"The Official Portrait of Miss InDiana"

"The Official Portrait of Miss InDiana"
aka "Miss Victory"

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Sean Dix story gets no help from Department of Justice or main stream media

Here is a link to the original story written by independent journalist Mary Sparrowdancer on Rense.com.

Since last week, it appears bloggers and internet independent sources picked up his story. and The American Chronicle, like me, wrote to the Department of Justice on behalf of Sean Dix. We both received hopelessly generic and identical replies from the DOJ:

Thank you for contacting the Antitrust Division of the U.S. Department of Justice. The Citizen Complaint Center has reviewed your complaint, and though we understand your concerns, we have determined that the information provided does not warrant further review by the Division at this time. We have your information on file and should the legal staff need further information, they maycontact you in the future. We appreciate your interest in the enforcement of the federal antitrust laws and we wish you the best in resolving your concerns.
Citizen Complaint Center
Antitrust Division

I agree with American Chronicle and what we can do to help Sean Dix: " Meanwhile, perhaps the consumers can help the market decide what floss is best for them. Start buying Dix´s FlossRings and let the demand for them grow. Go to CVS, Walgreen´s, Walmart, Target, or any local drugstore and start asking them to carry FlossRings. Tell your friends about how FlossRings would have offered the only sterilized floss on the market if not for CNN´s hit piece. Let them know the government is helping to keep a superior product from reaching consumers. If your government refuses to do its job, perhaps the consumers can provide justice for Sean Dix and gain a superior product in the process."

Here's an old story about Sean Dix in Creative Loafing, an Atlanta based alternative news source. You can bet that mainstream media controlled by corporate giants like Johnson & Johnson will not cover this man's plight.
--Melyssa for HFFT

Sean Dix's American Dream goes south
An inventor goes after Ted Turner and CNN

They weren't taking his phone calls. They weren't responding to his faxes. Not to the polite ones, not even to the obscene ones, vile diatribes against their boss, the ones that even today -- eight months later, in the cold light of the Atlanta city lock-up, his jail-issued slippers two sizes too big -- make the 33-year-old cringe in embarrassment.

Still, they had ruined him, hadn't they? Ridiculed him. Taken his invention and mocked it. His investors had fled. Yes, attention must be paid. Even if he was a thousand miles away, a feather pressing against a great implacable wall. Even if he was just one man.

So Sean Dix made a decision. He started writing. He revved up his fax machine one more time.
They'd pay attention now.

First, a story: Years ago, in a Queens, N.Y., middle school, a science teacher named Mr. Horan owned a pair of glasses like Flash Gordon's. One day, they went missing.

"There was this kid ... who went and told the teachers and the vice principal that he eye-witnessed me take the glasses," Sean Dix says from jail. "Ms. Danza calls me out of class and tells me to fork over the glasses. I couldn't believe it. No one wanted anything to do with me after that. Who wants to hang around with the kid who stole the teacher's glasses? After that, I wanted to be anywhere that I could start with a fresh slate."

But the incident followed him. "Someone from my other school told people at the high school about it."

It wasn't the only loss of faith. Soon, his body betrayed him. Biology may or may not be destiny, but in Sean's case, biology has at least been an unflagging tormentor. Since infancy, Sean has suffered from eczema. Depending on his stress level, his skin erupts in painful patches. Sweating or friction cracks his skin open.

In high school, Sean's feet crumbled beneath him. They itched like crazy. They flaked. They burned. After a little exercise, they bled. He brought a doctor's note to get excused from gym class, but Sean's gym teacher tore up the doctor's note and ordered him to do jumping jacks. He said no. He was suspended. A battle ensued between Sean's schoolteacher mother and the faculty of Aviation High School. Sean won.

"They put me back in school, but I had a lot to make up," he says. "I had extra homework and that had its own effect. It caused me more pain. And I was no longer interested in any kind of authority, you know, authority figures or what they had to say."

