Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Who Created Julian Schmidt?

[Note added, November 11th, 2011: Comment from the real Julian Schmidt.]

[Note added, November 7th, 2011: Today, The Eye received a request from a Julian Schmidt in Germany, requesting that we remove his photo from our web site. We have done so. Separately, the Facebook page for Julian Schmidt, Wesleyan '14, was deleted at some point between November 4th and 7th, 2011, and the name and photo were also deleted from the TSV Mutlangen sports club in Stuttgart.]

“Julian Schmidt, Wesleyan Class of 2014” has been the author as well as the subject of comments in the online news media outlets. “Schmidt” describes himself as a Democrat who is intending to challenge Joe Serra in a primary for the nomination to the 33rd District State Legislative Seat. This would be big news in our City, except for one detail. “Julian Schmidt” does not exist.

The comments section during the municipal election season becomes an even deeper than usual cesspool of insults, attacks, and unsubstantiated rumors. Virtually all of these are signed with “anonymous” or an obviously fictive name. The Eye comments section has not been fertile ground for this cowardly spew, because its comment moderators will reject the worst of them. However, the moderators see a substantial number of comments on the borderline between negative and nasty, we often agonize (and sometimes disagree with each other) over whether a particular comment is part of a productive dialog or drags the community down.

If a comment is signed, Eye moderators give it the benefit of the doubt, even if it approaches that border. We shouldn't be surprised, I suppose, that at least one commenter, eager to find a way to make negative comments, has taken to signing posts with the names of obscure public figures. These have included Al Pratt (the "real" Al Pratt is a DC Comics superhero), Bill Duke, and a number of others (challenge to our readers: how many have we let slip by?). [If there is a real Al Pratt or Bill Duke in Middletown, The Eye will treat you to an O'Rourke's breakfast as an apology for not printing your comment.]

Many of these comments include the phrase, “As a Dem...”, and then go on to criticize the Democratic nominee for mayor, Dan Drew.

A week ago Monday, we received the following comment which fit into that pattern, but included some jaw-dropping news below his name.

Dan is definitely a fraud.

The other night after the Wesleyan event he refused to talk to students after the debate. As a Dem, I was outraged by this and wanted to ask him questions about his platform and ideas with the hopes that he could help me with my upcoming campaign against Joe Serra in 2012.

Ironically enough, Giuliano and other Wes students had a pow-wow at the foot of the stage and then invited me to coffee afterwards. Weird town?

I met Pulino as well, very nice and chummy. I checked the qualifications of the city treasurer and one does not have to know how to manage millions of dollars, it's basically a check and balance system. Would Phipps, have the guts to vist Mayor Drew if there was a problem?. That I don't know, based on the past of both Raffa and Pulino I would bet they would not be afraid to blow the whistle on wrong-doings.

Julian Schmidt
Wesleyan Class of 2014
Pending Dem Candidate for the 33rd District
The 33rd District has been represented for many years by Joe Serra, and a primary challenge to Serra would be very big news indeed.

This was not "Schmidt’s" first comment. On October 20th, and 21st, he commented on articles in The Middletown Press, including the statement, “As a Wesleyan student I am outraged at the secret left wing activity that goes on at our wondeful [sic] campus...”

"Schmidt" was on several people’s minds on October 27th. Schmidt himself commented on The Eye in support of a Republican candidate, “I will [vote for you] even though I am a Democrat hoping to take on Joe Serra in August.” Also on Wednesday, “Leslie Washington III”, who describes himself as a Herman Cain 2012 Supporter, referred in an Eye comment to Monday evening’s Westfield Candidates night, “Nice speaking to a lot of people at Westfield the other night including Joe Bibisi and Julian Schmidt who had some interesting alternate ideas to to offer about govenrment [sic].” And Jason Keane over on Patch had this to say, “Hurray! When Juilen Schmidt primaries Joe Serra this summer we can finally dump the dinosaur!”

The Birth Of Julian
“Julian Schmidt” does not appear in the Wesleyan student directory, and the Dean of the Class of 2014 told me that there is no one by that name at Wesleyan. The president of the Wesleyan Democrats, Ben Florsheim, said he had done some research as well, and found no such person.

A Wesleyan ('14) German Studies major named "Julian Schmidt" has a Facebook page, and he has in the past 2 weeks accumulated a total of 7 friends, all associated with Wesleyan. However, the name and photo are identical to those of the Youth Director at TSV Mutlangen, a sports club near Stuttgart, Germany.

