Archive for the ·

Crime Denial

· Category...

Will Privatizing Child Protection Protect Georgia’s Children? Yes and No.

no comments


As Georgia prepares to follow in Florida’s footsteps in privatizing child protection services, there has been a lot of politicking but little talk about the real issues that lead to failures to protect children “in the system.”  Privatization in Florida has been a very mixed bag, with some counties improving their performance and other counties mired in scandals involving the private non-profit agencies hired to protect children.  It’s reasonable to expect that Georgia will fare a little better, but don’t expect the failure rate to drop — or rise — significantly.

The failures lie in policies enforced by the courts, and nobody is talking about reforming those policies.

Like Florida, Georgia plans to eventually privatize the services that come after an investigation has determined a child is in danger, namely: foster care, family “reunification” interventions, and adoption.  State workers will continue to be responsible for investigating abuse, and courts will still be responsible for deciding if a child should be removed from a home, returned to a home, or adopted.

Private agencies do a great job with adoption, and some of them do a better job than the state in supervising foster care.  Much of this care is already done through public-private partnerships in Georgia.  But in all the politicized talk about private versus public, little has been said about the real  problem with our child protection services.

The problem is the mandate to keep families together or achieve “reunification” as soon as possible.

Approximately a decade ago, many states began to move towards a model of keeping families together, no matter the cost.  Florida went further than Georgia, though it wasn’t an issue tied to privatization because that part of child protection is still performed by state agencies.

And now Florida is counting the bodies.

In an extraordinary report, the Miami Herald investigated the deaths of 477 children who  had prior contacts with child protection services.  477 — since just 2008.  The Herald makes a strong case for blaming the mandate for “family preservation” for many of those deaths:

They tumbled into canals and drowned, baked in furnace-like cars, were soaked in corrosive chemicals, incinerated, beaten mercilessly, and bounced off walls and concrete pavement. One was jammed into a cooler posthumously; others were wrapped like a mummy to silence their cries, flattened by a truck, overdosed and starved. An infant boy was flung from a moving car on an interstate. A 2-year-old girl was killed by her mom’s pet python.

The children were not just casualties of bad parenting, but of a deliberate shift in Florida child welfare policy. DCF leaders made a decision, nearly 10 years ago, to reduce by as much as half the number of children taken into state care, adopting a philosophy known as family preservation. They also, simultaneously, slashed services, monitoring and protections for the increased number of children left with their violent, neglectful, mentally ill or drug-addicted parents.

Public or private, the child protection system is dealing with multigenerational problems that are far more severe than most people realize.  It’s easy to criticize government social workers, or to lash out at efforts by private agencies.  The hard part is acknowledging that “family preservation” may be the wrong goal:

Rather than go to court to force parents to get treatment or counseling, the state often relied on “safety plans” — written promises by parents to sin no more. Many of the pledges carried no meaningful oversight. Children died — more than 80 of them — after their parents signed one or, in some cases, multiple safety plans.

• Parents were given repeated chances to shape up, and failed, and failed and failed again, and still kept their children. In at least 34 cases, children died after DCF had logged 10 or more reports to the agency’s abuse and neglect hotline. Six families had been the subject of at least 20 reports.

The decision to prioritize family unification was made by bureaucrats and politicians from across the political spectrum.  Liberals defend state agencies and argue that biological parents should receive as many resources as possible to keep their children; conservatives argue for the primacy of family and against state involvement.  Failure is bipartisan:

“It’s the system that’s broken. When numbers take over instead of outcomes for people, you are doomed to failure,” said James Harn, a 30-year law enforcement officer who spent his last nine years as a commander supervising child abuse investigators at the Broward Sheriff’s Office before leaving a year ago. “They want to keep families together, but at what cost?”

Prioritizing family preservation is just one policy error.  Others involve the increasingly hands-off attitude towards the family arrangements of women living on public services and the leniency granted to serial offenders in the courts.  
Social workers have had little power since the 1960’s to insist that women on welfare live alone with their children, rather than inviting a boyfriend, or a series of men into their state-subsidized homes.  These unattached men frequently abuse the children they are living with:

The night before Aaden Batista died, his killer played a baseball game on his Xbox, smoked marijuana and gave the toddler a bath.

As Aaden’s mother, Whitney Flower, worked as a medical assistant at a nearby hospital, Jason Padgett Sr. prepared the toddler for bed, putting on his diaper before, ultimately, viciously shaking him and slamming his head on the floor. . .

Aaden became part of the yearly count of children killed at the hands of paramours — child welfare’s oddly genteel term to describe boyfriends or girlfriends of custodial parents. Protecting children from abusive paramours is one of the great challenges facing the Department of Children & Families.

“Paramours are a huge red flag,” said Richard Gelles, dean of the School of Social Policy and Practice at the University of Pennsylvania, as well as chairman of child welfare at the school. “They are enormously over-represented as the slayers of young children.”

Under-prosecution and under-incarceration, especially for domestic violence, presents another problem.  Expect this problem to grow worse as “Right on Crime” Republicans, left and right-wing libertarians, leftists, and liberals join forces to shrink our criminal  justice system and empty the prisons.  Their political kumbaya moment is going to mean more violence, more crime, and more murders.   You need only peruse the Miami child death report to find evidence of hundreds of people who have been granted serial leniency in our allegedly-harsh justice system:

In the pre-dawn hours of May 5, 2009, Jasmine Bedwell had to make a decision: Take more blows or more chokes — but try to rescue her son from the clutches of her enraged boyfriend — or go find help. She left and borrowed a cellphone to call 911.




Sandra Fluke isn’t a Slut, But She’s a Nasty Piece of Work . . .


. . . lying to Congress about rape that way.

Fluke testified that she knew a fellow Georgetown student who opted to not report a rape because she was worried that her insurance wouldn’t cover the rape examination:

One student told us that she knew birth control wasn’t covered, and she assumed that’s how Georgetown’s insurance handled all of women’s sexual healthcare, so when she was raped, she didn’t go to the doctor even to be examined or tested for sexually transmitted infections because she thought insurance wasn’t going to cover something like that, something that was related to a woman’s reproductive health.

This statement is utterly unbelievable.  Does anyone really believe in the existence of a Georgetown student who was raped, then decided to not report the existence of a dangerous, predatory criminal because she might have to pony up more than a co-pay to have a rape kit examination?  Does anyone believe that this alleged victim wouldn’t at least call 911, or the local rape crisis center, or the Georgetown Woman’s Center, or any of the student anti-rape groups that plaster campuses with their posters denouncing rape, if she was that worried about paying for a rape kit in the aftermath of experiencing a rape?

If this extremely politically convenient woman really does exist, then any of those phone calls would have reassured her that, thanks to the hard work of people like . . . me . . . no woman in this country needs to pay for a rape kit.  The federal government requires states to cover these costs at the risk of losing funding.  Washington D.C. also covers the costs.  State victims’ compensation boards cover the costs.  Rape kit collection is covered even if a woman decides to have a rape kit collected while choosing to not report the rape to the police.

But even if this unlikely, unsympathetic, alleged victim does exist, Fluke’s testimony is still a lie because it was designed to exploit this non-issue.  Ms. Fluke exploited real rape victims in order to advance a non-argument for prescription coverage for contraceptives: what on earth should we call that?  She tried to create false fear about the cost of rape kits in order to promote a different cause.  And that is exploitative.  Repugnant.  If one real victim worries about this now because Sandra Fluke used rape victims’ fears this way on the witness stand, then it is on Fluke’s head, and on the heads of the other professional reproductive rights activists who carefully tooled this testimony alongside her.

Yet not one congressperson challenged Fluke’s rape kit testimony.  Not one mainstream media reporter paused for a gut-check . . . or a fact-check.  The last time anyone in the media bothered to talk about rape kits was during Sarah Palin’s run for vice-president.  Back then, Salon and Huffington Post and a thousand Democratic operatives tried like hell to pin the “not paying for rape kits” charge on Palin.  They never found a smoking gun, but the story made national news, not once, but over and over and over again.

They didn’t do this because they cared about rape victims in Wasilla.  They did it to play a political game, with rape victims serving as the kickball.  That’s how much leftists, and leftist feminists, really care about real rape.

It should be noted that in the wake of Fluke, not one rape crisis representative has come forward to reassure women that they will not have to pay for rape kits, not in Washington DC, not anywhere in the United States.  Where are these advocates?  Where are all the professional rape crisis workers, the people paid to tell the rest of us these things, because it is supposed to be so important to educate the public and dispel misconceptions and encourage reporting?

Where are the campus rape activists, who ought to be out there reassuring women that they don’t really have to pay if they go to a hospital for medical care after a rape?

Where are Tori Amos and Christina Ricchi and Neil Gaiman, those brave spokespeople who lend their names to RAINN, the very well-funded, national, message-driven-anti-rape-non-profit that is supposed to exist to do rape education but somehow hasn’t gotten around to issuing a press release correcting the false information perpetrated by Sandra Fluke?  RAINN raises more than a million dollars a year to “educate the public about sexual assault and conduct outreach to at-risk populations.”  Don’t give your money to people like this.

Fluke went on The View, and not one of the allegedly pro-woman women on that program bothered to pause for a moment to reassure viewers that no rape victim needs to worry about the cost of collecting a rape kit, because doing so would break the narrative, which is that the vicious Jesuit priests at Georgetown are keeping women from reporting rape.

Rush Limbaugh didn’t silence these people.  They silenced themselves, because rape is just an issue to use when it’s politically expedient.  Rape is the red-headed stepchild of the political left.  It’s a crime issue, a sentencing issue, a recidivism issue, and frequently a race issue: as such, the Left works hard to control the message while sometimes actually opposing measures that would achieve justice for victims.  Every honest person working in rape advocacy knows that the price of admission to the left-wing table is to avoid talking about the prevalence of politically incorrect rapes (white victim, minority offender and even minority victim-minority offender) while hammering away at the campus date rape issue (so long as the accused fit the desired stereotype).  Honest activists know that the types of reforms that really reduce rape — minimum mandatory sentencing, truth-in-sentencing, post-release offender registration — are opposed by the Left, so they frequently don’t even bother to show up for hearings on such bills.  And they know to keep their pretty lips zipped on the lies perpetrated by the hate crimes industry in the interest of keeping heterosexual female rape victims from cluttering up the all-important hate crime stats.

While I worked on sentencing reform that would actually reduce the prevalence of rape in Atlanta, the campus rape activists and the local affiliate of RAINN there were super-busy keeping rape victims from being counted as hate crime victims (unless they were gay), in order to please the gay and ethnic-rights activists of the Left.  They were busily raising money for campaigns that hectored all men about rape while they studiously ignored real rape cases that didn’t fit their ideological needs.  They never complained about jurors letting offenders off, for instance, because doing so would involve wading into politically perilous waters.  They never bothered to address the increasingly toxic myths about the prevalence of false accusations being churned out by the Innocence Project.  They pointed fingers at frat brothers, got their degrees in Women’s Studies, blogged about their sex partners, became fake lesbians to enhance their shot at the tenure track, and never once sat in a courtroom watching jurors decide that some 13-year old hadn’t really been raped by her mommy’s boyfriend because she “wanted it.”

I want to make something extremely clear: the first-wave and second-wave feminists didn’t do that.  Those women worked hard and took political risks to help rape victims and punish rapists.  They damned the political costs.  They worked gratefully with sympathetic police and partnered happily with sympathetic Republicans.  They didn’t wallow in thrall to the criminal defense bar.  But by the 1990’s, the third-wave, sex-positivity, politically correct thingies who followed them were literally undoing the work of the women who preceded them.  By 1999, there was a definite schism between the older service-providers — women who actually spent evenings working in the gynecology emergency rooms and staffing rape crisis centers — and the Emily Bazelon ilk, the well-paid third-wave activists who unravelled those efforts in the morning light.

It was an ugly scene, the same scene now being played out nationally, thanks to Sandra Fluke’s decision to lie to Congress about rape.  What a nasty piece of work.  What a shame about the feminist movement.


Chicago Weekend: Is Crime Down, Or Are Neighborhoods Emptying?

1 comment

Is crime really dropping in Chicago? Not long ago, the public would have been forced to rely on some pretty unreliable sources for an answer:

  • academicians who worship at the ‘the public’s crime fears are overblown‘ altar
  • mainstream reporters who worship at the “academicians who worship at the ‘the public’s crime fears are overblown’ altar” altar
  • Chicago politicians

From sources like that, you get contradictory numbers like this, in the Chicago Sun-Times:

Five men were killed and at least 19 other people — including two children — were hospitalized after violence in the city this weekend.

Despite the violent weekend, Chicago Police announced Sunday that violent crimes have decreased for the 30th consecutive month and there have been 31 fewer murders this year than through June of last year, a 14.4 percent decrease. The crime stats also indicate a decrease in aggravated batteries, aggravated assaults and criminal sexual assaults.

Five people blown away, 19 others shot or otherwise injured, in one unremarkable weekend that featured the sort of bad weather that tends to drive people off the streets, so that’s good news: crime is down!  (**Update: 11 more shot overnight Sunday, ten homicides total)

Sure, murders are down.  They don’t say how much agg. assaults and batteries dropped, nor do they offer what might be the most accurate measure of non-safety — the number of shootings, as oppose to the number of entirely successful gun murders.  Let’s not reward bad aim, or good doctoring.

At least the public has alternative sources of information, now that cops are blogging.  Second City Cop speculates about other possible explanations for the alleged “drop in crime”:

Are there any actuaries out there who can determine the per capita rate of homicides? We lost at least 200,000 people in the recent census, and since rates are measured in terms of crimes per 100,000, is this a real drop in crime or just a statistical equivalent? And are we still doing that thing with people shot during robberies? And the other thing that negates the FBI ever using Chicago numbers in their crime stats because they’re so hinky?

SCC’s commenters (also cops) knock a little more gild off the lily:

What about property crimes? Criminal damage reports? Thefts? And what of the clearance rates, esp. for violent crimes, like robberies? Oh, I forgot, robberies are property crimes, acc. to Cline.

Crime has gone down for over 30 straight months with the shortage of cops? We don’t need any more cops. In fact lets get rid of all of them and let the animals run the asylum.

With severe police shortages, crime reports fall through the cracks.  So is the public “over-reacting” or is crime under-reported?

It also appears from the cop blogs that Chicago authorities are camouflaging crime numbers by classifying gun robberies as “property crime” instead of violent crime.  I imagine this sort of free pass gets carried over to Chicago courtrooms, where felons who stick guns in peoples’ faces get off easy because it’s just a “property” offense.  And remember all the criminals robbing other criminals who aren’t about to call 911, and the residents intimidated into silence.

Remember too the nine-year olds and eight-year olds and 12-year olds caught in the crossfire.  I don’t even think that’s a complete list from the past week.

How many violent crimes go unreported in a city like Chicago?  This demoralizing Chicago Tribune must-read offers some insights:

Whatever you do, don’t use my name, said the 83-year-old widow, and the fear in her voice was palpable. . .

We [the reporters] met a lot of longtime residents on many blocks fighting to hang on to and regenerate their communities. We wanted to tell their stories, but more often than not they would not let us if we used their names. They are terrified of retribution by the criminal elements — gangs and drug dealers — whose activities mushroomed in the newly vacant houses around them. . . “It’s like young people are berserk around here,” said the elderly widow. “It’s like they’re destroying themselves. Practically every other night or so, we hear shooting just west or east of us, or in the alley. It sounds so close, it scares you.”  She has lived in her house for 54 years, one of the early black families to move into the community. . . After years of watching, [the elderly residents] know by sight most of the players in the nightly drama. The one they fear most is a soft-spoken boss of street crews selling drugs.  “He is just an ordinary-looking person,” said one of the block club’s men. “He doesn’t dress fancy or drive flashy cars. He is very quiet and usually very courteous with people on the street. But he is a vicious killer who is all business.

“Everybody knows who he is.”

If the drug boss knew people were reporting his activities to the police, club members agree he would strike back at them. It’s a frightening prospect because they say he calmly shot a man to death in front of witnesses near their block several years ago and walked away free. The fear of reprisal for reporting criminal activity seems well-founded. Police recognize that gangs and drug dealers plant their own people into community meetings as spies, taking notes on which residents speak out against illegal activity. Community policing experts tell residents to report crimes in strict privacy, not in public forums.

Does any of this sound like good news about the crime rate?  Is Chicago really getting safer, or is the opposite true, despite any temporary drop in murder stats?  The reporters here lay too much blame on the “subprime mortgage crisis,” instead of on the thugs or the justice system that allows them to get away with murder, empty houses or no empty houses.  But, otherwise, the story serves as a fierce corrective to the “crime is down” boosterism coming out of city hall.  For the senior citizens trying to hold their neighborhoods together for the uptenth time in fifty years, it’s horror show:

They are terrified of retribution by the criminal elements — gangs and drug dealers — whose activities mushroomed in the newly vacant houses around them . . . crime problems didn’t seem epidemic, block club members say, until the recent foreclosures as a result of the subprime mortgage crisis.  According to the census, Englewood and West Englewood lost nearly 20,000 residents in the last decade. Now, 3,500 boarded-up houses and empty lots dot the communities

This actually confirms Second City Cop’s musing about population and statistics: high-crime areas experienced large population losses during the recent mortgage crisis.  So it might be that crime rates, adjusted for population, have not dropped at all.

Gee, you’d think some city statistician or publicly funded academic would have caught this.  No, they’re all far too busy denying the existence of crime and lobbying to empty the prisons.  Meanwhile, back on the block:

Because their street is quieter than nearby streets, the longtime residents say police don’t patrol their block as frequently as they do adjoining ones.  “The drug dealers and addicts know that,” said an 80-year-old woman who is also a longtime block club member. “The addicts buy their drugs around the corner and then park in their cars on our block to use their drugs and have their sexual encounters (to pay for drugs). At night, you know they are smoking crack from the blue flame that flares up.”

She talks despairingly of how the crime surge has changed her life.

“I don’t want shooting outside my house or out in the alley. I just want to go to the store and not be afraid, and to get on the bus without fear.”

Is crime really down? Or have the official statistics merely been pummeled by fear of reprisals and thinned by the cop shortage . . . then massaged by statisticians, pled down by attorneys, and shiatsu-ed again by academics, until that hard metal barrel pointed at someone’s face has metamorphosed into a property crime, or maybe just drug possession, if victims are too afraid, or too felonious, to come forward?

Then the anti-incarceration activists can claim that we need more “alternatives to prison” for all those “drug and non-violent offenders” who fill cells.  And the cycle starts over again.

Englewood Neighborhood, Chicago (Terrence Antonio James, Chicago Tribune / July 10, 2011)

{Updated} Aesthetic Tragedy, New York Times Style: Mime Panic Buttons Defunded in California


It’s hard to find anything to say about this story that the New York Times has not trumped simply by writing it:

A Safety Valve for Inmates, the Arts, Fades in California

NORCO, Calif. — Fifteen men darted across the room, their faces slathered in greasepaint, reciting lines from “Tartuffe.” The stage, such as it was, was a low-ceilinged recreation room, and the cast was a troupe of felons who had just stepped in from the dusty yard of the California Rehabilitation Center . . . Two years ago, arts in corrections programs were a mainstay of prisons across the country, embraced by administrators as a way to channel aggression, break down racial barriers, teach social skills and prepare inmates for the outside world.

Or, maybe not.  Though such activities are supposed to reduce recidivism, Times writer Adam Nagourney acknowledges “there is no conclusive research on that.”

No conclusive research.  No conclusive research, not anywhere in the vast offender-validating, crime-denying rabbit warren of California higher education?  Not one, single, believable, peer-reviewed study subsidized by all the drooling millionaires of PEN?

In other words, despite the best efforts by armies of superlatively funded academic researchers, nobody could cook up a justification for spending money on those “arts coordinator[s] in each of the 33 California state prisons, overseeing a rich variety of theater, painting and dance.”

“[The] programs have become a fading memory,” the Times laments.

Once, in the golden age of not long ago, there were mimes teaching Moliere on your dime to child molesters; felons riffing Tartuffe with tax dollars.  Now, no more.

Mime tear.

Tartuffe, incidentally, is a play that happens to be about distrusting expressions of virtue, and authority in general.  So maybe the problem isn’t “the arts.” Maybe the problem is the art being taught, and who is doing the teaching.  The Times story inadvertently serves as Exhibit A for this theme:

Only two prison arts programs are left in California, and both rely on volunteers and private contributions. The one here is run by the Actors’ Gang, whose artistic director is the actor Tim Robbins [who] has become nearly as familiar a figure at the prison as the warden himself.

