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Case Update: Frederick Lee Gude’s three murders

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Recently, William Steele wrote to this blog asking about the latest murder conviction involving Frederick Gude, who killed Mr. Steele’s father in southeast Atlanta (my old neighborhood) in 1969.  Gude received a life sentence for that crime but walked out of prison a mere eight years later — eight years for taking a life.  He was sent up again in 1983, got out again, then killed a second time.  For that “voluntary manslaughter,” Gude was sentenced to five years.  He  walked out of prison for a third time in September 2003, then four months later he stabbed his girlfriend to death with an ice pick.  Along the way, he accumulated the usual, heinous, un-prosecuted and under-prosecuted acts of domestic violence, and other serious crimes.  Earlier this year, AJC reporter Steve Visser interviewed Gude’s adult daughter, a Marine Lieutenant Colonel who said this of her father:

“There are some people who shouldn’t walk amongst us” [she said] … “This is his third killing. This is the third one that we know of” … [S]he knew her father as a child – when he wasn’t in prison – but her mother quickly left him behind after he was released from prison the first time. He used to beat her mother and he stabbed at least one relative. Violence, she said, was her father’s defining characteristic.  “Some people kill in the heat of moment,” the Marine said. “For him, every moment is the heat of the moment, if you say something he doesn’t like.”

Frederick Gude: Three-Time Killer

Run-of-the-mill criminals don’t attract elite legal help, but once you’ve accumulated a body count like Mr. Gude’s, and capital punishment is on the table, the suits show up.  For his latest murder defense, Gude secured Atlanta defense attorney Thomas West (on the taxpayer’s dime, undoubtedly).

Thomas West: Not Atticus Finch

Mr. West is one of those defense attorneys who market themselves as civil rights heroes with the assistance of corrupted civil rights groups like the once-storied Southern Christian Leadership Council(SCLC), which long ago stopped doing anything but stealing their donations, accusing each other of stealing, and giving “Drum Major” awards to defense attorneys like West who specialize in returning brute killers back to the communities they victimized before and will victimize again.

For their part, Mr. West and his defense bar peers may fancy themselves modern-day Atticus Finches, but they sure don’t bill in croker-sacks of turnip greens, as the fictional Finch did while helping poor white and black sharecroppers avoid entailment, malnutrition, and lynching.

Today’s defense attorneys deploy sleazy technicalities to help serial predators escape consequences while bleeding taxpayers dry.  Or, as West puts it on his website:

Again and again, the law firm is complimented for the intense attention it pays to each detail of a client’s case, and its willingness to explore every legal angle in order to come up with the best possible outcome for each client.

In client Gude’s case, Thomas West obstructed justice for nine years, at a cost of many hundreds of thousands of dollars to taxpayers (and into his pocket).  Of course, it takes a village to really obstruct justice, and West had help from many quarters, including Superior Court Judge Thelma Wyatt Cummings Moore, who simply didn’t bother to set a trial date as witnesses died and victims hung in limbo.  See here for my previous post on West’s manipulations of the justice system on behalf of Frederick Gude.  That was nearly five years ago, and the case just resolved in 2013.

By holding the justice system hostage with a blizzard of pretrial motions on behalf of Frederick Gude, Thomas West finally succeeded in getting Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard to take capital punishment off the table, as Steve Visser reported last February:

District Attorney Paul Howard, who said Gude’s age persuaded him to drop the death penalty request after Gude turned 69 in July, contended that the lengthy wait not only undermined the case, but also cheated the victim’s family and taxpayers. Two key eye witnesses died while awaiting the trial. By the calculation used by the sheriff’s office, housing Gude cost more than a quarter of a million dollars.

“They have a legitimate question to ask Fulton County about why are you taking so long to dispense justice,” Howard said. “This will make the third person he has killed in our county and he is allowed to sit in jail for nine years. It is unconscionable.”

Also unconscionable?  Thomas West’s vicious remarks belittling the victim of Gude’s latest crime.  West urged the court to go easy on his client, explaining that Gude had done nothing “heinous” because he just stabbed a woman to death with an icepick. Gude’s crime wasn’t a hate crime, you see, because he picked a woman to chop away at forty times (and left her 94-year old aunt locked in a bathroom near the body, where the elderly woman nearly froze to death, but hey, who’s counting?).

