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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.


George Soros Funds the Fight to Lie About California’s So-Called Three-Strikes Laws


First, a controlling fact.  California’s much-reviled “three-strikes” law bears no resemblance to what you’ve read about it in the news.  How much no resemblance?  Lots of no resemblance:

  • Prosecutors and judges have discretion in applying the law.  Discretion means “not draconian.”  Discretions means that it isn’t really a “three-strikes” law but merely a recidivist statute that permits, but in no way requires, application of its sentencing guidelines.  Someone can have 20 strikes and the law still won’t necessarily be applied.  Someone can rape and molest dozens of women and children and still not get three strikes sentencing.  The reality of criminal prosecution is that, in virtually all cases, when people face multiple charges (barring a few such as murder) those charges are telescoped down to one or two, and the others offenses are simply not prosecuted.  The tiny number of people facing three-strikes sentencing are extremely flagrant offenders who have committed dozens or hundreds — not two-and-a-half — violent crimes.
  • There are no people serving life sentences “merely” for stealing Cheetos or a VCR tape.  Those are myths.
  • Prosecutors use this recidivist sentencing law so rarely that most apply it just a few times a year, and even then, it frequently doesn’t lead to 25-to-life.  But media reporting frequently stops at the original charge.
  • The lies the media tells about “three-strikes” are legion.  The word” strike” better describes the media’s flailing confabulations about recidivism sentencing than any aspect of sentencing itself.

There is a great website by Mike Reynolds, an expert on California’s three-strikes law and its application (application being 95% of the law, no matter what they tell you in school).  I urge you to read his site and support his efforts:

Three Strikes and You’re Out: Stop Repeat Offenders 

Mike Reynolds debunks myths about three-strikes laws increasing costs for the state.  He proves that prison growth did not occur because of three-strikes laws; he explains who does and does not get enhanced sentencing, and he factors in the financial savings arising from reduction of crime arising directly from the prolific offenders who are sentenced under these laws.  In other words, he does what journalists and politicians ought to be doing, but do not.

From Mike’s site:

What is sometimes mistaken (or misunderstood) is the level of violence and brutality, as compared to the value of something rather minor. My daughter, Kimber, was murdered over a “minor” purse snatching. In fact, most murders are over little or “minor value” issues. Keep in mind, every “Three Strikes” case is closely reviewed by prosecutors who must prove the prior convictions in court. In the event that the defendant is found guilty of the current felony offense, the judge can, and does, review the merits of the case to decide whether or not to apply the full “25 to Life”, or reduce the case to a second strike.

On average, only (1) out of every (9) eligible third strikers gets a “25 to Life” sentence. The average third striker has (5) prior serious or violent felony convictions.

Read Mike’s site!  


Meanwhile, anti-three-strikes activism is an astroturfed social movement funded for years through various channels by billionaire financier George Soros.  The Los Angeles Times reports that Soros just gave $500,000 to the effort to get an anti-three-strikes measure on the California ballot in November.  The other major funding of the ballot initiative is Stanford Law Professor David Mills.  I wonder if anyone’s done an audit to see how much educational taxpayer money (even private schools rely largely on public funds) Professor Mills has used for his political activism.  His “academic” website is basically an advertisement for activism.  Why do California residents put up with paying for this guy’s hobbies?  Can’t he take his druggie-yellow sunglasses off for a photo for his law school?  Is that too much to ask?  What is that, a denim shirt?  Would a suit kill him?

“Professor” David Mills, Stanford University, Photographed on a Sunny Day.

Maybe he dresses this way to conceal the fact that he made a fortune in private investment firms before picking up a starring role at the previously dignified Stanford Law posing as a denim-wearing soldier for the right of thugs, rapists, and home invaders to continue their prolific criminal careers against non-investment firm types who can’t afford personal security like Mills’ and Soros’.

David Mills doesn’t even have a real vitae.  He’s published four editorials (one, risibly, in Slate; one, risibly, in MSN Slate) and one law review article in his own school’s law review, co-authored by a real scholar.

My goodness, the things that get you a law professorship at Stanford these days!


 Anyway, back to the three-strikes campaign.  Below you’ll find some articles I’ve written on the real criminal careers of the more famous poster-children of Soros’ and Mills’ cause.  It took decades for ordinary people and crime victims to create enough traction in the justice system to merely punish a small percentage of prolific criminals.  Now we stand to lose such progress.  These men — sheltered by their extreme wealth, capable of avoiding the consequences of their actions, are trying to empty the prisons in order to make themselves feel virtuous while spitting in the faces of law abiding Americans.  It’s a consequence-free titilation for them, on your backs and the safety of your loved ones.

If you’re in California, the time to push back is now.  George Soros and David Mills merely have money.  We have the truth.  We need letters to the editor every time someone makes a false claim about saving money on prison costs, or cries alligator tears about Supermaxes cluttered with Cheetos-stealing Jean Valjeans and other nonsensical lies.

Here are links to just a few of my posts on three-strikes laws and other recidivist measures under attack by George Soros:

Jerry DeWayne Williams: The original “pizza slice” poster boy for the anti-three strikes movement . . . and his real record

Robert Ferguson: “Bag of cheese” poster boy for the anti-three strikes crowd; of course there’s more to the story

Rodney Alcala: California serial killer and sexual torturer (worked for the LA Times after he racked up a horrifying record)

Russell Burton: 20 years of serial leniency for horrific recidivist sexual assaults in California and Georgia 

Lavelle McNutt: Prolific serial rapist with 36-year record of leniency in at least two states

A Great Article About Life Without Parole and the Death Penalty

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Hat tip to Alfonso: Deborah J. Saunders on the role the death penalty plays in Life-Without-Parole cases.

Three Chances Instead of Three Strikes: Giovanni Ramirez and the Supreme Court

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Giovanni Ramirez has been arrested for inflicting permanent brain damage in the April near-death beating of Giants fan Bryan Stowe.  Some non-news regarding the arrest:

  • Ramirez is “at least” a three-time convict and a felon.
  • Ramirez is a convicted gun criminal.
  • Ramirez is a “documented gang member.”
  • Ramirez was not serving time at the time of the beating.  He was out on parole despite prior convictions for attempted robbery, robbery, and firing a weapon in a public place . . . at least.

Well, who could be surprised?  The headlines this week are about the Supreme Court decision forcing California to release 46,000 inmates on the grounds that their civil rights are violated by prison overcrowding.  Bad enough, but those 46,000 soon-to-be wrongfully freed offenders are only a fraction of the problem.  They, at least, ended up in prison for some portion of their sentences.

In addition to the 46,000, how many Giovanni Ramirezes are “wrongfully freed” by other means in California every year?  Why was Ramirez on parole, instead of being in prison?  Here’s another interesting, unasked question: did some prosecutor and/or judge allow him to plead down to “firing a weapon in a public place” in 2005 to make it easier to avoid applying California’s “three-strikes” law?  Did the prosecutor find some other excuse to avoid seeking three-strikes?  This type of thing happens every day.

In 2005, what were the real charges against Ramirez?  What sentences did he receive for attempted robbery in 1998 and robbery in 1999?  How much time did he serve, and how much time did he get off?

There’s no way to learn the answer to questions like this until somebody in Los Angeles unearths Ramirez’ entire criminal record, from arrests to final dispositions.  And reporters virtually never bother to do that.  The courts and the media collude to conceal basic information about criminal cases from the public.  Journalists don’t like risking their special access by embarrassing judges or prosecutors, so nobody asks the hard questions, such as this one:

Would Bryan Stow be at home playing with his children instead of hovering near death with profound brain damage if some L.A. judge had not granted Giovanni Ramirez an entirely unearned “third chance” in 2005?

When you start looking at complete criminal histories — pleas, dropped charges, nolle prosequi, et. al. — the justice system starts looking more and more like the hat check in a social club for unrepentant thugs.  I started this blog in 2009 when I learned of a judge in my old neighborhood who suffered no consequences (still hasn’t) for wrongfully releasing a serial offender who went on to kill a female cancer researcher.  Rather than spending her time in court examining the offender’s record and assigning the correct statutory punishment, the judge spent her time oohing and ahhing over a wedding dress website with the offender and praising him for “rehabilitating” himself so creatively.

The prosecutor also dropped the ball, but if judges don’t accept responsibility for what happens in their courtrooms, why bother calling them judges?

This terrible dereliction of duty went to the heart of the problem: the judge treated the predator like a victim and also as a sort of Oprah-esque hero of his own life.  She used our resources and her authority to inflate his self-esteem and her own sense of magnanimity, instead of punishing him and protecting us.  And an innocent woman died a horrible death because of it.

Unsurprisingly, the wedding dress website was a scam.  That tacky aside illustrates an important fact:

The only real rehabilitation is consequences.

Judicial rulings like this are frighteningly routine: judges on ego trips walk into courtrooms and see, in prisoners, a reward-rich private constituency. Grandstand on their behalf, and you win approval from all the places where approval matters to any ambitious judge: law faculty, the ABA, the academic research class, liberal activists, and huge swaths of the federal judiciary positioned between your bench and the Supreme Court.  Also, during administrations like this one, the Justice Department.

Not to mention the media, the DNC, and even certain conservatives — the previously convicted, the pro-pot libertarians, the ego-tripping Christians, and these people.


I see the Supreme Court decision as the culmination of seventeen years of radical opposition to California’s extremely successful and life-saving three-strikes law.  How successful?  You won’t find many people asking that question in the universities, or the press, but on his well-documented website, Mike Reynolds asserts that three-strikes has had a profound effect on public safety:

[A]n average of 1,000,000 serious or violent crimes are prevented every 5 years and 10,000 Californians spared from becoming murder victims since its passage in 1994.

Yet the public debate continues to revolve around myths of people being sent up for shoplifting cheese or a pizza slice.

The Myth of Jerry DeWayne Williams and his Pizza Slice

Thirteen Strikes and Still Not Out. . . Robert Ferguson is Not a Victim


Here, if you can stomach it, is a celebratory roadmap to the anti-three-strikes movement by Bill Boyarsky, who presents himself as a loner bemoaning what he (astonishingly) sees as the failure of the media to cover the “neglected evil” of racism in the criminal justice system and specifically California’s three-strikes law.  Now there’s something you never read about in the mainstream press.  Neglected, you know, like Boyarsky was neglected as he was forced to toil in barren fields like . . . the City Editor’s position at the L.A. Times, the Annenberg School for Communications, presiding officer on the Los Angeles City Ethics Commission, Northwestern University, and Berkeley.

Bill Boyarsky, courageous voice in the wilderness

It really is all about them.  Damn the cost to the rest of us.

Suppressing Debate in the Michael Woodmansee Case


Editor’s Note: I suspended this blog eight months ago, for the usual personal reasons.  Sometimes, it’s good to swing a hammer instead of a pen.  I’ve been trying to find a way to start the blog up again.  When writing about the justice system’s dealings with crime victims, the problem is that there are too many injustices to cover.  And the media rarely acknowledges any of these injustices, except in condescending ways.  They’ll mouth pieties about feeling sorry for victims, but, in reality, they are utterly disinterested in actually reporting the systematic ways the justice system fails the vast majority of people who have been on the receiving end of crimes, large and small.

They’re too fixated on empathizing with criminals to do that.

Most newspaper editors, along with the vast majority of criminologists and law professors, are unabashedly pro-offender in their outlook (there are many good crime beat reporters out there, but they rarely end up on the editorial pages).  This powerful pro-offender, anti-incarceration bias warps academic research and opinion writing; it misinforms the public and paves the way for bad and deceptive sentencing policy.

The coverage of the Michael Woodmansee case is a good example of the consequences of such bias.  We are now into the second week of coverage of this story, and the local paper, the Providence Journal, has not yet even bothered to clarify a central aspect of the story: what were the entire range of sentences available to the court when the parents of Michael Woodmansee’s victims were given the choice (and it wasn’t really their choice) to accept a plea bargain of fifty years, forty served, for the torture, murder, cannibalization, and desecration of the remains of their five-year old son?

So far, the emphasis has been on the reactions of the family and the public, rather than the law itself.  Only one print news story has mentioned that there was not a Life Without Parole (LWOP) option that could be applied to Woodmansee’s case in 1983, for the murder he committed in 1975.  According to the Death Penalty Information Center, Rhode Island didn’t have a LWOP option in 1975.  Their LWOP was passed in 1979.  Nor did they (or do they) have the death penalty.  Presumably, the LWOP law that was passed wasn’t retroactive.  So in 1983, when Woodmansee confessed, the parents of his victims knew that they couldn’t expect him to stay in prison indefinitely.  That surely would have affected their decision to accept a plea, as well as the types of pleas on the table.

But were they given the whole story?  Was there anything stopping the prosecutor from demanding that the child cannibal serve 100 years, for example, so he wouldn’t be facing a good-time release in 2011, or parole even sooner?  Could Woodmansee have been charged with attempted murder for his 1983 assault of another young boy, who survived?  Did the state do everything it could have done?  Why were his sentences for the two different assaults served concurrently?  Why doesn’t anyone in the media ever question the law (or lack of it) behind concurrent sentencing for vicious serial sex crimes?  What really happened, and who really is responsible, for the terrible possibility that Woodmansee will soon be released?

Well, according to the Providence Journal’s editorial columnist Bob Kerr, who cares?  What’s really important to Kerr is making sure those pesky victims or the unwashed public don’t get out of hand, or some rival new source doesn’t get away with “exploiting” the story (of course, his newspaper is benefitting from their steroidally promoted coverage, but, hey, they’re print journalists: it’s classy when they do it).  So although the Journal has had plenty of time to get around to clarifying sentencing laws, or having a real discussion about Rhode Island’s troubling history of lenience towards killers, Kerr has used his bully pulpit merely to berate the public and muddy the legal waters.  In the latter task, he has gotten a big hand from one Andy Horwitz, a law professor/law school dean/President of the Rhode Island Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers who gawkingly mused in print about LWOP as if it might have existed as an option in 1983, without actually explaining whether it did or did not.

It’s a disgraceful performance, but hardly an unusual one.  Distract, accuse, and blame the victim.  So thank you, Andy Horwitz and Bob Kerr, for reminding us precisely how much we need alternative sources for news about crime.  And injustice, when victims are the ones on the receiving end, that is.


Suppressing Debate in the Michael Woodmansee Case

Child Killer Michael Woodmansee

Jason Foreman, one of Woodmansee’s Victims

If their words are any reflection of their true thoughts, it is an article of belief among media pundits that wishing ill upon a murderer is roughly equivalent to, if not slightly more worrisome than, the murder itself.  This weird arithmetic is currently playing out in Rhode Island, where the father of a five-year old murder victim made headlines by announcing that he will kill the man who killed his son if the state goes ahead with plans to release Michael Woodmansee from prison twelve years early, on the grounds of his “good behavior” behind bars.

In 1975, Woodmansee kidnapped 5-year old Jason Foreman and stabbed the child to death.  He then watched from a close proximity (he was a neighbor) as Foreman’s anguished parents searched — for seven years — for their child.  But that is not all he did.  He cleaned and shellacked Jason’s skull and bones and stored them on his bedroom dresser, telling his father that they were theatrical props.  He indulged himself by auditioning for and receiving the role of a murder suspect in a local production of an Agatha Christie play.  He ambushed and attacked at least one other boy, who escaped, leading to his exposure for the earlier crime.

Despite everything Woodmansee has done, and despite the failure of the state to keep him locked up for life, some pundits see the current controversy as an indictment not of the system, but of those people who took to the streets to express outrage that a child killer would soon be living among them.

