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Wednesday, April 17 2002

Joe Yobaggy - 2

I don't remember what government agency it was that sent out a press release "announcing" that Blacklick Valley political figure Joseph Yobaggy had been charged with extortion in connection with a public works job he was doing somewhere further west in Pennsylvania (perhaps Butler or New Castle...I recall it as somewhere on Route 422). Being a greenhorn and always looking for whatever would make the job easier to me as a fulltime student/fulltime editor, I didn't question the propriety of running the handout. We got hundreds of such handouts every week, but most of them didn't directly impinge on Blacklick Valley...this one was different...potentially Big News.

I wasn't surprised when Joe Yobaggy called to talk to me after the piece ran in the paper, but was surprised at how conciliatory his tone was, how undefensive, and willing to do whatever it would take to get me to listen to his side of the story. I don't remember much of that phone conversation, but he talked me into coming to his and Mrs. Yobaggy's residence, a flat over the B-Y Supermarket at Bethel, a business enterprise in which he was one of the "B's," one of the Brothers Yobaggy of the B-Y. I walked the outside stairs to their apartment, entering in the back, through the kitchen. Joe and Helen couldn't have been more friendly, and immediately took me on a tour of their flat. Joe had recently rebuilt the apartment, creating what I remember as a huge sunken living room worthy of a New York Penthouse, and assuring me that he had done all the carpentry himself.

I was still more skeptical than ever about him but before the evening was done I'd been persuaded that I had been unfair to run the article, a handout, without even calling him for comment about it. He also made me doubt the veracity of the press release and question why it would have been sent in the first place. Since when does the government try its cases in the court of public opinion? It did seem, from that perspective, that someone was out to get Joseph Yobaggy.

Most surprising was his assurance, repeated over and over, that he was not pleading for a retraction or even a correction, but that he only wanted for me to understand his side of the story (from which I found nothing to believe he'd done anything wrong, though of course that was not surprising, it being "his side"). If I got further press releases, he asked, would I let him explain his take on them before going with a story? And be assured that he wanted to air anything I wanted to discuss.

Perhaps from the movies and TV dramas, you know that's a rare offer from a public official, especially one who has been charged of a serious crime. But Watergate was still far in the future...much less the movie about it...I didn't realize at the time what a rarity it was for anyone accused to offer such candor and availability. I still wondered if I was being manipulated, but I left that first lengthy interview with a much altered opinion of Joe Yobaggy, not to mention eating some humble pie of my own.

(To be continued.)

—Webmaster Jon Kennedy

Notes to God

A parochial school teacher asked her class to write notes to God. Here are some of the notes the children handed in:

Dear God: Maybe Cain and Abel would not have killed each other so much if they had their own rooms. That's what my Mom did for me and my brother.

Dear God: If You watch me in church on Sunday, I'll show You my new shoes.

—Sent by Sallie Covolo

Thought for the day

A brother whom another brother had wronged came to see the Abbot, Sisoes, and said to him, "My brother has hurt me and I want to avenge myself." The old man pleaded with him saying, "No, my child, leave vengeance to God." The brother said to him, "I shall not rest until I have avenged myself." The old man said, "Brother, let us pray." Then the old man stood up and said, "God, we no longer need you to care for us, since we exact justice for ourselves." Hearing these words, the brother fell at the old man's feet, saying, I will no longer seek justice from my brother. Forgive me, abba."

—Sent by Christopher Haas

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