Article 25

50 Shades of Sage

In Uncategorized on 08/07/2012 at 2:54 pm

Ask an Unemployed Lawyer

By U.L.


Dear U.L.:

 I saw that an assistant prosecutor from Butler County has been indicted. A former Butler County Commissioner is heading to prison. Any idea what’s going on up there?

 Proud Porkopolitan


Dear PP:


“Was the discovery of America a blessing or a curse to mankind?”

            Winner of first prize for an essay topic to the Academy of Lyons in1780


Peter Davis, the director of the Vietnam documentary Hearts and Minds, which gained an Oscar and some infamy during John Kerry’s run for president, attempted to answer this question by examining the city of Hamilton, the ButlerCounty seat, in his 1982 book, Hometown: A Contemporary American Chronicle.

His purpose was “to understand America by going into one community and penetrating its society as deeply and widely as possible.” He spent approximately six years (off and on) living in Hamilton; and when his book came out, it’s fair to say much of Hamilton felt penetrated.

In his book, Davis quoted then-Mayor Frank Witt: “We’re nice to each other so much of the time we get the idea that’s all there is. But since the problems and misunderstandings remain pretty consistent year after year, I have to assume we don’t actually like each other as much as we claim to. Maybe nice is what you have to be or you’d be swinging at each other all the time.”

Cue the July 6 report of Reynoldsburg, Ohio, attorney Scott Warrick, resulting from his investigation into “sex discrimination, sexual harassment (‘hostile environment’) and retaliation allegations made by Jennifer Olivier,” a court reporter, stemming from the end of her nine-year extramarital affair with senior Butler County Common Pleas Judge Michael Sage.

Warrick blames the court reporter, accusing her of being a “bully,” and saying she was guilty of creating a hostile work environment: “In the end, Ms. Olivier wielded a great deal of ‘power.’ Regardless, the commonly held belief amongst the staff was that she was protected, and could do whatever she wanted. What I am told she did with this power is (sic) has produced an environment that I would at least describe as being ‘hostile.’”

Apparently anticipating some blowback from his conclusions that a lowly court reporter “bullied” a judge and former decorated naval officer (a Combat Action Ribbon in Vietnam, among others, according to his resume), Warrick spends the first couple of pages defensively pointing out he has no ties to the community and no one tried to intimidate him.

“If someone likes my findings, that is fine,” Warrick writes. “If they do not like my findings, that is fine, as well. Unfortunately, far too many people do not seek information. They seek affirmation of what they believe.”

That’s called “confirmation bias,” and the paradox about the bias is that even knowing you have it doesn’t keep you from falling to its powers. But more on that later.

Less work, not less pay

As Warrick explains it, court reporters operated as if they were assigned to a single judge. Soon after the end of the affair, the judges adopted a court reporter rotation. In a Jan. 6 letter to Judge Sage, Olivier wrote, “Reassigning me to another courtroom would not only be unfair, but it would be discriminatory to do so just because you have decided to end the relationship.” Their affair ended Dec. 16, 2011.

Warrick notes the income of the various reporters as detailed by Gary Yates, director of court services, at a Jan. 11 meeting. Olivier was the highest-paid reporter in each of the three previous years: In 2009 she made $20,019, while the other five reporters earned between $3,382 and $18,873. In 2010 Olivier made $16,107 (others:$2,073-$14,524). In 2011 Olivier made $30,309, compared to the range for the others at $0 to $16,836.

At a Jan. 25 meeting, judges voted 5-1 to adopt the plan to rotate the court reporters, with the single “nay” vote coming from a judge who didn’t want to work with Olivier because “he saw her as a ‘cancer’ and a very disruptive presence.” Sage abstained from the vote.

“Therefore, the decision to rotate court reporters … had nothing to do with Judge Sage and Ms. Olivier’s relationship,” Warrick concludes. Instead, “It was simply not fair for one court reporter, Ms. Olivier, to be getting so much more work than the other court reporters.”


Nice Buns

On March 4 an off-duty Hamilton police officer, Sgt. Ed Buns, showed up at Olivier’s house unannounced. She was visiting her father in a nursing home, so her husband invited Buns inside to wait and, according to the report, “Buns … explained that he was there as a friend to Judge Sage and wanted to know what was happening between Ms. Olivier and the judge. Officer Buns explained that he had never seen the judge so stressed out and he was very worried about his physical and mental health.”

After her husband called to say Buns was waiting, she told him to take the kids to the nursing home and ask the officer to leave. Afterwards, Olivier said Buns repeatedly called her cell phone.