Of course, that “familiarity” comes with a price tag for the rest of us, though you can bet your last button they’re not including our names on the embossed fundraiser invites.  It costs money for Tim Robbins to prance around maximum security reliving old movie roles.  “The real actors are issued panic buttons to attach to their belts, in case they are cornered,” notes the Times.  Why the “real actors” don’t rely on the curative power of aesthetic accomplishment is not explained. But, enough of that; back to Tim Robbins:

Mr. Robbins instructed the inmates to feel fear . . . “What is Tartuffe afraid of?” he said, wearing a wool skullcap and dressed in black. “Being discovered. Because that would mean jail for him.”

“Something is coming after you!” he said urgently to the inmates as they scampered around. “What is it?”

“Cops!” one inmate yelled.

“Cops!” Mr. Robbins responded, clapping his hands in delight. “Then run!”

How wry, shouting at prisoners to run away from the police.  How, Attica-ey.

Admittedly, Mr. Robbins does have experience successfully encouraging the dreams of aspiring young actors.

Oh, wait, scratch that: Mr. Robbins has experience encouraging the murderers of aspiring young actors who dream of success.

Richard Adan, Murdered by Jack Abbott at 22

Ask the family of Richard Adan.  Adan was a 22-year old aspiring actor and playwright who was brutally stabbed to death in 1981 in his own family’s restaurant by Jack Abbott, a sociopathic killer who was supposed to be in prison but had been freed early because Robbins‘ future wife, Susan Sarandon, and others used their star power to obtain his release {Sarandon, in cahoots with Norman Mailer, helped get Abbott released before she met Robbins; Robbins and Sarandon chose to name their son after Abbott a few years later — the original version of this post was incorrect about Robbins’ attendance at Abbott’s 1982 trial — thanks to Cinesnatch for noting the error}.

Robbins‘s future wife Sarandon said she saw artistic talent in Jack Abbott, so obviously he should go free.  Bolstered by intense lobbying by the New York Times, New York’s literary elite, and PEN, some pathetic, star-struck losers on the New York State parole board agreed to let Abbott go, even though he told his artistic sponsors that he would kill again, which he did, a mere did six weeks after his release.

Jack Abbott, Toast of New York’s Intelligentsia

So, to summarize: in 1981 Tim Robbins‘ future wife Susan Sarandon was among those who helped get murderer Jack Abbott out of prison on the grounds of Abbott’s perceived artistic “talent.”  Abbott immediately satisfied the edgy aesthetics of Susan Sarandon by performing the ultimate act of “outsider” art, stabbing an innocent young man to death outside the man’s family’s restaurant.  The day after the murder, the New York Times ran a glowing review of Jack Abbott’s art (I can’t provide a link: the Times has Stalinistically mopped away this reprehensible little bit of its own history).  Now, in 2011, the Times runs a story about Robbins teaching theater to violent offenders in order to help them gain early release — because participating in programs like this one is all about gaining points towards release, never mind the claptrap about race harmony and self-actualization.

Yet, somehow, the Times doesn’t feel the need to mention Tim Robbins’ previous record with prisoners and arts programs in this story.  Curious choice.

In 1982, Abbott went on trial again. A few of his other supporters, like Norman Mailer, mustered enough big-boy shame this time to cower in the shadows.  But not Susan Sarandon: she continued lobbying for Jack Abbott’s release on the grounds that he was a talented artist.  Robbins’ especially shameless wife showed up daily for the trial in support of her talented murderer.  Later, after she met Tim Robbins, they named their firstborn son after the killer: Jack Henry Robbins.

It is difficult to imagine the degree of callousness it takes to sit in full view of a family mourning for the death of their son while fawning over his killer.  Then, to name your child after the killer?  That should have been the end of those sickos’ careers.  But in Hollywood, Sarandon and Robbins are considered voices of moral authority, not in spite of this heinous inhumanity, but because of it.  Sarandon and Robbins weren’t done torturing and degrading crime victims after the Abbott case, however: they and Sister Helen Prejean made the lives of several other victims hell in the process of making their film, Dead Man Walking.  They grotesquely rewrote and toned down the crimes, wrote the existence of inconvenient survivors out of the story, and invented the killer’s on-screen remorse wholecloth, all under Tim Robbins’ direction.

Robbins chose to disappear victims and crimes.  Why does the corrections system of California permit him to continue using taxpayer resources to perpetuate similar whitewashing today?  The Times‘ story about Tim Robbins’ touching drama academy behind bars carefully avoids mentioning the crimes these sensitive thespians committed.  Reporter Adam Nagourney did not bother to contact the victims of these men, some of them rapists.  He didn’t bother to ask the victims for their point of view on the program.  Isn’t that what reporters are supposed to do?  Instead, we get giggly effervescence (from the slideshow):

The workshops and rehearsals are antic and oddly entertaining: guards can be spotted peering through a window. The inmates, like Matthew O’Day, are animated, campy, energized, liberated and fearlessly engaged, comfortable even playing women in a sea of gang tattoos and muscles.

“Campy, energized, liberated and fearlessly engaged.” “Cops!” cries Tim Robbins, “clapping his hands in delight.”  “[R]un,” he shouts.  What are these inmates supposed to be learning?  What do they learn in other programs, like Changing Lives Through Literature (see here and here), which is taught by anti-incarceration activists who pen long, weepy paeans thanking their offender-students for enriching their pale, law abiding lives?  Check out this particularly troubling story.

I first became interested in prisoner education programs when my own rapist got cut loose early (to commit more heinous rapes of his favorite prey, elderly women) because he allegedly completed “college psychology” courses in prison, a fascinating accomplishment for someone who also got time off the front of his sentence for allegedly being mentally slow.  Too many prison higher educations programs and arts programs are run like this, and by people like Tim Robbins, who see rapists and murderers only as heroes and rebels striking out righteously against America’s “stultifying, capitalist, fascist state.”

And so, unsurprisingly, the material taught is most frequently about crooked justice and wrongful incarceration.  How, again, is this supposed to rehabilitate anyone?  It doesn’t, as respected criminologists have observed.  Vocational training, GED preparation, 12-step programs — those things often help, and contrary to the fabulists at the Times and elsewhere who claim that prisoners today have no access to enrichment or education, they are available to higher numbers of inmates — and also higher percentages of inmates — than ever.

In contrast, all these fantasy workshops on poetry, Restoration drama performances, and college classes about injustice in America do nothing but stroke offenders’ — and their teachers’ — egos.  Reading news stories about such programs, it is impossible not to notice how the teachers pose as acolytes, blaming society for their students’ crimes and praising offenders for their extraordinarily special talents and insights.  In this program funded by crime victims and other Virginia taxpayers, Andrew Kaufman brings his young U.Va. students into prison to read books like The Death of Ivan Illyich with offenders.  Ivan Illyich, remember, is a story about an unethical judge.  The U.Va. students — girls — coo on command over the offenders’ good manners, while judging their own non-felonious classmates harshly.  How early they learn what is wanted from them.  “All four women said the residents were far less superficial and more respectful to them than many male U.Va. students,” the reporter writes.  Really?  Did the girls see the offenders’ records?  Does Kaufman also take them on field trips to visit their victims?

No.  Of course not.  In the moral universe occupied by people like this, the only victims are the men behind bars.  “Cops,” cries Tim Robbins, “run!”  Inmates can still pursue the arts and read books in all of these prisons, of course.  It’s just that taxpayers and crime victims are no longer subsidizing anti-American, anti-incarceration, anti-bourgeoise arts camps for inmates, as they were once forced to do.  “We enjoyed this real lush period when there was this boom in prison growth,” brags Laurie Brooks, speaking of the time in the early 1980’s when then-governor Jerry Brown forced taxpayers to shell out for “lush” prisoner arts programs.

Remember how well that turned out? Crime rates continued their steady climb until sentencing reform took hold, removing prolific offenders from the streets for longer than a semester  or two.  So why is it that Tim Robbins, one of the most troubling figures of the pro-offender cultism that resulted in unmeasurable bloodshed and suffering, even permitted to go into California state prisons to hobnob with violent felons?  Why do taxpayers  and voters allow him to enter correctional institutions and foment his own special brand of resentment towards authority figures and police?  Why aren’t victims’ groups up in arms?

Tim Robbins

Isn’t one Jack Abbott one too many?

Marilyn Buck, Cop Killer: Five Less Than Six Degrees of Separation From Barack Obama


This is Marilyn Buck, cop-killer, friend of cop-killer Mumia Abu Jamal, also friend (rather, indicted co-conspirator) of un-indicted co-conspirators Bill Ayers and Bernadine Dohrn, who are personal friends of President Obama, who paroled Buck from prison despite the fact that she had decades more to serve for multiple shootings and bombings, including the 1981 Brinks Robbery that left two innocent police and a security guard dead.

It’s a small world after all.

These are the policemen and security guard killed in the Brinks robbery:

Officer Waverly “Chipper” Brown

Sgt. Edward O’Grady

Brinks Security Guard Peter Paige

Marilyn Buck has become a hero among Leftists.  They’ll tell you it’s because she was a “freedom fighter” or a “Marxist anti-imperialist poet,”  but it’s really because she was unrepentant about killing police and bombing buildings.  Here is one of the many tributes to Marilyn Buck, who developed terminal cancer after her parole date was set:

Here are some people holding hands in remembrance of her “spirit.”  I wonder if any of them are thinking of Peter Paige, Edward O’Grady and Chipper Brown.

Look, more terrorists.

Laura Whitehorn, Susan Rosenberg, Marilyn Buck

Gosh, where do you think they are, on the beach?  They’re in prison.  Or rather, they were in prison.  Then Bill Clinton pardoned the terrorist in the middle, who came out and wrote what is perhaps the whiniest memoir of her generation, which is saying quite a lot (George Russell has a great review here).  The terrorist on the left got cut loose early during the Clinton administration, too.  Obama freed Buck last year.

Here is a picture of the terrorist in the middle speaking at a prestigious international writing conference after Bill Clinton pardoned her.  Why did he pardon her?

Here is a picture of Marilyn Buck with her good friend who is a law professor at Emory University.  Lots of people associated with the Black Panthers and the Weather Underground and the BLA became college professors or law professors and they all seem to have won PEN prizes for their horrible and silly poetry.  Buck, who could not versify her way out of a wet paper bag, won three PEN awards (see here and here for more ethical decision-making by PEN).

Kathleen Cleaver and Marilyn Buck

Here is a terrorist who became a law professor at Northwestern University, with her husband the terrorist who now holds a prestigious post as the Vice President for Curriculum Studies of the American Educational Research Association, where he helps decide what children will be taught in schools.  By the way, he’s also a self-described sexual radical, which doesn’t seem to have harmed his career in elementary education:

Bill Ayers and Bernadine Dohrn

Interestingly, Bill Ayers was named Chicago Citizen of the Year in 1997, when he was working with a young lawyer named Barack Obama . . . for the work he did with Barack Obama.  But Bernadine Dohrn really seems to have been the brain trust, which comes across in this creepy documentary.  Dohrn isn’t just a law professor: she has long been a suspect in the unsolved bombing murder of a San Francisco police officer.

Sgt. Brian V. McDonnell

Isn’t it odd how the black-and-white photos of the murdered police seem to be from some long-ago era?  That’s because they died.  They didn’t grow old and walk on beaches or hang out with international celebrities at writing conferences or receive special favors from presidents or acquire academic posts they never really earned . . . but for the invisible line on the vitae for the right type of bomb-throwing.

You know: aim at police.

So why have all these terrorists been set free by Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, or never prosecuted in the first place?  “Guilty as hell, free as a bird, America is a great country,” Ayers notoriously told David Horowitz.  On September 11, 2001, he smirked out from the pages of the New York Times under a headline that read No Regrets for a Love of Explosives.  That morning, Joe Trombino, one of the Brinks employees who survived the 1981 attack, was killed in the Twin Towers.

Marilyn Buck, the unrepentant, paroled, dead terrorist and cop-killer, is well on her way to being anointed a minor Ché.  She’s got the face.  The Center for Constitutional Rights celebrates her — celebrates a cop-killer — as do many other activists and academicians.


************My report on the circumstances of Marilyn Buck’s parole and the people who support her, Releasing Terror: The Rehabilitation of Marilyn Buck, can be found at America’s Survival, along with information about at-large cop-killer Joanne Chesimard and other American terrorists.********************************

Tom Walker, Malcolm Bernarde Taylor, Alicia Martinez, Jeffrey John Wallace: Murdered By Judicial Lenience in Colorado

1 comment

All sorts of uninformed people, like governors and editorial writers, complain that we put people away for far too long. Judges whine that their hands are tied because of the horrors of minimum mandatory sentencing.  Even conservative anti-government types, often egged on by the statistical fibs and confabulations of the pro-pot-libertatian-wing of their movement, see the prison system as a bloated bureaucracy ripe for slashing.

They don’t know what they’re talking about.  They have no idea what it takes to end up in state prison, and what types of animals will be released by their careless demands for “reform.”  Chatter about emptying the prisons and creating even more (yes, we have plenty already) “alternatives to incarceration” leave the defense bar giggling into their thinning ponytails in anticipation of all the serial sex offenders and vicious adolescent gunmen, and murderers they’re going to be getting off in the next few years.

Let’s meet a few:

Lonnie Hyram Johnson, Utah

Lonnie Hyram Johnson won a sort of trifecta from judges who seem only to have been merely amused by his propensity to rape children.  First, in 2006, some judge in Washington State gave him less than a year to serve for raping a teenage girl.  After that, other child victims — his niece and her cousin — came forward to report that Johnson raped, sodomized and molested them repeatedly between 2001 and 2006.  He faces 20 felony counts, with lifetime sentences.  But despite the fact that he served time in Washington, apparently without any problems, Utah has declared him too competent for civil commitment but too incompetent to stand trial due to a “cognitive disorder.”  What’s that?  A cognitive disorder could be, say, fear of spiders.  Or mild depression.  So Lonnie Johnson might be slightly depressed at the thought that there could be spiders in prison.  And no little girls to rape.  So he’s being released.  Next stop: Salt Lake City.

Onto Denver:

Edward Romero, Colorado

Ah, the joys of alternatives-to-incarceration. States like Colorado save big bucks on their prison budgets.  Plus, with all those tax dollars being shoveled through Eric Holder’s “Prisoner Reentry” cult, there’s lots of money in not putting people into prison these days, lots of loud activist groups on the ground drawing those federal dollars to “educate” and “rehabilitate” and “job train” these offenders back into states of goodness and light (and then, of course, to report back to the in-house bean-counters that their rehabilitation programs are roaring successes).  Everybody wins, sort of.  All these guys needed was a hand up, right?

Edward Romero, for instance, got a hand.  In fact, thanks to the good state of Colorado, he got an entire body, Alicia Martinez, a sixteen-year old girl he kidnapped and mutilated.  The authorities asked the media to not report the details of the crime because the young woman had to be identified through dental records.  Romero was under “intensive supervised probation” for a serious previous crime when he killed Martinez.  What’s one young girl’s life really worth?  After all, the state saved some $30,000 a year by not putting Romero away.  And isn’t that what really matters?

Is it unfair to paint the whole system red because of one rogue mutilator? But wait, there’s more.  The Denver Post compiled a list of ten probationers who committed murder or attempted murder while living the dream of alternatives-to-incarceration.

David Thomas Orton

David Thomas Orton.  Nice guy.  Beat his wife, terrorized his children, got probation, then shot at the cops.  Charged with ten counts of attempted murder.  It’s nice to see prosecutors using the attempted murder charge: there’s no point in awarding leniency just because you have bad aim.

Christopher Rodney . . . no, wait, Denver Judge Edward Bronfin

Heck, let’s just show the judge’s face.  Judge Edward Bronfin apparently decided to believe that four months in prison was adequate punishment for Christopher Rodney after Rodney nearly beat a man to death:

Denver Police arrested Rodney in 2009, charging him with a vicious, random beating and robbery. It was a crime that landed him a 6 year prison term but a Denver judge released him in just 4 months.  Rodney confessed to the Nov. 8, 2009, assault on a man who had just gotten off an RTD bus at a downtown bus stop.  A videotape obtained by CBS4 shows Rodney and a second suspect attacking their victim from behind at the Denver bus stop, pummeling him with fists and feet until the man lost consciousness. Rodney stole the man’s cell phone.

On June 1, 2010, court records show Rodney pleaded guilty to robbery and assault for the 2009 case. Citing the extreme violence and the random nature of the crime, Denver prosecutors asked the judge to sentence Rodney to 8 years in prison.  Denver District Court Judge Edward Bronfin sentenced Rodney to 6 years in prison and agreed to allow him to return to court in 4 months for a sentence reconsideration hearing.  Rodney was back in Bronfin’s courtroom Oct. 15, 2010. He had been imprisoned for 4 months of a 6 year prison term. Bronfin decided Rodney had served enough time. The judge cut the inmate’s sentence from 6 years behind bars to 3 years probation and Rodney was freed.

Now that’s the kind of judicial performance that wins brownie points with Eric Holder’s Justice Department.  After all, Christopher Rodney was only 19 when he got himself caught up in this “attack an innocent person getting off a bus and beat them into unconsciousness” thing, and Holder is hellbent on making sure young men don’t get “caught up” in the criminal justice system.

But it looks like Rodney would have better off in prison:

The next time the judge and prosecutors heard from Rodney was this week when he was arrested for the murder of Jeffrey John Wallace, 4 months after Judge Bronfin ordered Rodney be placed on intensive supervised probation and released from prison.  “I don’t know what the judge’s reasoning or thinking was behind the sentence reconsideration. And we’re horrified when we see previous defendants come back around under these kinds of circumstances. It’s a bad day,” said [Denver DA Spokesman Lynn] Kimbrough.

Judge Bronfin is refusing to explain his sentencing decision.

And how does the judge get away with not explaining himself?  A life was lost because he indulged in some fantasy that he was saving poor, misunderstood Christopher Rodney.  Rodney apparently wrote a long, plaintive letter to the judge, talking about his dreams and plans and saying he needed a second chance to make his life better:

“I would really like a second chance to live in the society like a regular person,” wrote Rodney. “I want to be a regular upstanding citizen in the society that takes care of real responsibilities . . . I am sincerely sorry for all the trouble and problems I caused. So in saying all that I would really appreciate a chance to do what’s necessary to change my life and be successful,” wrote Rodney.

When judges indulge themselves by imagining that they are heroes, rescuing the downtrodden, and something of course goes horribly wrong, there are only two possible  choices.  They can acknowledge that their narcissism cost someone a life, or they can hide and pretend it didn’t happen, denying the value of all victims’ lives.  Any judge who chooses the latter should be forcibly removed from the bench.  Are victims worth so little?

Apparently so.

What really happens is that judges whose self-indulgence cost lives often end up becoming more and more radicalized, deifying defendants in order to legitimate and cover up their own fatal mistakes.  There’s a huge reward system in this choice — honors from the offender-centric law school world, kudos and election support from well-heeled anti-incarceration activists, affection and free passes from many in the media, and thanks from the radical budget-cutters and sundry reformed former felons on the Right.

Plus, you get to feel persecuted: “They’ve got it in for me, you know” you can whisper over the rim of your chardonnay glass at the next A.C.L.U. Awards Banquet.

It’s a nice life.  Nicer than being strangled to death by Christopher Rodney, for sure.

But there’s more wrong with the system than judges who look in the mirror and thinks they’re seeing Gregory Peck.  When we talk about “alternatives to prison,” we’re frequently talking about parole and probation systems that are nothing more than a colossal joke.  Everyone knows this, but nobody does anything.  Given his magic candy-bar second chance, Christopher Rodney immediately capitalized on it by embarking on a consequence-free course of complete disregard for the terms of his parole:

He missed mandatory treatment, tested positive for marijuana, got into a car wreck while fighting with his brother and punched a wall during an argument with his girlfriend. All the incidents were known to his probation officer; none was enough to get that officer to seek revocation.

Yadda yadda yadda.  The system was teaching Christopher Rodney to assume that authority is illegitimate.  Good thing he didn’t end up shooting a cop.

Like Aaron Davon Williams did:

Aaron Davon Williams, 20, was convicted of burglary for breaking into a Denver home in 2009 and sentenced to two years of probation. A judge revoked his probation Jan. 14, after a probation officer reported that he found guns in Williams’ home and that Williams shoved a probation officer during a home visit.  Police say Williams shot an Aurora police officer in the leg after a traffic stop March 17. Williams then fled to an apartment building, where he held a family of four hostage.  He was shot after he exited the apartment through a window. Police say he was holding a handgun when several officers fired.

