It's Time to End Twelve Years of Deception and Denial,
Mel and Betty Sembler to be deposed about their role in Straight

by Wes Fager (c) 2003

As you know Ray Bradbury is being sued by Mel and Betty Sembler for harassment, embarrassment and intentional inflection of emotional distress. Consequently on or about August 26 Pinellas-Pasco Sixth Circuit Judge Walt Logan ordered Mr. Bradbury to be deposed within "10 days" of receipt of his order. [See Order on Motion for Leave to Take Expedited and Expanded Discovery.] Furthermore, Judge Logan ordered Mr. Bradbury to provide within 20 days "after the date of service upon him of Requests for Production, Written Interrogatories, and Requests for Admission to Respond." Translation: Ray Bradbury must be deposed on or about Friday, September 5; and Ray Bradbury must answer, in writing, all requests for discovery information (interrogatories) within 20 days of being requested to do so. Knowing that Sembler is pushing this case through like a steam roller, we have to assume the interrogatories were submitted to Bradbury no later than August 29, so Bradbury replied to them by September 17. We can only assume these things have happened because Judge Logan has also gagged Bradbury, so it is difficult to find out information about the trial. We note with interest that anyone vaguely acquainted with civil proceedings knows that Circuit-level litigation often drags on for months and even years, so one wonders why Judge Logan decided that Ray Bradbury needed almost immediate verbal and written discovery. He ordered it because the Semblers wanted him to as you read in the Motion for an expedited and expanded discovery.

Now it's Ray Bradbury's turn. For 25 years Melvin and Betty Sembler have escaped judicial inquiry into their roles in the Straight Holocaust and there are hundreds who would like to ask them about it. Bradbury has stuck his neck out real far this time, but if there is any saving grace in this whole sordid affair it is this: the chance for someone, anyone, to finally depose Mel and Betty Sembler about their involvement in the Great Straight Holocaust. Since Bradbury has been gagged (but not yet bound by McCabe and Rice) we do not know whether he and his attorney Tom McGowan have already deposed Melvin and Betty and sent them their own interrogatories. We hope not because we would like to volunteer to help write up the questions. But even if they have, we do believe there can be motions to have further depositions and interrogatories. And that is the purpose of this article.

Soon after Straight opened a half dozen directors left in mass as Straight was investigated by the state health department, the State Attorneys Office, the St. Petersburg Police Department, Florida’s Bureau of Criminal Justice Planning and Assistance (BOCJPA) and The Saint Petersburg Times--all for allegations of criminal child abuse. It was left to program director Jim Hartz to face the press. But during the midst of all the investigations when the US Law Enforcement Assistance Agency released a favorable report on Straight it was a happy Mel Sembler whose picture was shown in the St. Petersburg Times holding a copy of and quoting from the government report. In 1983 when Fred Collins successfully sued Straight and was awarded $ 220,000 by a federal jury award, it was Bill Oliver who faced the cameras. But in 1982 when Jack Clark was the president of the board of directors for Straight and The Readers Digest did a glowing report on Straight, it was Mel Sembler who was quoted saying, "At Straight, you don't just dump your kid at the door and walk away." Jack Clark was not mentioned; no founding board member other than Sembler was mentioned by name. When the story of Leigh Bright's torture broke, it was Miller Newton who faced the press, not Mel Sembler. But when Nancy Reagan visited Straight, it was Mel Sembler beside her. When a Pinellas jury awarded Karen Norton $721,000 for being abused at Straight, it was left to Joy Margolis to explain to the press why the jury awarded such a large amount. Mel Sembler was no where to be seen. But when George Bush visited Straight, he didn't stay at Joy's house; he stayed with Mel and Betty. In 1993 when Tampa Tribune reporter Ann Marie Sarsfield called Mel Sembler to ask him which state senators he got to put pressure on HRS to give Straight a license when HRS was trying to close Straight, Mr. Sembler did not return her phone call. But on October 31, 2001 upon the occasion of his purchase of the Ambassadorship to Italy, trying to convince the US Senate's Foreign Relations Committee that he had been selected for the humanitarian work he did for America's youth, Mr. Sembler had this to say, In 1976 Betty and I helped found STRAIGHT, a nonprofit, adolescent drug treatment and rehabilitation program with branches across the US, which successfully treated and graduated more than 12,000 young people nationwide. For 17 years, I served as chairman of the board of STRAIGHT. Other than our children, nothing was more rewarding than this effort. Betty and I initially agreed that if we helped one child it would be worth all the effort. With 12,000 successful graduates . . . It was a gratifying accomplishment. In other words, for 17 years Straight criminally abused kids and whenever the abuse made it to the press, Mel Sembler was no where to be found; but if Nancy Reagan or George Bush was in town to visit Straight, then it was Mel Sembler who received them.

