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NEAL RUBIN

Rubin: Expert says poisoned tongue is likely Fouts

Neal Rubin
The Detroit News

The mayor of Warren said someone must have “electronically engineered” his words to make him sound like the sort of coarse boob who would say disparaging things about a particularly harmless portion of the population.

Actually, said an audio forensics wizard in Rochester Hills, it doesn’t work that way.

If Jim Fouts truly believes he’s been wronged, said founder Ed Primeau of the firm called Audio Forensic Expert, he’s welcome to stop by the office and prove it.

All he’d need to do is read the words attributed to him by the alleged Mayor Fouts who called intellectually disabled people “dysfunctional human beings” and “not even human beings,” and added, “I don’t want to be around them, and I wish them well in a cage.”

Assuming Primeau could track down the original recording to compare it to, he said he would know with 100-percent, witness-stand certainty whether Fouts — as he claimed in an indignant post on Facebook — was the victim of some heinous fraud.

As it stands, Primeau’s early testing suggests a likelihood of 80 percent that it was Fouts who said, “Tonight I am going to meet a bunch of retards. Tonight is retard night.”

City Council member Scott Stevens said he called Primeau Monday to ask about testing and attempt to lift “the very dark cloud hanging over the City of Warren that Mayor Fouts has brought upon us.”

Stevens said he’ll introduce a measure at Tuesday night’s meeting calling for Fouts — who did not return phone calls from The Detroit News — to either get audio-tested or resign.

“I’ll foot the cost,” he said, which Primeau quotes at $3,960. “If the mayor says it’s not him, let’s see.”

Political foe given tape

Meantime, it’s important to keep in mind a few disclaimers.

First, Fouts has been butting heads with Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel over the dumping of dirt at Freedom Hill Amphitheatre in Sterling Heights, and it was Hackel who released the recordings to the media last week.

Second, Hackel does not know where or when the recording was made, or by whom; it was sent to him at 3 a.m. Thursday by a friend of the city employee who allegedly recorded the conversation, which was edited to remove the voice of the mole.

Third, and most important, Primeau cannot pinky-swear the voice belongs to Fouts ... though it appears he could at least cross his heart.

“We compared his voice to known samples we found on YouTube,” Primeau said. “What really takes it home is when we do the biometric program, which comes back with numbers. The numbers are very, very high.”

As for the notion that someone had spliced old recordings of Fouts to create an incendiary fake, that only works in the movies, or when untrained ears do the listening.

“If it’s edited — pieced together from other conversations — I’d be able to tell,” Primeau said.

“Retard,” he pointed out, is not a word idly thrown around in conversation. As for combining, say, the first syllable of “rebound” and the last of “leotard,” “I haven’t heard anything here that sounds like that.”

“People speak in a normal pattern,” he explained. In a patchwork recording, “It’s very difficult to have the inflection and articulation in their voice match from word to word.”

A sound job

Primeau, 58, started out as an audio engineer working with radio commercials. His career changed course the day FBI agents showed up with tapes from a confidential informant.

Now, he said, he runs a seven-person firm and has a trip scheduled in June to authenticate audio at a trial in Beijing.

After the Indiana Pacers and Detroit Pistons tussled at The Palace in November 2004, Primeau did some video enhancement work for the Pacers.

That was only the worst brawl in NBA history, though, with assorted Pacers throwing punches at fans, nine players suspended for a total of 146 games, and five players charged with assault.

This is Macomb County politics, and it’s downright rough. Take it from the mayor — assuming it’s really him.

nrubin@detroitnews.com

@nealrubin_dn