The $1,190,809 judgment against Russ Whitney as analyzed by John T. Reed 1 Copyright 2002, 2003 by John T. Reed Last update 7/8/03 In his book, Building Wealth, Russ Whitney describes his real estate investments in the Fort Myers and Cape Coral, FL areas and in the area where he invested before moving to Florida: "Upstate New York." I thought it strange he would name the Florida cities, but not the city in New York. I wondered if something happened there that he did not want people to know about. You decide. Suit gets me interested My Web site has lengthy discussions about Carleton Sheets and Robert Kiyosaki, but had little about Whitney. I read his book Building Wealth when he started to threaten me with lawsuits. When he actually filed the suit against me last summer, I was compelled to do an extremely thorough investigation of him. One of the many things I did was go to "Upstate New York." But where in Upstate New York? First I had to figure out exactly where in "upstate New York." He never once mentions the city in Building Wealth. He gives only one clue. He constantly tells people that he worked in a "slaughterhouse" at age 20. (Tobin Packing Company of Albany.) So I started asking the customers who call me daily if they knew anything about Whitney. I asked those who did if he ever mentioned the city in New York. One thought it was Schenectady, which is near Albany. That was interesting, but I was not willing to fly from CA to Schenectady on such thin evidence. So I called the Schenectady Realtors'®, New York State real estate commission, and so forth. Whitney said he had a real estate license, but no one had records that far back: 1976-1982. I did a Google search for his website"”russwhitney.com. It got 2,500 hits. Then I did a "search within results"' for the word "Schenectady." It got only one hit. Searches within russwhitney.com for Fort Myers or Cape Coral get many, many hits. I went to the one hit. A Whitney customer had posted a question on his bulletin board asking if one could pursue the rehab strategy successfully in cold climates. The great man himself decided to post an answer. It said he knew you could because he himself had started in Schenectady. Bingo. Later, a reader sent me copies of Whitney' 1984 books and cassettes. In those, he freely names Schenectady and even gives the street addresses of most of his properties. His reluctance to mention Schenectady is a post-1984 phenomenon. That may be because of the events of 1987 in that city. See below for details. "Judgment" My first stop was the Schenectady County Clerk' office. They have computers where you type in the name of the person you are researching, and the recent recorded documents pertaining to him come up. For older documents, you have to laboriously go through handwritten and computer-printout index books. Rule of Thirds Reed' Rule of Thirds says that when you research something in depth, about one-third of what you find is what you expect, one-third is a welcome surprise, and one-third is an unwelcome surprise. As I perused the printout of the computer search, one line jumped out at me. Among the deeds and mortgages and powers of attorney was an entry where the "instrument type" was "judgment." Furthermore, it said an individual had won a judgment against Whitney for $1,190,809! Mixed reaction I actually had a mixed reaction to this. Whitney' Schenectady dealings seemed to me to be extremely small time, notwithstanding his making himself sound like a big tycoon when he talked about it. If he was in a deal where the stakes were in the millions, maybe he was big-time after all. On the other hand, I figured this was probably a business dispute with a partner or some such, so the case file would probably yield some evidence about Whitney' character. It was no business deal"”no evidence that Whitney was a big-time operator. Quite the contrary. Because the events in question were dramatic, I"ll describe them in the present tense. Long hours It is November 15, 1980. Whitney is a commissioned salesman for the Confederation of Organized Purchasers, Inc., which he describes as a "furniture co-op." In pursuit of his driving ambition to be a "huge success," Whitney works long hours. Burning the candle at both ends In Building Wealth, he brags of working as a short-order cook from 5 AM until 3 PM, then "dashing across the street" to work as a telemarketer, then driving a taxi on a counterfeit drivers license "until one or two in the morning." At COOP, Inc., he said he often worked 14-hour days. There is some question as to whether he had been getting enough sleep on November 15, 1980. Quitting time Around 2 AM, Whitney closes the COOP, Inc. store at the Jamesway Plaza shopping center in Saratoga Springs, NY and begins the 25-mile drive on Route 50 in his 1978, white, Toyota Hilux pickup to his home at 3160 Guilderland Avenue in Rotterdam, just outside Schenectady. His wife is also at Jamesway Plaza with him and leaves in their Plymouth ten or fifteen minutes after Russ leaves. A half-moon had set at 48 minutes past midnight. It is cloudy, but ground level visibility is unlimited. There is no fog or precipitation or snow on the ground. Route 50 Route 50 is a semi-rural road, two lanes wide. The current speed limit is 40. Police say they think it was in 1980 as well. There is a bike-lane-type shoulder that is five feet seven inches wide, but it is only differentiated from the road by a painted white strip. There is no difference in texture or
