Sunday, September 30, 2012

Romney & the Foreign Tax Credit


This article is about context. First, we always look at things from where we stand. In my case, that is as an American living and working overseas and doing U.S. tax forms for Americans overseas. As a consequence of that work, I am regularly completing the foreign tax credit forms for Americans overseas. Why? Because their income is overseas, they are taxed in their ‘tax home’ country which is overseas, and that credit demonstrates to the IRS that they do not also owe taxes to the United States on the same income. This is the first and best use of the foreign tax credit.

Then there are the abuses of the foreign tax credit, and since I find little ‘plain English’ on the issue, I thought I would make an effort to provide some. First, Romney claims he does not have to reveal his tax returns. For Americans in Norway, this is laughable: our taxable income is emblazoned online for all to see, compliments of the Norwegian tax authority, and one’s income is public knowledge for anyone interested in looking you up -for at least a while each year. While this would seem to be inconsistent with Europe’s move toward favoring the protection of personal privacy, it is apparently an ingrained element of the Jante Law in Norway – that is, the unwritten law which states that no one is allowed to be any better than anyone else, and if you think so, you better not think so. Ja vel, moving on.

Yahoo News reports an interesting discussion with tax attorney, Alvin Brown in late August: . In this, the weaknesses of the foreign tax credit are noted, and the IRS’s efforts to re-consider it and reign in abuses are also discussed briefly. The foreign tax credit is available to write down taxability in the U.S., as we saw with the American overseas example above. It is also available for Americans living in the U.S., which would mean, basically, that they don’t have to pay some taxes to the U.S. because they have paid them, yes, to a foreign country. A rather uncomfortable fact, don’t you think? For someone who is walking the streets of America and who supposedly supports U.S. efforts to do the many things public funds need to help do – build roads, open schools, create clean drinking water, clean air, and manage all of the costs of maintaining a civil society.

Then, there is the added notice mentioned by Mr. Brown in the Yahoo news article: “IRS Notice 2004-20, IRB 2004-11, March 15, 2004, identifying certain foreign tax credit issues as" tax avoidance transactions" for purposes of the tax shelter disclosure, registration, and list maintenance regulations a purported stock acquisition that is intended to generate credits for foreign taxes paid on gain that is not subject to tax in the United States.” These can be administered in such a way as to raise questions for the IRS, but remain ‘legal’ avenues for not paying U.S. taxes to the U.S.

Now, let’s run an example using MR. MR lives in the U.S. and makes a LOT of money. He could put it into stocks in the U.S. and invest in the U.S.. He could, actually, decide, on purpose, that he would help the U.S. out of its debt and economic slowdown. He could help America, in other words, by using his money to help America and Americans. The problem is that he has options. To remind, whatever option MR takes, he has to sign the tax forms sent to the IRS. Irregardless of how much he may contest later that he has no idea what those forms say and do, he is, in fact, legally liable for anything he sends to the IRS. After all, as we all know, lack of knowledge of the law is not a defense to the breaking of it.

But no, MR sends his money to another country – and hey, he pays tax on it there. Foreign income tax. Why not? In the non-sleezy version of the story, MR pays tax on it in the foreign country, and then is able to use that tax as a credit against paying tax to the U.S. . This means he uses it as a credit so that he does not help America by paying taxes to America – he helps himself. The foreign tax credit also allows what is called “carry-over”. This means he could pay foreign tax and even carry it over from year to year, using it as a tax credit so as not to pay tax to the U.S. - from one year to another – continually reducing his taxes to the U.S. over more than one year at a time.

That’s only one aspect of it. He’s also able to get whatever he is actually getting on his money whereever that money is. And it’s not in the U.S. – that’s the point: it’s somewhere else. MR’s money is, presumably, somewhere where it is not used for U.S. purposes, does not help put people back to work, does not help people who are sick keep their homes, does not help people who must be hospitalized pay their health care bills. No, that money is somewhere, of course, where it is making more money for MR. This is Romney economics in a nutshell.

MR has this money and it’s not in the U.S. Why? This is MR’s crime. As a result, he gets to walk American streets, breath clean American air, drive its albeit crumbling highways and roads, drink its cleaned water, use its nice toilets, eat at its restaurants, and all this time, he is not paying for the air, the water, the roads, the infrastructure. Of course, none of those things come for free – it’s all paid for with tax dollars. But MR is not paying those tax dollars – to the U.S. that is. No, he is paying it to some foreign country that promises to make more money out of his money than the U.S. economy can make.

Charity is charity – good to give a big chunk just before running for president. But charity is something you can give to whomever you like – it doesn’t have to cover health care for the poor, food for the starving, housing assistance programs, infrastructure improvements. It sounds so self-less, but it’s a completely managed giving-track. It’s MR’s own giving track, whatever it was. You could truly say that MR’s charity gifts reveal a contempt for the American tax system’s most burdensome and needy recipients – society at large.

This is MR’s apparent priority number one: make money out of my money so MR will have more of it – so what if it is not in the United States? MR at least is in control of it if he can use that foreign tax credit, and in doing so, he’s undermining the very foundations on which the U.S. was built: shared responsibility for certain expenses for the health and welfare of the population at large.

According to Alvin Brown, tax attorney, Romney’s revealed 2010 and 2011 foreign tax credits “are obviously large and complex as a consequence of their substantial disclosed foreign source income.”

In a later Yahoo news release, late September, it’s confirmed that “The majority of Mr Romney's income comes in the form of dividends and capital gains, which are taxed at a lower rate than ordinary income.” Additionally, PWC, his accounting firm, has come forward with a letter confirming that he never paid less than 13% tax annually. Still, the question I have is this: If you are going to have to pay tax, and the tax on dividends and capital gains is going to be your type of tax – because you don’t, for example, work, but have lots of investments, then why would you not invest in U.S. companies and U.S. businesses? The only reason I can think of is that he was more interested in seeing the amount of money he could make anywhere else that might be more economically profitable at this point in time – to himself. He would prefer to make money than save America. He would prefer to line his pockets than line the pockets of the unemployed.

We all make choices, and the most basic are for our self-preservation. Still, the whole idea that Romney is sitting in America, driving its streets, flying its skies, breathing its clean air, and drinking its clean water, then it only makes ethical sense that he should not be able to take the foreign tax credit, and that if he does, he should have to tell us what he thought was so important to invest in in a foreign country. For example, if he had invested in Hyundai in Korea, I would say, well, maybe that is alright. After all, Hyundai is building plants in the U.S. and uses American employees, parts and factories to build their cars. My husband has a Hyundai in Norway. It was built in the U.S.A. Nice going, Hyundai.

But News 4 reported on Sept. 25th that Romney’s 2011 tax return revealed he had invested in ’a Chinese oil company with links to Iran.’ Chinese oil companies are drilling oil in various places, among them Africa, where they are helping to build roads and infrastructure, but American? Iran? Unfortunately, we're hardly even on speaking terms. And no, it’s not a U.S.-enhancing investment - unless you think we should give China all our money instead of just most of it.

In the same article, an Obama campaign strategist claims Romney is invested in “ a fund that hedges against American Treasuries.” Well, who can believe a campaign strategist. But hedge funds? To put it simply, this is one of the ‘funny money’ types of investing that is not producing real jobs for real people, but does take money out of the economy for what could arguable be described as gambling or betting on what markets will do - for self-enrichment goals.

Frankly, I don’t think I want to hear more from Romney on what he decided to invest in. If the above are any indication, ethics has not been one of his considerations in the matter. I think I already know his approach: everyone take care of themselves, since I’m going to take care of me - and also close the public purse. That, in my opinion, is counter to the model for creating a civil society and embracing rule of law, for sharing the burdens of modern development, while sharing the risks of investing in future progress together at home. Let Romney take his millions and go retire where? Somewhere foreign, perhaps. Then let the IRS audit his accounts and foreign tax credit usage and close the ability of Americans living in the U.S. to use this as a tax credit against their obligations to pay taxes at home to the U.S.

Sign me an American attorney, living and working overseas, paying foreign taxes and reporting annually to the IRS

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Financial & tax reporting for Americans Abroad

Subject: Financial & tax reporting to the IRS and U.S. - for Americans Abroad

Take: This is an update of my discussion of several tax and foreign bank related issues that are particularly noteworthy for Americans living and working overseas. It has to do with the need to report to the Internal Revenue Service and the U.S. Treasury Department.

This summer, I've had the pleasure of spending the very rainy season doing tax forms for Americans overseas. Ahh, the beauty of formulas and the certainty of numbers when low pressure and constant rain become so challenging to love. And now a conflagration of related news of note has appeared on my personal horizon, albeit mostly digital given the foggy views these days.

It was then that I realized that I had not yet shared the presentation I did for the Fireside Forum group of the American Women’s Club of Oslo. This was delivered in April, 2012, and covers all the basics. You will find it at my Slideshare page, which includes links to documents and resources:

One of my core points during that April presentation was that global financial concerns must be managed by creating greater transparency - at the individual level. After all, how will Greece solve its problems if they “only take cash” from the Norwegian tourists (the topic of my next blog post), instead of “having to show their income for tax purposes” (...they seem not to know what that is).

On the American side, most Americans overseas are busy working and reporting their income to their country of residence - for taxation in that country. They're rather less concerned with updating their filing status with the Internal Revenue Service while living abroad, and much much less interested in telling the U.S. Department of the Treasury how much they have in foreign banks (for no good reason I can think of, since it is not being taxed in the U.S). And you, Stateside reader, probably think it would be nice to be an ‘American in Paris.’ From what I hear, you would be checking your French tax rate, then your U.S. taxes due, and then you would be cursing that you still owed tax to the U.S. after paying the lower French rates. And then you would report to the IRS, as required, and you would stop complaining, after all, since you would be living the joi de vivre life of brasseries-in-the-sunshine, with beauty and joyful ambience around every corner.

