Update 16: On to Chapter 6! The first paragraph reads as follows:
"To be clear, suspicion about who killed Bryan Kocis did not immediately settle on Harlow Cuadra and Joseph Kerekes. Speculation online and among porn insiders almost immediately centered instead on Sean Lockhart and Grant Roy because of their well-known and public feud with Kocis."
FWIW, this paragraph is accurate. However, the main point about it I want to make is this: To the best of my recollection (and please I correct me if I'm wrong), this paragraph is the exhaustive entirety of everything the book has to say about the vast network of blogs, bloggers, commenteers and lurkers which we know of today as the "Kocisphere."
At no point does the book even vaguely allude to the Kocisphere, except this one vaguely alluding paragraph.
Update 15: And here's the "revelation" absolutely no one is surprised to see, once it became known Joe was being interviewed for this book: "...to kill Bryan Kocis, a task we had prepared two weeks to perform since the idea's inception between Sean Lockhart and Harlow at that business meal at Le Cirque in Vegas at the Bellagio." Then etc etc etc for two more paragraphs after that.
So, who here is shocked at this attempt by imprisoned-for-life Joe to finger Sean (and at a later quote in the book, Grant) as full-fledged co-conspirators in the murder plot? Who of us here NEVER saw this comin'?
Update 14: As 'Joe and Harlow go to Pennsylvania': "...At 6:35 P.M., another call from the pre-paid Verizon wireless cell phone is recorded making it's last phone call, this one bouncing off a cell tower on County Club Road in Dallas, Pennsylvania--just 500 yards and within view of Kocis' home. Cuadra was apparently near Kocis' home but was too early for his appointment."
I've said this before on this blog, but I think it bears repeating: I believe Harlow entered the house right after this 6:35pm phone call (which was probably Harlow telling Kocis he was early and standing at the door). In other words, not after the last call by Macias at 7:50pm, as is commonly believed.
Reason being is what Harlow said on the BBTs. He clearly related to Sean and Grant a phone call he overheard between Kocis and Lee Bergeron (frustratingly obfuscated in this book as "business partner"). Those calls from Lee, as you can see, came in right on schedule at 7:23 and 7:34pm.
There was no way on earth Harlow could have known about those calls UNLESS he was sitting right there listening to Kocis talk on his end. At the time the BBT sting was underway, the Kocis phone call info was NOT yet public info, in news accounts or on blogs.
And not only did he know of the calls, he clearly knew the gist of what was being said. Harlow mentioned on the BBTs Kocis setting up Brent in his own apartment, as part of the new business relationship. Brent exclaimed that this was indeed discussed. Harlow replied with words to the effect: See I told you so, how else would I know that.
Now, I know what some of you are going to say now, that Macias testified that Bryan told him minutes after 7:50pm that he had to end the call as "Danny" aka Harlow was at the door.
My explanation for this seeming discrepancy is a simple one: Harlow had been in Bryan's house, patiently (or impatiently) waiting since about 6:36pm. Kocis had been harried by business call almost that entire time, which we can clearly see thanks to the timeline in this section. When Macias made that last call at 7:50pm, Bryan probably decided enough was enough. He was going to refuse to talk any more to his attorney (or anyone else), and as a polite way of immediately terminating the conversation, made up a little white lie of having to get up and get the door (which is more mannerly than saying "the twink sitting next to me right now is more important than talking to you, so, hang up and go away.").
So, it was a polite little fib from Kocis to Macias, quite understandable under the circumstances. And as you can see, it reconciles with what Harlow said on the BBTs; as Harlow himself said, there is no other way he could have known about that phone call unless he was sitting there as it happened.
I think this whole point is interesting, because if I'm right (and I don't how I couldn't be) then Harlow was with Bryan alone for up to an hour and twenty minutes before he killed him, and not the mere ten or so minutes as has been commonly thought. Was it the constant phone calls that kept Harlow from killing Bryan for so long? Seems likely, you don't want to kill someone on the phone, as that would likely give it away ("talk talk talk talk talk ARRRGHaaack...").
