Nancy Grace - guilty of child endangerment?

Nancy Grace - guilty of child endangerment?
by Timothy Charles Holmseth
November 10, 2012

At the risk of stating the obvious I am going to let everybody in on something.

Nancy Grace is not a news reporter.

That meaning – there exists no reasonable expectation by daily viewers of Grace’s program, that she report balanced news, delivered from the field in a timely fashion, for purposes of keeping the public informed.

She doesn’t do that - and - she doesn’t have to do that.

Grace’s program is commentary and doesn’t use news reporters, per say. Her program is ‘produced’ by ‘producers’. It is a show – plain and simple.

Using missing children cases for entertainment value is something that is commonly referred to as “infotainment”. I’m not going to go into the ethics or morals of that.

Here is the issue.

Do Nancy Grace and her producers have a legal obligation to obey United States Code, as well as the laws of the states whose jurisdiction they enter into with their producers and correspondents? 

How far can television program hosts and producers go under the umbrella of journalism and freedom of press, before they become part and parcel to criminal activity – if criminal activity is occurring?

I am a former newspaper reporter – now an author – nobody seeks to observe, protect, and be protected by freedom of the press any more than me. However, as the age of communication engulfs us, it appears this is a discussion that is long overdue.

It also appears Nancy Grace has used missing children as a perfect place to start the conversation.

We know it is against the law in every state of the union to kidnap a child. Likewise, it is against the law to transport that child across state lines.

So where does the law come down on the strategic use of media, radio, and television being deployed to advance and/or protect criminal activity or a criminal enterprise involved with a missing or kidnapped child?

Why am I talking about kidnapping? Well…

In 2009, Nancy Grace began to produce programs that included regular airings of content regarding the disappearance of HaLeigh Ann-Marie Cummings. Haleigh’s disappearance is a serious matter and resulted in an Amber Alert that exists to this very day. 

Nancy Grace’s television program is for profit – she makes money – lots of money – she does what she does to get rich – plain and simple.

At the time HaLeigh Cummings was reported missing, Grace had already been reaping the profits of her ad nauseum coverage of another missing child named Caylee Anthony. 

With the HaLeigh case supplementing gaps in the Caylee case, Grace began to run the usual scrolling banners across the television screen, looping footage of HaLeigh and others associated with the case, and discussing various dynamics of the growing mystery with guests she invited on her show.  

Sure - entirely legal.

However…

Nancy Grace soon brought on a tabloid writer and web blog operator named Art Harris to keep the public apprised of all the ‘big updates’ in the search for Haleigh. She introduced Harris as an “investigative journalist” and reminded the viewers he was an Emmy-award reporter. She touted his (supposed) credentials and presented him as a credible source for accurate information, which she claimed was being gathered as it happened on location.

The name of Harris’ website was repeated over and over for promotion; and presented as a source for breaking news about Haleigh.

Now, that changes things.

If credibility issues or legal problems come up involving Harris, the decisions of Nancy Grace may be seen as more than a mere temporary lapse in judgment. Grace has a responsibility to vet her sources.

I’ll explain why I say that.

HaLeigh Cummings was/is classified as a ‘Missing and Endangered’ child. HaLeigh is a crime victim, and, is protected by a multitude of child protection laws in the state of Florida. At no time has HaLeigh been considered out of danger. She is presently under the full protection of state and federal laws written to protect children from exploitation.

Each time Nancy Grace linked up to Art Harris and his so-called ‘coverage’ of the Haleigh Cummings case, the American public may have been witnessing a litany of crimes in progress.

Just because HaLeigh Cummings disappeared, she did not lose her rights. 

I will explain.

In April of 2009, I was contacted by the private investigator working for Crystal Sheffield, HaLeigh’s mother. William Staubs, a.k.a. – ‘Cobra the Bounty Hunter’ contacted me in hopes of receiving media support through my writing and website.

‘Cobra’ Staubs had access to a rolodex full of witnesses, and I believed I could produce an interesting feature piece for magazine. Within a short period of time I interviewed many members of Crystal Sheffield’s legal staff and team. I also interviewed members of HaLeigh’s family.  

And I soon learned…

Art Harris was actually working for Sheffield and her team.

I’m going to repeat that.

Art Harris was working for the mother of the missing child, at the same time he was reporting on Nancy Grace’s show.

