The $1,190,809 judgment against Russ Whitney as analyzed by John T. Reed 2 Auto parts dealer Around 11 AM, Investigator Macherone takes the vehicle parts"”which he still has and uses in speeches about police work"”to Northway Toyota. The parts manager quickly identifies them as from a 1975-1978, Toyota Hilux, two-wheel-drive pickup. Toyota parts are only sold by Toyota dealers and junk dealers. Macherone gets the names of the other Toyota dealers in the area. At 12:15 PM, he phones all of them to be on the lookout for anyone trying to buy the parts in question. APB At 1:30 PM, Macherone calls local radio and TV stations and reads a handwritten news release about the case. It describes the hit and run, the vehicle and its missing parts and promises confidentiality to callers. At 3:30 PM, a similar police bulletin is sent by radio and teletype to all Schenectady County law enforcement agencies. At 4PM, Macherone asks the State Police to do a search of its vehicle records for all 1975-1978, Toyota, Hilux pickup trucks registered in Schenectady and Saratoga Counties. "Listen to the news" Still on Saturday, Whitney returns to work in Saratoga Springs"”now driving the Plymouth. At 9AM he calls his wife and tells her to "listen to the news and see if she could hear anything about any unusual occurrence or anything happening at all." She says in her police statement that she listened to "every news on the radio that I could." She also checked the Saturday Schenectady Gazette and found nothing. After arriving home around 4:15 PM, Whitney listens to radio news. After attending a meeting, Whitney stays up to listen to the local news at 3:00 AM Sunday morning. Morning paper On Sunday morning, November 16, 1980, Whitney is relieved to have heard nothing on the news about his accident. Then he opens the Albany Times-Union while eating breakfast and reads the all-points bulletin. He calls the lawyer for the Confederation of Organized Purchasers to ask what to do. The lawyer tells him to call the police immediately. "Don"t put me on hold" Whitney calls the Glenville police around 2 PM on the 16th. When they put him on hold, he immediately hangs up fearing they are trying to trace the call. He calls them back and orders them not to put him on hold or try to trace the call. They tell him the incident probably did not involve him, but ask him to come in just to be sure. He, his wife, and their 3-year-old daughter arrive at the Glenville Police
station at 3PM. Macherone meets them there. Whitney gives an oral statement. They return with him to his home to inspect and photograph the truck. The police ask if they can take the truck. Whitney says OK, but wants to call his attorney first. The attorney says to let them have the truck, which they seize and store indoors. Macherone calls Assistant District Attorney who tells him to issue Whitney a summons (ticket) for leaving the scene of a personal injury accident and said this would be going to the grand jury. Whitney turns over the baggie of feathers taken from the pickup to Macherone. Whitney' statement At 5:15 PM, they return to the Glenville Police station where Whitney and his wife give written statements. The top of the statement asks for degree of education. Whitney answers, "High School." This will probably come as a surprise to those who have heard him say for years that he is a high school dropout. He was a high school dropout for a couple of years before getting his G.E.D. apparently before age 20. Whitney gives his occupation as "Corporate area coordinator." The president of Confederation of Organized Purchasers later denied that Whitney was anything but a straight-commission salesman in a deposition. I have read a bunch of Whitney' books and done much other research on him. Whitney apparently has a lifelong fascination with big corporations and the image of being a big shot corporate executive. That may explain why he has had so many corporations. Whitney' statement begins by saying he was at an "executive meeting with the corporate staff of my company" before heading home on 11/15/80. Jeez! The guy' just been arrested for hit-and-run and his first thought is to try to impress the police with what a corporate big shot he is. In addition, the corporate president testified that meetings like the one Whitney was referring to were of prospective COOP customers and a couple of salespeople. The president was there to help close the sale. They were not executive meetings of staff. Whitney statement continues, "Just past Allen', something hit and shattered my windshield. I never saw what it was." The "something" he is referring to is Bob Deering' face, which was attached to the body illuminated by Whitney' headlights, before impact. I conclude it was his face because the medical report lists extensive damage to his face, but none to the other body parts that might have hit the windshield like the back of his head or his shoulder. Whitney said, "I thought it could have been an animal or maybe some kids threw something at the truck." He does not explain how he eliminated the possibility that it was a person, given that he "never saw what it was." "2 Weekend "Hit-and-Runs" Leave 2 Critically Injured" This was the headline on page 29 of the Monday Schenectady Gazette reports, "Glenville Police yesterday charged Russell A. Whitney, 24, of 3160 Guilderland Ave., Rotterdam, with leaving the scene of a personal injury accident after he surrendered to them." Whitney' driving record at the time shows two previous citations: "Failed to use due care" on 7/18/79 and "Disobeyed traffic device" on 7/30/78. On Tuesday, Whitney celebrates his 25th birthday. On page 47 of Building Wealth, Whitney brags, "By the time I was 25, I owned well over $1 million in real estate and was an owner or partner in several other businesses." That' not the only thing that was going on that day. He is ordered to reappear in the Town of Glenville Court on Thursday. Headlights Police examine Whitney' headlights carefully. The passenger side low beam is not working. A police