Here is West’s explanation for not considering icepick murder + attempted murder heinous:

“We contended it was cruel and unusual to seek the death penalty in a case where you are just accused of killing your girlfriend and not something more heinous. … In the past, the district attorney has not sought the death penalty in these circumstances.”

“Just killing your girlfriend.”  “Not something more heinous.”  Some people’s lives are just more valuable than other people’s lives.  A murder with the right mix of victim and offender will bring out the activists and the mayor marching around all puffed up with candles in little paper cups.  But Gude killed politically insignificant humans using non-heinous icepick torture, so, no heartfelt politician parades for his victims.

Yet despite West’s claim that the murder wasn’t heinous, he acknowledged that the crime scene photos of Gude’s last victim presented some “visual issues” that might have convinced even Fulton County jurors to vote for death.

Visual Issues.  Is there any limit to the degradation this man heaps on innocent victims of crime?

Thomas West was enabled in his serial lies about Frederick Gude’s murders by a criminal justice system that has spent sixty years institutionalizing such lies.  Words like heinous and hate have been warped beyond recognition in the criminal courts.  Unlike criminal investigations and trials in other western nations, our courts have become mechanisms for excluding facts, instead of seeking and weighing them.  Criminal justice is treated like a game, instead of the fullest pursuit of truth.  And so people like Frederick Gude and Thomas West game the system over and over again, with nary a peep from the tens of thousands of law professors and judges who are supposed to address such travesties.

When the justice system is in such institutionalized disarray that a murder trial can be delayed for nine years while attorneys file motions quarreling about how many thrusts of the icepick count as heinous, or a child rape trial can be delayed for more than a decade while Bob Barr and his peers argue about whether a professional fantasy role-player’s pretend illnesses can get him cut loose from the ankle-bracelet that is keeping him from raping more little boys, it’s time to start talking about whether the problem is something other than over-incarceration.

The worst part, besides the denial of justice, is that we actually pay these jerks to make such arguments.

Appallingly, Mr. West now uses his defense of Frederick Lee Gude as an advertising tool, featuring Gude’s case prominently on his website.  Gude will probably start appealing to be released early due to his advanced age any day now, which likely means more money in Thomas West’s pockets.  Nice little justice system we’ve got here.
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If anyone has information about Frederick Gude’s trial or his other crimes, please contact this blog.  Identities must be confirmed but will be kept anonymous.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Equality isn’t the goal anymore.

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

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

Slain woman predicted her own death

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 read the article here

Soros-Funded Atlanta Independent Media Center Cheers Attempted Cop Assassination, Encourages More Murders of Cops

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This is so sick, I’m just going to publish it before it disappears from the web.  Cameron Maddox tried to assassinate a cop in Atlanta, and Indymedia celebrated his effort and encouraged others to kill cops:

Atlanta Independent Media Center is part of Indymedia, funded by George Soros:

Squeezing Slowly: Atlanta Police Officer Shot in Little Five Points

Submitted by Anonymous on Sun, 03/25/2012 – 1:40am

By now everyone’s heard: 19 year-old Cameron Maddox was arrested for shooting Officer Dexter Toomer in the legs last Friday night. Undoubtedly, the shooter intended to kill. His aim was off, but his target was just right.

Maddox explains that he was frustrated by the police who arrested a friend earlier that day. Some of us are inspired by his ambition.Rather then taking the time to track down the arresting officer, Maddox decided to kill the next officer he saw. As that saying goes: All Cops Are Bastards. Without delay, he perched eagerly across the street from the restaurant, Zesto’s, where police are known to hang out.
BLAM BLAM BLAM BLAM BLAM BLAM BLAM!
7 shots. But only 1 connects and it’s in the legs.

Frantically, Maddox runs through the kitchen of the cafe he is staged on top of and tosses the gun inside a shirt at one of the cooks. Fingerprints sell him out and he is arrested a day later.

It is unclear what will happen to him beyond this but it is clear that the police are losing their grip on the streets of Atlanta.

Marches end with shattered glass and spray-paint, even casual walks leave heavily trafficked streets barricaded with dumpsters and broken glass bottles. Joe Stafford, Dwight Person, Ariston Waiters, Dawntrae Williams…so many more. We can never forget those who fell victim to the wild spray of police bullets, no doubt. But isn’t it also the case that every single moment is bottled by the prying eyes of the pigs? Atlanta has an extremely expansive surveillance system spanning across the entire downtown area…but nothing can stop the rage of those who just got woke the fuck up.

