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For The Record  

FTR #297 Going to the Dogs

MP3 One Segment
NB: This RealAudio stream contains FTRs 297 and 298 in sequence. Each is a 30-minute broadcast.

In January of 2000, Diane Whipple, the coach of the women’s lacrosse team at St. Mary’s college, was mauled to death by two 120-pound Presa Canario dogs at her residence in San Francisco. (The relatively rare Presa Canario is a breed that is adapted to fighting and security activity.) As investigation of the case proceeded, a number of strange and disturbing details began to emerge.

1. The dogs belonged to two San Francisco attorneys, Robert Noel and Marjorie Knoller, who are married. Investigators soon determined that the attorneys were caring for the dogs on behalf of two of their clients, who were members of the Aryan Brotherhood, a powerful, white supremacist gang based in correctional institutions. “The dog that killed a San Francisco woman had a long history of viciousness and was secretly owned by two Aryan Brotherhood prison gang members as part of an underground scheme to breed and sell animals while in maximum security at Pelican Bay [a California maximum-security prison], officials said. At the time of Friday’s fatal attack on Diane Whipple, the 120-pound Presa Canario dog, Bane, was being kept by the inmates’ attorneys, Robert Noel and Marjorie Knoller of Pacific Heights, as was another dog, Hera. . . . Authorities said Pelican Bay inmates Paul ‘Cornfed’ Schneider and Dale Bretches were investigated by state prison authorities last year and found guilty in February of running a dog-breeding scheme while in the maximum-security housing unit at the prison.” (“Prison gang Duo Linked to Dog that Killed Woman” by Jaxon Van Derbeken; San Francisco Chronicle; 1/30/2001; p. A1.)

2. Eventually, it turned out that Schneider (38 years old) was the couple’s recently adopted son. “News that the lawyers whose dog mauled a San Francisco woman to death have adopted the animal’s prior owner—a prison inmate and a member of the Aryan Brotherhood—has veteran family attorneys shaking their heads in disbelief. Adult adoptions are not unusual, but when Robert Noel, 59, and Marjorie Knoller, 45, became the parents of 38-year-old Paul John ‘Cornfed’ Schneider, now serving time in Pelican Bay for aggravated assault and attempted, it turned a tragic situation into a bizarre one. Adoption lawyers and scholars say they have never heard of a lawyer adopting an adult client, a situation that raises a spectrum of ethical issues. ‘I don’t know what’s going on in this dog case,’ said Nordin Blacker, a prominent San Francisco family lawyer. ‘This seems particularly strange.'” (“Lawyers’ Adoption of Inmate Stuns Legal Experts” by Harriet Chiang; San Francisco Chronicle; 2/1/2001; p. A20.)

3. The case was to become stranger still. After being charged with second-degree murder, Noel and Knoller proceeded to drive at very high speed to the rural residence of a friend and client, and were ticketed by pursuing police. “As the grand jury deliberated, Noel and Knoller headed north on Intestate 80 in a maroon Chevrolet Impala. Undercover San Francisco police in unmarked cars followed close behind, but [San Francisco D.A. Terence] Hallinan would not say why authorities ordered the surveillance. A California Highway Patrol officer stopped Noel in Woodland at 4:29 p.m. after he reportedly made several unsafe lane changes while driving through southern Yolo County at speeds reportedly topping 90 mph. ‘Mr. Noel was very cordial and didn’t seem to be too upset by the incident,’ said CHP Sgt. Willie Brooks. Noel was issued a ticket for reckless driving. Before heading off, Noel told the San Francisco officers where he was headed, said Lt. Henry Hunter. The couple arrived at a ranch owned by their friend and client James Patton in Corning, a small Tehama County town about 170 miles north of San Francisco, shortly after 6 p.m. . . . Three days after the attack a judge finalized the couple’s adoption of Paul ‘Cornfed’ Schneider, a 38-year-old convict serving a life sentence at Pelican Bay State Prison.” (“Murder, Manslaughter Charges in Dog Attack” by Jaxon Van Derbeken; San Francisco Chronicle; 3/28/2001; p. A8.)

4. As the case became ever stranger, indications emerged that there may have been a sexual dimension to the attorneys’ relationship to their clients. “What’s more, prison officials said Hallinan’s investigators found nude photos of Knoller in Schneider’s cell while searching for evidence.” (Idem.)

5. Subsequent articles indicated at the possibility of bestiality. “The documents, including affidavits for search warrants of the couple’s Pacific Heights apartment, suggest that authorities suspected sexual abuse of the dogs by the couple. Investigators theorized that possible sexual abuse of the animals may have contributed to the attack on Whipple. But officials said yesterday that it appears found little to support that theory. Yet, according to one affidavit, Pelican Bay Prison Sgt. Joe Akin reported finding ‘a letter disguised as legal mail addressed to (inmate Paul) Schneider’ that discusses ‘sexual activity between Noel, Knoller and the dog Bane.’ Noel and Knoller are Schneider’s attorneys and adoptive parents. Akin reported that he saw ‘numerous photos of Knoller posing nude with fighting dog drawings’ among the property of Paul ‘Cornfed’ Schneider and cell-mate Dale Bretches. Both inmates are artists, and have made the Presa Canario dogs the subjects of many of their works. Akin also reported that he ‘discovered communications between Noel and Knoller to Schneider that described sexual activities between Knoller and Noel and included photos and drawings of dogs and fighting dogs’ as well as a photo of a male dog’s genitals.'” (“Killer Dogs Had Attacked Blind Woman” by Jaxon Van Derbeken; San Francisco Chronicle; 3/302001; p. A19.)

6. Noel’s background also raised some interesting questions about the case. Noel worked for the National Security Agency, in addition to the Department of Justice. “For five years, during college, he worked at the National Security Agency, developing surveillance photos among other work. In 1969, he became a tax lawyer for the Department of Justice in the Nixon administration. By 1981, now moved to San Diego, he joined Rogers & Wells, a private San Diego firm run, in part, by a Nixon associate. His wife at the time worked in early childhood education.” (“Owners of Killer Dog Abandoned Conventional Career Paths” by Dan Reed and Michael Bazeley; San Jose Mercury News; 2/3/2001; p. 7A.)

7. It would not be unreasonable to ask whether Noel may still have some connection to NSA, or some other intelligence agency. While at Rogers & Wells, he worked with an attorney who had previously represented C. Arnholt Smith, one of Richard Nixon’s principal financial backers. He had worked opposite that attorney (Mitch Lathrop) while working for the Nixon Justice Department. “Lathrop was impressed: Bob Noel was barely 34 years old, fresh from his stint in Washington, dispatched to clean up after the failure of U.S. National Bank. For someone trying to master the art of trial work, this was litigation heaven. ‘It was like something out of a grade-B novel,’ said Lathrop, a San Diego attorney whose firm represented the bank’s owner, C. Arnholt Smith. ‘Everyone wanted to depose Noel’s client, the Comptroller whose auditors had gone through the bank records. Bob’s role,’ said Lathrop, ‘was to protect the United States government.’ Lathrop asked Noel in 1981 to join him at the San Diego office of Rogers & Wells, headed by William Rogers, attorney general under Eisenhower and Nixon’s secretary of state. Noel handled big-name clients, earning good money to support Karen, the red-haired woman he’d married the day after President Kennedy was shot, and their three kids.” (“Story of Torn Family, Estranged Son May Offer Insight into Actions in Mauling Case” by Patrick May; San Jose Mercury News; 3/29/2001; p. 18A.)

8. An odd coincidence enabled Noel’s son by his first marriage to escape prison himself. “One night in 1983, a San Diego police officer pulled up at the front door with the boy. ‘The officer was going to write up a report the next day, which meant Rob would have entered the juvenile justice system.’ It never happened. In a bizarre incident, Noel said, the officer was murdered later that night.” (Idem.)

9. Both Noel and Knoller represent themselves to the media as championing the downtrodden. Their choice of clients (in addition to the Aryan Brotherhood members in the case discussed here) seems odd in light of their representations to the media. “. . . [they] started taking cases involving guards accused of wrongdoing at Pelican Bay.” (Idem.)

10. Interestingly, guards at Pelican Bay have been accused of collaborating with Aryan Brotherhood members, whom they allegedly used as enforcers within the institution. At the same time that the Whipple death made headlines, the Aryan Brotherhood were alleged to have conspired to murder Arizona prison officials. “The Aryan Brotherhood prison gang has an ‘ongoing plan’ to kill Terry Stewart, state prisons director, and other correctional officers, according to a Department of Corrections intelligence report, written late last year. The October 18 report, obtained by The Arizona Republic, says members of the white-supremacist organization are mounting a terror campaign in hopes that the department will overturn a policy requiring the permanent isolation of gang members.” (“Prison Officials on Aryan Death List” by Dennis Wagner; The Arizona Republic; 2/4/2001; p. A1.)

11. One of the questions posed in the broadcast concerns the possibility that Robert Noel’s background working in the corridors of power (NSA, Department of Justice, etc.) might betoken ongoing involvement with some aspect of the intelligence community. That, in turn, might suggest that his and Knoller’s activities in connection with the Aryan Brotherhood might entail more than meets the eye. The possibility that some of the alleged illicit sexual activities might involve the making or underground bestiality or pornography materials and/or sexual blackmail of individuals who use such material is not one to be too readily cast aside.

12. It is interesting to speculate about some of the possibilities that may arise from George W. Bush’s faith-based initiatives program. One of the institutions that Bush wants to empower to expand its work within prisons is the organization of convicted Watergate burglar Charles Colson. “But for Mr. Bush, this idea is more than an abstraction. He points to the prison program here, just outside Houston, as a model of the sort of thing he would like to see spread across the country. The program, called InnerChange, is the brainchild of Charles Colson, the convicted Watergate felon who himself found religion while serving time. It attempts to rehabilitate with an intensive two-year indoctrination in biblical teachings and proper Christian behavior. Nearly 200 inmates, mostly drug dealers and thieves, are enrolled in this seven-days-a-week regimen designed to set them right in the months before they return to society. As governor of Texas, Mr. Bush helped persuade state-prison officials to embrace the program in 1997.” (“Some Texas Prisoners Get Religion—16 Hours a Day, 7 Days a Week” by Jim VandeHei; Wall Street Journal; 1/26/2001; p. A1.)

13. In that same context, it is interesting to note who the director of Bush’s program is going to be. “And now John DiIulio, the author of the tough-on-crime manifesto Let ‘Em Rot, who falsely prophesied a ‘rising tide of juvenile superpredators,’ has been made the first director of the brand-new White House office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives.” (“Legislation: The 107th Congress: A Look Ahead, A Call to Action” by Kyle O’Dowd; The Champion; March/2001; p. 47.)


One comment for “FTR #297 Going to the Dogs”

  1. I think The Center for Constitutional Rights has taken up the cause of a
    White Aryan Brotherhood Associate of Paul “Cornfed” Schneider according to Dan Morain, of the Sacramento Bee.


    For a liberal progressive organization that boasts of being born of the civil right movement of the 60s they seem to be going a little Greenwald.

    It seems in addition to representing The White Aryan Brother and other prisoners to reduce their security status in prison, the front of their website has articles discussing their legal efforts on behalf of the Guantanamo Uighurs and separately against the NSA due to the Snowden Revelations.


    Things are going to the dogs indeed.

    Posted by GK | January 15, 2014, 6:35 pm

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