Now that you have studied up the foregoing, and are starting to become alarmed, let’s try this recent IRS notice on for size, dated June 26, 2012. This is entitled, “IRS Announces Efforts to Help U. S. Citizens Overseas Including Dual Citizens and Those with Foreign Retirement Plans.” Here is the link:

First, this notice from the IRS indicates that new procedures are going to be in place – to help Americans who have not been reporting to do so now. The new procedures go into effect on September 1, 2012. The article refers to the first new procedure as being that, for citizens who owe little or no back taxes, there will be no “penalties or additional enforcement actions” -if they catch up their tax form filings and financial bank report form filings now and would then owe less than $1500 in back taxes. Well, that is not so new, as most folks are in this category and don’t now pay penalties or experience enforcement actions when they catch up their tax form and bank form filings - because they don't owe anything at all to the U.S. or IRS.

Here is some more specificity on the scope of the new procedures:

Let us say, for instance, that you would owe more tax than $1500 and/or have intentionally not been filing your U.S. tax forms while living abroad? You might then want to look into the Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program (OVDP):

Here is the basic run-down, with links to forms and straightforward, relatively uncomplicated writing by the IRS (now that’s nice):

Now, do you finally “get the picture?” as we say in Chicago.

I may as well close with this interesting audio news report, covered on National Public Radio on Wednesday, August 8, 2012. You can find it on the website, at:

The title of the audio story is, "Tax Evaders, Beware."  Here is a link to the transcript:

As an aside, I really don't know why people don't want to file these forms, except that it's a bit of a hassle. Procrastination produces such unremitting guilt at some point, and even though death and taxes are both certainties in life, why should you let not-filing-your-tax forms ruin your happiness on a continual basis? Stress after all is linked to inflammation, which, left unchecked, can precipitate premature death.

Asides aside! Time to get yourself updated on the tax reporting and bank and securities financial reporting requirements which all American citizens (no matter where they live in the world, and no matter whether they are dual citizens or not) must abide by.
It’s not as scary as it sounds: it’s a matter of just doing it – or having someone do the forms for you, after you collect your information together. If you are in a country with a tax treaty with the U.S., the general routine results in the following scenario: you report your foreign income to the IRS, and if needed, also your foreign taxes paid. The IRS sees this return, reviews it, and says to themselves, “Oh, okay.” They then do not call you or write to you, do not bill you, and they never e-mail you. What could be better? Things could be a lot worse than catching up with these filings – such as not catching up with them before foreign banks begin providing your account information to the IRS anyway, under new rules coming soon.

In other words, if you are like most U.S. citizens abroad, nothing is worse than not doing these forms. Therefore, if you are ‘like’ most U.S. citizens abroad, just do them.  On the other hand, if you are not like most U.S. citizen abroad, it might cost you more.  However, it will only truly cost too much if you don't do them.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

John Kristoffer Larsgard - Part 5

Seven days of trial. About events that occurred in approximately 6 ½ minutes.

In this section, I will discuss the contents of John’s attorney’s Motion for a Directed Verdict and Motion for a New Trial, as well as the prosecutor’s response in opposition to some points. I also comment on some of the prosecutor’s closing statements and discuss the context of the case generally.

The Motion for New Trial, and response papers were filed just last month. The Motion for a New Trial was summarily denied by the judge just before the sentencing hearing began less than two weeks ago, after which John was dumped in a solitary cell and stripped naked, as noted earlier. (Please see my earlier posts for other information.) While the transfer to an intermediate holding facility usually takes two weeks, John was whisked away in less than 3 days. This never happens, say those in the area. In fact, he was literally being whisked away while his mother, Liv, was meeting with his defense attorney, who was assuring her it would probably be a couple weeks before he would be transferred.

Who’s scared of what? Yes, rush him outtahere, so we can get him buried in the Arizona prison system. And shave his head right away. So we have the pleasure of humiliating him in that way, especially before he should manage in some way to save himself. And then let’s make sure he’s buried so deep in bureaucracy that everyone forgets about him. We’ll surely save the State’s face that way, won’t we?

I continue to have unanswered questions about this case. One question I asked about as soon as I heard about it was: why did the prosecutor spend 7 days to try this case? I couldn’t for the life of me think of an answer. Surely what happens in 6 ½ minutes can be reduced to less than 7 days of jury trial, no matter how questionable the evidence – unless of course it was very important to be sure that the jury realized how important it was to return the correct verdict. Which after 7 days would very clearly be guilty, of course.

Yes, we are re-visiting one of our latest conundrums – that involving two foreigners in a relatively new rental car – new to them, passing through an unfamiliar, small and criminal, western American town trying to pick up their luggage. Six and one-half minutes later, the mother is an Iranian terrorist and the son who was driving is thrown into jail for intentionally trying to kill the townspeople. For being perhaps a snot, he’s chased down in the streets by locals who attack and confront his car – while he is trying to find out where to pick up his luggage after an accident and leave the area to continue his trip with his mother.

His bail is set for $1 million dollars, which conveniently keeps him in a local jail – for seven months, while the showy trial is set up. Did I say set up? Putting someone in hand and foot chains for 7 months in jail is news that’s going to get around, you know. It makes him appear more dangerous – or, er, as if he were more dangerous than he might have been when he was driving around, negatively, while people chased him for less than 6 ½ minutes.

Did I call that town “criminal”? I should be more precise. Comparing city crime rates per capita (based on the size of the population), from across the country, Winslow, Arizona is not at all a murderous place. Nor is robbery a problem. And when it comes to auto theft, it’s only slightly over the national average. These all make sense. After all, you can’t get away with murder and auto theft while living in a small town. But come to aggravated assault, burglary and larceny theft, and Winslow is not only twice the Chicago average, but twice the national average. These figures are from the year 2006. Still, that’s a town with a crime problem – a local crime problem. And, of course, it is true that many wonderful people live there, and are doing good work every day.

It appears the county, which is a majority Indian reservations, had a State’s attorney who is going to do something about that crime rate. It is certainly more convenient, in a very small town, to do that by finding someone who doesn’t live there to blame things on. Welcome, John Kristoffer Larsgard.

And now, we also have an attorney from the area on Youtube, repeating and repeating what we have already heard: that Larsgard was a dangerous dangerous guy, and he, well, he nearly hurt some kids, and he scared them and, well, he was driving like a crazy person, and he drove straight towards someone (um, who was trying to confront him on foot, arguably trying to corral him, taunt him, dare him and/or waylay him), and he brushed against someone else (um, who was trying to attack the car and be in the way and whom he did not see, after being smashed in the face so hard his nose was broken). And by the way, the jury found him guilty. This attorney is a member of the Navajo County Attorney’s office. Since Navaho County proudly claims that “People are arrested and booked into the Navajo County Jail on warrants for failure to appear for traffic tickets and failure to pay fines,” we can see that the old ‘debtor’s prison’ still exists in this particular western county: I’m sure jail helps them collect the funds to support the administration, which is busy booking 360 people into the jail each month. Jobs jobs jobs. America used to prioritize human rights.

There is also a new blog, called “The Truth About John Kristoffer Larsgard” which seems a front for someone who agrees with the jury’s decision, and is trying to counter criticism of the verdict by claiming that . . . see above paragraph. The related website,, was registered on May 1st, and the identity of the creator is hidden, according to my ‘Whois’ search registration check. Who thinks it is so important to pay for this? A Facebook page is also dedicated to “The Truth” while, frankly, “liking” the verdict has little to do with whether John Kristoffer Larsgard should be in prison right now.

What they’re not telling you is what I am going to tell you, as it was reported to me. And from where I sit, the “truth” about John Kristoffer Larsgard, and this whole incident, is that he should have been cited for traffic violations, been made to pay a fine – and for external damage to the rental vehicle, and sent on his way with his mother. At the same time, the townsfolk who harassed him and bated him with their unfamiliar anger, while corralling and chasing his car, should have been sent back home - along with the bill for the interior damage to the car, possible charges of harassment, and a charge of aggravated assault against Mendoza.

Now, it also appears that John’s student visa for staying in the U.S. had expired, so he should have renewed that but had not. The Navajo County authorities appear to like the idea of deporting him. OF course they like this idea: it would lend ‘face’ to their own actions by continuing a stream of negative legal activity against the guy. It is reported that he could be eligible for deportation after half his prison sentence of 7 ½ years is served, a sentence he should never have gotten in the first place, and which still should be set aside. But can they ride out the storm of criticism for the 3 ¾ years of prison John should not have had to serve and is now serving? And who’s going to ‘pay’ for this wrong judgment when the last hammer falls?