Or possibly, was Harlow also trying to build his courage up during this time period?
On the BBTs, Harlow's account of that last conversation between Bryan Kocis and Lee Bergeron, just before Bryan was murdered, was that they were using the settlement to screw Sean and Grant over (the so-called "back door deal"), and that disparaging things were said about Sean in that conversation. The point Harlow was trying to make being, that Bryan was a bad man, and therefore, Sean and Grant should stop feeling bad about what had been done.
And one get's the impression, by implication, that that overheard phone conversation Between Lee and Bryan most likely also played a role in fortifying Harlow's resolve as well.
Update 13: On to Chapter 5...
"Despite acknowledging the need for a substantial daily and weekly income just to keep their heads above water, Kerekes insists ..."We needed no ... help whatsoever" to meet their financial obligations."
What... the... ?????
OK, some background here. In the very early days of the Kocisphere, before Harlow and Joe were even arrested, and even for a while afterwards, the main argument for their innocence was that they were stinking rich. They lived in a mansion! They drove a fleet of super expensive cars! They wore Rolexes and chinchilla fur coats! They traveled the world! Etc. They were the Warren Buffet and and Bill Gates of the homo hooker world. And THEREFORE, had NO MOTIVE to commit such a crime. They MUST have been framed! This was cited as innumerable times as settled fact on Elm blog and elsewhere (Elm actually titled a blog post 'Who Framed Harlow and Joe?' or words to that effect), despite the only source for these claims of affluence being Harlow and Joe themselves.
And indeed, they did have a big house, cars, etc. that everyone could see...but were they telling the whole story? Nearly everyone in the Kocisphere back then accepted in blind faith that they were.
Then came the bombshell: PC published their credit reports on his blog.
O.M.G. WHAT a game changer. Turns out all that wealth was borrowed on credit cards, the house double-mortgaged upside-down to the hilt. A hypothetical homeless person with nothing but a ball of lint in his pocket had a higher net worth than Harlow and Joe, since a ball of lint has a value of $0 and Harlow and Joe were clearly in negative numbers.
At that point, FINALLY, public opinion began to shift. Especially when you looked at the reports closely; you could actually see the missed payments getting worse and worse, throughout the period when they were desperately negotiating with Brent and Grant, and combined with rejected requests for credit extensions, all the way up to the day of the murder. It was utterly damning.
The die hard Harlowites were, quite naturally, furious at PC. One of the Harlow relatives (his sister, IIRC?) threatened PC with a lawsuit over the publishing of the credit report.
Elm and others, initially shocked themselves, went into damage control mode. The new party line was "Oh they had some debts (who doesn't) but they were manageable! You, see, because they had lots of income coming in!"
To this I would reply using math. At one point I figured out what they would need to make minimum monthly payments on their debts, divided it by Harlow's hourly rate, and calculated the number of hours Harlow would have to spend per month with his legs in the air. I can't recall the exact figure, but I believe it did not give him enough time to get eight hours sleep at night.
But Elm and others were impervious to math. They went on with the "they were too rich to have a motive" theory until the very end, totally dismissing that pesky little problem with creditors that were about to repossess everything they owned and loved. Elm and I literally went back and forth over this, in numerous and lengthy blog posts, for YEARS.
So, fast forward to today. Joe is in prison for life. He has nothing to lose by finally telling the truth now, the same truth he told Grant on the Blacks Beach tapes: that they were in financial desperation during this period.
So, Stoner I guess writes Joe a letter (because according to the footnote on this para it comes from a "Kerekes letter to AES") and I suppose he quite naturally asks "so Joe, why'd you do it?" and Joe replies as above, that "financial obligations" had nothing to do with it.
Holy crap, they have NOT given up on this now pointless point. You have GOT to be f'ing kidding me. I am frankly astounded. They are STILL refusing to admit finances were the motive.
Why? Why keep this lie going? I completely do not understand this. At this point I have to wonder whether Elm and Joe got together recently, and decided Joe should tell Stoner this...simply to piss me off. They knew I would read this when the book came out...and blow my stack. Yes, I realize this is a far-fetched theory, but I can currently come up with no other explanation!
