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The Daryle Edward Jones Case Grows Worse

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Yesterday, I posted about yet another heinous sex crime committed by yet another felon who should have been in prison but was granted leniency and was free on the streets.

The information I had yesterday was limited to what I could find in public incarceration records, but today the Athens (Georgia) newspaper has more details about Jones’ criminal history.

And they are damning, not only because he got out early for a murder he committed in 1994, but even after he got out early and immediately committed another crime, the state essentially passed on an opportunity to put him behind bars for that crime for a substantial period of time.

Here’s the story:

Jones was paroled in 2010 [for the 1994 murder], but he was quickly back in prison.

In August 2011 he was arrested on stalking and terroristic threat charges for having threatened to murder a woman, according to records. The arrest sent him back to prison for a parole violation but he was paroled again in October 2013.

Two months later, on Dec. 23, Jones was convicted for the 2011 stalking and terroristic threats charges and sentenced to 200 days of incarceration with six years of probation. He was given credit for time already served.

Jones has been treated to serial leniency, which is the default choice of our justice system nearly all the time.  In 1994, he was allowed to plead (presumably down from murder) to voluntary manslaughter, which put him back on the streets.  Then he was given a mere 200 days (with credit for time served, no days, actually) for stalking and terroristic threats committed in 2011.

These aren’t “nothing” sentences.  But they do reflect the normalization of reduced sentencing throughout the criminal justice system.  Academicians, the media, and leftists relentlessly accuse our justice system of being too harsh on offenders.  But exactly the opposite its true.  It would not have been too harsh to sentence Jones to life without parole for murder in 1994, but he got 20 years instead, and then he got released four years early, originally serving only 16 years for taking a life.   And while we don’t know all the details of the 2011 case, I doubt it would have been “harsh” at all to sentence him to something more than time served for stalking and threatening to kill a woman.

Serial leniency has now resulted in a 14-year old girl being kidnapped, raped and tortured:

 [L]ast Wednesday, Athens-Clarke County police said that Jones lured a 14-year-old girl into a vehicle then locked the doors so she could not escape.

He allegedly drove the girl to an isolated location where he pulled a gun and sexually assaulted her, police said.

Jones, of Oak Hill Drive, was arrested two days later on charges of rape, kidnapping, aggravated assault, aggravated child molestation and aggravated sodomy.

Chalk up another rape to the anti-incarceration activists who shill the fantasy that our prisons are stuffed with victims of harsh, unjustly long sentencing — “victims” who must be petted, celebrated, sympathized with, released early, and “re-entered” into society on our dime.  That little girl’s horrific ordeal is more blood on your hands.

 

Let Out Early for Voluntary Manslaughter, Now Accused of Kidnapping and Rape

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Here’s another one.

Another what?

Another offender who should have been in prison but was let out early, and some innocent child paid the price.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution is reporting that Daryle Edward Jones kidnapped and raped a young girl in Athens, Georgia:

Jones, 41, has been charged with rape, aggravated assault, aggravated child molestation, aggravated sodomy and kidnapping in the case. He remained in the county jail Saturday afternoon.

Here’s what they did not report: Daryle Edward Jones was supposed to be in prison until April.  Or at least that is how long he would have served, had he served his entire previous sentence.  Which, of course, nobody ever does, but isn’t it nice to imagine that somebody, somewhere, even once, would serve all their damn time?

In April of 1994, Jones committed voluntary manslaughter.  It’s hard to know from the online records what he really did, but suffice to say that getting 20 years in 1994 was the maximum for that crime and serving nearly all of it was unusual, so I suspect at least one of two things:

  • The crime was particularly heinous and the voluntary manslaughter was offered only with an agreement to serve a long sentence.
  • Jones, who was 21 at the time, must have had a terrible juvenile record, likely sealed.

So Darlye Jones went to prison for voluntary manslaughter in April, 1995 (he’d probably had a year in jail before that) and got out June, 2010, fifteen years later.  Then he was back in prison from January, 2012 to October, 2013, possibly for a parole violation because no other crime is listed.  Four months after finally being released, he has committed a heinous kidnapping/rape.

What is there to learn from this?

Under-prosecution may be the problem.

My guess — and it’s just a guess — is that Jones had a prolific and violent criminal career before being put away at the age of 21.  Yet he was only charged with one crime, which is entirely typical, even today.  Contrary to what all liberals and all those Right on Crime Grover Norquist types and Reason libertarians believe, our criminal justice system is wildly lenient towards nearly all criminals and expends the resources to put away only a tiny fraction of people who commit even serious crimes.

And given his current crime and the severity of his previous sentence, he may have been a sex offender but the sex offense was not kept on the table for some reason.  He’s not in the sex offender registry, as far as I can tell.

There is troubling talk across the Right today about prosecutorial over-reach.  I consider such talk to be almost entirely anecdotal and wildly out of touch with reality in our criminal courts — and motivated in large part by Alex Jones and his ilk, who have it out for police in an utterly personal and unhinged way.

Yes, the Department of Justice in Washington and Eric Holder in particular are troubling, and Holder is openly contemptuous of the rule of law and treats victims of crime with contempt — except those who fit certain categories of so-called hate crime that he invented in 1999.  Holder is pro-criminal, anti-victim and almost entirely lawless, but Eric Holder does not represent law enforcement in the states.

The sort of leniency that lets a killer walk free to rape a child is what too often represents criminal justice in the states.  We need longer sentences and more law enforcement, not less of both.  How many times do we have to see stories like this?  Let’s talk about what the feds are up to, certainly.  But don’t conflate that with state courts where, especially in urban areas, crimes like burglary aren’t even being investigated, let alone prosecuted anymore, and prolific criminals still have most of their charges dropped against them every day.

Here is a terrific response by “David” to yet another anecdotal complaint about “over-prosecution” from the Right.  It is in response to this (uncharacteristically) lazy screed in what is usually an excellent source on crime policy, City Journal:

Before every reader of this article jumps on the “let’s bash prosecutors” bandwagon, the good professor’s thoughts warrant a bit of careful consideration. Professor Bhide is, after all, a PROFESSOR of law, not a practitioner. And his online list of accomplishments shows that he has never practiced criminal law at any time in his illustrious career. Indeed, his expertise lies more in the realm of business and, perhaps, economics. Having said this, Professor Bhede is correct to be outraged by Ms. Khobraghade’s arrest and the humiliating and inexcusable way she was treated while incarcerated. Professor Bhede is also correct when he expresses concern about the proliferation of federal criminal laws. And perhaps Professor Bhede is also on to something when he quotes the following from the ABA (though this organization is not particularly well-known for either its objectivity or its lack of bias): “‘Individual citizen behavior now potentially subject to federal criminal control has increased in astonishing proportions.'”

But the key words in the quote Professor Bhede uses from the ABA are “potentially subject”. For even though there are too many federal criminal laws, it has been my actual experience that the feds prosecute only a tiny fraction of the cases they could file. Additionally, the feds file ONLY when they are assured of victory (not the standard for filing a criminal charge, contrary to Eric Holder’s excuses to the contrary) and potential good press. Professor Bhede lists a number of activities that Congress has criminalized since our Constitution’s ratification. But the impetus for the “busybody Congresses” that pass these laws usually takes the form of busybody groups and individuals who believe this or that activity should be criminalized. Prohibition readily comes to mind. …

So for those who are ready to jump up and say, “Professor Bhide is absolutely correct! Federal prosecutors need to be reigned in!”, I would respond that too often these very same prosecutors do too little with regard to crimes that directly impact the safety and welfare of our society. And I say this because I spent almost 20 years as a state prosecutor, in a major metropolitan area, where I concentrated primarily on handling felony narcotics dealing and firearms offenses. (To those who would protest and say that I was part of the problem because I was part of the “War on Drugs”, I would respond as follows: Please go tell this to the little 75 or 80 year old woman who is afraid to go out on her front porch because a group of punks–usually armed–are slinging crack, coke, or meth in her neighborhood. This person lives in fear for her life every day. Tell her that the street in front of her house is not a war zone. She’ll say you’re wrong.) Very little assistance was provided prosecuting these crimes by any of the U.S. Attorneys and their staffs in the city where I worked. I don’t know what, exactly, were the priorities of our resident U.S. Attorneys (several of them came and went during my time as a deputy prosecutor), but I do know that they couldn’t be bothered to help make our city’s streets and outlying areas safer. With the laws available to them, U.S. Attorneys can do a lot to put really bad people out of commission for very long periods of time. But if a certain crime (or group of crimes) aren’t on some important politician’s radar, well, such crimes won’t be prosecuted by a U.S. Attorney. …

Too many laws? Perhaps. Not enough use of many of the laws already in existence? Yes. …

 . . . read the whole thing here 

 

Murder by Leniency? Another Reason We Need To Stop Treating Domestic Violence Like Domestic Violence

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There once was a time when feminist activists tried to make the courts respond to domestic violence the way they respond to violence between strangers.  This was a very good impulse, both morally and rationally, and also in terms of making our justice system operate equitably (in the “equal,” not “social justice” sense of the term “equitable”).

You shouldn’t serve less time for stabbing someone just because she is your wife or was once your wife.  Or your husband.

The law shouldn’t make exceptions for people based on their identities.  Criminal acts should be the only factor determining punishment.  Of course, there is manslaughter and there is murder; crimes of passion and random violence; there are many factors to be considered when two people live together and the relationship is a violent one.  But the goal of making the criminal act, not the relationship, the deciding factor for the punishment is and always has been a good goal.

Those early domestic violence advocates were dealing with a judicial system that did, until surprisingly recently, make it exceedingly difficult to put violent offenders behind bars if the targets of their violence were their own family members.  Things are better now.  They aren’t perfect.  They’re more equal.  The overall path has been towards equality.  And as I write this, I know I will hear from people who feel they were given a raw deal because they are men and the feminists have taken over the courts, so let me say this up front: I happen to advocate for radical equality, not special treatment of anyone, unless they are children, for obvious reasons.  I’m also very suspicious of feminist legal ventures that attempt to excuse murders by women who claim they were suffering from battered woman syndrome and are therefore not responsible for their actions.  If self defense is the defense, so be it.  But there are plenty of women who belong in prison, or deserve to stay there, as much as any other murderer, despite the fact that their victim once battered them.

Having worked with the domestic violence movement, I know enough about the dynamics of the crime to know that men are not infrequently victims too.  That’s actually more reason for us to pursue every domestic violence case objectively and with little consideration for the voluntary relationship involved, except insomuch as the technical elements of that relationship can be considered evidence of a crime.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the differences between the legal reforms of the 1970’s that demanded equal treatment for blacks, or women, or gays, versus the special rights movements that subsumed these earlier efforts.  For a brief window of time, equality was the ambition, and a lot of good came of that.  Those healthy legal efforts led to new sex crime laws, for example, that punished the offender based on his behavior, not on the victim’s identity.  They opened the door for prosecutions of men who raped men and the prosecution of female rapists — virtually all of whom target children.  They enabled battered women to see their violent husbands serve time for beating them, and visa versa.

But then the emphasis shifted to special rights, special protections, affirmative action justice and identity-based law enforcement.  The politicization of crime is spinning wildly out of control these days — illegal immigrants are given special leniency when they can’t produce a driver’s license in Los Angeles, for example; the hate crimes industry is a bottomless pit of prejudicial law enforcement; affirmative action poisons every aspect of employment law and equal rights; federal meddling casually threatens police with career-destroying racial charges for simply trying to do their jobs.   The sheer notion of equality before the law is deemed risible by the “best” legal minds.

Equality isn’t the goal anymore.

We need to get back to that moment when it was the goal.  Because in addition to being the right thing to do, equality worked a hell of a lot better than the alternative.  Inequality of any type, I’ve come to believe, is the handmaiden of leniency.  When any crime is politicized, the courts lose the moral authority they need to maintain every law.

I thought of this when I saw the following headline in the Atlanta Journal Constitution today:

Slain woman predicted her own death

Donna Kristofak was terrified and letting the court know it. John S. Kristofak, who was her husband for 19 years, had been arrested six months earlier as he chased her in a Wal-Mart parking lot. In his car were a butcher’s knife and what police called “a suicide note.”

During a court hearing Oct. 12, Mrs. Kristofak begged a Cobb County judge not to release him from jail. “I fear for my life,” she told Superior Court Judge Adele Grubbs, telling the judge that a court-issued order of protection would not stop her crazed ex-spouse.

Early Thursday, fugitive squads arrested Kristofak, 58, after a short struggle at a Motel 6 in Union City, ending a publicized five-day manhunt. He was charged with doing exactly what he’d promised earlier this year: murder.

I have a lot of questions about this case.  What the hell was this man doing out of prison for time served, seven months after trying to kidnap and plotting (with evidence) to murder his ex-wife last March?  Why wasn’t he prosecuted for attempted kidnapping and given a real sentence?  Why wasn’t he given a sentence enhancement for repeatedly violating the restraining order in place against him before the March incident?  What happened to the mandatory minimum of 10 years without parole for kidnapping in Georgia?  Was a protective order used in lieu of prosecuting him for kidnapping?

Why does anybody get time served and probation for attempting to kidnap, with the written intent to kill, anyone?  Ex-wife or no ex-wife?

The judge in this case has more explaining to do, as does the prosecutor and the defense attorney and everyone else involved in what may be an illegal plea deal that left an unsurprised woman unsurprisingly dead.  I’m not saying that any of them treated John Kristofak with special leniency because his target was his ex-wife, but why was he released from prison with such a paltry sentence when he had just set out to kill someone, threatened her repeatedly, stalked her, and then tried to kidnap her from a public place?

Kristofak remained in jail until October, when he cut a plea deal with the court that would sentence him to seven months in jail and have him serve the rest of the 5-year term on probation.

According to the transcript of the guilty plea Oct. 12, Donna Kristofak told the judge: “I definitely want a permanent order of no contact. May I also say that a protective order existed the night of the arrest and I do not feel that will necessarily bring safety.”

Judge Grubbs: “I understand that. It’s a little different with a TPO and filing a protective order. … If he violates the order in this case he gets picked up by the probation violation and put in jail immediately.”

Mrs. Kristofak: “Yes, your honor, I respect that and thank you for that. My fear is that I may not survive that …”

“I understand,” the judge said, cutting in.

“… I fear for my life,” Mrs. Kristofak continued.

“I can’t tell you with 100 percent, I’d be lying to you and I am sorry you are in that position,” said the judge, sounding sympathetic. “But whatever I do, you can go out and, you’ve got that risk but you will have that … copy of the protective order so the minute you get nervous about anything you call the police. … It’s as close as we can get to 100 percent.”

“Thank you, your honor,” Mrs. Kristofak said. “May I ask, your honor, that it is on the record that I fear for my life?”

“It is on the record,” said Judge Grubbs . . .

On December 22, John Kristofak killed Donna Kristofak in the garage of her home.

Keeping Kristofak in prison would have been 100%.  Apparently, the restraining order was a giant zero.

If Kristofak was treated with special leniency in the March crime because his victim was his wife, something needs to be done about that.

If Kristofak was treated with run-or-the-mill leniency for no special reason, something needs to be done about that, too.

 read the article here

Gaming The System: DragonCon Founder Edward Kramer Caught With Another Boy

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I wonder what Bob Barr has to say about Ed Kramer’s health these days.

Ed Kramer, Pre-Miraculous Recovery/New Child-Endangerment Charges

As reported here, back in 2009 Barr, the former Libertarian Presidential Candidate, helped his client Ed Kramer avoid trial — helped him avoid justice — in multiple felony charges for child molestation and aggravated child molestation.  Barr and fellow defense attorney Edwin Marger managed to convince a judge in Georgia that Ed Kramer simply could not stand trial because it would be too painful for him to show up in a courtroom because of some obscure, obviously pretend spinal illness.

You know, kind of like fantasy role-playing.

Kramer had first been arrested in 2000 — yes, 2000 — on charges of molesting three boys.  The DragonCon founder had managed to “game” the system for nine years.  Then Bob Barr took a little break from running for President and representing Baby Doc Duvalier to score a highly unusual deal for his DragonCon client: house arrest on the grounds of his extreme-yet-vague “disability.”  Not a plea, mind you: just no trial.

In other words, the three young victims were denied justice. Their rights as citizens were literally stripped from them via legal wizardry performed by someone who claims to represent individual liberties.

Well, some people’s liberties.

Of course, Ed Kramer immediately pushed the envelope and demanded release from house arrest. Of course, the judge granted it, along with the right to travel to another state and to “check in” by telephone.  Of course, Kramer didn’t even bother to meet those requirements.  Of course, nobody in our ever-so-vigilant court system bothered to follow up.  Of course, the victims, and the molestation charges, simply got lost in the shuffle.

Ed Kramer, Pre-Pretend Spinal Cord Disease

Everyone knows how this genre fiction ends: of course, Kramer was arrested in Connecticut this week after being found in a motel room with a 14-year old boy:

A 50-year-old man who is already facing multiple charges of child molestation, was arraigned in Superior Court on a risk of injury to a minor charge Thursday after authorities said they found him staying in a hotel room with a 14-year-old boy earlier this week.

Kramer, a science fiction author and co-founder of the popular sci-fi convention DragonCon, was first charged with multiple charges of child molestation and aggravated child molestation by investigators in Gwinnett County, Ga in 2000. The district attorney’s office contacted police in Milford [Connecticut] about the pending charges after receiving a tip Kramer may be in the Connecticut area.

Gwinnett County [Georgia] District Attorney Danny Porter said he was contacted this week by a woman whose daughter is filming a movie in the Hartford-area. Crews started to worry about the way Kramer was acting around the 14-year-old boy, who was hired as an actor in the movie, Porter said.

Kramer claimed he was the child’s guardian, according to police.

On Tuesday, Porter said a crew member contacted Milford police after went to the boy’s hotel room and became concerned when the boy opened the door in a towel. Kramer was allegedly sitting on a bed inside the room, Porter said.

Congratulations, Congressman Barr.  Your client seems to have completely overcome his pesky back problem.

Among other gut-wrenching questions, this question remains: why didn’t anyone with the “movie crew” do something about a molestation suspect sharing a motel room with a 14-year old boy?  One person did eventually come forward, but what about the rest of them?  Surely they knew Kramer — he’s uniquely famous in SciFi circles.  What’s the matter with these people?  Why didn’t they choose a better role for themselves — Avenger of the Innocent, Protector of the Voiceless, anything but More People who are so Emotionally Arrested They Can’t Bring Themselves to Act to Save a Child?

In my alternative fantasy universe, Convicted-Con, the act of denying victims their day in court would be taken as seriously as the act of denying rights to defendants.  In my alternative fantasy universe, law professor bloggers and other activist types would work themselves up in a frenzy whenever some raped child got conned out of their rights by powerful politicians and uncaring pseudo-guardians of the law.

Star Trek Court, Where Defendants Face Justice, Unlike Real Court

In my alternative fantasy universe, when a lawyer gets his sex offender client off on claims of disability, and the disability turns out to be fake, there would be consequences for the lawyer:

Kramer’s attorneys [had] succeed in delaying his trial by arguing his health [was] too frail for lengthy courtroom sessions. One attorney described Kramer to the Daily Post last year as an “anatomy lesson” in decrepitude, suffering from ailments that include a problematic back, weak lungs and narcolepsy. He was said to get around on a motorized scooter and rely on oxygen tanks.

Last year, a judge agreed to abbreviated trial sessions and specialized seating for Kramer, but the trial was again continued and has hung in limbo since. . . Kramer was staying in the motel with the boy. . . Officers descended on the Super 8 and found Kramer alone with the minor, the police report states.

What’s more, [Danny] Porter said at least one witness is claiming to have proof Kramer’s not as sick as he made out.

“They saw him hiking in a rural area — no breathing apparatus, no wheelchair, no cane,” Porter said.

Are we actually supposed to believe that Bob Barr and his partner, Edwin Marger, knew nothing about Ed Kramer’s real physical condition when they claimed he was too sick to attend court in 2009, or that he had basically fled what little court-ordered control they had managed to wrangle for him under extremely questionable circumstances?  Well, here’s some clues:

Ed Kramer sporting a Barr ’08 button

Here’s Ed Kramer in either 2007 or 2008.  He claimed he was too sick to stand trial for molestation, but he looks like he was having a really good time campaigning for his lawyer, Libertarian presidential candidate Bob Barr.  If anyone knows more about this photo, please contact me.

Ed Kramer at the 2008 DragonCon

Here’s Ed Kramer hanging out at DragonCon when he was supposed to be housebound and in such serious pain from a “spinal injury” that he couldn’t stay awake for trial.  Hundreds of people saw him hanging out at a hotel in downtown Atlanta after midnight, chilling with some guy in latex shorts carrying a bongo drum.  What, they couldn’t pick up a phone when they saw the following story in the newspaper a few months later?  You know . . . acting to protect kids from getting raped, like their favorite superhero might do?

Edward Kramer told Gwinnett County Superior Court Judge Karen Beyers he was uncertain he could stay awake and alert enough to assist in his own defense. A spinal injury makes it difficult to sit, stand or breathe, and he is chronic pain, he said.  “I understand your diseases are degenerative,” the judge told Kramer. “I do not believe your ability [to stand trial] is going to improve.” . . . The judge suggested a trial schedule with three breaks a day ranging from 30 to 90 minutes. Beyers also tried to accommodate Kramer by offering to set up a room outside the courtroom for him to lie down in during the breaks and providing an orthopedic chair for him in court.

But he wasn’t too sick to party with female Klingons until the inter-galactical cows came home.  Shame on Bob Barr for using his influence to set this up.  Really, shame on him.

And double shame on his partner, Ed Marger, who classily had this to say about his client’s most recent arrest in a motel room with a young child found wearing nothing but a towel:

I don’t know if this was a 14-year-old child or a 41-year-old midget.

Nice.  What a great way to say: “I’m sorry for playing sleazy games with the lives of children and degrading rape victims in the newspaper while also insulting short people and homosexuals.”

Ed Marger and His Carefully Staged Pelts

Here’s a picture of Marger, pseudo-cornpone, et. al.  That depressed-looking thing sitting on his desk is a taxidermied groundhog: his other moldy client, “Baby” Doc Duvalier, must have been busy that day.

There are a thousand different freak shows in the big city.  Or as Dashiell Hammett used to say, well, I can’t remember what he said.  But the gist of it is this: grey people in grey cities with grey outlooks produce grey moral results.  It takes a village not to notice the guy in the wizard outfit and long black gloves slipping away with the little kid who should have been tucked away safely in bed instead of hovering in a grungy convention hotel lobby looking for someone to look up to.