It is not enough for the public to simply accept such actions by the state, such thinking goes: they should accept them in silence, preferably while expressing gratitude that larger minds than theirs are attending to the administration of justice.  Thus Providence Journal columnist Bob Kerr scolded the protestors, telling them they should be listening to “thoughtful, reasoned legal voices” instead of allowing themselves to be dumbly led by a “master of ceremonies working the crowd.”  Kerr’s example of such a “reasoned legal voice” was Andrew Horwitz, president of the Rhode Island Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers.  Horwitz, hardly an objective observer, used his moment in the spotlight to wax poetic about his love for the Constitution and his worry that public outrage would “twist and distort” the rule of law.

The next day, the Journal gave Andrew Horwitz an entire column to expand his critique of the protestors, while simultaneously announcing that public comments would be closed on Kerr’s piece because “an overwhelming number of readers were making inappropriate statements that violate our comments policy.”

Horwitz once again used his column inches to police other (non-killer) people’s speech.  He took the paper’s editorial board to task for using merely “lukewarm language,” (rather than red-hot language) to condemn the protestors, and then he criticized the state’s Attorney General for failing to criticize the protestors, as if doing so was some sort of requirement of the job.  “A true leader would explain to the public that following the law can sometimes be painful and difficult, but must always be the path that we take as a society of laws,” the defense attorney snapped.  And do it loudly and angrily enough to satisfy the criminal bar, of course.

And then, Horwitz jumped the metaphorical shark.  He compared protestors’ demands that the state reconsider its generous “good-time” rules — astonishingly — to a “school that decides to permanently cancel a successful annual activity because one child misbehaves on one occasion.”

Comparing the early release of a child killer to a “child misbehav[ing] on one occasion” is hardly “thoughtful” speech.  But that is not the most troubling aspect of Horwitz’ op-ed.  What is most troubling is his use of the “vengeance card” — arguing that public opinion (ie. voters) ought not be trusted in future legislative decisions regarding sentencing because the public will brazenly base their opinions on their angry feelings about this one case.

Well, so what if they do? It was public opinion, in 1979, that led Rhode Island lawmakers to institute a life-without-parole option.  Public outrage at lenient sentencing also helped reform Rhode Island law after serial killer Craig Price received a sentence of only five years in a “training school” for committing four extremely brutal murders, including the killing of a mother and her ten- and eight-year-old daughters in 1989.  Because Price was a few weeks shy of 16 when he committed his last three murders, he could only be “rehabilitated” and then released at age 21, with the additional injustice of a clean juvenile record.

Craig Price eventually served more time because the state actually bothered to try him for crimes he committed at the training school and later in adult prisons.  But the defense bar has never stopped trying to free him from prison.  Why?  Because he’s in prison, of course, though that may change if criminal defense lobbyists ever get their way.  The movement to entirely eliminate life sentences for teen killers again — even serial killers — is well underway.

Rebecca Spencer, Stabbed 58 Times by Craig Price

Joan, Jennifer and Melissa Heaton, Stabbed to Death by Craig Price

Five years for four murders, or twelve years off the already-truncated sentence of a child-killer: is it any wonder that the criminal defense bar, and their watchdogs in the media, do not want the public to weigh in on all the extraordinary leniencies they have so carefully woven into our laws?  And so they tar public opinion with a broad brush, accusing non-defense attorneys and non-editors of being too “vengeful” to listen to reason.  They claim “reason” as the exclusive provenance of those who would punish a quadruple murderer with a short stint in reform school and a clean criminal record at the end of it.

They’ll do anything to silence victims’ voices — and they get away with it.

When I was blogging last year, I posted a letter from the relative of a murder victim: she wanted merely to say that she hated the man who had taken her sister’s life and to describe the pain of the mourners and the eulogy at the woman’s funeral.  A week later, the woman wrote to me again, telling me that the prosecutor in the case was worried that her words might be used in some way by the defense team, and so I removed her letter from my blog.  She had been told, as victims are frequently told, to avoid making any public comment about the offender, lest the words magically provide a cause for appeal in our absurdly pro-offender appeals system.  And so she silenced herself out of fear that she might topple the delicate act of putting a murderer away for life, an act that may be toppled in a thousand frivolous ways.  Meanwhile, the defense is perfectly free to say anything it wishes, in the media and in the courtroom, with few consequences for boldly lying, or uttering the most hateful libel directed at deceased and living victims of a crime.

This inequity is, of course, enshrined as a virtue of the system by the criminal defense bar and their admirers.  It is one of the many ways the criminal justice system imposes intense pressure on, even terrorizes, the surviving loved ones of murder victims.  And I’ve never heard a preening newspaper pundit or bloviating civil liberties lawyer utter one peep about such grotesque violations of certain people’s free speech rights.


Jason Foreman disappeared in 1975, but Michael Woodmansee was not caught until 1982 when he attempted to kidnap another child from the same neighborhood.  Dale Sherman was a 14-year old delivering newspapers when Woodmansee lured him into his house, gave him something to drink that made the boy pass out, and tried to strangle him.  Sherman escaped, and the police discovered 5-year old Jason Foreman’s bones and a journal that reportedly detailed sexual torture and cannibalism committed on the child victim.  The journal was sealed by the court when Woodmansee cut a deal to plead guilty to the crimes against both boys in exchange for serving forty-years of a fifty-year sentence.

The deal let Jason Foreman’s parents bury their child right away, rather than enduring the brutality of a trial and a long delay before the court could release the child’s bones.  By “brutality” I mean the public revelation of what Woodmansee did to Jason Foreman, and also the circus that defense attorneys make of high-profile murder trials where guilt is not in doubt.  The victim in such trials becomes a mere prop in an extended drama detailing the killer’s woes in the hope of mitigating his punishment: the murderer’s childhood sufferings are spun out, along with his purportedly inadequate IQ, his failure to adjust to school, or to find friends.  All the while, the parents and siblings of the victim must sit by and remember that even a fraction of these allegedly dreadful experiences — or a lifetime behind bars — would be a far more generous portion of life than they could ever anticipate for their loved ones.

In 1983, it made sense for the Foremans to accept the prosecutor’s decision to forego such a trial.  Their son’s bones had already served as a prop in the killer’s bedroom for seven long years.  “He ate the flesh of my son . . . before he cleaned the bones,” John Foreman told a local radio talk show host, referring to details given to him by authorities.

From the lofty perch afforded him by the Providence Journal, Andrew Horwitz scolded: “Woodmansee entered a guilty plea and was sentenced to serve a term of 40 years.. . . All of the participants understood that with “good time” he would be released some time well before that date.”  How dare the father of a dead child show anger at his son’s killer.


Rather than attacking John Foreman, perhaps some of the “reasoned, legal voices” in Providence could discuss the law, instead:

  • Why did the prosecutor settle for a sentence that would see Michael Woodmansee back on the streets again?  She did say there would have been no plea had there been the possibility of LWOP, but weren’t there other options?
  • Are there other killers waiting to benefit from Rhode Island’s historically lenient sentencing rules?
  • Is the public really being irrational in their demand that murderers be excluded from “good time” reductions of time served?
  • Why have there only been a handful of life-without-parole sentences handed down in Rhode Island since “LWOP” was instituted, a mere 27 between 1979 and 2008, out of 700+ murders?
  • How do Rhode Island judges, not to mention the defense bar, thus justify a 3% rate of life sentences without parole as the outcome of murder in their state (yes, of course, some of these crimes go unsolved)?

Don’t expect to find the answer to such real questions from Horwitz or any of the other experts weighing in from the defense side in the Michael Woodmansee case.  They’re too busy chastising the survivors.  But here is one more question for Horwitz and his media peers, one they ought to answer directly:

Do you really call this justice?


For more information about the movement to roll back life sentences for killers under 19, and excellent analysis of the ways the media and activists misrepresent these cases, see NOVJL, the National Organization of Victims of Juvenile Lifers.

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


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.

Is Jennifer Granholm the New Mike Huckabee?




The Detroit Free Press reports that Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm has begun commuting the sentences of dozens of murderers, breaking the promises the state made to victims that their loved one’s killers would die behind bars.

Why is she doing this?  Well, why does any ambitious politician side with vicious killers and against the families they destroyed?

It’s edgy.  It lends a sort of cachet.  It attracts good press, the virgin’s blood of political aspiration.  If you’re a conservative Republican like Mike Huckabee, claiming to convert violent felons is a way to flaunt your compassion and evangelical credentials.  Of course, you only grab headlines if you’re taking on the really heinous felons, the murderers and rapists, (preferably, both).

If you’re a Huckabee, or a Sister Helen Prejean, you’re certainly not going to waste your time on small fish.  Where’s the challenge?  (Where’s the cameras?)  That’s why the most heinous offenders are the ones who receive the most post-conviction attention and sympathy.

And victims?  Victims are so outré.  Victims do nothing for your resumé.

Liberal prisoner advocacy is identical to compassionate conservatism prisoner advocacy, only there are fewer references to salvation, and there’s more of it.  The left-wing version of Huckabee’s mission to empty the prisons is, well, the left-wing mission to empty the prisons, period.  Do you need a reason to release a felon if you’re a liberal?  You release them simply because they’re there.

So what is Granholm’s particular angle? Why did she ramp up commutations last year?  Could it have to do with the Obama administration looking at her as a potential Supreme Court nominee?

Think of all those freed murderers as resumé padding for Granholm’s SCOTUS dreams.  An internship, if you will, for precisely what the current administration deems to be the important work of the Court:

After Granholm was re-elected in 2006, the administration stepped up efforts to put more cases in the commutation pipeline. In addition to the infirm, she has commuted dozens of drug sentences and released 15 foreign nationals set for deportation.

Releasing illegal immigrants (here, foreign nationals) who commit crimes, instead of deporting them?  Check.  Rolling back the penalties for drugs?  Check.  “Emptying the Prisons,” even if it means letting murderers and other violent felons walk free?  Check.


Incidentally, the Detroit Free Press article is impressively wry:

Former Gov. William Milliken, the last Michigan governor to issue a large number of commutations and an advocate for its continued use, got it right almost every time.Except for James Ellis, an elderly convicted killer freed by Milliken who, eight years after his release, slaughtered three people and critically wounded two more in a shooting spree at a Detroit church in 1982.

Or John McRae, who Milliken approved for commutation in 1971, releasing him from a life sentence for the sexual mutilation and slaying of an 8-year-old boy in St. Clair Shores.

McRae moved to Florida, where authorities say he was responsible for the disappearance and death of three adolescent boys in the 70s. He was convicted of first-degree murder a second time in Michigan after the body of a 15-year-old neighbor was found buried under his old driveway near Clare. He died in prison in 2005.

The reporter also pokes holes in Granholm’s hackneyed claim that commutations save money:

Granholm’s heightened commutation activity began almost exclusively with approvals for prisoners with medical conditions that left them terminally ill or debilitated. Often the rationale for those decisions has been financial. State taxpayers pay for sick inmates — on top of the cost of incarceration. But after they are released, the medical cost is usually borne by Medicaid, covered largely by federal dollars.

Of course it is.

The Guilty Project, Kevin Eugene Peterson and Charles Montgomery: Two Sex Offenders Who Would Have Been Better Off Behind Bars

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Early release is going to be a disaster. It would be less of a disaster if the public had access to the real criminal histories of the people being released.  But we’re being kept in the dark: nobody wants to admit the chaos in criminal record-keeping.

genthumbKevin Eugene Peterson

Already, someone has been cut loose on the pretense that was merely a non-violent offender, when he was not.  He immediately tried to rape a stranger.  How immediately?  A few hours.  Expect more of the same:

Kevin Eugene Peterson, who was released from the Sacramento County Main Jail around 11:30 p.m. Monday, was arrested by Sacramento police around 12:30 p.m. Tuesday after he allegedly attempted to rape a female counselor at Sacramento’s Loaves and Fishes on North C Street.

Peterson qualified for the early-release program, supposedly restricted to non-violent offenders, because his latest arrest was for violating parole on an earlier felony: assault with a deadly weapon.  Get it?  He should have still been in prison for the felony weapon charge, but because they let him go early to save money, once he got sent back to prison for breaking the law again, he was classified non-violent, rather than counting the parole revocation as a reinstatement of his previous sentence.

Most people assume that revoking parole means reinstating the person’s original sentence.  That is, after all, what we are told about the parole process.  We’re not told the truth, apparently.

So by failing to abide by the law the last time he was released, Peterson got himself to the head of the line to be released early a second time.  Now a woman has been abducted and terrorized.  Authorities say their hands are tied, however, because they are bound by the rules that classified Peterson as “non-violent”:

Peterson was one of 121 non-violent inmates released from Sacramento detention Monday and Tuesday after the state penal code was re-written as a cost-saving measure.  About 250 inmates were expected to be let free by week’s end.  While good behavior traditionally could cut up to a third of a California jail inmate’s sentence, the new law passed by the state Legislature last year mandated county jail inmates with good behavior be set free after serving only half of their sentenced term.  While all of the inmates considered for early release are non-violent offenders, Peterson was originally arrested in August 2007 in south Sacramento on a felony assault with a deadly weapon.  However, since Peterson served that sentence and was sent back on a non-violent probation violation in December, he was eligible for early release.  Also, the assault with a deadly weapon charge did not result in great bodily injury to the victim, nor did that attack include the use of a fire arm.

More loopholes: because Peterson failed in his effort to do “great bodily harm” to someone, and the “deadly weapon” he used was something other than a gun, the great whirling roulette wheel of justice eventually slotted him out as a non-violent offender.  There are a million such loopholes in our sentencing laws, not to mention the giant classificatory loophole that is plea bargaining.

Which raises a serious, though entirely neglected question: how many of these other “non-violent” offenders slated for release, or released already, are actually violent felons?

When politicians promise that only non-violent offenders will be allowed to walk free in these cost-cutting schemes, they’re lying.


Speaking of erasing evidence of crime, here is one sadly typical consequence of extreme leniency: subsequent violent death of the offender.  He might have been safer in prison, after all:

charles_montgomery_cousinCharles Montgomery

Charles Montgomery was born in the back room of his grandparents’ house on the 400 block of E. 104th St. in the Green Meadows neighborhood of South Los Angeles. Twenty-four years later he died on that very street, a few houses down, shot on his way home from the store in the early afternoon, his family said. . . Montgomery, a 24-year-old black man, was shot several times in his upper body about 2 p.m. Friday, Jan. 15 by a man who approached him on foot, police said. Montgomery died at the scene. . . Police said they have no suspects and no witnesses have come forward.  “It was broad daylight — it just don’t get more blatant,” said Kali Kellup, Montgomery’s  cousin. ”Somebody saw something.”

No witnesses have come forward.  Kellup also said that people were shocked because his cousin was shot in a little section of the block that was “considered neutral territory.”  That a war zone with agreed-upon “neutral” spaces is an accepted reality in any corner of America ought to be more shocking.

Raised by his grandparents, who have lived on the block for more than 50 years, Montgomery was known to be “happy go-lucky” and constantly in motion. His family said he had the mental state of a child; he was afflicted with an unknown mental condition that doctors could not diagnose.  “He was always happy, always laughing about something,” Kellup said. “Even if you didn’t know what it was, he was laughing about something.”

He was also charged with attempted forcible rape, and kidnapping, and assault with a deadly weapon, serious charges that got pleaded down to a non-sexual charge.  I tend not to believe people who claim that a predator isn’t responsible for his crimes because of mental incapacity.  If you’re capable of kidnapping and assaulting someone, you’ve got some competence, not to mention enough to face the consequences.  If there are consequences:

As a teenager, Montgomery spent two years at juvenile hall before being charged as an adult with assault with intent to commit a felony, assault with a deadly weapon, kidnapping, and attempted forcible rape, according to court documents.  In 2003, two years after he was taken into custody, his court-appointed attorney agreed to a plea on his behalf. Montgomery was convicted of assault with a deadly weapon, and the other charges were dropped, according to court records. Montgomery was sentenced to two years in state prison; however, he was given over two years of credit for time in custody and good behavior and was released, according to court records.