But first, back to the jury. We all know that a jury trial is sacred, isn’t it? No, Readers. Consider the question more closely. A jury is human, behaves in human ways and makes human judgments and human mistakes. In a town with a population of approximately 10,000 persons and a total of just over 2,000 households, where the jurors were hand-picked by the prosecutor and where nearly everyone has a close connection to everyone else - and where the star witness, the one with the bludgeoning fist, is determined to be found blameless in reaching into a car and crushing the driver’s nose, a jury has its work cut out for it. After all, the victim doesn’t live there. The star witness does. And now the car is full of blood. Who’s paying for that? Yes, in an area where everyone involved knows everyone else, it is probably not hard to decide that, after 7 days of trial over what happened in 6 ½ minutes, the verdict must be guilty. How could it even have taken them two hours to come to that conclusion? After all, they have to walk out of that courtroom and, well, live there. There, with the star witness and his family and friends. In a county which is mostly Indian reservations. (Real Asset Inventory, Real AZ Corridor, Dec., 2011). And a relatively poor county, with per capita income that is about half of Arizona’s state average, and only 40% of the country’s income average. People here need to be pretty concerned about their money, since they generally don’t have as much as the rest of us. And fixing a broken car is something that will cost money. And so does 7 days of trial, an impressive amount of money. More than they have, but then it was a good show.

I have some words on my mind. Hazing is one. Justice is another. Impeachability is another. Deposition is another. And politics is another. I will explain.

It has been very interesting to me, not only as an American attorney but as a person with a professional interest in the use of language, English, inter-cultural communication, Norwegian and American cultural differences, and how to bridge culture gaps, to consider what has occurred in this case and what is occurring in American culture.

Right now, John languishes in the Arizona version of purgatory while they try to decide which prison is best suited to dampen his pentient for murdering innocent by-standers, for quelling his fully-trumped-up maniacal and dangerous killing instincts.

I had barely stepped off the plane in the U.S. this past week when I heard the word hazing – multiple times, as in hazing, a felony crime in Florida. Apparently, hazing is taking over America. Other concepts we don’t hear on the Norwegian news when the subject of the United States comes up include the need to identify terrorists in our midst, which I heard at least 6 times in my first two days on American soil, and continue to hear repeatedly every day – until I turn off the radio and TV. Were we prepared to see them when they arrived? To know them when we saw them? How could we possibly be more vigilant? Persons around the world would love to ruin America and we should do what we can to prevent that. It’s human nature, after all, to run around looking for who has things better than you, and try to get a piece of it for your own. Pure greedy selfish human nature. Like hazing. Like a bunch of locals chasing a rental car being driven badly by a person who, frankly, doesn’t want to get to know you and doesn’t care. A person from a culture in which persons never yell at you as you drive along, and never run around chasing cars or confronting cars. A person from a culture where even the police speak softly when they stop you for no-probable-cause searches. In Norway, it’s called kontrol and it means control.

No, I almost thought I should find out how I could, myself, take part in the campaign to find hidden terrorists in America. It was then I realized I was suffering from jet lag and a lingering cold. I was being too hard on myself. After all, I had just landed in my beloved homeland, the country of my birth. The land I have, over the years, loved to come back to. The land where I’ve been lucky enough to experience so many unbelievably beautiful sights - the crowning glories of nature, the most deliriously competent works of man. Where I’ve heard the most beautiful music ever made, by Nature and by man. The land where I’ve had so many close friends, now scattered to all corners of the country, all of them working their magic in their work for the good of all. The land of so many committed souls, committed to service and mankind in every way. A land of tolerance and patience, of hard work and caring natures.

I began to land in another country when I landed here. It started about 5 years ago. I would know I was home when someone gave me or someone I could see from my bicycle or car the finger. And it was rather odd as it almost always occurred within a day or two of my arrival in the U.S. It was usually accompanied by choice epithets, such as “F___ Y__!” Since I now drive like a Norwegian, this would occur while I was either obeying the speed limit, or riding my bike on the sidewalk. When I would hear this, I would simply say to myself, “Ah, there you are, America. Showing me your new real colors. Now I’m finally ‘home’ again. God bless America!”

But I must be getting scatter-brained, what with all the commotion and different directions I could go on this story. Back to that one question I asked the reporter early on, and never did hear an answer to. The question, why did the prosecutor spend 7 days to try this case? It stewed. I slept on it. And then I had a revelation. I knew the answer. I know exactly why the prosecutor spent 7 days to try this case. You know why? Because the judge let him. Reader, read on.

The Motion for a New Trial arguments described and the prosecutor’s response
John’s attorney filed, this April, his Motion for a New Trial. It’s been read by more than one disinterested American attorney, and found to be just fine, as legal filings go. His arguments were several. It stated that the trial should be new because the verdict was contrary to the law and the weight of the evidence, the prosecutor was guilty of misconduct, the court erred in deciding a matter of law or in instructing the jury, to the substantial prejudice of John, and/or, for other reasons that were not John’s fault, he had not received a fair and impartial trial.

Among the details mentioned were that John was not permitted to have his medicine, medicine prescribed by his Norwegian doctor, which the nurse practitioners at the jail had in their possession but chose not to give him. In response, the prosecutor claimed no evidence of this had been produced at the trial. Well, that doesn’t mean it didn’t happen.

The Motion for New Trial also claimed that the prosecutor had failed to disclose that two of the witnesses “entered the litigation process against the rental car insurance company.” The prosecutor’s response was that he didn’t know that, so how could he disclose it.

Now, Reader, what is happening here? An arguably-enraged local sneaks up on the driver, John, and smashes him in the face. There’s blood all over the interior. Proximate cause? The guy with the iron fist of course. Result? It does not take actual notice to the prosecutor to know that everyone knows that the car rental agency’s insurance company is doing what insurance companies do best: they perform their “duty to defend” - and they go after the people who caused the damage and try to get them to pay. How much does the front interior of a 2010 Toyota Camry cost to replace? That would cost a good amount of money, I would imagine. And who is responsible for the damage to the exterior of the car, especially if the driver was being mobbed into a cross-cultural panic attack? I ask John’s mother, Liv, who says, “They keep asking me to pay for it, and I keep telling them no, it wasn’t our fault there was blood all over the car.”

Getting back to those witnesses, apparently two witnesses entered the litigation “against the rental car agency”? That means that two witnesses were busy saying that they had to – absolutely had to – pop this guy in the face - or surround him – or chase him – or cause him to stop driving and get ‘caught’ because? Otherwise, they would have to pay for the interior damage to the car, at least. And at least one ‘someone’ has a giant incentive to frame the incident as a need to defend himself. After all, what’s left after the extremely aggressive personal violence against the driver but to claim self-defense? It’s the only ‘way out,’ as everyone can plainly see. That 7 days of jury trial over what occurred in 6 ½ minutes sure got long, though. Well, what is one to do when the case can only be made by arguing that the witnesses were strictly involved only for their own protection? After all, ”Self-defense is about protection, not getting even.” (Complete Idiot’s Guide to the Criminal Justice System, p. 130) It would not be an available defense to someone who was actually just pissed off that a jerky driver was making a snotty correction to his lost-en-route status. And decided to run after the car, stare at the driver through the front window, crouch and play his bets, and confront the car, and the driver, and be joined by others who attempted to surround the car and the foreign couple in it, and then blame them for the bloody car and damages afterwards.

The fact that two witnesses were testifying “against the rental car agency” would have meant that the credibility of their testimony would have been impeachable. As we know, one way in which a witness’s testimony can be diminished in significance, and one way in which that creates “reasonable doubt” in the mind of a juror is by attacking the credibility of a witness. “This is called impeaching the prosecutor’s evidence.” (Complete Idiot’s Guide, p. 128) Here we have two witnesses for the State whose testimony would have been impeachable on the basis of their own conflict of interest in the case, and yet, it would seem from the Motion for New Trial and the prosecutor’s response to it, that such impeachment was never conducted – because the basis for it was not known to the defense attorney during the trial. But the Motion for new Trial was dismissed – without argument – by the judge.

The impeachability of two main witnesses, never explored. What’s going on there? A 2010 Toyota Camry whose interior is covered with blood, the proximate cause of which was the bludgeoning fist of the star witness for the State hitting the victim –that would be the accused, of course, who was, as a consequence, so dangerous that he was kept in hand and leg irons for 7 months before his trial, at which he was then strutted out like a pig to a slaughter. It looks more and more like this, and that makes the ‘truth about John Kristoffer Larsgard” start to, well, stink.

The Motion for a New Trial continues, arguing that the prosecutor committed misconduct when he argued to the jury that Larsgard was placing a fake ‘911’ emergency call in order to pretend to not be at fault, because, he argued, Larsgard could have seen the police coming to the scene at the time the call was made. Based on the evidence, this theory was, factually, shown to be clearly untrue; John could not have seen or known that the police were ‘on their way’ when he called 911 for help. And yet, even after the evidence showed this to be untrue, the prosecutor continued to argue it was the case.

On a point of law, it was required that the prosecutor prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, not just that Larsgard was driving toward people, but that he intended to put them in fear of immediate physical injury. The Motion for New Trial suggests he was actually already trying to flee when he executed the famous three-point turn.

The Motion for New Trial suggests that the verdict was “against the weight of the evidence,” noting that the jury acquitted John of aggravated assault against Mendoza, the guy with the magic protected fist. And if that was the case, he could not be guilty of the same crime against the lady with children at the sidewalk hot dog stand. My question is, did they have a permit for that stand? Don’t they know it’s dangerous to set up business on the sidewalk?

The Prosecutor’s response was that he was “arguing reasonable inferences.” Well, it was a nasty few minutes – that is certain. Let’s see what those look like, in the prosecutor’s closing argument.

In opening, the prosecutor states to the jury, “I’m asking you to compare what they said to what the defendant’s story was that you heard . . ., because only by comparing the two can you decide who is telling the truth and who is not.” Really? This is not the standard by which the jury was to decide what conclusion to come to in the case. The standard was to follow the wording of the criminal statute and ask themselves if they could find that those precise acts were, word for word, found in this case “beyond a reasonable doubt.” Instead, the prosecutor fills the case with every single person who ever laid eyes on the car, both before they were yelling at him, and then afterwards, when various locals try to talk to him, angry already, and try to chase him down in the streets.