Graduation beckoned like a promise of sanctuary. Another clean slate.

His friend had a brother who worked for a jeweler on 47th Street in Manhattan. The jeweler needed an apprentice. Dix thought learning a trade was a better option than college.

"I didn't want to be around this whole atmosphere of academia. I just wanted to find a cubbyhole for myself, some place where I could take care of myself."

Two months after he started work, the vice principal from his high school came in and spoke with his boss. After that conversation, Sean says his boss told him, "I don't know if you're going to rob me, but if you do, I'll be ready for you."

Sean dismisses the possibility that the vice-principal was just dropping by to say hello to a former student or to shop for jewelry.

"No," says Dix. "That would be very unlikely."

And Dix's mother, Carmela Silvestri, agrees.

"That would be extremely unlikely," she says. "The high school is in Queens, and [the jeweler's] shop was on 47th. Think about it. That would be extremely unlikely."

Silvestri, who's pledged to keep her son's business afloat until he's free, says, "I'm very serious. Maybe Sean gets that from me."

Meanwhile, Sean's apprenticeship was paying off. In 1989, he went to work for Andin International as a diamond-setter. After several years with the company, he was doing well, engrossed in the craft, accruing seniority and getting raises. If he had any complaints, it was that the gold he worked with irritated his skin.

The eczema made it especially difficult to floss his teeth; the string cut into his skin. During one of these flare-ups, he contrived a set of rings that would fit over the index finger of each hand. The rings were designed to hold dental floss that had been knotted at either end. Tying knots in the floss was a bit awkward, but he would correct that later by manufacturing floss segments that simply snapped into place. It was so obvious; why hadn't anyone thought of it?

It occurred to him that other people might want rings like these -- sufferers of eczema or arthritis, maybe. He applied for a patent and got it. It was 1994. His father had passed away earlier that year. Being able to invent something, to bring anything new into the world, felt good -- felt like life.

He sunk his father's life insurance settlement into manufacturing more of the rings -- it cost him $20,000 through a small plant in Michigan. He sent out information packets about the floss rings. Positive reviews came in from Forbes' FYI edition and on Bloomberg's product review. The popular press followed. His floss rings were praised in Essence, The Boston Globe, The New York Times. He landed a $9,000 contract with CVS, which sold the rings for $1.99 a pair. Investors started sniffing around.

He'd also settled into a long-term relationship with an Adelphi University coed. He was looking at houses and checking out mortgage rates in preparation for marriage.

Sean Dix's American Dream was taking shape.

CNN was supposed to be the icing on the cake. His info packet made its way to Jeanne Moos, a reporter there. Sean had never seen Moos' work. He didn't know that it's her job to ridicule strange new products. He didn't see the one about the "popcorn fork" or the one about the "3-legged pantyhose." Coverage from CNN could only be good, he thought. After all, his product was a dental aid for people with sensitive hands. How funny could that be?

He spent a day with a CNN news crew. They filmed him waving goodbye to his old office. They said Sean was "putting his money where his mouth is." They tracked the floss ring invention from its inception to Sean's patent to his courtship of Johnson & Johnson -- which, according to the segment, ended with a polite rejection letter from J&J.

What CNN missed, he says, was J&J's courtship of him. J&J had offered to purchase his entire inventory as well as his patent, he says, but not at a price that was acceptable to him.

Manufacturing the rings had cost $20,000. CVS brought in $9,000 -- he needed more money just to break even. He'd been back to the table several times with J&J, but when he didn't accept their offer, they said they were no longer interested. A letter from Brian Bootel, a former director of acquisitions for J&J, estimated Sean's invention was worth at least $50 million.
Before production of the piece had finished, Sean sent Moos and her team several pairs of sterling silver floss rings as a "thank you" in advance. (She returned them; most reporters can't accept pricey gratuities.)

