Audioblog : 5 Days Later

I recorded this after midnight following my last episode on All Things Azeroth. This audioblog talks about the past few days, thoughts on bullying, leaving ATA, and looking forward.

Follow-up (9/26) – Having done some more research on my situation, I’ll be pursuing getting the original case in California expunged next year. As I said in the audioblog, that doesn’t remove the duty to register. What I’ve learned is that in Ohio I can petition with the Common Pleas Court to have the duration of my registration requirement reduced from lifetime to instead ending in 2021, and there’s no method of outright eliminating the duty to register prior to 2021.

As of today I have paid for an expert expungement attorney in California to evaluate my case. It’s the first real step of the process, and I’m looking ahead to making forward progress in my situation.

So, while I will be working on the California end of my legal matters next year, the second and equally important part of the process is something which isn’t even worth working on until close to 2021.

A Necessary Message

You can either read this blog or listen to to file here or on the Realm Maintenance podcast feed.

The following you are about to read is not what is typically found here.

I am posting this on the Realm Maintenance feed and on realm-maintenance.com in an attempt to provide as much exposure and disclosure as possible.

The content you are about to read contains discussion of mature themes though it contains no explicit language. Discretion is advised.

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My name is Brian Schwartz. Over my time as a participant in World of Warcraft and media from the community grown from it, I’ve also gone by my main character name of Rho, and also by Brian Black.

In this age of the internet, there’s little difficulty in having a second life as it were. Who people are when they’re unconnected from their computers can be quite different from who they are when chatting online, raiding bosses in games, or giving podcasts.

There are many who appreciate this ability to live this alternate life, to be free from the worry and stress that comes with the daily challenges of everyday life off the computers.

For the longest time, I was one of those people. As of today, that will no longer be a luxury to me.

What I am about to give you is full disclosure regarding who I am when I’m not online. That means I’m going to give you as much of the story behind this as I possibly can, because there are others out there who only know portions of the story. Others whose perception and vision of who I am may be very different from what I consider to be reality.

This does not come easy for me to talk about, but given the situation I’ve decided I must be proactive about this and be the first to communicate it. This communication is going to change my life forever, and more than likely not for the best, but it still must be done. It is my hope that when I’m done here, you’ll understand the strength it took me to no longer hide from the truths I am about to talk about.

The reason this has all come up, is because a person who goes by Miranda Moore online has in the past week made multiple attempts to bring this information forward herself. For the record, I do not know who Miranda Moore is. In all likelihood it’s probably an alias. I only know based off her IP that she lives in the local area of where I reside.

This past week Miranda decided to inform others that I am a registered sex offender. She attempted to do this by posting comments to my WordPress blog articles and YouTube videos. These comments were removed by myself shortly after they were posted.

That said, I will not deny the truth of the information.

It is true that I am required to register with the local authorities as a sex offender.

Trust me when I tell you that I understand that term casts a dark shadow over who I am. This probably shocked and surprised every one of you reading this. When people hear the words “sex offender” it’s natural to think of the worst possible scenario about the person.

This information is on public record, and of course you have the right to look at it yourself if you wish. There are a number of sites which contain listings of such offenders, though those listings are not always thorough. They don’t always provide all the details or circumstances as to why someone is registered. Because of this, it’s natural for someone reading that to assume the worst of the offender. I entirely understand this.

That said, I am not a predator, nor do I have any wishes or impulses to be one.

I was required to register as a sex offender due to pleading No Contest to the misdemeanor charge of Harassing or Abusing a Minor a little over seventeen years ago in Southern California. In order for you to understand why I specifically pled No Contest, and to better explain just what I was accused of, it’s important that I tell you the whole story behind this.

I hope it sheds light on information not readily available about my case when doing a quick search for it.

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Seventeen years ago, I was living on my own in Southern California in a low-rent apartment building. I was an assistant manager at a local comic book shop at the time and I was able to make ends meet while also being able to save some here and there.