appearance to alert you that you are off the road. About one foot outside the shoulder is a shallow drainage ditch on each side of the road. Houses and businesses line the road, but they are set back about 50 feet and have large separations between them. No lights There are street lights about every 75 yards, but many are turned off this night to save money. Whitney says there were no other cars on the road, but he nevertheless chose not to use his high beams. Bob Deering 19-year old Bob Deering [not his real name] leaves Allen' Beef and Ale at the corner of Charlton Road (Route 37) and Route 50 in Glenville, NY. He has been watching TV, playing foosball, and watching the band with friends. One of them says he had three O"Keefe' beers and a "kamikazee" drink which he barely touched. Friends say he did not appear to be drunk"”showing skill at foosball. Unable to get a ride during a 2:00 AM call to a friend, Deering starts walking home. He reportedly witnesses a car accident on Route 50 at Charlton (Route 37). He stops at an AM/PM Minimarket there, to buy Doritos and a pack of Newport cigarettes. Siren As he nears Allen' Beef and Ale at the corner of Charlton Road and Route 50, Whitney hears a siren. It is the volunteer fire department calling its members to respond to the accident near the AM/PM Minimarket. You can see what Whitney saw"”minus what his headlights would have illuminated"”around the time he heard the siren in this police photo. It is looking south on Route 50. On the left is the volunteer fire department with a flag pole in front. Behind that on the left is Allen'. On the right side of the street all lit up is the AM/PM Minimarket. The dark in the center distance beyond the traffic signals is where Deering is walking along the grass on the right side of the road. This photo was reportedly taken by Whitney' defense in March of 1981. Emergency medical technicians had been dispatched to that same accident at Route 50 and Charlton Road at 2:04 AM. They arrived at the AM/PM Minimarket at 2:12 AM and heard the siren go off a few minutes later. The fire department logged the call alerting it to the accident at 2:11 AM. Leaving the Minimarket, Deering continuing walking south on Route 50, also known as Saratoga Road on that stretch. He apparently stops to light a Newport with his Bic lighter in front of the house at 419 Saratoga Road, facing the house, perhaps to shield the lighter from the November wind. He is standing about one foot off the shoulder on the grass. (These facts are determined from the fact that the Bic lighter and unsmoked Newport cigarette were found lying on the ground. Presumably, they would have been in his pocket if he were not using them. We know he was facing right because the injuries were to the right side of his body.) When I was a cadet at West Point, we had military training two months every summer. One night, they sat us in bleachers out in the mountains on a moonless night to demonstrate to us how important it was to avoid lights and noise in the dark. They had a soldier who was 300-500 yards away in the pitch dark light a cigarette. He might as well have lit a searchlight. It stood out that much. Almost the same thing happened when he extinguished the lighter and simply drew on the cigarette causing its end to glow. Both lights were extremely easy to see from great distance in the dark. So in addition to his headlights, Whitney' ability to see Bob may have been aided by Deering' lighter flame or cigarette. Around 2:15 AM, about 100 yards south of the AM/PM Minimarket, Whitney' pickup leaves the road and goes onto the shoulder at a point 57 feet north of New York Telephone pole #207 as determined by police investigation of tire tracks. Whitney hits Deering with the right front of his pickup at 50 feet, four inches north of the pole. Deering' foot is dragged in the dirt for 7 feet, 11 inches, leaving a scrape mark, and his body ends up 50 feet 4 inches away, directly across the street from the telephone pole. The scrape mark is likely made by Deering' boot heel or the edge of the sole of his boot. You can see the scrape in the dirt and the rest of the scene in a police photo by clicking here. Note the tire skid mark in the lower left of the photo. This is likely caused by Whitney slamming on the brakes after he saw Deering directly in front of his car. You can also see what appears to be a tire track just to the right of the scrape mark in the grass and leaves. This curves suggesting Whitney was steering to the left to get back on the road. Click here for a closer view of the scrape in the dirt. The persons in the picture are police officers. The