And don’t ever, ever expect a defense attorney to do the right thing.

~~~

Local reporter Scott Henry keeps up on the Kramer case Here and Here.

Lavelle McNutt Sentenced To Life. Finally. After Only 35 Years of Getting Cut Loose for Rape After Rape.

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Atlanta serial rapist Lavelle (Lavel, Lavell) McNutt was sentenced to life this week for two rapes and two other assaults that occurred while the convicted sex offender was working in Atlanta’s Fox Sports Grill restaurant.  When you look at McNutt’s prior record of sexual assaults and other crimes, you really have to wonder what inspired the owners of Fox Grill to endanger female employees and customers by choosing to employ him.

Particularly with McNutt’s history of stalking women.  Particularly with the length of his record, and the density of his recidivism.  Was some manager actually sympathetic to McNutt’s hard-luck story?  This is no record to overlook.  Below is my partial round-up of the crimes I could find on-line.  I’m sure there’s more in arrest reports.  This guy is the classic compulsive* offender.

[*Of course, in using words like “compulsive,” I speak strictly as an amateur. Northeastern University Criminologist James Alan Fox has handed down an edict informing all non-criminologists that they are not to use fancy criminologist lingo when talking about crime.  Crime victims, especially, are not supposed to use big words or act like they know stuff.  Furthermore, they’re not supposed to become journalists, because they’re, like, totally damaged.]

James Alan Fox, Professional

We’ll return to Dr. Fox soon.  Very soon.  Back to McNutt:

McNutt’s first adult rape conviction, for two separate rapes in New York State, occurred in 1976, just after he turned 18. When you see an 18-year old convicted of a serious offense, you have to wonder about the contents of his sealed juvenile record: 18-year olds don’t wake up one day, break into the first house they see, and rape the occupant. They usually start experimenting with sexual abuse early in adolescence, victimizing their siblings, peers, and other easy targets. How many children and young women had already been sexually assaulted by McNutt by the time he aged out of the juvenile system?

I believe those victims exist, and that unlike Lavelle McNutt, they were abandoned by society. There’s no way to sugarcoat it: the football coaches and college presidents who treated McNutt like a victim because he was a rapist abetted him in his crimes, thus sentencing his victims to a lifetime without justice.

The two rape victims in the New York State cases were also denied justice, only in a different way. McNutt was sentenced to a preposterously light term of five years for the two rapes. He served less than three years of that, and by 1979 he was a college student at Atlanta’s Morehouse University. Almost immediately, he was charged in another sexual assault, this time for aggravated sodomy. In May, 1979, he began serving a seven-year sentence for that crime. He got out in three years.

In 1982, Lavelle McNutt was 24 years old and already had three adult sexual assault convictions on his record. Two years later, he was convicted of aggravated assault in Clayton County. Was that a rape case, pled down to a non-sexual charge? He also had a burglary conviction in Fulton County, date unknown. Burglary and aggravated assault charges from the early 1980’s might very well have been rapes, or attempted rapes. Atlanta was notorious at that time for going easy on sex offenders — thanks largely to irresponsible jurors who rendered sex crime prosecutions almost impossible to win, regardless of the circumstances. An ugly contempt for victims of rape was the status quo in the courts. The malaise incited by public prejudices towards victims crashed the entire system, and Atlanta was a rapist’s paradise. And a victim’s nightmare. It would be very interesting to know more about those crimes.

In 1984, McNutt was sentenced to five years for the aggravated assault. Oddly, he did serve nearly all of that sentence, receiving only a few months off, probably for the time he was behind bars awaiting sentencing. This is another reason I suspect that the underlying crime was something more serious than aggravated assault. In any case, for five years the public was protected from him. Pre-sentencing reform, this was the best a prosecutor could do. In August, 1989, he was free again.

In 1992, McNutt was charged in Fulton County with the offense called “Peeping Tom.” Funny as that sounds, he was probably casing out a victim to rape or amusing himself between more serious attacks. He received three years for the Fulton crime and 12 months for a crime labeled “other misdemeanor” in Gwinnett County. He was out again two years later, in 1994.

And then the crimes started again. Disturbingly, there are parole officials and possibly prosecutors and judges in Metro Atlanta who then ignored Georgia’s new sentencing laws and continued to illegally grant McNutt leniency, enabling him to rape even more women.  Why is nobody in the Atlanta media looking up these cases and asking the corrections department, to explain their actions?  If I was one of McNutt’s later victims, I’d sue everybody involved in cutting him loose.

Georgia’s sentencing reform law was passed in 1994. It was supposed to enhance sentencing for repeat offenders and extend sentences significantly for so-called “serious violent offenders.” But the law was passed with several default mechanisms that enabled judges to keep releasing repeat offenders onto the streets. Consider this language:

Except as otherwise provided in subsection (b) of this Code section, any person convicted of a felony offense in this state or having been convicted under the laws of any other state or of the United States of a crime which if committed within this state would be a felony and sentenced to confinement in a penal institution, who shall afterwards commit a felony punishable by confinement in a penal institution, shall be sentenced to undergo the longest period of time prescribed for the punishment of the subsequent offense of which he or she stands convicted, provided that, unless otherwise provided by law, the trial judge may, in his or her discretion, probate or suspend the maximum sentence prescribed for the offense [italics inserted]. (O.C.G.A. 17-10-7)

In other words, a criminal must be sentenced to the maximum penalty the second time he is convicted of a felony unless the judge decides to sentence him to something other than the maximum penalty, such as no time at all, as in the case of six-time home burglar Johnny Dennard. What is the point of a law like this? The point is that the criminal defense bar still controlled the Georgia Legislature in 1994, and other elected officials lacked the courage to stand up to them. The rest of the story is that too many judges betray disturbing pro-defendant biases, even when it comes to violent predators like Lavelle McNutt.

Nevertheless, other portions of the 1994 sentencing reform law did strengthen sentences for repeat offenders. In 1996, McNutt was charged with aggravated assault and stalking in Fulton County. Aggravated assault is not one of the “seven deadly sins” that trigger sentencing as a “serious violent felon” under the 1994 act: if it were, he would have been sentenced to life without parole due to his prior rape convictions.

Yet even as a “non-serious violent felon” repeat offender, McNutt was still required under the 1994 sentencing reform act to serve the entire sentence for his crimes. But he didn’t. He was sentenced to six years and served less than four. He walked into prison in January, 1997 and walked out again three and a half years later, in July of 2000. Even counting the time he may have spent cooling his heels in the Fulton County jail before being transferred to the state prison (or maybe not), he was out of prison four years and two months after the date of the crime for which he was sentenced to no less than six years behind bars, with no parole.

Here is the code section that restricts parole for four-time felons:

[A]ny person who, after having been convicted under the laws of this state for three felonies or having been convicted under the laws of any other state or of the United States of three crimes which if committed within this state would be felonies, commits a felony within this state other than a capital felony must, upon conviction for such fourth offense or for subsequent offenses, serve the maximum time provided in the sentence of the judge based upon such conviction and shall not be eligible for parole until the maximum sentence has been served. (from O.C.G.A. 17 -10-7)

Can anybody explain the fact that McNutt was granted parole? Who let him go early, apparently in direct violation of Georgia’s reformed sentencing law? Did the prosecutors fail to record his three prior felony convictions dating back to 1976 — two rapes (counted as one, unfortunately), aggravated sodomy, and the 1984 aggravated assault? Did the judge ignore the law of Georgia in sentencing McNutt? Did the Department of Corrections ignore the no-parole rule? Who is responsible?

These questions remain unanswered since 2009. Heck, they remain unasked, in the Atlanta media market.  More questions:

  • Why didn’t the judge give McNutt a longer sentence in the first place? How could any judge look at the accumulated evidence of violently predatory sexual behavior, of repeat offenses rolling in after each brief incarceration, and not decide that it was his or her duty to protect the public for longer than six years? Does anybody on the criminal justice bench in Atlanta even contemplate public safety in sentencing?
  • Why was McNutt charged with stalking and aggravated assault for the same incident? Was he actually attempting to commit a sexual assault? Could he have been charged with attempted sexual assault instead, a charge that would have triggered the life sentence (read: 14 years) as a serious violent felon and repeat offender? Was he permitted to plead to a charge that didn’t carry life imprisonment? Did the Fulton prosecutor’s office do everything it could do to keep McNutt off the streets, given his disturbing prior history and relentless sequence of serious crimes?
  • Was McNutt’s DNA checked before he was released from prison in 2000? Could other rapes have been solved, and charged, before he walked out of prison again? How many rapes could have been prevented, including the four recent Buckhead-area sex crimes, if this had been done? His first adult rape conviction occurred in 1976 — his latest rape charges occurred quite recently. Does anybody believe he took a twenty-year hiatus from hunting and torturing women?

I have said before that if McNutt had been labelled a hate criminal, someone in the media, or the legal world, or the activist circuit, would have cared.  Serial rapists are hate criminals, at least by the definition created by the activists, no matter how much these same activists try to keep rapes of women out of the discussion.

For, serial rapists choose one random victim after another to target; they attack the things that make their victims women (their sexual organs, and the same goes for serial rapists who target men); they use sexual slurs while violating their bodies; they attempt to degrade them; they spread fear among other women.  So why didn’t the hate crime activists utter a peep over McNutt’s crimes, or the crimes of any of the other serial rapists blighting women’s lives in Atlanta over the years? Why does the media give hate crime activists a pass — the gay groups, the Anti-Defamation League, the NAACP, CAIR, and Justice Department officials, especially Eric Holder –as they labor hard behind the scenes to keep serial rapes from being counted as hate crimes?

At the very time hate crime activists in Atlanta were busy trying to find the first case that would showcase their new law in the way they wished (the Georgia law is since overturned), Lavelle McNutt slipped out of prison, unnoticed.

Lavelle McNutt had been a free man since July, 2000, working in Atlanta-area restaurants, even managing them. He wasn’t hiding. As if his prior record isn’t bad enough, the current allegations about him are sickening: an informant reported that he carried “duct tape, wigs, lubricant and sex toys” in his car, to use during sexual assaults.

McNutt has now been sentenced for two rapes and two other assaults between 2007 and 2009. And what was he doing between 2000 and 2007?  Where was he?

In April 2007, authorities said, McNutt raped a woman inside her Sandy Springs home on Riverside Drive after holding a knife to her neck and bounding her with duct tape.

Later in February 2009, McNutt was charged with being a Peeping Tom after a woman at Macy’s at Lenox Square in Buckhead discovered a man watching her disrobe in the women’s dressing room.

In March 2009, prosecutors say McNutt attacked a Buckhead woman as she was leaving her apartment on Canterbury Road. He began dragging her away when she broke free and ran for help.

That same day in March, McNutt stole the purse and apartment key card of a woman walking her dog in Piedmont Park. The next day the woman found underwear missing from her home and later discovered hanging in a tree.

She is lucky she didn’t walk in on him.  Lavelle McNutt is a dangerous sadist.  Gerald Ford was president when he was first caught.  Gerald Ford.  The Bicentennial.  Patty Hearst.  Farrah Fawcett.  Apple computers invented.  You know, 35 years ago.

As a society, we simply lack the willpower to behave as if certain crime victims even deserve justice.

It took 35 years to put McNutt away.  Next, I predict, activists will begin trying to overturn his life sentence.  We aren’t done paying for this guy’s lawyers yet.

[formatting updated 8/18/11]

The Green Mile Syndrome: David Lee Powell Was Not Innocent. His Victims Are Not Hateful.

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Someone claiming to be cop-killer David Powell’s cousin has written me, accusing Powell’s victims and the justice system of various sins.  Unsupported allegations like these too often pass for debate over the death penalty in the mainstream media.  Therefore, it’s worth a look, though the slurs Powell’s cousin tosses at the victims ought to just be trash canned.  See here and here for my previous posts on Powell.

The writer, John Struve, makes several assertions about minutiae of the appeals process — assertions that should be taken with a very large grain of salt, for he offers no proof.  It’s not as if the courts didn’t revisit these cases in detail: that is why it took 30 years to execute Powell.  It’s not as if Struve lacks access to the court documents.  But he feels no need to back up his claims, and in this, the media has unfortunately trained him to need no proof as he says everything and anything about the case against Powell.

For, while a technical error or defense-biased evidentiary rules can blow a strong case for the prosecution, the defense suffers no consequences for repetitively and flagrantly lying.  Many activists and defense lawyers feel that such lies are an honorable act — a sort of noble rot that produces the always-desired outcome of avoiding consequences for crime.

If Mr. Struve would like to send actual documentation backing up any of his assertions here, I’ll post it.  But his claims sound like the type made loudly and repetitively — in cases like Troy Davis’ in Georgia — that lazy reporters reprint without looking into the original court records, or the prosecution arguments, or the trail of appeals.

John Struve’s letter:

You are all so short sighted. The fact still remains that the dying Ralph Ablanedo, when asked who did this, said, ” a girl” and “That damn girl.”

Powell’s female accomplice was the driver.  Powell opened fire not once, but twice on officers.  Ablenado’s dying words are being misrepresented, which is an awful thing to do.

Several officers testified at Sheila’s parole hearing in 1982 stating that she was a future danger to society and that she did all the shooting and threw the grenade. Unfortunately, this information was not released to us, the family, until 2002, and the prosecutors at that time thought it would be easier to get the death penalty for a man than a woman. He had already exhausted all of his appeals by this time.

Actually, the female accomplice testified that Powell thrust a grenade at her, but she wasn’t able to deploy it right.  I’m sure the officers testified that the she should never get out of prison.  I would be very surprised if they testified that she “did all the shooting.”  Struve appears to be accusing these police of lying in their original testimony in the Powell trial — a serious allegation.  Defamation of character is actionable.

Incidentally, if this case were tried today, changes in the law would make it easier to hold all offenders responsible for a crime in which someone is murdered.

Now a human being that had definite reasonable doubt of guilt has been murdered.

Not true.

Just like Cameron Todd Willingham.

The Powell case has nothing to do with the Willingham case.  The Willingham case, in which a man was executed for setting the fire which killed his three small children, is another cause celebré, thanks to wildly biased and strangely querulous reporting in the New Yorker.

Why is it that New Yorker editors seem to thrill at watching predators prey on the great unwashed?

Meanwhile, back in the real world, forensic scientists are revisiting the Willingham case.  But cherry-picked claims about the fire itself, which constitutes the much-publicized defense, ignores other forensic evidence and the actual testimony that put Willingham behind bars (and you can buy expert witnesses to say anything — they charge by the act, as do many professionals).

I’m not going to bother to link to anything regarding Willingham.  The local news reporting, read in total, explains the controversy.  Virtually everything else should be read with a highly critical eye.  Embarrassingly, even Wikipedia places the word “alleged” before prosecution testimony that passed courtroom muster while allowing defense testimony which failed to pass muster to be stated as fact.  Pretty unprofessional of them, but that’s typical of reporting in these cases.

It’s death by a thousand cuts for the truth. Back to John Struve:

I am 33 years old, so my cousin David had been in jail my entire life.

Officer Ablenado has been dead for the last 33 years of his sons’ lives.  Shame on Struve for attempting to insert himself into that tragedy.

Once it came to a point where justice had failed due to officer and political vengeance

Again, defamation?

that caused the truth to be buried, we realized that we needed to embrace that David was guilty of this single act.

And then there was the auto theft, petty theft, stockpiling weapons, drug dealing, over 100 bad checks — yeah, he was a boy scout carrying hand grenades and automatic rifles around in a car, serially ripping off innocent people by the scores.  Come on.

Maybe not the one who pulled the trigger, but definitely responsible as the law of parties would suggest. He took that responsibility, although up to his murder, always stated that he has no recollection of what happened that dreadfully fateful night. All we wanted was for his life to be spared. Please read his story at letdavidlive.org before jumping on the “eye for an eye” human written testament of justice bandwagon dated over 2000 years ago.

Crying “vengeance” is offensive.  Struve doesn’t know these people.

If killing 100 evil people means that even 1 is innocent, then that indicates that the entire system is dysfunctional. Just think if it were you or someone you loved that was truly innocent. Now, my only hope is that the Willingham and David’s cases serve as martyrs to help us move from the 18th century into the new world where people actually think instead of seek blood for blood. Since David was put to death, then you should

See, we are all vengeful.  Bloodthirsty.  If I had a dime for every time some bloated defense attorney wannabe accused me of wanting innocent people to suffer . . . I still wouldn’t have enough money to buy enough earplugs.

all believe that Officer Leonardo Quintana should be held to the same standards. [?]   The unredacted Key Point report specifically states that his reckless tactics were what caused the police sanctioned murder of a defenseless individual, Nathaniel Sanders III. And unlike David, he had a history of reported violations prior to committing his murder. I used to be a huge proponent of the death penalty, but as I go through life, as I probably would have felt during the Spanish Inquisition, I question the tactics that we, as a society, use to punish individuals for acts of behavior “outside” that of what is considered the norm.

Behavior “outside” that of what is considered to norm? Is Struve equating blowing away an innocent public servant and trying to murder several others (whom Powell shot at, and missed) with, say, changing radio stations or hairstyles?

My brother is a Texas State Trooper. If he were killed in the line of duty or otherwise, I would not want the death penalty for the accused. If he were to murder someone on the taxpayer’s dime or not, I would not want him to receive the death penalty. Now we mourn. Next we move forward with our efforts to abolish the death penalty 1st in Texas, then in the entire United States. NOTE: What do you do when it is later found out that someone WE executed is found to be innocent? Go to their grave and pour some Mickey’s on it?

Nice.  Struve places his feelings above the officer’s family’s, makes himself the center of attention, accuses the real victims of heinous, animalistic rage, defames scores of police officers, and then accuses society of failing to live up to his standards of morality.  So much of this activism is a sickness, parading around as morality.

I wonder if this John Struve is the same person who sent me an anonymous e-mail celebrating the recent murder of Chicago Officer Thomas Wortham?  The sentiment sounds similar.

I welcome any suggestions for identifying anonymous e-mails.

~~~

You don’t have to support the death penalty (I don’t) to be disgusted by what passes for activism and reporting on death row cases.  An enormous, fact-free myth system has been built up around allegations that innocent men fill our prisons and molder nobly on death row.  This “Green Mile” syndrome, indulged by politicians and priests and professors — and more journalists than you could shake a forest of redwoods at — well, it has consequences.  It abuses the real victims, because they are falsely accused of everything from ransacking the justice system to being simply evil.

Careless reporting gives careless people free reign.

Consider the Troy Davis case. It has also become a cause celebré.  The Atlanta Journal Constitution has reported ceaselessly on the activism for Davis and editorially advocated for him.  Yet, nowhere in their reporting (unless there are articles that have never appeared on-line) have they bothered to mention the subject of forensic evidence withheld by the original trial court on a technicality, evidence that strongly supports Davis’ guilt.  Nor have they addressed the case made by prosecutors who were (quite unusually) freed up to discuss evidence against Davis after the Supreme Court made an unusual decision to revisit that evidence.

Nor have they mentioned efforts by Davis’ lawyers to keep physical evidence from being considered as the case gets revisited, thanks to the Supreme Court’s actions.  No, you couldn’t possibly trust the public with information about the real issues at stake in the Davis case, and other death row appeals.  Atlanta readers — by far the largest audience of Davis supporters — know nothing of any of this, unless they read Savannah papers:

Black shorts evidence:  After months of wrangling over evidence and legal issues, attorneys for the state’s attorney general’s office last week asked permission to submit Georgia Bureau of Investigation reports concerning “blood examination on pair of black shorts recovered from (Davis’) mother’s home on Aug. 19, 1989.”  They also asked to submit a report of DNA typing of the item.  Davis’ lawyers cried foul, urging Moore not to allow the evidence which they called “untimely” and “of questionable probative value.”  They argued it would “clearly prejudice” (Davis’) ability to rebut the contents of the report.  The jury hearing Davis’ 1991 trial never heard about the shorts after Chatham County Superior Court Judge James W. Head barred them from evidence because of what he found was police coercion of Davis’ mother, Virginia Davis, when she arrived near her Sylvester Drive home Aug. 19, 1989.  Police seized the shorts from a dryer while searching for the murder weapon.

And this must-read from the Chatham County D.A., published last year in the Savannah Morning News:

Chatham County’s district attorney explains why he’s not concerned that an innocent man may be put to death.

Many people are concerned that an innocent man is about to be put to death. I know this, and I understand it. I am not likewise concerned, however, and I want to explain why.

The only information the public has had in the 17 years since Troy Davis’ conviction has been generated by people ideologically opposed to the death penalty, regardless of the guilt or innocence of the accused.

While they have shouted, we have been silent. The canons of legal ethics prohibit a lawyer – prosecutor and defense counsel alike – from commenting publicly, or engineering public comments, on the issue of guilt or innocence in a pending criminal case.

Now that the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled, the case is over, and I can try to tell our side.

First , Davis’ advocates have insisted that there was no physical evidence in the case. This is not true.

Crime lab tests proved that the shell casings recovered from the shooting of Michael Cooper at a party earlier in the evening were fired from the same weapon as the casings recovered from the scene of Officer Mark MacPhail’s murder. Davis was convicted of shooting Cooper.

And, while it isn’t physical evidence, consider the “testimony” of Officer MacPhail himself: When he comes to the rescue of a homeless man being harassed and pistol-whipped, the officer ran past Sylvester Coles on his way to catch Davis. This makes Davis the only one of those two with a motive to shoot Officer MacPhail. Yet Davis’ lawyers argue to condemn Coles for shooting MacPhail. Why would he?

In fact, Davis’ advocates are eager to condemn Coles based on evidence far weaker than their characterization of the evidence against Davis. Where is their sense of fairness? This is the same Sylvester Coles who promptly presented himself to police, and who was advised by counsel to tell all that he knew – with his lawyer not even present. Which he did. No lawyer who even faintly suspects a client of criminal conduct would let him talk to the police without counsel.

Second , they claim that seven of nine witnesses have recanted their trial testimony. This is not believable.

To be sure, they’ve produced affidavits; a few handwritten and apparently voluntarily and spontaneous, except for concluding with “further the affiant sayeth not.” Who wrote that stuff? The lawyers, perhaps?

The law is understandably skeptical of post-trial “newly-discovered evidence.”

Such evidence as these affidavits might, for example, be paid for, or coerced, or the product of fading memory.

If every verdict could be set aside by the casual acceptance of a witness’s changing his mind or suggesting uncertainty, decades after the event, it is easy to see how many cases would have to be tried at least twice (perhaps ad infinitum).

Thus the law sets strict standards for such “newly discovered” evidence.

For example, it cannot be for a lack of diligence that the new evidence was not discovered sooner, and the defendant is expected to present that evidence at the earliest possible time.

Yet these affidavits were not offered in a motion for new trial until eight days before the first scheduled execution in 2008 seventeen years after Davis’ conviction. If this affidavit evidence was so compelling, why didn’t they rush to seek a new trial in 2003 when they had most of the affidavits they now rely upon? Or collect those affidavits earlier?

Each of the now-“recanting” witnesses was closely questioned at trial by lawyers representing Davis, specifically on the question whether they were in any way pressured or coerced by police in giving their statements or testimony. All denied it.

And while an 80 percent recantation rate – the first in the history of the world ? – may seem to some as overwhelmingly persuasive, to others of us it invites a suggestion of uncanny coincidence, making it very difficult to believe.

Third , they claim that their “newly discovered evidence” (i.e., the recantations) hasn’t been adequately considered by the courts. This is not true.

The affidavits, in various combinations, had already been reviewed by 29 judges in seven different types of review, over the course of 17 years, before Tuesday’s ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court.

The state Parole Board halted the execution in 2007, saying they wouldn’t allow a possibly innocent man to be executed. Then, after more than a year of reviewing all of the evidence on both sides, and hearing from every witness Davis’ lawyers presented – including Davis – they refused to grant clemency.

The trial was fair. Davis was represented by superbly skilled criminal defense lawyers. He was convicted by a fair jury (seven black and five white). The post conviction stridency we’ve seen has been much about the death penalty and little about Troy Davis.

The jury found that Davis, after shooting another man earlier in the evening, murdered a police officer who came to the rescue of a homeless man Davis had beaten. Mark MacPhail had never even drawn his weapon.

A more complete discussion of these – and other – points can be found at Chathamcounty.org/vwap/html [link gone]
Spencer Lawton Jr. is Chatham County District Attorney.

Why would the AJC be so coy, essentially misleading an audience of millions on crucial elements of physical evidence in a controversial case?  Because what they are doing is not reporting: it is advocating for Davis.  Ditto Davis supporters like the Pope, Bob Barr, Jimmy Carter and Desmond Tutu — none of whom, I’m sure, bothered to reach out to Officer MacPhail’s family.

As I’ve said before, oppose the death penalty on grounds of universal ethics, or opposition to state-administered death, but when you make a faux hero out of a murderous, worthless criminal like Troy Davis, you are doing so at the cost of the humanity and dignity of the real victims.

Slain Officer Mark Allen MacPhail’s Children

Officer Mark Allen MacPhail’s Website

Clockwork Riots, L.A. Lakers Style: These Are Not Sports Fans

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Imagine the crappiest job in the world:

You put on your Men’s Warehouse suit and drive to the office, dreading the inevitable outcome of the day.  Settling into your cubicle, you arrange the day’s work on the chipped laminate desk: a billy club, mace, and a copy of the quarterly budget figures for your division, awaiting approval from above.  In the next cubicle, Joey H. is already rocking back and forth in his mesh swivel knockoff, working the screws on one of the padded armrests.

The word comes from headquarters right before lunch: the budget numbers are good.

Joey lets out a guttural shriek, rips the loosened arm off his chair and kicks the front wall off his cubicle, still howling.  You grab the mace and billyclub and follow him as he tears a path of destruction to the break room, carefully avoiding getting too close, shouting at him to step down.

Joey ignores you and smacks out a fluorescent light fixture with his arm-rest, sending bits of glass and toxic powder all over accounting.  Then he pulls a wad of gasoline-soaked newspaper out of his pocket, lights it with a lighter, and throws the flaming mass in the paper recycling bin by the door.

Mike D. wearily rises from his desk, shouldering his fire extinguisher, and heads for the blaze.

You follow Joey into the break room.  He’s already used a folding chair to demolish the front of the snack machine, filling his pockets with KitKats while chanting “We’re Number One.”  You notice he’s been working out.

“Put the Kit Kats down, Joey,” you say.

“F*** You, Pig-Man,” he screams, winging a full Red Bull can at your face.  Luckily, you thought to wear your plexi face shied to work today.  Now that you’ve cornered him, Joey head-buts your belly.  That hurts.  You smack him a few times with the billy-club, always aware that the altercation is being recorded on security cameras for later review.  Finally, you manage to subdue him with the help of Kathy P., the new associate from sales.  She’s brought her handcuffs, and Joey’s taken off to the bathroom to wash up and get ready for Personnel to review the security tapes.

Later that day, the verdict comes back from Human Resources.  While you should have tried to stop Joey before he broke the front of the snack machine, you’re not going to get docked pay for using excessive force subduing him, like last quarter.  Kathy P. however, is going to have to go before the panel and explain why she bruised Joey H.’s wrist while snapping the handcuffs on.

