The truth about that “$10,000 VIP room” at a comic con is actually pretty shocking

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The other day I ran a story about a guy named Jonathon Wall who is being charged with a felony in Utah for trying to use his Federal ID to get into what was claimed to be a “$10,000 VIP room” at the Salt Lake City Comic Con.

Something about that didn’t set right with me. The SLCCC folks have drawn their share of controversy but that figure for any VIP ticket seems ridiculous. I reached out to Bryan Brandenburg, the Chief Marketing Officer and Co-Founder of SLCC and he confirmed that there was never any such ticket. “I contacted the AP journalist and stated for the record that there as never been a ticket for sale at any amount allowing access to our celebrity green room,” he told me.

In a follow-up story from the AP however, it was noted:

U.S. Attorney’s Office spokeswoman Melodie Rydalch says prosecutors stand by the $10,000 value obtained during witnesses interviews for the case. She declined to say who provided that detail.

Brandenburg says a Salt Lake Comic Con attorney was planning to inform prosecutors about the inaccuracy.


So the entire case seems to be based on false information. Now why would the prosecutors stick with this figure? Brandenburg says the figure came from two contractors rather that Salt Lake Comic Con personnel and suggested that the high “value” of the non existent ticket provides a greater amount for the attempted “theft.” Indeed, if you were stealing a $40 convention ticket that’s petty theft; $10K makes it grand larceny. Of course, the matter involves the perp using his Air Force ID improperly, which is a crime. But even the judge in the case has misgivings over a potential three year sentence and $250,000 fine for what was potentially just a guy trying to get Chris Evans’ autograph. And pleading guilty to a federal felony would have far reaching consequences on Wall’s life including

the loss of voting rights, the loss of the right to possess a firearm and other significant impacts on employment, housing and education. Parrish said her perception of Wall’s lack of understanding, coupled with the alleged slap on the wrist deal, prompted her to vacate the original guilty plea.  

“The bottom line is, all of these matters were very troubling to me,” Parrish said.


Losing voting and gun rights is a pretty serious deal and seems to far outstrip a crime … whose value was trumped up to begin with. It’s possible Wall was a dangerous psychopath, and for sure it was a really dumb thing to try. But this whole nonexistent “$10,000 VIP Green Room ticket” makes the whole case look very shoddy to me.

Brandenburg also confirmed that there will not be a FanX in Salt Lake City next year. “The only open date is on the same weekend as the Mormon General Conference which is not for religious purposes but rather that downtown would be crazy congested. We are instead focusing on expanding outside of Salt Lake City.” He directed me to this press release which announces expansion into Asia in conjunction with POP Life, a Chinese branding and marketing company:

Upcoming 2016 events include:
Salt Lake Comic Con FanXperience, USA: March 24-26, 2016
POP Life FanXperience, Philippines: June 10-12, 2016
Salt Lake Comic Con, USA: September 1-3, 2016
POP Life FanXperience, China: September 14-17, 2016
POP Life FanXperience, Thailand: December 9-11, 2016
Salt Lake Comic Con will be granted exclusive merchandise rights in the United States on most POP Life merchandise. The deal marks the first time that a U.S. comic con organizer will be involved in the entire process from live events, to marketing, manufacturing, and merchandising.

At any rate, DON’T BELIEVE EVERYTHING YOU READ. That $10,000 figure was quoted in every story about this case.

The photo at the top of this post is from my stint in the “green balcony’ at the Hilton at SDCC 2011. It is pretty nice, yes, but not worth three years in jail.

Finally, while I researching this story, I found this guide to working the green room at a Comic-Con. Embedding does not imply endorsement.

Comments

  1. Chaos McKenzie says

    Excellent article!

    Sorry to bug Heidi, but if you see this comment, I am very eager for some advice. I sent a donation via paypal over a month ago to pick you brain for a tiny bit of advice regarding the DC Talent Development Program. I sent a number of emails to the associated email address with the paypal payment, but no response.

    I’m not sure if there is a time factor, there was no information with the initial donation. Did I do something wrong? Did you not get the donation?

    Any info at this point would be greatly appreciated.

  2. KentL says

    If you have to be told to address an actor/actress by their real name rather than their character’s name, then you probably shouldn’t be working the green room.

  3. says

    Your “Spidey-Sense” on this story is serving you well.

    Federal prosecutors often inflate dollar figures to charge people with more serious crimes, to make crimes prosecutable in federal court, to gain longer potential sentences under mandatory minimums.

    Ken White, of Popehat.com, a former federal prosecutor himself, wrote about this last October.

    https://popehat.com/2015/10/08/bad-reporting-on-matthew-keys-possible-sentence-conceals-prosecutorial-power/

    You might want to contact him if you’re following up on this further.

  4. Glenn Simpson says

    I know some of the blatantly obvious stuff in those instructions is probably necessary, but dang that’s some common sense stuff right there.

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