Two years, and no record as a sex offender, for assault with a deadly weapon, kidnapping, and attempted forced rape.  That’s what passes for normal these days, but the Justice Department and their Crime Experts keep insisting that we are far too harsh on all offenders, that we need to roll back sentencing even more.  To what, minutes or hours in a cell?  When you already get time served for armed kidnapping and attempted forcible rape, or a slap on the wrist and two-time early release for assault with a deadly weapon, what exactly are we going to cut?  The people controlling this debate are not speaking honestly.

Kellup said he believed his cousin was innocent.  “He was basically a fall guy,” he said. “It was a travesty of justice.”

Just a “fall guy” in a kidnapping and attempted rape?  Hmm, with a deadly weapon involved?  If everyone, from the prosecutor and the defense attorney and the judge, to his own family, had not worked so hard to excuse Montgomery’s prior crime, then he would probably still be alive today.  In prison, but not dead.

“I wish they’d stop the killing,” Montgomery’s grandmother said. “Young people killing one another for no reason at all.”

The Guilty Project, Tommy Lee Sailor (Updated): The Media Proves Me Wrong


The St. Petersburg Times has been digging into Tommy Lee Sailor’s past, asking hard questions about Florida’s many failures to keep Sailor behind bars.  Sailor is the serial rapist and self-described serial killer who was deemed “reformed” by Florida Corrections — until last New Year’s Eve, that is.  Only his victim’s courage, quick thinking by 911 operator Ve’Etta Bess, and quick action by the police saved that victim’s life.

So on the one side, you have the response of public safety professionals, and the victim herself.  On the other side, you have the courts, and the Department of Corrections, and Sailor’s attorneys, and even prosecutors, all agreeing to let Sailor go, or not even try him for sex crimes, not once or twice, but repeatedly.

The cops catch them, and then the courts let them go.

In the wake of Sailor’s violent holiday rampage, I predicted that local media would not dig into Sailor’s previous history, nor name officials who let him off easy in the past.

I love being wrong about stuff like this.

St. Pete Times reporter Rebecca Catalanello just filed this story.  She names some names.  It is damning.  This exposé ought to be required reading for any state legislator planning to try to roll back the state’s “three–strikes” laws in order to save money.

Because Tommy Lee Sailor is what happens when you cut corners on public safety:

TAMPA — “I’m a serial rapist,” he taunted her. “I’m a serial killer.”  His hands closed around her neck and things went black. . . [P]olice had come to the neighborhood before. Detectives knew the man she said attacked her. Judges and probation officers knew him, too.  Tommy Lee Sailor, 37, had been arrested at least 30 times before the Jan. 1 attack — never for murder, but three times on rape charges. He had spent only three years outside prison since age 16.  Four times, probation officers told judges and parole commissioners that prison was the best place for Sailor.  In July, after the last warning, the Florida Department of Corrections released him, counting on an ankle monitor and a probation officer to track his whereabouts.

So, despite 30 arrests, and pleas from parole officers that he was too dangerous to release, the Florida Department of Corrections decided to take another chance on Sailor.  How hateful, towards the victims.

The buck stops with the heads of state agencies in cases like this, or at least it ought to.  But Charlie Crist’s appointee, Walter McNeill, has not made a public statement about his department’s failure to keep women in Florida safe by taking Sailor’s crimes seriously.

Why no comment from above?  And where is Frederick B. Dunphy, head of the Florida Parole Commission?

Is there any single legislator in Tallahassee planning to ask these men some hard questions about early release of violent recidivists?  That needs to be part of the discussion about rolling back the state’s three-strikes law.

These are the things state officials know about Sailor.  When he was 11, police charged him with lewd and lascivious behavior with a child. A judge withheld adjudication.

Sexual assault of a child.  And the state does nothing, except protect Sailor’s anonymity so he could go on to rape other children.  Rapists start young, and they target children in their family and neighborhoods before moving on the more difficult targets.  We know this: we’ve known it for a long time.  No judge belongs on the bench if he or she doesn’t act on such knowledge.  Who was the judge?  That judge wasn’t named.  But they should come forward and explain themselves.  Because what that judge did was sentence Sailor’s first known victim, and probably many more young victims, to the act of being raped.  That judge saw only one victim: the rapist.  He or she violated every principle of justice.

But, hey, it’s just a rape victim.  Or maybe 20.

[Sailor] made it to the ninth grade at the former Monroe Junior High School. But in 1987 alone he got arrested 11 times. Among his listed offenses: aggravated assault, grand theft motor vehicle and battery on a law enforcement officer.  At age 16, he armed himself with a can of Mace and stole beer. The courts had heard enough. A judge sent him to prison. Earlier crimes caught up with him, lengthening his sentence.  He earned a GED in prison, then got out in 1992 at age 20.

Three or four years for one sexual assault (probably many more), dozens of arrests, violent crimes.  Welcome to the bad old days, before three strikes.  Only they’re beginning to look a lot like the present, despite three strikes laws that sit on the books.  Will anyone in Tallahassee talk about that?

[Sailor] still faced 30 years’ probation when he moved in with his Port Tampa grandmother and got a job at a Subway.  Eleven months after his release, he was charged with robbery.  Probation officers Maureen Watson and Annetta Austin recommended that Sailor be returned to prison “for the maximum time allowed,” his probation permanently revoked. Sailor, wrote Watson, “is not a good candidate for any type of street supervision due to his violent tendencies and continual criminal behavior.”

Too bad nobody listened.

Sailor, then 21, had been out of prison little more than a year when three women told police he had raped them, all within a month.  One woman, a former girlfriend, said they were sharing a beer in a Port Tampa park on Valentine’s Day 1994, when he dragged her to the men’s bathroom, choked her and forced himself on her. She was 29.  Two weeks later, on March 1, he met a medical assistant at a gas station and drove her to a secluded spot near MacDill Air Force Base, where he beat her, raped her, then apologized and wiped her mouth. She was 27.  Two weeks after that, he met a Circle K clerk at a bar. They wound up in her car, which got stuck in the sand on a dirt path at the edge of the base.  The clerk, who was 29, tried to stay calm while he raped her repeatedly. Afterward, she cried and asked him why.  “Because I knew you wanted it,” he said, according to a police report.

So this is a persuasive guy, groomed by lenient judges and lenient prosecutors and lenient parole officials to know that a predator like him can get away with serial rape in Florida.  Where’s the thrill in that?

Prosecutors dropped the Valentine’s Day case. The victim, who previously had consensual sex with Sailor, waited a month to report the attack and was, according to police, reluctant to take him to court.  As the other two cases headed to trial, Sailor struck a deal.  Sentencing guidelines at the time suggested he could serve 11 to 19 years in prison for each sexual battery, if convicted.  Probation officers Annetta Austin and Maria Hanes recommended the maximum. They also wanted Sailor to spend an additional 17 years in prison for breaking the terms of his probation.  Had that happened, he might have been an old man when released.  Instead, he pleaded guilty to the two rapes and an unrelated robbery.  Circuit Judge Donald Evans, now retired, approved the deal.

Shame on Judge Evans.  Shame on every single judge who lets sex offenders like this shave down their time behind bars, for no other reason but that all the other judges do it.  I’m hardly surprised that some of Sailor’s victims were reluctant to testify.  Why should they believe the state would protect them?  And for what?  Subject yourself to that terror, not to mention the humiliation of being abused by a scummy defense lawyer on the stand, and then all the judge is going to do is give your rapist exactly the same amount of time anyway?

Concurrent sentencing. How many lives have been lost to the ethically discordant sound of those words?

We should gain some clarity on this fact: concurrent sentencing is a prosecutor and a judge saying to the victim: “Your life will count half, or a third, or a tenth as much as your rapist’s life counts.  He can go out and rape you and your mother and your sister, and we will value his future freedom over the crimes two of the three of you have experienced.  Three of you equals one of him, in the eyes of the court.  Now shut up and go home.”

We’re appalled by stories like this one from Pakistan, where rape victims get punished for their assailant’s crimes.  But, really, how different is it to place a Tommy Lee Sailor back onto the streets by denying the legal personhood of some of his victims?

The story of Sailor’s most recent trip back to freedom is simply horrifying.  Over the years, the Times reports, multiple parole officers begged parole commissioners and judges to keep him behind bars.  Up the chain of command, however, there was always somebody willing to let him go.

Here is Sailor, snowing Parole Examiner John B. Doyle with some fabricated story about finishing beauty school and finding work.  Why, precisely, did anyone in Parole think it was a good idea for a convicted serial rapist to become a beautician in the first place?  I can’t believe I have to write that down.  It’s nauseating to think about, isn’t it?

The Florida Parole Commission sent a hearing examiner, John B. Doyle, to meet with [Sailor]. Doyle heard from Sailor, Tampa police Officer Michael Jacobson and probation officer Aaron Gil.  “I would like to get another chance so that I can finish school,” Sailor told Doyle.  Gil recommended that Sailor go back to prison, based “on the seriousness of his original offenses.”  But Doyle, the examiner, decided otherwise.  “You did a lot of time on the street, Tommy, and you’re doing something with your life, getting to school,” Doyle said, according to an audio recording of the hearing. “But it looks like you’re having a small problem with drinking. I did find you guilty of all charges, but I’ll take a gamble on you.”  Doyle noted that Sailor was about to finish training at the beauty school. That meant he would be able to get a job. That meant he could repay the cost of his supervision.  At the time, Sailor owed $2,868 to the Department of Corrections.  On July 22, the parole commission met and agreed to let Sailor stay on probation.

Will any legislator hold hearings on this travesty of justice?  Will any legislator hold the Parole Board responsible for what they have done?

Good for the St. Pete Times.  They may have saved lives with their reporting.  I’m going to go buy the newspaper.

Don’t Blame Verizon: Tommy Lee Sailor, Charlie Crist, Walter McNeil, Frederick B. Dunphy, and the Economy of Outrage

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The Florida Department of Corrections (headed by Walter McNeil) needs to stop pointing fingers and start taking responsibility for the escape of Tommy Lee Sailor.  They’re the ones who screwed up by failing to notice when the violent serial offender absconded from his ankle monitor on New Year’s Eve, enabling Sailor to attack yet another innocent victim.

The Florida Parole Commission (headed by Frederick B. Dunphy) also needs to stop hiding and start answering questions about their decisions and policies that freed Sailor before his sentence was complete.

But instead of doing the jobs they’re paid handsomely to do — that is, lead agencies, and take the heat like grown men when they fail at their jobs — McNeil and Dunphy are hiding out and letting their press flacks blame . . . Verizon.

That’s right.  According to our fine political appointees, Tommy Lee Sailor wasn’t wandering the streets looking for a woman to rape and kill because the parole board is more interested in cutting the prisons budget than keeping people safe, or because Corrections so fundamentally dropped the ball on monitoring him that they actually feel comfortable verbalizing excuses like: these alarms go off so often it’s hard to tell what’s an emergency, and, the dog ate my rapist-monitoring text message.

Oh no, it was all Verizon’s fault.

From the St. Pete Times, which is doing a good job of questioning the official blather:

Around 12:15 a.m. Saturday, the company hired by the state to track violent offenders got notice that something was not as it should be with Sailor. . . The call center at Odessa-based Pro Tech Monitoring sent text messages to Sailor’s on-call probation officer, Pam Crompton. When contacted by a reporter, Crompton referred all questions about what happened to the Florida Department of Corrections [as she should].  One text message, called an “alarm,” went out to Crompton at 12:44 a.m., Corrections Department spokeswoman Gretl Plessinger said.  Another flew at 1:57 a.m. Crompton heard nothing, Plessinger said.

Let’s review:  Pro Tech Monitoring, a private business which profits from policies that release dangerous offenders back into the community with nothing more than a ring-a-ling around their ankles, gets notice that Tommy Lee Sailor, an exceedingly dangerous felon, has absconded on New Year’s Eve.  What do they do?  They send a text message.  Then, after receiving no reply from the parole officer responsible for Sailor, they wait an hour and thirteen minutes . . . before sending another text.  Then they go have a snack or get distracted by the tv, because that’s apparently all they did.

“I’m going to kill you,” Sailor told his victim.  “I’m a serial rapist.” “I’m a serial killer.” “I don’t care about going back to prison.”

Why didn’t somebody at Pro Tech Monitoring pick up a damn phone and call the police?  So asks “Ben Overstreet,” a commenter on the St. Pete Times website.  He modestly suggests:

Send out the first text, and if that person does not call back in 5 minutes send out another to them and their Boss, no response in 5 minutes. Send local Law Enforcement to the address. Problem solved.

Too bad this Ben Overstreet person, whoever he is, isn’t getting the big bucks overseeing violent parolees.  Sounds like he’s onto something which apparently did not so much as occur to all the king’s horses and all the king’s men actually being paid to watch Sailor.

Oh, they did try to call Sailor, but he wasn’t home.  He was out hunting.  Women:

The call center tried to reach Sailor through his monitoring device, but the offender didn’t respond.

Does anyone else find this grotesquely ironic? A recidivist, violent felon and serial rapist absconds on New Year’s Eve, when the police have their hands full and the bars are brimming with amateur drinkers and other potentially endangered species, but when the monitoring company gets no response from the felon’s parole officer, they try to call the rapist himself, instead of calling the police?

What were they going to ask him if he came to the phone?


The victim secretly alerted 911 at 4:27 a.m. and dropped her cell phone on the floor. A 911 dispatcher tracked the phone signal to her location, and police arrived at 4:44 a.m. Only then did [Parole Officer] Crompton’s text messages start filling up her in-box.  One, two, three alerts came all at once at 4:54 a.m. to her Verizon Wireless phone.  Crompton checked them.  Two were about Sailor. The third, also delayed in its delivery, was about another offender, [Corrections Department Spokeswoman] Plessinger said.

We’re supposed to believe that the parole officer didn’t receive any messages from Pro Tech Monitoring until ten minutes after the cops showed up at the scene of the attempted rape/murder.  Is that the truth, or just the sound of the bureaucratic hive buzzing?

The real question, the question that either has not been asked or has not been answered, is this:

Why the hell didn’t the Corrections Department and Pro Tech Monitoring have a policy to keep trying to contact the proper authorities until they succeed whenever a violent offender like Sailor breaks loose?

Answer that, Ms. Plessinger.  Mr. McNeil.

Florida Corrections chief Walter McNeil actually does a whole lot of communicating, at least on the Correction’s website, where he posts a blog of passing thoughts and affirmations.  He quotes Oscar Wilde and Teddy Roosevelt, delivers advice about the flu, talks a lot about the value of clergy.

So he should have no trouble articulating a response to this scandal.  And respond he should, because the message coming from his agency’s talking head suggests that the main reason Sailor’s escape (and it is an escape, make no mistake about it) went unnoticed is because it is so very common for these ankle thingies to go off; it’s just not considered a big deal; the policies were followed appropriately, you know, so how dare the rubes imply that we’re not doing our job according to the laughable rules we invented to monitor our own performances?

[Corrections spokesperson] Plessinger said that if [Parole Officer] Crompton had gotten the original text message at 12:44 a.m., she would have gone to Sailor’s house, found that he wasn’t home and notified police to be on the lookout for him.  Police might have been waiting when Sailor arrived home.  Still unexplained is why the text messages weren’t delivered on time. The Corrections Department is satisfied that Crompton followed procedure and that the Pro Tech system worked as designed.  Right now, Plessinger said, they’re asking questions of Verizon Wireless, the cell phone provider.

“Crompton followed procedure and . . . the Pro Tech system worked as designed.”

Other than that, how did you like the play, Mrs. Lincoln?