At least that cop survived. Deputy Sam Brownlee, shot by yet another special parolee, Ruben Reyes, did not.

Ruben Reyes

Reyes was granted mere parole after trying to kill a passerby in a road rage incident.  He beat the man and tried to run him over.  What does it take to receive a prison sentence?  Apparently more than that.  He was a known gang member with a long criminal history:

Reyes has a criminal history, including July convictions for resisting arrest, disorderly conduct and underage drinking in Morgan County, according to Colorado Bureau of Investigation records. He was convicted of felony menacing with a real or simulated weapon in February.  Reyes, who went by the street names, “Demon” and “Smiley,” also had previous arrests for assault causing serious bodily injury and driving under the influence of drugs, according to CBI records.

So none of these things landed him behind bars, and now an innocent police officer is dead.  Reyes is the type of offender whose record gets erased over the course of multiple decisions to drop charges.  This behavior enables academicians to make claims that X% of young men are behind bars for “only burglary,” or “only fighting,” or “only drugs” and should be freed, and people (and politicians) believe them.  This thug seriously wounded at least two people and tried to kill one of them before murdering a cop.  Still his family got together with anti-incarceration activist Denver Attorney Michael Evans and tried to sue the city for “causing” Reyes death.  It’s worth reading this exchange, if only to let the sheer perversity wash over you:

The attorney for the family of a man who shot and killed a Weld County Sheriff’s deputy demanded an apology from Sheriff John Cooke for the killing of the gunman . . .Denver attorney Michael Evans sent a notice early this week to Cooke and to the Greeley and Evans police departments warning that Rueben Reyes’ family could file a civil lawsuit for $250,000 plus punitive damages unless they could reach a settlement.. .  .After Cooke said the notice was an attempt to make money, attorney Evans sent the e-mail letter to the sheriff, stating: “This case is not about the money. Its (sic) about the value of human life, or the complete disregard for it.”

The attorney then told Cooke the Reyes family has agreed to release the sheriff’s office from any civil lawsuit if the sheriff takes the following actions:

1. You will write a personal letter to the family apologizing for the loss of Mr. Reyes;

2. Promise to correct your agencies (sic) policies and procedures (which even your own investigative review panel agrees are faulty);

3. Discipline or terminate those individuals who are responsible choosing not to act to save Mr. Reyes’ life at the scene.

Cooke said of the letter written to him: “It’s very unethical to send me an e-mail like that. He knows I have an attorney, and they know they should deal with my attorney and not directly with me.” . . . Attorney Evans set a deadline of 5 p.m. Friday for Cooke to take action on the demands, and “If you don’t accept, then I guess you would have to agree that its (sic) really not about the money after all.”

What a tool.  But I digress.

Among the ten Denver parolees re-arrested for murder or attempted murder, five of them took innocent lives.  Kevin McGregor shot football player Tom Walker during a robbery in Boulder.  McGregor had been released early from prison by yet another Denver judge:

More than two years before Kevin Michael McGregor was accused of fatally shooting a University of New Hampshire football player during a botched robbery on University Hill, he helped rob a man in south Boulder by stabbing the victim in the head, police reported.  He was convicted by a jury in that case of charges including second-degree assault and third-degree assault, and he was sentenced May 22, 2009, to five years in prison. But he asked for a sentence reconsideration 120 days later, and on Jan. 11, 2010, Boulder County District Court Judge Gwyneth Whalen agreed to allow McGregor to leave prison and instead serve a three-year probation sentence.

Kevin McGregor

McGregor took an innocent life, that of a brave young man who tried to rescue a young woman who was being robbed at gunpoint by McGregor.  He’d previously stabbed a victim in the head during an armed robbery.  What is the matter with judges in Colorado?

New Hampshire football player Tom Walker, slain by paroled felon Kevin McGregor

Judge Whalen isn’t talking, either.  McGregor’s attorney argued that he had learned his lesson, that he was improving himself, and that, if he stayed in prison, he might be the victim of violence.  The judge believed him, and Tom Walker died:

[Attorney Keith] Pope . . . argued that his client should be let out of prison because the Boulder County Probation Department recommended McGregor be sentenced to community corrections based on his minimal criminal history, stable employment history and need for substance-abuse treatment.  “The Probation Department further noted that Mr. McGregor had been compliant with the conditions of his bond prior to trial, had been attending community college and had expressed remorse for his involvement in this matter,” according to a motion filed for McGregor’s sentence reconsideration.  McGregor, who was 19 at the time, had not been a problem while in jail and prison, suggesting “amenability to community-based sentencing,” according to the motion. And if McGregor stayed in prison, Pope argued, he would be “prone to victimization” because of his youth.

You see, he was young, which worked in his favor.  And a drug addict, which worked in his favor.  And a potential community college student, which worked in his favor.  In the sickening world of mitigation, absolutely everything works in defendants’ favor.  Even the fact that they committed an horrific crime is transformed into a learning experience:

[A]unt, Sue Petracek, wrote in an e-mail that she believed McGregor’s eyes had been opened “to the pitfalls of some kinds of loyalty” through his recent experiences, and he was ready “to take responsibility for what he makes of his life going forward.”

How nice.  Another relative shamelessly made up stories about McGregor’s kindness to animals (you know, except the human animal into whose skull he drove a knife):

Family members supportive of McGregor’s release wrote letters for the court at the time of his sentence reconsideration, saying he was a man with “very strong core values.”  “His compassionate nature is really expressed when he deals with children and animals,” McGregor’s aunt Sandy McCallister wrote in an e-mail. “I know Kevin to be very responsible and trustworthy. Kevin understands the value of family and good friends and has always had a respectful, sensitive, happy nature.”


So how much did this orgy of judicial lenience end up costing Colorado taxpayers? That’s ten crime scenes; five murders; five death investigations; four potential death penalty trials (one killer was shot by police).  Plus life behind bars for the surviving four killers; medical bills for one suspect; medical bills for two police and two victims wounded by gunshots, including a severely wounded cab drive shot in the chest; medical and counseling bills for several other surviving victims, including child hostages; two attempted murder trials, and long (hopefully life-long) incarcerations for the two surviving attempted murderers.

Plus, defense lawyers for the six surviving defendants, whose lives are over, for those who care.  The other four defendants’ lives are literally over.

Not to mention the pain and suffering of the survivors, and the hell the murder victims’ families will now endure as they spend the rest of their lives sitting like ghosts in courtrooms watching the legal system enact its criminal-centric charade.

Let’s see the savings in that.

The Guilty Project: Why Were “Papa Love” Speights’ Other Victims Denied Justice?

no comments

Now that fugitive child rapist “Poppa Love” Speights has been tracked down by the police (for the second time — after a Tampa judge actually cut him loose on bail despite his flight from the law on child-rape charges in 2008), maybe more of his victims will come forward.

Then again, that’s what was said the last time, too.

You can hardly blame Speights’ victims for not trusting authorities to keep them safe — some authorities, that is.  The police worked hard, for years, to put Speights away.  Other child victims came forward, at grave personal risk, only to be denied a day in court.  The courts remain bluntly inaccessible to victims of child rape and overly sympathetic to their assailants.  This is true despite decades of advocacy.  Here’s why:

  • Myths of wrongful prosecution, fed by media activists such as Dorothy Rabinowitz, who wildly exaggerated the prevalence of wrongful prosecutions after a handful of unjust prosecutions made headlines . . . twenty years ago.   Rabinowitz and other self-proclaimed “wrongful prosecution experts” irresponsibly claimed that these isolated cases constituted a vast, shadowy movement against innocent, falsely accused defendants.  There was no such thing, and neither Rabinowitz nor any of her equally irresponsible peers ever bothered to try to make a statistical case.  Nor were they asked to do so: it was enough to point fingers, shriek “witch hunt” and dine out on the outrage they were generating — while countless child victims watched their own chance for justice evaporate, thanks in large part to the hysteria Rabinowitz orchestrated.  How many prosecutions were actually found to be flawed?  So few they are remembered by name and may be counted on one hand.  How many victims of child sexual assault were consequently denied even a chance for justice?  It’s impossible to know.  But hundreds of thousands of cases of child sexual abuse have gone un-prosecuted in the twenty years since Rabinowitz et. al. helped put a deep chill on the public’s willingness to believe victims of this crime.
  • Pro-offender biases on the part of judges. Too many judges see their role as defenders of defendants instead of objective arbiters of the law.  This probably has a lot to do with the number of politically-connected defense attorneys who make it to the bench.  I personally can’t conceive of any other reason why some judge let Speights walk free in 2008, even after he was found to have fathered a child by raping a 12-year old.
  • Defendant-biased evidence rules that make it virtually impossible to introduce facts and arguments in the courtroom.  In Trials Without Truth, William Pizzi explains how Supreme Court-driven exclusionary rules have warped the trial system, always in favor of defendants.
  • Public unwillingness to foot the bill (and the defense bar’s successes in padding it).  Even when evidence exists to try defendants, prosecutors working with extremely limited budgets can only afford to try a fraction of cases, or sometimes a fraction of charges against individual defendants.  Add that to the multiple ways defendants can get off on technicalities, and prosecutors are forced to shelve the majority of the cases they ought to be bringing to trial.

The criminal career of “Papa Love” Speights is a direct consequence of these prejudices and shortcomings.  His sexual crimes against children have been known to the police for years, but they never succeeded in bringing charges that stuck, until DNA identified him as the father of an infant whose mother was 12 when she was raped and impregnated by him.  Even then, a judge let him go free to await trial.

Another child victim who had come forward — his own daughter — never got her day in court, says St. Petersburgh Times reporter Alexandra Zayas:

A teenage girl went to police in 2005, saying her father raped her repeatedly for two years, paid cash for her silence and for good measure, showed her a gun.  Prosecutors lacked enough evidence to pursue charges.  A year later, that same man raped a 12-year-old niece and slipped her $20.  He was John Jerome Speights Jr., a 45-year-old with more than 30 children and paternity claims from more than a dozen women. He calls himself Poppa Love.

Speights actually tattoos his name on his wives and female children:

His ex-wife’s thigh “belongs to P. Love.” Daughters are inked “Daddy’s Girl.”  Over the years, he has had access to many young girls, including his own daughters and other relatives.

The details of the daughter’s rape are chilling.  The child reached out to authorities and told the police of other victims, but the State Attorney’s Office declined to act.  Why?

His daughter was 14 when it started. At a family reunion in northern Florida, she told police, she ended up alone with him in a motel room.  He asked if she was a virgin, she told police. He said he was going to give her a test. Then he had intercourse with her, while telling her, “I am not having sex with you,” she said.  It happened more than once, she reported. On a porch, in motels, in his car, near a graveyard. In the front yard of her aunt’s home. In his house, after he locked the other kids out.  The daughter said he told her to think of him as her boyfriend. That he would whip her brothers if she didn’t have sex with him. That if she told, he’d shoot himself, she said, or drive them both off the road. . . Speights denied the allegation. When police came, he fled.  They spoke to his wife. She said neither of them was employed and that she collected disability checks for the kids.  “Eight children live with them,” the detective wrote. “She said that she doesn’t know their ages because there are too many of them to keep straight.”  The daughter reported seeing young girls taken out of the bedroom late at night, but none of them alleged abuse.  Speights skipped his interview with police. His wife told them his attorney had advised him against talking.  The following day, a detective presented the case to the State Attorney’s Office and was told there was insufficient evidence. The case was closed but could be reopened with more proof.

Where was child protective services?  Astonishingly, Speights actually took one of his victims to court for child support — and the victim was thrown into jail.  The girl was 15 when he impregnated  her:

Court files suggest that [the niece’s child] wasn’t the first baby he fathered with a teen. In 2004, he filed a child support case in one such case. He was 30 when their son was born. She would have been 15. She could not be reached for comment on Tuesday.  When she failed to pay, the Hillsborough court held her in contempt and Gulfport police threw her in jail.

A judge in Hillsborough County court threw a teen mother in jail at the behest of the adult who impregnated her.  Another judge — or possibly two — let Speight remain free from 2008 to 2010.  If this case does not cry out for a top-to-bottom review of the court’s response to child abuse and sexual abuse cases, what does?

If only crusading journalists like Ms. Rabbinowitz behaved as if victims deserved justice, just like regular people.  Don’t hold your breath, though.

Tomorrow: What, if anything, can be done.

Benjamin LaGuer. Brutal Rapist Identified by DNA. His Famous Friends are Still Trying to Blame the Victim.

1 comment

Benjamin LaGuer, who became a cause celeb among the media and academic demigods of Boston until it turned out his DNA matched the crime scene (after faking his first DNA test by substituting another prisoner’s DNA), wants out of prison again (see here and here for earlier posts).

He has fewer supporters this time, but Noam Chomsky and John Silber are still ponying up.  Most of his fan club went into hiding or mourning when it turned out that LaGuer’s DNA was indeed in the rape kit — rather than grope towards ethical consistency by apologizing to a rape victim they had viciously dragged through the mud.

After the DNA match, John Silber and Noam Chomsky, who led the race-tinged hate campaign against the elderly victim, continued claiming that LaGuer was really innocent or that, even if he was guilty, he didn’t really understand that he was guilty, so “technically” he was innocent . . . and other appalling nonsense.   Silber, to the eternal shame of Boston University, actually testified on LaGuer’s behalf again last week.  Here is what Silber said about the man convicted of binding, torturing and raping an elderly woman for eight hours — before spending years attacking her from behind bars:

“I think he is one of the finest examples of a courageous, honorable human being I’ve ever met,’’ John Silber, a former president of Boston University, said at the hearing.

The victim’s son-in-law commented:

“There was never a question in her mind of his identity,’’ he said. “She was a courageous woman, and that seems to have been forgotten.”

John Silber is playing an extremely ugly game on the back of a deceased, scapegoated rape victim, and nobody in Boston, or elsewhere, seems to have the integrity to call him, or his elite peers, out.

The worst behavior, however, has been exhibited by the media itself. Reporters abandoned all traces of objectivity or ethics in their rush to champion LaGuer.  For years, they published “articles” that were, in reality, mere regurgitation of the latest defense strategy.  They behaved as if there had never been a prosecution, or a successful trial . . . or a brutal rape.  As time passed and appeals piled up, both the facts of the case and the details of the crime were buried in favor of speaking for the defense, or shilling breathless feature stories about LaGuer’s writing, personality, his preening supporters, and his courageous suffering.

Print journalists misrepresented the judicial record to such an extreme degree that it can only be called intentional.  And the lynchpin of all this behavior was attacks on the victim, sometimes veiled, sometimes not.  In their self-centered desire to be part of a narrative that reminded them of To Kill a Mockingbird (“Benjy Brigade” members repeatedly cited the book), reporters helped foment a hate campaign against an elderly victim of rape.

It is astonishing that people could even call themselves reporters while exchanging personal letters with LaGuer, giving him money, chattering about his “art,” and advocating for his appeals, but the media in Boston shamelessly did all of these things.  The LaGuer coverage became a textbook example of violating journalistic principles and practices.  Except, this textbook will never be written: local academicians were themselves too busy piling onto the “Benjy Brigade.”  There has been no public reflection on the rules that were broken.  Why bother?  It’s just the victim and her family that were harmed, and their humanity doesn’t matter.

Was it really a reporter, for instance, who helped LaGuer gain phone access to the victims’ hospital room, enabling the convict to pose as a priest on the phone and lash out at the dying woman?  Others proudly announced to the world that they had become one of LaGuer’s “pen pals” or prison helpmates.  Where were their editors; where were the media ethicists and academic onlookers while reporters were acting this way?

Eagerly doing the same.

Some are still whitewashing the record.  Recent news coverage questioning the veracity of the DNA test fails to so much as mention LaGuer’s earlier botched attempt to substitute another prisoner’s DNA for his own — an important part of any story.  Such omissions, large and small, are par for the course for reporters who once lined up excitedly to befriend LaGuer and accuse the victim (a U.S. veteran) of everything from insanity to racism — reporters who then lapsed into silence once they didn’t get the DNA results they were eagerly anticipating.

The handling of the LaGuer case says a great deal — and nothing admirable — about the ways the media is covering other claims of wrongful conviction.  The pattern of acting as mouthpieces for advocates, burying non-DNA evidence, ignoring actual court records, attacking innocent victims, whitewashing convicts’ records, and wildly misrepresenting the actual causes and prevalence of wrongful convictions is now sadly routine.

Benjamin LaGuer’s victim endured an unusually brutal rape, and then a public lynching at the hands of the most powerful people in Boston.  The lynch mob is still attacking her memory, after her death.  They have learned nothing, and they have no shame.

Robert Chatigny: By Nominating Him, Obama Shows Extreme Contempt For Victims


Barack Obama is arguably the most offender-friendly, victim-loathing president the country has ever seen.  His judicial and political philosophies are reflexively anti-incarceration.  His political career suggests a particularly disturbing pattern of disrespect for victims of sex crime.

In the Illinois state senate, Obama was the only senator who refused to support a bill allowing victims of sexual assault to have certain court records sealed.  The bill was intended to protect victims from having their sex lives and other extremely personal information (medical and gynecological records) splayed out in the public record for all to see after a trial had ended.  The legislation was written to protect the dignity of women who had been victimized by rapists, and then re-victimized in the courtroom at the hands of sleazy defense attorneys.

The vote for the bill was 58 – 0.  Obama alone abstained from voting, though he was present.

So, while Obama was far from the only liberal in the Illinois state senate, he was the only liberal in the Illinois state senate who believed that a victim of rape has no right to conceal from the public, for example, the fact that she contracted a venereal disease or was impregnated by her attacker.

And, as he had done so many times before, Obama didn’t even display the courage of his convictions by openly voting against the bill.  He voted, merely, “present,” so his opposition to the law would be easier to conceal in subsequent elections.

It would have been far less contemptuous to simply vote “no.”  Then, at least, victims would know precisely what the young senator and constitutional law professor thought of their dignity.  Abstaining from voting sent a stone-cold message — that Obama considered any consideration of the privacy rights of raped women to be quite a few rungs lower than his future political ambition.

It is important to understand that this vote against victims’ rights was no isolated case in the president’s history, as we are reminded today, when news broke that Obama was nominating U.S. District Court Judge Robert Chatigny for the Court of Appeals.

Chatigny is far from the only liberal judge sitting on the bench, but he is the only liberal sitting judge who became so enamored of a sexual serial killer that he denounced the state for deigning to prosecute, let alone convict, the killer.

Michael Ross started raping at an early age, and he had raped and murdered at least eight young women by the time he was caught.  Although there was no question of his guilt, from the moment Ross entered the legal system, he attracted vocal, activist supporters.  This is, sadly, not unusual: raping and slaughtering eight innocent women is, in some circles, quite a draw.  Records from Ross’ trial and appeal barely focus on the young women: they are the usual intricate inquiry into Ross’ feelings, Ross’ rights, Ross’ mood on death row, Ross’ childhood, Ross’ dating disappointments, ad infinitum.

Oh, and the hurt feelings of one hired defense psychologist, who believed he was being dissed by a trial judge.

The system disappears the victims, then the courtroom disappears the victims, then the appeals process disappears the victims, so by the time activists like Robert Chatigny set out to rehabilitate vicious torturers like Michael Ross, there’s no need to haul out metaphysical barrels of lye to dissolve what’s left of his crimes.  That had already been done, with an efficiency that would make an Argentinian death squad spill tears of shame all over the helicopter tarmac.

Judge Chatigny looked at Michael Ross and saw, not a killer, but someone who was suffering from “sexual sadism” and thus should not be held responsible for his actions.  The judge presented a sort of a twinkie defense on Ross’ behalf, the twinkie being Ross’ compulsive inability to stop torturing women.  Ross had been posturing the same defense from death row for two decades: in the killer’s mind, and the judge’s mind, he was the victim of a cruel mother, world, impulse disorder, judiciary, counsel, jury, and insufficiently plumped procedural protections.  But especially, he was a victim of this faux sadism syndrome, the existence of which, in Chatigny’s mind, supercedes the fatal outcome of Ross’ crimes and delegitimates the state’s prosecution of him.

Fox News reports:

[Chatigny] repeatedly stuck up for Ross, saying he suffered from “this affliction, this terrible disease” and suggesting Ross “may be the least culpable, the least, of the people on death row.”  “Looking at the record in a light most favorable to Mr. Ross, he never should have been convicted,” Chatigny said [emphasis added].  “Or if convicted, he never should have been sentenced to death because his sexual sadism, which was found by every single person who looked at him, is clearly a mitigating factor.”

He never should have been convicted?  Really, really enjoying torturing and killing women is a mitigating factor?  This is the mindset Obama chooses to elevate?