body ends up against a cedar hedge that separates 419 Saratoga Road from 417 Saratoga Road, suggesting it might have traveled farther if not for the hedge. Here is a police photo from across the street showing where the body ended up. The point of impact with the truck is behind the police officers off the photo to the right. Where the body ended up is designated by two felt-tipped-pen circles drawn by the police near the left of the photo at the base of some bushes. Here is the police diagram of the scene. It' a bit hard to read. I may try to enlarge it or recreate it to make it more legible later. If you have a question about the diagram, let me know. I will either clarify it with words here or make a supplemental diagram. Here is a police photo taken after dark of what Whitney should have seen just before impact"”minus Deering and the headlights of Whitney' truck, of course. Again, this is reportedly a photo taken by Whitney defense in March of 1981. The brightest light is the self-illuminated sign for the Pine Ridge Trailer Court which is visible in the similar photo taken during daylight. As you can see in the daylight photo, there are three driveways between the Trailer Court sign (not counting the well-lit Trailer Court driveway behind the sign) and where Deering' body was found between the third and fourth driveway from the Trailer Court sign. In the nighttime photo, you can barely make out the white rock where Deering' body was found. On the left side of the nighttime photo you can see the Kozlow' sign next to telephone pole #207 which is directly across the street from where Deering' body ended up. In the middle of the nighttime photo, you can see a street light that was turned off to save electricity. Bob' face makes a hole the size of a large orange in Whitney' windshield. The right front of Whitney' pickup is also damaged. His hood ornament and pieces of his lights fall off. Click here to see a police photo of Whitney' pickup the day after the collision. As you can see, Whitney had a clear view of Deering' body lying on his hood even after the cracking of the glass on the passenger side of the windshield. Although it was dark, his headlights would have illuminated Deering' lower body and silhouetted his upper body. In this interior police photo, you can see the damage to Whitney' windshield. This damage is very similar to the damage done to the car of Phoenix bishop Thomas J. O"Brien who was arrested 6/16/03 on a felony charge of leaving the scene of a fatal car accident. Like Whitney, he claimed he did not know what he hit and did not report the accident to the police. No flashlight Whitney claims he pulls over and looks around in the dark trying to figure out what he hit, but is unable to see anything because he does not have a flashlight. He does not knock on any of the adjacent home doors for a flashlight or to call police. Whitney gets back in his truck. He later testifies his headlights still work and the truck can be driven. How long did Whitney look around? He does not say, but his wife had been at the same place as him before driving home. She left in a separate vehicle around ten or fifteen minutes after him according to her statement to the police. She took the same route home and never overtook Russ, so he could not have spent more than ten or fifteen minutes looking around. Animal or kids Whitney does not turn around and use his headlights to investigate the impact scene. He does not flag down his wife who is coming on the same road ten to fifteen minutes behind him to ask her to help search the scene. He does not go 100 yards back to the still open AM/PM Minimarket where Deering had just bought cigarettes and a snack to ask if the clerk saw anything or to call the police"”the same AM/PM Minimarket where an ambulance crew is still working on the previous accident. He does not go to the fire house which is "a stone' throw" from the collision spot. Rather he just resumes his drive home. Later he claims he figured he hit an animal or was hit by kids throwing something at cars. As he starts to drive home, he passes a sign on Route 50 that says "Town of Glenville Police Station" and points left. The police station is 500 yards off Route 50 on Glenridge Road (Route 914V). He does not stop at the police station to report the "kids" or the "animal" impact. Nor does he report the incident to the police by pay phone on the way home or by his home phone when he arrives. Bleeding, freezing As Whitney continues home, Bob lies on the side of the road. He is severely brain damaged, has multiple fractures, is bleeding, and is unconscious. The temperature is in the low thirties and falling. At home, Whitney finally reports the incident"”apparent from the severe damage to his truck"”to his baby sitter. Wife returns Whitney' pregnant wife returns and finds him examining the damage to his truck under a floodlight outside their home. He tells her what happened and sends her to take the baby sitter home in their "75 Plymouth. Bob goes into shock from loss of blood. "White fur" Whitney' wife