The standard in the main count, as noted by the prosecutor, involved proving intent: “you have to show that that person intentionally, means it’s the person’s objective or goal to cause that result. Was it the defendant’s goal to place these people in reasonable fear of injury?” My question is: before or after being screamed at and your lost rental car run down in the streets? Before or after having your face broken up while sitting stock-still in your car with your window open?

The prosecutor continued, further into the closing statement, “And if it’s the defendant not telling the truth, why not? Could it be that the defendant doesn’t want to admit on something as minor as going the wrong way, that he wouldn’t follow the rules, he doesn’t want to admit that much to you?” Reader, what did this have to do with a charge that could earn this Norwegian years in prison in the land of the free? When I hear this, I hear taunting. Of course it’s not taunting: it’s zealous advocacy of the State’s important interest in protecting the health, safety and welfare of its citizens. Or is it? The prosecutor criticizes for not turning his head, if he did not, to see the people on the sidewalk when he made the three-point turn, but he doesn’t mention that John has had cervical surgery that may limit his ability to turn his head in the way required to see that. Not only does the prosecutor approach the jury in the closing with the above taunting remark about the possibility that John would not admit to a slight offense, but also includes a criticism of John’s having made a written statement to police before having the consultation with an attorney. In that statement, as the prosecutor even mentions in the closing argument, John wrote, admitting he had gone the wrong way. It seems what in literature would be called a Catch-22: John can’t win by admitting he did do something wrong – which he did admit, and John will be counted as having not admitted that he did do something wrong, which will demonize him before the jury.

The prosecutor’s magic wand travels in similar ways over the testimony of the 7-day trial in his closing. He states at one point, “If everybody got their stories together, if everybody got together and wrote a script and said: everybody, remember this, this is what we are going to say. Then their stories would have matched perfectly, but they didn’t, because people . . have different focuses and hear different things, but they didn’t get together and get the story straight. There isn’t a script here they are testifying from, but that claim was made.” Does someone such as myself really have to say, at this point, that just because the stories are close and are not completely similar, does not mean that they were not created, embellished and re-packaged by individuals who have no other place to live but there, and no other choice but to fit in there - so as to assure that the foreigner would not walk? Nor that they didn’t have to be “scripted” to be managed for the purpose of assuring that they would do their best to - save the star witness from losing face in the situation?

The facts are reviewed in the closing statement having to do with John ‘backing up hard’ and also driving on a flat tire. Apparently, it was real important that John should realize – or not – whether he was driving on a flat. Remarkable Catch-22 stuff. If I’m having a panic attack as I become surrounded by yelling, screaming, running people I don’t know, in a foreign country, I am not going to be more or less guilty of aggravated assault in that jurisdiction because I am or am not driving on a flat. Lack of flat-tire familiarity is something most Norwegians suffer from, in part since the standards by which a car is controlled in Norway includes roadblocks at which Norwegian police check over everything in your car to see that it meets legal standards. If you or your car don’t meet the standards, your car can be towed and you can find another way to get around, sometimes for an extended period of time and sometimes forever, if you’ve had a drink. By the way, had these witnesses been drinking?

The prosecutor reminds the jury that they don’t have to prove motive, but that the motive when he drove towards Mr. Mendoza at one point could be seen by his actions – and that was reported by, ere, Mendoza, one of the witnesses who must have been appearing “against the rental car agency.” He claimed John’s goal was to hurt him, while John claimed it was not to hurt him. And he didn’t hurt him – or hit him. The various confrontations John has with townspeople yelling at him and chasing him in the car, challenging him by standing in front of him, and what sounds like corralling behavior on the part of some of the townspeople, should have shown the jury, in my opinion, that the man was panicking and was not responding well – perhaps was incapable of responding well - to arguably wild behavior on the part of the local population. I still say, the various confrontations smack of Golding’s The Lord of the Flies. Anyone’s a sucker if you’re after them. And you get to be king for spurring the attack on: Long live the Lord of the Flies. “I’m asking you to simply hold the defendant responsible for what he did that day, no matter what his reasoning was for it, he needs to be held accountable. So I’m asking you to find him guilty of eight counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon or dangerous instrument, one count of endangerment,” and the prosecutor’s closing statement ends. Hey, you tell people in your community what to do often enough, and guess what: they’ll do it, even it goes against the law and is unethical. That’s been proven: I heard it on NPR last week.

In the reply to the Motion for New Trial, the prosecutor reminds the court of the cherished right to trial by jury. The right is, historically, to a trial “by a jury of one’s peers.” The idea was to prevent a judge – or someone beholden to the king – from deciding on a harsh fate for an accused, for political or other non-evidentiary reasons. In John’s case, a jury of his peers would be 12 Norwegians who know English, perhaps also who live part-time in the U.S. In fact, a “jury of one’s peers” is not the wording of the U.S. right. Instead, the right is to a “speedy and public trial” which, arguably, John did not get, and “by an impartial jury of the state and district . . .,” which, I am suggesting, he actually could not get in that county and that location.

So we’re back to the 7 days of trial testimony and the 6 ½ minutes during which all of these events occurred.

One of the types of evidence that is used to great and good effect in court cases is based on depositions. Depositions are recorded interviews that do not occur in the courtroom, but are treated as court testimony, are recorded by a court transcriber, and in which the person who would be interviewed is asked questions by both sides in the case. A deposition is useful to preserve testimony for trial. Either party can request that a deposition of a witness be taken. In this case, the defense attorney requested a deposition of Liv Larsgard. She was, after all, the only person who was actually in the same place at the same time as all of the events which took place. And it was necessary that she, eventually, go back to Norway, while John was held on $1 million dollars bail. According to what I have been told, when the defense attorney sought to have Liv deposed while she was present in Arizona, the prosecutor demanded that a deposition of the mother not occur, under any circumstances, not then and not later. When the judge hesitated, the prosecuting attorney approached the bench and said, tightly, No deposition. The judge looked down and softly mumbled, No deposition. Two weeks later, when Liv Larsgard was busy in Norway trying to put her work life at the nursing home back together and pay her bills, the prosecuting attorney was strutting in the Arizona court, taunting the defense for not having her available at that time.

As for myself, I can’t imagine why the prosecutor wanted to hear her say anything at all. After all, in the course of that 7 day trial, Liv Larsgard was on the stand for less than one hour. Reader, this is by her own estimate. The rest of the time she was made to sit outside in the hall during all other witness testimonies. She says she even recalls the State asking the judge if they couldn’t hurry up and finish with her.

Which brings us back to the conduct of this case, and that brings us back to the judge. The judge in this case is an accomplished graduate not only of Stanford but also of Northwestern, and is administratively supervised by another judge, who happens to be the woman married to the prosecuting attorney in this case. I find it hard to believe that this would not affect the manner in which this case was conducted. I know, myself, what it’s like to try to rule on evidence in a case when the attorneys are using all their political weight to get at you administratively behind closed doors. In my own situation, the case that threatened to break my back involved two elderly ladies who found petroleum products in their kitchen water one day, and several heavyweight oil company litigators on the other side of the fence. One doesn’t survive being a hearing officer in environmental cases in Chicago without knowing something about the back rooms of power. After ruling on evidence in such a way as to displease the heavyweights, I was forced to hand off the case to my own supervisor, who thought I had done fine and apologized confidentially to me for bending under the pressure of his arguably frivolous political appointee boss. (He then went on to displease the heavyweight litigators some more, and they finally consolidated and made a settlement with the ladies.)

So I think it is too bad that politics may have played a role in how this expensive case was managed. This 7 days about 6 ½ minutes. Of course, if a superior officer of the judge is not married to the prosecuting attorney in this case, I would appreciate knowing immediately, as I am simply reporting what was told to me and would be quick to delete the suggestion if it were not so.

I would be remiss if I did not attempt to share at least a quick word on hazing crimes. In Arizona, hazing is defined as “any intentional, knowing or reckless act committed by a student, whether individually or in concert with other persons, against another student, and in which both of the following apply: (a) The act was committed in connection with an initiation into, an affiliation with or the maintenance of membership in any organization that is affiliated with an educational institution. (b) The act contributes to a substantial risk of potential physical injury, mental harm or degradation or causes physical injury, mental harm or personal degradation.” Hazing laws are designed to help schools prevent such behavior, and not on how similar behavior manifests itself in the community at large. Still, it sounds too familiar to not be noticed.

Here’s John who doesn’t want to join the Winslow club. And here are the people who decided, possibly because John was not interested in getting to know them or do what they were telling him to do, that he was a good target for intentional acts designed to disorient him, cause him to panic and contribute to a substantial risk of his being hurt, both exciting themselves and endangering themselves in the process. Synonyms for hazing include shadowing, obfuscating and obscuring. Crushing someone’s nose surely meets part b, while screaming at the man to get out of his car, his only protection, certainly contributes to mental harm.

There is such a thing as prosecutorial discretion. I also can’t figure out why the prosecutor decided to prosecute this case, and in the way they did, not prosecuting the others present – for various crimes against John. We hear that the prosecuting attorney and the star witness appear to be pretty close buddies. Is that so? What is the connection between the star witness and the State? Why was this case handled like this? That’s a political question. That’s my new question.  Why?

