Update 8/24/18: Justin Bodnar pleads guilty.
Hi everyone Happy New Year!
Let this be the year when city and county leaders wake up and aggressively push for rail connections to New York and Philadelphia. Catering to a crumbling "fortress" mentality where job prospects are so tight there are legions of people monitoring commentating on the well-off positions of others daily, is a dead end. Wilkes-Barre needs its imagination rallied and a preposterous project if only to forget about its problems. I with WBRAIL will do my best to ignite this.
Now, Dibs for Cache
In the meantime there are non-rail related things to muse over. Like this Leighton e-mail "espionage" kind of thing that resurfaced in the news recently. This to me has always been an astonishing story and which has led to this writer's incidental exchange with alleged hacker Justin Bodnar in the comment section about the story at the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Independent Gazette.
A chance WBRAIL exchange with someone identifying themselves as Justin Bodnar about stolen e-mails.
You'll notice in this breezy passing of words that Justin had yet (and still has yet) to be convicted of anything and was perhaps a little over confident at the time that he wouldn't. However, a trajectory on a path toward conviction became apparent just before Christmas, to his surprise or not. I have to imagine he's had a lot of mental and emotional time to adjust to the probability he'd wind up facing real legal consequences, so he's not likely sweating this as much as might be assumed.
But really, this entire story is incredible is it not?
In catching up on it it appears that Justin, somehow, (and "technically allegedly" still) acquired e-mails of then Wilkes-Barre Mayor Tom Leighton and offered to sell them to an effective affiliate of the Wilkes-Barre City Taxpayers Association (WBCTPA). A group which I interpret as a local "economic supremacist" group (do NOT confuse that with any assertion that they are racially supremacist which they are not) which aligns taxpayer status with civil morality over renters, the homeless, and those choosing alternate lifestyle models - a series of groups which are likely the collective majority. The basis of this organization and those which orbit it rhetorcially goes along the lines of something like "we are homeowners, when we fail to dominate local political decision making, our Just Position is oppressed."
The WBCTPA is a pretty organized and professional operation by my take, though I tend to believe the obligation of government runs deeper and must be more encompassing than they perhaps acknowledge. WBRAIL officially favored its one time president, Frank Sorick, for mayor in a contest against ultimate winner Tony George, the latter who I simply felt was not modern enough and far too invested in a manipulative cliche platform of "law and order". Frank enjoyed and seemed to appreciate modern technology and its promises to address not just crime but a wide range of civil issues in a city
basically absolutely broke. Ideology was easy to overlook at the time. WBRAIL expects a high speed rail terminus in Luzerne County and there is no way that a platform of hunkering down against "out of towners" to solve city woes will ever wind up manifesting that expectation.
Apparently Mark Robbins, and by association, the WBCTPA, struck Justin as the ideal channel to try and "sell" the stolen e-mails, although in the offer e-mail Justin indicated that he was willing to move on and sell it to other interested parties if they themselves were not. And this is where it all starts to get the most interesting.
Mark runs WBTRUTH, which as another independent blog I respect completely, though I do find its messaging somewhat daunting. It's a website with content in line with the theme of the WBCTPA, albeit, difficult to read. "Corruption" is the topic basically sprayed at the blog at a high level, but which consists of sentences and paragraphs which are difficult to derive any conclusion from. Whatever it is, Mark basically thinks politicians in the area are corrupt and the blog reflects this in shrill.
In Justin's evident mis-judging of the general morality of Mark and the WBCTPA, the group promptly reported the solicitation to police. I am sure in hindsight Justin feels pretty embarrassed by this miscalculation; he probably had ideas of cohorting in subterfuge with WBCTPA (or more precisely Mark Robbins), satisfying a financial gain, maybe, but probably more important the fantasy of hacking drama mixed with high politics. To the extent that Wilkes-Barre represents any degree of high politics, that is. Such an unfolding always works out well on TV or in the movies, but in real life, let's just say there can be mixed results. Justin was foiled by receiving one of the more "mixier" results.
You have to imagine the position Mark and the taxpayer association found itself in and whether they wondered, in all honesty, if the story someone was attempting to enroll them in, was genuine. It's quite possible they sensed someone's "operation" to discredit their group by involving them in a scuffle based on a criminal foundation and acted as they did to, as it were, "confound their enemy" circa good ol' Mark Twain's advice. When they were contacted by the FBI to help in a sting against Justin, maybe they were actually surprised. "Wait a minute, you mean the stolen e-mails are really stolen e-mails!?"
Mark agreed to participate in a sting operation against Justin that involved drops under train trestles, marked bills supplied by the FBI, and a "Breaking Bad-esques" meeting at a fast food restaurant to seal the exchange. This Times Leader report details the whole sordid (Sorick?) affair in detail.
In all, kind of cool huh?
There is at note, maybe, a valid moral component in play on the side of Justin Bodnar with respect to his motivations. As an extra layer of intrigue, Justin was, as my capture above would allude, one of the kids deemed an official victim of the "Kids for Cash" scandal. Locally everyone knows about this scandal but to wayward externals this is the one cited by Michael Moore's Capitalism: A Love Story . The specific segment can be viewed online here.
Perhaps that fact leads to the final twist of irony wherein Mark Robbins, the very one who flatly rejected Justin's presumption of interest in his trove, and the very one who was key to Justin's likely path toward some kind of prison sentence (after Justin Bodnar himself I mean), believes that the system should, in the end, go easy on him.