I’ll say it again.

Art Harris was appearing on national television as an “investigative journalist” but in reality, he was working for HaLeigh’s mother and team.

Basically, he was posing as a reporter – he was running a con – he was exploiting HaLeigh Cummings and potentially advancing a federal crime.

Harris’ appearances on Nancy Grace and other HLN programs were to advance a story-line being prepared in real-time by Staubs and others on Sheffield’s staff.

That’s not something I’m just cooking up folks. Internal staff recordings I obtained in 2011 prove beyond a doubt what Harris and the gang were doing; and it is not good.

Harris, Staubs, and other team members were developing ‘news’ pieces to be aired by Nancy Grace that would target certain people as suspects in HaLeigh’s disappearance.

Misty Jeanette Croslin, 17, was one of those targets. Nancy Grace’s program relentlessly cast suspicion on the young girl. Essentially, she was under quasi-investigation by Nancy Grace and HLN.

Misty Croslin was seventeen years-old when HaLeigh vanished – she was known to have the working intellectual capabilities of about a fourth grade child.

I can personally vouch for Misty Croslin’s struggles – I received a very nice card and letter from the young lady out of her prison cell. I could see she tried very hard, and applied disciplined concentrated effort to print the words she wrote to me – it clearly wasn’t easy for her.

Nonetheless, Nancy Grace focused on Misty Croslin as if her every teenage move was somehow ‘news’.

On one occasion, Croslin went on a shopping trip to a nearby city. Grace’s intro for the nightly program was to suggest Croslin was mysteriously missing; “Tonight! Where’s Misty?” Grace announced, cynically.

As I stated, I am not going to get into ethics and morals. However…

Nancy Grace’s programming could become the subject of legal scrutiny if HaLeigh Cummings is found or law enforcement makes arrests in her kidnapping. Some suggest Grace has made herself a target for a major law-suit. However, I believe it is more serious than that.

I believe Nancy Grace and her producers could face criminal charges if authorities ever determine Sheffield and/or any members of her team were responsible for Haleigh’s disappearance and/or continued absence from society, and, Grace and her producers knew about it, and, they assisted in publishing cover stories.  

Harris and Staubs developed a pet project regarding a local man named Daniel Snodgrass. The man was free on bond; charged with sex crimes against a child under twelve years-old.

Snodgrass’ name was given to mainstream reporters covering the HaLeigh Cummings case – suggesting he may have been involved with Haleigh’s disappearance. Staubs told news reporters that nobody was sure where Snodgrass was the night HaLeigh vanished.

There was clearly malicious intent in spreading this story about Snodgrass.

Why do I say that?

Because what Staubs was telling reporters wasn’t true. Law enforcement had cleared Snodgrass per his GPS ankle bracelet.

Staubs told me all the gory details of an outdoor shed that appeared to be splattered wall to wall with blood. He suggested Snodgrass might have slaughtered Haleigh Cummings in the shed like an animal. However, law enforcement had long since cleared the shed and determined the blood was from deer.

Select members of law enforcement were so sick and tired of Staubs and Harris’ dis-information; they told him to get out of town or warned he would be arrested.
The attempt to uncover planted evidence at San Mateo is also a matter of record. In an interview with Major Gary Bowling, he essentially admitted the sheriff’s office was aware evidence had been sprinkled around and then magically found by Staubs and the gang.

This is Nancy Grace’s sources?

The communication records will show a steady stream between Harris and Nancy Grace. Show after show – program after program – Nancy Grace provided venue to Harris and Staubs’ hit pieces.

The strategic use of the Web, radio and television to advance or protect a criminal enterprise is not the only legal issue Nancy Grace could face if HaLeigh Cumming is found.

According to Staubs, in 2009 Nancy Grace involved herself in helping Ronald Cummings obtain a lawyer. Here again, she has demonstrated an involvement with witnesses and key players in a serious criminal case, that is beyond anything that is acceptable.

At what point does a television host begin to forfeit certain journalistic protections?

Below you will find an audio clip captured in the field in 2009. You will hear Cobra Staubs proofreading a sleazy promotional article written by Art Harris. You will hear Staubs giggle and laughing as he reads about an “underground pen” HaLeigh might have been kept in as a “jail”.

He’s laughing because he knows the truth.

If Nancy Grace knew it too - then she is guilty of a felony.

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