A cursory examination of the media stories surrounding Paul Cortez, or even a simple Google search, will yield many wildly sensationalized and factually inaccurate stories. The media exerts such an intricate web of influence over our daily lives that society at large is often unaware of its very presence. Unfortunately, the truth often takes a back seat to the media’s more profitable depictions of stories that better drive sales.

Tabloid-style New York newspapers (New York Post and New York Daily News) immediately pounced on the Catherine Woods murder story, as it had all the makings for front-page material: a small-town, beautiful Midwestern girl who journeyed to the bright lights of New York City to chase her dream of stardom on Broadway – but instead succumbed to the evils of the city.

Unfortunately, few reporters actually have or had credible sources or first-hand knowledge of evidence. And once an inaccurate statement is printed in one newspaper, it often spreads to subsequent newspapers or websites.

Below is a brief examination of some of the stories that result when typing “Paul Cortez” into a Google search:

America’s Most Wanted writes: “Authorities say the night of the murder, Cortez can be seen on surveillance tape standing outside of Catherine’s apartment, where he allegedly called her seven times.”

This statement about the existence of a surveillance tape capturing Paul outside of Catherine’s apartment is 100% factually INACCURATE. No such video has ever existed. Although this statement is blatantly untrue, many people believe it because it is on the America’s Most Wanted website. Even more troubling is that many other news outlets include the information found on AMW.

On February 9, 2007, Andrea Peyser of the New York Post wrote a story entitled: “He Kissed the Girls and Made Them Cry”:

“He walked into the courtroom on the balls of his ballet-dancing feet – in a form-hugging sweater that showed off both his broad shoulders and his uplifted nipples. Paul Cortez is a man in conflict. He is torn about his identity. And, perhaps, his sexuality. He looked harmless and effeminate.”

Apparently, with the story growing old, Ms. Peyser needed to find another way to keep her story from getting stale. As a result, she made unfounded and untrue attacks at Paul’s sexuality. Sadly, some people believe this is a “story” worthy of the front page cover of a newspaper.

On January 30, 2007, the New York Post prominently featured the headline: “Beauty & the Beast: Beaus Sick Defense in Dancer Slay.” At trial, the undisputed facts about Catherine’s dangerous lifestyle were discussed by both the prosecution and defense attorneys. In choosing how to depict these happenings to her readers, reporter Laura Italiano wrote:

“[first Paul killed Catherine] Now, he’s slashing at her reputation – painting her as a loose woman, a drunk, a drug addict, a porn actress and a whore.”

On January 10, 2006, The Gothamist ran a story with the following excerpt:

“The ex-boyfriend and suspected killer of Catherine Woods – the fresh-faced aspiring dancer from Ohio who turned to stripping to make ends meet – kept a diary where he fantasized about cutting her throat. Yoga instructor Paul Cortez, whom the police suspected shortly after Woods’s murder, apparently mixed teachings from the Bhagavad Gita and his dream of trying to save Woods from a sinful life. A police source tells the Post: He’s talking a lot about Hindi gods and people cutting off each other’s heads as sacrifices, said a source familiar with the chilling diary that cops found in the home of yoga-trainer suspect Cortez, 25. He talks about cutting her throat. It’s because she won’t change her ways. She won’t quit her stripping, and she’s living a life of sin…evidence includes Cortez’s bloody fingerprint (see trial section) in Woods’s apartment, video footage of him standing outside her building during the time of her murder…”  

Who is this police source? There was no mention of Hindi gods or sacrificial be-headings in any police statement, evidence or testimony at trial.  Apparently, you can write anything if you disclaim it with, according to sources familiar with the chilling diary. Also, this article was printed before the trial and before any journal entries were ever made public. Again, other media picked up on this fabricated news about be-headings and added to the demonization of Paul Cortez. 

In addition, this article includes the erroneous reference to Paul being captured on surveillance video outside of Catherine’s apartment. Apparently, this reporter did not have the time or resources to do his own research and independently verify facts. Instead, he did his research on the Internet and assumed that the America’s Most Wanted web site posted accurate information.

Prior to Pauls arrest, the New York Daily News ran a front page story on Paul Cortez with the following text:

“With head bowed, Paul Cortez slipped out of his apartment for some carry-out food: roasted chicken, beans and rice. The media and police have him under 24-hour stake-out. They are concerned that he might take flight to another country. He’s fluent in Spanish and could blend in easily in any number of Spanish-speaking countries in Latin America, The Caribbean, South America, and also in Spain.” 

This is yet another sensationalized inaccurate story. If the reporter had done any research, she would know that Paul Cortez does not even speak Spanish, let alone is he fluent in Spanish. The police never had a concern that Paul Cortez would flee to a Spanish-speaking country. Apparently, however, this story made for a popular front page story. 

On December 21, 2005, The Gothamist ran a story with the following excerpt:

“The prosecutors said they found a bloody fingerprint at the crime scene that matched Cortez. Cortez had made several phone calls to Woods prior to the murder, but then none afterward.”

This reporter again did not do thorough research. Paul DID call Catherine after the alleged time of the murder. The prosecutor estimated the time of the murder to be between 6:20 p.m. and 6:35 p.m. Undisputed phone records show that Paul called Catherine at 6:33 p.m. – either during the murder or immediately after the murder. The prosecutor theorized that this 6:33 p.m. call made by Paul was an “accidental misdial.” If the call was an “accidental misdial,” one would assume that there would be some traces of blood from the very bloody, gruesome murder on the cell phone that Paul voluntarily handed over to the police the next morning. There was not. Unsurprisingly, the media never picked up on this last “accidental” phone call. Additionally, Paul called his voicemail at 6:46 p.m. and then made phone calls to his clients at 6:50 p.m. and 6:51 p.m. to coordinate schedules for training appointments at the Equinox Fitness Center early the next morning. 

In addition, Googling “Paul Cortez” also reveals that some web sites/blogs confused the facts surrounding Paul Vincent Cortez with those of Seargant Paul E. Cortez. Sergeant Cortez was sentenced to 100 years in prison for taking part in the gang rape and murder of an Iraqi girl and the killing of her family last year.


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