“Ms. Olivier explained to me she was afraid of retaliation and harassment by the police,” Warrick writes. “She was very afraid for her family’s safety.”

Warrick dismisses her concerns because he thinks she lied about how well she knew Buns.

“I knew that Sgt. Buns was in fact very good friends with Judge Sage,” Warrick explains. “I also knew whenever the Oliviers vacationed together with the Sages in Florida, the judge and Deby Sage would stay in their condo, and the Oliviers would use the Buns’ condo free of charge.”

You see, on April 15, 2011, Olivier “secretly” met with Buns in his car for almost an hour. “to discuss the problems she had with Deby Sage, Judge Sage’s wife, at their son’s wedding in Mexico. What Ms. Olivier did not know was that Sgt. Buns recorded their entire conversation without her knowing it.”

“It is not true that she never met with Sgt. Buns for more than five minutes or so, as Ms. Olivier had told me earlier,” Warrick scolds. “It appears to me Olivier tried to hide her relationship with Sgt. Buns,” and so “it makes perfect sense to me why Sgt. Buns would go to the Olivier’s home to try to meet with her and try to mediate this situation.”


Dial ‘M’ for mistress

Warrick takes great effort to point out that certain people did not know about the affair. When the judges voted to change the court reporter schedule and move her office to another floor, including the judge who called Olivier a “cancer,” they did not know of the affair. Warrick also points out that Buns did not know of the affair. That’s a big part of the reason he says none of this was in any way related to the end of their affair.

But this all changed when discussing a phone call from Mrs. Sage. On Dec. 16, 2011, Olivier received an “angry call” from the judge’s wife, in which she claims Deby Sage verbally abused her and threatened her children.

Again, Warrick finds Olivier to be a liar, because Olivier told him they had been very careful, and no one knew of the affair: “However, from the interviews I conducted, it is very clear that the vast majority of the people working at the Butler County Court assumed the two were having an affair. … It was also suspected they were having an affair from due to the (sic) bullet-proof status Ms. Olivier seemed to possess.”

Warrick returns to the tape Buns made in April 2011. Just a few pages earlier, when discussing the police harassment, Warrick specifically stated, “Sgt. Buns did not know of the affair yet,” when he visited her house in 2012.

“On the recording, Ms. Olivier admits that Deby Sage was very upset that Ms. Olivier went back to Judge Sage’s room with everyone else for a drink. Ms. Olivier then states that Ms. Sage called Judge Sage a ‘fucking asshole’ and then called Ms. Olivier a ‘fucking whore.’ To me, that certainly indicates that Ms. Sage certainly suspected something was going on between them.”

Apparently, cops are just too stupid to figure it out, though.

Warrick catches Olivier in another lie: He asked if she had ever called Deby Sage a derogatory name, and Olivier said she had not.

“For almost an hour on the April 15, 2011 recording,” Warrick writes, almost gleeful to have caught Olivier in another lie, “Ms. Olivier vented about Deby Sage, saying she was ‘fucking nuts,’ calling her a ‘fucking lunatic’ and saying Ms. Sage was ‘certifiably bipolar.’ ”

And Warrick catches Olivier in another lie: He said she answered “no” when asked if she ever feared for her job before her letter to Sage, but the tape Buns made belied that: “Ms. Olivier further stated that she was afraid that one day Ms. Sage would tell the judge that ‘It’s either me or her.’ ”


Bitches be crazy

If you read the 51-page report like some cheap, tawdry novel – and really, that’s the best way – it’s hard not to draw the conclusion that all men are rational, reasonable people, but the women … oh, those, manipulative, feckless females, using their genitalia to engulf a poor man in their perverse and twisted lies.

Whenever Warrick is not catching them lying, he goes on about “trivial” matters, as if he’s upset that he even has to waste his time with these stupid emotional problems. When Olivier protests that the judge’s wife would show up at court just to harass her, Warrick waves it away: “I also understand that Sage’s marital counselor suggested that Ms. Sage spend more time in her husband’s court in order to better understand and appreciate what he does.”

Well, of course. What marriage counselor, upon hearing that a wife was upset her husband had a nine-year affair, wouldn’t advise that all she needed to do was go to his office to better understand and appreciate what he does? Warrick even goes into great detail about Olivier trying to deliver a breakfast treat to the judge and being denied the opportunity to do so.

