Keith Allen Harward released from Virginia prison after 33 years


Wrongfully imprisoned when he was 27 years old

As he walked into the Virginia sun after spending 33 years in prison for crimes authorities now say he didn’t commit, the fact that his parents weren’t there to see him become a free man weighed heavily on Keith Allen Harward’s mind.

“That’s the worst part of this,” said Harward, who choked back tears as he spoke about his parents, who both died while he was wrongfully imprisoned. “I’ll never get that back.”

Harward was released from the Nottoway Correctional Center on Friday after the Virginia Supreme Court agreed that DNA evidence proves he’s innocent of the 1982 killing of Jesse Perron and the rape of his wife in Newport News…

The Innocence Project got involved in Harward’s case about two years ago and pushed for DNA tests, which failed to identify Harward’s genetic profile in sperm left at the crime scene. The DNA matched that of one of Harward’s former shipmate’s, Jerry L. Crotty, who died in an Ohio prison in June 2006, where he was serving a sentence for abduction…

Harward initially faced the death penalty, but a loophole in the law caused his capital murder conviction to be overturned in 1985, said Olga Akselrod, another Innocence Project attorney.

“The fact that this case involved an innocent man who faced the death penalty should terrify everyone, not just in the state of Virginia but also in the 31 other states that still have the death penalty,” Akselrod said.

Harward said he’s heading to his home state of North Carolina with family, who acknowledged that it will take him some time to get used to his new world.

“Keith is stepping out of a time capsule into a different world. We’re going to try to help him all we can,” said his brother, Charles Harward.

Harward said he’s looking forward to having some fried oysters as soon as he can. Beyond that, he’s not so sure. He just excited to be free to do whatever he wants.

“Go out and hug a tree, sit in a park. Whatever I want to do. Because I can.”

The state of Virginia almost executed a man, they imprisoned him for 33 years on bite mark evidence that’s hardly conclusive in any scientific forensics lab. After the rape victim didn’t identify him.

If it weren’t for modern technology like DNA testing – and the dedication of efforts like the Innocence Project – states like Virginia would continue to lock away individuals on mediocre evidence. And Keith Allen Harward would still be in prison.

We don’t need Panama — the US is home to lots of sleazy tax havens


250,000 American corporations hide in this building

The single-story brick building at 1209 North Orange St. in downtown Wilmington, Del., looks bland and innocuous. But the building, home to the Corporation Trust Company, has an intriguing claim to fame. In the last few years, it has served as the registered address for more than 250,000 businesses, giving companies around the world access to Delaware’s business-friendly laws.

During his 2008 presidential campaign, Barack Obama criticized Caribbean tax havens. He mentioned one building in the Cayman Islands that is the registered home of more than 12,000 U.S.-based corporations, saying, “That’s either the biggest building in the world or the biggest tax scam on record.” But as the example of 1209 North Orange St. demonstrates, the same activity is going on in President Obama’s backyard.

A massive leak of confidential documents from Mossack Fonseca, a law firm in Panama that helped wealthy clients set up anonymous companies in tax havens, is highlighting how the global offshore industry secretly invests massive amounts of wealth around the globe. The 11 million leaked documents cover 40 years of the law firm’s operations and allegedly touch on the financial dealings of 12 current or former heads of state, as well as 60 more people linked to world leaders.

The documents…show connections between offshore accounts set up by Mossack Fonseca and money laundering, bribery and tax evasion, among other charges…

But one of the least recognized facts about the global offshore industry is that much of it, in fact, is not offshore. Indeed, some critics of the offshore industry say the U.S. is now becoming one of the world’s largest “offshore” financial destinations…

Offshore isn’t so much a destination anymore as “a set of capabilities,” which include ensuring secrecy, minimizing taxes, managing assets, and providing clients security and access to their wealth from anywhere in the world…The Tax Justice Network ranks the U.S. third in terms of the secrecy and scale of its offshore industry, behind Switzerland and Hong Kong but ahead of the Cayman Islands and Luxembourg…

Responsible politicians in equally responsible countries are setting up regulations to stop the illegitimate uses of shell corporations, e.g., money laundering for criminals and terrorists, fraud, tax avoidance, etc.. No one is surprised at the difficulty encountered trying to get similar efforts through Congress.

RTFA for the details and designs. Think about nudging your Congress-critter to show a little gumption and stand up to corporate class tax fraud.

Cockroaches, Unicorns, Startups. Enough Already! — by Om Malik


Zombie Unicorn

An article on the UK-version of BusinessInsider got me a little worked up and I made a post on my Facebook page. An intense conversation followed and Dave Winer suggested that this would make a good blog post. He was right – as always!

“Everything is about resiliency now to weather the storm,” says Tim McSweeney, a director at technology-focused merchant bank Restoration Partners. “Unicorn, it’s a mythical beast, whereas a cockroach, it can survive a nuclear war.”

I was annoyed by this comment mostly because I get really annoyed by these dumb labels that are put on startups. I hated the label unicorn, and have not been shy about pointing that out:

“A unicorn is a mythical thing which doesn’t exist. It’s a big fat lie. If you’re calling yourself a unicorn as a company, you’re a big fat lie. Why don’t you just say what you are, that you’re a startup with some valuation?”

I have been investing for a few years now, as an investor I have never looked for a “unicorn” or a “cockroach” startup. I have always looked for a good startup. I have looked for passionate founders, full of convinction, who are okay to be first and are comfortable with a future that others don’t see just yet. I like ideas and solutions for real problems. I like technology startups. As my partner Jon Callaghan often says, venture capital is for creating brave new markets. It is about creating entire new industries. It is about inventing new way of solving problems. Some ideas are small. Others radical.

But none of them are a unicorn, donkey, horse, ox or a cockroach. These made up words represent a limited grasp on vocabulary of those who are seeking cheap attention. As an investor, what I don’t look for is startups that come with dumb labels, popularized by reporters who don’t know what the hell they are talking about and are looking for cheap slogans to put on their click bait bullshit headlines.

The so called technology/business media is doing as much damage as wannabe investors and wantrenpreuers. Story tellers have forgotten in their race for page views – words have a meaning and words can shape narratives.

I second that emotion.

Thanks, Om