Michael Ross: Not a Victim

The legal strategy crafted by Michael Ross and his supporters was to present Ross as a helpless victim deserving of empathy, instead of a vicious killer meriting punishment.  This is not merely a favored strategy of anti-incarceration activism: it is perhaps the most cherished “ethical practice” of the Left.

It is also only effective if the victims’ lives and suffering are simultaneously erased — buried, and forgotten.  Killers can only be elevated if the memory of their victims is systematically denied.  That is what Judge Robert Chatigny did to Ross’ victims in 2005 and what Obama is doing to them now.

I don’t believe for a moment that Obama nominated Chatigny to the higher bench despite the judge’s horrific transgressions in the Michael Ross case: I believe he nominated Chatigny because of those transgressions.  That would be entirely in keeping with the legal and political worldview Obama has endorsed throughout his career.  And, yes, this is extremely disturbing.

Chatigny’s other claim to fame is opposing sex offender registries.  If this administration gets its way, will sex offender registries become a thing of the past?

Here are the names of Ross’ known victims (their photos are here). Little girls, some of them.  All dead, now.  Too bad Eric Holder doesn’t call them victims of hate crime.  If he did, the president would not have nominated the man who set out to liberate, and valorize, their killer:

Dzung Ngoc Tu, 25, a Cornell University student, killed May 12, 1981. Paula Perrera, 16, of Wallkill, N.Y., killed in March, 1982. Tammy Williams, 17, of Brooklyn, killed Jan. 5, 1982. Debra Smith Taylor, 23, of Griswold, killed June 15, 1982. Robin Stavinksy, 19, of Norwich, killed November, 1983. April Brunias, 14, of Griswold, killed April 22, 1984. Leslie Shelley, 14, of Griswold, killed April 22, 1984. Wendy Baribeault, 17, of Griswold, killed June 13, 1984.

Barack Obama should reach out to every one of these families and apologize.


Senators Chris Dodd and Joe Lieberman are supporting Judge Chatigny’s appointment.  Call the Senators’ offices and urge them to withdraw their support.

Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy suspended hearings on Chatigny’s appointment when prosecutors from Connecticut sent him a letter outlining the Ross scandal.  Call and encourage Leahy to take the prosecutor’s concerns seriously.

Senator Jeff Sessions is vocally opposing the nomination.  Thank the Senator for taking a stand.

When Politicians Gain Support Because They Break the Law: Ray Sansom and Kevin White


Rogue’s Gallery:

Republican State Representative Ray Sansom

Democratic County Commissioner Kevin White

When elected officials break the law, they break the law for all of us. They represent us, after all, so their actions in public office reflect the people who elected them.

Unfortunately, some constituents actually seem to relish the role of co-defendant to wrongdoing.  Witness Tampa-area County Commissioner Kevin White, who appears to be enjoying increased support because he was found guilty of sexual harassment of an employee, a sleazy move that cost taxpayers $450,000.

White’s campaign for re-election is based less on his legislative record than on the argument that he is the victim of a witch-hunt because he was found guilty of something.  Financial beneficiaries of the generous taxpayer-funded social programs that dot his district are lining up to tell reporters that nobody can possible ever know what happened between White and his accuser, even though a court determined that, in fact, we do know beyond a reasonable doubt, which is why the councilman’s skin-crawling behavior with a very young woman is costing the rest of us 450 big ones.

This nobody can ever possible know the truth or what lies in the hearts of men or if anyone is every truly really guilty of anything nonsense is precisely why Kevin White needs to be held responsible for his actions.  Sure, it is costing taxpayers more money to sue him to try to recoup the expenses caused by his behavior, but not suing him would be more expensive: it would send the message that you can get away with committing crime so long as you complain loudly afterward that you are the victim, not the perpetrator.

Meanwhile, Florida state representative and former House Speaker Ray Sansom has been pulling a Kevin White (or is it Kevin White pulling a Ray Sansom?) in the Florida state capitol, where a cabal of hold-out Republican bigwigs have been behaving precisely like Kevin White apologists by rallying around the disgraced politician, who funneled big sums of taxpayer cash to a pal in the community college system in return for an unadvertised, six-figure, no-show job at the college.

For months after Sansom’s dealing became public, Republican Party officials worked behind the scenes and before the cameras to dissuade the legislature from taking action on Sansom, claiming it would be too expensive, or needlessly divisive, or just plain mean to do so.  When Sansom resigned suddenly from the House yesterday, Republican Representative Bill Galvano told the media “We are his colleagues, and that makes it heart-wrenching.”

Why heart-wrenching?  Why not call the crime disgusting?  As a former educator in Florida’s community college system, where I took home about $7 an hour with no benefits and no job security to teach a full load of classes to equally hard-working students (who were also subsidizing Sansom with their tuition), I think I speak for many thousands of teachers and students when I say:

What a thief.

The attempted-kid-glove handling of Sansom is particularly troubling because of his ties to U.S. Senate candidate Marco Rubio, who is running as a political reformer against current Governor and Senate candidate Charlie Crist.  Pretty high stakes, indeed.  National stakes.  If Rubio won’t talk about his dealings with Sansom, after he appointed him as his own budget chief, then how can voters trust him to stand for honest government?  If Rubio won’t harshly condemn this type of theft from the taxpayers, then why should anyone believe he is going to reform anything?

Worst of all, when we excuse criminal acts by elected officials, we are sending a message to other criminals that their behavior is acceptable.  Imagine if Ray Sansom stole a car instead of finangling a shockingly obvious kickback.  What would Marco Rubio say then?  What can anyone say to the car thieves when nests of political operatives are busy trying to help their colleagues (and themselves) avoid full legal inquiries?

When you let this type of corruption go unchecked, here is the government ethics you get, courtesy of Kevin White supporters at a fundraising event held for White at the famous Columbia Restaurant in Tampa last week:

A jury last August found White had made unwanted sexual advances to former aide Alyssa Ogden then fired her when she rebuffed him. White has maintained his innocence. The jury ordered that he pay Ogden $75,000.  A year earlier, White had to pay a fine of $9,500 to the Florida Elections Commission for using campaign funds to buy tailor-made suits and ties.  Those missteps, however, didn’t dim the enthusiasm of the crowd that lined up Wednesday for the Columbia’s renowned Paella a la Valencia and swayed to a light jazz and blues combo. Longtime friend Bob Vallee called White a “good person” who was unfairly accused by a young woman who wanted money.  “You’ve got to realize, there are two sides to every story,” Vallee said. “The mistake Kevin made was in firing her. If he hadn’t of fired her, she wouldn’t have done anything.”

Wow, thanks for clearing that up, Bob.  In other words, if you’re going to break the law, you’d better keep diverting taxpayer funds to your mark, in case she decides to squeal.  There’s a heaping helping of political ethics.  And, note to the Columbia Restaurant: that’s the last time I pay a dime for your rice and beans.  Lie down with dogs, and you deserved to be tarred by the same brush.

“I don’t know if [Kevin White] did what they say he did, but overall I think he’s been a good politician,” said supporter Linda Wilcox, who is making a first-time run for the county commission in another race.  “I think he’ll be a better commissioner because through all this adversity, he still did his job,” said another supporter, Fred Hayes.

Get it?  White is a better man for having tried to wriggle out of paying the bill he ran up for sexually harassing an employee.  It was a learning experience. Heck, if he’d of done it a few more times, Ray Sansom could buy him a college degree.

Journalistic Ethics Week, Part 1: Nausea, or the (Attempted) Rehabilitation of Anthony Sowell

1 comment

Stop the presses! It’s journalistic ethics week, and so perhaps it’s fitting that this first story plopped down in a big steaming mess on the pages of every newspaper that carries the AP.

Anthony Sowell, who was recently found knee-deep in the decaying bodies of his victims, doesn’t deserve to be labeled a rapist, according to the AP.

The fawning press, which was understandably having a real hard time finding a way to squeeze Sowell into the role of “the only real victim here,” has now achieved its goal, if only in a tiny, biased, misrepresentation-of-a-technicality way:

STORY REMOVED: US–Rapist’s Home-Bodies

CLEVELAND — The Associated Press has withdrawn its story about a sex offender who lived in a Cleveland house where several corpses were found. Authorities say that despite a police news release that described Anthony Sowell as a convicted rapist, he was convicted only of attempted rape. The story will be refiled as CLEVELAND-BODIES FOUND.

How brave of them.  How . . . edgy.  Of course, this little grandstand doesn’t mean anything legally.  Or ethically.  Or rationally.  It is simply a piquant demonstration of the entirely consensual, sado-masochistic relationship that exists between the defense bar and the fourth estate.

Sowell is a convicted sex offender.  Attempted rape is a sex crime.  If they’re going to split the infinitive, as it were, why not change the headline to “US –Sex Offender’s Home — Bodies Found.”  But no!  That might affect his self-esteem, or cause him PTSD or something.

And you know, it’s all about the killer’s self-esteem these days.  If we spent more time focusing on their needs, they wouldn’t need to kill so many people to express themselves.

In addition to actually being a convicted sex offender, Sowell is also an accused sex offender, if the women who escaped him recently are to be believed.

But why should the journalists believe them?  Why should they take the word of mere crime victims over the word of somebody who gets his rocks off strangling women to death?  Hell, if they start doing that, it will take a tiny bit of the fun out of death row defense, and then what will Hollywood make courageous movies about?

No, it’s far, far more principled to treat those women like the degraded slags they are.

Oh, wait, is someone suggesting that these women aren’t degraded slags?  But that’s what the AP said:

Hunting from home may have been easier because of the marginal lives led by Sowell’s alleged victims. All four of the Cleveland women identified until now battled addiction in their lives.

Have any of these women been convicted for substance abuse crimes?  Did they really all agree to accompany him voluntarily to his home?  Or were they only alleged substance abusers?  This is second-hand information, after all.  How, precisely, do you define “marginal”?  Will the AP issue a retraction if it turns out that, upon further jurisprudential-ly investigation, these women were only former substance abusers, or were not abusing substances when Sowell grabbed them, or did not have criminal records and therefore must above all not be labeled wrongly in the fake-pine paneled, dimly lit basement that passes for journalistic ethics these days?

But who cares about the victims, really?  Journalism is all about rehabilitating the offender.  Behaving as if the victims are human beings entitled to the same rights as those who kill, either in the courts or on the pages of the fishwrappers that fancy themselves courts is so . . . Lifetime.

In reality, in 1989, Sowell only pled to attempted rape to gain a reduction in charges for rape and kidnapping. The victim, who was pregnant at the time of the attack, had actually been kidnapped, bound, gagged and raped (thank you, Cleveland Plain Dealer, for bothering to get it right).  If the AP is so pointillistically hellbent on offering a legally accurate record of events, then why take out all mention of sex crime?  The plea was a legal fiction, a technique that a guilty man used in order to shorten his sentence as much as possible.  It slotted Sowell into a sentence in exchange for admitting to a lesser crime, but it did not create forensic or legal proof that the rape was only “attempted.”

Too bad these types of facts don’t matter in the ethical universe of the AP.

I wonder if DNA still exists from that case.  Perhaps, if the police could offer the legal vigilantistas in the media proof of precisely where Sowell’s penis went after he kidnapped, bound, and gagged a woman — you know, like cradling the skull of a Pot Pol victim, or sifting through the final hours of the Argentinian disappeared — they might see the error of their ways.

But I doubt that would be the outcome.  Retractions are for sex offenders, not their victims.  It’s simply too long a stretch from crudely cleansing Sowell’s record of any mention of sex crime to accurate reporting.

First, you have to want to change.

The nauseating spectacle of AP editors rushing to make an unnecessary correction that turns into a literal denial of the facts of Sowell’s previous conviction is actually a perfect metaphor for what the media has become, and I don’t make this accusation lightly: the media has become a tool for denying the reality of crime.  And like all official deniers and court-propagandists, their ugliest excesses arise from the degree that they believe their own lies and omissions: exactly none of the newspapers that ran this AP “retraction” simultaneously bothered to explore its legal accuracy, or significance, or revisit the documents from the court case.

And so they all march lockstep, all trampling the experience of the woman who was brave enough to survive Sowell’s attack 20 years ago, denying her rape, treating her like human garbage, just as Sowell treated his victims.

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

And So It Begins: Rhetoric on “Early Release for Non-Violent Offenders Clogging Prisons” is Dangerous Hot Air

no comments

From the Denver Post.  Not exactly Girl and Boy Scouts, these “best of show offenders” chosen as the first early releases in Denver.  Ironically, these records make precisely the opposite point than the one the Justice Department is making, which is that we are too harsh on offenders and “too vindictive” on sentencing.

Expect more of the same as Eric Holder gears up to throw massive amounts of money at anti-incarceration initiatives and activist groups like the Vera Institute, who do “studies” that all end up showing that we need to empty the prisons to save money.

Well, some people’s money, and good luck with that:

Jack Levin, Apologists for (Certain) Brutal Murders: Hacking a Woman to Death is Just a Cry for Help (Updated 11/1/09)

1 comment

It’s criminal apologist week, and no criminal apologist week would be complete without a deep bow to Jack Levin, the Northwestern* criminologist who has made an art form of claiming that some brutal, senseless murders are serious ethical and social problems motivated by “hate” — while others are just acting-out caused by “ouchiness,” teenage angst, and our cruel lack of interest in understanding where brutal killers are “coming from.”

You can see where this is going: when someone uses certain slur words (not all of them — not the ones about women) while victimizing somebody, it’s suddenly a much more important crime, which means other crimes are less important, in every sense.  Convincing the public that they must accept this inequality is a job for experts, and Levin is the go-to expert for insidiously psychologizing away certain offenders’ actions while demanding allegiance to the urgency of crimes he deems hate.

The professor’s colorful swings between eternal vigilance and cuddly justification would almost be funny, were he not empowered by the hate crimes establishment, the media, and the feds (in that order) to superimpose his world-view separating “moody-teenager crimes” from “hate crimes” onto our allegedly objective system of justice.

After carefully explaining to everyone how the Pittsburgh Gym Killer didn’t actually hate women but was just feeling so rejected by them that he had to strife their bodies with gunfire, Levin surfaces this week calling the four teens who hacked a woman to death in her bed and slit her 11-year old daughter’s throat “outsiders” who were seeking to “bond” with each other and exhibited signs of “unhappiness” but were not hate criminals because, you know, Jack Levin says so.

This is a sign of unhappiness:

This is a hate-driven, sadistic murderer who hacked a woman to death and slit her 11-year old’s throat, and seemed to think the entire thing was pretty funny:

Gribble updated his Facebook page just hours after the attack, writing on Sunday: “had an awesome time with steve and autumn [sic]! dexter is such a funny show!” “Dexter” is a drama on Showtime about a psychopathic serial killer who murders other criminals.

Nice.  Good think they just picked women, or else this all might get much darker.  Here is Levin, and a peer of his, on the young man pictured above:

“A strong sense of community is wonderful if you happen to be accepted,’’ Levin said.

“But if you are regarded as an outsider, you may feel profoundly rejected . . . Their peer group is the only game in town. If they are rejected, they have nowhere else to go.’’

William Pollack, an associate clinical professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, said a teen in a small community also might fear confiding his troubles because word spreads fast in a small town.

“These are boys that have a hard time connecting, and so it is that much harder to go and connect,’’ Pollack said.

I’m going to pose a question now that ought to be part of more tenure reviews:

How damn crazy do you have to be to talk like this?

The killers had “a hard time connecting”?  They “might fear confiding troubles”?  Who published this?  That would be The Boston Globe, but don’t they feel a little ashamed?

Peer groups.  Crying out for acceptance.

They hacked a woman to death with a machete.  They slit her 11-year old daughter’s throat.

This is not the way Jack Levin talks about crimes he calls hate crimes, of course.  He calls such crimes a “reign of evil.”

Now imagine what Levin would be saying if the Pittsburgh gym killer or the teen pictured above attacked minorities or illegal immigrants or the latest group to seek hate crimes status, the homeless.  Looking at the totality of Levin’s public statements is good way to get a sense of how the existence of separate “hate crime” laws for select offenses alters the entire justice system.  It undermines two important things we are supposed to believe in: the equality of offenders before the law and the equal importance of all crime victims.

Why is it “hatred” and “evil” for one minority gang member to use an ethnic slur while carjacking a gang member from another ethnic minority gang on the streets of Los Angeles, but it isn’t a hate crime to hack an innocent, randomly selected mother to death in New Hampshire while forcing her to observe the slitting of her pre-adolescent daughter’s throat?

Because Jack Levin says so.  And the Boston Globe prints what he says and carefully avoids asking questions.

*correction: Levin is a professor at Northeastern University, not Northwestern University.

The Real Perception Problem is the Perception of the Courts

no comments

The comments thread in response to this article in the Atlanta Journal Constitution contain a lot more insight than the article itself, which morphed from the purported subject of policing into another attack on the public for caring about crime.*  No surprise there.  While the criminologists try to minimize crime using formulas measuring relative cultural pathology and other number dances, the public hones in on the courts:

It is time that we stop protecting the young criminals – Start publishing names, parents names and city – Might just be that some parents will be so embarrassed that they will take control of these young people – Start publishing names of judges that continually grant bail bonds or m notes for “REPEAT” offenders. — “D.L.”

[T]he court systems are a huge part of the problem…. i am shocked how many repeat offenders of street crimes are released on a “signature bond” …basically they sign their name and promise to come back to court and walk out….below is the legal definition.  “A signature bond, or recognizance bond, is a promissory that is signed by the individual who was arrested in order to be released on bond. Though no monetary transaction takes place when the promissory is signed, a signature bond contends that the arrested individual will pay an agreed upon amount if he fails to appear in court on the given date and time.”” — “Too Many Signature Bonds”

There’s one important part of the equation left out – the court system. Many of these offenders have arrest histories of multiple felonies but are still out on the street. The police can lock people up, but they can’t keep them in jail…how about an expose on the criminal history of these high profile offenders and why they are out on the streets? I’d really be interested in seeing that article. it seems the heat always comes down on the police, but not the courts who let offenders out while they have two or three armed robbery charges. — “Georgia Dawwg”

One major problem is that the Fulton County Courts dead docket over half of the cases that they could prosecute. Also, the judges are too lenient on young offenders. This is destroying our city. — “S.M.”

Most seem to be saying the same thing: the police can only do so much, then the judges and the prosecutors let offenders go free.

Why, for example, has there been no follow-up on the 43 murder defendants walking the streets?

When people start picketing the D.A.’s office and the Fulton County Superior Court to demand full public disclosure of case dispositions and sentencing so they can make informed decisions about electing judges, things will change.

But meanwhile, we’re utterly in the dark, and while the Atlanta Journal Constitution is beginning to respond with more reporting on these issues, for a very long time the newsroom status quo was a sort of mushy empathy for offenders and reflexive anti-incarceration biases, with some color coverage of victims from time to time — while the justice system went quietly to hell.

There’s no other way to put it.  Many scores of people in Atlanta say the same thing — this offender or that offender isn’t being put away — and the newspaper essentially ignores them.  Judges react with petulant anger when challenged.  Academicians cook up wild excuses for criminality.  Journalists point fingers at the public.

The new mantra is “re-entry” and claims that we “don’t do enough to rehabilitate youths.”  Same as the old mantra — we’re “not doing enough for the kids.”  “We’re denying them job opportunities / education / empathy.”

People who say these things are willfully blind to the fact that billions have been spent and will continue to be spent on all sorts of rehabilitation.  The fact that these efforts fail doesn’t mean we aren’t paying for them.  It isn’t lack of effort: it’s the extreme degree to which the underclass is mired in dysfunction — and the ugly fact that many in the establishment are endlessly willing to deny and excuse that behavior, right up until somebody gets killed (and even after that).

Spend some time with a 14-year old kid whose dad and mom doesn’t parent him, whose head is filled with violent and sexualized videos and rap songs and shockingly little else, who goes to school in Atlanta and gets told that he is a victim of the system instead of actually being taught anything useful.  Then try to change that child’s mindset when there are so many forces working to sustain it: the victim culture and some very questionable “educating” in the public schools, the parents who still aren’t parenting, the pop culture violence: it’s too late for that kid if he stays in that environment.  It really is too late, and I don’t say that because I would give up on him; I’m just trying to inject some reality.

The people who go on endlessly about needing to give juveniles more chances are the people who have never gotten involved at all, who blame the police and society but do little other than complain.  People who actually make the commitment to help learn three things very quickly:

  • there are already scores of intervention and rehabilitation and jobs and education programs
  • the programs don’t tackle the real problems, not because we “don’t care enough” but because they wrong-headed
  • kids in the justice system get a “second chance” already: they get serial second chances, no matter what they have done and even as their crimes escalate

I found the following comment especially interesting: “Nich,” whoever she is, from Grant Park, took the time to get involved in a rehabilitation program.  Her experience reflects my own:

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? Also, 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. — Nich

“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.”