returns. They find what he calls "white fur" stuck in the damaged portion of the pickup. They save it in a baggie. It is down from the vest Bob was wearing. If Whitney admitted to knowing how to tell the difference between fur and feathers, he would have had to claim the animal that hit his truck was a 150-pound duck. Whitney and his wife decide to visit the scene in the Plymouth "to see if we could find whatever the heck it was we [sic] hit just for our own self-satisfaction." At 3:15 AM, a motorcyclist hits a pedestrian on Route 50 at New York Telephone pole #209 approximately 500 feet south of Charlton Road and about 200 feet south of where Deering was lying. When Whitney and his wife and daughter return, around 3:30 AM, they encounter an ambulance, a police car with lights flashing, road flares, and a crowd of onlookers. Motorcycle Whitney asks a girl what happened. She says it was a motorcycle hit-and-run. Amazingly, a motorcycle did hit two pedestrians, eventually killing one, within 200 feet of where Whitney hit Bob. The surviving pedestrian in that incident promptly called police. Whitney asks a police officer who is controlling traffic if a vehicle was involved. The officer tells him no. Whitney does not mention his incident to the police officer. Searches roadside Whitney and his wife then drive about a mile north of Allen' Beef and Ale. Why they drove a mile north of Allen' when the accident had just happened south of Allen' less than two hours before is not explained. It' still dark. He claims they make a U-turn and drive slowly south on Route 50 with Whitney' wife driving and Whitney shining a flashlight out the passenger window on the ground along the roadside. They claim to find nothing. He and his wife return home and go to sleep. Sunrise At 6:46 AM, the sun rises in Glenville"”stopping the fall in temperatures at 31 degrees and illuminating the near lifeless body on the side of the road. At 7:17 AM, a woman who lives at 424 Saratoga Road goes out, walking north on Route 50. She finds Bob and calls police from the AM/PM Minimarket. The police investigator arrives at 7:20 AM. "Comatose, nonreactive" Bob is admitted to Ellis Hospital in Schenectady "comatose and non-reactive." He spends the next 23 days in surgery and intensive care. He cannot speak or follow commands. He often exhibits "decerebrate and decortical posturing" and prolonged muscle contractions. [Decerebrate posturing is a person who is lying on his back with his arms extended pushing his wrists into the floor as hard as possible as if he were doing isometric exercises. Decortical posturing is flexing your bicep involuntarily. Both are indications of severe brain injury.] Click here for the complete medical report on the victim. Physical evidence Glenville police investigator D.G. Macherone, now deputy chief, scrutinizes the scene. The evidence he gathers includes the blood-soaked parka, pants, underwear and boots of the victim. They had been cut from this body by emergency medical technicians before he was removed by ambulance. A canvas of residents of the area finds none heard or saw anything during the night. Debris field Where did Whitney' truck stop in relation to the body? According to police analysis of the tire imprints on the side of the road, Whitney' truck stopped at Point E on the police diagram of the scene. If he did come to a stop at point E, Deering' body would have been 32 feet in front of the pickup in the full glare of Whitney' headlights. If he was traveling at 40 miles per hour"”the speed limit"”he would have traveled about 40 feet from the point of impact, assuming that was when he first decided to stop. The skid marks probably indicate he braked before impact. That would have left him with the body about ten feet in front of his truck. If he was going 50 m.p.h., he would have ended up about even with the body. The farthest he might have gone appears to have been about 28 feet beyond the body, That' where the last bits of truck parts from Whitney' vehicle were found. Of course, they could have flown and bounced there from momentum when the truck stopped short of that spot. Also, there are traffic lights at Saratoga and Charlton, a hundred yards or so north of the collision. If they were red when Whitney arrived, he probably would have been traveling at less than the speed limit when he hit Deering. All of the Toyota truck parts are found on the dirt or grass off the shoulder except for the hood ornament, which was seen falling onto the roadway out from between the ambulance wheels as it was leaving. Police matched the hood ornament found at the scene to the broken half of the mounting bracket for the hood ornament still on Whitney' truck. They also matched pieces of Whitney' right directional light found at the scene with the pieces missing from the right directional light on Whitney' truck. At 9:45 AM, the police get Deering' shirt and socks from Ellis Hospital. Deering' brother, sister, and girlfriend are at the hospital. The girlfriend is asked what Bob' cigarette brand is. "Newport."