(Note: I’ve added a “Rack n’ Roll Billiards” category to keep all of these posts together, and so new readers can catch themselves up.)
So I guess the best way to start filling in the detail in this story is to start relaying what I’ve found over the last year, piece by piece.
Today, we’ll go with a little story David Ruttenberg told me a few months ago. It’s not so much in and of itself. But when taken with all the other weirdity and attacks on Ruttenberg and his business, it suggests that the city has something it’s trying to keep quiet.
Last summer, David Ruttenberg called me with yet another bizarre tale about weird behavior from a Manassas Park official. Seems that the night before, there had been a robbery at the convenience store across from the shopping center where Ruttenberg’s bar is located. At about 2:30am, Ruttenberg saw a news van from a local D.C. affiliate parked in front of the place to cover the story.
Ruttenberg told me he walked over, introduced himself to the reporter, then attempted to get the reporter interested in what had happened to him and his bar. Here’s the weird thing: In the wee hours of the morning, out of nowhere, Manassas Park Mayor Frank Jones literally jumped out of the bushes, then put his arm around the reporter, guided him away from Ruttenberg, and told the reporter not to trust anything Ruttenberg said. Ruttenberg said it was one of the strangest things he’s ever seen, even given all the strange things he’s seen over the last several years.
Like a lot of stories David Ruttenberg has told me over the last year, this once seemed too weird to be true. So I called the reporter, a guy named Elliott Francis, who works for the WJLA Channel 7 affiliate in D.C. And like every story David Ruttenberg has thus far told me over the last year, this one checked out exactly as he told it to me.
Francis actually said that when Ruttenberg first got his attention, he thought Ruttenberg was off his rocker. Who approaches a reporter at 2:30am at the scene of a robbery to talk about what at the time seemed like a business man’s small-stakes pissing match with a some podunk city council? But Francis told me the mayor’s sudden appearance and subsequent behavior was so bizarre, it convinced him Ruttenberg was worth listening too — that something really was going on, here (note: my conversation with Francis took place a couple of months ago). He referred the case to the news channel’s investigative team. To date, they haven’t followed up.
Seems to be par for the course with this case. I’ve tried to tip several journalists off on the story, including those at the Washington Post, Washington Times, Washington City Paper, and the D.C Examiner. Most expressed interest, and even intimated that given their knowledge of the area, they wouldn’t be surprised if all of this really were happening as Ruttenberg says it is. Several met with Ruttenberg. But no one has yet actually written the story. My guess is that there are a couple of reasons for that.
First, the story is really heavy on detail. When I first sat down with Ruttenberg and his father, I was pretty overwhelmed. There’s a lot of history, here. And a lot to wrap your head around. The other reason is that to believe it, you have to be cynical enough to believe that a local government is capable of destroying a guy the way Manassas Park has destroyed David Ruttenberg. If you’re a libertarian accustomed to reading about mass property seizures, eminent domain abuse, and the routine abuse of power committed by petty bureaucrats, the story isn’t at all difficult to comprehend. If you’re a reporter who still harbors a kind of romantic faith in public service and government good, you probably need more convincing.