This person has a story to tell — a shocking, disturbing story about scores of recidivist offenders — given rehabilitation, given help — let out of jail over and over and over by irresponsible judges and prosecutors despite victimizing more people (and ending up, seemingly inevitably, shot).  Why is the AJC retreading the offensive and inane “perception of crime” theme when there are real stories to be reported?  When you can learn more from the comments threads than the article itself, well, maybe the death of journalism isn’t going to hurt all that much.

*Thomas D. Boston’s research on public housing patterns and crime rates, also discussed in the original article, is a different subject.

A Truly Offensive Effort to Whitewash the Crime Problem


What’s the matter with the Atlanta Journal Constitution?

In the last year, the residents of Atlanta stood up and declared that they do not want their city to be a place known for crime, where murders and muggings are taken in stride.  They declared that one murder, one home invasion, is one too many.  They partnered with the police — ignoring the headline-grabbing anti-cop types who perennially try to sow divisiveness.

The Atlanta Journal Constitution stubbornly failed to grasp the significance of these events.  They mocked the anti-crime activists and denied the crime problem with a scorn they would not dream of directing at other types of community leaders or social movements.  They sought out the usual political operatives to feed them quotes denying the seriousness of crime.

They didn’t understand that the public had long-ago grown tired of these condescending tactics.  The newspaper of record especially didn’t understand that the internet gave citizens powerful new ways to see precisely how much their lives and pocketbooks were being affected by crime — whether it was sharing information about the ten-time recidivist standing in their driveway or finding out how many other people got put on hold when calling 911.

Atlantans began to demand a healthier, saner, safer status quo.  They set out to change the culture of the city in ways that will benefit every single person, from the well-off to the poor to criminals themselves (for criminals are not helped by a system that allows them to destroy their own lives).

Now, less than a year later, anti-crime activism has brought about a sea change in the political culture of the city.  Several candidates are running in this election on solid platforms of public safety — notably Adam Brackman, a leader in the volunteer court-watching movement that pressures judges to remove repeat offenders from the streets.

Every politician in this election is on notice that they dismiss public concern about crime at their peril.

And by the time the next election rolls around, I suspect that some of the judges who are failing to uphold the law and siding with offenders rather than law-abiding citizens will be folding up their black robes.  Pressure on the courts, and pressuring the city to end the police furloughs, has already set the city on the path to reducing crime, though it will be a long road.

So why did the AJC choose this moment to retreat to the “crime is a perception thing” debate again?

“People are scared,” said Kyle Keyser, founder of Atlantans Together Against Crime. The group formed in January, in a near-spontaneous reaction to a perceived crime wave that crested with the killing of a restaurant worker near Grant Park.

“Near-spontaneous.”  “Perceived crime wave.”  “Crested.”  Could the reporter wedge in a few more diminutives?  I lived in that neighborhood for decades, and in reality, crime has always been unacceptably high there.  It would be a lot higher if residents weren’t paying through the teeth for security patrols and motion detectors and cameras inside and outside of their homes, a veritable self-imposed police state that reflects the failure of city leaders and especially judges to behave as if all crime matters.

So why is the newspaper still hammering away at the theme that it is the perception of crime that is the problem?  Even when they acknowledge that crime is up alarmingly, from a base rate that is alarming enough, they feel the need to remind people that such things are normal, you know, in urban places:

Residential burglaries are a key component of the property crime category. But while all property crime decreased, reports of residential break-ins grew by 65 percent from 2004 to 2008. This year alone, home burglaries in southeast Atlanta are up 52 percent.

Larcenies have steadily decreased, as well. But thefts from automobiles, a frequent grievance of in-town residents, rose 30 percent in five years.

Criminologists say a high crime rate is inevitable in Atlanta, where widespread poverty and an influx of commuters, conventioneers and tourists create an atmosphere conducive to illicit activity.

Yeah, that pickpocket’s trade show sure brought a bunch of pickpockets to town.  The problem isn’t poverty: it’s profound social dysfunction, and the primary targets of crime are not conventioneers in the security-heavy downtown business district but residents going about their lives.  Some criminologists will say anything, however, in the service of rejecting legitimate worries about criminal behavior:

How well a police department performs its most basic job — preventing crime — can be assessed three ways, said Robert Friedmann, a professor of criminal justice at Georgia State University.

“One is the numbers,” he said. “Two is the numbers. And three is perception.”

Is it?  “Perception” is criminologist-code for “hysteria.”  The argument that Atlanta’s crime problem is merely the “perception” of paranoid whiners was rejected by the public months ago.  Yet here comes the AJC, once again, scolding people for failing to lower their expectations to meet the “inevitable” reality of violent urban crime.

The reporter doesn’t stop there, however.  The end of this article, an article that purports to investigate “dysfunction in the police department,”  is instead dedicated to dismissing the seriousness of John Henderson’s murder and by extension the legitimacy of the entire anti-crime movement.

He does this by claiming, again, that John Henderson’s death was probably just “an accident,” foolishly valued and misapprehended by those who reacted to it:

The case featured many archetypal elements of the high-profile urban crime story: the neighborhood’s historic poverty contrasted against the Standard’s hipster scene; the free-roaming young killers, possibly gang members; the overmatched police force, struggling to keep pace with crime. To many, the case seemed to be a metaphor that captured Atlanta as a growing threat.

Except it wasn’t.

It wasn’t?  It wasn’t what?  The bullet that entered John Henderson’s head was neither an archetype nor a metaphor nor a plot twist: it was a chunk of metal that ended an innocent man’s life, fired from a gun by malicious thugs who displayed murderous contempt for other people’s lives.  To point to the dead body of that young man and say “those who have reacted to this loss are making too much of a big deal about it: it’s just routine, the sort of thing that happens is the big city,” is utterly, starkly, reprehensible.

It smacks of telling people that if they’re “hipsters” who choose to live in-town, they must accept a certain body count among their friends and loved ones, and to complain about that is the real crime.  The reporter backs up this sleazy assertion by insisting that the murder wasn’t as bad as people thought.  Get it?  The murder wasn’t all that bad:

Much of what was reported about Henderson’s killing turned out to be false. He was not shot execution-style. Nor was he wounded four times. He was hit once in the leg during the robbery and once again in the head, maybe by accident, as the robbers fled. One of the bullets came from a handgun the robbers took from Henderson’s co-worker.

“He was hit.”  “Hit,” not shot, a softer word.  “Once in the leg during the robbery.”  Only once, not four times, so why complain about it?  “Once again in the head, maybe by accident.”  Accidentally shooting someone in the head?  What is motivating the AJC to keep bluntly denying the horror of this crime?

I’d interject here that this is not the way the AJC reported on Vernon Forrest’s death.  Forrest chased his robbers with his own gun.  He was no less a victim for it, and the AJC took the right line on that murder, as they did on that family’s demands for justice (as did the Chief and the Mayor, who leaped to action, in stark contrast to their response to Henderson’s murder).  And yet, even after finally doing the right thing, the AJC has now returned to Henderson’s murder to throw a little more dirt.

This is selective policing of the public’s reaction to a cold-blooded murder.  Cold-blooded, no matter where the killer was standing when he fired the bullet.  When you shoot a person through a door, you are as legally and morally as responsible for killing them as you would be if you stood over their body and fired the gun.

The reporter, not the public, is the one wallowing in metaphor and fiction here.  John Henderson is just as dead as he would be if the killing were expertly choreographed.  The public understands this.  They understand that adolescent killers waving guns are just as dangerous as — maybe more dangerous than — seasoned thugs who control their firing range.   Why is the AJC so obsessed with diminishing the responsibility of the killers in this case?  Why do they seem more outraged by the public reacting than by the killing itself?

[T]he area around the Standard was hardly unprotected before the robbery.

From 2:55 to 3:05 a.m., police dispatch records show, the officer assigned to the neighborhood was checking on a gas station at Memorial Drive and Hill Street — 500 feet from the Standard. The officer resumed patrol moments before the robbers smashed the bar’s door.

Short of standing guard at the Standard, it appears the officer could have done little more to prevent the crime.

“There’s a limit to how much officers can impact,” said Friedmann, the Georgia State criminologist. “If someone wants to commit a crime, they’ll commit a crime.”

Well, thank you for clearing that up.  Let’s just forget about it, then.  What’s the big fuss?  The police can’t be everywhere at all times.  This isn’t, like, The Matrix, dude.  So you should forget about complaining when your friends get gunned down.  It’s just life in the big city, after all.

And if it’s the right kind of crime, one involving a victim or location presumed immune from violence, news coverage often implies a broad menace, Friedmann said.

Memorial Drive is presumed immune to violence?  Since when?  Bartenders closing shop are presumed immune to violence?  Sometimes I think criminologists will say absolutely anything to whitewash the reality of crime.  Maybe Fridemann was quoted wildly out of context, because this makes absolutely no sense: he is saying that crime is omnipresent and unavoidable but that a bartender working late at night on Memorial Drive is an utterly unlikely potential victim of crime.  Say anything, in other words, so long as it ineluctably reinforces the conclusion that crime is just a “perception” problem:

“You have a story, people pay attention to it,” he said. “You don’t have a story, people don’t know about it, and it’s as if it didn’t happen.”

I speak fluent Hackademese, so let me try to translate.  Dr. Friedmann is saying that it’s not the murder that is the problem: it’s the fact that people made a big stinking deal about the murder that’s the problem.

Now, to mix things up, back to the reporter denying the severity of Henderson’s murder:

In this case, all that followed — protests over police furloughs, a property tax increase to put officers back to work full time, the “City Under Siege” media frenzy over later crimes — was based on inaccurate information provided by a police detective the day of Henderson’s killing.

Keyser now knows the story was exaggerated.

Does he?  I know Kyle Keyser, and he is committed to ignoring the media’s relentless claims that crime doesn’t matter — the reporter’s insinuation here flies in the face of Keyser’s message and actions.   Playing “gotcha” journalism with a person’s death is pretty ugly stuff.

Sadly, reports of John Henderson’s death were not exaggerated.  Thus, claiming that all that followed — a young man’s funeral, a city coming together to confront the problem of violent crime, more murders, more funerals — hinges on precisely how the gun was held when the bullet entered Henderson’s brain is setting up a straw-man of peculiarly grotesque intent.

The AJC really ought to be ashamed of peddling this type of underhanded opinion-mongering as news.   Nobody in touch with reality cares whether John Henderson was shot by somebody standing over him or shot through a door after being shot once already.  Nobody with a shred of decency would obsess over that distinction and conclude that public outrage over the murder and other crime is just “hype.”  Nor crack a joke about it, as the reporter does:

Pennington has a chance to try to turn the hype to his advantage, to convince Atlantans they’re safer than they think. On Tuesday, the chief is scheduled to address an annual breakfast sponsored by the police foundation.

The event’s theme: “Crime is toast.”

Get it?  Just stop worrying about crime, you ignorant hysterics, and it will all go away.

Some Preliminary Observations About Walter Ellis, the Milwaukee Serial Killer

1 comment

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.

Crime Rate Up or Down? Thoughts From Around Atlanta


Is the crime rate up or down in Atlanta?  The Atlanta Journal Constitution, echoing City Hall, continues to vote “down.”  Their editorial board is sticking to the argument that crime is a perception problem, though they have thankfully stopped mocking victims:

[S]tatistics alone don’t stir many souls toward either fear or a sense of security.  What does get people going are violent shocks to their everyday world. Things like finding your home’s been ransacked, or facing a gunman on the sidewalk. . . If people don’t feel safe, a computer’s worth of data and spreadsheets likely won’t persuade them otherwise. That’s where human contact and conversation comes in, starting at the top and spreading to cops on the beat.  Perception can trump reality if people’s emotions keep them from believing that crime really is on the run.

Meanwhile, Marcia Killingsworth reminds readers that crime isn’t really down at all in some parts of the city:

Just to refresh your memories, here are some crime stats, beginning with some[] from an AJC piece on February 8 – six months ago – that should have burst Shirley [Franklin’s] double bubble:
  • In East Lake and part of Kirkwood, violent crime jumped 53 percent.
  • Robberies went up in four beats and made a 71 percent jump from 2007 to 2008 in the East Lake/Kirkwood area.  (Atlanta police point to the explosion of two crimes; burglars kicking in doors to get to flat-screen televisions and thieves swiping GPS units from cars.)
  • East Atlanta has been hit the hardest. Since 2006, home burglaries ballooned by 147 percent. Other thefts, classified as larcenies, jumped by 87 percent.

In our little southside neighborhood of Ormewood Park, between 2007 and 2008, burglaries nearly doubled, 67 burglaries in 2007 and 125 in 2008.

Atlanta Unfiltered has crime ticking up dramatically, too.

Stephanie Ramage at Sunday Paper argues that not only are crime statistics being cooked, but that Chief Pennington had a similar culinary history in New Orleans, where he worked last (before being brought to Atlanta through the efforts of Mayor Franklin’s now-deceased ex-husband):

APD Chief Richard Pennington was lauded in New Orleans for bringing down the number of that city’s reported incidents of crime, yet shortly after Pennington left to become Atlanta’s chief in 2002, some high-ranking officers were fired for tampering with New Orleans’ crime reports.  Pennington brought his numbers game with him to the APD which already had its own shameful history of cooking the books. As reported by the New Orleans Times Picayune on Oct. 24, 2003, “a review of more than 700 reports written in the 1st District from January 2002 to June 2003 found 42 percent of crimes were incorrectly classified and another 17 percent were ‘questionable.’ More than 200 of the downgraded incidents found in the sample studied were serious crimes that included violence or threats…”

Ramage cites Atlanta neighborhood websites where residents are busy documenting individual incidents of police failing to take reports that reflect the real nature of crimes:

According to recent postings on its neighborhood website, citizens in Kirkwood have reported break-ins only to have the police discourage them from filing reports (go to “Message Boards,” then “Public Safety” and select the thread on “Crime Reporting and the APD.”)  One resident, J. C., sums up the trend by enumerating previous postings by other residents:

  • “#1 S. W. – ‘When we called again the next day, both the 911 operator and the officer that responded to the call kept telling us that we didn’t need to make a report unless we were making an insurance claim.’
  • #2 S. C. – ‘A house of my client was broken into on Cottage Grove last week and it was only after becoming insistant that the officer pulled the already completed case number card out of her pocket and gave it to the owner.’
  • #3 J. C. – ‘The KSP [Kirkwood Security Patrol] officer, as usual, was awesome to us, but the police officer APD sent really tried to dissuade us from filing a report.’
  • #4 A KNO Board Member – Had a shed break-in, and the officer was unwilling to file a report until they insisted.”

C. continues, “These are not isolated incidents, and four independent occurrences indicate to me a larger problem at hand. I truly think this is a systemic problem from the top down, namely Franklin/Pennington, and not a bottom up problem from the officer level.”

Ramage concludes:

A police officer in fear of losing his job told me last week, on condition of anonymity, “The current administration says if a car window is broken and nothing is taken, it’s ‘damage to property,’ not ‘entering auto.’ Unfortunately, central records ultimately has final say-so on how an incident is classified.” That is a quote, word for word.

How many crimes-in-progress get interrupted this way?  In my old neighborhood, it sounds to me, quite conservatively, that it must be at least three a week.

Just because people are stopping some criminals in the act, however, doesn’t mean the offenders are not out there preying on the innocent.  And the fact that civilians have taken on the task they are paying police to do is dangerous.  I find it amazing that elected officials, academicians, and many journalists are utterly incurious about these factors.  Their position — that people have no right to complain about crime if the crime rate (allegedly) has dropped — drips with presumption and contempt.

In cities like Los Angeles and New York, where people know the Chief of Police has their backs, the discussion is about stopping crime, not denying crime, whether or not the statistics are heading in the right direction.  In contrast, the utter corrosion of trust in Atlanta’s elected officials is not the result of people imagining non-existent danger.  The corrosion of trust has occurred because Pennington and Franklin are treating residents with non-imaginary contempt.  Here is Pennington in the AJC:

We have enough resources. . . Since I joined the force crime is down 25 percent.  Where is the chief?  Working hard for you and employing 30-plus years of professional training and experience on the job.

Well, right off the bat, as they say, he isn’t working hard for anyone, and he refuses to prove that he even shows up for work, which casts the rest of what he says in that editorial in a questionable light.

In response, Atlantans Together Against Crime (ATAC) founder Kyle Keyser points out that it took months of protests and lobbying to get the APD to put more officers on the streets, months while City Hall ignored residents’ requests:

Atlanta is getting more police officers and, specifically, more foot patrols. The city will start focusing on gangs — upping the Gang Task Force to 25 officers — and will do “sweeps” in areas of gang activity. They will also start enforcing the 11 p.m. curfew for city youth. Pennington admitted that criminals do not fear the APD. These measures are, in part, to send the signal: “We’re here and we’re watching you.”

Keyser sets the right tone by praising the Mayor and Chief for their recent stirring, but no more than is warranted.  Such is democracy, in an election year, in a city where residents know precisely how hard it is to get their leaders to stop denying the realities of crime on the streets:

The merit and efficacy of these measures will be for us to decide together, as they work alongside the efforts we’ve been taking in our own communities. We’ll either see the added benefits on our streets or we won’t. . .

To city hall I say, “Good morning!” Yes, they’ve woken up but they’ve been asleep too long. When I’m stirred awake by the sirens of six cop cars chasing down eight masked perpetrators in my driveway — as I was this past weekend — sleep isn’t an option.

It shouldn’t be for my city leadership either.

That “Perception of the Crime Rate Dropping” Perception Thing: One Statistic That Would Count

no comments

It is good to see politicians in Atlanta responding to (as opposed to studiously ignoring, or denying) the crime crisis.  But now that we’ve gotten their attention (no small accomplishment), how does the city really move forward to make residents safe?

The Atlanta Police Department has a fascinating series of charts on their website, showing fifty years of statistics for various crimes in the city.  Go to this page and click on “Part I Crime: A Fifty Year Retrospective.”   Immediately, what jumps out is that crime is down since that horrible time in the early 1990’s, when crack cocaine was burning a fat fuse through certain neighborhoods — especially the housing projects.  If you compare 1989 to 2009, it is easy to say, yes, crime in the city limits is not as bad now as it was then.

But numbers are not the whole story.  Sometimes, they are not even a substantial portion of the story.  My neighborhood in southeast Atlanta was a safer place in 1997 than it was in 2007, when I moved away.  In 1997, I didn’t worry about walking my dogs after dark.  In 2007, I worried about walking them (well, him) in daylight.  I even worried about leaving the dog alone in the house when I took the car and went to the store.  Was it my “perception” of danger that had changed?  Did I simply grow more paranoid as the neighborhood actually grew safer, as it appears to have done, if you just look at the official, city-wide statistics?

No.  The neighborhood became less safe.  Starting around 2003, there were more break-ins, and attempted break-ins, and violent incidents, and threats of violence, a situation that worsened considerably after 2005.

I should note this was not merely a case of the internet making it easier for people to hear about crimes that had already happened, for the neighborhood’s long-standing nosy-old-lady-on-the-porch-net certainly rivaled the crude electronic social networking technologies of today.

No, crime grew worse, more omnipresent and more threatening.  One reason this is not clearly reflected in recent statistics is because people started spending vast amounts of time and money on video cameras, motion detectors, alarms, gated housing, and private security patrols.  The political class took the taxpayers for suckers, and so the taxpayers were forced to take it upon themselves (paying twice) to prevent crime.

Such privately-funded crime-fighting efforts probably account for much of the positive difference between crime rates today and the rates from five or eight years ago.

I would like to see a statistic comparing the number of “suspicious activity” calls made to the police in 2000 and 2007 from different precincts in the city.  That statistic would offer a better sense of the real prevalence of criminal activity, though it still would not offer a complete picture of crime.  People don’t call 911 every time they chase a suspicious teen from their neighbor’s porch or yell at some guy peering into car doors.

Yet those are the incidents that wear away at one’s sense of safety, day-in and day-out.

Make that actual safety, not just the sense of it.  People are not fools and will not be taken for fools anymore.  That message appears to have stuck.  Now, where does Atlanta go from here?

Crime Denial at the New York Times: An Update

no comments

Yesterday, while writing about the Times‘ willful misrepresentation of a child sexual assault conviction, I noted:

[W]hen I see an offender with a record of one or three instances of “inappropriate touching,” I suspect that’s the tip of the iceberg.  I suspect the conviction is the result of a plea bargain agreed to just to get the sick bastard away from the child and onto a registry, which is the most victims can reasonably hope for in the courts these days . . .