It is a disgrace for government officials to behave this way. Clearly, the problem is that the bar is set far too low for keeping tabs on dangerous felons who have been released back into society (or not put away in the first place, like convicted rapist Richard Chotiner).  Clearly, the problem is systematic disdain for rape victims and other current and future victims of crime.  Some victims, that is.  Imagine how different the official response would have been if Sailor had been intentionally hunting some type of person other than women, and thus hate crime laws “kicked in.”

Then there wouldn’t be this big reverberating sound of silence coming from the halls of power, nor half-baked accusations flung at a wireless company.  Heck no.  Then the Attorney General would jet in from Washington.  Crist would work himself into a lather denouncing crimes “motivated by hatred” (other than hatred of women, of course).  Schoolchildren around the state would groan collectively as their teachers announced yet another week of anti-bullying-teaching-tolerance re-education in the wake of that crime.

Whew.  Good thing it wasn’t hate, because all those workbooks and classroom posters get really expensive.  Just another garden-variety attack on a woman.  So instead of grandstanding, the heads of state are practicing active hiding.  The head of Corrections is busy reminding his staff that “nobody walks alone,” and to wash their hands after sneezing and bragging about all the grant money Florida just got to implement even more “prisoner re-entry” services and “community-based alternatives to incarceration.”  The governor’s busy burying Chain-Gang Charlie deeper in that huge pile of mothballs in the back of his closet.

The mindset betrayed here is a troubling one, and it isn’t limited to any one political party.  The left-wingers believe criminals are just misunderstood victims of society; the right-wingers, despite all their tough talk on crime, don’t want to pay what it would actually cost to prosecute and incarcerate every dangerous offender: nobody is taking a real stand on any of this.

Not one elected official has bothered to speak out on the travesty in Tampa, a government failure that nearly cost a woman her life.

“I wanted to pick somebody that I knew, that I had confidence in. I just had a personal relationship and an affinity for this man,” Charlie Crist said, in appointing McNeil to head up Corrections.  How about somebody whose priority is being tough on violent criminals?  Tommy Lee Sailor attacked at least two prison guards in incidents serious enough to be prosecuted as felonies: why is the head boss at corrections going on about washing your hands during flu season instead of talking about attacks on prison guards?  Meanwhile,  Crist’s recent criminal justice initiatives include spending our tax dollars on special “outreach” to felons to help them re-register to vote, just in case they’re too lazy to do it the way the rest of us do, by rising off our own tushes and going to the library.

Talk about fiddling while Rome burns.

Here’s an Oscar Wilde quote to chew on: “The true mystery of the world is the visible, not the invisible.”

Or, as Tommy Lee Sailor pointedly observed: “I don’t care about going back to prison.”  At least somebody’s telling the truth around here.

The Guilty Project: Tommy Lee Sailor, “I Don’t Care About Going Back to Prison.”


Which part of this story isn’t part of the reported story?

  1. A violent rapist is foiled when his victim secretly dials 911 and a savvy emergency operator keeps silent for 15 minutes while monitoring the attack and getting help to the woman in danger.
  2. Improvements in the technology that pinpoints cellphone locations save the victim of a violent rapist when police are able to find her after she secretly dials 911 during the attack.
  3. A convicted serial rapist, convicted serial armed robber, and self-proclaimed serial killer receives serial leniency from Florida’s Parole Board.  Unjustly freed from prison, he disables his ankle monitor, leaves his house for hours to go drinking in a bar, and returns with a victim he proceeds to try to rape, while threatening her with death.  He nearly gets away with a heinous crime, and police must risk their own safety to hunt him down, when he should never have been out of prison in the first place.

#3.  Of course.  And with no real reporting on the multiple failures that led to Tommy Lee Sailor being free and under-monitored, the following won’t be part of any future story, either:

The parole board members responsible for the serial rapist’s serial early releases and the corrections supervisors responsible for failing to act on the ankle monitor alarm are investigated by the media.  Political connections are exposed and scrutinized.  The Department of Corrections cleans house, vowing to fix the multiple systemic failures that allowed Tommy Lee Sailor gain freedom and get to the place where he leaned over his victim and hissed in her ear: “I’m a serial killer.”  “I don’t care about going back to prison.”  “I’m going to kill you.”

115282Tommy Lee Sailor: “I don’t care about going back to prison.”

There are a lot of strange things in Tommy Lee Sailor’s record. I imagine that some of the prosecutors or victims who encountered him would have something to say about his criminal past.  Sailor is classified as a “sexual predator,” the most serious classification on the books.  His adult criminal record — you know, the only one we can see — begins with two counts of armed robbery at age 17.  Doubtlessly there’s a sealed juvenile record as well: are there sex crime convictions in it?  Sailor committed the two armed robberies in July of 1988.  He was sentenced to 12 years for each robbery in 1989, but the sentence must have been suspended because he was re-sentenced several years later.

In-between, he was sent to prison for nearly three years, from March 1989 until December 1992, for a 1988 crime described as attempted burglary of an occupied dwelling and “Shoot/Throw Missile – Bldg/Veh.”  Attempted burglaries of occupied dwellings are often interrupted rapes.

Sailor walked out of prison in December, 1992.  But he wouldn’t be re-sentenced for the 1988 robberies until October of 1994.  Why?  Why did he get a free pass on two armed offenses?  Who gave him that free pass?

Whoever handed him that pass also handed Sailor the opportunity to commit either two or three sexual assaults, one in February of 1994, and two separate counts on the same day in March.  Probably more than two or three, of course — rapists are rarely caught, let alone tried, for every rape they commit.  So at least two women, and probably more, were victimized by this dangerous rapist because somebody in Hillsborough County, Florida didn’t think it was important enough to put Tommy Lee Sailor behind bars for committing armed robbery, even after he was also caught breaking into an occupied house.

Somebody probably decided that it was more important to “re-enter” (the latest argot) Sailor into society than hold him responsible for his crimes.  Somebody decided that Sailor’s future — his putative, fictional “rehabilitation” — was ever so much more important than justice or the safety of his victims.  I wonder who got him off that time?  A prosecutor short on time?  A defense attorney cozying up to some notoriously lenient judge?  Some community activist who got paid big bucks to “mentor” young offenders like Sailor, the greatest scam in late 20th Century corrections?  I worked for a “community activist” who pretend to do that.  For very big bucks.  Tax dollars.

So Tommy Lee Sailor wasn’t actually convicted for those armed robberies until 1994, when he was simultaneously tried and convicted for one armed-or-injury sexual assault and either one or two unarmed sexual assaults.  In October of 1994, he received 10 years for each of the armed robberies and ten years for each of the sexual assaults, doubtlessly to be served concurrently.

He did, however (unlike virtually every other offender whose record I look up), end up spending more than 10 years in prison.  He ended up spending nearly 14 years in prison, if the on-line records are correct, from November 1994 to July 2008.  I say “if” because his criminal convictions just keep on coming.  Most likely, he was committing those additional crimes while incarcerated.  He received 26 months for “Batt/Leo/Firefgt/EMS/Etc.” in 1995 (battery of a law enforcement officer); 12 years for the same crime, plus aggravated assault of a law enforcement officer, in 1997: if any one of those offenses, or one of his rapes, or one of his armed robberies had only been added to his original sentence, instead of assigned to serve concurrently, Sailor wouldn’t have been free to attack that woman in Tampa last week.

And if wishes were horses, then beggars would ride.

By the time he first walked out of prison, a mere 17 months ago, Tommy Lee Sailor had accumulated, on paper, 98 years in prison for adult convictions alone (not counting the 24 years for armed robbery that became 20 years in the second go-round).  Nobody expected him to serve even a fraction of that time, of course.  The fact that he actually served 17 years of it suggests that his behavior in prison was far from compliant.

But that wasn’t the end of his prison career: he was picked up six months ago and sent back to prison for about a month.  Probation violation?  Or, to be accurate, yet another probation violation?  How many times did he violate?  How many second chances did he get?  Did he set off alarms more than once?  If so, why was he permitted to go back on an ankle bracelet?  Seeing as this was a clearly violent and uncowed recidivist felon with several attacks on law enforcement officers and women, why wasn’t his probation taken seriously enough to merit an immediate response when he disabled the ankle bracelet last week?

What, precisely, do you have to do to get treated like a dangerous felon?

Inquiring minds want to know. Really, they do.  The mainstream media whines constantly about the “death of the newspaper” and all that, but if they bothered to actually investigate stories like this one, they would find willing audiences.  It’s their attitude that turns people off, frankly — an attitude of utter incuriosity about the things that matter to the public, such as why it is that a person with a record like Sailor’s could be out of prison.

Think about this: Tommy Sailor was so unconcerned about getting caught violating his probation that he actually brought his victim back to the location where he had just disabled his ankle monitor and attacked her there.  He probably was going to kill her.

And then there’s the issue of safety for police officers.  Were the officers who were alerted to Sailor’s house aware that he had a record of assaulting police?  It took me about a minute to look up this much of Sailor’s record on-line (some reporters got his record wrong, so I don’t know what they rely on for information, because it’s easy enough to check).  I certainly hope there is a system in place to provide responding officers with warning of prior acts of violence against police.

Because when somebody says, “I’m going to kill you” and “I don’t care about going back to prison,” after being released early, it’s not like they send the sentencing judge, or some parole board talking head to go round him up.

They send a police officer.

The Coming Year of Prisoner “Re-Entry”: Attempted Murder in Chicago, Then Back on the Streets in a Fortnight


As the Justice Department and everybody else barrel forward with plans to get as many violent offenders back on the streets as quickly as possible (to save money, you know, and aid those poor benighted, imprisoned souls), here’s a reminder of the inevitable consequences of anti-incarceration-early-re-entry-alternative-sentencing-community-control chic, from the Chicago Sun-Times, via Second-City Cop:

She lost 20 teeth. She suffered a brain injury and seizures. And she struggled to pay her medical bills because she didn’t have insurance.  Jen Hall was the victim of a brutal, disfiguring beating outside a Jewel store in the South Loop in August 2008.

Her attacker, Derrick King, was later sentenced to three years in prison for the crime. King, 48, went into state Department of Corrections custody in early October, but he was paroled only two weeks later under a policy change by Gov. Quinn’s administration. . .

On Aug. 25, 2008, King and Joyce Burgess attacked Hall and her boyfriend, police said. King asked the couple for cigarettes, but when they said they didn’t have any, Burgess knocked down Hall, who was celebrating her 36th birthday.  King, who police say was homeless, kicked Hall in the head and face, knocking out her teeth. King also struggled with Hall’s boyfriend and reached into his pockets to try to rob him, police said.  King was convicted and sent to prison on Oct. 6. He was paroled under the MGT-Push program on Oct. 20, records show.

And then, of course, he not only immediately set out to commit another crime, but he terrorized his next victim by bragging to her that he was the man who had attacked Hall:

Then, on Oct. 21, King was nabbed by Chicago Police in a similar crime. He threatened a 49-year-old woman after asking her for a cigarette in the 500 block of West Roosevelt, not far from where he beat Hall.  When the woman declined, King said: “Remember the couple who got beat up real bad for not giving a cigarette? That was me!” according to a Chicago Police arrest report. King then charged toward her, police said. The woman flagged down a patrol car and the officers arrested King. Police charged King with simple assault, a misdemeanor.

Disturbed yet?  Here’s where it gets even more disturbing. Even after King tried to beat two people to death, then attacked a third victim, the Department of Corrections was not particularly motivated to pull him in.  He was almost on his way out the door again, and it sounds as if only police vigilance actually resulted in Corrections agreeing to issue a warrant:

The Department of Corrections initially declined to issue a warrant to send King back to prison on a parole violation, but eventually a parole supervisor signed off on a warrant, according to the police report.

So if this were not a case of some notoriety, it is likely that no judge or parole official or prosecutor would have bothered to enforce the law regarding King’s parole.  I can’t count the times I’ve looked up an offender’s record, and he has two, or five, or ten additional recorded offenses during the time that he is on parole — that is, during the time that he is supposed to be returned to prison for any additional offense.

And it’s not as if people like this get caught every time they throttle someone.  How many of his fellow homeless has King beaten or threatened?  How many people has he terrorized, people who escaped and decided, reasonably, that there was simply no point in trying to get the authorities to act on a criminal complaint?  Derrick King nearly killed a woman and strolled out of jail fourteen days later.

Fourteen days for what should have been attempted murder.

Illinois Governor Pat Quinn is now calling his secret early release of violent offenders “a mistake.”  Bunk.  A mistake is when you do something in error: this is both a guiding philosophy and a policy.  The offenders released in two weeks are merely one step further down a deliberative path that has similar offenders released after two months or six months, at most.

Or simply not prosecuted in the first place.

Derrick King’s early release is something that happens with most offenders in every major city in the country, with the exception of those that have reformed the behavior of their courts by adopting “broken windows” policies, most notably, New York City.  A Derrick King probably wouldn’t slip through the cracks in New York City: he slipped through in Chicago.  It’s simple, really.

And yet, in much of the mainstream media, and in the universities, and in courtrooms, and in Eric Holder’s Justice Department, the mantra of “emptying the prisons,” and “prisoner re-entry” is relentless.  The Justice Department is funding (that is, we are funding) scores of programs designed to keep the maximum number of offenders out of prison and in the communities where they victimize others.  These programs go by various names and make various unattainable promises, but they operate on one unifying principle: anything but incarceration as the default response to crime.

Connect the Dots: Killing Cops, Cutting Felons Loose

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All the news is bad this Monday.  On Saturday, the AP reported:

Police Officer Gun Deaths Up

The number of officers killed in the line of duty by gunfire increased 24 percent from 2008, according to preliminary statistics compiled by the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, a national nonprofit organization that tracks officer-related deaths.

As of Saturday, 47 police officers have died nationwide this year after being shot while on duty, up from 38 for the same time in 2008, which was the lowest number of gunfire deaths since 1956, according to the data.

Make that 48 dead, or an increase of 26% over last year, as of Sunday, according to the Officer Down Memorial Page.  Captain Dennis Darrell Cagle of the Henderson, Tenn. Police Department died Sunday, a few days after being shot while responding to an armed robbery in a grocery store.

photo R.I.P. Captain Dennis Darrell Cagle


Meanwhile, in seemingly “unrelated” news, the Chicago Sun-Times is reporting that Illinois Governor Pat Quinn has been secretly and not-so-secretly releasing inmates even earlier than they were being released before, which was already early compared to the sentences they received.

If this trend continues, we are going to be freeing people from prison even before they commit crimes.

Oh, wait, we do that already.  Governor Quinn’s going to have to invent double time travel next:

Records obtained and analyzed by the AP show that since September more than 850 inmates have been released weeks earlier than they ordinarily would be. The Corrections Department is saving money by abandoning a policy that requires inmates to serve at least 61 days and awarding them discretionary good-conduct credit immediately upon entering prison.  That means some prisoners have enough good-conduct days to qualify for release almost immediately — before they’ve had a chance to demonstrate any conduct at all, good or bad. The inmates are kept at the department’s prison processing centers and released after as few as 11 days. . . The unpublicized practice is called “MGT Push,” for “meritorious good time,” according to a memo obtained by the AP.

So, what entitles a felon to Meritorious Good Time?  Just being the ineffable offenders that they are, apparently:

Jorge Bogas spent just 18 days behind bars for aggravated driving under the influence after he hit two cars, hospitalizing one motorist for weeks, while driving the wrong direction on Interstate 57. Bogas sat five days in Cook County Jail, was transferred to the processing center at Stateville Correctional Center in Joliet and released 13 days later.

James Walker-Bey, sentenced to a year for violating probation for carrying a .25 caliber pistol in Alsip, was confined for just over two weeks — three days in Cook County and 14 at Stateville prison.

And Antoine Garrett, previously convicted of armed robbery and illegal firearms possession by a felon, got a one-year sentence after Chicago police saw him drop a bag of cocaine on the street as they approached, but spent just 21 days locked up.