Cop Injured By Lakers Enthusiasm

Joey H. gets assigned five hours of community service, which immediately gets suspended, as HR is testing a new program which will use positive messaging and self-esteem training to encourage him to stop setting the office on fire.  (Nancy W., still recovering from those lycra burns from the spring quarter numbers, stifles a bitter laugh).  Joey takes the rest of the afternoon off to meet his new esteem coach at the Starbucks.  The rest of the staff gets down to sweeping up broken glass and trying to scrub the scorch marks off the walls while running the numbers on the cost of replacing the carpet.

All except Kathy P., who is hiding in the bathroom to avoid those a-holes from PR who want to snap her picture and use it to illustrate a story they’re writing about the proper way to subdue a co-worker.  You settle into your smoke-fill cubicle and tug your rumpled necktie, wishing you could take it off as you start in on the stack of paperwork explaining your actions.

It’s going to be a long night.  There’s no way you’re going to catch that Lakers game.

~~~

That job would really suck.

It’s called “policing.”

I think most police would be grateful if the media and political leaders would just drop the fiction that such premeditated and utterly predictable riots (oh, I’m sorry, University of Santa Cruz: “uprisings”) really have anything to do with uncontrollable fan excitement over sporting events.

For every honest person knows that certain sporting events are just used by criminals and criminal wannabes to justify — to schedule — their own main events: destroying property, setting fires, looting stores, and throwing heavy things at policemen who are damned if they do respond and damned if they don’t respond.  The Los Angeles Times described the mayhem this time as a “a sour note as Los Angeles Police Department officers clashed with rowdy fans.”  Clashed with?

Imagine what a strictly factual report would say:

Police were forced to prepare for weeks in advance, planning and deploying tactical forces at great personal risk, including risk of lawsuits, and all at taxpayer expense, to try to minimize the anticipated violent lawbreaking scheduled for the conclusion of the Lakers game.

Rowdy fans? Do these look like rowdy fans, or do they look like people who showed up knowing they’d have some consequence-free fun breaking things and attacking bystanders and cops?

Alas, there’s always an apologist in academia ready to argue against personal responsibility:

Psychologist and author Robert Cialdini, who has studied the behavior of sports fans, said the seemingly inevitable reaction by fans on the winning side is rooted not only in the emotional connection they build to their teams but in a chemical one as well.  Fans are so heavily invested in their teams that studies have shown that their testosterone levels spike significantly after they watch a major victory, Cialdini said. Elevated levels of the hormone are known to cause increased aggression, especially in young men.

See, they’re not responsible.  They’re just hormonal.

“When the team wins, we win and we feel it in a very personal way,” Cialdini said. “We’re likely to experience a great sense of arousal and joy even though we haven’t done anything.”

OK, why do people riot when their team loses, too?  Shouldn’t they be taking up needlepoint and thinking about changing their hairstyles instead?  And does this really look like joy over a championship season?

~~~

How about holding the rioters accountable, instead of the police? L.A.T. columnist Sandy Banks did acknowledge that the police presence was necessary, but even she couldn’t resist minimizing the actions of the criminals and reserving too much irritation for the cops putting their lives on the line . . . to protect people like her.  It’s certainly a step in the right direction, but why is it so difficult to look at images like this and just blame the guilty parties . . . full stop?

The antics of a bunch of losers shouldn’t obscure the patience, goodwill and high spirits of the thousands of fans who ventured downtown for a communal party and wound up being treated like pariahs. . .  The basketball game had barely begun when LAPD officers were summoned to dispatch growing crowds in the area.  “Keep moving, keep moving.” The command came over the loudspeaker as a phalanx of officers advanced, moving us off the paseo and onto crowded Figueroa Street. They pulled metal gates across the entrance to the complex to keep us out. . . . [The police] deserve a lot of credit for controlling the chaos. Everywhere you looked there were cops: on horseback, scooters, motorcycles and bikes, in buzzing helicopters and siren-blaring black-and-whites. If that set some nerves on edge, it also made clear who was in charge.  But it was hard not to feel unwanted. “If you don’t have a ticket, go home” was the officers’ message — explicitly delivered and universally ignored.

Throwing chunks of concrete at cops’ heads and trying to pull people out of their vehicles aren’t “antics.”  And what Banks labels a police message here is actually a message from the criminals, to people like her: they own the streets, and law abiding people don’t.  The police were merely stuck in the middle, trying to prevent innocent people from being injured by violent, lawless criminals.

I’d like to see Ms. Banks follow up by following the cases of fifty-or-so rioters arrested for violent “antics,” as they get serially dismissed by the courts.

Maybe then she’ll gain a better understanding of why it really is that L.A. — and other cities, like Atlanta — can’t host public events for decent people like her.  And the answer has nothing to do with whether your team wins, or how the police react to it.

Jordan Gibson, Jose Reyes, Wilson Gomez, Leonard Scroggins: “I didn’t want to be one of those cases where you find my remains three years from now.”

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You wouldn’t know it from the way many in the media cover crime, but recidivists with extremely violent records are still routinely cut loose from prison early, or allowed to stay free while awaiting trial.

Or allowed to attend high school with nobody knowing they’re sex offenders.

But wait, isn’t America supposed to be a police state, where people sometimes shockingly serve full sentences for their crimes?  Not in these cases:

Jordan Anthony Gibson, Atlanta, Georgia:

Gibson is currently a suspect in multiple rapes.  But even though he was caught in 2009 with items belonging to the rape victims, it took police a year to get back DNA results from the State Crime Lab positively tying him to two of the sex crimes.  This story says a lot about the state’s priorities, letting a suspected serial rapist’s DNA collect dust on a shelf for 13 months while some judge actually let the suspect walk free.  It also says a lot about the way the defense bar has convinced the judiciary to raise the bar way too high on evidence in criminal convictions: why isn’t being in possession of rape victims’ property enough to try someone for rape?  Why couldn’t he have been tried, or at least actually held under real supervision, on burglary or robbery charges until the DNA came back?  Don’t we have enough laws on the books to keep people like this off the streets for their other crimes.  of course, that would involve the courts actually displaying a commitment to treating crime like crime.

Part of the problem is the perception that crimes like burglary and robbery are now deemed too minor to even address.  And we know who to thank for that.  yet, somehow, the Atlanta Journal Constitution wants you to believe that we are far too harsh on criminals.  And so, you have a man now known to be a serial rapist, who could have been prosecuted for robbery and kept behind bars as the rape investigation continued, instead set free for a year as the crime lab didn’t bother to prioritize its work in a timely way.  Money problems?  Well, then, they should be using a case like this one to yell from the rooftops that they need more funds.  They don’t make waves like that, though.

Nor do Atlanta’s politically motivated “victim advocates” — many of them campus rape activists — who would rather berate all men for alleged sexist insensitivities than get their fingers dirty actually advocating for swift justice against a real rapist.  Oh, for the days when there were real feminists.  Here’s the serial rape story:

Police charged a man Friday for two of a string of rapes early last year along the Briarcliff Road corridor. DeKalb County Police investigators believe Jordon Anthony Gibson may be responsible for more sexual assaults, however.  Gibson, arrested Thursday, had been in police custody [that’s an ankle monitor, not jail] for more than a year on related charges.  On April 11, 2009, Gibson, 19, was stopped for a traffic violation, and police found property from the rape victims inside his car, DeKalb County police spokesman Jason Gagnon said.  Police, at the time, charged him with several counts of robbery, but continued to consider him as a person of interest in the series of rapes, Gagnon said.  DNA samples were taken from Gibson at the time of his arrest, but they were returned only a few weeks ago, police said.  The GBI’s results showed Gibson to be a positive match in two of the rapes.

Umm, so why wasn’t he arrested weeks ago?  Why wasn’t he picked up the very same day that the DNA results were known?  What exactly does it take to remove a dangerous, DNA-identified rapist from the streets, especially when he’s facing a long prison sentence?  Why did the warrant take “weeks” after the DNA match?

“We had a strong feeling that he was our guy, just due to the fact that those sexual assaults discontinued the minute he was arrested,” Gagnon told the AJC. “However, we didn’t have the evidence.  After the robbery charges, Gibson was released on a $60,000 bond and given an ankle monitor.  “We wanted to keep up with him,” Gagnon said.  There were at least five more rape victims for whom Gibson’s DNA did not match.  “Sometimes DNA can possibly be tainted,” Gagnon said, in explaining why there were not more matches.  As far as waiting a year for DNA results, Gagnon said investigators were patient.  “We’re just glad it came,” he said.

Look, at some point, somebody in the system needs to stand up and say:

Waiting a year for DNA results in serial rapes with the main suspect out in the community is NOT acceptable.  Having a court system in which we can’t even push a robbery conviction to get a suspected rapist behind bars while we investigate his other crimes is NOT acceptable.  If the courts are so distracted and overwhelmed that they can’t process a case like this in less than 13 months; if the DA doesn’t feel it is a priority to get a guy like this off the streets ASAP, then we really don’t have justice.  We really don’t have courts; we really don’t have prosecutors who can say they’re representing the people.  We don’t have anybody bothering to prevent the next preventable rape.

I understand why a cop can’t say this.  What I don’t understand is why a judge won’t say it.  Somebody needs to be the person who has the courage to challenge this type of utter failure.

Somebody . . .  some politician, some DA, some well-paid victim activist, needs to speak up.

~~~

Because when nobody speaks up, this is what happens: Jose Reyes, Seattle, Washington

A convicted sex offender is accused of raping a special education student at Seattle’s Roosevelt High School. KING 5 [news] has learned some staff [k]new a sex offender was at the school, but parents and students did not.  Prosecutors say 18-year-old Jose Reyes convinced a 14-year-old freshman to go into a girls bathroom at Roosevelt to make out. But, he then forced himself on the student. Other students believe he was in some sort of relationship with the girl.  Few at Roosevelt knew about Reyes’ disturbing past:  In January of 2007, police say Reyes lured a 10-year-old-girl into a public library parking garage and asked her to take off her pants.  In April of 2007, he was charged with trying to lure an 11-year-old girl at a [G]reenwood park. And in May 2007, he tried the same thing with a five-year-old girl, asking her to sit on his lap in exchange for trading cards.

And those are the crimes he was caught committing.  Of course, if this were the New York Times reporting the story, they would probably describe Reyes as the victim of a vile Romeo and Juliet law and leave out the part about the five-year old.

When Reyes started school this year, certain teachers, staff and security were told that he is a Level 2 sex offender. State law dictates that no one else is required to be notified.  Many parents say that’s ridiculous. . . The Seattle School District says while Roosevelt was notified of Reyes’ sex offender status, the report did not give details about his past and that report never made it from police to the school district itself.

I wonder why Reyes was granted a Level 2 status, given that he was a recidivist who targeted extremely young victims.  Should his age matter, when he predated small children?  Were some of the charges dropped (like they are always dropped), and that is why he was free to rape a special ed. student?

Shouldn’t every sex crime be prosecuted?

~~~

And shouldn’t sex crime cases take less than, say, a decade to process?  Especially when the rapist spends that time walking free on the streets and then commits another sex assault?  Was this a DNA-delayed case?  Something else?  Wilson Gomez, Brandon Florida:

A Brandon man already facing rape charges from last year was arrested Saturday morning on similar charges, according to an arrest report.  Deputies arrested Wilson Gomez, 50, at his home at 202 Mason St., after, they say, he had sex with a woman who did not give her consent. He is charged with sexual battery, the report said.  Gomez was arrested in 2009 and charged with sexual battery using a deadly weapon or force causing injury in connection with a 2001 incident, jail records show. According to Hillsborough County court records, these charges are part of an ongoing case and he has not been convicted.  Gomez is held without bail at the Orient Road Jail.

It seems that when offenders know they’re going to jail, they often act out.  Why don’t judges see this?  Why do they keep letting dangerous predators go free to await trial?  Like, in the next case.

~~~

Leonard Earl Scroggins, San Diego, California:

Scroggins is a convicted recidivist sex offender (very) recently out on parole who was allowed to remain loose even after fondling a child a few days after getting out of prison.  Astonishingly, San Diego Deputy District Attorney Enrique Camarena feels that letting the two-time convict remain free after the sex offense against a child was a sign that the system is working, because Scroggins is now facing life in prison for removing his monitoring anklet and sexually assaulting four other females in a crime spree last week, including a 13-year old girl he stabbed and tried to kidnap at knife-point and another woman attacked with a knife.

That means the system is working?  Using women and children as prey because we’ve raised the bar so much on prosecuting anyone for anything that you practically have to kill a child to get put away?  That’s a solution?  What does the system look like when it’s  not working?

The prosecutor in the case says he is not frustrated with the system even though Scroggins has a history of breaking the law and violating parole.  “Unfortunately we have to get to this point where the guy commits serious acts on consecutive days, to multiple victims to get to this point where he is going to spend the rest of his life in prison. But that’s a big punishment and I think as a society we have to wait until the time is right,” says Camarena.

“Society” has to “wait until” what???  Look, even though he was in Napa Valley, this guy wasn’t selling no wine before its time: he was kidnapping women and children at knife-point after the proud state of California cut him loose early for two previous sex crimes and failed to hold him accountable for attacking a child.  I don’t know if D.A. Camarena is some wanna-be pol using his current office to climb the political ladder, or some wanna-be defense attorney using taxpayers and victims to train for his future job by working for the prosecutor’s office (a not uncommon scenario), or if he is actually a decent law-and-order guy driven insane by the impossibility of bringing charges against anyone for anything these days.  But it is appalling to say that any woman or child should be sacrificed to “serious acts on consecutive days, to multiple victims” to get a bloody prosecution rolling.

Jesus wept.

I don’t quite know how to express this because it should not need to be expressed, but the system wasn’t working when Scroggins walked out of prison early for two rapes.  It wasn’t working when he attacked a child and got away with it in March.  It wasn’t working when he wasn’t punished for violating his parole — by molesting a child — and remained free on an ankle monitor.   It’s not working if you need a high-tide body count before the D.A. feels he can proceed with prosecuting a dangerous recidivist predatory child sex offender.  And if the D.A. reacts to these circumstances by making excuses instead of shouting from the rooftops, something is very, very broken.

Here are Scroggins’ prior offenses.  Or, at least, the ones that someone bothered to prosecute:

Department of Corrections documents show convicted sex offender Leonard Scroggins in and out of prison. Back in the mid-90’s he was sentenced to ten years for rape in Napa County. He served four and a half, but violated his parole twice; finally being released in 2003.  A couple of months later, Scroggins went back to prison after pleading guilty to a terrorist threat involving kidnapping and rape. He again violated parole, and was just released from prison this past March.

That’s two violent sex crimes, three parole violations.  Then came the un-prosecuted child molestation (please drop the “fondling” bit), which apparently led to the ankle monitor but no prison time.  Then the rampage this week, which relieved the District Attorney of actually having to take a stand by trying Scroggins on one child charge before he committed more sex crimes.

Look, I’m sympathetic to the difficulty of getting charges to stick in this joke of a justice system.  But can’t the D.A. so much as express mild disgust that his hands are so tied?  Isn’t that his job?

Meanwhile, as politicians fuss over expensive-yet-futile measures like requiring sex offenders to provide their e-mail addresses and instant messaging names to police, or creating yet another freeway alert system to warn of offenders who are “misbehaving” (their term) or absconded, the one sane voice in the California crime cacophony is that of Scroggin’s 13-year old victim.  She harbors no illusions about the stakes of the game:

Scroggins [put] a knife to the throat of a 13-year-old girl and tr[ied] to drag her into his car.  “He kept repeating in a low voice, ‘Get in the car or I will cut you,”‘ said Guadalupe Perez, an eighth-grader at National City Middle School.  The girl said she screamed and reached for the knife, cutting her finger, then elbowed the man and ran.  “If I didn’t do that, I wouldn’t be here today,” she said.  “I didn’t want to be one of those cases where you find my remains three years from now.”

“I didn’t want to be one of those cases where you find my remains three years from now.”  Shame on the rest of us.

Is Texas Incarceration Policy Really Different Now, Or Is That Cowboy Just A Journalist Riding His Hobbyhorse?

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With a flick of public relations rhetoric, Texas has suddenly become a media darling to criminal justice journalists who previously viewed the state as mean and bloodthirsty.  The sudden transformation of the Lone Star State into the South Massachusetts of empathetic corrections was accomplished entirely in the media, of course, where gaining good PR is as easy as clicking your heels and saying: “I think it’s time we considered alternatives to incarceration, Joe.  This puttin’ people in jail just ain’t working.”

You don’t have to do it, you just have to say it.  Then you hand out lollypops and watch the great reviews (oops, I mean newspaper stories) roll in.

Articles of this stripe all read the same, which is unsurprising, as they start with pure opinion (incarceration is mean and us reporters believe it doesn’t work), proceed to cherrypick other opinions (some judges are looking at drug treatment as an alternative to incarceration, as if they didn’t already), beat in vague inference (drug treatment works, sometimes), add two cups of accusing the public of inventing the problem of crime in their own overactive imaginations (that’s just a “perception” your car got stolen, Ms. Hysteric), all topped with a dollop of political grandstanding (let’s get us some of that drug treatment and stop being mean, like Bob over there, who says he’s “tough” on crime just to get re-elected . . . hey, you gonna quote me, right?).

The Texas Miracle version of this story has been making the rounds for weeks.  Now it’s surfaced in the Atlanta Journal Constitution in an “analysis” of the “difference” between Georgia and Texas sentencing practices, one that feigns objectivity while ignoring real sentencing practices and hammering away at the notion that crime actually exists and is the — you know — reason we have criminal sentencing.

Note the not-very-objective lead, beneath the not-very-objective headline, beneath the not-very-objective series heading:

Government Waste in Georgia

A billion-dollar burden or justice?

Hmmm, which do you think it’s going to be?

AJC investigation: Georgia leads nation in criminal punishment

By Carrie Teegardin and Bill Rankin

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Georgia taxpayers spend $1 billion a year locking up so many criminal offenders that the state has the fourth-highest incarceration rate in the nation. When it comes to overall criminal punishment, no state outdoes Georgia.

Well, except for those three other states.  Also, don’t crime rates matter, as in: ‘Georgia also has a higher rate of criminal activity than these states it is being compared to here?’ No?  OK.  Just asking.

Hard-nosed measures approved with wide public support forced a five-fold increase in corrections spending since 1985.  A monumental prison construction campaign that quadrupled space over the last four decades seemed like money well spent as record crime rates in the 1990s left Georgians fearful of becoming the next victims of violence.

Wow.  That’s a lot of vague, condemnatory prose squeezed into a few brief lines.  “Hard-nosed” measures?  “Seemed like money well-spent?”  And you know, “wide public support” is code for “what a bunch of deluded buffoons.”

What was that support for?  For not being victimized by violent repeat offenders, the impetus for Georgia’s excellent two-strike law?  How much did violent crime rise?  What percentage of serious and recidivist crimes resulted in prison sentences, before and after those new prisons were built?  Was that money well spent, looking at the decline in crime rates after two-strikes for violent crime was passed, for example?  Anyone?

One might also ask what the alternative response to those “record crime rates” might have been.  Rolling over and letting criminals destroy even more lives?  Kill more of their peers, who were on the front line of the carnage?  But you can’t talk about the number of lives saved by raising incarceration rates.  Not in the Atlanta Journal Constitution or any other big-city paper.

Reporters simply believe incarceration doesn’t work.  End of story.

The rest of this purported “study” consists largely of quotes from politicians positioning themselves against spending money on incarceration for a variety of vague reasons: you might call it more of a study of politicians’ habits in exploiting the subject of crime than a look at crime itself.  Revelations include the startling fact that some conservatives don’t like paying for new prisons because they don’t like taxes, or “big government.”  Wow, that’s really illuminating:

Mark Earley, a Republican former attorney general in Virginia who is chief executive of the nonprofit Prison Fellowship, agreed.  “When you have in Georgia 1 in every 70 adults [incarcerated] and 1 in every 13 is in some form of correctional control, that’s big government with a big big G, ” he said.

The big “G.”  Usually, reporters mock such language.  But when it’s in the service of advancing their hobbyhorse of empathizing with violent offenders, I guess anti-guvmint claptrap gets a pass.

How unsurprising that Early is also “chief executive of the nonprofit Prison Fellowship.”  Just like Mike Huckabee, who made a very destructive public hobby of sharing Bible passages with rapists and killers before cutting them loose?  Well, that’s a viewpoint you can take to the bank.

Unlike, say, actual recourse to actual crime statistics, which are nowhere to be found.

Shake the bushes and it’s not actually hard to find someone with an -R after their name who gets off on hanging out with prisoners while posturing for the cameras.  Of course politicians will always say they like alternatives to incarceration for non-violent offenders.  That’s why there are and always have been alternatives, including the much-abused alternative of simply letting the vast majority of offenders plead their sentences down.  Everyone’s always happy to talk about alternative sentencing, but has it worked?  In which cases?  Are violent offenders being permitted to slip through the cracks?

Oh, never mind.

Extraordinarily, the AJC article, which purports to analyze Georgia’s incarceration policy from 1990 to 2010, contains just one mention of an actual crime: stealing baby formula.  Yes, that’s right: stealing baby formula.  Of course, we all remember the bad old days of the baby formula wars, back in old 1-triple9.  Lost a lot of good men that day.

Goodness.  The reporters were obviously so deep in serious analyzing mode that they managed to overlook the 13,000 murders that happened in Georgia over the same time.  Not to mention the 50,000 forcible rapes.  500,000 aggravated assaults . . . and so on.  Nope.  Not a one.  One case of stealing baby formula stands in for all those horrific human losses, just so the reporters can smugly point fingers at the public and scream: Hysterics!  Passing all those hateful laws just to incarcerate poor baby formula thieves!

How intellectually dishonest.

Of course, this type of reporting isn’t really about analyzing the efficacy of incarceration policies.  But when reporters actually go so far as to fluff up some fake Jean Valjean moment (more likely a baby formula theft to procure drugs, not feed babies) instead of actually addressing the tidal wave of violent crimes that took the lives 13,000 Georgia residents, why does nobody call them on it?

Meanwhile, back in reality, there is no simple way to compare Texas’ current shifts in sentencing policy with those in any other state: journalists who feign to do so are mainly extrapolating political speeches and vast budget line-items that bear no conclusive relationship to the actual working of a diverse (in the old fashioned sense of the term) landscape of courts.  At least they don’t need to worry about the vast cheerleading squad we call academia actually pointing out their errors: evaluating sentencing outcomes is a court-by-court task that virtually nobody, including academicians, ever bothers to attempt.  Those who do end up with book-length descriptions of justice systems that fail to address most crimes, out of despair and lack of funding: one illuminating example is Edward Hume’s year-long observation of the Los Angeles juvenile court system: No Matter How Loud I Shout.

For, when there is no such thing as a judicial precinct where every charge is brought against every defendant, and when a large, if not the largest, percentage of charges get abandoned or pled down outside the courtroom, how can any policymaker or academician or reporter or pundit make sweeping claims about statistical outcomes with a straight face?  Judges know this.  Prosecutors know this.  Yet they are never asked by most journalists (who also know this) to simply quantify all decisions, to produce their complete records for the public to scrutinize, a task that would be as easy as hitting a button in the computer age and would tell us a great many thing the public does not know but deserves to know.  We are, after all, footing the bills as well as dealing with the consequences of every decision made in every court.

Actual facts are never demanded, or provided, to support all this nonsense about “finally” offering alternatives to sentencing (there are always alternatives — there always have been alternatives, including just not bothering to act on most crimes).

No, this is all merely grandstanding.  Smoke and mirrors.  But it has passed for public debate about crime for fifty years, and journalists are hardly going to change their game now.

Riots and Reporters

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Recently, the death of former L.A.P.D. chief Daryl Gates inspired a smattering of recollections of the Rodney King riots, in which 53 people died.  That loss of life, which included horrific murders of good samaritans trying to save others, is largely forgotten in favor of a narrative that exculpates — even celebrates — the rioters, while blaming police for both causing the violence and failing to quell it once it started.

In other words, the police were guilty because they used too much force against King after he weaponized his car, but they were also guilty because they didn’t use enough force against the rioters, though they would have been just as guilty had they used more force to stop the rioters.  The police are guilty no matter what they do, not just in America, but everywhere.  And in this strange rubric of culpability, they are deemed more guilty when the crime rate increases but also more guilty when the crime rate decreases.

Conversely, rioters are rarely held responsible for the crimes they commit, which may be why they often look so happy hurling bricks through store windows, while the policemen look so grim.  Riots are holidays from even small amounts of social responsibility for people who carry that burden lightly enough to begin with, and the worst violence is usually committed by criminal hangers-on just looking for any excuse to break things and steal and beat people while posing for the cameras.

In 1992, this dynamic had ugly consequences in Atlanta. The Rodney King riots in Atlanta were a weird, wannabe event, a manufactured spectacle, though the violence was real.  Looking back, I can’t avoid a creeping suspicion that the riots got as bad as they did in Atlanta because CNN is headquartered in the area where they occurred.  CNN reporters often illustrate their stories by taking their cameras to the streets below their studios: anyone familiar with the area will recognize the CNN food court in footage from countless stories on countless subjects.  CNN “man on the street” interviews are often something quite a bit more specific, as in: “the man on Forsyth Street between Luckie Street and MLK, in downtown Atlanta at lunchtime.”

So after the riots broke out in L.A., CNN did what they always do and went looking for footage in downtown Atlanta just beneath their studios (any other news network would do the same).  What ensued was strange mini-riots in which youths were obviously acting out for the cameras.

You can’t deny the excitement of news reporters when they’re jostling for position in a big national story like that one.  Is it fair to say that they egged the rioters on?  I’m not sure I would go quite that far.  But I do remember this: uninvolved people got off the streets pretty quickly, leaving little pockets of rioters fighting little pockets of police, being shadowed by little pockets of the media, all in the shadows of the CNN headquarters.  In L.A., it was far too dangerous to report from many portions of the city: police helicopters were actually taking fire over populated areas.  In Atlanta, the street scene arose symbiotically with the television cameras.

And the losers, as usual, were the police.  As Jack Dunphy writes in an interesting article here, Daryl Gates’ recent death has become yet another occasion for the media to single him out for blame for the damage done to Los Angeles by the rioters.  The way I remember it in Atlanta, the police were exasperated hall monitors trying to keep gangs of young men from doing more damage to downtown businesses and innocent pedestrians while the reporters aimed their cameras at the policemen, hoping one of them would make a wrong move, and the story would explode.

Michael Harvey, “Mr. X,” Guilty of Murder. Now, Where Was He From 2005 – 2008? 1999 – 2003? 1985 – 1998?

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Michael Harvey is now the third man found guilty of one or more murders of prostitutes and other women in southeast Atlanta in the early 1990’s.  As I wrote last week (see here and here), the state missed at least two earlier chances to link Harvey to that crime and get him off the streets: once in 2003, when they were supposed to have taken DNA from him before he left prison for another sex crime, and again in 2005, when they (apparently) got around to testing his DNA and linked it to the murder of Valerie Payton — but then failed to charge him for three more years.

OK folks, the trial is over.  When is somebody going to ask the GBI, and Fulton County D.A. Paul Howard, why it is that the rape kit of a women murdered by a probable serial killer, and a DNA sample they could have obtained as early as 1996?

You don’t just wake up one day and stab a woman fifty times, arrange her body for display, and leave a note on her stomach taunting the police — written on the back of a photo of her 8-year old child.  Talk about a crime that cries out for justice — and indicates other victims.  In fact, Harvey has another sex crime conviction, and a third victim testified at his trial that he raped and threatened to kill her around the same time Payton was murdered.

One would think the GBI would have prioritized getting Payton’s rape kit tested, and maybe they did — or maybe they didn’t.  Maybe the APD never sent the rape kit to them.  Maybe it’s all the fault of the Fulton County D.A., which had the ability to push for DNA testing when Harvey was convicted for another sex crime and kidnapping in 1996 (got a mild slap on the wrist).  DNA had been used to convict sex offenders for a decade by then.  Rape and kidnapping had been clearly identified as a social ill, too, though his sentence hardly reflected that.  Maybe it’s the fault of the Department of Corrections, which released Harvey in 1999, by which time they should have been databasing the DNA of all felons convicted for sex crimes.  Certainly, by 2003, Harvey was required by law to give a sample, when he served time for an aggravated assault.  Why wasn’t he identified then?

Where was Michael Harvey between November 1985 and May 1998, after he already had a record, before he was first arrested for a sex crime?  Where was he between September 1999 and February 2003, after he was convicted of one sexual assault, sternly scolded for a whole 16 months, then cut loose again?  Where was he between June 2003 and his arrest in 2008 for the murder he was linked to in 2005?

Where was he in 2005, when he was identified as Valerie Payton’s murderer but not officially charged for three more years?

Somebody screwed up.  Why does nobody care?

Criminal Appeals: Why Was Serial Rapist Ali Reza Nejad Out on Bond?

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The good news: U.S. Marshals in Houston caught violent serial rapist Ali Reza Nejad after he slipped off his ankle monitor and fled Georgia upon hearing that the Georgia Supreme Court unanimously reaffirmed his conviction and 35-year sentence last week.

Nejad, Before and After Dye Job

The bad news? Violent serial rapist Ali Reza Nejad was allowed to stroll out of prison after being convicted of two rapes, while his case worked its way through the ridiculous and expensive appeals process in Georgia’s horribly overburdened courts.

More bad news? We all paid for Nejad to play Georgia’s horribly overburdened court system from the comfort of his own home.  Then we paid to track him down again after he fled.  Why on earth didn’t anybody in a position of authority bother to think through the potential effect of the Supreme Court’s negative ruling on this crazy serial rapists’ state of mind and go pick him up, or at least put him under constant surveillance, before he found out that he was heading back to prison for the rest of his adult life?

And why was he allowed out of prison to await appeal on frivolous grounds, anyway?  All rapists are dangerous criminals, but this guy qualifies as central-casting-woman-loathing-sexual-sadist-armed-with-a-gun-escalating-and-stalking-prostitutes-dangerous.