Well, it didn’t take long to illustrate that point.  From the Cincinnati Enquirer:

Convicted Rapist Sentenced to Life — Again

Barry Daniels was supposed to spend the rest of his life in prison when he was convicted in 1978 of raping a child.

Instead, he served 19 years and was released, returning to Cincinnati where he worked for more than a decade as a maintenance man.

On Tuesday, Daniels was back in court, to be sentenced after he was convicted of raping another child, a 9-year-old girl last September.

Prosecutors had offered Daniels a plea offer of — you guessed it — sexual touching.  Just like this guy, whose fib about his own crimes was credulously reported as fact in the New York Times:

Patrick Wiese, 48 . . . said he served time in prison after having his stepdaughter touch him inappropriately. . .

Unfortunately for the nine-year-old victim in Cincinnati, Barry Daniels refused the plea offered to him, and the child was forced to testify against her rapist.  Fortunately, the jury believed her and sent Daniels to prison for life — again.  Hopefully this time it will stick:

The girl testified during the trial and, despite the stress and embarrassment, proved to be a star witness.

Before the jury was seated, prosecutors [had] offered Daniels a plea offer – to try to prevent the child victim from having to testify – that would have resulted in him pleading guilty of sexually touching the child and being imprisoned for a maximum of five years.

Note that Daniels was offered a sentence that would have put him back on the streets in five years or less.  Prosecutors were willing to essentially “disappear” the rape of a child to get him back into the system, to spare the child more trauma, and, doubtlessly, to avoid incurring the costs of a trial.  Such are the economics of justice these days: a child rapist who rapes another child after being released early is offered a slap on the wrist.

Chillingly, Daniels was willing to take his chances.  And why not?  It’s practically impossible to seat a jury these days in which there is not at least one knucklehead who imagines he is playing Atticus Finch, or re-playing 12 Angry Men, or who just believes that there is never any way to know that anybody is actually guilty beyond a reasonable doubt of anything.

The Daniels jurors did none of these things, bless them.  But if I was guilty of raping a nine-year old child, I’d still take my chances with a jury.  And when you see news articles bemoaning society’s cruel treatment of “men who did nothing more than sexually touch a child,” remember to ask yourself what they really did.   

Crime Denial at the New York Times, Part 1: Regarding the Torture of (Some) Others


The New York Times is the most important newspaper in America, and that is unfortunate, for in their pages, ordinary criminals are frequently treated with extreme deference and sympathy, even respect.  Some types of criminals are excluded from this kid-glove treatment, but that is a subject for another day.  For the most part, ordinary (property, drug, violent, sexual) criminals comprise a protected class in the Times.  Even when it must be acknowledged that someone has, in fact, committed a crime, the newsroom’s mission merely shifts to minimizing the culpability of the offender by other means.

There are various ways of doing this.  Some have to do with selectively criticizing the justice system: for example, the Times reports criminal appeals in detail without bothering to acknowledge congruent facts that support the prosecution and conviction.  They misrepresent the circumstances that lead to (sometimes, sometimes not) wrongful convictions while showing no curiosity about the exponentially higher rate of non-prosecution of crimes.

Then there is their intense personal interest in — advocacy for — offenders.  They pen long profiles of criminals, detailing their difficult childhoods, their self-reported rehabilitation, their suffering in prison, and the social conditions that allegedly “drove them” to victimize others.  These stories rarely include more than passing mention of offenders’ crimes, if they even do that.

Here is the crux of the problem arising from their pro-offender biases: you cannot easily empathize with both a rapist and his victim, so the victim must be erased, or maligned, and the crime erased, or minimized, in order to enhance the reporter’s fictional vision of the criminal.

It is as if these people labor in irony-poor air beneath a giant, pulsating edition of Camus’ The Stranger.

In addition to sloppy ethics, this allegiance to one side of the story leads to sloppy reporting.  Sloppy reporting is hardly the worst sin, but it is one that might embarrass them more deeply than the act of reducing victims to one-dimensional, inhuman flotsam.

That part, after all, is entirely intentional.

Last Thursday, the Times ran a typical crime-denying story about the travails of sex offenders who have been released from prison and now live in a homeless settlement under the Julia Tuttle Causeway in Miami.  The sex offenders’ advocates say that they are living in tents under the causeway because local laws restrict convicted sex offenders from living within 2,500 feet of zones where children gather, and they can find no other place where they may reside legally.

The Times reporter spoke with two of the approximately seventy sex offenders who live under the bridge.  He did not bother to note that there are hundreds of registered sex offenders who actually live in apartments near the bridge and throughout the city.  You can see the location of registered sex offenders living either on or near the Julia Tuttle Causeway at the Florida Sexual Offenders and Predators website.  Go to “neighborhood search”; enter “3400 Biscayne Blvd., 33137″ (an address near the bridge), and choose “five mile radius” and “map” to view the entire downtown.  The men dwelling under the bridge appear on the left shore of the causeway.

Some of the men living in apartments have been registered quite recently, so I don’t know why it is that they have housing while others are “forced to” reside under the bridge.  Is it a question of money and not just the living restrictions law?  Are they addicts who would be homeless anyway, and that is the only place where they can live while homeless?  Is it simply getting harder for offenders to find housing because they have to register their addresses now, and landlords are understandably hesitant to accept them as tenants because then their other tenants and neighbors have access to their criminal records?  Is the housing problem caused by sex offender registration laws, as much as by sex offender living restriction laws?  What are the additional circumstances, not reported by the media, that end in an offender moving under the bridge?  Such questions are not addressed in the many news stories about the poor-sex-offenders-living-under-the-bridge.

There are thousands of homeless people in Miami: the ones who are not sex offenders, however, are not currently a pet cause in the national press.

The sight of so many sex offenders in one place is startling: it is no solution for them to live there, of course.  But then, when you expand the search area on the sex offenders website to see the sex offenders living throughout the city, something else becomes startling, as well.  Some streets seem filled with offenders.  There are seven hundred registered sex offenders in downtown Miami alone.  When you look at that map, at flag upon flag until the city disappears beneath them, you can understand why people said: “Enough. We don’t want any more of them near us.”

That is another thing you will not read in the New York Times.

The A.C.L.U. is using this sex offender encampment to challenge living restriction laws, and so “Julia Tuttle Causeway” has become a sort of national rallying cry for activists who oppose placing restrictions on where convicted sex offenders may live.  These activists unabashedly include reporters who have done an especially poor job of covering the living restrictions issue from all sides.

For example, one reporter writes that there is “no proof” that living restrictions prevent crime, and then another reporter repeats that as fact, yet they do not bother to write about instances of convicted offenders being picked up and returned to prison for refusing to stay away from restricted zones.  They never discuss cases where family members tried, and failed, to have a threatening offender returned to prison but could not because, prior to these laws, the bar was often too high to do so.  Parole officers were hesitant to act without adequate power, or they were sympathetic to the offender, or apathetic, their apathy aided by vague laws.  For one tragic example, see the Silver Comet Trail killer, here and here.

Now, large numbers of convicted sex offenders who would have flown under the radar before the registration laws and living restriction laws went into effect have instead been removed from the streets for violating the terms of their release.  Of course, there is no way to count the number of potential sexual assaults that are headed off by enforcing this part of offenders’ sentences.  But that is part of the story, if you actually report the story objectively.

Enforcement of living restrictions is complicated.  At what point do restrictions become too onerous?  Too cost-inefficient?  How many men are returning to prison for violating them?  How many of these men attacked additional victims while they were breaking the laws?  Are strict registration rules, without living restrictions, perhaps the better choice?

Or do living restriction laws offer poor communities the only chance to avoid becoming dumping grounds for huge numbers of sex offenders, even if it is a piecemeal, inefficient approach?

The Times doesn’t care to answer such questions. Faced with a complex subject, they retreat to their preferred narrative, that the men living under the Julia Tuttle Bridge are victims of government oppression:

Under the bridge on Thursday, tents and plywood shacks competed for space with rusty bicycles, a skinny cat, and a beige lawn chair. In a sign of the camp’s bereft permanence, a yellow electrical cord attached to a generator snaked through the camp flat against the ground, pounded by countless footsteps.

Bereft permanence.  And make that completely innocent victims: otherwise, the narrative grows muddy.  But how do you make the case that these seventy convicted sexual offenders are innocents deserving of sympathy?   Shockingly, rather than reporting their official records, the reporter does this by allowing the offenders he interviews to describe their own crimes:

Patrick Wiese, 48 . . . said he served time in prison after having his stepdaughter touch him inappropriately. . .

Look at how carefully the reporter crafts this phrase: “after having his stepdaughter touch him inappropriately.”  Having her . . . touch . . . inappropriately.  A whisper of a crime.  A transitory moment, a merely “inappropriate” gesture, and now he lives under a bridge, poor man, poor Humbert Humbert, three solid years of the countless pounding footsteps and extension cords and relentless sun.

Of course, that is not what really happened.

Here are the crimes for which Patrick Wiese was convicted: three counts of molesting a child under the age of 12 over a period of nine months.  The disposition is available on-line.  Why would a reporter fail to check the record?

Or rather, which is worse: failing to check the official record, or checking it and then intentionally misrepresenting it?

I have a hard time believing that the Times wouldn’t bother to do a simple, on-line fact check, so I think the reporter looked at Patrick Wiese’s record and tried to figure out how to make Wiese sound as “innocent” as possible, even though the only way of doing so would be to collude in obfuscating — denying — his repeated sexual assault of a young child.

The Times, after all, wanted its readers to see only one thing: a bridge, with broken men huddled beneath it, abused by the world, not abusers.  And so the reporter, doing his job, denied through careful omission repeated instances of sexual torture in the interest of advancing this agenda.

You know, like Rumsfeld did with Abu Ghraib.

Only when Abu Ghraib happened, the Times howled to the heavens.  Then, they took a stand in favor of total transparency.  They rejected arguments about the safety of the troops in wartime, calling them a smokescreen for a political agenda.  They published an “important,” line-in-the-sand essay in which Susan Sontag raged over the horror of subjecting male prisoners to sexual abuse, titled “Regarding the Torture of Others.”  They published scores of other articles exploring every aspect of those violations, slowly, graphically, outragedly.

Add to that, ironically.  For when this Times reporter was required by routine standards of journalistic accuracy to note the repeated sexual assault — the repeated sexual torture — of a child, “under twelve,” the Times allowed that crime to be swept under the carpet in the interest of advancing their agenda.

Some victims of repeated sexual abuse are just more important than others, I suppose.

It would have taken one sentence to present a correct record of Patrick Wiese’s crimes.  Not only should the Times have done that, but given the subject of the article, they should have noted his denial of the serious nature of his crime alongside the official record documenting it.  The article, after all, was supposed to be about measures taken to address recidivism by sexual offenders.

How do you justify talking about recidivism policy while denying the recidivist nature of the crimes committed by the very person you are using to illustrate the subject?

Consider the particular horror of this instance of child sexual abuse.  The victim was a child, under twelve; she was forced to live with her rapist.  He had access to her all of the time; she was also forced, for months, or years, to behave as if the rape was not happening.  She had to go to sleep at night with him in the house.  She was told by him that she was the one who was guilty of touching him.  She was told that “touching” him (one must assume sexually manipulating him) was a minor thing, nothing to take seriously or tell.  And then, after enduring the horror of repeated assault, then police interviews, and frightening exams, and a terribly frightening trial, a reporter comes along and says to the world precisely what the rapist said to her: “She touched him.”  “Yeah, it was inappropriate.  Touching.”

I know several victims of childhood sexual assault, and this type of denial on the part of others is every bit as soul-corroding as the assaults themselves.

Consider this, too: anyone who works with childhood sexual abuse victims will tell you that prosecuting abusers is incredibly difficult because circumstances make it very easy to avoid leaving the types of physical evidence that can hold up in court.  After all, offenders live with their victims; they often dress them and undress them and bathe them and lie down next to them in their beds, so unless a child-victim is so severely injured that he or she is brought to the hospital directly following an assault in which semen was left behind, or the victim is infected with a traceable venereal disease, there is little chance of proving forcible rape.  Oral sodomy is even more difficult to prove.

So when I see an offender with a record of one or three instances of “inappropriate touching,” I suspect that’s the tip of the iceberg.  I suspect the conviction is the result of a plea bargain agreed to just to get the sick bastard away from the child and onto a registry, which is the most victims can reasonably hope for in the courts these days, as jurors increasingly demand DNA evidence or actual photographs of the crime.

One would think the amount of denial of crime that is built into our criminal justice system would be enough: enough of a burden to place on victims; more than enough of a burden to place on a child who has been forced to live with her abuser until somebody finally forced him to live somewhere else.  Like under the Julia Tuttle Causeway in Miami.

But in the newsroom of the New York Times, there is never enough crime denial, never enough opportunities to bury what has been done to victims in order to make the offenders the only real victims in sight.

The New Normal: Chicago

1 comment

Only 199 homicides in Chicago by midnight, June 30.  This is, according to a police spokesman, the first time the city has dipped under the magical number of 200 homicides by June 30 in “recent memory.”  By one less head of hair, but they did it.

199 homicides is actually two less than the 201 dead by June 30, 2007.  So, last week, the city was briefly on track to having fewer than 400 murders by year’s end, before the holiday weekend, that is.  “Only” 400 murders is a celebration, these days.  But then came the 4th of July, and the Taste of Chicago street festival.

When public events become associated with crime, criminals feel that they will miss out on the enjoyment of civic life if they do not contribute to the mayhem.  Why else would people bring guns to a heavily patrolled street fair after police have announced that people will be searched carefully for weapons and that there will be serious consequences for causing trouble?

Premeditated mayhem on one side, premeditated whitewash, ramped up by efforts to win the 2016 Olympic Games, on the other.  And who has to stand in the middle, resisting the pressure from both sides?  The police, of course.

Here is the real New Normal for Chicago’s holiday weekend:

Four Dead, 22 Wounded in Six Bloody Hours

July 5, 2009

Four people were killed and at least 22 others, including an 8-year-old boy, were wounded in shootings and stabbings during a bloody six hours late Saturday into early Sunday.

About 9:55 p.m. Saturday, a 26-year-old man was stabbed multiple times in the armpit near East 71st Street and South Vernon Avenue and was taken to John H. Stroger Jr. Hospital of Cook County in critical condition. A suspect is in custody, police said.

About 11:45 p.m. Saturday, a 19-year-old was shot in the buttocks at 6549 N. Lakewood Ave. and was taken to Saint Francis Hospital in Evanston in an unidentified condition, police said. . .

At 11:49 p.m., four males were shot — including an 8-year-old boy — near West 58th Street and South Union Avenue. Police said a 26-year-old man was fatally shot; an 8-year-old boy was shot in the arm and taken to University of Chicago Comer Children’s Hospital in an unidentified condition; a 30-year-old man was shot in the abdomen; and a 34-year-old man was shot in the leg, police said.

Marchello Henderson, 26, of 10446 S. Wabash Ave., was pronounced dead at 12:30 a.m. Sunday at Stroger Hospital, according to the medical examiner’s office, which said Henderson was shot multiple times.

And so on.  Second City Cop reports four separate shootings involving cops:

There was the shooting in 010. Another near 72nd and Honore. We think 79th and Wabash is the last one. This is getting bad.

Someone wrote to us and said the gangs aren’t feeling the pressure they used to and they’re getting bold. Manpower is now the number one safety issue. We’re worried because the odds catch up with everyone at some point. You throw enough lead around…

A day later, WGN was reporting more homicides and attempted homicides.  A lot more:

Weekend Tally: 10 Slayings, 63 Shootings

The weekend that started violently has ended the same way.

Another four people were slain overnight, Chicago police said this morning.

Before that, six people had been killed and more than 20 wounded on city streets from Saturday into Sunday.

From the start of the holiday weekend midnight Friday until the early hours of this morning there were 63 shootings and one stabbing, according to police sources.

Last year, 62 people were murdered in Chicago in July.  Last week, someone held a press conference to celebrate narrow success over last year’s numbers, and a week later, this year’s numbers look bad again.  All the talk of numbers is just a gambit, anyway.  With a little more accuracy on the part of the gunmen, there could have been 63 murders in the past weekend alone, including at least four police officers who were apparently in the line of fire.

But there is no need to hypothesize: it is bad enough.  Politicians and police chiefs can stand before the cameras all day, pointing at small dips and rises in the murder rate.  It doesn’t matter.  All the words in the world cannot convolute one murder victim back to life.  People are aware of what is happening and they are growing restive.  The old way of doing things — blame the police, make excuses for the criminals, celebrate fake victories in City Hall — is coming to an end.

The New Normal: Atlanta

no comments

I, for one, think newspapers are being rejuvenated by their current financial crisis.  The old-fashioned, insular newsroom, with its disturbing status quo on crime reporting (defendants are victims of society; victims are society, and thereby guilty of something) is becoming a thing of the past.

Over the holiday weekend, the Atlanta Journal Constitution ran this must-read story by Bill Torpy, in which he examines the real costs of retail burglaries for small business owners:

Last week, [Dana] Spinola’s Midtown business — fab’rik, one of her three metro Atlanta stores — was broken into by one of the smash-and-grab burglary crews that have increasingly plagued city merchants. It was, she figures, the 15th break-in during that store’s seven years of business.

“At this point, we’re surprised they got in,” Spinola said. To thwart burglars she had installed unbreakable glass, alarms, sensors and gates, and hired in-store security.

“I’m hardened to it. It’s a $2,000 robbery, not a $40,000 robbery. You don’t call insurance on this level,” she said. Besides, she adds, “We’ve never had anything recovered.” . . .

An informal check of several businesses that have been burglarized in the past year found that several have gone under or are teetering.

“It could definitely put you under,” Spinola said. “It can break your spirit.”

The “vicious cycle” can become a “quality of life issue,” said Buckhead Coalition president Sam Massell. “We all pay for it with higher insurance rates. It hurts employment. It hurts the tax base. The mom and pop stores are valuable to the city.”

Early last month, thieves smashed through the window of the popular Blue Genes boutique near Lenox Square and made off with $100,000 in merchandise. It was the seventh break-in in eight years, Jennifer Arrendale, who owns the store with two sisters, said at the time.

“We lost everything,” she said.

Add these business losses, job losses, and extraordinary security expenses to the tab for our failure to impose consequences for committing crimes.  Then consider the human toll on those who are risking their lives just by arriving at work in the morning or shutting down their stores at night.  Anyone who has ever worked a cash register or turned out the lights in a stockroom at closing time knows what it feels like to suddenly sense a threatening vibe:

Wendy Jackson, owner of Signature 4 Men on Lenox Road and frequent crime victim, said the thieves are savvy enough to surveil the businesses before they strike.

“They scope out the stores when the jeans come in, the high-end jackets, the sunglasses. They want to pinpoint where they’ll go [when they break in],” she said. “It’s out of control, out of control.”

Jackson has engaged in an arms race with Atlanta’s punks: They throw a rock through the window, she installs steel gates, so the next time they drive a truck through the window. She puts in a buzzer to screen customers who enter, so the thieves send a respectable-looking fellow to the door. He gets buzzed in, “then they bum rush the store,” she said, and run out with thousands of dollars of merchandise.

She now keeps less inventory, can no longer obtain insurance, works seven days a week to cut labor costs and would love to get out of her lease and the business. “These guys will ruin your life,” she said.

Last year, Lafayette Brazil’s boutique on Peachtree Road was hit by a robbing crew that pepper sprayed workers. Two men arrested in connection with the robbery at Brazil’s and a similar one at a Decatur boutique, Kaleidoscope, are still being held in Fulton County jail awaiting trial.

After 14 years at the site, Brazil closed. “After a while, you can’t keep getting robbed,” he said.

Kaleidoscope’s owner, Camille Wright, like many other retailers, complained that the penalties for and prosecution of smash-and-grab artists are light. “The only reason [authorities] went after the guys at my store is because there was an assault involved,” she said.

And if there had not been an assault?  Let’s tell the truth about the court system.  The thieves would get quick probation, or nolo prosequi, or their first or fifth first-time-offender free passes out the door.  Maybe a plea to a lesser offense, a drug charge, which might seem undesirable but actually opens doors to community-based treatment and approbation from those who view all drug offenders as victims of society.   This is the new normal in Atlanta, yet it is not particularly new.  Despite all the headlines screaming about our “Prison/Industrial Complex,” recidivist felons have been strolling out of jail with a slap on the wrist for forty years now.  Such as, this one.

