Friday, October 26, 2012

Canning the Can-Can Man

The canned party animal Randy Yohe (first on left)
 kicking up his heels as a can-can dancer

The kid glove treatment of law enforcement of WSAZ’s Randy Yohe suggests that the protected class of criminals in Appalachian Ohio includes not just the drug-dealing sons of  police chiefs, as was the case in Portsmouth, but of “on-air personalities” as well. At 12:30 a.m., Saturday evening, October 21, 2012, according to the story in the Ironton Tribune, Yohe drove through a stop sign in Coal Grove and also went over the centerline and a concrete lane divider. The arresting officer found an open container of alcohol in Yohe’s silver Ford F-150, a violation of Ohio law, as well as illegal drugs (marijuana) and drug paraphernalia. Yohe was taken to the Ironton Police Department where his blood alcohol level was recorded as .12, well above the legal limit .08. Since no mention was made of marijuana showing up in the blood work, I am assuming Yohe was drunk but not stoned.
Yohe claimed that the pot and the paraphernalia were left in his car by a friend he had given a lift to. This sounds suspiciously like the kind of hot air one can expect from an on-air personality. Should there be some kind of recognition (call it the Yohe Prize) for drunk drivers who don’t let friends drive stoned? Did the Coal Grove police ask Yohe for the name of the  alleged passenger so that they could check out Yohe’s claim that the drugs were not his? The Tribune story doesn’t say, but I doubt that the police even asked for the name. On the following Monday, Coal Grove Police Chief Eric Spurlock reduced the DUI charge to “aggravated reckless driving.” There’s no mistaking Spurlock for Sherlock. The sweeping under the rug has begun. The DUI charge could have led to Yohe losing his license for six months. The police and the media in many communities are in a symbiotic, you-scratch-my-back-I’ll-scratch-yours, relationship, as we learned only too well in Portsmouth when Charles Horner was the chief and  the Portsmouth Daily Times turned a blind eye for years to the criminal behavior of his drug dealing son.
Instead of being locked up for the night, Yohe was released on his own recognizance and allowed to call a taxi to take him home. The hung-over  Yohe  publicly apologized to his employer (WSAZ) and his wife, but not to the viewers of WSAZ, whose trust as a reporter he had violated, or to the public, whose safety he had jeopardized by driving drunk. A Tribune reader asked, “What if he had of hit my mother, sister, brother or grandchild while driving intoxicated?” Another reader, commenting on what he or she considered the kid-glove treatment of Yohe, protested. “This is not right. Shame on you Chief Spurlock.” Another reader with the moniker “stupid redneck” wrote, “It couldn’t happen to a more deserving person. I have watched him report on pot busts and know for a fact that he showed damaging footage in the report that had nothing to do with the people involved. I hope he gets fired and never works again.” Another reader wrote, “I am beginning to see how the news works now . . . we will see how long this will run until it is swept under a rug.” Someone on Topix reported Yohe appeared to have been under the influence of something on WSAZ a few weeks ago when he lost his train of thought and said nothing for thirty seconds, an eternity in on-air time. Time has run out for this on-air personality, for the Can-Can man has been canned so he no longer can. I guess Steve Hayes wont be doing any more   “Rapping with Randy” interviews on  WNXT, interviews in which  Hayes deferred  to the West Virginian Yohe as the on-air authority on crime in Appalachia.
I think it was the arrogance Yohe displayed as an on-air personality that makes the apparent pampering of him by Chief Spurlock so hard to take. Called YoYo unaffectionately by one of his critics, Yohe used to blow in and out of Portsmouth like the city mouse, the big cheese from the metropolis (Charleston-Huntington!), deigning to report on the doings of the country mice of Scioto County. I recall him coming in noisily about fifteen minutes late, blaming the traffic, and interrupting a public meeting Portsmouth mayor Jane Murray was conducting. He had the attitude that Murray, having started the meeting without him, was obliged to fill him in on what had taken place in his absence before the meeting could resume. Along with his buddy, our local  on-air personality at WNXT (someone on Topix wondered if Yohe had been driving home drunk “from his buddy Steve’s house”), Yohe played a prominent part in the demonizing of Mayor Murray by the media. One can easily imagine how Yohe would have covered the story if it was she who had been arrested for drunk driving with an open container and drugs in her possession. But on-air personalities and the drug-dealing sons of police chiefs are not to be SLAPPed around. That kind of treatment is reserved for uppity women.