~~~

Criminal Appeals

Nejad appealed his conviction on two grounds: the perennial ineffectual counsel claim, and his lawyer’s insistence that there is some gray area in defining a gun as a deadly weapon.  None of this was about whether Nejad did, indeed, pull guns on women and rape them: it’s just meaningless technicalities piled one on top of another until the courts can’t function or somebody slips up and lets a serial rapist like this back onto the streets.

(I can’t link directly to the pdf files for the Georgia Appeals Court decision that led to Najad being wrongfully released or the Georgia Supreme Court decision that reversed the overturning of his trial verdict and sent him back to prison, but you can access the pdf files by typing Najad v. State.)

As to the first claim, famous-defense-attorney-type Brian Steel, who has been practicing criminal law in the courts and on front pages in Georgia for a very long time, insisted that he had both completely and repeatedly lost the capacity to function as even an ordinary lawyer, let alone a really famous one, throughout the entire trial.

An Appeals Court judge devastatingly called Steel out on this fiction and expressed concern that what the lawyer might be trying to do was perpetrate fraud.  It’s worth reading this and pondering the court’s suggestion that defense attorneys are knowingly front-loading their representation of clients with errors in order to get them off later, when there’s no other expectation of acquittal.  Ugly stuff:

SMITH, Presiding Judge, concurring specially.
I concur fully in the majority opinion, but write separately to point out an area
of increasing concern in claims of ineffective assistance of counsel. Trial counsel’s
testimony in this case demonstrates a worrisome trend with serious implications for
the bar
and the administration of justice.
Taking the record on appeal at face value, we are presented with several
possible and equally questionable explanations for trial counsel’s testimony at the
hearing on the motion for new trial. Trial counsel may, despite his many years of
experience, simply have been unaware of the well-established rule of law governing
a defendant’s right to testify. Or he may have in fact so instructed his client in order
to provide a ready-made reversible error on appeal in the event of a conviction. Or
he may have testified untruthfully at the hearing on the motion for new trial in order
to provide his former client with a basis for reversal of his conviction.
None of these possibilities, which are by no means exhaustive, reflects well
upon trial counsel. Whether he is so incompetent as to call into question his ability to continue in this area of practice, or whether he has conducted himself in such a manner as to perpetrate a fraud upon the court, is not for us to say.
But we view any of these possibilities with alarm. The trial court was similarly concerned, asking trial counsel, “Don’t you think you have some responsibility to the system?”  Typically, trial counsel in such situations testify primarily to the factual details of their conduct and decisions, and admit errors only with reluctance and with due regard for their professionalism and pride in their work. The developing trend of emphatically and even eagerly testifying to one’s own incompetence or misconduct is dangerous to the administration of justice, particularly if it is allowed to continue without any consequences for the testifying trial counsel.

There are no consequences, no matter what the defense bar does, or lies about doing.  That’s why we have so many rapists and murderers walking the streets.  Beginning, middle, and end.  We’re all at their mercy, in a system they have been jerry-rigging for half a century.

The Georgia Supreme Court, in an unanimous decision, reversed the appeals court on the determination of incompetent counsel.  They observed that nobody has a positive duty to continually inform a defendant that he may, in fact, testify.

They also reversed the appeals court’s ruling that the jury should have been asked to decide whether holding a pellet gun to someone’s head is assault with a deadly weapon.  It’s extremely settled law that wielding a gun, even a pellet gun, that way is assault per se with a deadly weapon.  I’m surprised that appeals court agreed with Nejad’s lawyer on this matter.  Here is the Supreme Court:

During the jury instructions concerning the two counts charging Nejad
with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, the trial court informed the jury
that the crime is committed when the accused, with a deadly weapon, places
another person in reasonable apprehension of immediately receiving a violent
injury.
The trial court then told the jury that “A pellet gun in the shape of an
automatic weapon is per se a deadly weapon.” The Court of Appeals ruled it
was error to give the “per se” charge, reasoning that a pellet gun is not a per se
deadly weapon and it was for the jury to resolve whether the manner and means
by which it was used made it a deadly weapon. Nejad v. State, supra, 296 Ga.
App. 163 (2).  A firearm is a deadly weapon as a matter of law. Wyman v. State, 278 Ga.
339 (4) (602 SE2d 619) (2004). A firearm pointed at a victim and reasonably
appearing to the assault victim to be loaded is a deadly weapon as a matter of
law, regardless of whether it is loaded and, under such a circumstance, the trial
court does not err when it takes the issue of “deadliness” from the jury.

So there you have it. Ali Nejad picks up prostitutes, rapes them at gunpoint, and does the same to so many women that word gets around on the streets.  The police catch him, being excruciatingly cautious to protect his rights in the process; the courts try him, being excruciatingly cautious to protect his rights in the process; the case is decided by jurors being excruciatingly cautious to protect his rights in the process — and then the moment he is convicted, the free-for-all game-playing begins.

From the moment jurors return a guilty verdict, everything’s perpetually up for grabs, at our expense.  As the manipulations by the defense bar grow more and more extreme, judges and prosecutors can only protest impotently.  We’ve designed a system in which defense attorneys can say anything, do anything, cost the rest of us anything, intentionally throw a trial, intentionally bankrupt the courts — but they cannot be held responsible for this conduct.

I predict that the only people who will be blamed for the Nejad debacle are the people who would have kept him in prison in the first place: the officers tasked with monitoring him after a judge let him go free to await the outcome of the appeals process.  They don’t deserve any blame.  They caught Nejad, twice now.  It’s the rest of the system that has failed to keep the public safe.


Vicki McLennan, Pioneering Atlanta Crime Victim Advocate

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Vicki McLennan in 2007, on the beach in Panama City *

Vicki McLennan, who practically invented crime victim advocacy in the State of Georgia, died today after a long, courageous battle with breast cancer.

For more than 30 years, Vicki worked to reform the legal system so that all victims of domestic violence, child abuse, and sexual violence would be sheltered, treated with respect by authorities, and given a chance to have their voices heard in court.  Her influence was felt nationally, though she never wasted time burnishing her reputation.  At the Georgia General Assembly, I watched her reach across party lines to find allies to pass laws to protect women and children.  She was a southern feminist who belied every stereotype.  She loved men; she loved children; she was very, very funny.

She had great hair.

She also never backed down from danger.  Over the years, I met women who told me they literally owed their lives to Vicki.  Some still bore the evidence.  Before most people ever noticed, or felt compelled to act on some types of violence being secretly committed in their own communities — before police response and the shelter system were what they are today — Vicki was performing crisis triage, getting the victims to safety.  Then she would put on a suit and drive downtown to change the laws (or enforce them).  She was as comfortable transporting someone to a safe house in the middle of the night as she was standing in front of a bank of microphones, or testifying in front of a Senate committee.  I think it all came easy to Vicki because she knew she was doing the right thing.

Vicki started her career in the domestic violence movement. She helped set up emergency shelters, then she helped fund them.  She was a key lobbyist in the effort to pass the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) in southern states.  She also worked with the police to improve their response to domestic violence and sex crimes.  In 1993, Vicki went to then-Atlanta Police Chief Eldrin Bell and requested a meeting.  She formed a long working relationship with the police, helping improve training at the police academy for domestic violence, sexual assault, and later child assault investigations.  Lou Archangeli, Deputy Chief (retired) of the Atlanta Police Department, writes of her tireless efforts to ensure that every victim was treated fairly by the police:

In 1995 she compelled the Atlanta Police Department to change the manner that it accepted and processed sex crime investigations.  Through her deliberate and persistent manner she politely worked her way up the chain of command, and ultimately compelled Chief [Beverly] Harvard to change a “checklist” that was being used by Sex Crimes investigators to exclude selected crime victims from Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) reports submitted to the GBI and the FBI.  In 1996 and 1997 the Atlanta Police Department engaged in the underreporting of violent crimes, particularly crimes against poor women, the homeless, drug users and prostitutes.  A subsequent audit by the GBI confirmed these illegal actions by the Atlanta Police Department.  Ms. McLennan intervened to insure that there was no retaliation against the people who exposed this practice, and garnered political support for once again changing the manner in which APD responded to crime victims.

Vicki never backed down from the hard fights.

In 2001, then-Lt. Governor Mark Taylor appointed Vicki to co-chair the Senate Study Committee on the Abuse of Children.  The creation of that committee, and the policies that resulted from it, were Vicki’s finest bipartisan success.  Conservative Georgia legislators such as Warren Massey and Tom Price worked alongside progressive legislators Donzella James and Mike Polak to make the case for more funding for child protection and a renewed commitment to prosecuting child molesters — after hysteria over a handful of badly-prosecuted child molestation cases took a heavy toll on prosecutors’ ability to put sex offenders who target children behind bars.

Of all the legislative battles she fought, I think Vicki was especially proud of this one.  She and Lt. Governor Taylor made Georgia a safer place for these most vulnerable victims of sexual violence.

Vicki was also proud of her work on women’s health.  In 2002, she worked with state senator (now Congressman) David Scott to pass a breast cancer bill that allowed breast cancer patients and their physicians “the right to determine their length of stay in the hospital and their level of medical treatment.”  After celebrating passage of the bill, she was diagnosed with breast cancer.  Ironically, she lacked health insurance, because the work she chose to do was too often ill-paid, or not paid at all.  This tragically impacted the quality and length of her final years.  Like many committed activists, Vicki always put the needs of others before her own well-being.  She paid too high a price.

~~~

Here’s the way I like to remember Vicki. One day at the state capitol, she took me to see the legendary, 28-year Georgia Speaker of the House, Tom Murphy.  Murphy was a cigar-chomping, white-suited, old-school southern patriarch from Bremen, Georgia.  Vicki was then the long-time head of Georgia N.O.W. (under her tutelage, as idiosyncratic a N.O.W. as existed anywhere).

Vicki loved Speaker Murphy, and the admiration was mutual.  He flung open the door to his office, kicked his heels, bowed deeply and invited us in, saying that he always like to hold the door for ladies.  It was a private joke.  They laughed, and caught up on family news.  Then they settled down to strategizing about protecting women and children from violence.

Speaker Murphy

I sat watching them, two drawling southerners, one the head of the N.O.W., the other chewing a fat cigar, plotting together to make Georgia a better place.  I wish that everyone could see that now.

*photo courtesy of Karyn Hudson

Sex Offender Two-Step: Those (Pricey) Revolving Prison Doors

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Crime Victims Media Report is back, after an unexpected hiatus.  Some updates:

Loc Buu Tran

A reader informs me that Loc Buu Tran, previous granted probation for a kidnapping and sexual assault in Clearwater, Florida has finally been convicted of murder in Orlando, after his trial for slaughtering his girlfriend was repeatedly delayed:

Another appeal in the making, yes, but a little light filters through this cloudy justice journey. Today, Loc (Anthony) was judged “guilty, 1st degree murder”. His jury found fourteen stabs a bit zealous for simply giving her the head’s up that he was in control.

Jo Frank

Loc was convicted of sexual battery, kidnapping, and obstruction of justice in 1998.  The woman he kidnapped and raped had “rejected him.”  For this shockingly violent crime, he got . . . a get out of jail free card by some sympathetic judge who probably believed it was merely an acting-out-sort-of-kidnapping-and-rape-thing.  Two years probation for sexual assault and kidnapping.  They probably apologized to him for his inconvenience.

In 2001, the state had another chance to punish Loc and protect women when he violated his probation by committing multiple acts of credit card fraud.  Consequently, he faced prison time for the sexual assault, along with the new charges.  But instead of taking into consideration his new status as a recidivist, another judge gave him another “first offender” chance and telescoped down all his charges to one sentence.  You can guess what happened after that:

[A]fter letting Tran get away with a known rape for four years, then catching him violating his probation with several other charges, then sentencing him to an absurdly short prison term . . . [t]he State of Florida let him go early, after serving only 26 months of a 38 month sentence.

They also apparently trash-canned the rest of his probation, for good measure.  It’s all about prisoner “re-entry,” you know.  Probation’s a drag.  How dare we ask judges to enforce the law when rapists need to be rehabilitated back into society and given job training and that all-important-help getting their voting rights reinstated (Florida Governor Charlie Crist’s weird hobbyhorse)?

As we know now, Tran “re-entered” society with a bang.  A slash, really, stabbing [another] young woman to death when she tried to break up with him.   Given the court’s repeated bungling of his case this time, you have to wonder if he’ll ever really be off the streets.

Well, he is now, at least until the defense attorneys manage to find the golden key that sets the rapists free.  When Floridians pay property taxes this year, they should remember that they’re now bankrolling Loc’s endless appeals.

I’ll be writing that in the subject line of my check.

Maybe it would be cheaper if we just let him go again, like all the anti-incarceration activists chant.  Of course, they’re also the ones making it so expensive to try people in the first place.  CourtWatcher Orlando, which witnessed Tran’s trial(s), has more to say about the way defense attorneys ran up costs at his trial.  Tran committed murder in 2006.  A few months ago, after the state finally got around to trying him, his trial was suspended because the judge realized Tran had been her client earlier in his epic crawl through the courts.  Responsibility for this mess-up can be laid directly at the feet of the defense bar, which has made prosecuting any defendant so mind-numbingly drawn-out and irrelevantly complicated that the courts can’t cope with even an obvious murder like this one.  Every delay is a victory for the defense bar, which tries to make trials as expensive as possible in order to bankrupt the system.

Then last month, Tran’s trial was postponed again because a translator got sick.  That means dozens of people on the state payroll, and all the jurors who had reorganized their lives to do their duty to society, and the traumatized family members and witnesses, were all left twiddling their fingers for the second time in a row.  Yet CourtWatcher is reporting that Tran didn’t even need a translator.

And, of course, we paid for the translator.  If we had not paid for the translator, that would doubtlessly be grounds for appeal, even though Tran didn’t need a translator.  Nevertheless, I predict that something relating to the translator will be appealed anyway, just because it’s there.  All this costs money.  Our money.

Instead of letting convicts out of prison early to save money, state legislators should be taking a hard look at the ways the defense bar wastes our money, all in the name of some people’s utterly manufactured version of “rights.”  It’s another must read from Orlando, here.

~~~

Meanwhile, in Georgia, Michale Coker writes to report the capture of Charles Eugene Mickler, one of the absconded sex offenders featured in a story in the Atlanta Journal Constitution:

You will be happy to know Mickler is currently in the Gwinnett County Detention Center on a probation violation. This weirded me out since I know this guy. Oddly enough it was Need To Know* publications where I discovered he was wanted.

Charles Eugene Mickler

*Need To Know is one of the for-profit broadsheets detailing offenders.  It is not on the web but sells in hard copy.

Mickler does not appear to have served any time in prison for his 2007 sexual battery conviction.  Then he absconded.  Of course, the story in the paper didn’t raise the question of why someone convicted of sexual battery was not imprisoned for the crime.  Instead, the reporter wrote that the public need not worry about all those absconded sex offenders because they generally “just” target people (ie. children) they know.  Except for the ones who didn’t, as I detail here.  See my original post here.

How many of those absconded sex offenders have been located?  The media already answered that question.  The answer goes something like this:

How heartless of you to believe these men should be monitored, you vengeful hysterics!  I’m not telling.

In fact, the only coverage, to date, of these 250 absconded sex offenders has been the one story focusing on scolding the public for caring that these men have violated parole and gone hiding.

Policing public sentiment is so much more important than policing sex offenders, you know?

~~~

Until it isn’t:

Chelsea King

King’s parents, at a vigil, after her body was found.

John Albert Gardner, who is being held in Chelsea King’s murder, is a convicted sex offender who had been given an easy plea deal for a prior sex offense.  He could have served 30 years in prison but was released in five, instead, against the recommendations of psychiatrists, who said he was a high risk to attack more little girls.

But, hey, California saved some money cutting him loose instead of incarcerating him, didn’t they?  And prisoner re-entry is so important.

Now Gardner is also being investigated in other horrifying crimes.  Isn’t there a different end to the story?

According to the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department, a 16 year old girl, walking to a friend’s house in Lake Elsinore, said a man pulled over and asked her for directions. She told police he asked if she was a virgin, showed a gun, and tried to force her into the car. She ran away. This happened in October 2009.

At the time, Gardner was not registered as a sex offender in Riverside County because he was living in San Diego County, said John Hall, with the District Attorney’s office.  Gardner registered in Riverside County, in January, when he moved to his grandmother’s house near Lake Elsinore.

Escondido police are trying to figure out if Gardner is responsible for the disappearance of a 14-year-old Escondido girl.

Gardner is also a suspect in the case of a 22-year old girl who was attacked in the same area where King’s car was found.

Gardner had already admitted to molesting a neighbor girl back in 2000. According to court records, he had lured her over with a movie.

King’s parents are planning a memorial. During an interview, King’s parents expressed concern that Gardner was released from jail after serving only five years, despite a psychiatric evaluation that recommended he stay locked up for 30 years.

John Gardner

Disturbed enough, yet?  Here is more disturbing information:

As recently as November 2009, Gardner registered as a sex offender at an Escondido address two miles from the school.

People living at the Rock Springs East condominiums said they were shocked to learn Gardner had lived in their building.

A woman with small children who lived next door to Gardner and recognized him from photos posted online over the past few days said he lived with a blond woman and two toddlers.

The former neighbor, who didn’t want to give her name, said teenagers, both male and female, often came over to play video games at Gardner’s apartment. She said she could hear the loud games through the walls.

She and other neighbors said Gardner had moved out about six months ago.

In 2000, Gardner was convicted of a forcible lewd act on a child and false imprisonment after he took a 13-year-old neighbor girl to his mother’s home in Rancho Bernardo. The girl accused him of repeatedly punching her in the face and touching her private parts.

A psychiatrist who interviewed him in that case said he would be a “continued danger to underage girls” because of the lack of remorse for his actions.

Prosecutors initially charged Gardner with more-violent sex crimes that could have resulted in a sentence of more than 30 years because the terms would have been served consecutively. He was sentenced to six years in prison as part of a plea agreement and served five years before he was released in September 2005. He completed probation in 2008.

In 2000, Gardner didn’t go out and attack a stranger: he targeted someone he knew, a 13-year old neighbor, to be precise.  If Gardner had lived in Georgia, that would qualify him for the “don’t worry, those absconded sex offenders only target people they know” category.

Until they don’t.  And what does it matter anyway, except as an idiotic argument by people who can’t stop justifying the behavior of sex offenders and opposing sex offender registries?  Gardner’s record illustrates a disturbing point that anti-registration types never acknowledge: it takes real nerve, and a real lack of worry over consequences, to target children who know you and can identify you.  Maybe people should be more worried, not less worried, about child molesters who know their victims.  Unlike anti-incarceration activists, child rapists don’t worry so much about the distinction.  They go after children they know, and they go after children they don’t know: one is just easier to access than the other.

Although the real solution would have been to never let Gardner out of prison again, once the sick coddle of California justice cut him loose, DNA database laws and sex offender registration probably saved some lives, including the lives of the little girls whose mother was shacking up with Gardner.  How could any mother let some man move into her house, with her two young children, without checking to see if he shows up on a sex offender registry?

If you know a co-habitating mother who hasn’t checked her partner’s background, do it for her.  Today.  The world is full of sex offenders cut loose by some judge or prosecutor or parole board.

Update on Marcus Wellons, and the Eternal Appeals Machine

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Funny how the details turn out to be so very different from what the media — not to mention many on the Supreme Court — made of them:

Jury Regrets Racy Candy That Fed Killer’s Appeal

Now will anybody other than the local newspaper revisit the case?

The Guilty Project, Wayne Williams: Still Guilty. And the Role of Child Prostitution in his Murders.

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To name all defendants Innocent Until Proven Guilty is a beloved tradition, and an ethical one, at least so long as the pontificating guardians of the reputations and feelings of criminals are willing to let it go once their clients have, in fact, been proven guilty.

Yet this is almost never the case.  Defense attorneys express a touching faith in the wisdom of the public and juries . . . until precisely the moment a guilty verdict is reached.  Then, like lovers scorned, they denounce everything about their former paramours: their intelligence, their morals, their identities, their actions, their collective and individual races.  All are fodder for the endless second act of criminal justice: the post-conviction appeal.

It’s never over, as victims know, particularly when it comes to notorious defendants.  In the weird rubric of prisoner advocacy, the most heinous criminals attract the loudest cries for reconsideration.   Attention-seeking activists and lawyers seize on the worst of the worst to prove their own superior compassion, or to thumb their noses at society in the biggest way.  And so the garden-variety mugger must line up behind the child murderers and serial rapists.

Susan Sarandon won’t be playing your religious confessor in the Hollywood version of your life if all you did was steal a few cars, no matter how badly you feel about having done it afterwards.  Rape and murder a few kids, though, and she might come calling.