The CNN segment aired on June 12, 1996. Sean encouraged his potential investors to watch. At first, he didn't notice anything terribly wrong. But he was puzzled that the two dentists who were asked to try out the rings were fumbling with them so much. He watched the piece a second time, and he saw that one of the dentists was using 18 inches of floss -- the length dentists recommend you use without rings so you'll have enough to wrap around your fingers. The rings' package clearly explains that you must use about five inches of floss. One of the dentists did use five inches but didn't actually floss, complaining that he couldn't get to his back molars -- before, it appears, he'd really tried to do so. At the end of the segment, CNN reporter/producer Linda Djerjian says to the dentists: "So, you don't see this sweeping the nation." Over their tangles of floss, the dentists say, "No."

After the piece had run its course, Sean's potential investors seemed to lose interest.
One investor, Peter Lusk Jr., wrote that before the CNN segment, "I was willing to invest approximately $100,000 personally, and to attempt to raise an additional +$1,000,000 for the 'Floss Rings' product. Due to the embarrassingly negative and trivializing tone of the CNN article, I found it difficult to approach my contacts and my family's contacts for potential investment."
Sean began his quest for restitution by politely requesting a meeting with CNN, so that they could discuss how Moos' show might run a correction of some sort. No one agreed to meet with him. No one returned his calls.

A month after the segment aired, George Reskakis, one of the dentists featured, said he felt it "only fair" to explain that CNN had not allowed him time to look at the rings' instructions. Dix sent a copy to Moos along with a letter about how his business had been affected by the piece.
Moos responded with a note on July 29, 1996, apologizing for his business' decline. But, she wrote, "Getting press is a double-edged sword. We did exactly what we should have done: taking the product to a regular dentist and letting them look at it and try it. We didn't influence them in any way. And the rest of the piece was light-hearted and not in the least negative." (Moos -- and CNN -- declined comment and failed to return phone calls, respectively, for this story.)

By August 1996, all 12 of Sean's salespeople had quit. By the end of the year, CVS had decided not to order more floss rings. He lost the contract.

His personal life was on equally shaky ground. After house shopping, with an eye toward settling down, Sean lost some money on the stock market.

"I wanted to have the house and everything ready," he says. "That's the way I am. I believe in preparing for things. I'd asked her to marry me once before but she wasn't ready and I thought we'd wait and have things set, you know."

A few days after the market upset, he forgot he and his girlfriend's fifth anniversary. In honor of the forgotten occasion, she informed him she'd had an affair.

"It was a bad week," Sean says. "I shouldn't have forgotten. And then she told me the news. I don't want to badmouth her. She's a good girl, a wonderful person. It just wasn't meant to be."
Positive press, however, was still coming in. Prevention magazine ran a glowing endorsement of the rings in November 1997.

"I got almost 40 pieces of positive press in print," Sean says. "Unfortunately, CNN outweighs all that. That's just the way it is. Broadcast media outweighs print media."

With that in mind, he started mass faxing the dentist's letter to CNN. When he got no response, he sent "black faxes" -- black pages that would dry up CNN's toner cartridges. Over four days in the summer of 1998, he sent a whopping 6,000 faxes, draining toner cartridges and eventually burning up one fax machine at CNN.

The January 1999 issue of New Woman called the floss rings a "handy gadget [that] may make your smile brighter and is sure to leave your fingers snap happy." In February 1999, Indiana University released results of a study showing dental floss tied to Sean's floss rings removed 23.8 percent more plaque than traditional hand-held dental floss -- which several magazines reported.

Nonetheless, Sean believed the kudos in print couldn't counter the damage CNN had done. On Oct. 5, 1999, he protested at CNN's offices in New York. He toted a sign that said "CNN & Johnson & Johnson conspire against Dix." When he tried to enter the building, he says, he was pushed down the stairs by a maintenance worker, damaging a revolving door in the scuffle. (Sean says the worker damaged it.) He was charged with trespassing and damage to property and was carted off to jail. But the property owner didn't show up for court on three different court dates and the case was dismissed. No matter what he did, it seemed no one cared.