A neighbor of mine in her late twenties had a seven-year old daughter and was struggling to pay for rent, bills, and food with the resources available to her. At the time I had considered her a friend, and I helped her financially on a routine basis. I had seen difficult times in my past where others helped me, and as far as I was concerned, this was simply one way I could help return that kind of behavior to someone else in need.

Months later due to poor business I had my hours reduced at work. This of course meant that I had less money to work with, and I simply was unable to help this neighbor any further. Unfortunately the neighbor’s financial situation had not improved, and she became dependant on the assistance I gave her.

About three weeks after I had stopped giving her assistance, she had gone to the authorities with her daughter and claimed that I had asked her daughter to remove her clothes when she was in my apartment room while the mother was asleep. Her story was that I had offered to give the child some money for helping me clean my apartment, and that during that time I had verbally asked her to remove her clothing.

To be clear here, the mother did not say that I touched her daughter in any way, shape, or form. She claimed that her daughter left my room when being asked, ran to her and told her the story, and the mother then went to the police.

As a result, I was arrested on suspicion of harassing/abusing a minor, which at the time is normally considered a 1st degree misdemeanor or a felony of a low degree.

While I was accused of the actions, I did not commit them. However, that would not stop me from eventually entering in a plea of No Contest.

With my finances being tight at the time, I couldn’t afford an attorney and had a public defender appointed to me. This public defender said that if I was to plea Not Guilty, the case would go to a trial by jury to determine my guilt. It was a situation where it was simply my word against the word of the mother and the child. There was no physical evidence to help either side in the case.

Were the case to go to a jury trial and I be found Guilty, the charge would have been considered a felony sex offense, which has serious repercussions as I’m sure many of you are aware. The public defender suggested I enter into a plea bargain of No Contest. By giving a plea of No Contest the charge would be reduced to a first degree misdemeanor. At that time in California those who were charged with misdemeanor sex offenses had to register once a year, though their names were not put on public record.

The public defender said that while I might have a chance in a jury trial to be found Not Guilty, in his experience cases like mine had a more likely chance to end up in a Guilty plea. I believed that. California had a number of high-profile cases of child abuse, and citizens in the area were very sensitive about issues like that. Even though people are instructed by the Court to render a verdict based on the facts presented, it would still be a challenge to win the case given the circumstances.

Out of fear and concern for my future, and due to the fact that quite simply I was a much younger and inexperienced person in these days, I decided to take the plea bargain.

That is how I initially became required to register in the State of California as a sex offender, and I renewed my registration every year as required by law up until the time I moved to Ohio in 2001.

I moved to Ohio because my financial situation had become beyond desperate. At that point I was jobless, out of money, and no longer had a place to call home. For about one week I was actually homeless, and it was a sobering experience trying to survive on the streets of suburban Los Angeles.

I remained in contact with a few friends online via the public library, and a friend offered me a roof over my head and an opportunity to try to start over with my life in Ohio. They provided money for a bus ticket, and with seemingly nowhere else to go I took that opportunity.

Now, when I moved to Ohio I made a couple of mistakes which complicated matters for me years later. Due to both my ignorance of Ohio law and my assumption that I didn’t have to register for a sex offender in another state given the misdemeanor nature of the offense, I did not register in the State of Ohio for a period of approximately 10 years. When this information was learned and disclosed to authorities, I was arrested for failing to register in Ohio about 3 years ago.

This charge could end up as a felony or misdemeanor, and once again I pled No Contest as part of a plea bargain. Because the initial offense was a misdemeanor, and due to the fact that I had absolutely no criminal history in my life outside of the initial offense and this one, the failure to register was also lowered to a misdemeanor.

In the state of Ohio, misdemeanor sex offenders are required to register every three months with their local sheriff’s office, and I have done so with due diligence. This is important to know, because when you look at my information on some of the non-government databases, it mentions in my history that I failed to register in Ohio, which is true. But the information does not tell one looking at it that I in fact have been registering in Ohio every few months since 2011.