~~~

And that brings us to Wayne Williams. Thanks to the notoriety of the Atlanta Child Murders (at least those Atlanta child murders), Williams possesses all the best in serial killer accessories: a team of lawyers laboring (on our dime) to endlessly re-try his case; internet nuts issuing manifestos that nobody can ever really know if anybody is ever really guilty; miniseries and media attentions, breathless stories about DNA testing that disappear from the news when they fail to exonerate, and so on.

images

Wayne Williams

The thirty dead children and young men identified as possible ACM victims are themselves a mere accessory to Williams’ drama.  The police continue to seek the killer or killers of several of these victims.  They are (literally) damned if they do and damned if they don’t, as they were throughout the terrible period when children kept turning up dead, but they do it anyway, because the police are tasked to behave professionally despite the unprofessional nature of the accusations hurled their way.

There are probably police serving in metro Atlanta today who were children in southeast and southwest Atlanta neighborhoods at the time when the murders took place.  Did that experience inspired them to become officers?

Few serious books have been written about the Atlanta Child Murders.  There is The List by Chet Dettlinger and Jeff Prugh, and an interesting academic study by Bernard Headley, The Atlanta Youth Murders and the Politics of Race.  Now there is a third, The Atlanta Child Murders: The Night Stalker, written by the prosecutor who proved Williams’ guilt, Jack Mallard.

The Atlanta Journal Constitution ran an interview with Mallard this week.  It is strangely contentious: the reporter seems to be more interest in arguing with Mallard over Williams’ guilt than asking him questions about his book:

Between 1979 and 1981, 30 young African-Americans between ages 9 and 28 were either killed or declared missing in what was known as the “Atlanta Child Murders” case. The victims’ bodies were found in wooded lots, vacant buildings or the Chattahoochee River.

Williams received a life sentence 28 years ago this month for killing two of the victims, but he was implicated in at least a dozen others. He has said for years that he’s innocent. The doubt that shrouded the case has fueled articles and books by people who still question whether Williams was the sole killer.

Well, not really.  That’s not the question the keeps popping up in appeal after appeal for Williams.  Williams’ advocates are specifically actually arguing that he is innocent of the two crimes for which he was convicted.

Oddly, the reporter interviewing Mallard tells readers to “Judge for yourself,” presumably regarding Williams’ guilt.  What an odd way to begin an interview with the prosecutor in a settled case:

Now, finally, Mallard has heeded the urgings of others and weighed in with his new book, “The Atlanta Child Murders: the Night Stalker.” Though a bit pedantic, the book lays out the prosecution’s strategy, from presentation of evidence to cross-examinations. Here, Mallard, 75 and retired, talks about guilt, doubt and closure. Judge for yourself.

Q: Reading this book, it almost feels as though you’re retrying the case right there in the courtroom. But in writing this did you look back and see things you might have done differently or mistakes you might have made?

Ah yes, he is a prosecutor who successfully convicted someone, so he must have been making mistakes.  Nobody ever challengingly demands of defense attorneys whether they made mistakes.

A: As a longtime prosecutor, what I would do is map out a trial plan, like writing a screenplay; everybody has a part. If you work up the right trial plan, then you expect things to go as you planned it. This trial went according to plan.

Well, we can’t have that, can we?  It sounds as if Mallard simply stands by the verdict.

Q: You relied heavily on verbatim testimony for dialogue in this book and you included a few updates. But why didn’t you talk with any of Williams’ original defense attorneys, at least those who are still around?

A: I knew it wouldn’t serve any purpose. [They’ve] always thought that Wayne was innocent.

In other words, verbatim testimony just isn’t verbatim enough, Mr. Mallard: you should have gone to the other side and given them a platform to call you a liar.  Because, of course, they do that for you whenever they climb onto their soapbox, don’t they?  No?  Well, you should do it anyway.

Q: Williams was basically convicted on the basis of carpet fibers and dog hairs found on the victims, which you argued could only have come from Williams or his home. There are still doubting Thomases out there who think the fiber and hair evidence was suspect in some way. Do you think you finally assuaged any doubt about that evidence with the book?

A: Yes, and I think I mention in [the book], had cameras been allowed in the courtroom — you can look at these fibers and compare them in living color in photographs like the jury did — people would really not be suspicious as to whether or not you can identify a fiber.

Q: Yes, but there are still doubters out there, some who’ve suggested that maybe the fibers were somehow planted or inadvertently transferred by a lab technician in the case.

A: Well, you either believe in law enforcement and scientists or you don’t. What you read on the Internet, that’s not evidence. That’s not tested in a court of law. So much of it that is completely fiction.

Q: OK then, consider me a doubter . . .

Wow.  That pretty much speaks for itself.  And here’s what it is saying: I’m a partisan for the defense, inappropriately assigned to challenge you and your crazy “guilty verdict” ideas.  Next, due to my biases, I’m going to get the legal issue completely wrong:

Q: OK then, consider me a doubter, because after reading your book, I could see how he could have committed more than half of the 30 killings that were investigated as part of the case. But there were at least five cases that just didn’t seem to fit, in particular the killing of the two little girls, Angel Lanier and LaTonya Wilson. All the other cases involved boys and young men. Do you think he killed the two girls?

A: No, no, no. The two girls should never have been on the list. There was no scientific evidence at all, no trace evidence linking them to Wayne Williams. There’s 25 of them that had trace evidence to Wayne Williams.

There were 25 dead youths and boys linked to Williams through the evidence.  The state tried the two strongest cases.  They investigated the h*ll out of those murders, using federal money and assistance.  In the end, they could not try every case.  That is a function of the pricey mess the defense bar has managed to make of rules of evidence and criminal procedure.  When you destroy the very meaning of seeking the truth with all available evidence, you make it financially and pragmatically impossible to convict murderers like Williams for every offense.  So the state did what they had to do, convicted him of the two strongest cases, and closed the ones in which they were confident that he was the killer.

The inclusion of girls on the highly politicized victim “List” has nothing to do with Williams’ guilt.  As Mallard points out, he does not believe they should have been on that particular list in the first place.

Q: Well what about the other five? What do we do with them?

A: They’re still open. If one day there’s ever any evidence, even the girls, they potentially can be cleared. It happens all the time.

Q: Was Wayne Williams your most formidable opponent?

A: He probably was in the sense that he was the lengthiest cross-examination. He was on the stand about three days. He was prepared and he was smart and he was hard to pin down. But he kept contradicting himself and the jury saw right through it. He probably cooked his own goose by taking the stand.

Q: Do you think your book will help the victims’ families heal, or will it just upset them?

A: I don’t think it will hurt, but the families I really feel for. They’ve been used by the defense in the support of Williams in his appeals. When victims’ families are supporting the defense, that’s somewhat unusual.

Q: Have you talked with any of them in the years since the trial?

A: No, I haven’t kept up with them.

Q: Ever visit the grave sites of any of the victims?

A: No. I don’t like graveyards.

Mallard comes across as somebody who did his job, didn’t suffer fools, and doesn’t play romanticized games with serious issues like child murder.  How refreshing.

Q: You make a direct appeal in the book to Williams, imploring him to confess to the killings. Have you heard from him?

A: No.

Q: Why did you make that appeal to him?

A: Well, if he wants to do something to help humanity he could do it by helping these mothers settle in their own minds that the killer is not still out there. He knows there’s nobody else out there.

Now, back to the irrelevant questions about the victims who weren’t linked to Williams:

Q: Is it possible that somebody else could have been responsible for the remaining five deaths we talked about earlier?

A: It’s possible, because we don’t have any direct evidence connecting Williams to them. Those, I would say, we don’t know.

Q: Will you write another book? You’ve been involved in several other high-profile cases that could be good reads.

A: Several cases would make good writing, but I’m not sure I want to get into that again. I want to enjoy the remaining years I have.