No one was scared, either. After Sean's fax campaign, CNN offered to chauffeur Moos to and from work. She declined the offer.

Sean was reading Sun Tzu's The Art of War which advises that if your enemy won't face you, humiliate him into confrontation.

In March 2000, he began faxing pages of pernicious, disgusting, completely fabricated allegations about Ted Turner.

"I can't repeat what they said," he says. "They were awful. I am more ashamed of that than anything I've done."

That's when Jeremiah Everett of the New York Police Department paid Sean a visit. Everett told him to lay off. Everett says he "told Mr. Dix that if he continued on this course of action, he was going to end up in jail." The detective recalls that Sean seemed like a normal guy trying to run a business.

Sean told Everett he wanted to be arrested. That way, CNN would have to face up to what it did to him.

It was time to up the ante.

Last April 18, Sean faxed the following message to CNN: "I have come to the end of my attempts to deal with you in a rational manner. ... It is with full knowledge of the law that I'm telling you that if you do not make restitution I will attempt to kill Ted Turner, and if he is unreachable in his ivory tower then I only need kill one CNN employee and it will be on your hands. Either way, you cannot ignore this letter. If you do nothing you will eventually be sued by the family of the CNN victim for not taking action to prevent this. I do not make idle threats. I believe you know that by now."

The next day, the FBI showed up at his apartment. Agents found no weapons, no plane tickets to Atlanta. They took his computer to headquarters and Sean to the "Tombs" -- NYC's short-term detention center in Manhattan. The following week he was shipped to a prison barge on the East River, then flown to Oklahoma for a two-week stay before he was flown to the U.S. Penitentiary in Atlanta. There he waited for a space to open up at the Atlanta City Detention Center. He's been at the ACDC since May.

Meanwhile, his mother has kept the foundering business afloat, working each evening after she gets home from her classroom in one of NYC's public schools.
In federal court in Atlanta three weeks ago, Sean admitted to faxing terroristic threats across state lines. But he didn't plead guilty. He'd sent the faxes for a reason, after all: to get someone to listen to the truth.

After deliberating for a day and a half, jurors returned with a guilty verdict.

Because she was a witness in the trial, his mother wasn't allowed in the courtroom until after she'd testified. But while she was out walking the halls of the Richard B. Russell Federal Building, she couldn't help but notice that CNN loomed large, just across the railroad gulch. She also noticed, she says, when bigwigs with CNN shook hands with the judge presiding over Sean's case.
"I remember thinking, 'This is how it is. Ted Turner runs this town.'"

Turner, of course, is alive and well. Sean is scheduled to be sentenced March 7 to up to three years in a federal prison.

His days start at 5:30 a.m., breakfast consisting of "oatmeal soup," some form of meat, an orange, milk and "scorched" coffee. Then he reads until lunch. Right now, he's working on Violence Unveiled: Humanity at the Crossroads, by Gil Bailie. Before that, he read Drive-by Journalism by Arthur E. Rowse, a former editor with U.S. News and World Report. Sometimes, he loans his books to other inmates -- he's currently awaiting the return of a book on Vedic philosophies and yoga. In the afternoon, he plays chess. Mostly, though, it's boring.

"There is a reason why I'm doing all this. Remember how CNN covered the Columbine High School shootings? They hosted meetings and kept saying people should sit down and talk, but they won't sit down and talk to me. I am saying to them 'You can't ignore violence. You love it. You feed on it. You live for it. So, I'll give it to you with these threats and then maybe we'll talk about it.' "

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

An open letter to Jeanne Moos and Ted Turner;

If Sean Dix commits suicide, as Edwin Armstrong (Americas best inventor) did, will you claim it was nothing to do with you, as David Sarnoff did?

How will you hide the evidence?

Perhaps the courts in Atlanta could order the people not believe it?