Yet in some places, politicians are considering lowering the bar even further by making retail burglary a misdemeanor offense in order to save money.  In reality, they needn’t bother: prosecutors already can’t afford to prosecute retail burglaries and other crimes, so, as shop owner Camille Wright rightly observes, most cases of retail theft are simply pleaded away to nothing or dropped:

The problem got so bad last year that Atlanta police formed a task force to nab the so-called “Blue Jean Bandits,” who rampaged through high-end fashion stores and carried off tons of high-priced denim. Criminals employ a wide range of methods, including smashing windows of closed stores, driving trucks through protective gates and even overpowering retail clerks in the middle of the day.

The spree seemed to die down late last year but picked up again this spring.

“It’s back with a vengeance,” said Sgt. Archie Ezell, who heads the police department’s retail theft task force. He said the department made 32 arrests in “smash” cases last year but more criminals seem to be rushing in to take their place. A spokeswoman for the Fulton County District Attorney’s said 35 smash- and-grab cases have been indicted, 15 have resulted in convictions and 16 are still open.

“Kids are being recruited for this; they’re 13, 14 and 15 years old,” he said. “They are told nothing will happen to them if they are caught.”

I’d be interested to know the sentences for each of those 15 convictions.

Store owners ought to start reaching out to Atlanta’s court-watchers whenever thieves get caught.  That may help to slow down the revolving jail doors.

There is no justification for people being forced to live this way.  It’s madness.  When you read a newspaper article like this one, and hear the voices of crime victims who are perfectly aware that the system has failed to protect them, you have to ask how it is that we have gotten to this crazy place.

Allow me to introduce you to the source of the problem.

The source of the problem of not-removing-offenders-from-the-streets is something I like to call the Academic/Activist/Advocacy Complex (AAAC), an incredibly powerful network of “institutes” and “researchers” and professors and professional protesters and policy makers all united in the goal of ensuring that people do not go to prison when they commit crimes.  These people believe that incarceration itself is not only a crime but the only type of crime that matters.  They do not believe in deterrence.  They do not believe in personal responsibility.  They believe that the thugs who just drove a car through the front of your store for the third time this year should not be punished for doing this, or even prevented from doing it again, but should be “understood” and offered sympathy and job training and other types of financial and emotional support.

These people despise crime victims, because acknowledging the reality of victimization makes it (temporarily) harder for them to engage in their fantasy life, in which they are heroes and heroines “uplifting” poor, misunderstood criminals.  Browbeating the rest of us with their virtue.

It is a dangerous indulgence.  It is also a lucrative career choice.

Luckily, sentencing policy is set by the states, not the federal government, for the Justice Department is now firmly in the hands of the AAAC.

And an enormous showdown is brewing between state legislatures that try to hold the line on crime (though they’re not enthusiastic about paying for it) and the AAAC.  It will be played out directly on the backs of homeowners and business owners who are already reeling from the economic downturn.  It has been played on ordinary citizens’ backs for some forty years now, but the battle is about to accelerate, fueled by the need to cut state budgets and by stimulus money being offered by the feds for certain offender-centered projects (prisoner re-entry, community sentencing pilot programs, sentencing “reform”).

Interestingly, many newspapers are no longer firmly in the AAAC corner on this fight.  Even the New York Times has begun to show cracks in its reflexive pro-criminal preferences.

When you see the following institutions in the news, being quoted on their research, know that they are dedicated to keeping criminals on the streets, at any price to you and me:

The Pew Center on the States, Corrections and Public Safety (Pew Center Charitable Trust)

Families Against Mandatory Minimums

The Vera Institute of Justice

The Sentencing Project

The Justice Policy Institute

Central to the AAAC ideology is the belief that incarcerating criminals is a bad thing because it dis-unites communities.  But what happens to communities when decent people live under siege?  This question is answered, with dismaying clarity, at the end of Torpy’s article:

[B]lue jeans, jackets and sunglasses are quickly sold on the street at a fraction of the retail price. It’s an operation the public tacitly supports. “People are like, ‘It’s too bad for you, good for me,’ ” [store owner Camille] Wright said. “People have no guilt” in buying goods they know are stolen.

Adrene Ashford, owner of Adrene Boutique in the Castleberry Hill area south of downtown, has seen a resurgence in crime. Her store was hit twice in April. . . Ashford said a distrust of customers has crept into her life.  “You don’t even know how mad it makes you. They come in the store. They smile in your face, flirt with you and then come back to rob you.”

“National Network for Safe Communities” or More of the Same Old Song?


The newest hot thing in crime reduction is actually an old idea that has been tried again and again, at staggering cost, with little objective evaluation of the results.  It is now being re-packaged as an initiative called National Network for Safe Communities, and several large cities are already signing on.  The idea is to “reach out” to the most prolific criminals, the ones who control drug dealing and gang activities, and try to engage them in dialogue to get them to stop dealing, robbing, and shooting — before threatening them with prison.

To put it another way, cities overwhelmed by crime will hand over yet another get-out-of-jail-free card to offenders who already, in reality, have fistfuls of them.  Cities will reinforce the status and egos of the worst offenders by engaging them in “dialogue”  (predictably, some of these offenders will simply use their new status to grow their criminal enterprise, like this M-13 gang member/executive director of Homies Unidos, a “nationally recognized anti-gang group”).  Cities will create and subsidize larger numbers of expensive, redundant, slush-fund “job outreach programs” and “youth intervention initiatives” and “community summits” and “lock-downs service provision weekends” — more, that is, than even exist now.

This is an act of desperation. Every decade or so, this idea gets the green light, or at least a new name.  Then a whole lot of money gets pumped into completely unaccountable non-profits.  Next, unsurprisingly, the politically-connected activists who draw their salaries from said non-profits declare success; newspaper reporters pen feel-good stories (before, occasionally, moving on to exposés); politicians declare victory; then academicians with ties to the politicians and activists go in and create positive “evaluations” of the programs they have been asked to evaluate positively (nobody ever reports failure: it simply is not done).

I used to (unwillingly) play this racket, so I know how it works.

How do you justify shelling out millions of dollars to essentially non-existent “jobs programs”?  First and foremost, you set your “program goals” ridiculously low.  Here is an example from yesterday’s news: according to the Boston Globe, the Boston Foundation recently set out to fund-raise 26 million dollars to institute a safe communities gang intervention program.  26 million dollars, yet their “goal” was to have “13 new street workers in targeted neighborhoods by March” and eventually 25, as well as paying existing non-profits to provide vague and redundant services like “job training” and “family support.”

Wow.  Those are some good-paying community outreach jobs.

Of course, months and millions of dollars later, they have not even succeeded in the paltry goal of getting 13 workers on the ground.  Instead, the “coalition” of community groups, all expecting fat handouts, has dissolved into predictable warfare over who gets what.  Rather than reducing gang conflict, it might be said that the program has succeeded in fomenting more of it.  Nonetheless, at the end of five years, so long as they manage to produce 25 people who will claim to have been doing “gang outreach,” then they will meet their “program goals.”

In my painfully vast experience of performing community outreach, I have learned a couple of hard and fast rules:

  • The most effective community workers are the ones who get paid the least and have the lowest profile in “coalition” boondoggles — because they choose to spend their time actually helping people, not lining their pockets.
  • Beware all expenditures on laptops, Blackberries, cell phones, computer software, car rentals, print materials and tee-shirts with logos: these materials are inevitably “provided” at ten or twenty times the actual cost through “vendors” who often turn out the be married to politicians or just friends of the mayor.  The electronics will inevitably disappear.
  • With the exception of Job Corps, which addresses the needs of late-adolescent foster care children in residential settings, and Goodwill, which is an amazing organization, “job training” is largely a mythical creature.  I have never seen a job training program (besides Job Corps and Goodwill) in Atlanta that was not essentially fake.  You get a bunch of computers (see vendors, above), stick them in a church basement (paying the politically-connected minister for “rent”), and then pay a couple of kids or homeless guys to put on a show for the academician who shows up to evaluate the program (who also gets paid).
  • A very substantial proportion of any outreach grant gets spent on pricey conferences where activists (who are getting paid to attend) meet with other activists (who are getting paid to attend) in nice hotels and eat nice meals (that are paid for) while pretending to exchange ideas and information.  Sometimes, these banquets and hotel events don’t have any purpose beyond celebrating or congratulating the program participants and the providers.  In both cases, expensive silk-screened tee-shirts and caps and bags and other gimmies must be manufactured to commemorate the event (at ten to twenty times the actual cost, see above).
  • The less likely the idea, the more likely it is to be endorsed by someone.  The less successful the outcome, the more successful the next grant application cycle will be, because the “demonstrable need” will have risen.  Funding for failure is the formula; funding for fantastical failure, the gold standard.  Success in Boston is being measured by the fact that someone managed to get a handful of ex-con “outreach” workers onto the streets with a mere 8.8 million dollars.  They did decide against spending $50,000 to play laser tag with gun felons.  I think.

Underlying this latest round of “gang leader outreach” programs is a solid criminological insight: small numbers of youths are responsible for the majority of urban crime.  David Kennedy, a professor at John Jay, designed the “persuasion-based” policies of Safe Communities after his research detailed these concentrations of crime.

So why not move into high-crime areas and build strong, comprehensive cases against these prolific offenders, instead of “reaching out” to them and essentially excusing their latest crimes?  When I look at a program like Safe Communities, I see failure in the courts.  It has simply become too difficult to put even the worst, most violent criminals away.  Community leaders, negotiating with their hands tied behind their backs, are forced to try to break bread with offenders instead, especially in the current anti-incarceration regime.

Then there’s the care and feeding of the “outreach machine,” which can derail even the most promising and well-intentioned intervention program.  Every city has one, a slick, politically-connected, vocal, and corrupt cabal that makes their living off a steady flow of block grants and foundation money and community development funds.  Cut off their money, and you will find yourself on the receiving end of protests staged by people who figured out a long time ago that paying a few homeless guys to hold up signs and chant slogans for the 5:00 news is a great way to make a fast dime.

It takes considerable political courage to stand up to this racket.  Nevertheless, reality eventually intrudes.  A couple of years, a bunch of scandals, millions of dollars, and a few avoidable deaths later, expect cities to quietly abandon these programs again.

Two Crimes I Didn’t Report, Part 3


I’ve been writing this week about the predictable reactions to the semi-annual release of the Uniform Crime Report statistics.

In Atlanta, much is being made of the fact that violent crime is down.  However, burglaries and larcenies are up — substantially.  Why might this be?

Maybe it has something to do with the courts.

In 1994, Georgia passed a “serious violent felony” law imposing a minimum ten-year sentence for the following violent crimes: murder, armed robbery, kidnapping, rape, aggravated child molestation, aggravated sodomy, and aggravated sexual battery (here is an interesting law review article by Brian D. Boreman on the law).

Georgia’s law varies from minimum mandatory laws in some other states: it assigns strict “first-strike” minimums to a short list of unambiguously heinous crimes, rather than including crimes like burglary and theft.

For “serious, violent felonies,” the law removes judicial discretion:

[A]ny person convicted of a serious violent felony . . . shall be sentenced to a mandatory minimum term of imprisonment of ten years and no portion of the mandatory minimum sentence imposed shall be suspended, stayed, probated, deferred, or withheld by the sentencing court and shall not be reduced by any form of pardon, parole, or commutation of sentence.

Meanwhile, the legislature essentially left property crime and other felonies to the discretion of the judges.  There are repeat offender laws applying to these crimes, but they still contain a default to judicial discretion.

We all know how that washes out.

Violent crime began dropping in Georgia and in other states as soon as minimum mandatory laws were put into place.  Is this surprising?  These laws were enacted precisely because people were committing five, ten, or more violent crimes before any judge bothered to remove them from the streets, if then (of course, the defense bar and its judges have vigorously sought and found ways around these laws, but that is a subject for another day).  Deterrence works.  Incarceration works.

The fact that incarceration works, however, is not a message that sits well with criminologists and journalists.  The effect, and success of these laws does not receive much academic attention or news coverage. Exactly one year ago, when the activist Pew Foundation began beating the anti-incarceration drum again, Jeffrey L. Sedgwick, the Director of the Federal Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS), had this to say in a letter to the Washington Post (and it speaks volumes that he was forced to say it in a letter, in response to the Post’s anti-incarceration biased coverage):

The Price of Leniency

The June 12 news story “New Criminal Record: 7.2 Million,” on the number of people under supervision in the nation’s criminal justice system, reported on the financial burden of running correctional systems without mentioning the savings resulting from crimes averted. Experience suggests that shortened sentences and reduced supervision of offenders released from prison carry a higher cost, especially in human terms, than the savings these shortsighted policies generate.

In 2006, the most recent year for which complete data are available, police received the fewest reports of violent crime and property crime since 1977. What was the cause? Research has shown that, with some exceptions, crime rates decline as the incarceration rate rises. In other words, while the number of people under correctional supervision has gone up, crime has gone down.

Research on state prisoners shows that among drug offenders, nearly 67 percent were rearrested within three years of release. For violent offenders, nearly 62 percent were rearrested within three years of release. Overall, more than 67 percent of prisoners were rearrested within three years for committing new offenses.

The cost of these new crimes goes beyond prisons. The most conservative estimate for the cost of violent and property crimes in the United States is more than $17 billion a year — and that’s just direct, immediate cost. This leaves out such costs as crime victims’ struggle to be made whole.

Let there be no mistake — releasing criminals early may save money in the short term, but not in the long term.

Jeffrey L. Sedgwick


Bureau of Justice Statistics, U.S. Department of Justice

“[C]rime rates decline as the incarceration rate rises.”  Georgia has a law that removed judicial discretion (read: leniency) from cases involving violent crime but no law that effectively restricts judicial discretion in cases of property crime: violent crime is down in Atlanta, but property crime is up.

I said a few days ago that I would be talking about two crimes I did not report to the police.  The second one happened when I was in Atlanta two weeks ago.  I was at the Wal-Mart on Cobb Parkway, in south Marietta.  Walking from my car to the store, I saw a man going up and down the rows of cars, looking inside each one of them.  When I came out half an hour later, he was near my car, checking the door handle of a car nearby.  I noticed an SUV waiting behind him.  I walked towards the man, then past him, and when I turned around, he jumped into the SUV.

The man looked suspicious as I was going into the store.  When I saw him again, still looking into car windows, I was sure he was casing cars.

So why didn’t I do something?  I was overwhelmed at the time, dealing with a death in the family.  I didn’t trust my instincts.  I knew I could not handle being put in the position of having to argue with some recalcitrant 911 operator with an attitude, as I had done so many times before in Atlanta [the 911 system in Atlanta is a criminal’s best friend].

And I was intimidated.  I hadn’t been paying attention until I saw the man the second time, and by then I was ten feet from him.  It was the middle of the day, and the only other people in that part of the parking lot were a man with a small child.  What was I going to do, say: “Hey, you, stop looking in cars”?  “Citizen arrest”?   It would have been stupid to say anything, but I think showed on my face that I realized what the man was doing.

Once I got in my car, I thought of what might have happened if somebody came out while the man was trying to break into their car.  He was a wired and nasty-looking person: what if someone startled him?  What about the man with his child in a cart, the cart in the driving lane?  What if somebody had a gun?  The experience was unnerving.  Yet, if the man had been caught, would he even have been punished, or simply let go by some overwhelmed prosecutor or judge basking in magnanimousness?

For every crime that gets reported, how many actually take place?

Is theft really non-violent?

Two Crimes I Didn’t Report, Part 1


As I’ve mentioned several times, most crime is committed by a small number of very prolific offenders.  Remove these people from the streets, impose real consequences, and crime rates will drop.

But so long as the courts continue to let people off for their first offense, whatever it may be, and then for their second and their third and their fourth offenses, with a slap on the wrist and time served or probation, then the streets will remain dangerous.

A little more dangerous here, a little less dangerous there, which is the main thing the FBI statistics tell us.  But always most dangerous for the most vulnerable, those who cannot afford video camera surveillance for their doorways and who lack the ability to organize neighborhood patrols or pay off-duty cops to do it for them.

Mind you, I’m in no way being critical of those who have the resources to protect themselves.  Ultimately, they are helping everyone by holding the city to higher standards.

But in the short term, the people the Mayor and Chief Pennington are throwing most directly under the bus by denying the problem of crime are the poorest citizens of the city.

Some dozen years ago, I was sitting with my husband in our house in southeast Atlanta.  The neighborhood was still mostly empty lots back then: none of the new houses had been built, and there were overgrown fields across the street and to the right of us.  Around 10:00 p.m., we heard a car door slam and angry male and female voices.  The car screeched away.  Then we heard keening, like an injured animal.

It was an injured child.  When I found her kneeling in the grass, I thought I would be sick.  She was not badly injured, but she was terrified.  She was hiding in the grass, in the dark, from whoever had just dumped her out of a car, and she did not look relieved to be found by two strange adults in a strange neighborhood.

The girl looked about thirteen or fourteen, and she was in shock, which I recognized from working at a rape crisis center and from my own experience of a violent assault.  After police rescued me, I could not stop laughing and crying for some time, and I have known other people who have experienced either hysteria, or laughing, or numbness, in the wake of a physical attack.  Adrenaline is strange: you either shut down or ramp up after you have escaped something.  This girl had clearly shut down.

I sent my husband back into the house because his presence was scaring her.  I coaxed the girl up to the house as he locked up our dogs.  The whole time I was urging her to come inside, she was looking up and down the street, and I began to worry that whoever had dropped her off would come back.  I wanted to get us inside and lock the door, but I did not want to frighten her any more, and I did not want her to run away.

All the while, I was flashing back to ten years before that, when I was the one scrambling around on the floor trying to find the telephone, terrified that the man who had just raped me would come back in, as he had been doing in order to ramp up my fear, I believe.  He would pretend to be leaving, then reappear.

When I got the girl up under my porch light, I looked at her clothes, and I thought, “Good, her pants are still in one piece.”

An awful thought, but there you have it: the mind tries to impose order on uncontrollable events.  We all minimize crime, in a way, because otherwise we would not be able to sleep.

It must have been terrifying for the girl to come into our house.  We might have been the next chapter of whatever terrible thing was happening to her, instead of people who were offering her safety.  But she did not want to be outside any more than I did, so she finally walked through the door, flinching away from me.

It didn’t help that we were white and she was black, or that you could hear our large dogs whimpering behind the bedroom door, or that I was renovating the house, and it was seedy-looking.  The girl did not want my husband anywhere near her, even though he exudes gentleness.  So he sat with the dogs and I cleaned up the cuts on her arms and knees and tried to get her to breathe through her hysteria.

In the light, I could see that the girl was beginning to mature, but she was still dressed like a child, not a teen.  She was a little chubby.  She looked like the type of kid who would be shy even under ordinary circumstances.  There was nothing rebellious or streetwise about her, which was surprising because most of the children in our neighborhood were sadly streetwise.

Somebody obviously cared about her.  They cared enough that she still seemed like a child.  She lived with her grandmother, she finally said, and she had sneaked out of the house and gotten into a car with some dangerous kids from her school, hoping to fit in or hoping for an adventure.  Instead, they beat her up and threw her out of the car in a strange neighborhood.  Both the boys and the girls had attacked her in some kind of imitation of a gang ritual.  Then they dumped her out of the car.

I was relieved that she had not been snatched up by some stranger, but the fact that she knew her attackers created another problem: I wanted to call the police, but she begged us not to do so.

The girl was still shaking, saying something like “I’ll never do it again, I’ll never go out again,” so I had to consider the consequences of calling the police.  If they arrested her attackers, she would probably fare far worse as soon as they got released, which would happen in hours, or days.  The youths’ mothers (I did not think about fathers existing) might also retaliate.  Even if the police simply came and drove the girl home, somebody in her neighborhood might see the police car.  Her grandmother was asleep, she told us; she just wanted to go home.  My husband and I decided the best thing to do was to take her there.

This was not the decision I wanted to make.  But we did not have any illusions that we were taking the girl back to the type of community where her offenders would be punished, or even sufficiently restrained by their parents from harming her again.  Childhood is not the only thing that disappears in fractured communities: adulthood disappears, as well.  My neighbor D., she of the 14 children, would tear down the street screaming at anybody who dared to call the police when her children got caught pawing through somebody’s car or breaking into a house, as if calling the police was the thing that had violated community standards.

D. was wrong about a lot of things, but she wasn’t particularly wrong about that, at least not in the world where her children went to school, near the housing projects surrounding the federal prison a few blocks south of us.