By, like, not being repeatedly pummeled by inaccurate gotcha’s by a reporter who doesn’t bother to have her facts straight.

~~~

Angel Lanier and LaTonya Wilson’s murders were, of course, not irrelevant.  Nor were the murders of other youths who met violent ends in the same time and place.  One of the many tragedies of the ACM controversy is that Lanier, Wilson, and other victims are still being used by the media and various activists to advance other agendas.  It’s clear that the AJC reporter mentions these murdered girls only to attempt to poke holes in Williams’ conviction for the uptenth time. Why doesn’t somebody revisit the girls’ lives, and deaths, as if they themselves mattered?

Why are we continuing to obsess over Wayne Williams at all, when we should be talking about child prostitution, an ongoing crisis that created the conditions in which young adults and children were extremely vulnerable to predators like Wayne Williams thirty years ago?

Child prostitution, or, better, child-and-youth sexual exploitation, is the great unspoken subtext of the Atlanta Child Murders story.  Not all the victims were involved in trading money for sex, but many reportedly were.  And when a community accepts, or cannot stop, such behavior, every child is in danger.

That’s the point of H.B. 582/S.B. 304, the important Georgia child prostitution prevention bill sponsored by Sen. Renee Unterman (R-Buford).  Thirty years after so many youths lost their lives on city streets where the existence of a wild west “sex trade” drew predators targeting both boys and girls, it’s far past time to leave Wayne Williams to rot in prison and turn our attention to preventing similar murders in the future.

Go to this site to learn how to support the legislation.

Remember, Marcus Wellons is a Murderer. You Are Paying for his Latest Appeal. And That’s Not Funny.

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A slim majority of the Supreme Court has granted convicted rapist and murderer Marcus Wellons another chance to keep appealing his case.  Because the appeal is based on a bizarrely distasteful incident, it has attracted media attention.

Whereas a run-of-the-mill appeal by someone who merely tortured, raped and murdered a high school girl wouldn’t merit any attention at all:

Something strange happened during the 1993 murder trial of Marcus Wellons. Outwardly, the Supreme Court observed Tuesday, the trial “looked typical.” But “there were unusual events going on behind the scenes.”  For example: The Georgia judge in the case spoke outside court to jurors who had gathered at a local restaurant.  And after Wellons was convicted and sentenced to die, jurors presented the female judge with a gift of “chocolate shaped as male genitalia,” as the Supreme Court recounted it.  If that were not enough, they gave the bailiff a chocolate gift “shaped as female breasts.”

Justice Samuel Alito, dissenting from the majority opinion to send the case back to a lower court to be reconsidered, called the jurors’ gifts “troubling,” “strange and tasteless.”  On that, anyone could agree.  Why would jurors do such a thing?

Though it hasn’t been widely reported, Wellons’ attorney is actually arguing that the gag gifts are “evidence of the jury’s racial bias” against Wellons.  In other words, she is saying that the chocolate genitalia represents Wellons.  So what do the chocolate breasts represent?  The 15-year old victim?  Would jurors be that racist?  That callous towards a dead young girl?

Or were they, perhaps, merely blowing off steam after a long trial and sentencing?  Remember, the jurors had just been subjected to horrifying evidence of cruelty, endless legal posturing (while their lives were put on hold for weeks or months), and then the netherworld of post-conviction testimony, in which a parade of character witnesses and hacks for hire wax poetic on the defendant’s qualities, spinning fairy tales out of pig’s ears.

I don’t wish to excuse the jurors’ extremely bad taste, but could anyone emerge from such an experience without getting a bit punch-drunk?  Could a civilian witness the clown-car pile-up of criminal procedure and walk away feeling merely refreshed?

Well, that hardly matters now.  File it in the same trash-bin that holds the facts of the actual crime, and the defendant’s actual guilt, which nobody is questioning: Marcus Wellons has been appealing the minutiae of this case for twenty years now on your dime, and he’s going to continue doing the same, also on your dime, for the next five, or ten, or twenty years, as his violent actions and his victim’s life both fade from memory.

And that is the really distasteful joke.

Tomorrow: Lack of Remorse, Parade of Appeals

A Trying to Be Civil Exchange on Sex Offender Registry Laws

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Last week, after writing about this strange article that attempted to depict the flight of nearly 250 Fulton County (GA/Atlanta) sex offenders as “no big deal” because the offenders mostly targeted family members or their girlfriends’ kids (!), I was barraged with abusive and threatening e-mails apparently originating from a pro-sex offenders website.

But I also received some thoughtful commentary from other people who disagreed with my view that registries protect the public and are one factor in the decline in the sex offense crime rate.  I’ve been meaning to write more about the registry issue because I think the media reflexively reports on it in bad faith.  I also think academicians with anti-registration biases are crafting advocacy research and making claims that do not stand up to scrutiny.

What follows is my response to “Nunya,” one of the thoughtful, if angry, responders.  This won’t be my last word on the subject.  I hope it will spur a real conversation about the efficacy of these laws, the myths that have risen up around them, and what we should and should not do to improve the sex offender registration system.  “Nunya” and I disagree about many things, but I think we agree that recidivism rates and the vexed issue of statutory rape committed by young men (or, as I see it, alleged recidivism rates and allegedly statutory crimes) deserve more attention.

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Nunya: There are so many things in your article that are erroneous it’s difficult to know exactly where to start, but I will begin at the beginning with your title: “Georgia’s Sex Offender Registry Works”. Since these laws have been in place for a number of years now, with Georgia having passed one of the toughest set of laws in the country over three years ago, I’m sure you can point to plenty of documented evidence as to how these laws have actually reduced sexual crimes in this country, right? There must be plenty of studies that show a dramatic decrease in sex crimes all over the nation as a result of the laws you claim are so effective.

No, I can’t “point to plenty of documented evidence.”  In order to document evidence, we would need to have a criminal justice system that functions adequately and predictably in response to sex offenses, and we don’t have one.  So nearly all of the types of statistics that people would like to see are currently impossible to produce, at least accurately.

While there are both more and less reliable figures on victimization rates, no statistical analysis indicates that anywhere near half of all sex crimes result in an investigation, let alone prosecution, of an offender.  The conviction rate is far lower for sex offenders who target children.  Statistics on recidivism that make claims about a “3%” or “4.5%’ rate are thus simply untrue.

What they are actually measuring is the performance of our criminal justice system, not recidivism.

Some recidivism studies are more obviously unreliable than others.  Things activist-academicians do to minimize recidivism rates include:

  • Counting only imprisonments, not convictions.  As I’ve illustrated in my blog, an unknown number of convicted sex offenders are not being sent into the state prison system after they have been found guilty of crimes as serious as child rape.  Some research on recidivism focuses only on offenders who have entered the prison system.
  • Counting only subsequent convictions, rather than investigating the cause of parole or registration violations that send an offender back to prison.  When a first-time sex offender is caught in the act of committing or trying to commit another sex offense, often the most-cost-effective way of removing him from the streets is to simply revoke parole or charge him with a registry violation.  How many of the men returned to prison for these alleged “non-sex” crimes were actually caught trying to commit another sex crime but were not prosecuted for that offense?  Nobody knows.  But in our perennially underfunded courts, there is tremendous pressure to save money by simply revoking someone’s parole or convicting them of merely “failure to report” when they are caught committing another sex crime.
  • Studying only a small time frame after release.  When you track offenders only for the time when they are under the highest post-incarceration scrutiny, often completing half-way house and therapeutic interventions, of course you’re going to find lower recidivism rates.  Virtually all the studies cited by pro-offender activists track offenders for very short periods of time after release.
  • Failing to account for strategic conviction practices from the recent past, when they apply.  Even when researchers look at re-offense rates over longer periods of time, they do not consider prior practices such as charging sex offenders only with property crime in order to guarantee a conviction.  Yet DNA databases are revealing vast numbers of sex offenders with only drug or burglary convictions who have been matched to un-prosecuted sexual assaults on the database.
  • Leaving out juvenile sex offenses.
  • Counting only convictions and ignoring consolidated charges.  This is the way most recidivism gets “disappeared” in the first place.  When sex offenders are caught, they are rarely prosecuted for more than one crime, even when they are suspects in multiple crimes, even when they confess to multiple, or prolific, sex crime sprees.  Even stranger, serial rapists who leave behind DNA routinely aren’t prosecuted for all their known crimes.  Each sex crime investigation that gets shelved when an offender is sent away for another crime artificially lowers recidivism rates.  With child victims, of course, recidivism against single victims is routinely “disappeared” when prosecutors can prove any single instance of abuse.  Here is merely one recent example of the practice, from Court Watch Florida (Orlando):

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State v. Jeffrey Allan Eymann  2009-CF-004477-O
Charged with 1,200 counts of Lewd/Lascivious Molestation of a Child < 12 years old
Victim was the daughter of his ex-girlfriend.  Eymann pled on 10/16 to 1 count of Lewd/Lascivious Conduct. All other counts were dropped. Sentenced to 7 years in prison + 5 years sex offender probation; no contact with victim, but may have contact with victim’s mother.

CourtWatchFlorida’s blog does a great job of illustrating the many ways criminal records get minimized as they are processed through the system.  Here is a study that looks at variability in recidivism studies.  I can’t link to the entire report, but if you have a library card, you may be able to log into the database with a librarian’s help.

Nunya: The fact is Tina, sex crimes have not only increased over the years since these laws were passed but now, as a result of politicians and the media seizing on the public’s fear, these so called “child protection laws” are now responsible for children themselves, some as young as 13, being victimized for life as a “sex offender”. What might have initially been a good idea, a public listing of violent and potentially dangerous people that the public needed to be aware of, has turned into a watered-down joke, full of all sorts of “dangerous” offenses such as public urination, mooning, and consensual sex among teens, which, I might add, I’m sure all of us, including the above mentioned article’s author, have probably engaged in at some point in their lives. So now we are ALL sex offenders. Be sure to pick up your membership card at the door.

Well, no.  According to the Uniformed Crime Report (UCR), which measures reported crimes, forcible rape rates have dropped in every year but one since 1992.  So what’s changed?  Sentencing reforms, post-incarceration registration, and and the gradual implementation of DNA databasing.  Sexual assault rates have also fallen by more than 60%.  People are not being placed on the sex offender lists for pranks like mooning, or for public urination.  Violent sex offenders often engage in flashing and “peeping Tom” behaviors, which is why these crimes are treated, as the should be, like sex crimes, even if they seem dismissible to many.

The idea that public concerns about sex crime are groundless “fears” manufactured by the media and forced onto a gullible public, is an opinion, not an argument.  Women must routinely and reasonably contemplate the safety of the choices they make: they are not hysterical for doing so.  I will address statutory and allegedly statutory crimes in more detail below, but let me observe here that in a state such as Georgia, where there are approximately a million teenagers, half of whom will have had sex while still a teenager, there is no evidence that “consensual sex among teens” is causing people to end up on the sex crimes registry.

Rather, in a state where there have been nearly 29,000 forcible rapes reported to authorities since the registry went into effect (crimes after 1995), and many times that number when you count other sex crimes, it hardly seems outrageous that some of the 17,893 people on the Georgia registry are teens who raped or otherwise sexually assaulted other teens or younger children.

As to recidivism, many many studies, by independent groups not associated with criminal justice, repeatedly verify that sex offenders, as a category, have the lowest recidivism rate of any crime. Period. You should bother to look at them before you start expounding about an issue that you obviously have very little knowledge about.

See above.

One [thing] that I do agree with you on [is] that journalists, ALL journalists, including those who write such biased reporting as yours, should “hold themselves to a higher standard” as you say. The truth is that all reporting is biased in some way, since it is written by people who are, as a result of being human, biased in their opinions. The best a person can do is to look at the facts and try to reach an objective conclusion based on those facts. Someone has already posted some links to resources where some of those facts can be verified. I suggest you educate yourself before you pose as an authority on this, or at the very least provide references for your information so that the reader can verify what you say.

“Of course most victims know their offenders.” I got confused on this one Tina. Since it is true statistically that most, and by that I mean MOST people, children and adults, who are sexually abused are done so by people they know (usually a family member or friend of the family), how does monitoring the others, in this case strangers which would include previously convicted sex offenders, help to reduce incidents of abuse? Let me put it this way: monitoring people who have already committed a sexual crime in the hopes that it will prevent a future offense is like locking the barn door AFTER the horse has already gotten out of the barn. To use the reasoning that we need to know the whereabouts of the 250 people whose whereabouts are unknown to the authorities in order to feel safe from sexual offense makes no sense at all. Again, it’s not the stranger in town you need to watch, it’s the uncle, the dad, the brother, etc. If politicians and others, such as yourself, are as concerned about the safety of children as you say you are, then why not do something to protect them from the group that represents the greatest threat to them, namely their own family and friends of the family? Maybe we could remove all children from their homes until they are 18 and allow periodic supervised visits by their parents? I’m being facetious here but hopefully you get my point. WE ARE WATCHING THE WRONG PEOPLE!

What is so hard to understand about this?

I have to admit that I am terrifically, monumentally confused by the argument that people who target children they know are less of a danger (For what?  For recidivism?) than people who “snatch random children off the streets.”  Of course, there are very few of the latter compared to the former, but so what?  Registries are not designed to modulate some abstract economy of fear, or label people before they get convicted of a crime: they are designed to keep tabs on individual people who have a proven propensity for sexually abusing children or adults.

Nevertheless, this weird argument keeps popping up in activist propaganda (where it was obviously manufactured), and, predictably, journalists have now begun parroting it (without entirely understanding it, I think) in news stories.

But it makes no sense.

Adults who prey on children they know — be they coaches, step-dads, uncles, grandfathers, priests — pose a risk to any child they get to know in the future.  They also continue to be a danger to the children they victimized or knew or were simply related-to prior to their first conviction.  And because they’re far more likely to be released from prison (or not sent in the first place) than sex criminals who abduct random children, there’s an argument to be made that registration is even more crucial for offenders whose modus operandi involves targeting children in their lives and/or “grooming” children through their legitimate relationships with them.

Compulsive child molesters are often compulsive groomers: do we say that the youth minister should not be on the registry because he gets to know his victims first?

Adults who prey on children in their own families, or extended families, also pose a special danger if their relatives protected them in the past, or if the cycle of sexual abuse is part of the family dynamic: they may be returning to households where there are still vulnerable children, not to mention returning to families that will continue to protect them, excuse them, or even participate in their crimes.  Parents don’t always lose custody when they commit a sex crime against their own children, or another minor relative, and protecting these especially vulnerable children was actually one of the motivations behind the creation of sex offender registration laws.

Many child molesters access their victims through consensual adult relationships with single moms.  So, what happens when one of them strolls out of prison, meets a new woman, and moves in with her and her children?  Should we “not worry” because he’s not out on the streets, when, instead, he’s alone in the apartment, babysitting the six-year old while her mom goes to work?

I think this argument (more of a campaign, it is so coordinated) is a very clear example of activists controlling the media discourse: it’s such a strange claim to make, but, suddenly, it’s being voiced in many quarters.  Some might say that what the activists mean is that we should be more worried about sex offenders who haven’t been caught yet, as opposed to the sex offenders who have been caught.  But that makes no sense, either, as a criticism of registries.  It would be useful to be able to place all child molesters, including those who haven’t been caught yet, on a list.  But the fact that we can’t monitor child molesters who have not yet been caught and convicted is no argument against monitoring those who have, regardless of how they choose their victims.

Now, clearly there are some people who are dangerous and represent a potential threat to public safety, and they should be prevented from hurting anyone else. But if that’s the case then why are these people not in prison in the first place? Why are they being released? I suggest that they reason the really dangerous people are out on the street is because due to just about anything even remotely sexual in nature being treated as a sex crime, there simply isn’t room enough to keep the really bad guys locked up.

I don’t agree: I think there are simply a lot of sexual offenders, not that there are no prison spaces because we’re imprisoning minor sex offenders.  And even though the numbers in prison look large, the victim pool is far larger, especially when you start adding in sexual crimes against children and adolescents.  Nobody is “keeping rapists out of prison” because they’re filling prisons with lesser sexual offenders: heck, they’re simply not sending many rapists and child molesters to prison because the system is simply criminally lenient across the board, as I’ve illustrated countless times on this blog (search “The Guilty Project” for a partial rogues gallery).  Who are these people sitting in prison for lesser sexual crimes?

I do agree that a lot of the men out on the streets after sex crime convictions should be locked up forever, instead.  The real solution to that problem, however, is vastly expanding the number of people with life sentences.  And precisely the same activist groups that are trying to get sex offenders off registries are simultaneously trying to get even the most violent recidivists out from behind bars.  It’s all one very well-funded, well-placed, powerful movement.

I further suggest that you have a look and see exactly what will get you a place on the sex offender registry these days for yourself. The Georgia Sex Offender Review Board, the government body who is responsible for classifying the risk level of offenders on the registry, has gone on record as saying that only 4% of those listed pose any real significant threat to society. That means for every 4 people listed there are 96 who should not be there at all.

Here is another interpretation: the Georgia Sex Offender Review Board is not doing its job.  You complained, above, about dangerous, recidivist sex offenders being free on the streets when they should be locked up?  Well, the folks responsible for bringing that free-range-serial-rapist-show to a theater near you are the same ones being trusted to classify the offenders they’re cutting loose: do you think the parole board wants to admit that they’re letting a bunch of predators out early every other Thursday?  It took me about two clicks to find someone on the registry who should be classified a sexual predator but is not.  And then I found a lot more of them.

Here is the rule (you can read the entire code section here):

The board shall determine the likelihood that a sexual offender will engage in another crime against a victim who is a minor or a dangerous sexual offense. The board shall make such determination for any sexual offender convicted on or after July 1, 2006, of a criminal act against a minor or a dangerous sexual offense and for any sexual offender incarcerated on July 1, 2006, but convicted prior to July 1, 2006, of a criminal act against a minor.

Here is somebody who should be classified a predator.  And, oh yeah, he’s absconded:

Miguel Ortiz:

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Ortiz was convicted in DeKalb County of aggravated child molestation in 1994.  He was also convicted in DeKalb County of aggravated child molestation in 1989.  He got three years . . . for aggravated child molestation in 1989.  Then he got out of prison, early of course.  Then he got eight years for aggravated child molestation in 1994.  Despite a prior conviction.  Then he got out of prison, early again, of course.  Now he’s on the run.  The GBI and the Atlanta Journal Constitution want you to know there’s nothing to worry about because Ortiz probably just victimized children he knew.

All recidivists should be classified as predators, including all the recidivists who aren’t recidivists on paper because they were permitted to plead down to one offense but were charged with two.  Or fifteen.  Or 1,200.  All people convicted of forcible rape should be classified as predators.  Many other states have saner classification practices.

Nunya: How can authorities monitor the 4 who need to be monitored when they have 96 others they have to, according to the law, treat exactly the same?The truth is they can’t, which is why you hear about cases such as the guy in California recently who kept a woman captive for a number of years and abused her repeatedly, and all under the nose of his parole officer who was too busy keeping an eye on the rest of his case load to catch it. Being the victim’s advocate that you are, how would you explain to that woman how the sex offender laws are working?

This is another activist-manufactured argument that’s been bleeding out all over the obeisant fourth estate.  That guy in California, Phillip Garrido (see my previous posts on him here and here), got away with kidnapping Jaycee Lee Duggard because the federal parole board let him loose decades before he was supposed to be released from a federal sentence that was supposed to disqualify him for parole.  So, a parole board broke the law of the United States of America, and yet, somehow, we’ve heard not one whisper about anyone being held responsible for it.

And then some parole officers didn’t do their job, and it’s not because they were “stretched too thin”: they managed to pay regular visits to Garrido’s house but apparently were snowed by him or didn’t bother to read his record.  Or, perhaps, believe it: the parole industry is riddled with people whose hearts bleed for child rapists; who believe there’s such a thing as rehabilitation for a sick monster like Garrido who should have never, ever seen the light of day again after what he had done to his previous victim.

Don’t blame me: blame the people who labor tirelessly to ensure that the Phillip Garridos of this world get multiple second changes to rape and kill.  Blame the anti-incarceration activists who run the academic departments and the law schools and the treatment centers and the state parole boards and activist groups.  Blame their fake statistics on recidivism and their self-righteous commitment to an ideology of rehabilitation for every prisoner, and an ideology of emptying the prisons — that’s what cut Garrido loose to chew the bones of a few more women.

It takes some real nerve for the anti-incarceration industry to point to a horrible injustice like the early release of Phillip Garrido and blame the people who are trying to prevent such injustices from happening by using piddling band-aids like parole and registration lists — because other options are closed to us — thanks to the power of the anti-incarceration industry.  But they get away with it.  They get away with getting most evidence excluded from courtrooms, and most sentences reduced, and most offenders offered an array of “alternatives to incarceration,” and then the media swallows it whole when they then point at sex offender registries and squeal: that’s what got that little girl raped!

Here’s what I would say to Jaycee Duggard: I’d tell her that I will be the first person to agitate for severe consequences for the people who got her raped by letting her rapist out of prison early, and so should you, and if you did it with me, then there would be two of us.  And do you know who we would be up against?  The activists at the Southern Center for Human Rights, who you speak so well of below.      

Lastly, you took a swipe at the Southern Center for Human Rights and the AJC.

I like to think I took more than a swipe at them.  I think I hit the target.

I’d suggest to you that the Southern Center is responsible for acting on behalf of the rights of not only sex offenders, but anyone who is being victimized by an out of control government and legal system. They take a very unpopular stand for a group of people who can’t defend themselves and I applaud them for it. With the background you have I am sure you know that “laws” are not necessarily based on what is constitutional but on what public opinion happens to be at the time. If you were to have asked a black man in Mississippi in 1950 did he think his “constitutional” rights were being protected I am sure you would have gotten a different answer then than you would now. It was due to the efforts of civil rights “activists”, as you call them, that those rights, which were there along, were finally made to be recognized. Yes, it was very unpopular idea at the time, but it was also right to do it. It’s also right to protect the rights of ALL citizens of this country, regardless of public opinion or how popular or unpopular it is at the time. Along those lines, I suspect that at some point in the future people will look back on all this legal B.S. and wonder what in the world were they thinking? That’s the best case scenario. The worst case scenario is people never waking up at all until everyone’s rights, including yours Tina, are gone, at which point it’s too late. I suspect you’d want the Southern Center in your corner at that point.

The reference to historical racism is irrelevant and accusatory.  “You want to keep people in prison for crimes they commit, so you are a racist” doesn’t get welcomed on this website, though I’m sure you can peddle it elsewhere.  And much as they see themselves as the courageous descendants of Atticus Finch, the SCHR has never met a rapist they didn’t try to free, nor hesitated to tar crime victims and others with offensive and groundless accusations of racism in order to get their way.  Unpopular stands . . . people who can’t defense themselves . . .  says who?  They get plenty of approbation: all this carrying on about taking courageous stands against the darkness is just so much adolescent, self-serving garbage.  They get paid every time they file a frivolous lawsuit on behalf of some child rapist who wants the taxpayers to cover his rent, or other such nonsense — and that sort of thing is what really busts the justice budget, not mythical conspiracies to imprison people for peeing in public.  I have little patience for this stuff.  I’ve paid too high a price for it.  So have many, many hundreds of thousands of victims who have been denied justice, or lost their lives, over the last fifty years, thanks to such one-note activism parading as “civil rights.”

I’ll leave out the end of the letter, where I’m offered a bit of unsolicited career advice (you can read it here) because I think “Nunya” is being sincere.  And there is an important point that came up more in our off-line discussion: he argues that statutory rape laws are wrongfully condemning young men to a lifetime on the sex offender registration lists for nothing more than having consensual sex with their slightly younger girlfriends.  A lot of people believe this: it is a criticism that prosecutors need to address, for if it is true that there are any cases of 17-year olds being placed on the registry for having actually consensual sex with their 14-year old girlfriends, that is likely something that ought to be changed.

But I suspect most cases of “statutory rape” on the registration list are more complicated than that.

Georgia law on statutory rape is designed to avoid some “Romeo and Juliet”  scenarios: so are the rules on who must register.  The age of consent is 16.  But if a potential defendant is 18 or younger, and he or she has consensual sex with someone 14, 15, or 16, the charge is a misdemeanor, no registration required.  Here are other exclusions (see a description of the law here):

WHO IS NOT REQUIRED TO REGISTER?

  • If a person convicted of a sexual offense in Georgia was released from prison, placed on probation or supervised released before July 1, 1996, he/she is not required to register as a sexual offender (with some exceptions for victimizing minors)
  • A person who was convicted of a misdemeanor sexual offense after June 30, 2001.
  • Juveniles prosecuted in juvenile court are not subject to the registry.

A lot of sex offenders claim that their “only crime” was consensual sex with someone not much younger than themselves.  And a lot of journalists take such claims at face value.  But an 18-year old is not supposed to be placed on the sex offender registry for the statutory rape of his 14-year old girlfriend; nobody prosecuted in juvenile court is supposed to be placed on the registry at all.

What is happening in the cases where it appears these rules have not been followed?  Were the offenders tried as adults because of the seriousness of their crimes?  Is the statutory charge a plea from a more serious offense?  Which statutory charges are pleas, regardless of the age of the offender?

Many statutory rape charges are for serious crimes, including crimes involving under-age prostitutes.  There needs to be some clarity on this issue, for the public, and perhaps in the code itself.

Because registration is too important for the practice to founder or lose public confidence.  Every time a sex offender (and in Georgia, not a misdemeanor sexual offender) knows that he or she is being monitored by the government, the law is working.

A Few of the “Don’t Worry, They’re Harmless” Absconded Sex Offenders in Atlanta

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Charles Eugene Mickler: Mickler is classified as a sexual predator (the most dangerous offenders), yet somehow he didn’t serve any time in a Georgia prison for his 2007 sexual battery conviction?  Can anyone explain that?

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Willie Morgan Jr. is the other Atlanta-area absconder also classified as a sexual predator.  No picture in the Georgia Registry.  There is a picture, however, in the Florida Sex Offenders Registry.  Morgan was convicted in 1995 of sex crimes against children in St. Petersburg.  He relocated to Atlanta before absconding:

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Miguel Ortiz: Ortiz was convicted in DaKalb County of aggravated child molestation in 1994.  Oh, and he was also convicted in DeKalb County of aggravated child molestation in 1989.  He got three years . . . for aggravated child molestation in 1989.  Then he got out of prison, early of course.  Then he got eight years for aggravated child molestation in 1994.  Despite a prior conviction.  Then he got out of prison, early again, of course.  Now he’s on the run.  The GBI and the Atlanta Journal Constitution want you to know there’s nothing to worry about because Ortiz probably just victimized children he knew:

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Why doesn’t somebody write stories about how you used to get three years for aggravated child molestation, then eight years for the second offense, before Georgia legislators courageously reformed the law (to the dismay of anti-incarceration activists)?  Today, Ortiz would be facing a minimum twenty-five year sentence for his first aggravated child molestation conviction, and there wouldn’t be a second one.  That is, if the judge enforced the sentencing law.

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Ricardo Alverdo isn’t an Atlanta case: he absconded from Troup County.  But his is a typical case, in that it raises more questions about sentencing and the courts.  Alverdo was convicted of aggravated assault with intent to rape in 2004.  Unless there’s something wrong with the Georgia Corrections database, Alverdo, like many, if not most, of these convicted sex offenders, never made it to a prison cell.  He was never sent to state prison.  That most likely means he was not sentenced to more than a year behind bars, if that.  Did he serve a few months in a county jail and then get cut loose?  Did he serve any time at all?  Georgia law requires a minimum one-year sentence for aggravated assault with intent to rape.  Did the judge just deliver the minimum?  Is one year anybody’s idea of a fair sentence for trying to rape someone?

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Michael Barber of Fulton County didn’t go to state prison for child molestation in 2005, nor did Michael Brown, convicted of child molestation in Fulton County in 2004.  It’s unclear if either of them served any time at all, even in the county jail.  The minimum sentence for child molestation by 2004 was five years, but (again, if the Corrections database is working) some Fulton County judge apparently let them go instead.  Barber definitely absconded during the time when he should have, by law, still been in prison, and Brown may have done so as well, depending on when he took off.  What on earth in happening in the Georgia courts?  And why isn’t the Atlanta Journal-Constitution asking questions about that?

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Michael Barber

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Michael Brown

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Dawud Brimsley doesn’t appear to have spent five minutes in jail after he was convicted of aggravated assault with attempt to rape last March in Fulton County.  Ten days after the conviction, he registered as a sex offender, presumably because he walked out of jail.  Even if he got the minimum, he is still supposed to be in jail, but instead he’s now on the run after committing a violent sex crime.  That means a judge in Fulton County did not follow sentencing guidelines.  Which judge?  And are there any judges out there who do anything other than assign the minimum sentence, no matter the crime?  But there’s no reason to worry, according to the newspaper:

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David Brent Telano was convicted of aggravated child molestation and “aggravated sexual” (one assumes assault) in Fulton County in 1994.  But there are no records for him in the state corrections database, either.  Did he even go to county jail, for a year, or less?  He didn’t go to prison.  Now he’s absconded:

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Jermiah Anthony Facundo, should have never been let out of jail in the first place.  Sentenced for rape, aggravated sodomy, armed robbery, and possession of a firearm in 1999, he served less than ten years of his sentence, walked out of prison in 1999, registered in Fulton County, then took off some time after December of 2005.  Where has he been for the last five years?  That’s anybody’s guess, but he is representative of many of the men on this list, men with extremely violent records:

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So there are rapists, armed rapists, attempted rapists, sexual batterers, and (many) aggravated child molesters on the absconder list.  Many of these men never went to state prison for crimes committed in 1987, 2007, even 2009.  And this is only a list of the men (plus a few women) who have absconded: of the thousands of sex offenders in Georgia, how many of them actually served more than a year or two for very serious crimes?

With a three-pronged attack of lawsuits, lobbying, and sympathetic media coverage, anti-incarceration activists are trying once again to convince the public that Georgia is “too harsh” on sex offenders.  They’re trying to roll back the clock on Georgia’s sentencing reforms, reforms that would have saved, for just one example, Miguel Ortiz’ second child victim from being raped by him.  It takes five minutes of perusing the conviction and incarceration records of these offenders to see that, in reality, we’re still letting rapists and child molesters walk away with a slap on the wrist.

Lots of them.

Georgia’s Sex Offender Registry Works. Why Don’t Newspapers Report That?

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A convicted child rapist is suing the state of Georgia to keep his name off the sex offender registry.  I wonder who’s paying his legal fees for this foolishness?  Jim Phillip Hollie was actually convicted of three separate sex offenses in Gwinnett County: one count of child molestation (5 yrs.), one count of aggravated sexual battery (10yrs.), and one count of aggravated child molestation (10yrs.).

He’s already being given the concurrent-sentencing free-pass: his 25-year sentence is already reduced to 15 to serve, ten on probation.  But apparently that’s not lenient enough: he wants more leniency.  Hollie is claiming that being placed on a registry is like extending his “sentence” beyond the maximum allowable 30 years.

Registration, and other restrictions placed on sex offenders, have been absurdly misrepresented by the media.  Reporters simply don’t write stories about registration working — though it works every single time an offender gets reminded he’s being watched or gets sent back to prison for breaking the rules.  That didn’t used to happen before registries placed sex offenders under scrutiny.  And, contrary to the activist-driven “scholarship” arguing that sex offenders aren’t likely to re-offend (in-depth studies and victim data and sheer common sense dictate otherwise), sex offenders do target one victim after another.  Does anybody really believe that people like Hollie wake up one day at the age of 32 and decide to rape a child, just this once, just out of the blue?

The truth about sex offenders is that they get away with many, many crimes for which they are never punished.  The truth about sentencing and the courts is that virtually every offender benefits from systemic leniency and a plea system that trades money-savings up front for public safety on the back end.  These truths, and sex offenders’ proclivity for recidivism, is why we’re resorting to band-aids like registration, and living restrictions, and involuntary commitment, when what we should really be doing is growing the courts and actually bothering to hold offenders responsible for all of their crimes.

Sex offender registration works every time a single mom looks up that nice-looking man from the apartment complex who asked her out and learns he’s been convicted of molesting his last girlfriend’s kids.  It works every time somebody applies for a job and the background check shows a propensity for sexual violence.  Yet there’s a news blackout on these types of stories.

Admittedly, it’s not the same type of story when a sex offense is prevented.  But when reporters take up the issue of registration, they behave as if the only case to be made is the “anti-registration” one.   They don’t investigate instances or the prevalence of offenders being sent back to prison — what they did to get caught this time, and all their prior crimes, not just what shows up in the prison records.  They don’t speak to the victims to learn what was left out of court proceedings.  They don’t ask if there’s a juvenile record.  They take the canned and highly selective sob-stories handed to them by activist groups and regurgitate them in a few lines.

They never acknowledge that the sexual assault rate has dropped since registration laws were passed — and this, from reporters who will swallow any vague claim about crime being related to the weather, or the economy, even after those flavors of correlation get disproved again, and again, and again.

Media bias against monitoring sex offenders leads to a lot of sloppy reporting.  Reporters routinely fail to check the real criminal histories of sex offenders they interview, taking the offenders’ descriptions of their own crimes at face value.  Virtually all youthful sex offenders appearing in news stories claim that they’re guilty of no more than “Romeo and Juliet” cases of statutory, consensual intercourse.  Reporters believe them and repeat their claims without calling the prosecutor and the victim to see just how “consensual” the incident really was.  Rapists start young and target young victims in their immediate surroundings: how many of those “statutory” cases are pleas down from a worse crime, or not even “merely” statutory at all?  You have to ask questions to get answers to questions like that, and with utterly uncharacteristic shyness, reporters don’t ask, don’t tell.

Even non-youthful offenders often make the “Romeo and Juliet” claim, and nobody seems to bother to, say, count off on their fingers to see if the ages and offense dates even match.

Reporters need to hold themselves to higher standards — heck, some kind of standard.  They need to start fact-checking actual offense and prosecution records whenever they describe an offender’s prior record.  They need to contact victims if they’re going to allow an offender to describe a sex crime as consensual sex.  Sure, doing this would be uncomfortable, but not nearly as uncomfortable as being the victim who reads in the paper that the man who raped her is telling the world that it was just some star-crossed affair.

But they won’t.  They’re so besotted with the idea that sex offenders are the real victims — victims of society — that they approach issues like sex offender registration with blinders on.  Remember the utterly manufactured “homeless sex offender” debacle?  Not one news organization had the integrity or standards to corrected their misreporting of legal facts, or the real criminal histories of the offenders they profiled, or any of the other published inaccuracies confabulations in that activist-invented crisis.

In a related story, Georgia officials are reporting that they can’t find “nearly 250” sex offenders who are supposed to stay in touch with officials in metro Atlanta.  250 absconded sex offenders, breaking the law and evading authorities.  The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has this utterly bizarre coverage:

Nearly one-tenth of the area’s registered sex offenders who are not in jail are listed as “absconded” — meaning that law enforcement authorities have lost track of them, despite a strict law intended to keep such offenders under close supervision and away from potential victims.

Nevertheless, some say the long list of missing offenders — rapists, kidnappers and molesters, as well as people convicted of engaging in consensual sex acts when they were minors — should cause no alarm.

“The people on the registry are not the ones to be concerned about,” said John Bankhead, a spokesman for the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, which maintains the sex offender registry. “It’s the ones who live right up under your nose. Stranger-on-stranger sex crimes do happen. But most cases involve people the victim already knows.”

Nothing to worry about, move along, move along.  Two of the men are child rapists with a high likelihood to re-offend — predators.  All of them have committed crimes bad enough to come to the attention of authorities and result in a conviction — and as anyone who works in the criminal justice system knows, most sex offenders get away with most sex offenses most of the time, so just having a conviction indicates at least one serious lapse in self-control.

Why motivated GBI spokesperson John Bankhead to minimize the fact that 250 sex offenders from the metro Atlanta are currently missing?  Were his words taken out of context?  Was he trying to say that there are so many more sex offenders who have never been prosecuted that this mere 250 don’t pose as much risk as the non-prosecuted ones?  Because, if that’s what he’s saying, it’s horrifying and implies the need for more, not less, vigilance on sex crimes.

Of course most victims know their offenders. That’s not an argument against being worried that 250 un-incarcerated offenders in Atlanta are actively breaking the law.  Child molesters use trust and family relationships to gain access to their victims.  The fact that they knew their prior victims does nothing to minimize the possibility that these absconded offenders will do exactly the same thing with new victims.

But instead of even bothering to profile any of the most prolific and dangerous offenders on the absconded list, the reporter skips directly from playing down the danger posed by these men to another re-hash of the faux “homeless” controversy:

Georgia’s sex offender registry, known for its restrictive rules governing where offenders can live, work or even loiter, has been controversial since its creation in 1994. This fall, authorities forced a group of homeless sex offenders to leave a makeshift camp behind an office park in Marietta — one of the few places, the men said, they could live without breaking the law.

See my post here explaining the many ways the AJC got this story wrong the last time they staged a textual pity party for a bunch of shiftless sex offenders on the make for yet another government handout.  Rather than calling them homeless sex offenders, a more accurate label would be: “Sex Offenders Who Want You to Pay Their Rent and Have the Southern Center for Human Rights Staff at the Ready to Sue You to Make You Do It (and, oh yeah, pay their legal fees, to boot).”

And so, a story about 250 sex criminals absconding from the law morphs into yet another story about how the offenders themselves are the ones being victimized by society, complete with quotes from the offenders’ attorneys, yet no quote from anyone disputing their claims.  This is journalism manufactured by anti-incarceration activist caveat.

And in this case, it comes with a particularly steep price for the victims.  If the reporter and his editors are going to work so hard to assert that these men pose no danger to society, shouldn’t they ask some of the men’s victims what they think of such a curious, subjective, opinionated, cheerily uninformed claim?

For, after all, how would you feel if you had experienced being raped by, say, your uncle, and then you endured the trial, and alienation from family members, and all that hell, and your uncle gets out of jail and goes into hiding, and some careless reporter prattles on that he isn’t really dangerous because he “knew” the victim he picked the last time?  I’d feel pretty appalled.  Making assertions like this smacks of minimizing non-stranger sex crimes, when in reality, non-stranger offenders are every bit as dangerous, and often more dangerous, especially if they’re being abetted by sympathetic relatives and dysfunctional families.  And I think the psychological harm they do to their victims dwarfs the harm done by most stranger-rapes.

But hey, nothing to see here: it’s just the AJC crudely diminishing the experience of hundreds of rape victims, mostly child victims, in order to cobble another soapbox for the activists over at the Southern Center for Human Rights.  Just another day in the vast media pity party for men who rape children.

East Coast Rapist, DeKalb County Rapist: Serial Rapists and DNA. It Works. If You Bother to Use It.

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(Hat tip to Pat)

In 2007, I stood by the mailbox of the house I once briefly rented in Sarasota, Florida, contemplating the short distance between my house and the house where my rapist grew up, less than a mile, and a strikingly direct path over a well-worn shortcut across the train tracks.

I had just spent several months and many hundreds of dollars to get copies of the police investigation reports for my rape and some of the court records of the man who was accused of, but never prosecuted for the crime. Every time he was sent away on another sex crime conviction, the police closed all the other rape cases they attributed to him.  In 1987 he was tried for one sexual assault, and at least six other cases were shelved, including mine.

Such was the economy of justice in 1987: rapes were not deemed important enough to expend the court resources to try every known defendant for every crime.  This attitude arose not from the police but from the legal establishment and, by extension, the public.  It was an accepted status quo, not just in Sarasota, but everywhere.

To behave as if each rape victim actually deserved justice and every woman deserved to be safe from offenders was not anybody’s priority for spending money in 1987.  The same can still be said today, though attitudes have spottily improved.  We’ve never spent enough money to thoroughly investigate and prosecute more than a fraction of all crimes.

Criminals know this, though the public remains largely oblivious.

I remember being astonished when the police told me the D.A. would not be prosecuting my case, even though there was evidence and a rape kit.  A few months later, the first rape case in the United States using DNA evidence would be won in Orlando, a mere hundred miles and three jurisdictions away.  There, the D.A. had decided to be aggressive and use this new technology already in use in Britain, and he succeeded.  But more than a decade would pass before DNA evidence was even routinely collected and databased in most states.

A lot of people slipped through the cracks unnecessarily during that decade, including my rapist.  Sentenced to 15 years for his 1997 crime, he walked out of prison seven years later, the beneficiary of both the state’s unwillingness to fully fund prisons and activists’ efforts to get every convict back onto the streets as quickly as possible.  He immediately returned to raping elderly women, his preferred victims, and wasn’t back in prison until 1998.  At least the prisoner activists, and the defense bar, were happy.

Before the statute of limitations ran out on my case, I had offered to return to Florida to testify against my rapist. to try to keep him behind bars for a longer period of time.  The state had the ability to test the DNA in my rape kit.  I hired a private detective and reached out to the then-current Sarasota County D.A.  They practically laughed at me for having the audacity to suggest such a thing and said they didn’t have the money to go back and try old cases.  So Henry Malone walked, and more elderly women were raped.

Have things changed, even now?  Yes and no.  Two serial rape cases in the news show both progress and stagnation.

The stagnation is in DeKalb County, Georgia, the eastern part of metro Atlanta.  I know the area well: I worked there and lived nearby for much of two decades.  A serial rapist is on a real tear in DeKalb, raping at least three women since October and possibly three more since the last week of September.  Police officials told reporters that they had requested rush DNA tests on the three unknown cases from the state lab and were waiting for results.  But when CBS News Atlanta went to the state lab to find out why the tests weren’t done yet, the head of the DNA testing unit told reporters that no such request had been made.

I’m generally sympathetic to the police — less so to police brass, who sometimes rise through the ranks due to politics, not professionalism (there are some great precinct sergeants in Dekalb County, though).  But now that the mistake has been made, the executive command ought to be out in front, showing the public that they are serious about doing everything they can do, as quickly as they can do it, to catch this rapist.  Six, or even three rapes in a few months is escalating behavior, and he threatens his victims with a gun.

Ironically, the police caught several other fugitives while searching for this rapist.  It’s all about resources: we live knee-deep in wanted felons and under-investigated suspects, and our elected officials pretend that this is a perfectly normal way to live.

Meanwhile, police in the Washington D.C. area are using the media to appeal to the public to help them find the “East Coast Rapist.”  There should be more publicity.  This rapist has been active for at least 12 years: DNA tests reveal a pattern of travel between the D.C. suburbs, Connecticut, and Rhode Island during that time.

So there is a chance that somebody else knows the identity of the rapist because of his changing locations.  Profilers used to assume that serial rapists and serial killers were loners, but this, like so many other presumptions (ie. serial killers are usually white men, serial offenders pick only one type of victim) have been proven to be false.

The Washington Post has an interactive map listing the locations and dates of the East Coast rapist’s attacks in today’s paper:

GR2009121700056The rapist may have been in prison for some other crime between 2002 and 2007, and even 2007 and 2009.  You have to figure that officials in Washington D.C., Connecticut, and Rhode Island have already submitted DNA to the national database, so if he had ever been convicted of a sex crime, or even served time for some other felony in most states, his DNA would be on record somewhere.

But who knows?  Maybe he was committing sex crimes in one of the many places where DNA samples don’t get processed properly, like Wisconsin and Michigan and California.  Maybe he’s supposed to be behind bars but hasn’t been picked up yet because nobody is bothering to keep track of thousands of offenders who have absconded on bail, the situation in Philadelphia.

It’s all about resources.  Twenty-two years after the first use of DNA in convicting a serial rapist, there should be no backlogs.  Rape is too important.  Thousands of offenders shouldn’t still be walking out of prison after skipping their DNA tests, through deceit or carelessness.  Every one of these cases represents a denial of justice to someone.

Too bad criminal justice activists and law professors and university president-types don’t get all worked up when the person being denied justice is the victim, instead of the offender.

When I purchased the transcripts from some of Henry Malone’s many perambulations through the courts (and how nice that I had to pay, and pay a lot, for them), I was astonished to read the details of one hearing that was held at Malone’s behest because he demanded reimbursement for a fine related to his car, which had been impounded when he was arrested for sexual assault.  The judge and the defense attorney seemed amused by his bizarre demand.  I don’t find it so funny.  Imagine what we paid for the judge to read that demand, for the lawyer to research the claim and represent Malone in court, for the court reporter, and the security guards, and everything else that went into assuring that Henry Malone would get to be heard in court over an inane and dismissible whim.

The same courthouse where I had been denied the chance to face Malone for raping me because nobody wanted to bother spending the money to try him for more than one rape.  Criminals have rights the rest of us can’t dream of.  It’s all about the resources, and every last dime goes to offenders; they get everything they want, whenever they want it, out of the courts, while their victims wait out in the cold.

Turkey Seeking New Gravy Train, or Misunderstood Geek?

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“People may not like his style” begins the Atlanta Journal Constitution’s denouement of the Chief Pennington years.

As if the crime-weary public has been complaining all along about the cut of Chief Pennington’s jib, not the fact that he poo-poohed the rising crime wave, turned on his own officers, and stopped doing his job.

But implausible deniability has been the newspaper’s line on crime ever since the public started demanding, say, a chief of police who takes all home invasions equally seriously and doesn’t take his marching orders from two-bit activists, or pull a Houdini for months on end.

It’s not that writers Bill Rankin and Bill Torpy are particular fans of the Chief, or any cop — the paper’s biases run to offenders.  But when Pennington started parroting the paper’s “Crime? What crime, you stupid hysterics?” line, he became an occasional ally on the side of print journalists and against the public.

Consider this line his going-away gift from the fourth estate:

Pennington often comes across less as the chief of police and more as the CEO of the APD.

Really?  I always though he came across less as the chief of police because he gets into bed with Al Sharpton types, not because he’s some sort of Bill Gates in blue.

He brought in a data-driven system that gives a real-time count of the arrests and crimes taking place, enabling police to react quickly to emerging trends. Crime rates fell. Those numbers, Pennington said, are what count.

Yes, crime rates fell.  Before they started to rise precipitously, of course, a phenomenon the chief and his mayor blamed on public insensitivity to criminals, rather than criminals’ insensitivity to the public.

Murder rates indisputably did fall before and during Pennington’s time as chief.  But should Pennington claim credit for any part, let alone all, of that particular drop in that particular category of crime?  Important factors left unmentioned in the AJC article more than explain the drop in murder rates in Atlanta over the chief’s tenure.

  • First and foremost, a very specific subset of gentrification displaced violent crime outside the city limits, more or less entirely explaining the drop in murder rates.  Immediately prior to Pennington’s installation as chief, and concluding during the first years of his tenure, Atlanta’s Renee Glover literally razed the housing projects where and around which most murders and other gun crimes occurred.  They shut them down and moved the residents out — the most dysfunctional households going to Clayton County, where former Atlanta Chief of Police and current Clayton County Commissions Chairman Eldrin Bell must be wondering exactly what he did to deserve such magnetic fate.  Back in Atlanta, no more Grady Homes: no more murders at Grady Homes.  Want to know how extreme this change was?  Ask any cop old enough to remember the bad old days.  Or, conduct a longitudinal study mapping violent crime trends (murder, aggravated assaults, crime related-hospitalizations) against the relocation of public housing populations, and mention it in the newspaper when the chief tries to take credit for the drop in murders at Grady Homes.

Or don’t.

  • Another factor in the drop in murder rates was simple burn-out.  Crime was already dropping across the board when Pennington arrived in Atlanta.  Everyone rode that trend.  Atlanta was already poised to move into a lower tier of the city-by-city crime stats by the time Pennington arrived.
  • Then there’s investigation and punishment.  You know, incarcerating recidivists?  Sentencing enhancement?  This is an interesting subject and one that has not been researched enough.  Four specific trends in crime investigation and sentencing doubtlessly impacted the worst of the worst among the criminal classes just as Pennington took charge.  First, the (delayed) implementation of DNA testing and databasing finally lopped the top off rape rates by incarcerating some of the most prolific offenders for longer than the five minutes they used to spend cooling their heels in the can.  Second, sentencing reform for the most violent crimes raised the consequences for murder for everyone except juveniles.  Third, sentencing reform for gun crimes resulted in longer sentences for armed adults and even some juvenile offenders.  Fourth, technology — not just DNA, but vast improvements in crime scene processing and emergency room care, underwent a real mini-renaissance in the past ten years.  All of these factors slash the violent crime rate because small numbers of hard-core recidivists are responsible for a big percentage of all crimes.  When you remove just one of them from the streets for, say, armed robbery, you can prevent multiple future events.

So was Pennington a participant in these universal trends?  Sure.  Did he maximize the Atlanta Police Department’s ability to participate in them?

That’s the real question, and the answer is no, for reasons of personality, conduct, politics, and ethics — in other words, leadership.  Leadership was the real thing Pennington was supposed to bring to the table, leadership of his troops and leadership for the public that was paying him, and he failed both of those fundamental missions.  He even failed, according to many, at implementing the very “smart policing” techniques that were supposed to be his strength.  Data driven policing and computer crime mapping techniques are only as good as the people in charge.  If you don’t have a Bratton, or at least somebody who acts as a leader with his own women and men, then the very techniques that make policing more efficient can turn into sophisticated tools for hiding real crime statistics — or worse:

Critics say his focus on numbers created a quota system that led cops to cut corners. The police shooting of Kathryn Johnston, 92, in 2006 came about because narcotics officers were pumping up their warrants and arrests, critics say.

“The Atlanta Police Department does not have a quota system,” Pennington said after narcotics officers were arrested for the raid.

It was after the fatal narcotics raid that Pennington fundamentally betrayed his command.  He could have taken the high road, defending the performance of good cops, cooperating in the investigation of what went wrong, and taking responsibility for his own role in Johnson’s death, as any good leader would do.  But instead, he made political hay, denied any personal fault, threw good officers under the bus for political expediency, and, unforgivably for a chief of police, jumped into bed with the anti-cop activists.

At that moment, Shirley Franklin should have removed him from a job for which he was no longer even bothering to show up.  In fact, the best thing that might be said about Pennington after 2006 was that he wasn’t around very much, because when he was in Atlanta, he was just as likely to be doing something to undermine the force.  In a replay of Bill Campbell’s final days, the cop shop on Ponce de Leon took on that Colonel Kurtz vibe.

By 2008, Shirley Franklin was well on her way to Kurtzing out, too, and Pennington took an increasingly frenetic series of powders:

Pennington’s personal calendars, obtained by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution through the Georgia Open Records Act, show that the chief attended conferences in Honolulu; LasVegas; Sun Valley, Idaho; Philadelphia; Dallas; Washington; Los Angeles; Phoenix; Miami; Pasadena, Calif.; Boston; New Orleans; and other cities.

And the excuses he offered for failing to do his job grew as obscure as his travel schedule:

Pennington said he tried to connect with the rank and file early on. He held luncheons with groups of 30 officers to field their questions and gauge morale. Later, he went to roll call after hearing complaints about him not attending. But officers did not ask him questions, worried it would get back to their bosses.  “So I said, ‘Why am I going to roll call if they won’t talk, won’t say anything?’” he said.

Maybe he should have kept going to roll call, instead of going to Aruba, because it was his f*##!g  job, right?  Even if the mean kids wouldn’t sit next to him in the lunchroom.

Then the crime wave hit, and that’s when the mayor and the chief of police really lost their marbles.  Only they didn’t really lose anything: it is the public that lost.  They’re laughing all the way to the bank.

