Murder, He Wrote 

'Twas a dark and stormy night for California prisons; and yet more reasons to make your man wear his jimmie hat.

Frisco barrister John Hagar has been getting a lot of ink lately for his explosive report on the culture of cover-up in the state Department of Corrections. Hagar, acting as a federal court monitor, recommended in his report that the former head of corrections, Edward Alameida, be charged with contempt for allegedly putting the kibosh on an internal investigation.

Those who enjoyed Hagar's riveting report on prison corruption might consider cozying up with his fictional tale of conspiracy, a little novel called A Politically Correct Murder. Hagar says it's a Chandleresque mystery about a murder within a civil rights group called the Progressive Litigation Foundation. Since Bottom Feeder rarely reads fiction (other than reports on weapons of mass destruction in Iraq), he hasn't actually read Hagar's novel so that he may properly make fun of it. Apparently, very few people have read it -- it's the 1,224,346th top-selling book on Amazon.

Here's what one of the few reviewers who wasn't Johnny's mother had to say about his novel: "Don't pick it up unless you are ready to read to the end before taking a breath. Let's have the next one, Hagar!" Wait a minute. Maybe that was Johnny's mommy.

Anyway, the book was published by none other than Creative Arts, the venerable indie Berkeley publishing house that has printed works by the likes of Aldous Huxley. Mostly, however, Creative Arts promoted literary nobodies like Hagar. That is, until it abruptly went out of business in December with scores of angry authors accusing company founder Don Ellis of screwing them over. They groused that Ellis would take their money -- up to $8,000 -- but not hold up his end of the so-called copublishing agreements in which the author and publisher shared the costs of printing and promotion. Spurned authors say Ellis didn't print as many books as he promised and also refused to provide an accounting of how their money was spent.

Hagar, who is more legally savvy than most hack novelists, hired Berkeley attorney Anthony Sperber and sued Ellis for engaging in unfair business practices. Last October, Hagar and Sperber got a court order forcing Ellis to give future authors regular written updates on the progress of their books.

That victory seems sort of moot now that Creative Arts has collapsed under a mountain of debt. In fact, Hagar still isn't sure how many copies of his book were actually printed.

Who knows? Maybe, just maybe -- with better marketing and a better publisher -- A Politically Correct Murder could've rocketed into Amazon's Top Million.

Bareback Riders Beware

It's a crime to have unprotected sex with someone if you're HIV-positive and knowingly expose someone to the virus. But people rarely get charged. Last week, 39-year-old Remond Frederick of Pittsburg became the first person in Contra Costa County to be prosecuted and convicted under the five-year-old law. In a plea deal with prosecutors, Frederick agreed to plead guilty to three misdemeanor counts -- yes, misdemeanors -- of exposing his mistress to HIV. He was sentenced to eighteen months in county jail, six months per count.

So why misdemeanors and not felonies, considering he exposed others to a deadly virus? Plea-happy prosecutors aren't at fault here. The Legislature made it almost impossible to prosecute these cases as felonies -- the law requires prosecutors to show that someone intended to infect another person. So CoCo prosecutors stuck with the misdemeanor, demonstrating to the court that Frederick "willfully" exposed the woman to the virus.

Feeders can judge whether Frederick got what he deserved. In 2000, his then-girlfriend discovered that Frederick's former wife had died of AIDS-related pneumonia. She confronted him, and he acknowledged his HIV status. The girlfriend had also become infected, but nonetheless forgave him, and they wed the following year. But the swashbuckler couldn't quit playing around, as his new bride eventually discovered. She called two of his mistresses and informed them Frederick was married and HIV-positive. One of them complained to Pittsburg police and the cops busted Frederick last October.

Frederick's wife, now estranged, who was not named as a victim in the case, was in court last week for his sentencing. Mrs. Frederick has regularly attended her ex's court dates to give him the evil eye, his attorney says. After the hearing, she said she felt like justice had been served. "I'm just glad it's over."

But is it really over? Read on.

The Ex Files

Mrs. Frederick won't have to worry about her philandering husband for a while, but she still has a score to settle with her in-laws. Last month she filed a lawsuit for libel and invasion of privacy against Remond's grown 21-year-old daughter, Joshunn, and his brother, Kwaume. According to the suit, the two have been retaliating against her for cooperating with the authorities in Remond's prosecution. Specifically, she alleges that her stepdaughter and brother-in-law have been distributing defamatory fliers in her neighborhood, at the homes of relatives, and at Laney College since Remond's arrest in October. She claims they have even been seen handing out the fliers at the Stadium Club in San Leandro and the Martinique nightclub in Oakland.

It's hard for Bottom Feeder to judge how defamatory the flier is because it was filed under seal with the court. But Mrs. Frederick's lawsuit gives some hints. It suggests that the flier accuses her -- falsely, the suit says -- of intentionally spreading a "communicable disease," suffering from a disease she doesn't have, and a "lack of chastity."

Mrs. Frederick says in the suit that she had generally kept her "medical condition" a secret even from family members. Her daughter's grandmother found out about it from a flier left on her windshield.

Remond Frederick's attorney, Gordon Brown, says Joshunn and Kwaume have denied anything to do with the fliers. Furthermore, Brown says, Mrs. Frederick went on the KMEL radio show Street Soldiers following his client's arrest and fully identified herself and her medical condition. In other words, he suggests, her condition wasn't really such a secret. Still, to be safe, Feeder is not using her first name. After the court hearing last week, Mrs. Frederick said she couldn't comment on the libel suit against her in-laws. n


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