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That is the full disclosure of my criminal history, and why I am listed and labeled as a sex offender on those databases. California law requires that sex offenders register for life, and Ohio law states that when a sex offender from another state moved to Ohio, they must remain registered as an offender for whatever duration they were instructed to by the state they came from.

What that means, is basically for the rest of my life I will have this label, and I will update my registration as required to by the law.

That is the side of Brian Schwartz that until today, thousands of you were unaware of. Miranda Moore’s attempts to shed light on that information revealed a cold hard truth to me. While it is possible to have a degree of anonymity on the Internet, when you surrender that right by allowing your face to be connected with a name, you can not remain separate from your life beyond the internet.

Rather than have Miranda be the one to let this information come out, I decided that it was best that I simply come forward myself.

Don’t get me wrong, I am fully aware of the repercussions here. There are many of you listening or reading right now that may very well be upset by this information. You may feel like I have betrayed a level of trust by not being forthcoming about this facet of my life with you previously.

I can not tell you how to react to what you have learned today.

I can not tell you to simply carry on and pretend like nothing happened.

By telling you all of this today, it’s quite possible that I have destroyed any possibility of remaining a member of this community. Even though I have provided full disclosure here and given you the facts of my case and the seventeen years following it, that doesn’t mean that some of you will consider me corrupt or evil or whatever word you want to use because you now have the words “sex offender” associated with who I am.

There are thousands upon thousands of sex offenders in the world. Countless numbers of them have participate in disgusting and heinous acts that have earned the distrust and scorn of those who know of them.

Because of the actions committed by the worst and most publicized offenders, those who have committed lesser offenses often receive the same discrimination, harassment, and resentment that comes as a result of the worst acts upon humanity committed by the greater offenders. Further still, there are many offenders who have that label branded upon their lives due to being in situations similar to the what I found myself in seventeen years ago.

I can’t change how society as a whole feels about those words “sex offender.”

I honestly don’t expect to necessarily change your view or outlook on it either.

The fact of the matter is, this information was going to be revealed sooner or later. Miranda Moore’s attempts this week made that abundantly clear. There was no scenario here from which things could have gone on unchanged, and it was only a matter of time before this information came out. It actually surprised me that Miranda Moore did not take her campaign to Twitter.

But that’s neither here or there. You now know the truth.

If you feel that I have betrayed a trust, I deeply apologize. These ghosts from my pasts haunt me every day of my life, and as much as I have done my best to move on from it, I can never be rid of my past, not even on the internet.

Everything I have done on Realm Maintenance has been done out of a love for the medium of podcasting, and a love for the amazing community that has grown from World of Warcraft and other Blizzard titles over the past couple of decades. I never did this with the intent to become famous. In fact, from day one I had some degree of concern about becoming too well-known in the community because of a scenario in which my past would be exposed.

But that scenario has now happened, on my terms.

I am fully aware of what may happen in the days to come. Friends I have known for years may disassociate themselves from me. Communities I have been a part of will see me in a different life. Trolls will appear, and I will likely be harassed by those that are still able to retain the precious anonymity that the internet affords them.

As of right now, I remain committed to being a part of the podcasts that I am currently on, though I will of course resign my role from those shows without hesitation should the hosts of those shows no longer want me associated with them.

As of this moment I continue to be a part of the planning for World of Podcasts. However, it is possible and perhaps probable that I will have to remove myself from direct involvement from the event should the committee deem it the most appropriate course of action.

The last thing I want to do is cause damage to the organizations I have associated with due to my past. The reality however is that this information was bound to be revealed in the near future, and I had to be proactive in my disclosure.

I will still likely attend Blizzcon, though it will certainly be a different experience for me than I originally anticipated. A lot of that depends on what takes place over the next couple of weeks.