~~~

So, yes, people didn’t like Pennington’s style, but it was never a simple issue of taste, or emotions, as insinuated, unfortunately, by the AJC.  Voters aren’t children needing reassurance when serious crimes occur: people wanted Pennington to be in town because they were paying his salary and expected him to be doing his job:

Pennington said he left capable aides in charge and raced back in times of crisis.

“I don’t take a lot of vacation,” he said. “No, I don’t feel like I was out a whole lot because, you know, I took the required training opportunities I had.”

“[T]he required training opportunities I had.”  Well, isn’t that what it’s all about?  A chest-full of merit badges and holiday tan lines while the average cop had nobody in his corner as he faced down thirteen-year-olds armed to the teeth?

For every way that Pennington was bad for Atlanta, Atlanta was bad for Pennington.  Something about the toxic political culture of this town — the entitlement culture of its members-only ruling class — took a top cop with a decent reputation and dissipated his promise, like many before him.

In the final analysis, the job of the chief of police is very simple: he must lead his officers.  Not waste his time skipping around the country jockeying for political points in other arenas, nor paving a personal path to the next cushy payday.  Nor, it should go without saying but apparently must be said, hob-nobbing with anti-cop activists who make their green fomenting dangerous hatreds towards men and women in blue.

In that, Richard Pennington failed, atrociously.  And that’s all that really matters now.

Pre-Holiday Mop-Up: Marvin Arrington and Georgia Juvenile Justice Take Me To School

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I wrote this a few weeks back and never posted it: I was waiting for a confirmation of some details.  In December, Crime Victims Media Report will be re-launching with more emphasis on The Guilty Project, an effort to document the ways prolific and violent offenders avoid justice.

I have been hearing recently from crime victims, their families, and other people who personally knew offenders before they were caught: their stories are compelling, and they have a lot to say about the justice system that needs to be heard by wider audiences.

There are millions of Americans who aren’t criminals but have been denied justice because some criminal got away with murder thanks to a lenient judge, or because the system is simply hard-wired to let offenders go.  These stories need to be told, and they are not being told in newspapers.  Meanwhile, as the following illustrates, too many of our courtrooms have become therapeutic entities for the benefit of even the most violent offenders.  If you know of a case or a court ruling that deserves notice, please contact me, either on the website or at my e-mail, tinatrent2@yahoo.com.

~~~

Over at Georgia Juvenile Justice, somebody’s rather upset that, way back in an editorial published in early September, I called Judge Marvin Arrington the “host” of a graduation party held from some violent inmate, rather than the “invited guest speaker.”  Here is their complaint, which got cc’d to a bunch of state employees and then mailed to Sunday Paper a mere six weeks after my editorial ran:

Permit me to respond to your editorial entitled “Judge Marvin Arrington’s Criminal Court” in the September 2, 2009 issue of The Sunday Paper.  This editorial unwittingly perpetrates a myth concerning Judge Arrington’s role at the Metro Regional Youth Detention Center’s (Metro RYDC) graduation last May.  You should be aware of the following facts.

Judge Arrington did not hold a “graduation party” for a convicted felon at the Metro RYDC.  This graduation was arranged by the Georgia Department of Juvenile Justice’s (DJJ) Education Department.  This graduation ceremony was one of several held at DJJ facilities during the 2008 – 2009 DJJ school year.

Judge Arrington was simply invited as a speaker for the occasion. . .

Well, excusez-moi for not getting the table settings right.  Arrington was, in fact, the graduation speaker, though in the writer’s quest to minimize the judge’s role, he slides past that point for a few sentences.

Anyway, what I actually wrote was this:

Last spring, Arrington also held a “graduation party” for a convicted felon awaiting new charges at the Atlanta Metro Youth Detention Center.

So the Juvenile Justice official is right that Arrington didn’t “throw” the party for a convicted felon awaiting new charges but was merely the “honored guest” at the party for a convicted felon awaiting new charges.  It’s a tiny point, and, of course, not the point of my editorial.  My point was that Arrington, like many judges, behaves as if his role is to boost the self-esteem of violent young convicts rather than doing the things that are supposed to be his job: holding offenders responsible for their actions, protecting the public, and enforcing the law through appropriate sentencing.

Unfortunately, the courts are awash with ceremonies and celebrations for offenders.  In the trendy rush to treat offenders like “clients” and practice a therapeutic jurisprudence that wins praise from the academic/media/defense bar cabal, judges are too often tempted to abandon their role as enforcers of the law.  Sometimes they do this in the courtroom itself.  Sometimes they go off-site to other places to do it, but the effect is the same: they are carrying their title as judge with them.  They are speaking for the court and getting paid by the very same taxpayers who are being victimized by these offenders’ crimes.

And meanwhile, while they’re busy doing these other things, they’re also using the excuse that there aren’t enough resources to address all crimes, so most cases get pleaded away or postponed into perpetuity.  The prisons are full, they tell us, when what they really mean is that they philosophically oppose incarceration as deterrence.  The courts are suddenly broke, they’re telling us now, as if routinely pleading out 90% of all cases because they lacked the resources to try them in the past, right up until yesterday, wasn’t proof that they were broke before.

Back to my schooling.  I didn’t, incidentally, get the party’s location wrong, nor did I allege that Arrington presided over this particular offender’s trial, nor did I mention (let alone misrepresent) any of the other programs the Justice Department official reeled off in his demand that I stop “perpetrating myths” — I wasn’t even writing about those things.  This complaint letter by a state official is sadly dishonest throughout, both accusing me of misrepresenting facts I did not misrepresent and reeling off a list of corrections to the record about subjects I did not mention.

I suggest they get busy over at Juvenile Justice working on a retraction of the things of which they falsely accused me — or I might just sit myself down and write a firm letter to the editor complaining about them, by, say, January or February.

~~~

In the real world, where I was busy making the argument I was actually making, here is what I actually wrote about Marvin Arrington:

Last spring, Arrington also held a “graduation party” for a convicted felon awaiting new charges at the Atlanta Metro Youth Detention Center.

Robert Harris, 17, finished high school while incarcerated for a home invasion and armed robbery that sent three people to the hospital–two with head injuries from being pistol-whipped, one beaten so badly he had to have a testicle removed. Terrorized residents of the neighborhood where the crime occurred went to the courthouse and demanded that Harris not be released before trial (as he likely would have been).

Arrington’s response to the community’s outrage? He threw Harris a party, a two-hour ceremony with cake, balloons, cameramen and newspaper reporters, and Arrington as “graduation speaker” for the class of one graduating senior.

“You are as good as anybody,” Arrington told him.

Is he? That’s quite a message to send to the thousands of Atlanta students who graduated from high school last year without any detours for pistol-whipping or testicle-crushing.

Ah yes, the testicle-crushing.  Now that is quite a bit close to my actual point.  But, amazingly, Juvenile Justice felt the need to correct one point about that point, too.  They write:

[Arrington] told all of the students they are as good as anybody, not just the graduate.

That is one fascinatingly pointillistic complaint.  Let me see if I can paraphrase: I criticized Arrington for telling a violent, repeat offender who has mutilated and pistol-whipped people that he is “as good as” non-violent, non-repeat-offender, non-testicle-crushing, non-pistol-whipping youths, and Juvenile Justice retorts that my criticism is out of line because the judge was including other offenders in his Hallmark moment.

Somebody over at JJ needs to take a walk.  Or a pill.

Of course he was addressing the whole room, which doubtlessly contained other youths who are also not as good as youths who do not break laws and torture people.  I, at least, wouldn’t say that all the kids in that room are as bad as the ones who have, say, tried to beat people to death.

Are we now not even allowed to say that it’s “bad” to try to kill people by crushing their testicles and beating their heads in?  All things considered, if one young man spends his spare time delivering Meals on Wheels and the other spends his spare time beating rival gang members into the ICU, are we not allowed to distinguish between them in any way?  Does time in the can for aggravated assault equal one Boy Scout Merit Badge in the cosmic college application that is life?

More to the point, don’t the people at Juvenile Justice have better things to do with their time than make inane arguments like this in print?  For that matter, don’t they have anything at all to say about my editorial’s actual subject: serial leniency towards extremely violent offenders?  No?  Not one peep?  Try engaging the subject next time.  The public deserves better.  You are public servants: these are serious issues.  That letter was a joke and an embarrassment.

~~~

And it was more than that.  Did someone in Marvin Arrington’s office demand that Juvenile Justice take some action on my editorial?  It certainly looks that way.  Was this letter, correcting a tiny point weeks after the fact, and neglecting the editorial itself, actually a nervous capitulation to Arrington’s apparent anger at being challenged — challenged?!!

~~~

What’s sad about all of this, besides the apparent sense of entitlement and possible misuse of power, is that Arrington and I share a deep concern for the futures of the young men who go through his court.

I think I’m alone among people I know in not being bothered by the highly-publicized incident in which Arrington threw all the white people out of his court-room in order to talk tough with the young defendants there, all, apparently, African-Americans. (I would feel differently if non-black defendants were present and were subsequently treated differently).

This is what I think about what Arrington did that day: he was treating the young men’s behavior like the emergency that it is, for a change.

I used to let a group of extremely high-risk children into my home so I could feed them and help them with their homework, until one too many of them stole one too many things from me.  First, I stopped letting them come in the door, and then I had to even stop letting them up on my porch.

It was a worthless intervention anyway: all but one of them is either in prison or would be in prison if running up a long rap sheet got you incarcerated these days.

This is what that experience taught me: for a lot of the kids in juvenile facilities, incarceration is probably not only far safer than what passes for their home life, but a lot more productive in terms of securing them some type of decent future.  For virtually all of the young men who commit crimes bad enough to land them in a juvenile facility, being there is probably their best chance to try to finish school and avoid getting shot before they’re 25.  Consequences for committing crimes saves lives.

And don’t forget deterrence, because it’s not all about the offenders, no matter what many seem to think.  I can’t believe this must be said out loud, but it is hardly taken for granted in the current climate: incarcerating young offenders protects other people, especially their peers, from the dangers they pose.

However, we’re hardly allowed to talk about “deterrence” these days, let alone “punishment.”  Such words have become taboo in the therapeutic courtroom, where judges are far too eager to “relate” to offenders, instead of holding them accountable.

And so I committed a sin apparently more notable than pistol-whipping, stomping, torturing, shooting, or even killing someone: I slightly misrepresented Marvin Arrington’s table-place at a party for a violent serial offender.  Good thing the Juvenile Justice Department and the Fulton Superior Court jumped eagerly to make sure this terrible transgression, unlike so many others on their plate, did not pass unnoticed.

Richard Elliot Reports on Catch and Release in Atlanta: Who Needs a Plea Bargain When The Police Aren’t Even Allowed to Detain Youths For Breaking into Your House?

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What happens when you strip away consequences for holding a gun to somebody’s head, or kicking in somebody’s back door?  What happens when you tell a 16-year old that the worst thing that will happen to him if he commits a serious crime is a few months behind bars, hardly a threat to a child who views incarceration as a sign of street cred?  And what happens when you prevent police from even detaining the kids who just broke into your neighbor’s house?

This is what happens to the offender:

The 18-year-old who was shot dead Saturday by Macon police officers had been released from prison in September, according to the Georgia Department of Corrections Web site.

The DOC’s inmate query site said Bradley Gastin was paroled Sept. 16 from Rogers State Prison in Reidsville. On April 29, 2008, he began serving a three-year sentence for robbery by force, according to the site.

Gastin walked out of prison, early, two months ago.  Now he is dead, after trying to run over police officers during a carjacking.  Thank God no police officers were killed, in what is only the latest dangerous situation directly traceable to the broken juvenile justice system:

Macon police say Gastin and 20-year-old Tommy Lee Hardy Jr. on Saturday carjacked a Ford Expedition and later rammed a Macon police car with the stolen vehicle.

Two police officers, who were standing near the police car, fired several shots that killed Gastin, who was driving the Expedition.

Hardy is now charged with armed robbery and carjacking.  That means the young men had a gun in that car.  They held a gun to somebody’s head and then tried to kill some cops.  At what point does the public get to see the dead youth’s juvenile record, to see precisely how many times some judge let him walk in the past?

