnesses at the scene.

The (alleged) killer? A man named Michael Jackson (not that one), who worked on AIDS issues for the City of Chicago. Jackson vanished that night but ultimately turned himself in. Originally released on bail, he found himself back in jail after an incident in which he (allegedly) attacked a nurse. All these "allegedlies" aside, from everything I have read about the case he deserves to be behind bars for a very long time.

So this week "Scoops" Miner reports on an utterly despicable development in the case: A web site that purports to be collecting information on abusive cabbies but which is in fact designed to collect dirt on just one cabbie – the now-deceased Paryani. "Has this man threatened you or made you feel uncomfortable?" it asks. "CLICK HERE NOW to share your story."

The site, endcabviolence.com , shows two blurry head shots of the murdered man, whose head was crushed in the attack; nowhere does it mention the murder.

Who are the fucks who set up this site? Miner talks to Jackson’s boyfriend, who acknowledges that, no big shock here, it’s the work of "the friends of Mike Jackson."

Any decent journalist would ask: why the fuck are you doing this, given that under no possible circumstances could one see Jackson’s (alleged) actions as anything but cold-blooded murder? Repeatedly running over a 61-year-old cabbie lying in the street is hardly an act of self-defense.

Miner touches on the question, quickly drops it, and proceeds to devote the rest of his column’s main section to … dishing dirt on Paryani. In 1989, he notes, Paryani was accused of attacking a passenger; the case was ultimately settled out of court. Instead of doing any research on the subject, Miner simply quotes a Mike Royko column on the incident written at the time, in which Mike quipped that Paryani didn’t really seem like "an Alan Alda type." (Jackson's ever-helpful lawyer faxed the column over to Miner, saving him the effort of having to look it up.)

The headline for Miner’s column? "Who was Haroon Paryani?"

Nowhere does Miner note that plenty of dirt has been dished about Jackson himself – like, for example, the rumors that he was hopped up on crystal meth the night of the murder. Nowhere does Miner mention the (alleged) attack on the nurse. His only explicit criticism of the web site? He calls an ad for it in Gay Chicago "creepy."

Though Miner quotes gay activist Rick Garcia, who tells him he thinks the web site is vile, Miner gives the last word to … Jackson’s lawyer.

Case closed!

For a rather different take on Paryani, look here .

And look here for a Windy City Times interview with Jackson’s boyfriend about the web site and a whole bunch of other things, like the meth rumors, that suggest that Jackson ain’t exactly Alan Alda himself. The Windy City Times reporter, Andrew Davis, asked a lot of the questions that Miner should have asked and, well, let’s just say he got some interesting, if not always quite believable, answers.


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