One year for dropping a bag of cocaine?  Doesn’t that seem a bit extreme?  Not if you consider that Garrett was still supposed to be serving time for a 1992 armed robbery when he was out committing another felony gun crime in 2001.  In the absurdist argot that pretends criminals are “paying their debt to society” by serving time, Antoine Garrett still owes us for the crime before last, let alone the last one.

Garrett’s also got one of those ridiculous little teardrops tattooed on his face: doesn’t that mean that he’s proud (teary proud?) of having killed someone?


What does it say about our justice system that the Governor of Illinois secretly decided to release many hundreds of offenders early, while publicly claiming he is being tougher on offenders, and, simultaneously, announcing the early release of 1,000 other offenders?  A meritorious good time for the criminals, and bad times ahead for citizens and the police:

“MGT Push” has included more than 100 people convicted of potentially violent crimes, including aggravated and domestic battery, battering and assaulting police officers, aggravated robbery and reckless firearms discharge, the AP’s analysis shows. That’s not counting the prisoners serving time for nonviolent offenses who committed more serious crimes in the past, including murder.

Nine people were released Dec. 3, the same day that Quinn signed a law requiring prison time for gang members caught with guns.

The day before, Corrections sent home 20 others, including a man convicted of domestic battery who was confined for 19 days and a man who had spent a total of 20 days locked up for carrying a concealed weapon, records show.

Just in time for the holidays, domestic batterers, drunk drivers, and all.  The Chicago Sun-Times reported this story yesterday morning.  By evening, the Chicago Tribune was reporting that Governor Quinn was rescinding the secret program his spokesperson had denied the existence of earlier in the day.  After only some 850 cut loose.

Yesterday morning, the Sun-Times took the time to explain how prison sentences are getting disappeared in Illinois.  That is, one of the many ways:

Here’s how someone sentenced to a year in prison could be released after just a week or two:

— The law automatically waives half his sentence, cutting time in prison to just six months

— The Corrections Department also can grant six months of good-conduct time (based on conduct in prison, not county jail) for all but the most serious offenses. Theoretically, that could reduce time in prison to zero. Corrections maintains that historically, nearly all inmates eligible for good time get the full amount.

— In the past, the department had a policy — unwritten, according to Sandy Funk of the agency’s transfer coordinator’s office — of requiring inmates to serve at least 61 days before collecting any of that good-time credit. With that requirement gone, prisoners can be released after department processes them.

And what does it say about our justice system when a guy with a big advertisement that he has murdered a man literally tattooed on his face gets released for Meritorious Good Time 21 days into a year-long sentence when he is actually supposed to still be serving time for previous gun crimes?

I think it says this:

It doesn’t matter if you point a gun at a store clerk’s head and threaten to pull the trigger, scarring her for life.  It doesn’t matter if you pistol-whip a rival gang member into intensive care, leaving the taxpayers with a hundred grand in hospital bills and lifetime disability payments to support some worthless thug.  It doesn’t matter if you shoot at a cop who is trying to stop you from robbing a grocery store, at least so long as the cop survives, unlike Captain Dennis Darrell Cagle.  No matter what you do, no matter what you cost society in human lives and money, some politician is going to let you walk.

The Guilty Project: The First Rape is a Freebie, then Loc Buu Tran Slaughters A Young Woman


Courtwatcher Orlando’s Laura Williams brings attention to the case of Loc Buu Tran:

2006-CF-014820-O In custody since 10/19/06 ~ Trial now scheduled for 11/16/09 with Judge John Adams.  1st Degree Murder. Allegedly stabbed a UCF student to death 10/06 when she tried to break up with him. Also was convicted 8 years ago in Clearwater for rape. Mistrial was declared 8/12/09 after Judge Jenifer Davis realized during the first witness’ testimony that she had worked on the case when in the PD’s office.
Why can’t we seem to get this guy tried?

Good question.  The judge, who rose to the bench after working as a defense attorney, claims that she “didn’t remember” that she had previously represented Tran.  How, exactly, does that happen in an extremely well-publicized murder case of a college student?

Judge Jennifer M. Davis was presiding over the case until she officially disqualified herself this morning on the grounds that she previously had worked in the public defender’s office as an attorney. Davis said she was part of Loc Tran’s defense.

“I’ve had this case for awhile,” Davis said. “It had not occurred to me I had worked in the office that initially represented this case, so legally I have no choice but to disqualify myself.”

Davis apologized to the jury and said she had worked as a supervisor with the attorneys defending the case. She said she didn’t realize until she heard the witness testimony from Nhat-Anh’s sister.

Here’s another question: why did Tran get probation from a judge in Clearwater, Florida in 1998 for the crime of burglary, sexual battery and kidnapping?

Probation for sexual assault.  Pinellas County’s on-line records are sketchy, but it appears that some judge in Clearwater, Florida gave Tran mere probation in December of 1998 for several serious crimes including sexual assault.  Think about that.  Rape a woman, get probation.  “First” offense, a freebie (though it appears it isn’t his first offense — a previous case is listed but there are no extant records).  In other words, nobody bothered to prosecute him that time, so the rape became a second first offense.  That makes the murder a fourth eighth offense.

There is a “sentencing guideline departure” page listed on the County website, but I can’t open that either.  No kidding they departed.

I would love to hear the justification for granting probation for rape.  Especially because Tran went on to take another woman’s life.

From what I can tell, and I’ll check on this after the holiday, after Loc Tran received probation for the 1998 rape, he went on to violate his probation with a fistful of credit card fraud charges which led to his finally being sentenced to prison in 2002.

Rape a woman, walk.  Steal a credit card, and you’re going to the big house, buddy.

But not for very long.  In July, 2002, Tran was sentenced to serve seven concurrent sentences of 3 years, two months each.  Take a good look at the offenses, all telescoped down to one concurrent prison term.  This is how crimes are disappeared by the courts every day, and victims are denied even the semblance of justice.  Or safety.

Current Prison Sentence History:
Offense Date Offense Sentence Date County Case No. Prison Sentence Length
04/27/1998 BURGLARY ASSAULT ANY PERSON 07/24/2002 PINELLAS 9807111 3Y 2M 0D
04/27/1998 SEX BAT/INJURY NOT LIKELY 07/24/2002 PINELLAS 9807111 3Y 2M 0D
04/27/1998 KIDNAP;COMM.OR FAC.FELONY 07/24/2002 PINELLAS 9807111 3Y 2M 0D
04/27/1998 OBSTRUCT CRIME INVESTIGATION 07/24/2002 PINELLAS 9807111 3Y 2M 0D
12/22/2001 FRAUD-CREDIT-CARD 07/24/2002 PINELLAS 0120895 3Y 2M 0D
12/22/2001 FRAUD-CREDIT-CARD 07/24/2002 PINELLAS 0120895 3Y 2M 0D
12/22/2001 FRAUD-CREDIT-CARD 07/24/2002 PINELLAS 0120895 3Y 2M 0D

Then, of course, after 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 . . . well, why break a perfect record of sheer contempt for victims of crime, not to mention the safety of women?  The 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 a 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.

Take a good look at his face.

This is a man who knows there are no consequences for the crimes he commits against women.  Expect endless, expensive appeals for him, and more of the same when he walks out of prison a second time.

The Guilty Project, Dennis Earl Bradford: A Jury Understood Why He Had To Slash That Woman’s Throat


The Guilty Project documents flaws in the justice system that enable serial offenders to commit more crimes.

Failure to Prosecute, Wrongful Acquittal by Jury, Early Release by State, Family/Employer Cover-Up

Dennis Earl Bradford

Dennis Earl Bradford made the news recently when cold-case investigators in Houston linked his DNA to the brutal kidnapping, rape and throat-slashing of an eight-year old child in 1990.  The child survived and was able to give investigators an excellent picture of her assailant and his first name, Dennis, which he told her.  Unfortunately, Bradford was not identified at the time as a suspect in the crime.

He moved to Little Rock, where he was caught, six years later, after committing a similar crime: he kidnapped a woman, raped her at knife-point, and slit her throat, telling her he was going to kill her.  That victim survived as well and was able to provide Bradford’s tag number to authorities.

According to CNN, Bradford was originally charged with attempted first-degree murder, but prosecutors took the murder charges off the table for some reason.  Sometimes, saying you’re going to kill someone while kidnapping them, raping them, and slitting their throat just isn’t murderous enough, I suppose.

Then a Little Rock jury refused to convict Bradford for the rape.  He had bought his victim a beer and offered her a ride home.  Therefore, they reasoned, she was asking for the rape, and she must have been hankering for a throat-slitting as well.  They did find him guilty of kidnapping, thus putting the final touch on an incoherent, irresponsible verdict: according to this brain-trust, he moved the woman against her will, but she went right along with being cut up with a knife.  And women who drink beer can’t be raped, you know.

Bradford was sentenced to 12 years in 1997 but strolled out of prison a mere three years later.  He had a toddler and a baby at the time he committed the Little Rock rape.  His boss thinks he’s a fine, upstanding citizen despite that little attempted murder/rape/throat slashing thing, and now the revelation about the eight-year old victim:

Bradford worked as a welder for United Fence in North Little Rock. A company representative said Bradford had been working there for 10 years and was a “good guy” who had mended “his old ways” and “changed his life.” He wouldn’t go into specifics about what those “old ways” were.

His family is similarly convinced of his excellent nature.  Good thing he can’t get to his own young daughter anymore:

Members of Dennis Bradford’s family . . . say the Dennis Bradford they know would not do these things.  They say he is a man his grandchildren know as a loving and gentle man.

Why can’t people like this just keep quiet, out of some simulacrum of human decency?


Lessons Learned, or Not Learned:

Dennis Bradford’s 1996 acquittal for a violent sex crime looks very much like the several free rides Sarasota (Florida) jurors and judges handed Joseph P. Smith before he kidnapped, raped and murdered Carlie Brucia.

Joseph P. Smith

Prior to having the shockingly bad luck of being caught on video abducting the 11-year old, Smith had been caught three other times attempting to abduct other victims.  But after each attack, judges or jurors judged the victims instead of Smith and let him go.

In 1993, Smith jumped a woman who was walking home from a club, breaking her nose and bones in her face.  A police officer interrupted the attack before Smith could make away with the stunned woman, but Sarasota Circuit Judge Lee Haworth decided to go easy on Smith, allowing him to plea to a lesser offense, granting him a mere sixty days in jail, and then reducing that sentence to weekend incarcerations.

For breaking a woman’s face, trying to drag her away, rape and likely kill her.  But she’d probably had a beer or two, after all.

In 1997, Smith, armed with a knife, pepper spray, and confidence that he would not face judicial consequences, attempted to abduct a woman at a gas station by claiming he needed a jump start.  She wouldn’t let him into her car but agreed to follow him back to his vehicle: luckily, someone who witnessed the odd exchange called the police, and they interrupted him again and found the weapons concealed in his shorts.  The officer who stopped him wrote that Smith “intended to do great harm” to the victim.

But another judge let him off easy, letting him plead to a concealed weapons charge in exchange for probation, rather than attempted abduction.

The third attack was witnessed by a carload of retirees, who grabbed their golf clubs and chased Smith away from a screaming woman he’d jumped by the side of a road and was dragging into the woods.  The retirees testified at Smith’s trial, but the jury acquitted him nonetheless: the woman had drunk a few beers, after all.  Jurors bought Smith’s risible story that he thought the woman looked suicidal and he was trying to help her into the woods, to safety.  They shook his hand and called him a good guy, a victim of persecution.

Then Smith raped and murdered an 11-year old.

Joseph Smith and Dennis Bradford both targeted children, targeted adults, and got let off easy for acts of extreme violence against females on the grounds that the women were asking for it.  Judges and jurors simply excused their violent assaults because some of their targets were women in bars.  Such prejudiced acquittals aren’t supposed to happen anymore, but any prosecutor will tell you they’re common, even with the levels of violence displayed.  In some jury boxes, drinking a beer can apparently still spell “deserving rape, or death.”

And in Bradford’s case, the details of his 1996 assault suggest an experienced rapist with the forethought to do away with evidence, good character kudos from his boss at the fencing company notwithstanding:

According to a 1996 police report, the victim told investigators Bradford drove her around for 20 or 30 minutes listening to a cassette tape. He took her to a secluded area and once the car stopped, immediately he began choking her and beating her in the face.

She told investigators Bradford held a knife to her eye and threatened to cut her jugular vein several times while she was raped.

Afterwards Bradford took her to a nearby creek and demanded she wash off all of the blood and evidence.

The victim told police her attacker then drove back into town and dropped her off in front of Oaklawn racetrack. He told her he planned to kill her, but got scared at the last minute.

How many more victims will surface?  You don’t start out kidnapping victims from their bedrooms and slitting their throats, nor do you simply take five years off between violent, thought-out attacks.  What you do is concentrate on victimizing the types of women nobody will believe, women who drink beer, for example, who will be dismissed by jurors who look at their broken faces and slashed throats and say: “she sure was asking for it.”

Anti-incarceration activists often complain that putting men in prison “turns them into hardened criminals.”  In the case of Joseph Smith and Dennis Bradford, judges and jurors letting them off easy for their crimes appear to have done the same.

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.

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


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.


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.

Probation for Murder in 2006, and Now Two Adults and A Baby Are Murdered

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Ronald Clemons, the 24-year old who is now charged with killing three people, including a three-year old baby, should have still been in prison for a 2004 murder when he committed this crime.

Here we go again.

Paul Kersey writes: “According to DeKalb County’s OJS, Ronald Clemons was arrested seven times before this week’s incident. His first arrest on record was when he was 17, so I think it’s safe to assume he has a juvenile record.”

In September of 2004, Clemons participated in a murder on the same street where he committed a triple murder this week.  In the previous killing, a DeKalb County prosecutor let him plead to aggravated assault and offered a light sentence.  A DeKalb County judge signed off on the plea.

Why?  It’s worth noting that community standards play a role when someone like Clemons gets away with murder — the community creates the atmosphere of leniency, and the community elects District Attorneys who go easy on violent criminals.

For some reason, Clemons was not sent to prison until a year and a half after the 2004 murder, in March of 2006.  He was supposed to serve three years, no parole, but he was released after serving approximately three-quarters of that time.

Maybe he got credit for time served.  Or maybe the Georgia Pardons and Parole Board let him walk.  Who knows?

What we do know is that, having internalized the lesson of no consequences, Clemons then went on quite a tear.  He’s also charged with robbing three men at gunpoint.

Five months ago, he was charged with violating parole.  That case is still open: apparently the prosecutor’s office failed to act on it.  If they had, people might not have died.

Clemons’ father told the newspaper that his son could not be guilty because murder is “completely out of character for my son.”  Now there are three more bodies to be explained away.

See DeKalb Officers for more on the (non) prosecutions of Ronald Clemons.  Don’t miss the acerbic comments, by cops who see this happening every day.

And, meanwhile, here is a practically identical case in Britain this week (minus the guns: they have to kill with fists more often over there, and so they do).  If things go as they’ve gone in Atlanta, this “Jamie Webb” should work up to slaughtering babies and other innocent bystanders sometime around Autumn, 2012.  Conveniently, he’ll be out of prison then, too.

Not So Funny: Project Turn Around

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So Al Sharpton, Andrew Young, Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard, and Fulton Superior Judge Marvin Arrington walk into a courtroom. . .

