Star assistant sports editor pleads guilty to grand theft

Dateline: Sat 18 Dec 2010

This is about Tom Brew, now assistant sports editor at the Indianapolis Star.

A blog reader sent me the following story yesterday, from Florida, which ran under the headline: "Ex-Tribune Employee Charged in ID Theft of One-time Colleague"

By STEPHEN THOMPSON | The Tampa Tribune

Published: March 20, 2009

Updated: 03/20/2009 12:51 pm

Thomas Brew

A former manager in The Tampa Tribune sports department is accused of stealing the identity of a one-time friend and colleague in order to apply for credit cards and buy a house.

Tom Brew, 50, was extradited last week from Indiana on a charge of criminal use of personal identification. Brew was the Tribune's night sports editor from October 1999 to October 2004.

According to court records, Brew used Matt Severance's identity to buy a house in Clearwater without Severance knowing about it. He also asked Severance to buy another property in Clearwater but didn't give Severance any of the $7,680 he collected in rent, records state.

Brew also is accused of using Severance's name to apply for two credit cards, racking up more than $12,000 in charges.

The crimes occurred from July 2007 through April 2008, records state.

Severance, who was a sports page designer, copy editor and supervisor for the Tribune from February 2000 to August 2007, said he and Brew had been best friends.

"He knew everything he needed to know about me," said Severance, who is now a freelance writer. "He knew everything, and I trusted him."

Brew issued a brief statement last week.

"There are several inaccuracies in these charges and a lot of revisionist history that's been told since these issues in question took place nearly two years ago," he said. "I look forward to my day in court."

Reporter Stephen Thompson can be reached at (727) 451-2336."


And the backstory --  Brew was hired in 2008 as an editor at the Indianapolis Star.  Within six months or so, the Star began another round of layoffs. Longtime sports copy chief Martha Allan lost her job; she had been at the paper 20 years. Brew kept his posiition, after six months or so of employment

I emailed sports editor Jim Lefko and exec editor Dennis Ryerson yesterday to get a comment on the Brew story as related to the criminal charges. Here's what Lefko said:

"The issue has been resolved and we have no further comment."

And here is the most recent story, from Jan. 12, 2010:

"A former manager in The Tampa Tribune sports department pleaded guilty this past week to charges he stole the identity of a one-time friend and colleague to apply for credit cards and buy a house.

"By pleading guilty to a charge of grand theft, Tom Brew faced a maximum five-year sentence, but he was sentenced to two months of probation, court records show.

"As part of a Jan. 5 plea agreement, Brew, 51, agreed to take responsibility for the house he purchased in the name of his former friend, Matt Severance.

"Severance also previously worked for the Tribune as a page designer, copy editor and supervisor in the sports department, and he and Brew had been best friends.

"Severance today said the house purchased in his name by Brew is being foreclosed upon but that the situation remains unresolved.

"'I talked to the holder of the note, and they said, 'We don't know anything about Brew fixing the situation,' " Severance said.

"Assistant State Attorney Robert Bruce, who prosecuted Brew, did not return repeated telephone calls for comment in the past week.

"Brew was the Tribune's night sports editor from October 1999 to October 2004. The crimes did not occur until after Brew left the newspaper."

Final comment: It's tempting to climb on some high horse and pontificate about the seedy state of journalism, but in truth, the Star in the past has employed at least two men who killed their wives, as well as numerous drunks, etc etc etc.

I think where the cancer gnaws is that Brew was retained and Martha Allan summarily dismissed. But that's Gannett, where loyalty is as cheap as squirrel corn. Go figure.



Tom Greenacres [unverified] said:

"least two men who killed their wives"

And more who would have liked to.

Who besides Bigelow actually did it?

2010-12-18 08:41:17

hendy [Member] said:

High integrity, decency, morality. Some of you guys had it. Others did/don't. Dennis digs the grave of The Star deeper still.

2010-12-18 09:56:55

ruthholl [Member] said:

The other guy who murdered his wife was referenced in Bo Connor's book, "Star in the Hoosier Sky." This must have been in the '50s, and if I had a copy of the book on hand, I would check it and give you his name. He may have been a copy editor?
I will email someone who I know has the book.
If I have any of this wrong, I'll fix it.
Maybe he just beat her.

2010-12-18 13:57:56

news junkie [Member] said:

We had some sports reporters/editors who liked to, ahem, hang out with young girls.

2010-12-18 17:46:02

Gary Welsh [unverified] said:

Our resident sex offender in my neighborhood is a former sports writer for the Star.

2010-12-18 18:32:27

ruthholl [Member] said:

Past crime, and I stand corrected -- it was a wife of a Star employee who killed her husband.
In addition, there was a young former reporter, a woman, who was killed.
This is all covered in Bo Connor's book,"Star in the Hoosier Sky."
The corrected info is courtesy of Lynn Hopper, a former longtime Star employee/antiques writer/blogger/copy editor, par excellent:
"Julian Sullivan, copy desk editor ... was murdered by his wife (it happened just a few years before I arrived, and there were still ripples about it on the desk), and Mary Jordan, a bright young reporter who shared a desk with Larry when he first arrived (was killed).
She got out of journalism after a year of so, and into a rather unhappy string of events, which culminated with her murder by charming but crook of a husband.
Julian was murdered by his wife during an argument. She said she wanted
to kill, so he handed her a knife....and she did."
End of story.
Gary, I know...

2010-12-19 10:05:15

Tell The Truth [Member] said:

So we expect newsrooms to be any different than the rest of society?


Daily Journalism is a rough-and-tumble world, which puts otherwise-ordinary people in touch with the rich and powerful.

It sounds like Dennis and his colleagues need ot beef up their itnerview policies, regarding character.

Because good writers/editors are everywhere. Good people, it seems, are in lower supply.


2010-12-20 06:18:56

Joe [unverified] said:

The Star has by far less % of employees with legal trouble than the average of Indiana's population. And the two people who murdered their spouses where both hired many, many years before gannett purchased the paper - in the supposed glory days.

This is a black eye, but quite honestly completely normal for large organizations. Just look at the IMPD right now and the trouble they're having.

2010-12-21 09:02:41

Ms. Cynical [unverified] said:

Methinks that if I were "extradited last week from Indiana" and subsequently convicted of a felony, I would have become an ex-Star employee in the blink of an eye.

2010-12-22 12:26:38

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