Friday, December 29, 2017


Everyone agrees that better and more mental health care is part of the answer to stemming the tide of school shootings. Yet, in the nearly sixteen years since the shooting at the Appalachian School of Law, the quality of mental health care in Virginia has declined; thanks in a large part to the privatization of mental health care facilities.

What better example does anyone need than the sloppy and unprofessional care given Seung Hui Cho in the years and months before he went on his rampage at Virginia Tech? 

And if the Virginia Tech massacre is not evidence enough of the Virginia’s substandard mental health care, then look at the tragedy that struck the Creigh Deeds family on November 19,, 2014

According to press reports, Austin “Gus” Deeds had a mental-health evaluation on Monday November 18, 2013 and an Emergency Custody Order, ECO, had been placed on Gus Deeds to see if he should be placed in custody for a longer period. Mental health officials said they could not find a bed to hold young Deeds for further evaluation and treatment. That was not true. Subsequently, it was found out that beds were available. The next morning young Deeds apparently had a psychotic episode and stabbed his father multiple times in the face and upper torso before killing himself.

Austin “Gus” Deeds died, in part, because of the poorly run private mental care system in Virginia; a system that cannot even keep track of vacant beds. Young Austin Deeds was a victim of political machinations in Richmond. Politicians who have backed cuts in mental health treatment and the privatization of the state’s mental health care share part of the blame for the calamity that struck the Deeds family. (To be continued)

Sunday, December 24, 2017


There were reports, never denied by the school, that if contributors did not write Hokie Spirit Memorial Fund on the check’s memo line, the money was deposited in the school’s general fund. There were also reports, again never denied by the school, that Virginia Tech informally told major contributors not to contribute until after the Hokie Spirit Memorial Fund closed because the money would then go directly to the school. The families would not see a penny of it, nor would the scholarships that were set up to memorialize those killed. Even with regard to the $8.5 million in the fund, the families had next to no say in how the money was distributed or how it was spent. 

With the handling of the Hokie Spirit Memorial Fund, the Virginia Tech school administrators sank to an all-time low repugnant behavior—a willingness to line the school’s pockets on the murder of 32 people. (To be continued)

Tuesday, December 19, 2017


Since the shooting at the Appalachian School of Law on January 16, 2002, I have learned that when it comes to money, there is no end to the extent of some people’s greed. The Hokie Spirit Memorial Fund, is an especially unsavory look into the greedy minds of the school and state leadership.

Soon after the shooting, Virginia Tech established the Hokie Spirit Memorial Fund following the shooting rampage. Billed as a tribute to the dead and wounded, people could show their support to the school and the victims by making contributions to the fund.

Across the country people opened their hearts and their pocket books.  The money rolled in—millions of dollars. Virginia Tech must have thought it had found the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

Let’s take a look at the money Virginia Tech made from the deaths of 32 people and wounding of 17 others.  The school said that $8.5 million represented the bulk of the funds received; in fact the figure was around $160 million. (For a breakdown of the facts and figures associated with the Hokie Spirit Memorial Fund, see chapter 10 of Virginia Tech: Make Sure It Doesn’t Get Out.) (To be continued)

Sunday, December 17, 2017


Five years after Angie Dales murder at the Appalachian School of Law in Grundy, Virginia, one of the nation’s worst mass shootings occurred at Virginia Tech--less than 200 miles from the law school. Despite the expressions of sympathy and crocodile tears, Virginia Tech officials, as well as politicians of all stripes, came together in a cauldron of deceit, dishonesty, and political larceny.

Virginia Tech is a state school and protected by sovereign immunity. The largest judgment anyone can win against the state, with few exceptions, is $100,000. In reality, the state is willing to spend millions of dollars to protect incompetent and inept university administrators, but not one cent more than $100,000 to the dead students’ parents or the spouses of dead professors or instructors.

Let’s look at how Virginia Tech spent its money in order to spin the tragedy to its benefit and conceal the incompetence of the school’s leadership:
·      Virginia Tech paid $150,000 to the public relations firm, Firestorm, for 10 days work to help the school begin to spin the tragedy to its benefit.
·      Virginia Tech paid $663,000 to an even bigger public relations firm when it became clear that the negative publicity about the school was too big for Firestorm to handle. That firm was Bursen-Marsteller, the same public relations firm that was the spin-doctor for Dow-Corning’s campaign to limit damages arising from their silicone breast implants. The same Bursen-Marsteller who had been hired by big tobacco companies to develop a campaign to defuse the bad publicity associated with smoking.
·      Virginia (unlike Colorado in the case of Columbine and Connecticut in the case of Sandy Hook) hired a private company to write the report analyzing the Virginia Tech shooting and determining if the school was culpable. That firm was TriData, an Arlington, Virginia-based company that had done business with the state. The state paid TriData over $600,000 to produce a badly flawed report. The state then paid TriData another $75,000 to issue two corrected, subsequent versions. The final version still contains errors.
·      As noted above, the families of the dead students and faculty each got $100,000. You should also know that the 30 families of the deceased agreed to settle with the state only after lawyers from the state’s Attorney General’s office made it clear they would hold up paying the medical bills for the wounded until a settlement was reached.
·      The lawyers representing the families received over $1 million.

·      Two Virginia Tech families who lost daughters on April 16, 2007 and would not settle with the state, sued. They won a jury verdict, but the Virginia Supreme Court, as cited earlier, overturned that decision. The Pryde and Peterson families got $0. (To be continued)

Tuesday, December 5, 2017


How much is your child worth? In Virginia, apparently not very much.

The cards are stacked against parents if their child is wounded or killed on a campus or school grounds in Virginia. In fact, if your child is the victim of a crime, any crime, it is hard to get justice in the Virginia legal system.

First, you begin with the points I discussed earlier; most Virginia judges and justices take the position that no one can be held accountable for anyone else’s actions. And the laws are written to reflect that bias. Second, politicians on both sides of the aisle in Richmond appear unwilling to tackle the multiple problems that have led to campus gun violence—the nearly unrestricted access to guns, the sharp decline in the availability and quality of mental health care, and the willingness of people to play fast and free with the truth.

Following the murder of Angie Dales, the mother of my oldest grandchild, fourteen years ago, we tried, and eventually got, compensation for our then seven-year-old granddaughter.  Virginia has sovereign immunity, meaning you cannot sue the state for more than $100,000. The Appalachian School of Law, however, was not a state school; it was not protected by sovereign immunity.

An out of court settlement was reached between Angie’s parents and the law school. The school agreed to pay $1 million to the plaintiffs. Angie’s mother and father had joined forces with the three wounded students, so the money was split four ways. Our then seven-year-old granddaughter got the lion’s share, over $300,000, thus ensuring her education.

The Virginia Tech families got $100,000 each for the murder of their children or loved ones. On the other hand, the state of Virginia spent around $1 million on public relations firms to spin the story and cover up incompetence. The troubling fact is that in all the mass shootings I have looked at, only Virginia felt the need to spend a small fortune on spin-doctors. You don’t spend that amount of money because you have it lying around and it is burning a hole in your pocket—you send that money on public relations firms because you have something to hide.

A question parents should ask is, do you want to send your children to school in Virginia, a state that covers up deceit and incompetence in the murder of 32 people on a major state university? (To be continued)