The first is answered: who let the trial run 7 days? The judge.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

John Kristoffer Larsgard - Part 4

Here, I continue my translation of VG’s ( coverage of the events surrounding John Kristoffer Larsgard, and my comments. The reporter is Eirik Mosveen of VG.

Wednesday, April 25th:

Larsgard can appeal.

If he is judged and receives a sentence, he can go to the Arizona Court of Appeals. Here, the accused can present legal objections, the method the court case would be carried out. The sentencing and clear constitutional questions, explained criminal law attorney, Michael Harwin in Tucson, Arizona. Harwin has not assembled the Larsgard story, but the attorney understands that the judgment is considered severe.

The Poor Man

Such has his life been behind the wall

Holbrook. Overextended, must Live Larsgard, 68, yesterday see her son be hastened out of the courtroom, strongly guarded by American police.

“I don’t know so much about prisons in general in Arizona, but I unfortunately know a lot about Navajo County Jail, where he has sat until now. And it is a scary place, completely hellish. The way they have treated my son in these seven months is nearly impossible to believe,” she tells VG.

Racial conflicts and violence:

Wearing orange pants, iron handcuffs and foot chains, Larsgard was taken promptly out of the courtroom after the judgment was stated in the local courthouse last evening Norwegian time. Over-filled jails where racial conflicts, gang pressures and violence imbue daily life are believed to be what waits the Norwegian behind the walls in Arizona. Until now he has sat in Navajo County – and now will be transferred to another custodial institution in Arizona.

“Since April 4th, he has been newly sat in isolation. My son is completely sure that this is because they want it to show on his papers when he is transferred to a state prison that it has been necessary to set him in isolation. This scares us, that his custodial situation will be worsened.

How shall you get to visit him in prison?

“I have no idea. I live in Oslo. It takes between 12 and 15 hours just to fly here,” says Liv Larsgard.

Becoming tough:

“This coming up is going to be tough. The poor man,” says Thore Henki Holm Hansen, 68, to VG. The motorcycle gang the Outlaws’ European chief was imprisoned for 7 years for narcotics offenses in a prison in Miami, up until 2004. “Behind the wall, there are their own rules. My only advice to him is that he must weave himself into a group in the prison. To sail his own sea in that system is difficult,” says Hansen.

The Swede, Annika Ostberg, was sentenced to assisting in murder in 1982 and was sentenced to 28 years in prison in California. She says it was tough behind the wall in the southern States. “Prisons there are overcrowded. He must plan to be imprisoned in a room together with 50 others. To be alone is impossible, but it could help to survive,” says Ostberg to VG. “The most important rules are not to say anything, but see everything and hear everything. To be with a group is essential,” she states. “There is much violence, narcotics and sexual maltreatment in American prisons, unfortunately. Prison guards see what they want to see,” says Ostberg, who in 2009 was transferred to a Swedish prison. Hansen confirms that there is still sexual mistreatment among the prisoners. “He must find a way to form an image and get respect. It is not just a joke that one doesn’t bend over after the soap in the shower,” he says.

In Arizona, it is common that the sentenced are getting out after having served one-half their time. There are 15 prisons in the state, but it is uncertain at this writing which prison Larsgard must go to. “I’m no expert on the state of the prisons in Arizona. My impression is that they are very different from place to place. Some of them have the reputation of being very tough,” says Larsgard’s attorney, Criss Candelaria to VG.

“He is, despite necessity, to be imprisoned at least 85% of his sentence before he can come out. It is important for me now to try to hold him up mentally. He must think that he can go further. In fact, it could have been much worse today than 7 ½ years in prison,” says Candelaria.

Full prisons:

Thomas Ugelvik at the Institute for Criminology and Judicial Sociology at the University of Oslo also brings forward overcrowded prisons in the U.S. as a huge challenge. He doesn’t think it will be easy for Larsgard to serve his sentence. “Arizona can be distinguished from Texas and California on the number of prisoners. The prisons are often very full and it is not normal that one would get one’s own cell. One is housed much tighter with the other prisoners, and, as a result, it is important who is serving time with whom. One can, for example, hang out in a prison gym room with hammocks. The quality of life that coordinates with the social services and school work is not equally available in American prisons, as it is in Norwegian ones. Often there is a private contractor that is running these institutions. This reduces the level of the prison experience, when those who run it shall make money. Here in Norway, prisons are run from the perspective of a humanitarian thought-set, and one has quite equal rights within as outside the walls. This is probably not the case in Arizona,” says Ugelvik.

Amnesty International has recently released a report which slaughters the conditions in prisons in Arizona. The Norwegian State Department (UDI) indicates to VG that 7 Norwegians sat imprisoned in the U.S. as of January 1, 2012. These are for violations of the law such as murder, fraud and narcotics smuggling.

“In such a small local community, there are various standards for both police and the legal system. I have lived south in the state and driven by the place Larsgard was sentenced. This is a country [i.e. hick] town! And it is still this way in the wild West, that one has a great faith in hard lines when it comes to handling the law,” says professor and U.S. expert Ole O. Moen.

Prison in the U.S.

According to the American Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2.2 million adults sat in prison in the U.S. at the end of 2010. This amounted to approximately .7 percent of the population of adult citizens. . . . [etc. ]

That ends the August 25th coverage in VG.

Reader, back to the prisoner, John. After the sentencing hearing last Tuesday (at which the man who assaulted John and broke his nose last Fall got his ‘revenge finger’ moment . . . as if that was deserved, which appears to have taken place without any reported judicial comment or, well, a citation for contempt of court? After John is taken out of the courtroom, as the story above ends, John is feeling down. (Surprise surprise.) His face seems sad, so the guards escorting him claimed. As a result, he was taken to the basement cell where all of his clothes were taken from him. Just a preventative measure, as he might try to commit suicide, you know. He was left naked from immediately after the sentencing hearing - until the next morning, Wednesday last week, when, unexpectedly, some journalists showed up to visit him. The guards hurried up and gave him his clothes to throw on so he could attend to their questions. They had so many of their own questions and their time together was limited. John didn’t have a chance to tell them he’d been kept stripped in solitary since the sentencing.

John is scheduled to be transferred to an ‘assessment center’ very soon, where he is expected to be for 1-2 months while they determine which prison he is going to be sent to. First, it is said, they will shave his head. His mother is told she cannot see him at all during these months.

-June Edvenson

John Kristoffer Larsgard - Part 3

I am commenting on recent news in the John Kristoffer Larsgard case, held in Arizona, involving a Norwegian young man and his mother, Liv Larsgard. In this blog entry, I am reviewing VG’s coverage of the Larsgard case, published in their Norwegian edition of April 25, 2012. I am also introducing information not included in the paper. The VG translation into English is mine, and I take the liberty of commenting where I find it appropriate. I apologize for any embarrassment my comments may cause to individuals, and assure you that my only interest is in investigating what has actually occurred in this situation, a situation which I find both engaging and urgent.

John Kristoffer Sentenced to Prison for 7 ½ Years

Holbrook, Arizona. Inside the courtroom, John Kristoffer Larsgard, 33, stifling sobs, gives a tearful guarantee that he never had the intent to hurt anyone. But his statement falls on deaf ears.

Gives him the finger:

This, despite the fact that the main person in the case, aside from Larsgard himself, Mike Mendoza, shows his open contempt for the accused’s attempt to beg for forgiveness. In the middle of the long solo request by Larsgard, Mendoza gets up abruptly, goes quickly toward the door at the back of the courtroom, advances, and then goes out. Then he turns himself again towards Larsgard in the open courtroom door and gives his long [fuck you] finger.

“This shows you what kind of people they are, who have gotten Larsgard into prison, who have witnessed against him, the entire time with similar declarations, always consistent with one another. They are altogether within Mendoza’s circle of friends. He has the police, the prosecuting authority, and the jury believing in him 100 percent, zero percent on Larsgard. This is what is such a scandal,” says defense attorney, Criss Candelaria to VG right after the sentencing was read out, shortly after 10 p.m. Norwegian time yesterday evening.

What got Mendoza to react was that Larsgard said that what got him to go into a full panic was that Mendoza smashed him in the face such that he broke his nose. “Had he just come calmly up to me, instead of punching me, none of us would have been sitting here today,” said Larsgard.

VG has read the police interview of Mendoza in which he confirms that he hit Larsgard in the face. “The idea was to punch him unconscious – so that the wild-man-driving he was doing would stop” was the explanation given police. VG talked to Mike Mendoza about an hour before the episode in the courtroom. “We asked for an interview, but he refused that because he had been advised to not talk with the media by the prosecution.” Similarly, none of the other witnesses have wished to talk with VG at any time.

Reader, I interrupt: The case is supposedly all over, and the prosecutor has told the witnesses not to talk to the media. Why? Is the case going to start to fall apart if they do start talking? How much careful coaching went into creating the facade they needed to convict? Perhaps it’s all a house of cards, ready to fall when the least touch pricks it. Seems suspicious to me. And it’s too bad the witnesses are all in line on this. Like little soldiers. Of course, they probably have something to lose if they talk . . . and to gain if the prosecutor’s ‘discretion’ should ever have to fall on them. You know prosecutors do have discretion as to what crimes they prosecute, and who they prosecute. No skin off this prosecutor’s back - I mean, to take on a ‘non-resident,’ and a genuine foreigner at that.

I also can’t help but wonder why the prosecutor didn’t charge Mendoza with aggravated battery, which he seems clearly chargeable for – and possibly clearly guilty of - and which is a ‘crime.