“Again, this all seems logical to me,” Warrick says about the fact that Olivier was no longer allowed to see the judge and give him a sammich, even though she’d been doing it for years. “If the judge did not want to be disturbed, he did not want to be disturbed. That is the end of it. … And to violate his preference over a breakfast sandwich is ridiculous.”

And then there’s Kathy Nicholson.

“Kathy Nicholson did not start off as a major player in this investigation, but she soon became one,” Warrick writes.

Which is amazing, as Warrick admits he threw her out of the interview room “about three minutes after I met her.”

Why? I’m guessing it’s because she didn’t bring him a sammich, but Warrick goes into more melodramatic detail: “She entered the interview room and was instantly defensive. Before she even sat down, she started drilling me as to what the scope of the investigation was going to be ‘and to what end.’ ”

Nicholson asked if she was in any trouble. “So, I asked her if she had done anything that would get her in trouble,” Warrick writes.

More questions, followed by increasing stern lectures: “An interviewee is never to attempt to restrict the investigator in any way.” And, “I told her I thought she was ‘projecting’ her view of the world onto me.”

Not only was Nicholson “inexcusably rude, verbally abusive and used an insulting tone that was simply intolerable,” but in three minutes he “saw her as being difficult, argumentative and trying to manipulate the scope of my investigation.”

To show that he was a reasonable man who only needed three minutes to dismiss her, Warrick writes of a Jan. 28 meeting, when Nicholson met with four other women to complain about the new scheduling. Fortunately, there was a man around, and he had the good sense to take notes: “Judge Pater put most of this into a written memorandum to Gary Yates dated Feb. 10, 2012.” Whew!

And so Warrick lists “some of Ms. Nicholson’s comments,” even though he admits she has nothing to do with the story, but I suppose it gives him an excuse to recommend firing her later in the report. My favorite: “ ‘Who would want to fuck Sage? How gross is that?’ This question was followed by an artificially induced vomiting sound loud enough to be heard way down the hallway.”


Men know math

Warrick details another “harassment” attempt where Olivier was caught in a lie. She said a newspaper reported that she made over $80,000 in 2011, but she said she only made $67,000. Warrick says her W-2 did show wages, tips, etc. totaling $67,191. But then Warrick, using his superior male brain, saw that she also had deductions; and when you added them together, it came out to $80,000.

“I saw this as yet another attempt by Ms. Olivier to try to manipulate the truth, which I refer to as a ‘lie,’ Warrick writes. No mention is made of why there is such variance between this amount and the amounts reported at the Jan. 11 meeting. Presumably, because Gary Yates is a man, there is just no reason to question that.

Warrick also writes of a demand letter – “I saw it myself” – in which Olivier’s attorneys asked Sage for $350,000.

“In the end, these are the types of games I believe Ms. Olivier plays with people, including me. She may believe she is playing ‘smart’ with the truth. However, I see it as good old fashioned lying.”

In concluding that Olivier was a “bully” who was the source of any hostile work environment, Warrick comes to this truly remarkable analysis: “Did Judge Sage know that people believe she was protected by him? I believe he did. Did Judge Sage know the extent to which I am told she abused this power? Probably not. Again, judges concern themselves with what is going on in their court rooms. Outside the court room is simply not on their radar.”


Seeking affirmation

“Confirmation bias” means we tend to retain and interpret information that agrees with our preexisting beliefs. This is what Warrick was referring to when he said people “seek affirmation of what they believe.” Our brains, amazing as some of them are, just can’t process all the information thrown their way, so they operate in efficient ways that are optimal for our survival, not in ways to discern what is “true.”

You might passionately believe you only care about the Truth, but you are not speaking for your brain if you do. It’s far more important to the brain to avoid cognitive dissonance, because having to reset your beliefs all the time based on new information is not optimal for survival.

That’s why eyewitnesses to crimes send innocent people to jail.

It’s also why Davis’s book about Hamilton failed. He thought he could take a microcosmic view of a community that was “big enough to have everything its people need yet small enough so you can figure out what the hell is going on … northern enough to be industrial, southern enough to have a gently rural aspect, western enough to have once been on the frontier, eastern enough to have a past.”

Davis told a good story, but it wasn’t about Hometown, America. It was about Hamilton, Ohio. And so he could never answer the question about whether the discovery of America was a blessing or a curse for mankind – not by looking at Butler County, anyway.

Never take the advice of an Unemployed Lawyer. Always consult with an attorney for any legal advice in your situation. If, however, you want to ask, write to



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50 Shades of Sage


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