That was where we were driving the girl, down to Thomasville Heights, a plot directly east of the penitentiary where Cuban criminals from the Mariel boatlift had rioted in 1987.  In Thomasville Heights, cars pulled up to the housing projects all night long to purchase crack; grass didn’t grow; children turned up dead, not only during the famous Atlanta child murders, which claimed children from that neighborhood, but also before, and after those notorious crimes.

The girl didn’t live in the projects but in one of those sturdy ranch houses that radiate out for miles from Atlanta’s downtown.  Brick house, brick mailbox, painted concrete, raised flowerbeds, marigolds planted in rows in a perfectly manicured yard: I knew when we pulled up that creating such order two blocks from the gunfire and sex-and-drugs market of the projects was an act of defiance.  But not too defiant: every window had burglar bars.  The door had a burglar gate so that it could not be kicked in.

No politician should ever be allowed to declare victory over crime so long as people have to cover their front doors with metal bars in order to keep criminals from kicking the door down.  But they do, of course, not only in Atlanta, but also in Baltimore, where Peter Hermann wrote this week about the pressures on cops to keep crime numbers down, and Detroit, where 100+ homicides disappeared from the record books last year in order to make somebody look good at City Hall.

We dropped the child off and waited until her grandmother unlocked the door and unbolted the burglar bars and let the girl inside, then bolted the burglar bars and locked the door behind them.  And then we drove away, leaving an adolescent girl and her grandmother to the gunfire and crack whores and drug dealers of Thomasville Heights, which is precisely what Mayor Franklin is doing whenever she downplays the seriousness of crime.

Politicians “using the numbers to climb into office or sabotage opponents,” as Peter Hermann puts it.

Last month, when I was in Atlanta, I drove past Thomasville Heights on my way out of town.  I don’t know if the official crime rate there has gone down, or by how much, but unlike many other parts of the city, it does not appear to have changed.  It still looks blighted; people still walk aimlessly from one empty lot to another, and the few convenience stores are shrouded beneath burglar bars.  I still would not stop for gas or a newspaper there.

Even if the crime rate has gone down, you have to wonder if this happened because everybody on a certain corner finally managed to kill each other: statistical victory through depopulation.  Not a nice way to think about other humans, but there it is.

That is what we left that child in: she must be 25 or 26 by now.  The crime committed against her doesn’t exist in any file at the APD, nor in the FBI Uniform Crime Reports.  But it happened, one of the millions of offenses that go unreported, in addition to the millions that do get reported and still get denied by the politicians.

That Perception Thing

no comments

The release of the FBI’s semi-annual report on crime has provided Atlanta’s pathologically tone-deaf Mayor and the Chief-of-Police-In-Absentia with another opportunity to shower contempt on every citizen of the city.  What else could inspire the Mayor to repeat the words, “the city is ‘safer now than it has been in decades’,” given her knowledge of public feelings on her attitude?

Apparently, according to City Hall, a slight drop in the still unacceptable high rates of some crime in some areas, a rise in crime rates in other areas, and a sharp rise in property crime rates is cause to break out the bubbly.

How much of this drop in crime in some areas of the city can be attributed to heroic, time-consuming, and expensive efforts by neighborhood groups and individuals?  How much higher (than the 7.6% increase) would the property crime rate climb if people weren’t bankrupting themselves paying for alarm systems, burglar bars, security cameras, guns, and off-duty cops to patrol their neighborhoods?

Should the burden of preventing crime fall so heavily on residents who already pay the city to protect them?

Chief Pennington, bizarrely, has refused to comment on the FBI report.  Does the guy even show up for work anymore?  Why has the City Council caved to demands by the usual activists to re-re-re-investigate city cops in shooting incidents (after the appropriate authorities, and the FBI, the courts, and everybody else already investigated/prosecuted/sentenced the officers involved), but they seem utterly incurious about Pennington’s performance, not to mention grotesquely timid on the subject of denying injured cops their medical benefits?

Can we get one public statement from the Chief in exchange for the latest kangaroo court for cops who put their lives on the line?

Chief of Police is a political gig. Some chiefs manage to rise above the politics — in places other than Atlanta.  The national organization representing police executives is a political organization, too, which explains why the executive director of the Police Executive Research Forum comes down on the side of pooh-pooing that Real Clear Politics report ranking Atlanta as the second-most dangerous large city nationwide, by population:

The ranking, compiled by the Web site Real Clear Politics, was derived by dividing the total crimes detailed in the FBI’s report by city population. Atlanta’s per-capita crime rate measured at 16 percent.

“Determining whether a city is safe or not is not as easy as that,” said Chuck Wexler, executive director of the Police Executive Research Forum, which has representatives from law enforcement agencies nationwide.

“That’s a very simplistic approach.”

All due respect to Wexler, what would be a “less simplistic” way of determining the prevalence of crime?  Criminologists, of course, have many answers to this question.  Unfortunately, their answers involve using very complicated number-crunching, statistic-discombobulating, and hide-the-peanut tomfoolery to achieve one overweening goal:

to deny the problem of crime

What is harder to deny is this:

  • 1.4 million violent crimes,
  • 10 million property crimes,
  • 17,000 murders
  • and nearly 100,000 rapes is a tidal wave of suffering, violence, fear and wasted lives.

The irascible Randall Cobb, one of those community activists who probably clocks ungodly volunteer hours trying to do the job the Mayor and Chief are paid to do, had this to say:

“Franklin and [Atlanta Chief of Police Richard] Pennington have been trying to get us to drink the Kool-Aid for 12 months now,” said Randall Cobb, safety chairman for the Midtown Neighborhood Association. “The biggest thing they’re doing is refusing to take responsibility for crime in this city.”


Tomorrow: two crimes I did not report…

Selective Outrage: What the Paralyzed Cop Scandal Says About Atlanta’s Politicians

no comments

As elected officials in Atlanta crowd the microphone to denounce Sgt. Scott Kreher for saying something importune about Mayor Shirley Franklin, the list grows . . . of elected officials in Atlanta grandstanding on Kreher while refusing to comment on the city’s grotesque treatment of wounded police officers, the real issue.

Here is a video Kreher helped create that details the systematic abuse of the officers by the city.  And here is a petition supporting Kreher, a decent guy who lost his temper over real injustice.  Not fake injustice.  I urge you to read the text of the petition, if you want to know what really happened.

In recent months, Mayor Franklin and Police Chief Pennington have pointedly refused to speak out against the high toll of violent crime, accusing residents, instead, of merely “perceiving” the crime wave that has left people dead on the streets, and at their jobs, and in their homes.  I don’t know anyone in Atlanta who doesn’t either own an alarm system or live behind locks and bars, or both.  That’s normal for Atlanta, a normal that is growing worse.  Yet the mayor feels that people are exaggerating the effect of crime on their lives, while she simultaneously feels that there should be a federal investigation over a passing remark made about her in anger, in the midst of a City Council meeting about her outrageous treatment of wounded officers.

So if your back door gets kicked in by armed thugs, or your car gets stolen, or somebody holds a gun to your son’s head, then you should just shut up, sit down, and not complain.  But if somebody says something in passing about the Mayor while talking about something else, then there should be a federal investigation, with all the resources of the government brought to bear, punitively, on any citizen who deigns to express anger at her Highness.

She gets — to demand that free speech be investigated if it displeases her.  You get — to hope that a cop is available to show up when your life in endangered by a violent criminal.  The cops get — to stand between you and the criminals, risking a fate like that of their fellow, paralyzed officers who are treated with raw contempt by elected officials.

The Atlanta Journal Constitution is calling the controversy over Kreher’s remarks a “debate.” Well, not really.  Debate implies that both parties have the right to speak freely, and that is not the case here, where Franklin may whip up hatred and demand federal government action under the guise of being frightened by what she is codedly pretending to be a racial remark, while Kreher and his supporters, and anyone else who deigns to be upset over the crime situation, or the paralyzed cop situation, must grovel and apologize while expressing their point of view.

It’s an ugly tactic that should be outdated, but is not.

Senator Vincent Fort, the crown prince of such double-standards, has, of course, weighed in for the Mayor.  This is Fort’s stomping grounds: he has spent most of his time in office trying to codify such double standards into law, simultaneously lobbying for leniency for violent criminals and harsher sentencing for so-called hate crimes, the system of selectively enforced, selective outrage that dictates that some people’s victimization is more important than others’.  The hate crimes code is also what underlies Franklin’s demand for a federal investigation of Kreher, a chilling threat.  If Kreher had said such a thing in Canada or Britain or any one of several European countries these days, he would doubtlessly be facing hate speech charges.  Luckily, our unique bill of rights largely protects us from prosecution for hate speech, though that would change in a heartbeat if Fort and others had their way.

Fort also, predictably, had bad things to say about the police, playing the police brutality card for the press:

“If I had said that to a police officer on the street, where do you think I’d be?” said State Sen. Vincent Fort.

Fort’s comment here is worth contemplating: he brings up non-existent police brutality but refuses to address the actually brutal treatment of the paralyzed police officers at the hands of Franklin’s administration.  Talk about a double standard.

And what a perfect expression of the realities of the hate crimes movement: some people get to have police protection against words.  Other people have to beg for any protection against crime.  Now that he has inserted himself into this debate, Fort should be called on the carpet, both for what he said about the police, and what he did not say.

Despite the fact that he believes that some people matter more than others.

Here is Shirley Franklin’s latest statement on Kreher, who has already apologized, grovelled before her:

“His threat cannot be tolerated or explained away,” she said on the city’s official Web site. “I believe his threat to be serious and an attempt to intimidate me and other city officials and my family.”

Here is what she said about the wounded officers:

”           “

Here is what she said about real crime victims in the city, in an op-ed scolding the public for demanding more police officers:

“The city is safer now than it has been in decades.”

In Atlanta these days, you had better know your place.

How Atlanta Treats its Wounded Police Officers on Memorial Day


If the genius of democracy is the peaceful transfer of power through elections, the tragedy of democracy is the exploitation of this public goodwill by elected and appointed officials who treat their last year or so in office (sometimes, their entire time in office) like a tin pot dictatorship, holing up and divvying the spoils while behaving as if the needs of the people are beneath their concern.

There’s little the public can do about a lame duck elected official who treats them with contempt.  Little, that is, except doing their homework for the next election, noting who is aligned with whom, voting accordingly — and carefully counting the towels after each transfer of power is complete.

This last bit of business was sorely neglected when former Mayor Bill Campbell was hauled off in handcuffs — people should not wonder so much when current Mayor Shirley Franklin’s allegedly “reformist” administration feels like deja vu all over again.

Sunday Paper broke this story about the disgraceful treatment of injured Atlanta police officers last weekend. The Atlanta Journal Constitution offered an excellent update yesterday.

Paralyzed cops being denied needed medical services by city administrators: this is the type of injustice that cries out for public leadership.  Phone numbers are below.

And where is Atlanta Police Chief Pennington?  Vegas?  Disney World?  Mars?  These are police officers who were injured in the line of duty — who took a bullet protecting us.  In other cities, that unambiguously means something:

In Atlanta, injured cops are treated like wounded animals put out in the rain.  That Chief Pennington refuses to comment on this mistreatment, let alone oppose it, is extraordinary.  It is the type of thing that should create an outcry, but it has not.  Are people so afraid to speak up for the police who protect them?  Is an entire generation so utterly brainwashed by the type of virulent, anti-cop rhetoric that spews from lefty politics and liberal media that they are able to look at a cop who took a bullet to save innocent people and say: well, who cares?

This is the Vietnam of our age.

Meanwhile, Mayor Franklin and Chief Pennington have managed to find the time for a vendetta against the police officer who stood up for the injured officers.  Sgt. Scott Kreher lost his temper after months of trying to get the wounded officers appropriate medical care and after two hours of being grilled at a City Council hearing.  Kreher said something inappropriate about Mayor Franklin, and now the Mayor is falsely accusing Kreher of being a threat to her and her family.

As columnist Stephanie Ramage points out in her blog, The Ramage Report, Franklin expressed no such anxiety when her son-in-law the violent drug kingpin was terrorizing the city (you can’t make this stuff up).  Here is Ramage on the full statement made by Kreher, not reported in the AJC, which truncated the quote:

The indignities that these cops, all of them injured in the line of duty, have suffered at the hands of Mayor Franklin’s administration are simply unconscionable.

And that is what Kreher told the City Council: “These five officers were injured in the line of duty…I want to beat her [Mayor Franklin] in the head with a baseball bat sometimes when I think about it…I cannot believe Mayor Franklin’s administration would allow this to happen. This administration should be ashamed of itself.”

Mayor Franklin was not present. Kreher was not visibly incensed. . . .

Franklin has said “I think it’s [Kreher’s remark] intended to intimidate me, my family and city officials. I think it’s very dangerous language and when someone says they want to take a bat and hit you in the head, from my experience, they want to kill you.”

Her family is intimidated? Franklin’s daughter is, even this minute, on probation for money laundering for her now-ex-husband, a kingpin in one of the most violent drug rings in the history of Atlanta. Mayor Franklin must have had at least a few dinners with the thug, yet she expects us to believe that she is afraid of a cop who says that her treatment of paralyzed and brain-damaged police officers makes him want to take a baseball bat to her head when he thinks about it sometimes?

Kreher has been suspended, but the Mayor and Police Chief are still refusing to comment on their actually unconscionable treatment of the injured officers.

As if it is laughable — a paralyzed cop snapping a leg bone because he can’t get the city to fix his broken wheelchair.

The relationship between City Hall and Atlanta residents has descended into paroxysms of sado-masochism.  I wonder when folks will say “enough” and start demanding some respect, if not for themselves, then for the men and woman who sacrificed their ability to walk and talk and think for the public’s safety.

This is, after all, Memorial Day, when fallen officers are supposed to be honored, as is happening in ordinary places, places other than Atlanta.

City Council


Chief of Police

Five Ugly Pieces, Part 5: Around Atlanta

1 comment

Some mop-up for the week:

The Silver Comet Trail murder case is moving along despite efforts by the defense to derail it.  Tragically, Michael Ledford’s mother had tried to get her son put back in jail before Jennifer Ewing was killed:

The mother said her son should already have been locked up and his probation revoked on July 25, 2006, the day Jennifer Ewing was beaten to death just off the popular Silver Comet Trail in Paulding County.

She said she pleaded with authorities in early July to get her son off the streets but the probation officers only told him to “behave.”

“It they got him off the streets … that lady would be alive. They let this happen,” Mihlaek testified in her son’s death penalty trial.

“They promised to do something legally. They didn’t and now it’s too late,” she said.”

Ledford’s brother also asked authorities to do something about his brother:

Mark Ledford testified family members had called his brother’s probation officers several times to report his drinking and his penchant for staring at women. Drinking would have been grounds for revoking his probation. But he was never arrested.

He spent 10 years incarcerated for a 1991 rape and was serving 10 years on probation when Ewing was attacked.

Ledford’s mother and brother did everything they could do to keep women safe.  And when their warnings went unheeded, and Ledford came home covered in blood, they called the police and turned him in.

Not so with the mother of Jonathan Redding, the teen charged in the killing of bartender John Henderson.  Redding’s family released a statement this week:

[Jonathan Redding] is not the monster that he has been portrayed to be but was in the wrong place at the wrong time. Jonathan has strong family values and ties, and we feel he is currently a victim of the judicial system.

The wrong place at the wrong time.

Now defense lawyers in the Silver Comet Trail trial are trying to argue that Ledford is a victim of gender discrimination:

Sixteen people — 12 jurors and four alternates —were seated Friday to hear the Paulding County death penalty case against Michael Ledford, charged with murdering a Sandy Springs woman biking the popular Silver Comet Trail. . . .

The jury is dominated by men — only four women were among the 16 chosen as jurors or alternates — so Ledford’s attorneys filed a motion accusing prosecutors of gender bias because they struck so many women.

This type of thing would be laughable if it were not so costly.  Our trial system has become a joke, with the courts tilted so far towards the defense that every trial is a chilling reminder of how easy it is for murderers and rapists to walk free.

* * *

Meanwhile, in DeKalb County, a story that fell off the radar deserves a second look.  WSB-TV was the only news source that looked into this case:

Officer Accused of Exchanging Threatening E-Mails With Teen

DEKALB COUNTY, Ga. — Officials with the DeKalb Police Department said a 15-year veteran of their department and an 18-year-old girl were exchanging e-mails that threatened her family.

Channel 2 Action News reporter Amanda Rosseter spent the day digging through the officer’s personnel file and she found two offenses of conduct unbecoming – both within the past four months, and both over contact and e-mails with teenage girls.

DeKalb County police confirmed Kevin Sowell resigned two weeks ago after the department said it would fire him for two offenses – including a string of e-mails that threatened a young girl’s family.

Sowell was allowed to resign instead of being fired, and, according to WSB, as of April 24, no other action had been taken regarding his possibly criminal conduct:

The first offense allegedly took place in January. Sowell was suspended after he “developed a friendly relationship with a 16-year-old child,” according to officials. According to his file, after the girl’s parents requested that he discontinue contact, he continued with the child in person, by e-mail, and by a cell phone he purchased for her.

Just two months later, the second offense allegedly occurred. The internal affairs memo said, “The content of the messages was threatening in nature and spoke of violent acts towards the female’s parents” and said he “admitted to sending the correspondence.”

And another report noted, “They were both planning to harm her parents and sister-in-law. Instead of discouraging her, he responded in a manner that encouraged further thoughts on the act to harm.”

* * *

The Village Voice’s True Crime Report has some interesting commentary about George Zinkhan, the UGA marketing professor who murdered his wife and two others before killing himself.  According to True Crime, Zinkhan had a troubling history at University of Houston, serially harassing female students and junior faculty.  At the time Zinkhan came to UGA, he was the subject of a federal lawsuit at UH for “persistent sexual harassment.”  Apparently, this did not negatively affect UGA’s decision to hire him.  What a surprise.

* * *

Finally, yesterday, I received a copy of the full transcript from the indictment of Joshua Norris, the Morehouse student who emptied a gun into another Morehouse student and walked away with probation, apparently because the prosecutor got caught up in Judge Marvin Arrington’s otherwise admirable campaign to address the problem of crime among minority youth.

The transcript is in yesterday’s comments thread.  What is striking to me is the utter lack of attention to the crime itself — it seems that Arrington, and everyone else in the courtroom, have entirely forgotten that Norris is standing before them because he tried to commit murder, firing a gun six times outside a nightclub and striking the victim three times.

Judge Arrington and the prosecutor seem far more interested in debating the relative merits of different community service positions for Norris than addressing the law, or the crime.  The prosecutor, who is supposed to be representing the public, and the victim, apparently feels that it would be inappropriate for Norris to demean himself by picking up garbage with other probationers, because his is a special case:







Judge Arrington:  WHY?







Judge Arrington: WHERE IS SHE LOCATED?



Mr. Mizell: NOT LIKELY, SIR.

Prosecutor Thompson: YEAH.

Mr. Mizell: NOT LIKELY.

Judge Arrington: WHY NOT?



There is so much that is wrong with this, it is difficult to know where to begin.  But setting aside the appalling spectacle of a prosecutor buddying up with a murder defendant, talking about how ordinary community service is simply below his dignity, and the judge buddying up with a murder defendant, playing the “stay in school, son” game, and the absolute erasure of the victim from this entire process, there is a little matter of the law.

The victim stated that he was not informed of this deal and not permitted to make a statement in court.  Statements made by the defense attorney in this hearing support the victim’s claim, because the defense attorney himself seems surprised that Prosecutor Thompson has offered only community service, and not prison time, for the attempted murder:


And the crown goes to: Mr. Georgia, Joshua Norris.

So what happened in the courtroom is the prosecutor broke the law.  And then Judge Arrington seconded the breaking of the law.  And nobody in that room spoke up and reminded these people that the (absurdly low) minimum mandatory sentence for aggravated assault with a deadly weapon is one year in prison, which Arrington mentioned in the reading of the charges, then ignored.  This is why legislatures have to pass minimum mandatory sentences.  But what good is the law if the judge ignores it?

What a joke.  What a travesty.

Georgia also has a victim’s rights law.  This law provides the following rights, clearly denied to Joshua Norris’ victim:

  • To be notified of each stage in the judicial process to include pretrial hearings, bond, arraignment, motions hearings, pleas of guilty, trial, sentencing and appeals
  • To be notified of any arrest, release, possibility of release, or escape of the accused or any change in custodial status
  • To give opinions regarding release from custody or bond issues
  • To have access to a private waiting area during court proceedings
  • To offer input on plea negotiations or sentence hearings or conditions

What on earth is happening in the Fulton County Superior Court?  Can crime victims sue the state for denying them their legal rights?  This victim ought to try.