And it worked too. I almost threw my book out the window (which would have been a big problem because it's a Kindle edition).
Sigh. Well, OK then Joe, if not for money problems, why DID you commit the murder?
And Joe says: "We simply saw something we wanted...so we took it."
Wow. I mean, wow. So, that's the motive, according to Joe, huh? That you and Harlow did it because you both are psychopaths.
Um, yeah. BIG improvement over having a financial motive Joe! Yeah that really makes you guys look good! Thanks for sharing.
Now you all see why I said earlier that interviewing Joe for this book was a fools errand. While I appreciate the efforts of Stoner and PC in reaching out to Joe, I have to say nothing he says now in this book, or later, can really be taken seriously, for anything. And this whole paragraph is a prime example of exactly why.
Update 12: "Eliminating competitors was also nothing new for Cuadra and Kerekes..."
I am so glad this prior throat slitting incident got covered in detail in this book. Kudos to PC and Stoner for tracking down investigator Childress and getting the 411 on this, as best we can know it.
I think one of the problems the people who thought Harlow was innocent had, back in the early days of the Kocisphere, was a sense that Harlow and Joe were not predisposed to commit such a violent crime as the Kocis murder. Brent and Grant had the very public and very ugly online fight, which made a crime of passion on their part relatively believable, but Harlow and Joe? What a cute couple! And look at that Harlow, he's sooooo adorable! Wouldn't hurt a fly!
Well, later information begins to trickle out, and we find out about bullet holes in the walls, Joe's other violent acts...and then Jon Ross.
Now, we don't know for sure who slit Ross' throat, but I think we can all make a pretty good assumption here and narrow it down to one of two people. Think about this: Ross is standing in the way of a business opportunity for Harlow and Joe. Harlow and Joe resort to violence to remove the obstacle, and cut his throat. Harlow and Joe not only get what they want, but manage to get away scot free.
Harlow and Joe learn what they believe is a lesson from this: Sometimes you can get what you want in life by a well planned throat-cutting act of violence.
This prior life lesson will be VERY much on their minds years later, when they face a similar business obstacle.
Update 11: LOL: "Joe had Harlow's last name tattooed on his buttock."
(A new innovation, I shall post Updates to the top from here on out)
Happy Victory Day 2013! Yes, it's that time of the year again, the anniversary of the guilty verdict against Harlow Cuadra. A day when hard-working prosecutors and twelve ordinary citizens of Pennsylvania brought about a victory of truth over misinformation.
And a day set aside not only for celebration and/or reflection, but also as a reunion; a day for all us keyboard warriors here at SOTC, be they bloggers, commenteers or even just lurkers, to pop back for a bit and say "hi!". And to reflect back on those heady days when we followed a mystery, and then an arrest, and then a legal case, with no small amount of passion and intensity.
And it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out what this year's "main topic" will be about (in fact, the only topic). PC's book, Cobra Killer: Gay Porn Murder and the Manhunt to Bring the Killers to Justice by Andrew E. Stoner and Peter A. Conway, is finally out! In fact, it's been out for quite a while now. So, this reunion will basically be an open thread on the book.
And I think how I'm going to do this is...I am going to read the book.
Or to be more specific, re-read it. Naturally, I devoured this eagerly awaited tome the instant I was able to, and as you might imagine, I had reactions to it. Reactions at various points in it like "huh, VERY interesting" or "hmmm..." or "this wasn't covered?" or "LOL!" Things like that.
And the thing is, it's been months since I've had these various first impressions, and in the course of time, those impressions have not surprisingly become jumbled and hazy. So, what I shall do is begin re-reading the book, from Page One. Then I shall live blog my second impressions, as I have them, here as updates to this post. Then comments and discussion can flow from those updates as they occur. I am very keen to know other's opinions on these matters (especially PC's, if he would care to make them!).
I expect this will take a while. So, this reunion post will stay active for a while (a month or so, maybe?).
