The character-assassination plot unleashed against Scott Wells by local right-wing extremists became so obvious last week that even the Herald-Times editors momentarily pulled their heads out of the sand, whisked a few grains from their eyes, and acknowledged it as fact.

After hearing courtroom testimony last week in the Fascistic proceeding known as the State of Indiana vs. Scott Wells, the editors on Friday declared the case "Tainted by Political Brush." They have such a grasp of the obvious.

In the editors' own words, here's what became public knowledge during courtroom testimony at a hearing last Wednesday on Wells' drunken driving-resisting arrest case:

"This case has been tainted with a political brush from the beginning. Just how tainted became clear in a hearing Wednesday at which Bud Bernitt, a Bloomington property-rights activist who is active in Republican Party politics, testified that he had made drinking-and-driving accusations not only against Wells, but also against former Democratic County Commissioner Brian O'Neill last fall.

"Another whopper that came out in court Wednesday was that Bernitt's wife, Amy, secretly put a bumper sticker on Wells' car, implying Wells had prior knowledge of an ecoterrorism attack."

Specifically, the bumper sticker said: "What did Scott Wells know and when did he know it?" It appeared about the time that the Bernitts and others of their ilk were publicly accusing Wells of prior knowledge of the fire that destroyed a million-dollar home being built in the Lake Monroe watershed. The home belonged to developer/engineer Steve Smith, Wells' arch nemesis in his multi-year crusade for responsible development and protection of the Lake Monroe watershed.

Last September, Wells was beaten up in downtown Bloomington by two Indiana State Police officers acting on a tip from an unknown informant who had phoned Trooper J.D. Maxwell at home on a Friday night to report a drunken driver. Maxwell is a renegade cop with a documented propensity to flout the law in his zeal to pursue his own brand of cowboy justice.

The mysterious informant turned out to be Bud Bernitt who, along with Maxwell, Franklin Andrew, Richard Wells, Leo Hickman and others, Scott Wells has accused of conspiring to defame him in the Smith fire case.

Bernitt's testimony on Wednesday solidified the conspiracy theory. The H-T reported: "Bernitt also acknowledged that after the arrest, he'd called Maxwell, current Republican County Councilman Jeff Ellington and developer Steve Smith - the latter having clashed with Wells over land-use violations at Smith's Pedigo Bay development. He said he'd also tried to call other GOP operatives, such as Richard Wells and Franklin Andrew."

Another outgrowth of the testimony was indications that Wells may likewise hold the H-T accountable for facilitating the plot through its online forum.

"For about a year, the H-T Mother Board Editor has allowed Bud and Amy Bernitt and others to post slanderous, libelous statements concerning me and other Democratic office holders with no holds barred," Wells told The Bloomington Alternative.

"Only after the H-T reporter heard my attorney, David Colman, at the hearing refer to 'hundreds and hundreds' of slanderous, libelous statements that were posted on the H-T Message Board, did the Herald-Times realize their mistake. As of today, the whole message board has been shut down, as well as this statement by the H-T Message Board Editor: 'During this time, the board will be cleared of old posts and everyone's temper can simmer down a bit.'"

However, Wells says taking the allegedly libelous messages off the Web site is too little, too late.

"Over a period of months I have downloaded, saved, printed out, and put on zip disks all of the slanderous, libelous statements from the Rabid Republican Cabal on their Chat Room Slander. I have printed out about five reams of paper, or about 2,000 pages, and it occupies one complete file box."