I am not going to ask for your support right now. I understand the difficulty that comes with deciding to support me in the wake of this information. If you do choose to remain a listener, an associate, or a friend, then of course you have my eternal gratitude. But I do not nor can I expect it.

Will Realm Maintenance go on? I can’t give you an answer for that just yet. It’s my intent to continue with it, but only if it’s something that the community continues to see as a benefit. Episode 112 will likely still happen. There is a possibility it may end up being the final episode, I don’t know at present. Rest assured that I won’t just fade away and that there when I decide it’s time to close the book on Realm Maintenance, it will be made clear.

I’m not even sure if “Rho” will be able to exist any longer. I just don’t know. There’s a possibility I may need to just start over in my internet life, if that’s even possible… and to be honest that’s something I’m really hoping doesn’t become necessary, but that possibility can’t be ignored. Again, if I do retire from this community… if I do bring an end to Rho as it were… I won’t just simply vanish. You can expect at the very least one more communication from me in the future.

I want to thank all of you for taking the time today to read these words. This is without a doubt one of the most difficult things I have ever done in my life. While I feel I am doing the right thing by volunteering this information and being forthcoming, giving full disclosure, that doesn’t change the fact that I am very concerned about my future and the connections I have made to so many of you. While I am hopeful that many of you will be able to accept what you’ve learned, I can’t say I’m overly optimistic about the days to come.

You have all been an extended part of my family simply by consuming my content and supporting it, and I will remain grateful for every bit of support you gave me over the past couple of years.

I will respond to any and all emails sent about this matter. Please bear with me if it takes a little time to respond though, as I anticipate I’ll be talking to a number of people over the next several days. You can email me at RealmPodcast@gmail.com.

Thank you.

Thank you for listening, for reading, and hopefully, for understanding that I am not, nor do I ever EVER wish to be a danger to any person or organization I have associated with.

Thank you for being a part of my life, and thank you for allowing me to be a part of yours.

Take care.

60 Steps Forward, 3 Months, 20 Steps Back (#Downward to 200)

On May 1st of 2012 I weighed 300 pounds. I set an ambitious goal to lose 10 pounds a month and reach 240 by November.

I succeeded, but the past 3 months haven’t been as great.

I currently weigh 260. While that’s still an improvement from where I was a year ago, it’s not where I want to be. Over the past few months, a number of factors played into it all, primarily the loss of employment right at the beginning of November.

Cold weather kept my outdoor activity to a minimum, and when you’re indoors in your home more often, the temptation to break from a rigid routine is obviously greater. I’d also say that my personal feelings about myself and my situation led me to seek to food as a brief comfort device.

All of this is not uncommon, and this blog isn’t being written to seek sympathy. Recent events have actually changed my outlook for the better, having just regained employment sooner than I had expected to.

Blizzcon played a big part in my motivation to lose weight last year. While I’m unsure if I’ll be going there or not, the motivation this time is to simply improve my health. Each time I hit a 10 pound milestone not only did I physically feel healthier and more energetic, my emotional state was much improved.

You don’t need to wait for New Year’s to make a resolution. I’m making one here and now.

I will return to the diet and exercise habits I strayed from.
My goal is to reach a weight of 200 pounds by October 1. That’s 60 pounds in 35 weeks, almost a pace of 5 pounds every 3 weeks. I feel this is a reasonable goal, and is actually at a slightly slower pace than what I set last year.

I won’t be blogging or tweeting about my weight loss often, except for the 15th of each month. It’s something I did last year and I think that once a month public update on my Twitter feed is enough to keep myself socially responsible while not flooding all of you with tweets you’re usually not following me to read.

Am I sad that I took 20 steps back? I’m a little disappointed, sure… but the good thing is that I’ve still kept the majority of progress I made from last year, and I’m committed to go even further this year in my goal to improve my physical fitness.

If you have questions or comments about my diet routine feel free to contact me via email or in the comments sections for this thread.

#DownwardTo200