Why was Schmidt created, and who did it? While the definitive answer to those questions are not clear, there are some suggestive hints.

The comments from “Schmidt” reflect a deep and up-to-date knowledge of Middletown political activity. “Schmidt” attended both the Wesleyan and the Westfield debates. He knew that Giuliano remained after the debate to speak with students for as long as they wanted to, while Drew left almost immediately after the conclusion of the debate. He knows who Joe Bibisi is. This makes it likely that “Schmidt” is the avatar of someone who is a long-time observer of, or participant in, our city's municipal politics.

The creator may be someone who is unwilling to publicize his or her identity. However, I think it is more likely to be someone who is very public with their opinions, but who thinks those opinions would be more convincing or more influential if they were thought to come from a Wesleyan student. Florsheim, the Wesleyan Democrat, has a different theory. He told me he suspected that the fabrication of a student challenger to Joe Serra was an attempt to drive a wedge between the established Democratic Town Committee and the Wesleyan Democrats.

The earliest reference to “Julian Schmidt” is in a Facebook posting by Jon Pulino. About 10 years ago, Pulino wrote and directed the short movie "The Sands of Destiny," based on the DC Comics novel "Lex Luthor: An Unauthorized Biography." Pulino is the Republican candidate for City Treasurer, and the host of a local access cable show called “The Edge.”

In the open group, “Jon For Middletown City Treasurer 2011!”, Pulino wrote on October 18th:
I know why a lot Wesleyan students are registering to vote? Julian Schmidt class of 2014 for State Rep this summer to primary Joe Serra. The Argus had a story about this last night, but it was removed?
The Argus news editor told me that nobody at the Wesleyan student newspaper had heard anything about any story on a student who might challenge Joe Serra.

On October 23rd, Pulino wrote, “I am trying to get Mark Loomis, write in candidate for BOE and Julian Schmidt, a potential Dem contender for Serra’s 33rd House seat, (Wesleyan 2014) to speak on the Tuesday edition of “The Edge” on Tuesday night.” After the October 25th show, Pulino wrote, “Thanks to Julian Schmidt for calling in too.”

The video recording of The Edge shows Pulino speaking on the telephone with a man who identifies himself as "Julian Schmidt". "Schmidt" tells Pulino that he is on leave from the university, while he takes part in the Occupy Wall Street protests. Pulino seems bemused by the phone call. Here is that portion of the show:

One of the participants in the show, Billy Wilson, told me last week that he has also interacted with Schmidt outside of that phone call. Wilson is a Republican candidate for the Board of Assessment Appeals. He told me that Schmidt was unable to attend the Wesleyan debate, but kept in touch with the local news through a smart phone. In a message, he wrote “[Schmidt] has posted on Jon’s facebook site and I replied a couple of times. I have never talked to him or meet him.”

Actually, We Know That Schmidt Does Not Exist
On Friday, when I confronted Wilson with the evidence that Schmidt does not exist, he admitted that Schmidt was a fabrication, but he denied that either he or Pulino were responsible for his creation. He was offended at my suggestion that he would resort to anonymous attacks on Drew, “I tell people how I feel, to them on the tv or in the paper. I use my name.” This is true.

Wilson said there was a Wesleyan employee, whom he did not know, who was afraid to express certain opinions. In order to express those opinions, this employee had created the Schmidt identity, “There is someone at Wesleyan who is afraid of retribution.” I asked him how he knew even this about the creator of Schmidt. “Mr. Pulino said it was a Wesleyan employee.”

Pulino confirmed this, and said he had given this person a commitment he would remain anonymous. He said that in the middle of October, "I received a phone call from X, who claimed he wanted to run for office for the Joe Serra position." He said that this person was going to appear on his show, but then got cold feet. "Julian Schmidt" was born around this time. Pulino admitted that he had not seen any news article about Schmidt in the Wesleyan student paper, "X said he was in The Argus, and they were going to do a piece on him."

Pulino also denied that he was responsible for any of the comments about Schmidt purportedly written by others ("Washington" or "Keane"). Like Wilson, he pointed out that he was completely unafraid to tell his honest opinion to anybody, Republican or Democrat. This is true.

I have been unable to confirm Pulino's contention that there is a Wesleyan employee responsible for Schmidt's creation. I have also not been able to identify the person claiming to be Schmidt who phoned in to The Edge and spoke with both Pulino and Wilson on the air.

Perhaps if one of our readers can identify "Schmidt's" voice, the mystery of his creator would be one step closer to being solved.