While anarchists and other anticapitalists have done their part to enact their passions against the police in an unmediated way, it always seems to be the “normal citizens” (the Blooms, if you will) who snap in the most violent expression of dissatisfaction and hopelessness.

Perhaps we should not be in a habit of “politicizing” crimes that wish only to be expressions of raw emotion, but Maddox has clearly expressed his hatred of the police through his actions and his words.

Although we will probably never meet him, we hope to see his courage inspire people everywhere (but not his recklessness – wear gloves, kids!)

It is never too late to realize your desires, whatever they are.

Be careful, but stay wild.

Anarchy!

~~~

Hatred of police, encouraged by groups like East Atlanta Copwatch, the Occupy Movement, and a hundred other organizations funded by George Soros, is bearing fruit.  Did Cameron Maddox take part in any of the Atlanta trainings by activists who teach people how to harass cops?

Officer Toomer was shot by an assailant who was hiding on a nearby rooftop, hunting cops.  He sustained “only” a bullet to the leg, but where is the outrage, and why is Maddox only charged with aggravated assault, instead of attempted murder of a police officer?

Officer Dexter Toomer

The shooter’s name is Cameron Maddox.  Let me know if you know anything about him:

Cameron Christian Maddox

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

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. . . 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.

 

War on Cops: “Occupy” Edition

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All around the country, the media is working overtime to avoid reporting incidents of ‘police brutality’ at Occupy protests– brutality against police, that is — along with other not-so-peaceful-and-pretty behavior perpetrated by the “Occupy” activists.

For example, in Atlanta, the major news stations, the daily paper, and the weekly rag managed to collectively not notice when protestors blocked the entrance to a hospital emergency room in a coordinated attempt to storm the hospital.  Nope, not one member of the fourth estate bothered to rouse themselves from end-of-week brewskies at the local reporter’s watering hole to wander a few city blocks to the near-riot that blocked a fire truck and ambulance from reaching the emergency room doors.

My colleague Mary Grabar, who found herself trapped while covering the crowd, wrote about the scary near-riot in Pajamas Media. Amy Wenk, editor for an online neighborhood paper called Patch covered it here.  I guess you could call Grabar and Wenk members of the “alternative media,” but that begs the question: alternative to what?

They were the only media there.

Protesting the Right of Heart Attack Victims to Seek Rapid Medical Response (photo credit Amy Wenk)

Meanwhile, what was the Atlanta Journal Constitution saying about the protestors?  They were urging their readers not to dismiss them as “Just a Bunch of Hippies Playing Bongos.”

In case all those obtuse suburbanites (aka the only people left who buy newspapers) missed the crucial distinction the AJC was trying to make, they ran the following photograph under the following headline (I am not making this up):

Occupy Atlanta | ‘It’s not just a bunch of hippies playing bongos’

Right.  She’s not playing a bongo at all.

By the way, her name is Shaee and she’s been to lots of Occupy protests but likes Atlanta’s best so far.

She ended up on the streets after not being able to find work with her degree in actuarial accounting.

Now I’m kidding.

~~~~

Now I’m serious again. Who do these reporters think they are, pretending a near riot at a hospital where police were swarmed and threatened and emergency personnel couldn’t get an ambulance through isn’t news?  Are they really that collectively invested in gildedly re-living their glory days fighting the Man?  Yeah, the protestors aren’t all hippies playing bongos, or bongo-less hippies hopping from one cool protest site to another: some of them are belligerent creeps physically assaulting cops while trying to terrify sick people in emergency rooms.

Why isn’t that newsworthy?  If any one of those police officers pushed back against middle-finger man and he fell and skinned his knee, half the editorial board at the Atlanta Journal Constitution would pee themselves with outrage.

And isn’t that the point?  The Atlanta Occupy movement, like Occupy groups around the country, are relying on selective reporting like this to conceal their real intentions.  Atlanta Occupy and protestors in other states have announced events at the protest sites where they will be training people to incite and escalate confrontations with police.  They’re calling these “workshops on the history of police brutality” and discussions to decide whether police are “working class or working class traitors.”  Gee, what do you think the answer will be?  Inflaming hatred of police is a major part of the movement’s strategy, and at one of these protests, it’s going to end in tragedy.  But I guess that’s not news, either.

