Sunday, April 05, 2009

Catching Up on Robert Felner

I'm a few stories behind on the Robert Felner scandal at UofL, so to catch up...

In March, UofL released its audit of the College of Education and Human Development in the wake of the Robert Felner saga.

PageOne Kentucky reported UofL failed to follow its own internal processes regarding a personal service contract involving grant funds suggesting that the university can't effectively audit itself. The university's audit disagreed.

By the end of the month the court held a hearing to determine if comments Felner made during the interview preceeding his arrest could be used against him in a criminal trial.

This from C-J:
During a six-hour-plus interview with federal investigators last summer, former University of Louisville education dean Robert Felner went from being described as confident by investigators and a colleague to saying he was "freaked" and asking if he could go to jail.

"I'm starting to feel like I'm getting thrown under the bus," Felner said in a tape-recorded conversation with investigators that was played in court today during a hearing to decide if comments he made during the interview can be used against him in a criminal trial...

UofL Police Sgt. Jeffrey Jewell and U.S. Postal Inspector Jason Tatum... maintained ... that Felner did not invoke his right to a lawyer.

Recordings of the interview include Felner asking the investigators on several occasions whether he needed an attorney. At one point, Jewell responded: "That's your decision ... I won't talk you into it and I won't talk you out of it."

Cox also asked Jewell and Tatum if they told Felner that he could leave the interview at any time and had the right not to answer their questions. Both men said they did not tell Felner that, but Jewell said he repeatedly told Felner he was not under arrest.

During questioning by Cox, Jewell said he felt that Felner was "being deceptive in his responses."The tape includes segments where Jewell appears to put pressure on Felner to talk. Jewell tells Felner he plans on getting his IRS files, and that he knows Felner has "criminal problems."

"I don't want you to get caught up in lying to me OK?" Jewell said. "I can help you."

Cox has argued that Felner did not know he was free to leave because he was escorted to and from the bathroom and his car, and in at least two instances during the interview was asked to sit down.

In a tape-recorded exchange with Jewell at the end of the interview, Felner acknowledged he knew he was not under arrest, but said he did not know he had the option of leaving or not talking to the agents.

"I felt like I was escorted everywhere. I couldn't go anywhere. If I made a move to get up and leave, then I was in trouble," he said to Jewell. "... I didn't feel like I could leave the premises."
Finally, in an apparent abundance of support, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, Edward C. Halperin, dean of the School of Medicine at the University of Louisville equated the Felner affair to the Duke Lacrosse scandal warning in C-J:

In view of the controversy swirling around former Dean Robert Felner and Thomas Schroeder, their recent indictments on mail fraud, money laundering conspiracy and income tax evasion, and the collateral accusations made regarding oversight procedures at the University of Louisville, I would like to offer some lessons I learned during the Duke lacrosse episode that might be of use to others:

Don't rush to one has been convicted of anything. All citizens are innocent until proven guilty. We have no idea whether, in reference to the grant money in question, there is a "scandal of substantial depth and magnitude" until all the facts are made available and the matter has been addressed in the courts...

Fair enough. We look forward to reading his next letter to the editor when the court has ruled.

Hat tip to PageOne.

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