Anonymous said...

I am Spartacus.

Anonymous said...

Who cares?

Anonymous said...

I care. I think its foul play.

David Sauer said...

Who cares? I do.

If this were just a childish prank it would be no big deal, but since it clearly exposes the dishonesty of a candidate for treasurer this matters. At the very least, Mr. Pulino was a knowing and willing participant in a deliberate lie that attempted to bolster his campaign. He knew Schmidt did not exist, yet he lied to the citizens of Middletown and wrote about him, received an endorsement from him, claimed to speak to this non-existent person on his show and told viewers he was trying to get the person to appear on the show. He admits that he knew all along that the person claiming to be a Wesleyan student named Julian Schmidt does not exist, but now Mr. Pulino claims that it is the alter-ego of a Wesleyan employee who is afraid to be identified. Even if Mr. Pulino's implausable claim were to be believed, he still knowingly participated in this fraud. Pulino's conduct is blatently dishonest and simply disgusting.

If someone wants to be the treasurer of the city and be responsible for millions of dollars, I want that person to be scrupulously honest and trustworthy. Mr. Pulino has proven beyond any doubt that he is not honest or trustworthy. He cannot be trusted and does not deserve to hold any office in this city. If he had any decency at all he would withdraw from the race, but if he had any decency he wouldn't be in this mess.

So who cares? I care, I hope the voters care, and I would like to see the other candidates for office show that they care.

Anonymous said...

and David Sauer is a real person, whose name rhymes with a councilman. I have to believe parts of the article and from the video he looks surprised to me..

People have no heat and we have to read an article like this, thanks a lot.

Anonymous said...

David Sauer could you yourself be Steve Devoto? Signs stolen, harassment, so many ither stories to report and this makes news. For years local Democrats have slung mud and only this makes news. This article is terrible journalism based on only speculation and facebook! Who cares! Sounds like the local Dems finally got to Devoto. Sad.

Anonymous said...

I think they/he are trying to throw Wilson and Pulino to the wolves. Watch the video, they aren't laughing and look serious. Give me a break Stephen D. I also think the author should disclose other facts about himself prior to writing the piece. What is the real objective here? Did they promise you a space on the slate in a few years? Patchwork at it's best. 10,000 amazing stories in the Middletown areas both non-political and political and you chose this? It's definitely personal

Jen Alexander said...

Whoa there cowboy! Now the Eye is in the pocket of the democrats? Why, just this morning we got a comment accusing us of being a republican mouthpiece, a la fox news!

Looks to me like Stephen hit a nerve. And David Sauer is right - this kind of behavior is relevant and should be exposed when the people in question are running for office.

Oh - yes - David Sauer is a real Middletown citizen and has long been a thoughtful commenter on the Eye (one with the courage to sign his own name). Hopefully, he'll get a kick out of the desperate suggestion that Sauer is a pseudonym for Bauer or Devoto - if not, I'm sorry we approved it Dave! We welcome your mature participation here on the Eye - it's refreshing in what has been a very depressing election season thus far.

Anonymous said...


Thannks for being the voice of reason.

I have been married to David Sauer for almost 30 years and can attest to the fact that he does exist and cares deeply about what happens in Middletown. We both are disgusted with the low level this campaign has reached. There are good people on both sides so I am amazed that the amount mud slinging. I will be thrilled when this election is over and we can proceed to focus in on what is important. Unfortunately, I think that there needs to be alot of healing before we can resume.

Priscilla harnesk said...

Thought I signed my name (I always have in the past). It makes it seem like I don't want anyone to know I'm married to David.

David Bauer said...

Although I have doubts that I exist as long I do not have DSL and electricity, I also vouch for the existence of David Sauer. I readily admit being called Sour and many other derivations on Bauer all through my Elementary School years, but I only go by the name Bauer these days, much to the consternation of Andy.

The only lingering question I have is that I have never seen David Sauer and Stephen Devoto in the same room at the same time.

As far as this issue of identity fabrication, I believe there are too many real issues to be creating such diversions.

Darrell Lucas said...

This clears up where my vote goes.

Laura Wilson said...