There is no punchline.  They walked into a courtroom to hold yet another courthouse special event for yet another group of criminal defendants who were having their crimes excused, who then failed to avail themselves of all the special tutoring and counseling and mentoring provided to them in lieu of sentencing, all paid for by us, the taxpayers.  What is going on in the courts?  Here is the press release from Paul Howard’s office:

On May 22, 2008, the Fulton County District Attorney’s Office joined by Fulton County Superior Court Judge Marvin Arrington unveiled a pilot program designed to clean our streets of rampant, unchecked illegal drug activity. With its innovative programming, this endeavor entitled Project Turn Around . . . [will] provide an opportunity for young drug dealers, with limited criminal histories, a chance to remove themselves from illegal drug activity . . . Project Turn Around is an intensive 12-month program that will provide these young men with drug counseling, G.E.D. classes, job training, family counseling, enrichment courses, life skills training and other social services. . . Fourteen young men, between the ages of 17-25 years old, were officially entered into the program on May 22 with an additional six more program participants enrolling within that same week.

To say that they did not change the landscape of Fulton County is apparently an understatement, according to this comment by a community member who volunteered to mentor the youths assigned to Project Turn Around.  In fact, the post by this person, who goes by “Nich,” challenges pretty much everything the D.A. said about the Project.  The comment appeared in an interesting Atlanta Journal Constitution discussion about crime:

I joined a group called “Project Turnaround” as a council member. (volunteer PO, basically.) This was a program to help these participants/offenders get back on track monitored by the DA’s office. Most every offender was recommended by the council members to be exempted from the program/put back in jail, for repeat offenses. Nothing was done. My participant, for example, never went to the classes, continued to sell drugs and was shot in during a drug deal gone bad. Why was he not thrown out of the program and into jail? The DA’s office eventually just walked away from the program, but the kicker…NONE, NADA, 0% of the participants were put into jail. They basically were given “get out of jail free cards!” They are roaming the streets worse off today, because they don’t believe they will ever receive consequences. Sadly, all evidence supports that theory.

So the D.A. failed to prosecute — how many?  20 repeat offenders?  “Nich” also reports an extremely troubling exchange with another D.A.:

The courts are a very big problem, especially with regard to minors. A lot of the offenders are young. Evidently, there is a 12-step program (you get 12 strikes before you are out) that applies to all minors, per Zone 3 DA. So if a 16 year old boy walks into my home, slays my husband and robs us, is that strike 7?

The public deserves some answers from Paul Howard (not to mention Arrington):

  • How many of the 20 enrolled youths failed to complete Project Turn Around?
  • How many were then prosecuted for the crimes that brought them to your attention in the first place, as you pledged to do?  As is your job, for that matter?
  • How many of these youths were arrested for additional crimes while “enrolled” in Project Turn Around?
  • How many of those crimes have been prosecuted?
  • What were the actual arrest records for the 20 participants prior to their enrollment in Project Turn Around: what constitutes a “limited criminal history”?
  • Is it true that your office has a policy of giving minors multiple passes — 2 or 5 or 12 “get out of jail free” cards — before you actually bother to prosecute them?

And don’t forget these easily-overlooked questions:

  • Who got paid for this?  Where did the money come from?
  • Is this failed attempt at rehabilitation going to be evaluated and dutifully entered into the academic literature on the efficacy of alternative sentencing programs, or is the whole mess just going to be swept under the rug?


It isn’t just the Fulton County D.A. who stands accused of failing to bother to prosecute serious crimes: over at the blog Dekalb Officers, cops and others are weighing in about multiple failures to prosecute violent offenders in DeKalb County, too.  The pattern of complaints about Dekalb D.A. Gwen Keyes resembles the complaints about Paul Howard, and both are extremely troubling.  Here are just a few:

Thank Gwen for taking years to indict!! When you don’t even get an indictment within a year or two of the crime, what chance does the state have at trial?? Remember, it is the STATE who was to bring in all of the witnesses and evidence. Try finding reports, evidence, and witnesses years after a crime took place. The more time that passes, the easier it is to get a not guilty verdict. Why do you think defense attorneys in DeKalb rarely demand a speedy trial?? It only happens if their client is unable to make bond. If their client is out, they know every day that goes by is to the defense’s advantage. But our DA’s and Judges don’t care.  The dirtbag who dumped his baby son in the sewer committed an armed robbery and kidnapping at a business over a year ago. He STILL hasn’t been indicted!! Defense attorneys like to say, “Indictments don’t mean anything. You can get an indictment against a sandwich.” Apparently, not with our DA’s office!! They can’t be bothered to bring violent criminals up for indictment within a reasonable amount of time!


Most cases are pending for years. They usually get NOLLE PROSCESS.


Take a look at the recent arrest in DeKalb County of a worthless coward who killed three people, including a three year old child. The perp has 5 different felony arrests in his past. Some have multiple felony charges. Guess how many indictments he has? ZERO!! Way to go Gwen!! Maybe if you indicted him on ONE or TWO cases, that three year old child might be alive today!

And this comment, which makes the important point that police officers’ lives are particularly endangered when offenders face no consequences in the courts:

Detectives have a good phrase for the D.A. Office and the Judges…..they plead guilty and guess what ……..TIME SERVE AND PROBATION. They get a second chance to steal again or rob you with a gun.


There are many reasons why programs like Project Turn Around fail. One of them, surely, is the confidence offenders must feel in knowing that they won’t face real consequences if they don’t bother to follow the rules.  Every young man who entered that program apparently failed to complete it.  Did anything get accomplished, other than reinforcing the participants’ sense of invulnerability?

In the current courtroom culture, any program like Project Turn Around is just one more free ride.

But this particular initiative is even more troubling.  It appears to have encouraged offenders to view themselves as victims of the justice system:

During the unveiling of the program, Judge Arrington told the young men, “I want to make sure before I send somebody to jail for an extended period of time that I’ve done everything I can do to make them a better person.” In addition to hearing from the judge, the young men were addressed by the Honorable Andrew Young, former Atlanta mayor and U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, and civil rights activist Rev. Al Sharpton.

First of all, it’s not Arrington’s job to “make people into better people.”  That’s a nice sentiment, one we can all agree with, but Marvin Arrington’s job is to enforce the law.

Second, what, precisely, was Al Sharpton doing there?  He has committed anti-Semitic and unapologetically racist acts, and his followers, encouraged by his rhetoric, have burned down businesses, threatened witnesses, rioted, and committed murders.  He is anti-cop, and his appearance at the side of Fulton County’s District Attorney sends a disturbing message to every police officer on Atlanta’s streets.

What’s the matter with Howard, in his position, agreeing to associate with the likes of Sharpton?

More mundanely, Al Sharpton has repeatedly demonstrated contempt for the justice system in cases filed against him.  After being found guilty of slander and defamatory statements in his false accusations of rape against a Dutchess County prosecutor, Sharpton disgracefully refused to pay the damages the court ordered him to pay.  The Federal Elections Commission found that he broke election finance laws — apparently with few consequences for him.

Most recently, he shockingly advocated for the release of four men who raped, sodomized and beat a Haitian immigrant in Miami, forced the woman to perform sex acts on her 12-year old son, and then doused them both with household cleansers and tried to set them on fire.

He went from that performance to Marvin Arrington’s courtroom a few months later, ostensibly to encourage young offenders to become better people.  What message did that appearance really send?  Something like this:

Don’t worry about following the law, because if you don’t, nothing will happen to you.  Look at me: I have no respect for the law and I’m rich and famous and on TV.  I hang out with your judge and your prosecutor, who admire me, even though I side with violent rapists and murderers and against the innocent people they torment.  You are the victims of an unjust system and deserve to be set free.

Is it any wonder that the young defendants did not bother to take Project Turn Around seriously?  No courtroom program featuring Al Sharpton should be taken seriously.  Of course everyone wants young offenders to be rehabilitated.  But the public deserves safety, and this is just craziness.

Marvin Arrington and Paul Howard are up for re-election in 2010.

Some Preliminary Observations About Walter Ellis, the Milwaukee Serial Killer

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The Walter Ellis case is still unfolding, but there are already lessons to be learned.

One of those lessons is that police agencies around the country are on the verge of connecting serial rapists and killers to many unsolved crimes, thanks to DNA and re-opening cold cases.  The picture that is emerging of these men will change what we know about serial offenders.

It will also, hopefully, change some assumptions about what goes on in our justice system.  Many people believe that we are too harsh on offenders, that people deserve one or two or five “second chances,” that rehabilitation works, and that minimum mandatory sentencing and “three-strikes” laws are too harsh.

The Walter Ellises of the world pretty much drive a stake into such preconceptions:

AP — MILWAUKEE — Walter Ellis was anything but unknown in his north side neighborhood in Milwaukee — a mix of condemned and run-down houses with some nicer, newer homes.  Even as the bodies of suspected prostitutes began turning up in garbage bins and abandoned buildings near his home, the stocky Ellis had regular — sometimes violent, often friendly — interaction with neighbors and family, and more than a dozen run-ins with police.

If those run-ins were scrutinized, what would they tell us?  How many times did some judge let him walk?  How many times did a prosecutor decided it wasn’t worth sending him away for a few months?

Ellis was not a stranger to law enforcement, with 15 arrests since 1978.

How many times did he get first-offender status?  Time served?  Community counseling?  Simply no prosecution at all?  Would minimum mandatory laws or three-strikes laws have kept him off the streets?

He’s received probation or fines for burglary . . .

Probation for burglary.  Nice.  The DNA database “hit” lists are littered with rapists whose only prior convictions were for burglary, or drugs.  Sometimes rapists were allowed to plead down to burglary when there was a rape but prosecutors didn’t feel the victim would be believed.  Sometimes these men were caught entering or hiding in a house before they committed a planned sexual assault.  For many decades, burglary was a commonly-known get-out-of-jail-fairly-free card for rapists.

So when a judge gives a burglar probation because “burglary isn’t a serious crime,” he or she may very well be letting a sex offender walk free.  All residential burglars should be required to provide DNA samples.  Too bad that didn’t happen before Walter Ellis murdered this woman, in 2007.  Her murder, and others, could have easily been prevented:

Ouithreaun Stokes

[Ellis has] received probation or fines for . . . delivery of a controlled substance and retail theft. He also has faced charges of soliciting prostitutes, battery, robbery and recklessly endangering safety, all of which were later dismissed. He received a 3-year prison sentence for drug possession in 1981.

When you see a drug possession conviction, think about this: often offenders will agree to plead to drug offenses if other charges are dropped.  Often, the drug charge is the one most easily proved, even though the offender is known to be responsible for other crimes.  So when people claim that we live in a prison state because “X% of offenders are in prison for non-violent drug charges,” realize that a substantial percentage of these people committed other crimes.  They just weren’t prosecuted for them.

It was in 1988 that [Walter Ellis] pleaded no contest to second-degree reckless injury. According to the criminal complaint, he hit his ex-girlfriend in the head several times with a claw hammer, causing her to get 30 staples and more than 22 stitches. The complaint said the woman woke and found him standing over her, smelling of alcohol and accusing her of cheating. She got out of bed, they struggled, and he hit her with the hammer, it said.

It looks like the AP got it wrong: it was 1998, not 1988.  Attempted murder with severe physical injury.  Good thing it was just a domestic, or else he might have gotten life in prison, you know?  Ah, the magic of plea bargaining: attempted murder – domestic violence = second degree reckless injury = five years.

Police have said Ellis’ DNA matches that found on nine women ages 16 to 41 who were killed in a three-square-mile area from 1986 to 2007.

Wow.  Too bad nobody in the courts took that claw-hammer-to-the-brain-thing very seriously.

Here is an excellent blog-post tracing Ellis’ crimes and incarcerations.  The blogger, Kathee Baird, gets the offense dates right, unlike the AP.  She observes:

Online court records show Ellis has been busted at least twelve times for crimes against people as well as property crimes and that he once lived near the area where many of the homicides occurred.  It appears that every time that Ellis was incarcerated the strangulation killings on the north side subsided. Between 1987 and 1994 there were no homicides that fit the North Side Stranglers m.o. . . .

Back to the AP:

Ellis, sentenced to prison, was supposed to have DNA taken before he was released in 2001 under a state law that mandated taking samples from people convicted of a felony.  The state Department of Corrections said it did take the sample, but the state Justice Department said it has no records showing they ever got it. On Wednesday, legislators demanded to know why the DNA sample never made it to crime analysts. If it had, police say, the case might have been solved before the last of the slayings occurred in 2007.

Our justice system is criminally lenient.  We have a pathological contempt for rape victims: we still utterly lack the public will to put rapists away.  What, you say?  This must be an isolated case?

50,000 Felons Released Without Submitting DNA

CHICAGO – About 50,000 felons have been released from Illinois prisons and county probation systems without submitting DNA samples.  Under Illinois law, every felon sentenced on or after Aug. 22, 2002, must provide DNA. The samples are stored in databases that can be used to link suspects to other cases.  A spokeswoman for the Illinois Department of Corrections says nearly 10,000 felons were released from state prisons without providing DNA. And Attorney General Lisa Madigan‘s office estimates county probation departments didn’t get samples from 40,000 additional felons due to delays in implementing the law.  DuPage County State’s Attorney Joseph Birkett helped push for collecting DNA from felons. And he says the failure to get samples from all felons means “serial murderers and rapists have probably remained on the loose.”

Back to Milwaukee:

In 2006, Ellis pleaded guilty in a hit-and-run involving Carolyn S. Prophet, 57, of Milwaukee. Prophet, who is disabled and has problems walking, said Ellis hit her car repeatedly and then swore and threatened her.  “The man is a psycho,” she said. “He kept ramming me.”  Bystanders stepped in when he got out of the car, she said. Ellis told them he was going to call police at a pay phone but never returned. She said the police who investigated the crash told her they knew Ellis from prior run-ins.

And then what happened?  Did anything happen?  Didn’t his other violent crimes lead to a long prison sentence?  Didn’t his 12 crimes against persons matter?  Doesn’t ramming a disabled, elderly person with a car count for anything?

The following comments by Ellis’ neighbor are chilling.  The woman says that Ellis is a good guy and yet that he is unpredictably violent and dangerous.  She doesn’t blame him for any of this, or even for threatening her repeatedly: she blames other people for “not helping him.”  This is what happens when people convince themselves that prior criminal acts should be overlooked, and the courts reflect that belief:

[Ellis’] neighbor[] said that as a child she tried to avoid walking past Ellis’ house — “He would come and just hit you out of nowhere,” she said.  But Jordan said Ellis seemed to have changed when she saw him about a year ago at a birthday party. She described him as pleasant and intelligent. She said she was shocked to hear of his arrest, but wishes someone would have helped Ellis early in his life.  “When I look back at it, all the indicators were there,” she said. “That behavior, the violent nature in him was already embedded.”

Maybe something will be learned this time.  Maybe nothing at all.

Something to Consider: Things Are Worse in Europe . . .

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For me, the high imprisonment rate in the United States is a sign of social health, not of social disease. . . societies such as several western European ones that cannot summon the confidence to set apart those who have persistently shown themselves unwilling to abide by the most elementary rules, and which prevaricate and beat their breast wondering how they and not the law-breakers are really to blame, may truly be described as decadent.

Read here.

The Police Arrest ‘Em and the Prosecutors and Judges Let Them Go

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Really Shocking Story.  See it here, at the blog Dekalb Officers, which includes all the background.

Pleading down, failure to build a murder case (need more prosecutors?), recidivism, and just not putting the b******s away, all in one case.

If this isn’t proof that somebody needs to find out what the hell is going on in the Fulton County D.A.’s Office and the Fulton Superior Court, be careful not to trip over all those bodies on your way out the door.

(Thanks, again, Paul K.)