So, welcome back all! And feel free to start commenting, on any book-related subject you like. Let Victory Day (or Month, or Months) begin!
Update: You know, a fun fact I just remembered...this is actually not the first time I've live blogged something. As some of you may recall, I live-blogged this event. If this new one is even half as successful and entertaining as that one was, I think we'll all have reason to be quite satisfied!
Update 2: Might as well lead off with this one. Chapter 1: "He [Kocis] thought he was nearing the end of a protracted and bitter fight that had brought him scorn and to the brink of arrest on federal child endangerment laws."
As many of you may recall, this is in the very beginning of the book, and was part of the "free sample" we all got to read before the book came out. And it raised eyebrows at the time because of the "brink of arrest" bit. No one had ever suggested before that Kocis was on the "brink of arrest" over the BC underage scandal.
The reason this was so eyebrow raising was because this whole subject was the subject of a great debate back in the day, versus the "underage denial" theorists. Without getting into excessive detail (I don't want to recount here the whole history of the underage denialist movement), but suffice to say they believed, for a variety of reasons, that Brent was really 18, and not 17 (and hence not underage) when he shot his first videos for Cobra. (Yes,looking back in hindsight it is amazing people actually thought this...but for those of you weren't there, trust me! This was a huge debate, and what the denialists lacked in numbers they made up for in persistance).
A highly debated point in this clash of world views was the claim by Brent and Grant that they went to the FBI about the underage work, and reported it...and that the FBI declined to pursue the matter. The underage denialists vigorously disputed this story. They claimed BC and GR were lying about this, and that they never would have gone to the FBI, because then Brent's age fraud (ie, really being a year older) would have been exposed. The denialists repeated over and over and over the claim that the FBI would have never let a 2257 violation go unprosecuted...therefore, BC and GR were lying. Therefore, Brent was of age the whole time. Therefore, it was OK for them to finally retrieve their copies of Every Poolboy's Dream from their secret hiding places behind the refrigerator, and put it back conveniently on the shelf next the TV.
Hmm. It does appear I promised waaaay above not to get into an extended dissertation on the underage denailist controversy. And look what I just did. Crap.
OK, to wind this up ... you can see how the revelation Kocis was on the "brink of arrest" raised eyebrows. It implies that the FBI DID take a real interest in this...and that we never know about it before. Which is interesting.
Unfortunately, as I read into the book I could find nothing to back this up (unless I missed it?). And that's the point it's taken me 5 paragraphs to get to. Was Kocis really on the brink of arrest?
In the final analysis, however, I have to say it really doesn't matter all that much. The underage denialists are actually no more. Their spiritual leader, the blogger Julian, himself admitted Brent was indeed 17 at the time after all (after contacting the San Diego Police Department directly, and got confirmation that Brent was arrested for underage drinking at his 18th birthday party). Which was, BTW, a RARE example of someone in the Kocisphere actually admitting a online view he once held was actually now contrary to the evidence and hence wrong, for which he deserves an infinite amount of commendation, IMO.
So, forget I even mentioned this! Reading on...
Update 3: I just finished Chapter One. A solid chapter overall; in particular, the lurid details of what the detectives saw when they entered the house very well written, IMO.
One oddity though:
"Detective Higgins confirmed through Bryan Kocis' father that he was involved in a tumultuous lawsuit with Sean Lockhart, Grant Roy, and their business partner in California but Kocis kin never implicated any of the men as possible suspects"Who is this unnamed "business partner"? Police are looking at this guy early on as a possible suspect due to his lawsuit involvement, right? And this is a true crime book, so...one would think you would mention this guy's name in the book at this point, right?
Oh well, maybe I'm overreacting. Maybe this "business partner" will show up later in the book in some other context (or contexts). And then surely we will find out what his name is! After all, it would be EXTREMELY unusual if this guy kept popping up in this book, over and over again, and was only described throughout as the "business partner"...
