By Carlo Wolff/JNS.org
(Cleveland Jewish News) Hennes Paynter Communications, a firm co-owned by a Jewish resident of Cleveland, has been tapped to handle public relations for the victims of the Cleveland kidnappings that have become a global news sensation.
Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight on May 6 broke free of Ariel Castro’s house after nine to 11 years of captivity.
Bruce Hennes, a Cleveland Heights resident who is Jewish, is co-owner of the Hennes Paynter Communications company with Barbara Paynter. On May 10, Jones Day, the Cleveland law firm handling the women’s cases, asked Hennes Paynter whether it would take care of public relations for the now-famous victims of the Cleveland kidnappings. Hennes said May 13 he was surprised to get the call and honored to do the job.
“The strategy right now is to give the women time and to preserve the integrity of the court case,” said Hennes, a former president of the Cleveland Jewish News Board of Directors.
“Right now, there is no other strategy,” he said. “That’s why the women are not speaking publicly. At this point, our only role is to compile a list of media people who are interested in interviewing them. We’re getting whatever requests there might be and aggregating all of those. At the appropriate time, the women will make their own decisions about whom they want to talk to and when.”
Hennes said he has not spoken to the women, adding “our main contact is through the law firm.” Hennes’s firm has been fielding requests from all over the world, he said, citing all the domestic networks, including Spanish-language channel Telemundo, as well as Radio Australia and “everybody in between.”
“We’re on lockdown,” he said. “It’s very important that nothing be said that will jeopardize the ongoing investigation and the prosecution of Mr. Castro.
“We were floored to get the call, and when we were asked to do this pro bono, the answer was, immediately, of course. We’re honored to be able to help them. I can’t even begin to imagine what they went through.”
As for the media, “they’re looking for the ‘get’ right now” as far as the Cleveland kidnappings story goes, Hennes said. “There’s a worldwide scramble. They want the picture, the interview. This is the hottest news.”
Castro, 52, was arraigned on charges or rape and kidnapping on May 9. Bond was set at $8 million. Cuyahoga County prosecutors allege he beat and sexually assaulted all three women. They also say Castro is the father of Berry’s 6-year-old daughter.
Berry, 27, and DeJesus, 23, reunited with their families after brief hospital stays, according to various news accounts. Knight’s whereabouts is cloudy, however. According to a story in the May 12 Christian Science Monitor, Knight, 32, didn’t even tell her mother where she was going when she left the hospital where she was treated the night of May 10.
Editor’s note: This story was originally published by the Cleveland Jewish News, www.clevelandjewishnews.com, and is distributed with the permission of that newspaper.