Leniency Lunacy: Atlanta’s CBS News Tackles Recidivism, Judicial “Discretion,” and Fulton County Prosecutors Going Easy on Repeat Offenders

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Hat tip to Paul Kersey:

Atlanta CBS News Investigative Reporter Joanna Massey dissects the problems in the courts.  This is thoughtful reporting (here is part 2), and hopefully there will be follow-up on points raised by the story, such as:

  • Why is it that county prosecutors do not so much as try to enforce Georgia’s recidivism laws?  The prosecutor in the story tells the reporter that she uses her discretion in every case.  Well, if discretion means someone who has been arrested 69 times and accused of multiple violent crimes gets released back onto the streets again, then maybe discretion needs to be taken out of the hands of the Fulton County D.A.’s office in the form of a real recidivism law for Georgia.
  • Why, for that matter, don’t prosecutors have the mindset of seeking to impose the recidivism law in every possible case?  All victims deserve to be treated equally.  The law should be applied evenly.  Allowing criminals to get away with crimes inevitably tells them — especially impressionable juveniles and the mentally ill — that there will be no consequences for their actions.  Anybody who has lived with a three-year old knows the consequences of that.  The ethical culture of the D.A.’s office needs to change.
  • We’re not doing criminals any favors by letting them get away with — well, escalating patterns of violence until they get sent away for life.  Ricky Love, the offender profiled in the news story, does not appear to have a state prison record.  If that is true, it means that exactly none of his 69 arrests or multiple convictions got him state time — not robbery, not assault.  In other words, somebody in the D.A.’s office, the courts, or both, dropped the ball 69 times in a row.
  • What political motive lies behind Paul Howard continually insisting that his office does not need more resources?  Who is he trying to appease by saying that, when it is so obviously false?  The prosecutor in the news story appears to have been told not to acknowledge that her caseload prevents her from examining every defendant’s full record.  She sure looks caught out when she says:  “You deal with the facts that you have on that day, on that case, and you make a judgment call.”  The city needs more prosecutors, of course, if prosecutors don’t even have the resources to know who they are convicting.
  • Why did Judge Craig Schwall agree to release this offender?  He can pass the ball to the prosecutors, but he has discretion, too.  Every time I watch a judge suddenly getting tough on an offender, it reminds me of all the times they didn’t do it when nobody was watching.  There needs to be new standards for judging judges at election time, something a little more judgmental than “check incumbent box.”
  • And that will require information.  Data.  A new transparency at the Fulton County Clerk of Court’s office.  Why has nobody filed impeachment papers on Fulton Clerk Cathelene Robinson?  She is standing in the way of the residents of Atlanta gaining access to the records of criminal convictions, pleas, and non-prosecutions, records they will need to see in order to understand what is happening in the courts.  How to reform the dysfunctional Fulton Clerk of Court’s office?  The state body overseeing them is the Georgia Superior Court Clerk’s Cooperative Authority (GSCCCA).  More on this later…
  • Atlanta could easily take a page from Houston County, located in the center of the state.  The Houston County District Attorney provides immediate web access to all case events and sentencing outcomes, so people there can see precisely what the DA’s office is doing at every phase of a prosecution.  What would it cost to post these records in Fulton?  They must be databasing them internally, right?  People have a right to know what their prosecutor’s office is doing.
  • The Court Watch volunteers are heroes.  The Court Watch program in Atlanta needs to grow.  And while Paul Howard deserves a lot of credit for creating a court-watching program in conjunction with his office, I hope the Atlanta Court Watchers will also branch out and grow into an independent organization.  It is important to witness those cases where the nobody invites you to watch, too.

Why Did Vernon Forrest Have to Die to Get Charman Sinkfield off the Streets?


Three men are now in custody for the murder of boxer Vernon Forrest.  Of course, two are recidivists with state records and histories of getting off easy for multiple crimes, and the third is probably just too young to have accumulated a non-juvenile record yet.  The man they killed was a world-champion athlete who founded a charity in Atlanta to help the mentally challenged.  How many times does the same sickening story have to play out?

Forrest’s mother told the Atlanta Journal Constitution she hopes the three men never leave prison again:

“I’m praying for justice to be done,” Mildred Forrest said early Thursday evening.. . . “I want to see them prosecuted to the fullest,” she said. “I don’t want to see them out of jail any more.”

Why doesn’t the justice system get serious about repeat felons before they kill?

It was twenty year-old Damario Ware who first pulled a gun on Forrest outside a gas station.  How many times has Ware done this before?  He had to be brazen to attack a powerful professional athlete, and he had to know what he was doing to get his victim’s guard down by asking for money.  You don’t commit that type of crime the first, or the tenth time you’ve got a gun in your hand.  He obviously had no fear of consequences from his victim, or from the courthouse, which is located a few block away.  That would be his stomping grounds, in and out and in and out on a few city blocks.

I did not bother trying to access Ware’s prior record in Fulton County because I did not feel like taking my chances by phone with the Fulton Clerk of Court’s office, but I hope somebody in Atlanta is compiling the criminal histories of all three of Forrest’s killers.

Jquante Crews drove the getaway car.  He has six known aliases and has already served two one-year sentences in state prison.  He is 25 years old.  How do you accumulate six aliases by the time you’re 25?  Has he ever done anything legitimate?  You have to wonder about a person’s family, when they live like this and nobody does anything about it.

On paper, shooter Charman Sinkfield’s criminal history — at least the Cobb County part, which you can view on-line — is a tangle of drug offenses, probation revocations and thefts.  He has served three separate prison terms since 2000.  Of course, his first adult charge occured right around the time of his 18th birthday, so there is doubtlessly a sealed juvenile record, as well.

Sinkfield seemed to get arrested a lot in the company of family members.  If the state had taken his crimes seriously and removed him from that toxic environment when he was 15 or 18, would he be on a different path now?

Since the age of 22, Sinkfield has spent 46 months in prison and 56 months out of prison, not counting possible stints in the Fulton County system, which I cannot access on-line.  Presuming a life sentence for Forrest’s murder, he is now facing thirty or more years behind bars.

Here are the parts of Georgia’s recidivism law that could have been applied to Sinkfield, had anybody cared to do so:

§ 17-10-7. Punishment of repeat offenders; punishment and eligibility for parole of persons convicted of fourth felony offense:
[A]ny person convicted of a felony offense in this state . . . 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. . . [A]ny person who, after having been convicted under the laws of this state for three 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.

The highlighted parts are what render this law meaningless: they give judges absolute discretion to suspend the entire sentence for any non-violent crime, even the eighteenth time somebody appears before them.  The highlighted parts are the reason why psychopaths in East Atlanta continue to walk the streets after their tenth burglary conviction, and why Charman Sinkfield continued to walk the streets after being convicted of multiple crimes and refusing to follow the terms of his parole.

How much was Sinkfield emboldened every time he gamed the system and won?

Charman Sinkfield should have been in prison on the night he killed Vernon Forrest.  If only some prosecutor had used Georgia’s recidivism law at some point in Sinkfield’s criminal career, and some judge had agreed to impose a real sentence, Forrest would still be alive, and Sinkfield wouldn’t be facing life in prison or the death penalty.  Two men’s lives could have been saved.

“Leniency” hardly sounds lenient when you look at it that way.

Murder by Anti-Incerceration Activism

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From a City Journal article by Heather Mac Donald.  How the murder of 17-year old Lily Burk could have been prevented:

The recent arrest of a vicious murderer in Los Angeles vindicates—tragically, only after-the-fact—several policing and sentencing policies that anti-law-enforcement advocates have fought for years. . .

On July 24 at around 3 pm., 17-year-old Lily Burk was walking down a midtown Los Angeles street on an errand for her mother. A 50-year-old homeless parolee with a three-decade-long rap sheet confronted the high school senior as she approached her Volvo. . .

At 4.52 pm, Samuel pulled the Volvo into a Skid Row parking lot at Alameda and 5th Street and abandoned it. Burk had already been murdered, her head beaten and throat slashed open with a broken bottle; her body was left in her car. . .

Samuel then walked nearly a mile through Skid Row, drinking beer from a paper bag in violation of L.A.’s open container law. Two LAPD officers on horseback stopped him for the public-drinking offense and questioned him. He told them that he was on parole and agreed to be searched, according to the police. They found a crack pipe in his pocket and arrested him. The post-arrest search of Samuel turned up a Volvo key and a cell phone. The next morning, a worker from a Skid Row business discovered Burk’s car with her body in it. Samuel’s prints were in the car; his clothes had blood on them.

Samuel’s apprehension shows the enormous power of broken-windows policing, which the American Civil Liberties Union has fought against on L.A.’s Skid Row and throughout the country.. . . When officers question people in high-crime areas for misdemeanor offenses, they regularly find warrant absconders and parole violators. In 1996, a New York police officer nabbed a young man jumping a subway turnstile, a crime that a decade earlier had been regarded as simply an inevitable response to poverty and too trivial for the police to worry about. The turnstile-jumper, John Royster, turned out to be wanted for an ongoing campaign of terror against women in New York that included murder, rape, and a nearly lethal beating; had he not been picked up for the subway offense, he undoubtedly would have gone on to assault more women.

Of course, the effectiveness of broken-windows policing in capturing Charles Samuel is only half of the story.  The other half is the story of how anti-incarceration activists, and their allies in the judiciary, kept Samuel out of prison in the first place, despite his brutal, violent, recidivist record of crime:

California’s “three strikes and you’re out” law is the most reviled sentencing policy in the country—reviled, that is, by the anti-incarceration lobby. It allows prosecutors to seek a sentence of 25 years to life against an offender who has already served time for two violent or serious felonies when he is convicted of a third felony.

Anti-law-enforcement advocates fancifully charge that the law’s main effect is to send away hapless sad sacks whose only misstep was to succumb to the urge for a pizza when they didn’t have enough change in their pockets to buy a slice. These advocates regularly lobby Sacramento to loosen or repeal the law.

Mac Donald is right: the only time the media writes about three-strikes, it is to push a questionable sob story.  There is no discussion of these laws when they are used to finally get a violent recidivist off the streets.  The media will bang the drums when some offender with a long rap sheet finally kills someone.  But then they go back to playing amnesiac and reflexively opposing the laws that could have prevented the crime in the first place.

In Atlanta, for example, it appears that everybody has forgotten about the various sentencing and judgment errors that ended in Eugenia Calle’s murder.  Apparently, there will be no professional consequences for the judge and prosecutor who let Shamal Thompson walk as a “first offender” (for the third time), rather than enforcing Georgia’s minimum mandatory law, as they were required to do by law.  Are we all just going to collectively forget what happened, until the next time the next recidivist captures our attention by killing someone?  No consequences for offenders and no consequences for the prosecutors and judges who fail to do their jobs and put them away: a perfect circle.  No wonder judges so frequently identify with offenders, and not with the rest of us.

Heather Mac Donald:

Samuel was a good candidate for a third-strike sentence, thanks to an earlier attack that foreshadowed Burk’s murder. In 1986, he walked up to an elderly man sitting on his porch in San Bernardino (in the so-called Inland Empire east of Los Angeles), grabbed the man’s cane and beat him with it, then forced him inside his home and demanded money. When the old man could only come up with ten dollars, Samuel commandeered the man’s car and drove the owner to an ATM. The terrified senior citizen was unable to withdraw any money, however, whereupon Samuel struck him with his cane again, punched him in the stomach, and threatened to kill him if he called the police, according to the Los Angeles Times.  Samuel pled guilty in 1987 to robbery, residential burglary, and car theft and was sentenced to six years. He became eligible for a three-strikes sentence in 1997, following a conviction for another San Bernardino burglary (the 1986 robbery and burglary charges counted as his first two felonies). But his rap sheet failed to note that the 1986 burglary was a residential burglary, as opposed to a non-residential break-in. Only residential burglaries count as “serious” felonies for three-strikes purposes; breaking into a store, office building, or commercial space is regarded as “non-serious” and can be repeated indefinitely without triggering a three-strike step-up in sentencing. (So much for the idea that the three-strikes law is blindly draconian; in fact, it makes careful—perhaps overly careful—distinctions between felonies.)

To make a long story short (I am quoting too much already: read the article, it’s good), Samuel managed to avoid three-strikes in 1997 because somebody did not accurately record his prior record, and no prosecutor caught the error (sound familiar?), and he avoided three-strikes again in 2006 because another prosecutor, bowing to anti-incarceration activism, did not request the sentence (sound familiar?).  Over the years, he got other breaks as well and was most recently sentenced to a “community drug treatment program” despite the routine insistence that violent offenders are not permitted to take advantage of such options.   Now a 17-year old girl is dead, brutally murdered.  How many other people did he get away with killing?

Much misinformation about three-strikes laws circulates in the media:

  • When activists say three-strikes laws offer no room for the get-out-of-jail card that is judicial (in)discretion, don’t believe them.  Even California, with by far the strictest three-strikes law in the country, still allows judges and prosecutors discretion to release violent, repeat offenders to the streets.  Georgia’s law is utterly toothless, with judicial discretion over-ruling virtually any consequences for crime by allowing judges to suspend all time to be served at the times of sentencing.
  • When district attorneys tell you they don’t need addition resources, they are playing politics with your safety.  Nobody seriously believes that any district attorney’s office has the resources to actually enforce the law.  The law has not really been enforced in this country for decades.  Every district attorney’s office is so short-staffed, in comparison to the real quantity of crime, that virtually every offense gets brief consideration by some harried prosecutor and then a generous plea deal.  Criminals know this and act accordingly.  Until that changes, no district attorney should go around claiming that he doesn’t need resources.  Paul Howard.
  • It is 2009.  Even I have learned to use computers, and I am a recalcitrant luddite.  The average computer tech could design a system during his lunch break that would record and database all prosecution, sentencing and incarceration outcomes.  By suppertime, the data could be available to the public on the internet.

However, if people really knew what was happening in the criminal courts, a lot of heads would roll.  Judges and prosecutors would find themselves answering for the leniency so ingrained at every level of the system that it seems natural — so long as you don’t look too hard, and it is not your daughter they are burying this week.

Jeff Jacoby of the Boston Globe Questions the Sentencing Project’s “No Exit” Report


In the Boston Globe, columnist Jeff Jacoby has other criticisms of The Sentencing Project’s anti-life sentence report:

OF THE 2.3 million people in prisons and jails in the United States, roughly 140,000, or 6 percent, are serving life sentences. Of that number, about 41,000 – 1.8 percent of all inmates – were sentenced to life without parole. Both numbers are at an all-time high.

Should Americans be troubled by this? The Sentencing Project thinks so. In a new report, the liberal advocacy group complains that the growth in life sentences has been costly and unjust. It “challenges the supposition that all life sentences are necessary to keep the public safe,’’ and particularly disapproves of life without parole.

As a matter of policy, the Sentencing Project supports abolition of both the death penalty and life without parole, an eccentric position that most Americans don’t share. Nevertheless, the group’s new report – “No Exit: The Expanding Use of Life Sentences in America’’ – has drawn deferential media attention, with stories appearing in The New York Times, The Washington Post, USA Today, and Agence France-Press.

But good PR is not a substitute for sound analysis. . .

Read the rest of Jacoby’s column here.

Risible Poppycock from the Criminology/Journalism Complex: The Sentencing Project and The Delaware News-Journal

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It ought to take more than 25 seconds and two mouse clicks to find evidence that the media and The Sentencing Project are making stuff up.  It ought to, but it does not.

The Sentencing Project is a well-funded, powerful, anti-incarceration advocacy organization.  They pose as a think tank that publishes objective academic research on crime and punishment.

They are people on a mission.  Their mission is to empty the prisons and get murderers and rapists back onto the streets.

They get a lot of help from certain members of the media.  From the Delaware News Journal:

Report questions use of life sentences
Study’s push to abolish terms without parole likely to meet strong resistance in Delaware

When researchers for The Sentencing Project started gathering figures for a national study last year, they found that 318 people were ordered to spend the rest of their lives in Delaware prisons.

That’s 8.3 percent of the total prison population, a proportion big enough to give Delaware a fourth-place ranking among the states.