Who wins here?  Only the people who have decided that grandstanding against law enforcement is more important than protecting the public — or protecting the offenders from themselves.

~~~

Meanwhile, Channel 2’s Richard Elliot reports an infuriating story about the Juvenile Justice’s Detention Assessment protocol, which forces police officers to release juvenile offenders immediately back onto the streets for crimes like drug trafficking (certain drugs), escape with a dangerous weapon, cruelty to children, and burglary.  I couldn’t find the story on the Channel 2 website, but the Dekalb Officers blog links to it here.

Imagine calling the police to report a break-in in progress in your neighbor’s house.  The police come and catch the youths running down the street with your neighbor’s laptop and gun.  What happens next?  Well, unless they have serious priors or pending felonies (which would require somebody in the courts actually doing something about what they did the last time) the police have to let them go with an order to appear in court.

Before your neighbor gets home from work, the gang that rolled his house will be back on the streets again.

Looking for whoever called the police on them.  In other words, you.

The same goes for calling the cops on that kid tearing down a street sign, or breaking a car window, or selling drugs, or prostituting themselves.  Intervening at all has become an extremely high-risk activity: why get involved at all?

It could be said about many of these crimes, but why is burglary even on the list of so-called “catch and release” offenses?  Why have we dumbed down the horrifying act of violating somebody’s home?  The Juvenile Justice system is playing Russian Roulette with people’s lives.  And still, despite the manifold, tragic failures of such leniency, the drumbeat continues that we are too harsh with juveniles, we have to offer more “services” instead of incarceration, we lock up too many kids and throw away the key.

Bunk.  None of that is the least bit true.  Despite massive hype to the contrary and breast-beating by the usual suspects, there are very, very few youths in the state system serving adult sentences for their crimes.  Meanwhile, Atlanta, and every other city, is knee-deep in recreation centers, after-school care, interventions, recreation, and so on and so on and so on.  It’s a giant patronage machine used as much to organize political machines and get out the vote, frankly, as to “provide services” where they are needed.  I know.  I’ve seen those payrolls.  I’ve written those grants.

When somebody starts telling the truth about that, maybe more kids will get the help they really need — speedy removal to detention centers for long enough time to turn their lives around, or at least keep them, temporarily, out of harm’s way.

For, as frustrating as the story Richard Elliot uncovered may be, it’s the tip of the iceberg.  He’s just talking about the youths who don’t get detained for even one night.  How many youths charged with even more serious crimes bond out on after a day, or a week, or a month?  How many of those cases simply disappear into the worm-hole of the courts?

I spend a lot of time blaming anti-incarceration advocates for creating such a dangerously lenient system, but, in fairness, a lot of the built-in leniency is just as much a product of the politics of fiscal conservatives who don’t want to spend the money it would take — or bother expending the political capital for the fight — to fund the courts, monitor the performance of judges, and actually get “tough on crime.”

When the state legislatures return to work this year, there is plenty of blame to go around.

James Ferrell: A Rap Sheet Too Long to Repeat, Shoots A Cop Now

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DeKalb Officers blog pulled up James Ferrell’s arrest record after Ferrell shot a cop last week, an attempted murder already reduced to an aggravated assault charge.

How is shooting an officer, even if you only hit him in the leg, not attempted murder?  If the sentencing code of Georgia is so incoherent that it is better to charge someone with a lesser crime in order to circumvent the possibility of a shorter sentence, why doesn’t the legislature fix that terrible problem?  Or is it the District Attorney’s office that is being incoherent on the “shooting a cop isn’t attempted murder” thing?  Would Ferrell be charged with attempted murder if he had shot a cop in some other county?

Of course, this latest spree is not Ferrell’s first, or fifth, or even tenth run-in with the law. His first adult arrest, in DeKalb County, at least, came in 1986, 33 days after his 18th birthday, a real efficiency record.  Candles still warm on the plate.  So one must presume a sealed juvenile record.

Fast-forward 23 years. Here is the story, reported in the AJC:

Ferrell was as passenger in a car stopped shortly before noon Thursday. The officer was running a license check when he spotted Ferrell climb out of the car and run . . . The officer chased the passenger and got into a struggle with him. During the struggle the suspect grabbed for the officer’s gun . . . He was unsuccessful but later produced his own gun, which he used to fire at least one shot. A bullet grazed the officer’s knee.  As the officer was recovering, Ferrell carjacked a nearby motorist and drove off in a Ford F-150 . . .

In September, Ferrell skipped out on his parole and had a warrant issued for his arrest, according to the State Board of Pardons and Paroles.  DeKalb court records show Ferrell is also wanted on a warrant for failure to appear in court.  That warrant stems from a 2008 arrest where Ferrell was charged with hit and run, fleeing, obstruction and impersonating an officer, according to records. He was released on bond, but failed to return to court in April.

So last April, Ferrell, while on parole, committed a serious crime, including impersonating an officer.  Even though this violated his parole, some judge let him bond out of jail anyway.  And, of course, he didn’t show up back in court.  Inexplicably, it took until September before the state parole board noticed and issued a warrant for his arrest.  Meanwhile, DeKalb was busy sending him certified letters that he cleverly avoided answering.

Hey, DeKalb County, he’s just not that into you.

What does it take to not be let out on bond? Bear in mind, this is a guy with a twenty-year history of serious, violent crime.  In 1990, he was sentenced to 20 years to serve for multiple armed robberies and aggravated assault.  That was some sentence to get back then — it must have been one heck of a serious aggravated assault.

Serious, like shooting a police officer, which will now also show as only another “aggravated assault” on the new page of his rap sheet, if it doesn’t get pled down, too.

I’m at a loss.

Of course, Ferrell didn’t serve even a third of that 1990 sentence: he was back out on the streets by 1996, and then he was arrested again and returned to prison briefly and released and arrested again, this time for rape, all the while when he could have been cooling his heels in a prison cell.

By 2003, when Atlanta police arrested him for rape, Ferrell had served only nine of the 20 years to which he’d been sentenced in 1990.  And somehow, despite repeated parole violations, nobody bothered to make him finish the sentence.  So what is the point of parole again?

It is not clear what happened with the Fulton County rape charge: it seems to have disappeared.  That would be a nice question to ask someone: what happened to the rape arrest?  It looks like nothing happened.  Why?

And now a cop is shot.  “Grazed,” some say.

Well, thank goodness it wasn’t something serious.  Just another day in our absurdist criminal courts.

Redding Trial Update; Expose on Georgia’s Judicial Qualifications Commission

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From reader Chris Murphy, who attended the Jonathan Redding hearing to determine if Redding will be required to provide information to a Grand Jury about his partners in the murder of John Henderson:  

I was at that last hearing. The judge, Kimberly Esmond Adams, was looking for any excuse to allow his attorney into the grand jury, which goes against the rules. She delayed the decision, and it never was publicized what she ruled. That’s the kind of s**t that passes for justice: make a ruling, but do it when no one is around, if possible.

Does anybody know what happened?  Will Redding be required to appear before the Grand Jury?  The trial has already been delayed by a motion by Redding’s defense attorney in which she argued that her client didn’t understand the fact that he was being charged with murder.

~~~

Such are the criminal courts these days. They are our courts, but judges pretend as if the public has no right to know what they are doing.

And in Georgia, judges are abetted in secrecy by a judicial performance review system that is the weakest, most toothless, in the nation.  The Atlanta Journal Constitution published a good article on the subject — I would only disagree with their description of the Georgia Judicial Qualifications Commission as “one of the slimmest in the nation.”  I think it’s probably the weakest.  The state spends more money every year on a hundred utterly unnecessary things.  Yet, curiously, nobody in the legal community makes a peep.

So what can be done?  It will require legislation to grow the commission to a reasonable size and legislation to require these people to behave as if they are operating in America, not some Soviet-style, untouchable, secret bureau.

It’s your money, and it’s your court, folks.  You’re not going to be able to get the Bar Association, or any other legal group to do this: lawyers know better than to challenge judges.  And judges are shamefully silent on even the worst abuses and incompetence perpetrated by their peers.

Legislators didn’t “accidentally” forget to fund the Commission tasked with overseeing judges’ actions, you see.  Look at the names in this usual-suspects list, and you begin to see how lawyers and politicians are the same animal in this state — an animal that feels really comfortable telling you to butt out if you have concerns about the way things are being run in the courts.

No, this is a good old-fashioned conspiracy, and it starts at the Capitol, and it involves both parties — Democrats and Republicans may not agree on much, but they agree that they don’t want nosy non-lawyers demanding accountability from them and the friends they put on the bench.

There are people sitting on those benches all over the state who have utterly no business being in a courtroom.  Somebody outside the system is going to have to demand change and wrest some power away from the cozy cabal that protects judges — from the legislative hearing rooms at the State Capitol to the powerless Commission.

(How do you prevent real reform?  Create a powerless reform board and declare victory.)

It is a disgrace that Mike Bowers had to step in to take on the investigation of Kenneth E. Fowler, but the bigger disgrace lies in all the other incompetent judges who don’t have anybody taking a stand against them.  So I would ask: why isn’t Bowers, not to mention other well-connected lawyers, doing more to change the state’s absence of a real Judicial Qualifications Commission?  Where is the ever-so-principled Roy Barnes, who sees a white suit in every mirror he passes?  The ersatz-populist Sonny Perdue, our own chubby Jacksonian?  Has anybody even seen Thurbert Baker recently?  Did he move?

(Well, but, it’s their friends on the bench.)

Why isn’t the A.C.L.U. screaming bloody murder about the secrecy of these reviews?

(Answer: they love incompetent judges.  Incompetent judges often cover their tracks by grandstanding on behalf of “poor victimized defendants” and other claptrap that plays well in the press.  And the defense bar sticks some of the worst judges on the bench in the first place: when it’s pro-defendant judges doing wrong, especially letting offenders off in violation of state law, don’t expect the A.C.L.U. to complain.)

But the prosecutors don’t show much backbone, either.

Until people start demanding that their elected officials actually fund the Commission and demanding disclosure of their activities, judges in Georgia will remain firmly above the law.

Questions About the Municipal Judges’ Races in Atlanta, Georgia

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A friend just contacted me with a question about the municipal judges’ races in Atlanta:

There are several Municipal Court Judges listed on the ballot with the question (yes/no) on whether the judge should be retained. I don’t know anything about judges, so I hoped you guys could advise me on any of these you may know.

So here they are.  I don’t know much about them — hopefully by the next election cycle, we will have much more information about judges’ records.  Nothing would do more for public safety in Atlanta than reforming the courts and insisting on searchable, public databases of all case outcomes.

If you have anything to say about the performance of the judges below, comment away.  Keep it clean, please!

Elaine Carlisle

Clinton Deveaux

Crystal Gaines

Calvin Graves

Deborah Greene

Barbara Harris

Gary Jackson

Catherine Malicki

Herman Sloan

Jonathan Redding, 30 Deep, the Blue Jeans Burglaries, the Standard Bar Murder, and Disorder in Atlanta’s Courts

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Jonathan Redding, suspect in the murder of Grant Park bartender John Henderson, suspected of firing a gun in an earlier armed robbery outside the Standard (Why isn’t it attempted murder when you fire a gun during a robbery?  Are we rewarding lack of aim?), suspect in a “home invasion gun battle” in which Redding shot at people, and was shot himself (Two more attempted murders, at least, if sanity existed in the prosecutor’s office), suspected member of the “30-Deep Gang,” one of those pathetic, illiterate, quasi-street gangs composed of children imitating their older relatives, middle-schoolers waving wads of cash and firearms on YouTube: Jonathan Redding is 17.

How many chances did the justice system have to stop Johnathan Redding before he murdered an innocent man?  How many chances did they squander?

In May, Fox 5 ran a chilling story about the 30 Deep Gang.  Deidra Dukes reported:

Police say 30 Deep is based in Atlanta’s Mechanicsville community. The gang reportedly popped up on their radar about three years ago, and recruits members as young as in middle school.

“They know that the juvenile laws are a little more lax than they are when they are adults so they get them to do so they get them to do more serious crimes between the ages of 14 and 16, they won’t get into as much trouble,” said Harper.

Everybody knows this.  Everybody knows that there are 14-year olds waving guns on the streets and 16-year olds committing murder.  How can they not know, when there is video evidence of it, not to mention the bodies?  Spend a few minutes on YouTube watching the videos in which young men identify themselves by their housing project, some by the names of housing projects that were torn down but have managed to survive in the imaginations of eighth-graders as places where life was good in direct, not inverse, proportion to violence and chaos.

Look at the apartments these kids live in, that appear in the videos: they have little cathedral ceilings and nice fixtures, but nothing else — no beds, just mattresses, no pictures on the walls.  Nobody is starving: this is cultural poverty.  These are children: they take pictures of themselves in their classrooms, pictures of the school bus, then, inevitably, pictures of wads of cash and guns and little groups of kids who would have a hard time reading Goodnight Moon throwing gang signs with their hands.

What never ceases to amaze me is that I went to college with people who looked upon this stuff as romantic, not tragically stunted.  From the first time I walked into an apartment like the ones on these videos, I could see that what we were doing wasn’t working, if this was the result.  And yet people still debate this, as if there is anything left to say in the face of such colossal ignorance, and violence, and wasted lives, subsidized by us.

For the last year, the Mayor, the Police Chief, the usual editorialists and academicians, have all been denying that any of this is a problem.  One Jonathan Redding is one too many, but the powers-that-be, even at this late and tragic date, want to punish the public for daring to say this out loud.  If voters don’t reject this status quo next week, it will be a shame.

~~~

Jonathan Redding’s defense attorney is laying the groundwork to claim that her client’s profound ignorance is some type of defense — that he “doesn’t understand” the charges against him.  His life was empty, nihilistic, wasted, violent: this is an argument in favor of him.  Such routine suspension of disbelief in favor of defendants, and the rules of evidence that block the search for truth at every turn, are in Redding’s favor from now on.

It is not believable that Jonathan Redding is such a naif in the courtroom.  Some prosecutor or judge let him go, over and over — first as a truant, then as a juvenile, then as “just a robber” or “just a kid breaking into cars,” or “just a member of the gang stealing blue jeans.”  Now he is lucky to be alive, having been shot, and he is facing a lifetime in prison, and John Henderson is dead.

“They know that the juvenile laws are a little more lax.”  Our justice system has tied its own hands in a thousand different ways, and the judge wants Redding to testify before a Grand Jury, to give up names.

Who are we kidding?  Nobody in the juvenile justice system, nobody on the police force, knows who Redding was running with?  How many bites at the apple did they have with this kid?

Sure, put him in front of the Grand Jury; however, the Grand Jury is too little too late: plenty of people with authority to stop him knew precisely what Johnathan Redding was doing and who he was doing it with, but they didn’t take it seriously, and two more lives are over.  When will this price finally seem too high?

Ash Joshi: “But Being a Quisling Apologist for Murderers is my Job”

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Another great in-depth story in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution about chaos in the courts.  Note that Metro Atlanta courts other than Fulton County aren’t catch-and-releasing murder defendants like muddy-tasting catfish, like Fulton does.

Volume is no excuse: volume of cases means that judges and prosecutors should be appealing to the public for support and banging down doors at the Georgia General Assembly for more resources, not lowering standards.

Note, too, the line-up of apologists who try to explain away the problem rather than admitting that the D.A.’s office needs more and more-experienced prosecutors, and the Fulton Superior Court desperately needs an intervention.

I’m glad to see Fulton D.A. Paul Howard taking a stand:

“I, like law enforcement officials and 99 percent of the citizens I meet, believe such releases should rarely happen.”

In a statement, Howard said judges are blaming police and prosecutors for their own “seemingly poor judgment.”

Atlanta police Lt. Keith Meadows, head of homicide, was similarly annoyed. “To say we’re presenting weak cases, that’s just disingenuous,” he said.

The homicide unit has a 92 percent conviction rate, Meadows said in an interview Friday.

But if things are so bad that murder defendants are getting released because a hearing isn’t held within the required time-period, doesn’t the prosecutor’s office need more manpower?  Howard said recently that he does not need more prosecutors, but evidence suggests otherwise.  Paul Howard would have a very receptive audience if he went to the people of Atlanta and said: “I need 20 more prosecutors to actually put a dent in violent and property crime.”

Meanwhile, spokespeople for the Fulton County Superior Court seem to be arguing that because some people are acquitted of murder charges, it’s OK to routinely release remorseless predators onto the streets before trial:

Downs’ office pointed out several murder cases since 2007 in which charges were either dismissed, reduced or the defendant was acquitted.

This is an argument for releasing dozens of murder defendants on bond?  Well, heck, since some people are acquitted (no proof of innocence, in many cases), why don’t we just do away with the courts?  Why arrest anyone?

Creepy quisling of the week award, however, must go to Ash Joshi, who continues to believe that it was, as Martha Stewart would say, a “Good Thing” that his client, Antoine Wimes (see here and here), managed to bond out on the undisputed and cold-blooded murder of an innocent African immigrant, a gift of trust that Wimes cashed in by battering a woman into a coma and using an infant as a baseball bat:

Ash Joshi, a former Fulton prosecutor who represents Wimes in the murder case, said at first blush, the number of released murder suspects is “staggering.” But “as you have a greater volume of cases, there will be a number of weak cases. What is frustrating to a prosecutor is you believe a person is guilty but don’t have the evidence. A judge has to act on the evidence.”

Joshi said there were several factors in Wimes achieving bond: “His age, there was not a great deal of evidence and he had good ties to the community.” About 20 relatives attended the hearing. Joshi argued Wimes would not be a threat to the community.

Prosecutor Jack Barrs disagreed. “This was just a person who shot and killed somebody for no reason that’s apparent to the state or anyone else,” Barrs said at a pretrial hearing. “It indicates that there is great concern that he is a danger to the community at large.”

Last week, Joshi was unapologetic, saying he did everything he could to get his client a bond, just as prosecutors fought to oppose it.

“They did their job, and I did mine,” he said.

Hollywood and Grisham-esque fantasies aside, Joshi’s job actually is to act in the best interest of his client.  It’s a measure of how grotesque and degraded the defense bar has become that Joshi cannot conceptualize that “best interest” for a trigger-happy, sociopathic adolescent might be restraining him from taking more innocent lives until a judge manages to squeeze his murder trial in between all the other important things they’re busy doing at the Fulton County Superior Court.

Remember Mark Barton, the day-trader killer who gunned down 22 people, killing nine of them, in Atlanta in 1999?  Clever defense tactics protected him from paying the price for murdering his first wife and mother-in-law in cold blood, and so Barton went on to bludgeon his second wife and two young children in a similar fashion, before ripping nine additional, innocent families apart.

Was that in Mark Barton’s best interest?

Remember when the murder rate dropped through the floor in New York City?  That happened because judges, prosecutors, social service agencies, police, council-people, and the mayor (yes, the loud-mouthed, choleric, cross-dressing, adulterous-yet-oddly-effective Giuliani) teamed up to take responsibility for crime, to stop pointing fingers, and to stop defending the lumbering, crumbling behemoth that was the New York State justice system.

Atlanta can’t hope for a loud-mouthed, choleric, cross-dressing, adulterous-yet-oddly-effective mayor in this election season, I think.  But we can still dream.  Imagine the sea change if the people we entrust to enforce public safety actually stood up together and said: “Yes, the system is broken.  We really need to fix it.”

Why Police Morale Stays Low: Cop Killer Gregory Lance Henderson was Supposed to be in Prison. Twice Over. And, a Judge Responds.

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From the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer:

Gregory Lance Henderson’s adult life is on the record.

Police and court records. . .

The 31-year-old Columbus man is accused of striking with his car and killing James Anderson, a Lee County, Ala., sheriff’s deputy . . . Henderson was sentenced to 15 years and three to serve for a drug conviction in 2007.  If he had served the full three years, he would still be in a Georgia prison today.

Despite an extensive criminal record (16 bookings in Georgia alone, a felony conviction for aggravated assault, drug convictions), Henderson faced no consequences for most of his arrests.  He drew a 24 months to serve/10 years parole sentence for a violent felony in 2006 and yet somehow didn’t serve that time.  His next arrest came five months later — and even though he’d violated parole (if we can call it parole, since he was actually supposed to be in jail), someone let him walk again.  A few arrests later, he was in front of another judge who apparently did not consider the fact that he was still supposed to be in prison for the last offense and had also been arrested additional times since that conviction.

So, 11 months after he was sentenced to ten years, 24 months to serve, he was sentenced anew on other charges and given 15 years, three years to serve.

Why didn’t the judge revoke the parole, send him off for ten years, and then slap on the additional charges?

Of course, Henderson didn’t serve those three years, either.  He was released 15 months later, and now a Sheriff’s deputy over the Alabama border has been murdered.

Thank you, Muscogee County Superior Court.  Thank you, Georgia Pardons and Paroles.  Hope you send flowers:

Randy Robertson, vice president of the local Georgia Fraternal Order of Police chapter and a Columbus law enforcement officer, said this case illustrates the need for tougher mandatory sentencing laws from the Georgia General Assembly.

“The state of Georgia needs to write an apology to the Anderson family because this guy was not where he was supposed to be, which is incarcerated,” Robertson said Saturday.

Georgia’s recidivism laws are too narrow and its mandatory sentencing laws are utterly meaningless.  The recidivism law excludes all but a few crimes, and defendants can still plead out of the ones that count as “strikes.” (This, as I keep saying, is why we have so many people in prison for “just drug charges” that aren’t really just drug charges.) The mandatory sentencing laws create guidelines and then undermine them by allowing judges to suspend part or all of any sentence (then the Parole Board chops off the other end).  What’s mandatory about that?

Did legislators not read these bills before they passed them?  Were defense attorneys still in charge of the House Judiciary Committee when these bills were drafted with little poison pills attached?  Were publicly law-and-order types privately fudging the legislative intent in order to save the state some money?

Why does nobody ask questions like this?

~~~

Any road, the consequences remain the same: a police officer dead, his family mourning.

Remember this: when cops are dealing with out-of-control recidivists, every arrest, even for minor crimes, puts their lives in danger.  According to comments in the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer, Henderson has a teardrop-tattoo on his face, universal nomenclature advertising intent of and propensity for unpredictable and extreme violence:

So even when he was just getting popped for traffic offenses, he was announcing to the world that it could end very badly for someone.  And finally, tragically, it did.  Nobody should deign to express surprise.

Here are merely the last four years of Henderson’s journey through  — or, mostly, not through — Georgia courts.  Between the rat tangle of lax prosecution protocols, plea deals, judicial discretion and parole, his feet barely touched the courthouse floor, let alone the jailhouse door:

Oct. 14, 2005: Booked into Muscogee County Jail on aggravated assault and armed robbery charges.

Oct. 6, 2006: Pleaded guilty to aggravated assault charges in Superior Court; Judge Robert Johnston sentenced him to 10 years in prison, 24 months to serve.

March 1, 2007: Booked into Muscogee County Jail on possession of methamphetamine and traffic charges.

April 8, 2007: Booked into Muscogee County Jail on misdemeanor battery charges.

May 3, 2007: Booked into Muscogee County Jail on probation violation and aggravated assault charges.

Sept. 7, 2007: Pleaded guilty to possession of methamphetamine charge in Superior Court. Judge Bobby Peters sentenced him to 15 years, three years to serve.

Oct. 23, 2007: Began prison sentence.

Dec. 29, 2008: Released on parole from Hays State prison by Georgia Department of Corrections.

To revisit the math: while on probation (?) for an aggravated assault for which Henderson is actually supposed to be in prison, he’s busted in March, busted in April, busted in May, pleads to “just drug” charges for the March 1 charge in September and gets out of jail, early, 15 months later.  Then, this:

Sept. 24, 2009: Arrested in Lee County, Ala., on capital murder charges in connection with the death of Sheriff’s deputy James Anderson.

Someone claiming to be Judge Peters responds to criticisms in this comments thread.  Of course, there’s no way to know if it really is the judge, but he says the D.A. didn’t bring charges for the second aggravated assault before him, only a drugs charge.  He also seems to have not looked at Henderson’s prior record, because he apparently did not notice that Henderson was supposed to be in jail when he was in his courtroom.  If any of this is true, it simply means that the courts are in even more disarray, not less, frankly.

Scratch the surface of most “just drugs” cases, and you get someone with an arrest record like Henderson’s.  Judges should know that and want full disclosure of prior records, right?

My name is Judge Peters and I am posting this to correct the article. James Henderson did not come before me for aggravated assault. He was arrested for a possession of residue of meth in a straw when he was stopped for improper tag lights. A plea bargain agreement with the DA and his lawyer was an agreement where he pleaded guilty, gave up his 4th amendment rights, sentenced to 15 years, three in jail and 12 on supervised probation with drug testing and drug treatment.

OK, fine.  Blame the D.A. too.  But why would any judge allow a 15-year sentence for, as he modestly puts it, “residue in a straw” without asking why the D.A. wanted to throw the book?  Why would any judge not wish to ascertain the defendants’ criminal history to consider in sentencing, for that matter?

Why didn’t the judge revoke his parole, or whatever it was Henderson was serving or not serving for the 2006 aggravated assault charge?

Why didn’t the judge also see that Henderson had another outstanding aggravated assault charge, which would qualify him for recidivism status?  I’m willing to believe there are more people responsible than just Judge Peters.  But it is his courtroom, his responsibility.  The buck stops with him, and if all this is the prosecutor’s fault, then the judge has a serious responsibility to do something about such costly lack of communication.  Peters (if it his him) continues:

[Henderson] was paroled by the Pardon and Parole Board prior to his 2010 release date. Deputy [Anderson] was a fine man, all jurisdictions mourn his passing and pray for his family. No one could predict this would happen. the sentence received was a tough sentence for possession of residue of meth. the article was wrong when it listed the crime of aggravated assault as an additional charge at that time. Thank you. — Bobby Peters.

Nobody could predict this would happen?  Well, not if you don’t look at the guy’s record.  Or his face.  The writer claiming to be Judge Peters continues:

[O]nce an individual is sentenced, his fate rests with the Pardon and Parole Board. Victims or family members, DA, may appear before the board or send a letter. I dont contact the board to get a person out or to keep them in. The aggravated assault was a plea bargain in front of another judge in 06. I have asked for a transcript of both cases. The case I heard was a residue meth case where Henderson was on drugs and stopped for no tag light. 15 years with 3 years in prison,12 years on probation, drug treatment, drug testing, random searches, and 12 years to serve if he got in trouble again. No one can ever predict what a defendant will do down the road. This case is really a tragedy for the Anderson family. I dont know why Henderson got out early but the main one to blame is Henderson himself. I, like everyone, am so sorry this happened. Note says no more space. You can call me if you have more questions. — Bobby Peters.

“I have asked for a transcript of both cases”?  Now?  After a cop gets killed?  Why would any judge sentence somebody without knowing their record of violent crime, recidivism, prior leniency shown by the courts, and prior conduct during prior early releases, particularly parole violations?

“No one can ever predict what a defendant will do down the road”?

This one did precisely what he did the last time: got another drug charge, another aggravated assault charge, and then another free pass from another prosecutor, another judge and another pushover at Pardons and Paroles.  No mystery there.

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Every police officer in the state should descend on the Georgia General Assembly this year in memory of Officer James Anderson, demanding real sentencing reform and judicial accountability.  This time.