Update 4: One last note on Chapter One:
"After meeting with [Grant Roy] Higgins eliminated Roy and Lockhart as potential suspects."It's interesting that police made this determination so early, at Roy's first meeting with the police. My assumption, and that of many others, has always been that it was the Black's Beach escapade is what finally "cleared" them in the eyes of the police. So, good to know.
On to Chapter 2...
Update 5: Chapter 1 set up the crime scene. Chapters 2 and 3 take the next logical step in a crime drama book, and describe the victim.
Chapter 2 is all about Kocis' early life, much much attention being focused on the 2001 arrest due to his involvement with the 15 year old. Stoner even interviewed the detective on this old case, which is a lot of effort to get details about an episode that, IMO, does not really have that much to do with the murder drama per se. I suppose it was determined to portray the victim accurately here, warts and all, and this was something couldn't be just glossed over.
And there are a lot of warts. Besides the 15 year old, there are character references, including an extensive quote from Kevin Clarke (jeez Kevin, don't hold back, tell us how you really feel!). On the positive side are testimonials by his family. You can see the problem here. If Cobra wasn't founded and named until 2002, what was this ongoing porn operation of his in 2001? Some sort of proto-Cobra? Or did he just not bother to register the name until 2002?
If it's the latter explanation, then that's somewhat interesting. The same sort of lack of attention to legal and administrative details is exactly what would get him into trouble in 2004...
Update 6: Chapter 3 gets into the history of Bryan and Cobra Video. Some of the examples given are excellent in depicting just how creepy this all was, ie, a film description by Kocis: "I had to get three forms of ID on little Jonathan as this nineteen-year-old guy looks much younger than his years." Oh, if only that'd really been his standard practice ...
Then we get to one of the most important parts of the book...if not THE most important part. The section "Enter Sean Lockhart as "Brent Corrigan."" Now, here's the part where Bryan sees Brent on webcam for the very first time, and afterwards, Brent is convinced to do underage porn. This is where it all began.
So, it's important IMO to get this exactly right. And the book here...CAME SO CLOSE...but not quite. It fell short, I would say, by one sentence.
The book covers all the salient details, namely: 1) "Lockhart attributes pressure from both his boyfriend and Kocis for deciding to go ahead with the deception." and 2) "Believing a lie about his actual age was "no big deal" and that "nobody would get in trouble and that it was common that boys worked underage in the industry," (Number 2 could have been a bit better written, however: "His boyfriend convinced him that believing a lie ... etc." would have been much better. Make it clear to the audience where the blame for this misperception lies).
But the big thing that is missing here, is any sort of explanation of WHY the boyfriend acted as he did. Siren's Tale and Brent's interview with Jason Sechrest covered Christian Henriquez' (the boyfriend in question) motive very clearly: He was previously rejected as a Cobra model (didn't have the looks), but found a way to weasel back in by offering himself and Brent as a package deal. And so, he convinced Brent to lie about his age, and convinced him it was "no big deal."
The boyfriend's motive here for instigating this deception is very important, IMO. Without it, an uninitiated reader is tempted to be overly skeptical of Brent's account. "Why would this boyfriend do this? What's in it for him?" I can imagine the uninitiated reader thinking.
Now, as you all know, I healthy respect for skepticism. But skepticism needs to be well founded and well informed. And by not mentioning WHY the boyfriend did what he did in this case, conditions exist for an unwarranted level of skepticism to breed here.
And this is a pet peeve of mine, I will admit. To this day I still see comments about Brent, to the effect that he "knowingly lied about his age", without mentioning the two highly important details 1) he was coerced into it by his boyfriend at the time and 2) his boyfriend deceived him as to what the consequences would be. Those additional details need to enter the conversation.
So ONE MORE SENTENCE as to Henriquez' motive for doing what he did would have been invaluable here. One more crucial sentence wouldn't have made the book too long, and would have greatly aided clarity and comprehension of this critical moment.
And for extra credit "style" points, one more sentence could have gone in, to the effect that the boyfriend did get into his Cobra porn, for one scene...and then was immediately discarded by Kocis as if he were a used diaper. Not that this was crucial event in the whole saga, but it is an amusing detail which would have given the reader a mild chuckle at this point.
