Rumors and Lies: Revering Bob Olson

Robert Olson

Few activists deserve honorable mention more than former State Trooper and Private Investigator Bob Olson. His bona fides are firmly rooted in Riverhead, a Long Island Town that has seen its share of promising development ideas but little in the way of sustained financial successes. Riverhead in general and Polish Town specifically, has been Olson’s home and for several generations of his family.

While Riverhead is the East End’s nexus for the court system, it has never joined the Hamptons in star-power or celebrity (real or imagined) – yet, the corporate expansion of numerous anchor tenants have expanded its tax base. Home Depot, Target, Modell’s, Sport Authority, Toy r Us, Toyota are among a few of the giant corporate entities that now populate Riverhead’s environs. Yet, Main Street is still a series of empty stores and faded dreams.
 
With Darren Johnson, Olson was one of the founders of the Integrity Party, a political movement intended to bring honesty and integrity into the political process (should you not believe that is an oxymoron). While Olson is a realist, he felt that it was worth the risk to bring his acumen and persistence into the arena and attempt to gain statewide recognition.
 
On Long Island, a few individuals and a handful of political parties control the political process. In addition to the 5 “elephants in the room”—Suffolk Sheriff DeMarco, Democratic Party Chair Schaeffer, D.A. Tom Spota, Suffolk County Executive Levy (resigning) and Frank McKay, there are few with real power. Among these parties are the Conservative Party, the Independence Party, Working Families, and a handful of others in addition to the Democrats and Republicans. Any candidate who wants to succeed needs several “lines” on the ballot – in addition to Republican or Democrat – in order to win. Small parties become extremely important in the process.
 
Linda Kabot, for example, former Supervisor of the Town of Southampton (the Hamptons) won her successful race against "Skip Heaney," due in large part to the Integrity Party.  This, before she was set-up politically and lost her re-election bid due to a DWI charge. She was exonerated of the DWI but lost the election. Former friends and colleagues, who in fact worked for her while she was Supervisor, such as Town Attorney Joe Lombardo, would only recently admit to Olson that he "knows of her." He pointedly told Olson that he does not consider Kabot a "friend," despite the fact that he worked for her in the Town and his wife was one of her campaign workers. In Suffolk politics, memories are short and retaliation is the order of the day.  However, Kabot is not one to be counted out. She is running again with a write-in campaign against Anna Throne-Holst for Supervisor of Southampton Town.
 
As the Independence Party, run by Frank McKay, grew in size and numbers – despite his entanglements with Mayor Bloomberg and his $1.2M bag man, Haggerty, who was the political operative named by Manhattan D.A. Cy Vance, Jr. – Olson dropped back and became more involved with his passion. He became more concerned with the process of exposing wrongful convictions. In part, this was a natural outgrowth of relationships developed during the investigation and media coverage of the Marty Tankleff controversy
 
As a 17 year old, Tankleff had recanted a “confession” obtain by the Suffolk County Police for the murder of his parents – but, despite serious legal questions, he was convicted and spent nearly 19 years in prison. He continued to be railroaded by  Suffolk County District Attorneys protecting the real killers. Olson’s persistence in the face of all odds and his newly developed relationships with the Innocence Project along with Ronny Soury and his PR firm, Jay Salpeter, the famed Investigator who cracked the case – managed to help free Tankleff. Among other news organizations, the SoHo Journal extensively covered this case since 2004.
 
While Olson says it is well known who committed the murders (Jerry Steurman), that individual is someone who is protected by the police and the D.A., and Olson is proud of his success in helping an innocent man go free. The fact that the Suffolk D.A. fought Tankleff’s release is an issue that has not yet been resolved. Tankleff is currently suing Suffolk County and depositions will soon take place in Judge Seybert’s Federal Court if a settlement is not reached with Marty as he continues his law studies.
 
Recently, the West Memphis Three were in the news, not least because of the fact that one of the three young men spent many years on Death Row. They were not so much exonerated, as released because it was clear that they were innocent.
 
Bob Olson played an important part in their release, even though he claims to be only a “Johnny-come-lately.” Having raised the consciousness of the public to expose this travesty of justice it’s a good guess that upon leaving Death Row, Olson's assistance was nevertheless appreciated by the West Memphis Three. This was another case, which Olson took to heart. In part, he claims to have a second sense about people who have been abandoned by the Justice system in this country.
 
While he lauds several D.A’s for their integrity, he also excoriates those who try to hide wrongdoing and even commit criminal negligence and cover-up perjury in persisting in insistence upon guilt – beyond the point at which it is clear that there was wrongdoing on the part of the criminal justice system.
 
His most recent interest has been the case of Erick Westervelt, a young man convicted of murder in 2004, which Olson believes is innocent. Olson is convinced that this may be a “long one” but after visiting him in prison has committed his efforts to helping the truth come out. Check out the details of this case on  www.erickwestervelt.com.
 
Keep your eyes on Bob Olson. Without him and those who have helped him like Soury, Salpeter, Barkett and the Innocence Project in the pursuit of what is right, we are lost as a Democracy. Those who have captured political office, who have accomplished their power through evil and corrupt means, will have cursed America and its commitment to Justice