Straight has been sued all over the place, but Mel Sembler has never been personally sued as a result of his relationship to Straight. There is a reason for this. In 1985, facing yet another law suit for abusing yet another client, Straight, Inc. changed its mission to one of education and changed its name to Straight Foundation, Inc. Then it created a brand new program to treat the existing kids it already had in treatment. This new program was called Straight, Inc.! It had no money to pay salaries or to pay lights and gas or insurance--Straight Foundation had the money. It had no property to house the clients--the foundation had the property. The new foundation with all the money and all the property had, I believe, just one paid person. The new Straight, Inc. had perhaps a hundred employees and, perhaps, a thousand clients, but no money and no house. So the foundation leased the properties back to Straight and gave Straight, Inc. grants to meet payroll and pay its rent until the new Straight, Inc. could become self sufficient again. This setup allowed Straight, Inc. to turn over its profits to the foundation so that in the future if a client sued, there would never be any money or any property to obtain--only the insurance money. Further, Mel Sembler would be identified with the foundation which only educated the public--it did not treat anybody. So nobody should be suing Mel Sembler. Regardless of what he told the Senate he was no longer associated with Straight, Inc. the treatment program. He was associated with Straight Foundation, Inc. the educational program--except, of course, at times when people like George Bush came to town, then it was Mel Sembler showing Bush to Straight, Inc. When it came time to tell the state corporation commission about the setup, Straight Foundation said that it's purpose was now "to support and finance programs dealing with drug abuse education, prevention, control, treatment and rehabilitation of men, women and children who are victims of drug abuse . . ." But that is not really true. The foundation did not fund programs. It funded Straight, Inc.

Well, that is one of the many items that Mel and Betty need to be deposed about. When suing Straight became pandemic, Mel Sembler removed himself from Straight, Inc., hid out under Straight Foundation, Inc. and gave himself additional respectability by becoming a board member of the Florida Holocaust Museum. Thus he was never personally sued and consequently, to this very day, neither he nor Betty, nor his associates like Walter Loebenberg, James T. Russell, Bernie McCabe, Everett Rice, Michael Scalleti, Helen Gowanny, Governor Bob martinez, Governor Jeb Bush, Presdients George Bush, Micheal Kenton, Louis Kwall, Guy Perenich, Helen Peterman, Jay Synder, Joseph Garcia, Bernadine Braithwaite, Joy Margolis, Joseph Zappala, Jim Hartz, Norman Trenton, Miller Newton, Dr. Donald and Judge Irene Sullivan and a host of others have ever even been deposed about their relationship with the Semblers and/or Straight. Betty Sembler has publicly commented on what they have given Straight. We have seen Straight's s tax records since 1982, and their is no indication that the Semblers ever gave one penny to Straight though in later years there is a public disclosure that DFAF has donated services in kind to at least one anti-drug activity. One assumes this is travel and perhaps salary. If Bradbury (unless you have been blindfolded by Judge Logan and forbidden to even read anything about Straight and the Semblers) or McGowan is reading this, you must get their financial statements and tax records.

Finally after 30 years, there is a good livelihood that Mel and Betty Sembler, and perhaps others, will be forced to talk about their role with Straight, the fraud and abuse, in a court of law, provided, again, this has not already happened. I am presently (solely on my own) working up a set of interrogatories and deposition questions for the Semblers and their cohorts. I am working on cause for why others need to be drawn into deposition over this matter. I had heard discussed that Attorney Phil Elberg from New Jersey, the man who did such a marvelous job with Miller Newton, might be part of the deposition team. But the Bradbury camp, under Logan's gag order is quiet on this and all matters. I have reason to believe that Ray Bradbury will be able to personally ask his accusers questions during deposition. I intend on being at the actual depositions, if asked.

So I am working up a paper that I intend on submitting to the Bradbury camp for their consideration. Now is your chance if there is any matter that you feel the Semblers need to be deposed on or if there are any discovery documents you feel we need, let me know so I can include it with my package.

On March 12, 2003 Ambassador Mel Sembler, AO wrote an op-ed for the Italian paper "Il Giornale" titled, "It's Time to End Twelve Years of Deception and Denial." What Sembler was writing about was Saddam Hussein. He stated that for 12 years Mr. Hussein had tried to avoid the consequences for failing to comply with U.N. Security Council Resolution 1441. Yes, Mr. Sembler, it is time to end all the years of deception and denial. See you soon in St. Pete.

Wes Fager