Also, Reader, if someone punched you in the nose so hard, through the driver’s side window while you were stopped and parked, and coming at you from the back of the car, not the front, so you had no clue, and then they actually broke your nose, and your blood started spurting all over the car, might you begin to drive rather erratically? At least to get away? At least until you felt you had to stop and call 911, which these Norwegians did? Back to the article:

Is in shock:

Neither the witnesses in the case nor the judge, John Lamb, showed any prayer. The judge should just find the correct sentence, since a jury had already found him guilty on several points. “I am in shock. This is horrible. I don’t know what I can do with myself, what I shall do now. That they could do something like this to my son,” says Liv Larsgard. “These witnesses have ganged up against my son and they are lying. I know that, because I was there the entire time.”

Liv came over from Norway on Sunday and has gotten to meet with her son one time before yesterday’s court session. When she, during a recess, tries to pass her son a half-bottle of Coca-Cola, it is immediately jerked out of her hands. Crushed, she realizes defeat.

The attempt by the attorney to get a new trial was denied already by the judge at the opening of the [sentencing] court session. In addition, the prosecutor came forward with a bunch of new comments in the case: They had gotten together material showing Larsgard had been in trouble earlier in the U.S., especially at the University of Alabama about 10 years ago. That was discussed by VG in the past. A large part of the time in the court session of this date was spent discussing how relevant that might be to the case at hand. The judge approved that the information could be brought into the case, despite the fact that nothing in those circumstances resulted in Larsgard either being judged or fined for something.

Reader, this is just amazing! As the coverage has already noted, John has gotten into trouble before. Is he permitted to have a history similar certainly to more than a million other young men, that is, without ending up with a jail sentence for being unliked? Perhaps a person who doesn’t fit into the social circle that he is supposed to fit into? Who is intelligent as can be, and ends up deciding he doesn’t care if folks don’t like him – he’ll live his life as he sees fit, and he doesn’t hurt anyone while he does it.

What stories about him from his past - of being mobbed and harassed, or responding poorly to some people – what they do, for me, is just confirm that people who are looking for someone to mob and harass will often decide that it is him that should ‘get it.’ It is the Lord of the Flies. I, too, respond pretty poorly to victimization. I start yelling. I get angry. I try to make room for myself to get out of it. And you? And what does that have to do with the case which is now already over and whose record should be closed?

As long as we are bringing up prejudicial and inflammatory information, what about Mendoza? A source tells us that he sells cigarettes. And equipment. What kind? The kind used to make methamphetamine, a highly addictive drug subject to high rates of abuse, prevalent on the underground drug market, a drug responsible for destroying lives, health, families and communities. Maybe you can also make baby food with methamphetamine equipment. I have no idea. Just telling you what I heard.

Back to VG:


Larsgard’s strongest supporter here in Arizona, Sandy Curry, 68, who has become a close friend to the mother, Liv, said that, despite developments, she was relieved after the sentencing hearing. “The reason that I am a bit happy is that I unfortunately know what these people could have found him for [sentenced him to]. That he got 7 ½ years, minus the 230 days he has sat in prison detained, is therefore a relief. Of course I think, as I have thought the entire time, that this case was idiocy from one end to the other, that it never should have been brought. He should have gotten a fine for irresponsible driving in Winslow, and then the police ‘wave him on,’ said Sandy Curry to VG.

Reader, I can’t stop interrupting. The police did not wave goodbye. Why was that? Because they were Iranian terrorists. Yep. I turn to Liv. “We parked and made phone calls to Dalton Auto to try to find them and get our luggage. He said ‘Stay where you are, I’ll send a driver to find you and take you to your luggage.” John was then smashed in the face through the car window by Mendoza.” Liv continues, “After he was hit, he started the car and tried to find some street signs, but we had to stop and call 911. A few seconds after calling 911, we heard screaming and noise, which was the police. They came at us with their guns pointed at our heads.”

According to Liv, the police dragged her out of the car, twisting her arm and virtually threw her into the back of a police van, locking it. In the car were her handbag/purse and several mobile phones. She had her Norwegian mobile phone with her, and had bought a U.S. mobile phone. Her Norwegian passport was also in her purse in the car.

We must now go back to 2009. That year, John had developed a uniquely difficult cervical injury. His neck required special surgery. In Norway, he could not get that surgery quickly, and so, like many Norwegians, he considered obtaining the surgery out-of-country for reasons related to price and speed of scheduling. Liv and he were in Norway and researched the options. They discovered that one of the world’s best surgeons for the needed surgery was Dr. Muntazen who would be in Germany the following year, but was currently working in Iran. Since they did not feel they could wait, they scheduled with Dr. Muntazen in Iran, and proceeded to make their travel arrangements. Norwegians travel to Iran for cultural reasons, to see their ancient sites and experience the culture on vacation. A visa stamp is required. Liv’s co-workers noted that the ladies at the Iranian Embassy wore head scarves. They thought she might take one with her when she went to get her visa stamped into her passport. Thinking it would be wise, Liv completed her application and got her photo taken at the photo box machine. She decided it would be respectful to wear the scarf in her visa photo so she did. The visa was processed when she went to the Iranian Embassy in Oslo. Liv and John then took their trip to Iran, where John got the fantastic surgery which immediately improved his neck. The visa lasted for 2-3 weeks and they were there for about one week. The visa stamp usually takes up a full page in a passport, and sometimes includes a photo. In this case, it did.

Liv is locked in the back of the van while the police have searched her handbag, something which was not related to the circumstances of the incidents which have just occurred and which should have resulted in any evidence, even if it was considered germane, being excluded from the record. After being locked in the van for about 10 minutes, a policeman opens the door and literally screams at Liv, at the top of his lungs, “You are from Iran! You are Iranian and you are a terrorist!” Liv replied, “No, I’m Norwegian.” The police officer answers, “No, you’re Iranian. Because I have your passport.” By the way, Liv did not have an Iranian passport. Her belongings, though, were searched without her permission and without probable cause to suspect that she had any reason to be involved in a crime. In criminal procedure, as most criminals know, there is something called the exclusionary rule. It means one cannot place into evidence items that were obtained by illegal search and seizure. It is designed to act as a deterrent to overzealous police and prosecutorial discretion. While items of a third party can be used in one exception to the rule, (example, germane evidence from someone else, a third party, in the case of the first party), in general, both John and Liv were in the position of foreigners who had crossed into American borders (legally) and had the right to the protection of this rule.

The police did not speak to her further. She requested her handbag and phones and was told that she could not have them. According to Liv, they said, “We are going to keep everything as evidence and you can have nothing.” She was especially anxious as she expected another call from the people who were supposed to help them get their luggage, or else should call them back again. Little did she know how much deeper their tragedy had become.

Only some days after this incident, the cab driver who assisted them in getting to Flagstaff to rent a car to continue their journey on that fateful day was talking to a policeman she knew. He mentioned to her that he had heard about the Iranian terrorist. So, the word had gotten around.

By October 19th, it was time to see what the documents from the police looked like. The attorney had been selected for John, and his wife had come to Winslow to pick up some papers that were to be used in the case. It seems that the documents were faxed to Winslow and picked up there, at which time Liv had a chance to see them. Among the case documents was a page with, yes, a copy of the Iranian visa page from Liv’s passport showing Liv in her head scarf. This apparently constituted a part of the record of the investigation in the case on which the charges against John would be brought.

Months and months go by. During the several days of trial, Liv was told she should not attend in the courtroom, as it might be perceived that her own testimony would thus be contrived or changed. However, Liv was assured that the Iranian terrorist was not discussed in court. Heaven forbid. Besides, the story was already all over the area. Seems no one in this part of the State had seen an Iranian visa stamp before. The more disturbing question is how many people involved in the case and jury had heard of that terrorist connection. After all, like mother like son, right?

-June Edvenson

Thursday, April 26, 2012

John Kristoffer Larsgard - Part 2

John Kristoffer Larsgard, Part 2

I am commenting on recent news in the John Kristoffer Larsgard case, held in Arizona, involving a Norwegian young man and his mother, Liv Larsgard.

In this blog entry, I am reviewing VG’s coverage of the Larsgard case published in their Norwegian edition of Tuesday, April 24, 2012. The cover is, in my translation, “Today he can get 35 years in prison” and “Now his mother beseeches Norway to help.” I shall start with the general spread. Liv sits with her paper spiral notebook. [She is not internet-savvy.] It is lined and well-thumbed. A ballpoint pen is clipped onto the page where continuing journal entries appear. A journal I suggested she keep, but which she had already begun months ago. She stares with continuing disbelief and apparent breathlessness into the middle distance, her inexpensive western motel environs evident behind her.

The VG coverage is translated, for the most part, closely, by me here. I insert some remarks, and interrupt when I see fit.

“Deeply desperate and powerless, Liv Larsgard prays now that the Norwegian Minister of Foreign Affairs (Norway’s Secretary of State), Jonas Gahr Støre, aid her only son, John Kristoffer. “I hope intensely that there is something Jonas Gahr Støre and the Department of Foreign Affairs can do to get my son out of this terrible situation. We need help desperately.”

VG met late Monday, April 23rd Norwegian evening time with the nurse (Liv), who has worked the last 23 years at the Nesoddtunet elderly and hospital nursing home, at the motel in Timberlodge in the small town of Pinetop, Arizona. The unlucky mother is fighting her life’s fight now. It is only so long she can hold back the tears while Eirik Mosveen interviews her. John Kristoffer Larsgard is already found guilty for aggravated assault with a deadly weapon by the court [a jury trial, I believe] in Holbrook, Arizona.

