Bradbury's first set of Interrogatories to Melvin Sembler
Feb. 28, 2004

update 3/3/2004: Write-up expanded; links to interrogatories corrected..


On March 19, 1985 the ACLU filed a half million dollar law suit against Straight - Atlanta on behalf of Susan W. Milan for false imprisonment, medical malpractice, fraud, and assault. Back in October 1983 Jacqueline A. Stallings had sued Straight, Inc. - Saint Pete, case # 83012161CI, alleging that she had been thrown to the ground and sat on by staff members and fellow clients. She further claimed that she had been dragged by her belt, pinched, slapped in the face, gagged, pushed and poked. She alleged she had been called a "fucking drug addict", a "bitch", and "scum of the earth." One time, she contended, a staff member told Group that "Ms. Stallings' parents wish she was dead." Just like the Japanese carrier force at the Battle of Midway on June 6, 1942, Straight was desperately trying to do damage control and so on June 7, 1985 Straight settled with Ms. Stallings for $37,000 (in what was becoming their standard settlement) for having committed a "malicious act". But then on August 12, 1985 a young woman named Karen Norton dropped another bomb on Straight.

Karen Norton's complaint was Civil Suit No. 85-11481-10. Like Fred Collins and Jacqueline Stallings Karen Norton had been 18, a legal adult, when she was in Straight - Saint Petersburg in 1982 when she had tried to leave but was kept against her will. According to her complaint she had been stripped searched, assaulted, battered, harassed, embarrassed, and mocked by employees bent on upsetting and humiliating her. She sued for false imprisonment, negligence and intentional infliction of emotional distress. She charged that Miller Newton, then an assistant director, had thrown her against a wall. Her complaint had been filed on August 12 and the next regular scheduled board meeting for Straight directors was the second Tuesday of every month which would have been the very next day, August 13. There is no way a summons could have been issued by August 13, besides the by-laws state that the July and/or August meetings can be called off, so it is possible that there was no board meeting on August 13 anyway. The by-laws state the annual meeting would occur in September (Straight's fiscal year for tax purposes was October 1 to September 30.)

The annual meeting was held on September 23, 1985 and the board took drastic actions to protect its members from further liability and possible criminal indictments. It changed the mission of Straight, Inc. from treating adolescents for drug addictions to, "The general nature of the objects and purposes of this Corporation shall be 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 without regard to race, color or national origin, utilizing all of the powers that a corporation not-for-profit may exercise pursuant to Chapter 617 of the Florida Statutes.” The name of the new organization was Straight Foundation, Inc. (In 1995 the name was changed once again to its present name, Drug Free America Foundation.)

[It was well for the principals that they covered themselves. A Sixth Circuit jury awarded Ms. Norton $721,000 which held under appeal though Ms. Norton had a problem collecting the total amount awarded because Straight pleaded poverty. Fraudulently Straight failed to tell Ms. Norton about a piece of property it owned which it sold six months after her trial for over $200,000. To top that off Straight Foundation executive vice president attorney Joseph Garcia submitted an affidavit showing that Straight properties were only worth around $315,000 (not even including the $200,000 property he failed to mention all together). Straight sold the other properties less than two years after the Norton trial for $895,000!] 

So the name and mission of Straight, Inc. was changed in 1985 and then a brand new organization was formed to treat kids for addictions. Incredibly, the name of this new organization was Straight, Inc.!!! Straight Foundation kept all the money and the property. The bylaws were changed allowing foundation funds to hire attorneys should the principals be sued. The bylaws were changed to allow company funds to be used should a judgment be made against the principals. But after 1985 Mel Sembler didn't really need this insurance. Because after 1985 he would be associated legally with the foundation that didn't treat anybody; not the treatment program.

The new Straight, Inc. would receive donations and fees for treatment. That money would pay salaries, utilities, taxes and other operational expenses. The rest would be paid to the foundation as rent. Fraudulently, the foundation claimed to the state corporation commission that it was to support and finance programs, when in fact, it was a shell corporation for Straight to protect Mel Sembler. If you were a reporter investigating fraud or criminal child abuse at Straight, Inc. you would talk to the beautiful Joy Margolis--Straight, Inc.'s spokesperson. But if you were a Congressman or George Bush and paid Straight a visit, Mel Sembler would escort you, even though for legal purposes he was not even associated with Straight, Inc. But Sembler wanted his cake and he wanted to it it too because, fraudulently, Straight, Inc. brochures after 1985 stated Straight, Inc. had been around since 1976, when it fact it had only been around since 1985. (Straight Foundation has been around since 1976.) On October 31, 2001 during his Senate confirmation hearings for the ambassadorship to Italy Melvin Sembler told Senators of the Foreign Relations Committee, "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. " Straight Foundation did operate continually for 17 years from 1976 to 1993. From 1976 to 1985 it operated as a drug treatment program named Straight, Inc. But from 1985 to 1993 it was out of the drug treatment business. And since 1995 he has changed its name and mission a second time. It is now Drug Free America Foundation. Sembler was mincing words to say the least. The whole sordid story of the Great Straight Shell Game is here.

If you sued Straight, Inc. after 1985, you would never see Mel Sembler's name appear on any Straight, Inc. document. That is what is so important about the Bradbury interrogatories. To our knowledge, this is the first time anyone has ever asked Mel Sembler in a court of law about his knowledge of fraud and criminal child abuse at his Straight, Inc. program. Ray Bradbury's First Set of Interrogatories follow: