Brill's Content
#1
By Katherine Rosman
Issue Date: February 2000
http://www.brillscontent.com/features/benet8_0200.html

GETTING IN ON THE ACTION


There is no question in radio-talk-show host Peter Boyles's mind that John and Patsy Ramsey were involved in the murder. Boyles doesn't know what happened to JonBenét, but what he knows is of little importance. That's because Boyles is a part of the "opinion press." On Denver's KHOW-AM, Boyles broadcasts his beliefs nearly every chance he gets. And why shouldn't he? Since JonBenét died, Boyles's ratings have skyrocketed. In the fall of 1996, Boyles had a 4.9 percent share of the morning audience. In fall 1997, that number jumped 31 percent, to 7.1 percent, a share he maintained through the fall of 1998.

Because of the thirst of the national media to keep the JonBenét mill churning, Boyles doesn't have to reserve his comments for his morning show's local audience. When he wants a little national media attention, he comes up with all kinds of clever ways to get it. Take the war of the newspaper ads.

During the last week of July and the first week of August 1997, John and Patsy Ramsey published two full-page advertisements in the Boulder Daily Camera seeking public help infinding the killer of their daughter.

After reading the Ramseys' first plea, Boyles took action. For $3,100, he placed his own ad, which ran in the Daily Camera the same day as the Ramseys' second ad was printed. Titled "An Open Letter to John & Patsy Ramsey," it outlined Boyles's reasons for thinking the Ramseys are guilty. In part, he wrote, "you are displaying certain characteristics that are totally opposite those of most victim parents....Fred Goldman's behavior exemplifies the true victim parent of a child who has been murdered. You, on the other hand, have led Colorado and the nation on a seven month, low speed, white Bronco chase."

The payoff? In the two days after Boyles's letter ran, he appeared on Dateline NBC, Rivera Live, and Good Morning America to discuss it. Two CBS Sunday night news programs and CBS Morning News aired reports about Boyles and his missive.

Boyles says he talks about the case as frequently and as passionately as he does so that JonBenét will not have died in vain. More than three years into the case, Boyles still covers JonBenét regularly. He has even helped produce a CD of parody songs with titles such as "Big Bad John [Ramsey]."

Still, Boyles is just a small part of the Lynch the Ramseys Brigade. Nationally, Geraldo Rivera is similarly committed to giving airtime to those who imply guilt on the part of the Ramseys. On November 24, 1997, Rivera stood before the audience of what was then his nationally syndicated broadcast show (not to be confused with his CNBC talk show), tie adjusted, mustache groomed. "It is entirely possible," Rivera said ominously, "that this murder mystery will never be solved, and that no one will ever be tried for the terrible crime committed against that lovely child-except for today, except for the mock trial we are about to stage for you right here in our studio."

Rivera then gave new meaning to the cliché "trial by media." He presented a two-part mock trial of John and Patsy Ramsey. (Rivera declined to comment for this story.)

The trial's "witnesses" for the prosecution included Tony Frost, the editor of the Globe; Cindy Adams, the New York Post's gossip columnist who was introduced by the prosecutor as "the world's greatest authority on everything"; a former Miss America; and Craig Silverman, a Denver attorney with no relation to the Ramsey case. Most of the "testimony" came in the form of clips from past shows.

Highlights from these "witnesses" included a statement from Adams in which she said, "Bit by bit, inch by inch, so slowly that you can't see it, it is closing around Patsy....Everything is pointing to Patsy."

Marilyn Van Derbur Atler, a former Miss America and alleged victim of child abuse and incest, "testified" that because her own mother had forced the pageant world upon her, she believes the Ramseys did the same to JonBenét.

Silverman, the Denver lawyer, "testified" that he wonders whether Patsy killed her daughter in a religious sacrifice. Silverman says his so-called testimony was actually an outtake from a different Rivera appearance during which he floated the religious sacrifice theory. He had no idea Rivera was going to use his comments as part of a mock trial until he turned on the TV and saw it himself.

A former Denver prosecutor, Silverman is a self-styled pundit and paid source for the Globe tabloid, according to Jeffrey Shapiro, the former Globe scribe. Silverman confirms he is on the tabloid's payroll. "I will take their money when they offer it but only on the condition that they show me my quotes ahead of time," he says, but later adds, "the vast majority of my work has gone uncompensated." Silverman also waxes analytical for The New York Times, Good Morning America, Inside Edition, Today, Extra, and Fox News Channel.

The "defense," represented by Rivera perennial Linda Kenney, a New Jersey attorney, called friends and relatives of the Ramseys, who said they knew the Ramseys could not have killed their daughter.

A jury made up of six volunteers found the Ramseys liable for the wrongful death of JonBenét. Rivera's studio audience hollered in approval.

Two weeks later, it was reported that NBC News hired Rivera as a full-time employee for $30 million over six years. If NBC hoped to capitalize on Rivera's proven ability to keep the JonBenét coverage going, the news organization got its money's worth. Since going legit full-time on CNBC, Rivera has done about 50 JonBenét segments on Rivera Live.
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