Liv is very exhausted – because at 6:30 last evening Norwegian time, her son’s destiny was sealed. Then the judge decided the sentence her son would get. It will be a minimum of 5 years in prison and a maximum of double that. “He has sat in prison under inhuman conditions for seven months for something he didn’t do, and I know that he did not do it, because I sat beside him in the car the entire time,” says Liv Larsgard.

The VG coverage of April 24th continues to recount some of the story presented the previous day. Translating from the Norwegian, “The court found that he had attempted to hurt people intentionally when he fled. For himself, he claims he just tried to get away.” Liv states, “We are just two ordinary law abiding Norwegian citizens who happened to swing off the highway and came into a scary and difficult situation. We turned off at Winslow, Arizona, a place we never before had been, and which we never shall go to again.”

Ahh, the Foreign Affairs Department of Norway. Let’s not digress. Let’s go back to VG: Liv tells Eirik, “The Foreign Affairs Department has told me the entire time [i.e. since last Fall when John was incarcerated and not released, pending a trial that only recently occurred], that there was nothing they could do because the U.S. stands on their list of countries with good protection of rights. But here in Arizona, there are many places completely different than the rest of the U.S. And in this case, there are many elements and rights principles that have been broken,” she states. [She’s right.] “The Norwegian Department of Foreign Affairs has been represented by Professor George Olander, who is the honorary counsel in Arizona, under the general counsel in San Francisco. He has said both to me, to VG and to the Foreign Affairs Department, that this case is a scandal. Then I think it is rather odd that the Foreign Affairs Department in Oslo hasn’t thoroughly investigated the case. The alarm should have gone off then,” she states.

Liv has been in the U.S. three times in the last seven months. Costs for an attorney, rental car, motel and air tickets have, to date, cost this nurse 200,000 Norwegian kroner (about $35,000 dollars).

The Utenriksdepartmentet (UDI) states they will not engage themselves in the case. A person with UDI who (finally) made a statement to VG states, “I have a great understanding for what it’s like to have landed in a criminal case abroad. [He actually cannot have, especially in the U.S.]; it’s a difficult experience. One, in the same way as the Ambassador in Oslo cannot engage in a case that is ongoing in a Norwegian court, cannot attempt to affect a foreign judgment.” Frode Andersen indicates that the general counsel in San Francisco and the Counsel in Phoenix have aided in the case. They have ensured that Larsgard has gotten an attorney, and have held contact with the American public authorities. ”This is the common support we give,” he said.

VG’s reporter asks him, “What has to happen before you do what is over the usual practice?” Andersen replied, “Without commenting on this particular case especially, UDI has engaged itself in the past where there has been serious doubt as to the court’s functional security, or when there was talk of the death penalty.”

I get it. If John is in danger of being killed, they might step in. Well, he is, but not because he could get the death penalty for screwing up 6 minutes of driving in a small town. But if an American court does not sentence John to death for failing to successfully make a three-point turn, meanwhile pissing off several people with his somewhat nonchalant and potentially maddening anti-social responses, the Norwegian authorities should not be interested in paying attention – and ‘engaging’ in the resolution of it. Right? After all, now that he’s in the good old U.S. of A., he may as well have gone to hell – when he’s found with his neck crushed once again under the boot of a fellow prisoner. And if he has to spend a few years in solitary confinement - and hand and foot chains - for not killing anyone and not meaning to, so what: at least he wasn’t sentenced to death. Right, Jonas Gahr Støre? Right, Hillary? It may take a village to raise a child, but the sad corollary is: it doesn’t take more than that to hang a man who doesn’t deserve it.

Meanwhile, the locals – both citizen voters and public authorities – have gotten their own special benefits – they got their small and focused revenge – and they’ve got their votes lined up to stay in office. Meanwhile, thank the Lord and hang ‘me high. After all, he scared two children when he tried to make a three-point turn. And by the way, he didn’t act like a good American would act. He was anti-social. He must be a foreigner. Right, UDI? Right, Jonas Gahr Støre? Just let ‘em run all over us when we land there. No compunction. Best friends. Case closed.

It’s not the first time since I moved to Norway that I’ve heard of abuses of international human rights within the United States. Too bad the U.S. polishes its untouchable reputation with so much distance that even allies cannot complain. Meanwhile, the U.S. criminal justice system flops along rather unevenly, if you can call ‘pleading out’ real justice. It has plenty of emperors who do not permit self-examination. And yes, they are hunkered down in both big and tiny towns - and poor counties. Too bad they’re willing to sacrifice a foolish and unattractive foreign fellow, and count him a real fiend when he was not. And is not.

Meanwhile, from a cursory surf today, I’m not the first to find it ironic that while a Norwegian’s rights are being railroaded out of existence in the U.S., Norway is entertaining its own world’s greatest fiend in a lengthy and showy trial. The one who shall not be named has been granted 10 weeks of full-time publicity – in Norway – to explain why he killed 77 people last summer. He’s protected, listened to, studied and respected. He doesn’t live in chains. He’s dressed in a suit and tie and driven to court every day with high security. He’s given every opportunity to tell us exactly how he planned to kill and killed 77 people. Even what he wished he could have accomplished but didn’t manage to get done. Norway just today got done reporting their own replication of the bomb blow-up, a mini-second by mini-second analysis of the actual effect of the downtown blast that blew out the government’s main street offices. Gee, I’m so glad to have that forensic detail – it makes all the difference. The State of Norway has permitted dozens of attorneys to appear during this case, a case in which the accused has already confessed and claims he is competent to be judged for a prison sentence. The judges are proud to be insiders, some the children of judges who heard famous super-cases in Norway in the past. It’s a big show. And everybody in the limelight is connected, you know. That’s how things in Norway work. And our Norwegian tax dollars are paying for it. Because Norway is rich.

Too bad Liv Larsgard isn’t ‘connected.’ And isn’t rich.

Makes me glad I’m headed to the United States for a few weeks. God help me, though, if I get going the wrong way down a one-way street. After all, if I get flustered, I might have to serve time.

-June Edvenson

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

John Kristoffer Larsgard, Part 1

John Kristoffer Larsgard, a Norwegian young man, lately living in the United States. Liv Larsgard, his mother, a nursing home nurse in Oslo. Myself, an American attorney living and working in Norway, also assisting and commenting on cultural and legal issues of interest and note. And John, now and for several months, sitting in a prison in Arizona, and recently convicted after over a week-long trial.

I was asked by John’s mother, Liv Larsgard, to assist her. We’ve spoken on the phone on more than one occasion at length and she recently sent me portions of the court transcript in the case. She would like me to help her to get what is arguably also her story out to the public, in English, and, if I would like to do that, to comment on the legal merits of the case, on its problems and issues it seems to raise, as I deem appropriate.

So here we go, dear American and global Reader, as we look into what appears to be a classic example of how not to be the land of the free and the home of the brave. As well, how not to present criminal evidence in a jury trial. And we can also get to the rather long list of international human rights which have been broken with impunity later. First, let us simply look together at what has happened here. Let me whet your appetite. Here are some versions of headlines I could write, none of which is without some truth:

• Norwegian thrown in jail for messing up a three-point turn in unfamiliar rental car
• Norwegian punched in nose for going wrong way on poorly marked one-way street and trying to flee attackers
• Batterer goes free - Victim gets years in prison
• Norwegian with neck disability refused his medicine while held in solitary confinement
• Norwegian guilty of bad driving held in steel hand and foot chains at all times out of cell
• Norwegian punched to the floor and neck stomped on by other prisoner for doing nothing
• Norwegian with history of being mobbed in Norway finally mobbed to near-death in Arizona
• Lack of social skills becomes criminal intent in Arizona when non-Americans show up
• Need help? Don’t stop in Winslow, Arizona. Especially if you’ve never been there
• Beer-happy festival crowd turns on foreigners for lack of American communication skills
• Foreigner drives wildly as reaction to attacking public . . . who over-reacted to his unfamiliarity
• Local prison needs prisoners after losing federal contract: Find foreigners fast and lock ‘em up
• A slam-dunk into prison means protecting local jobs - Now that’s a priority.
• Hearsay evidence illegal since 17th century – but not in Winslow, Arizona

Let’s begin with the exclusive coverage prepared and published in VG, one of Norway’s largest daily newspapers and most read. The coverage is by Eirik Mosveen, a veteran reporter stationed in New York. The paper has availability online for those interested in reading the Norwegian story portions. I don’t cover all the aspects, but I will summarize some of the written coverage as the story has just broken here. By doing that, I will primarily present it from the perspective from which it is reported - by a Norwegian reporter, to the Norwegian population in Norway. For me, it is a sign of respect, and also, like many Americans here, will ‘ring true’ with respect to our own education as to the differences between our two cultures. It may also be enlightening for those who should develop a professional interest in this case, and who have the ability and position to influence what should now occur and how that can be effected. In general, it’s interesting because it points up what people think they know about how they should perceive others’ actions. It also highlights how persons use the law and legal system, themselves, through their different roles within the criminal justice ‘sub-culture’ of this American rural county. We can analyze those cultural and legal differences in later entries. Now to the core story.

VG’s coverage began Monday, April 23, 2012: There was just a mother and son in the car that drove onto a deserted motorway through Arizona’s desert on a warm and peaceful Saturday. Then all hell broke loose. For seven months, John Kristoffer Larsgard, 32, has sat in jail in Navajo County Jail, mainly in solitary, with foot links and handcuffs. What happened on September 24 (2011) isn’t taken from an American B-film. It’s hard reality. On March 29th he was found guilty of so-called “aggravated assault” for trying to cause harm using a deadly weapon – against 6 Americans, 2 of them small children. The weapon, according to the judgment, was the rental car rented by his mother Liv, and the son drove it that ill-fated day. Tomorrow, the sentencing comes, at which the Norwegian risks being sentenced to a minimum of 5 years in prison, while he fears he could get 35 years.

Liv was driving her son’s Volvo as they made their way from Los Angeles to Chicago, and John was half-sleeping in the passenger seat. Suddenly, a red light on the dash began to blink. They decided to get off at the next exit to check it out. At that exit, Liv became confused as to how to proceed and ended up crossing into a median area which was full of un-noticeable rocks. There, the Volvo bottomed out and its under-carriage was substantially damaged. They therefore needed a rental car to continue their trip. The taxi driver that came to assist them drove them to Flagstaff where they rented a car and then returned to the Winslow area to find their baggage. Note that since the Volvo had been towed, and there were no rental agencies in Winslow, they had not been into the town before and were now entering it to find their luggage so they could continue their journey north and east. Now, John is driving. They are to find their auto at Dalton Auto Parts.

On this day, there is a large local music festival. They accidentally turn the wrong way down a one-way street, which causes onlookers to react. John is driving slowly, but some call to him that it is a one-way street. He tries to yell something back at those who are yelling at him, mainly a mother standing on the sidewalk. Liv is very anxious now and begs him to turn around and get them out of there. When John goes to execute a three-point turn, he runs over the curb behind him, scaring the persons hanging out in front of a store. Here is the woman with two children who claims he screamed at her, “I will kill you” before he executes the three-point turn. Note that another witness heard him say, “I will sneak through.”

Reader, I must digress here, on cross-cultural language usage and pronunciation. Have you heard a Norwegian say, “I will kill you” and “I will sneak through”? Do you realize that they don’t sound very different from each other? Do you know that the Norwegian language doesn’t do the ‘th’ sound very well – most of their consonants are sharper and more distinct. And they don’t do the ‘ough’ sound in ‘through’ very well either: most of their o’s are longer and deeper ooooo’s. In addition, all their i’s are e’s: they don’t have the short ‘i’ sound very much in the language: first, the ‘i’ is always pronounced as “ee” is in English. When they ‘will,’ they say, ‘veeel’.

Now, reader, another digression. When you have found yourself going the wrong way on a one-way street, what do you do? If it is safe to do so, you do as I have done: you sneak through to the next turn and get off of it. If no or few cars are seen, street direction can be under-signed. In many cases, sneaking forward to the next turn would be less disruptive and more ‘friendly’ than stopping and executing a three-point turn. So, it makes perfect sense that John was trying to tell the lady that he would try to sneak through, as he slowly proceeded, even if she heard something else instead, not recognizing his foreign accented English in the same way she would understand her western American English. Who said he said, “I will sneak through”? A young dental assistant who, presumably, has perfect hearing, who also testified at the, er, seven day trial.

And what does the prosecutor do with little lady number one’s statement? Well, of course, he offers it in testimony for, um, intent? To kill people? After all, he has to find an exception to the hearsay rule or he can’t get that assertion into evidence. Why? Because, the fact that this little lady swears under oath that she heard him say, “I will kill you” doesn’t mean he said that, and it also doesn’t mean one can accept that statement for the truth of the matter asserted. As every first year law student knows, hearsay is evidence which depends on the credibility of someone who cannot be cross-examined for its probative value (Goldberg). In other words, when little lady one says she heard him say, “I will kill you,” who are we to say she did not hear him say that? This is why HEARSAY IS NOT ADMISSIBLE FOR THE PURPOSE OF PROVING THE TRUTH OF THE MATTER ASSERTED. Of course, there are many exceptions to the hearsay rule. However, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that if you keep a little lady on the stand repeating and repeating that he said “I will kill you,” and then everyone around her decides that must’ve been what the guy said, and they further testify to the same, (except for the lady who testified that he clearly said, “I will sneak through”), and then you have a situation where the jury is asked to find that this fellow intentionally set about hurting people in the town, and what will they find? It’s almost a Catch-22: you get the jury to answer only the question you ask them – and definitely not the question you should have asked them. Figure this one out.

Back to VG’s coverage. John manages to turn around and is trying to both flee people running after him who are angry, but basically find his luggage so they can leave town. In particular, the father of the children on the sidewalk is running after the car, angry as can be. John doesn’t see him, but pulls into the parking lot nearby while they hope to get their luggage. The car becomes surrounded and, coming from behind, John is smashed in the nose through the open driver’s window. The father who crushed his nose is rushing back while John’s blood is spurting profusely all over the unfamiliar rental car interior. Still, he is afraid to get out of the car.

Both John and Liv manage to call 911. Immediately, about 10 police arrive. Ten? It has been 6 ½ minutes since they began to drive the wrong way down a one-way street in Winslow, Arizona.

Criss Candaleria, John’s attorney, tells VG, (in my translation from the Norwegian paper), “This is really an embarrassing case. It should have been dropped from Day One. There isn’t even one shred of evidence in the case that John intended to kill someone in the course of those 6 ½ minutes, in a town he had never been in before. The police didn’t even assign one investigator to it. The witnesses were angry, and the police and the court chose to believe the witnesses’ version, namely that he was trying to hurt and kill these people. If he was trying to kill them, why would he call the police and tell them where he was? The case is completely illogical. Therefore, I’ve asked for a new trial.”

None of the witnesses contacted would talk to the VG reporter who was in town requesting it, although everyone knows that ‘there was a foreigner here last year who drove like a crazy man and tried to hurt and kill folks.’

Eirik Mosveen was able to talk to John at the Navajo County Jail, which is in Holbrook, Arizona. John says, (in my English translation), “I’ve got no connection with Arizona, other than that my mother and I drove along I-40. For me, it’s as if we’ve been taken in a highway robbery.” (John is in solitary confinement.) Further, “The treatment I am getting here in jail is based on what I was arrested for. It’s pretty bad right now. I’m getting out of my cell 3 times each week, one hour each time, to take a shower and maybe read documents. Otherwise, I’m in the cell, which has a toilet, a sink and a mattress pad.” John is always in hand and foot links when he is out of his cell unless he is showering. John says, “It’s completely laughable. It’s because, according to them, I am the most dangerous prisoner in the entire county.” Eirik asks him what he thinks of this. John replies, “That it’s complete lunacy. It’s like a bad film, where you swing in and land on a deserted peninsula, filled with angry residents. Because I was charged with trying to hurt children, many of the jail staff have treated me very badly, despite the fact that that charge was dropped. I’m like their mass murderer, the unfortunate mass murderer since, under the circumstances, no one was hurt.” Eirik and John continue their discussion of what seems to have been a completely insane description of what in fact occurred. John then adds, “What I’ve learned for myself at this place is that, here, anything can happen.” When asked if he had been there before, John replies, “No, I’d never heard of the place, and if I had, I would have thought it was a new data virus by Windows,” he says and smiles.

Alright, Reader, here we take another break. Do you have to love this guy? No, but I think his cynical sense of humor may be helping him stay alive. And he’s definitely not stupid. Can we see why driving a bit wildly might ‘piss people off’? Yes. Can we understand why he was trying to get out of the wrong-way predicament he was in, while women were screaming at him to turn around? Yes. Can we understand that we also don’t have to ‘like’ him to see that the type of treatment he has gotten has gone way way beyond the reasonable? Yes. Might he have exacerbated the bad-driver side in response to provocations from persons attacking the car? Quite possibly, but so. Can we understand that it would have been appropriate to cite him for traffic violations? Yes. When someone runs at your car, and brushes against it intentionally while you are driving and you can’t see them, are you responsible for the fact that the car touched them? As a Chicagoan who has more than once watched pedestrians attack and damage cars in traffic, I’ll leave that question open. Did the car he was driving, while being chased, brush against someone? Yes. Are they responsible for putting themselves in harm’s way? Quite possibly. If they are on a sidewalk when the three-point turn fails, and the tire blows out on the curb, is this something you could have prevented when you had never driven that car until right then? No, not necessarily. Is it reasonable to think that this scared the persons on the sidewalk? Of course. Would the children be afraid? Of course. American response: Get offended (which is also considered smart) and get even. Norwegian response: Stop all action, calm down and exchange names and numbers. Is it reasonable for them to claim that he was trying intentionally to kill them? Based on the actual evidence, of course not. But in Winslow, Arizona, who cares about the evidence? Just ‘hang ‘em high’ as they say, right?

Eirik asks John what he thinks of the future. John replies, “I don’t know. I’m just trying to survive each day as it comes here.” When asked about his mother, John replies, “It’s not easy. Because she feels a large responsibility because it was she who crashed the car, and the reason we had to hang around here. She’s suffering with guilt feelings. In addition, she’s been here, away [from her work and Oslo] for long periods, and taken out vacation for two years in the future. She has gotten large economic problems [from this].

VG’s first day’s coverage ends with this information: In Winslow, Arizona, both the State’s Attorney and the judge in the case are publicly (popularly) elected and are political office holders, and 2012 is an election year. There is little doubt that many people in Winslow, which has about 6,000 residents, would like to see Larsgard sentenced to time. To let John free of a punishment ‘would not be especially popular.’

If you’re able to and interested, check VG’s story links.  A video, entitled, “Her pågripes nordmannen,” was also posted at:!id=52059 but appears to have been withdrawn at this writing.

To be continued. By me and hopefully by other concerned and engaged professionals from our two countries.

-June Edvenson