Update 7: The rest of Chapter 3 is generally outstanding, and I'm very glad the book opted to cover it in detail. I've always said you can't really fully understand the murder, unless you know the drama that preceded it, and the state of mind that existed both in the participants and in the public at large.
Some final random thoughts on Chapter 3:
1) "Signs of strain surface". This is a critical section which seems to have a large gap in it, namely how the final working relationship between Brent and Bryan went south so fast. Which BTW is not the authors' fault; the only available source for this period, Brent's Siren's Tale, tantalizingly cuts off at this point. All we can do is speculate, while the authors, who don't really have that luxury, did the best they could with what they had to work with.
I do wish, however, that the "I am the BOSS" email excerpt had been quoted in the book, verbatim. It's provenance is unquestioned (BB made an extensive effort to explain it away at one point, arguing that it had to be understood that Kocis was "angry" when he wrote it, etc...) and nothing does a better job, IMO, of giving the audience a window into the mind of both participants at this critical juncture. All we get is "After several angry phone calls, e-mails, and texts between the two ..." which IMO doesn't quite have the attention grabbing effect of an actual one of those emails.
2) "In initial postings, [Jason Sechrest] seemed to take Kocis' position, but incidents to follow seemed to push Sechrest and others in the "gay porn establishment" towards Lockhart's position.", then goes on to describes Kocis sending the hired goons to Micky's in West Hollywood. I never thought before how the hired goons was a turning point, but reflecting on it now I can see how this must indeed have been the case. In fact, it was this incident which first made me aware of the existence of the whole drama (when Jody Wheeler wrote about it). So, it's fair to say it was a turning point for those outside the establishment as well.
3) "Does Cobra Video live on?" and following sections. Good sections, but why here? Seems like the back of the book would be a better spot, along with the rest of the where-are-they-now reminiscing. Not a big deal really, but just seems odd.
Update 8: Chapter 4 moves into Harlow and Joe territory. And it's not to far into the chapter when we encounter a hum-dinger of a fact: "It reflected the huge investment the couple put into marketing...more than $120,000 annually in advertisements placed in gay publications in Baltimore, Richmond and Washington, DC."
$120 grand a year in advertising? In three local gay media markets? OK, I'm no expert on what advertising costs these days, but I'm having trouble believing this. So naturally, I go to the footnotes. Let's see here, this is Chapter 4, footnote 1 on this little factoid, checking it out I see: "Kerekes letter to AES, 5-4-09"
Oh lord. Well, all I can say is...that explains it!
I'll have more to say on the value of these interviews with and letters from Joe as time goes by...but for now, lets just say that my initially very low expectations have been non-exceeded.
Update 9: Wow: "The dichotomy of Joe Kerekes is one that goes all the way to his sexual identity as well...."I still do not call myself gay. I just love Harlow.""
Plus: "Kerekes says his feelings for Cuadra remain strong..."We are still hot and heavy. I have hundreds of letters that I have received since our arrest (from Harlow)..."
All of these quotes comes from the post-trial "Kerekes letter to AES".
Now, stop and think about this for a minute. Lets say these "hundreds" of love letters from Harlow to Joe exist, and some if not many (I'm assuming) also date post trial. The same trial where Harlow called Joe a controlling monster who forced him into a murder plot.
That's some Stockholm Syndrome!
Then let's say (and I know this is a pipe dream, but still) Harlow's effort to get a new trial succeeds. What defense is he going to use now, at this new trial? I presume these love letters have been reviewed by prison authorities and very likely photocopied. And are FULLY subpoenable.
Good luck with that "I did it because Joe is evil" defense!
Update 10: "[Hensley's] claim that a U.S. Senator was among the clients for BoisRUs was never confirmed."
A pity. This gets back to all the Harlow "mystery client" conspiracy theories of old, such as the volume of the BBTs being turned down at a certain point while played in the court proceedings, as observed by Quickysrt.
I suspect if the mystery were ever solved, we'd also find out who is currently paying Fannick.