expert examines the headlight and concludes it failed during the collision with Deering as a result of that collision. On 11/20/80, Deering' mother tells Officer Macherone her son has contracted pneumonia. On 11/21/80, a reporter from the Albany Times-Union tells Macherone that Whitney contacted the reporter to tell him that he had used a flashlight to search on his return visit to Route 50 the morning of the accident. Grand jury The Schenectady County District Attorney asks a grand jury to indict Whitney. For what remains a secret. The investigating police officer testifies on 1/7/81. "Fellas" Whitney affects a folksy, country-and-Western speaking style"”as if he were from rural Wyoming. I say affects because he sure didn"t learn to talk that way growing up in Queens (Archie Bunker, "King of Queens") before he went to Schenectady at age 20. They don"t even talk like that in Schenectady For example, Whitney uses the word "fella" a lot. When asked if he talked to a police officer at the motorcycle hit-and-run scene, he answered, "The police officer was the last fella I talked to." Nobody says "fella" but black-and-white-movie good guys like Jimmy Stewart or Roy Rogers. Whitney' good-fella act may explain the grand jury' decision. On page 18 of Building Wealth, Whitney says, "I easily could have used my lousy childhood as an excuse for never achieving anything significant." I wonder if he used it as an excuse in the grand jury room. He sure does whine about his childhood a lot in Building Wealth. "No true bill" On 1/13/81, the grand jury astonished the police and DA by deciding not to prosecute. "No true bill" is the official term for their decision. They do not have to explain why and did not. Law enforcement authorities felt they presented a treasure trove of physical evidence in favor of indictment. Civil suit Schenectady attorney Phil Rodriguez was also on Route 50 on the morning of November 15, 1980. He came upon the scene after the police had arrived and asked what had happened. He ended up representing Bob in a $2.5 million civil suit against Whitney. (He also sued the city, Whitney' employer, the power company, and so forth, but Whitney was the only defendant held liable.) According to a psychologist who examined Bob, the accident left him with a bottom-8.7%-of-the-population IQ, mentally retarded, and with widespread brain damage that interfered "¦"with all areas of [his] functioning" and left him unemployable. The medical affidavit said that as of 1/24/81, he was not mentally able to communicate to any rational extent and was mentally and physically disabled to the extent that he was unable to protect his legal rights. Click here for the psychologist' report on the brain damage. Blame the victim Whitney blamed the victim"”claiming he was wearing dark clothes, walking on the road rather than the shoulder, walking the same direction as traffic on his side of the road, and impaired by having consumed alcoholic beverages. (My source for Whitney' version of the events is his deposition and other court papers.) Photos of the scene, the location of parts from Whitney' truck and Deering' belongings, and the diagram drawn by the police indicate that Deering was standing on the dirt about one foot outside the shoulder of the road, not in the roadway itself as Whitney claims. Trial After various pre-trial proceedings, the case went to trial on September 23, 1987 and ended on October 27, 1987"”an unusually long trial. The jury verdict was for $1,800,000. (The judgment is located in book 912 on page 134 in the Schenectady County Clerk' records, Index No. 82-860, Control No. 46-1-84-0132, Calendar No. 84-0767.) They said the victim was 25% liable and Whitney was 75% liable. 25% of the $1.8 million is $450,000. Other defendants had paid an additional $160,000 to settle the case. That left a balance of $1,190,000. Bob also had costs of $809 which were added to the judgment. Car insurance Aetna Insurance Company, which covered Whitney' car, paid the limit of $100,000 of the liability portion of his policy. With interest, that came to $118,671.14 which Aetna paid on 4/4/88. Appeal Whitney switched lawyers and appealed. A satisfaction of judgment saying that Whitney had fully paid the judgment was recorded on 11/4/88. I was surprised that Whitney was able to come up with so much money. Threatened bankruptcy Then I talked to Phil Rodriguez, Bob' attorney. They actually settled for just a couple of mortgages and some cash from Whitney in 1988 because he threatened to file bankruptcy if they didn"t. Rodriguez was not sure of the final amount, but gave me the impression that it was a nickel or a dime on the dollar. See Whitney' first fortune for my best guess on the amount of the mortgages. It should be noted that you cannot declare bankruptcy unless you have a negative net worth"”which is far from what Whitney had been claiming for four years in his rags-to-riches, rapid-success, self-depictions. Guru Howard Ruff went bankrupt in his early years. Later, when he hit it big, he went back and paid off all the creditors who lost money in his bankruptcy"”with interest. I asked Phil Rodriguez if Whitney did that with Bob after Whitney became the big success in Florida. Nope. I hit a deer I hit a deer once. And I was in the front passenger seat when my son hit a deer. We know what we hit because we have eyes and headlights and we were looking through the windshield at the time. The only way we would not have known what we hit was if our eyes had been closed or we had taken our eyes off the road"”either of which constitutes negligence. If you do not know for sure what you hit, you report it so the authorities can investigate. If you do not know what you hit, you may have hit a person. Even animals need medical care or to be put out of their misery. If kids are throwing 100-pound-plus objects at cars, I would report it immediately to increase the chances of their being caught and stopped as soon as possible. I cannot imagine anyone not immediately reporting kids doing such damage to a moving car.