I find this article so amusing. I am the wife of William Wilson. As anyone who knows both Bill and myself, we never hesitate to speak our minds.(Watch The Edge and The Variety Hour). When we post on any online media outlet, you will find our names attached. I am very offended by the statements you made about anonymous posting. You act as if the Dems are the only ones who get hateful, negative things written anonymously about them. I encourage you to go back and read the comments made about the Mayor, Robin, Lea, and Deb. Unfortunately this is the world we live in! If you don't want people to post anonymously, take away the option. I know for a fact that a lot of people are concerned with retribution. If Julian Schmidt is afraid to use his real name, go figure why. In this town, the team of head players (Serra, Kasper, Etc) control the game. They are the puppet masters. You can say or believe what you want, but their actions prove it every day. If it were me reporting the news of Middletown, I would spend more time finding out why Mr. Drew doesn't care about the seniors vote, or why he questions the integrity of people without proof. To each his own I guess... It also amazes me that this is the most news worthy thing you can find to write about.

Anonymous said...

Wow. Pulino and Wilson are so in your face about people using their real names - and now this?

Anonymous said...

Well, Laura, if it's true that Billy and Jon were behind this fabricated persona, then it goes to their trustworthiness in holding public office. Especially Jon, with a much expanded role if he becomes Treasurer. The issue at hand is this fabrication, not how many bad words there are against one party or another. And it's nice that you speak your mind, but that has nothing to do with the issue either. Again, the three of you can say all you want about signing your own names to messages, and Jon can demand that people contact him with their real names in every letter to the editor, but it means little if you're willing to let a favored person hide behind a fake name and steal the identity of someone halfway around the world. It smacks of hypocrisy, it might even be illegal. There are enough real issues to be debated without this sort of deflecting nonsense.

Anonymous said...

David is real and is a lawyer living close to Durham, and I think he used to work in Middletown.

As for the story: Stupid! Waste of time.

Rick said...

In this poisonous political climate, it doesn't surprise me someone would use fraud and deception to throw an election into chaos.

Anonymous said...

So someone is worried about their identity and you wonder why after reading some of the comments on here.
Political views in the work place can be a problem and anyone who thinks otherwise isn't living in the real world. Some times people want to remain anonymous like many who post on here and elsewhere.
This is a non issue, with so many other things going on in Middletown with people without power still.

Laura Wilson said...

As usual, a person wanting to share their opinion, but refuses to put their name. That's original.... My issue is that everyone is pointing at Jon and Bill for "creating" this person. Jon and Bill have a television show, that this person called into. I have no idea who this gentleman is and why he chose to contact Jon's page and Jon's show. I do however, get extremely tired of everyone blaming Jon and Bill for everything. There is ZERO proof that they have anything to do with this. Just like what I was talking about before, when Mr. Drew came in and questioned my husbands integrity as a moderator, based solely on his affiliation with the Republican party. I feel that maybe, before all these allegations are thrown out, you may want to have some proof!

Anonymous said...

Laura, One more time. You and Billy and Jon throw a hissy fit when people use pseudonyms. Let me point out some hypocrisies: (1) Jon no doubt teaches Mark Twain and George Orwell. But somehow critics who use pseudonyms are verboten. (2) Jon contends that he is allowing someone to take on a false identity - not just a made-up name, a misappropriated one - in order to avoid retribution. Maybe criminal, definitely uber-creepy. But when others post anonymously on their issues, they are taken to task. The proper response for Billy and Jonny at this point would be "we don't know who this person is, but we no longer wish to be associated with them and decline their support, and will no longer be giving them a forum or associate with them."

Or you can continue to choose method B.

Anonymous said...

Laura, you claim that there is no proof that Bill or Jon had any idea that Julian Schmidt was a false identity. But the report says that they both admitted that they knew Julian was a fake name and persona. Since both Jon and Bill admitted that they knew, what more proof would you like? Or are you claiming that Bill and Jon did NOT say that they knew Julian Schmidt did not exist?

Perhaps you mean that it is not important that they used their media access to promote the notion that a Democratic Wesleyan student favored the Republican mayor, and that he was planning to run for office. But it is important. It speaks to their character as candidates for public office, and a remarkably immature understanding of that responsibility.

Or perhaps that you object to the suggestion that Jon and Bill, along with the person on the phone, created Julian Schmidt. I agree that there is no proof of that, but it does not clear them of participating in the deception.

Anonymous said...

I just watched the video clip. This is astounding. Seems like a carefully choreographed instance of astroturfing. Some "everyman" who is calling to let the local republican frontmen know that even though he's a Democrat, he needs to help slay their arch-nemesis. I believe the preferred term is "DINO".

It's all a little too convenient.

Jon clearly knows who this is, if Billy doesn't, he certainly looks like he's in on the joke. Remember, these guys are entertainers as well as politicians.