Because of those findings, the organization recommended in its report that the 50 states and federal government abolish life sentences without the possibility of parole.

Not true.  Not even a little bit true.

If 318 people made up 8.3% of Delaware’s prison population, then the total prison population would be 3,831.  According to the Delaware Bureau of Prisons, the adult prison population in Delaware is 5,685.

318 is 5.5% of the current state prison population.

But wait, we’re just getting started!

The total number of offenders currently under some form of state control in Delaware, not counting those in pre-trial and thus not yet convicted, is 24,733.  This number includes convicts on home confinement, restitution-only, probation violation, psychiatric incarceration, prison, probation, parole, and supervised custody.

318 is 1.2% of the total prison population currently under state control.

If you want to compare life sentences to other sentencing outcomes, you have to count all sentencing outcomes, not only the ones that resulted in prison terms that are being served right now.  That is so glaringly obvious, I cannot believe the editors at the Delaware News Journal could overlook it.

But wait, there’s more!

That 24,733 may not even count offenders serving their sentences in local jails, or those convicted of crime but sentenced only to community control of some sort, or convicted but granted suspended sentences.  I don’t know how the state prison/local jail population breaks down in Delaware, but if it is like other states, large percentages of people convicted of crimes don’t ever get sent up to the state system, particularly if they are given one year or less.  On the other hand, Delaware is a very small state, and they may be more centralized.  Maybe, maybe not.

In any case, if you want to compare life sentences to other sentencing outcomes, you have to count all sentencing outcomes, not only the ones that result in state prison terms, right?

But wait, there’s more!

The Sentencing Project number (I can’t bring myself to call it a statistic) does not include juvenile convicts in the system.  If your goal is to show how many convicts receive life sentences for their crimes, there is no justification for leaving out crimes committed by juveniles.

But wait, there’s much more!

The Sentencing Project number only counts the current prison population.  But these 318 people serving life sentences were sentenced over a period of several decades.  So if you want to figure out the real percentage of convictions that resulted in life sentences in Delaware, or anywhere else, you cannot limit your count to people currently in the system.  You have to go back to the date when the first of these lifers was sentenced, and then add up all convictions for all crimes that occurred between that date and now, a number that would be very, very, very high.

How high?  Let’s say, for argument’s sake, that the oldest life sentence among Delaware’s 318 was doled out 30 years ago.  Let’s throw the activists another big bone and say that the tidal wave of crime between 1989 – 1993 never happened, and the conviction rate has remained steady.  The Delaware Department of Corrections reports approximately 20,000 “admissions” into their system last year.  If that number held steady, it would add up, very roughly, to 600,000 state-level incarcerations since 1979, 30 years ago.

Plus unknown numbers more if you actually counted the early 90’s crime wave, and counted the defendants who received sentences that did not place them in the state system at all, and counted the juvenile convictions over that time.

318 is .053% of 600,000.  We all know the real number of convictions is actually much higher.

In fairness to the Sentencing Project, you would have to add in the people who received life sentences during that time and died in prison, so the raw number of lifers would rise above 318.  But that would not really matter: we’re talking about comparing a handful of life sentences to hundreds of thousands — actually millions — of lesser sentences.

Now, let’s get back to the point of the exercise.  From the Delaware News-Journal:

When researchers for The Sentencing Project started gathering figures for a national study last year, they found that 318 people were ordered to spend the rest of their lives in Delaware prisons.  That’s 8.3 percent [not] of the total prison population, a proportion big enough to give Delaware a fourth-place ranking among the states.  Because of those findings, the organization recommended in its report that the 50 states and federal government abolish life sentences without the possibility of parole.

To paraphrase: because of fake findings, we should release first degree murderers by the thousands.  Apparently, the underlying justification is that we are insensitive to them.  According to the authors of the Sentencing Project’s “study,” life-without-parole

“discount[s] the capacity for personal growth and rehabilitation.”

Their proof?  There’s too many of them, based on cooked numbers, not just in Delaware, but everywhere:

Nationally, the organization counted 140,610 inmates — one in every 11 people in prison — serving life sentences. Some 41,095 of those lifers, or 29 percent, were serving sentences of life without parole.

Crunch the national numbers the way I did for Delaware, and that “one in every 11” would be shown up for what it really is: a lie of extraordinary proportions.

But the real issue is this: why would it matter whether 9%, or .05%, or .002% of the current prison population is serving life sentences?  It is a meaningless number.  The only thing that matters is the records of the inmates they are agitating to release.  The Project’s “researchers” do not want to talk about actual crime: for them, crime disappears the moment the offender crosses the prison threshold, leaving only an innocent, oppressed, and misunderstood prisoner in its wake.

Hopefully, legislators in Delaware and elsewhere will call The Sentencing Project on their shameless misrepresentation of the facts.

They obviously can’t count on the media to get it straight.

Some Other Elected Officials Who Should Be Shown the Door

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Amazing, the amount of work it takes to get our leaders to the point of appearing to do their jobs.  But the job of getting elected officials to do their jobs, alas, is never done.  The mayor and chief of police have promised more police on the streets by next summer (and if this promise is not kept, they will be long gone anyway, so accountability is moot).  A weekend crime sweep netted 159 arrests, including many for outstanding warrants, which means that enough manpower was deployed to do what is supposed to be done all the time: pick up people with outstanding warrants.

In other words, in the last five days, the mayor briefly did her job by addressing the crime problem while only slightly denying it; the chief of police was spotted in the same zip code as his office, and law enforcement officers were given enough resources for all of 48 hours.

So far, so good.  But now those 159 arrestees are in the hands of the District Attorney and the Court.  And that, my friends, is where everything falls down.


There are two compelling crime stories in Sunday Paper this week.  “Back on the Streets Again: Midtown Battles the Same Offenders Over and Over” addresses the problem of the courts.  Patrick Bray and Stephanie Ramage profile just a few of the repeat offenders emboldened by the justice system’s inability to hold them accountable for their actions:

Midtown resident Kim Bannerman was attacked in her minivan while stopped at a traffic light at the corner of 5th Street and Peachtree Street one day in June.

Her attacker, Kim Paige, a Midtown vagrant with mental issues, stood in the street obstructing traffic and then climbed on the hood of Bannerman’s van, maneuvering around to the driver’s side window and attempting to pull Bannerman out of the van by her hair.

How many times has Kim Paige attacked strangers on Atlanta’s streets?  Well, that’s hard to figure.  The Clerk of Superior Court, Cathelene Robinson, does not post criminal records on the Clerk of Court’s website.  She does, however, dedicate a portion of the website to a yearbook-like photo collage of her own life.  The website also weirdly features a “History of Fulton County” cribbed from someplace else, in which we learn:

North of the Chattahoochee River what is now Fulton County is quite different than Atlanta and its environs. Although rapid growth is battling history in an oft repeated scenario, the quiet, aged roads of Milton County sing a song of a different era, when horseless carriages were preceded by horsedrawn ones and you would see your next door neighbor every other week.

What, one might ask, is this corn-pone blathering doing on the Clerk of Court’s website, instead of access to the criminal records that comprise the office’s actual business?  Perhaps it has to do with pretending (pretending badly) to proffer the never-delivered “History of the Fulton County Court,” for which Ms. Robinson’s impressively corrupt mentor and predecessor, Juanita Hicks, was handsomely paid (hit the link for some good advice from Maureen Downey about recalling Robinson).

Taxpayers may not be able to look up Kim Paige’s criminal record to determine precisely how worried they need to be the next time she mounts a car hood and starts trying to pull the occupants out by their hair,   but they can learn that Clerk of Court Cathelene Robinson’s motto is: “Whatever you chose to be, strive to be the best.”

And that is just one sign of the chaos in judiciary.  But it is an important one, and the first that should be fixed.  Without systematic access to the outcomes of criminal cases, there is no way to know if the courts are functioning at all.  There is no way to know which judges are enforcing sentencing and recidivism laws, or which violent offenders are being allowed to walk by the district attorney — no way to make informed decisions at election time or evaluate the “alternative sentencing” programs being forced down people’s throats.  Why are the courts permitted to operate in secrecy?

From the Sunday Paper article:

Besides [Kim] Paige, the [Midtown Ponce Security Alliance] MPSA is keeping an eye out for several other vagrants they don’t want to come back. One is Kenneth Lamb. Known as the “barefoot panhandler,” Lamb has spent most of his adult life in prison for rape, aggravated assault and robbery. . . Yet another concern is Ricky Love, who is currently in jail after years of terrorizing people in Midtown. The Fulton County Superior Court convicted him in September 2008 for aggravated assault. Love was sentenced to 10 years imprisonment but credited with two years already served in pre-trial detention. The judge suspended the remainder under two conditions:  Love must undergo treatment for mental health issues and banishment from Fulton County. . .

“Unless they are caught with a gun or drugs on them, the judges are not going to do anything and the suspects know that,” says one policeman, who spoke on condition of anonymity.


So how many of those 159 defendants arrested in the weekend sting are already out on the streets again?

How many mentally incompetent or young offenders among them are learning the lesson — right now — that they can get away with attacking someone or stealing something?

Below is the record for Kenneth Lamb’s state incarceration history — in other words, for those crimes deemed serious enough to bump him up to state prison, not just arrest-and-release or a stint in county jail.  I’m hypothesizing, because I don’t have the records in front of me, and Cathelene Robinson is busy scrapbooking on the Fulton County Superior Court website, but it looks to me that case #127823, for aggravated assault, robbery, motor vehicle theft, armed robbery, rape, and conversion, netted Lamb four seven-year sentences in 1980, and he walked out of prison 3 years, 8 months later.  Two months after that (at the most), he raped again, and then again, and there is little reason to doubt that he committed other rapes for which he was not caught or convicted.

Because studies claiming that sex offenders are not prone to recidivism are bunk.  And the police routinely close several rape cases when a serial offender gets sent down for one or two.

So the next time your neighbor chews you out for not expressing proper empathy for the “harmless” homeless person breaking into your basement or grabbing strangers by the hair on the street, tell them to contemplate Kenneth Lamb’s record, or any one of the thousand of others that illustrate the failure of our justice system to protect the public (including, for that matter, the actually harmless homeless, who are the easiest prey).


GDC ID: 0000220527

CASE NO: 608522
CASE NO: 177743
OFFENSE: poss of marijuana
CASE NO: 177743
CASE NO: 177743
CASE NO: 127823
CASE NO: 127823
CASE NO: 127823
CASE NO: 127823
CASE NO: 127823
CASE NO: 127823
CASE NO: 127823
07/20/2006 09/30/2006
03/14/1985 02/20/2005
07/11/1980 03/04/1984

No-Snitch Children and No-Punishment Adults

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Every weekday, I receive a useful summary of crime, policing, and justice news stories called Crime and Justice News, compiled by Ted Gest at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice.  Considering that there are so many relevant articles from which to choose, Gest and his assistants do a good job of spotting national trends.

But, sometimes, reading through the report is singularly depressing, not only because crime is depressing, but because the trends in crime prevention that crop up regularly these days seem doomed to failure.

In yesterday’s Crime and Justice News, the first two stories on the list, taken together, are particularly grim:

Detroit Kids Say No-Snitch Culture Ingrained
Clergy and civic groups have joined Detroit’s new leadership in calling for an end to youth violence — specifically targeting the no-snitch culture that says it’s better, and safer, to turn a blind eye to criminal acts. Kids on the street are saying: Good luck, reports the Detroit News. “In this city, it’s come down to a combination of fear and I don’t care,” said Antonio Bolden, 15. “When it comes to the no-snitch thing, this city is too far gone.”

Chief County Prosecutor Kym Worthy said, “Without people telling what they know to law enforcement we would have anarchy in the streets.” Some say that’s already a good description of Detroit. . .

Detroit News

A Formula For Less Crime, Less Punishment
If punishments for wrongdoing are sporadic and delayed, increasing severity has only modest impact. That’s why quintupling the prison and jail population has failed to get us back to the crime rates of the early 1960s. So says public policy Prof. Mark A. R. Kleiman of UCLA in When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment, from Princeton University Press this summer. . .

Washington Monthly

There’s no need to explain why the “No-Snitching” article is depressing.  But even though Kleiman’s research is well worth a read — he argues that immediate consequences and zero tolerance for infractions can make parole and probation highly effective and reduce the need for prison sentences — his theory doesn’t have a chance of working.

Not because, as some would argue, we are philosophically wedded to harsh, long incarcerations, but because precisely the opposite is true.  Too many powerful people are so opposed to incarceration, particularly for drug crimes, that they will be no more willing to enhance probation and parole with threatened prison terms than they were to enhancing other types of sentencing.

The real problem is the power of the defense bar and the many ways they have devised to bankrupt the justice system.  That’s where all the money went.  You can spend all day jiggering the system at its edges, but if you don’t tackle the bloated, kleptocratic defense bar, with its stranglehold on procedure and evidence rules, you will accomplish nothing.

The other problem is dumbing down justice.  Academicians can come up with wonderful plans, but by the time they get enforced, they don’t look the same anymore.  We already have rules governing the behavior of people on parole, and often they simply get ignored.  We already have minimum mandatory laws that are supposed to “weed out” the worst offenders, and judges ignore them.  We already have a vast network of “community sentencing” and drug court options, and a lot of them are scams.

The only thing that guarantees that people will not re-offend during a certain time period is incarceration.

But anti-incarceration activism and the economic crisis are now working hand-in-hand to drive states to abandon crime-fighting and replace it with “job training” and “community outreach,” the money for which is showering down from federal deficit-spending largess, not scraped out of strained state and city budgets.  All of which would be lovely if only it (a) actually worked and (b) didn’t instantaneously disappear into the voluminous pockets of political cronies.

Add to that, (c) nobody in high-crime communities labors under the illusion that serious and repeat offenders are actually removed from the streets now, so communities are already spiraling out of control.  Fixing parole is a band-aid.  Activists talk about the need to empty the prisons and overturn minimum mandatory sentencing, but in reality, it’s already done.  The streets are already crawling with violent recidivists who are already getting a mere slap on the wrist for their seventh, or twenty-seventh offenses.

The Detroit News article has some interesting quotes from community members who are demanding more law enforcement and harsher sentencing — not less, as many experts propose.  But then the reporter lays the blame for lax enforcement of laws and short prison terms at the feet of prosecutors and police, as if they are the ones who want to let suspects walk and felons plead down.

Where is the blame for the criminal bar, the defense attorneys, the pro-criminal judges — the real source of the culture of leniency?

Meanwhile, academicians and policy makers continue to insist that the only “solution” is to empty the prisons.  I suspect they will win.  Then we’ll all be back in 1993, with Detroit leading the way.

At least criminology will remain a growth profession.

Another Entirely Accurate Critique of the Miami Homeless Sex Offender “Crisis”:

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From PROTECT, the National Association to Protect Children:

Miami’s Julia Tuttle Causeway fiasco–where about 70 “registered” sex offenders have been herded under a bridge to live–is being challenged in court by the ACLU.

PROTECT wrote about the situation earlier this year (See “Gimmicks Gone Wild,” March, 2009 Newswire), calling it a “cynical game of sex offender dumping.” The New York Times reports today that Miami probation officers are telling released sex offenders to go join the encampment, because there are virtually no area rental apartments to be had that don’t violate local residency restriction ordinances for “registered” sex offenders.

Miami area officials, like those in many jurisdictions around the country, are passing the ordinances in a desperate gesture to keep released sex offenders away from children.

The New York Times reports that Florida Governor Charlie Crist “placed the responsibility [for monitoring released offenders] squarely on local governments.”

As long as state politicians continue to peddle sex offender “registration” schemes as a low-cost alternative to incarceration and intensive probation and parole, local authorities will continue to fall back on ineffective zoning ordinances and highway bridges as their main public safety strategy.