Slippery lawyer versus the "fat prick." The inside color story
When speaking to the media Wednesday about the Grand Jury's finding of "no evidence of criminal activity" on his part, defense attorney Chuck Peruto was circumspect, asking "why was this needed" and "what was suspicious"?
He was more forthcoming on his Facebook page where Peruto got in D.A. Seth Williams' face and called him a "fat prick."
I saw it on Facebook Wednesday, had a chuckle and thought nothing more of it. But then Philly Mag's blog posted it and Thursday it turns into a news story to be reported in the paper on Friday.
As a reverse reward for making in to work, Daily News reporter Julie Shaw is assigned to verify it with Peruto and then get a comment from the D.A. Or try to get a comment, anyway.
Peruto answers his phone, he's usually good about that, and acknowledges he did indeed call the D.A. a "fat prick."
Off-Point: Why did the D.A. convene a Grand Jury when the cops and an initial medical examiner's finding agreed Julia Law's death was an accident? Maybe because the smart-alecky and slippery Peruto has a good record beating the D.A.'s office in court? Maybe because Chuckie is all full of himself? Who knows.
After the initial finding back in May, even I got involved, syncing the tragic death of Peruto's girl friend with the death of a woman in the hot tub of Harry Jay Katz, then a semi-notorious playboy (since reformed). It was a pretty good piece, I think.
Back to the present, Julie Shaw gets the D.A. on his cell phone and he's surprised because he's been ducking the press but thought this might be a weather emergency. (The D.A. is always the first place I think to call in a weather emergency.)
Shaw is in the delicate position of asking Williams if he is a "fat prick."
But that's not the way it is handled. Shaw asks if he has any response to Peruto's name-calling and Williams tries to squirm away but Shaw keeps him on the hook until he stammers a no comment. When it's anything hard ball, Williams punts to his spokeswoman, Tasha Jamerson.
Williams later emails Shaw's boss, complaining she had asked him improper questions based on Peruto's allegations and that she raised her voice. (I sit close to her, she raised it only a bit in shock when she thought Williams was going to hang up on her). Williams writes that "inappropriate" behavior is "very frequent in our dealings with some of your reporters" and he goes all Aretha Franklin mirror image when he mentions "disrepect."
You know what they say about giving r-e-s-p-e-c-t to get respect. Many of my colleagues feel the D.A.'s office is difficult to deal with, hard to get information out of. They may have to press a little, and they should.
The D.A. has his role. We have ours. He ought to put on his (very) big boy pants and quit whining.
Shaw chases this (plus another element, go read her Friday story) most of the day, including trying to pry Peruto's real age out of him. This comes back to me because in my previous life as a gossip columnist, I was known as having everyone's date of birth.
Well, I did, but in the days before computer searches, I often took their word for it. As I had reported it, Peruto was two years older than he was in fact. After it was brought to my attention I gently confronted Peruto, who told me years back he added two years to his age because he was so young, and so baby-faced, he felt he needed gravitas.
I was listening as Shaw tried to pin down Peruto, who simply didn't want to answer. Shaw bulldogged him, asking if she reported his age as 56, would he seek a correction? He said no, he wouldn't, but claimed he was really 58.
Long story short, Chuckie got to throw a few bags of poop at Williams, who deserved it.