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It’s time for the public and elected officials to vocalize some support for the police, who are being abused daily by the protestors. Could you handle even one day of a job like that?  Here’s something I wrote trying to imagine the life of a policeman during the last L.A. Lakers’ “uprising.”  It certainly applies here:

Imagine the crappiest job in the world:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That job would really suck.

It’s called “policing.”

Deputy Chief of Police (Ret.) Lou Arcangeli on the Troy Davis Case

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Lou Arcangeli is the rare cop (he’s retired now) who’s earned kudos from people both sides of the political aisle.  Atlanta journalist John Sugg calls him a “cop’s cop” in this 2003 profile.

Lou Arcangeli

Lou weighed in on the Troy Davis case today: the editorial ran in the Savannah Morning News (http://savannahnow.com/column/2011-09-22/arcangeli-no-injustice-davis-case#.Tntcz831aqm).  He writes:

I wish that [Troy] Davis’ supporters had met Davis years earlier and worked as hard to connect with and help the troubled young man before he started carrying guns and killed a policeman. I think they enjoy the camaraderie of their tweeting and demonstrations much more than the work and commitment it would take to make a safer society.

I second that.  The more years I spent in Atlanta, the more I despaired of helping kids emerge from bad environments unscathed . . . and the less I trusted the loud “social justice” activists who preferred the easy self-aggrandizement of valorizing murderers over the work of keeping children from wasting their lives in violence.

The activists below will drift to other causes (or continue collecting big checks from foundations) while kids keep killing kids, and police keep trying to save them, despite being pilloried by  . . . activists like the people below:

I am Troy Davis: I am a cop killer.

I am Troy Davis: I killed another man in an utterly senseless murder.

Our teacher says we’re Troy Davis: we pistol-whipped a homeless guy and

threatened to kill him because he wouldn’t give us a beer.

I am Troy Davis: I’m really excited to be holding this sign.

Arcangeli links to a good website debunking the activists’ lies about this case, and I’ve added a few more.  The performance of the media, particularly the New York Times, has been disgraceful throughout:

Support Mark MacPhail: Debunking the Myths

A Useful Chart Debunking the “Recanting Witness” Claims (see also: http://legalcases.info/troydavis/)

Text of the Denial of Davis’ 2010 Appeal: Why the Judge Rejected the “Recanting” Claims (part 2)

D.A. Spencer Lawton on Davis guilt.  In other words, the prosecutor’s and appeals courts’ position, which was carefully suppressed in coverage of the execution by the New York Times, CNN, the Atlanta Journal Constitution, and most other news sources.

Educate yourselves: the media isn’t going to tell you the truth about this case.

And thanks to Lou for quoting me.

Troy Davis is Guilty, but the Mainstream Media Doesn’t Trust You With the Facts.

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And with the parole board once again affirming his guilt, the Atlanta Journal Constitution continues its tradition of leaving out all the relevant facts when reporting on the Troy Davis case.

At least they can’t be accused of inconsistency.  Here’s my previous post, with relevant links (near the end).

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

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

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

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

You know, kind of like fantasy role-playing.

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

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

Well, some people’s liberties.

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

Ed Kramer, Pre-Pretend Spinal Cord Disease

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ed Kramer sporting a Barr ’08 button

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

Ed Kramer at the 2008 DragonCon

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ed Marger and His Carefully Staged Pelts

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

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

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

~~~

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

Riots and Street Crime: Many Millions Gone

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I drove up to Atlanta last week and entered through the southeast side, to see the old neighborhood.  It’s been two years since I’ve been in that part of the city.

Atlanta Federal Prison, near my old house

It was a shock to see the deterioration outside the places where young professionals have rehabbed houses or built new ones.  Atlanta seems more fragmented than ever: a few blocks or neighborhoods with coffee shops, bicyclists, upscale breakfast places, landscaping, then miles of blight, where kudzu covers the detritus of abandoned or uncared-for properties.

By the federal prison, there are more abandoned houses and businesses than I saw the last time I drove through.  In Thomasville Heights, where murdered-and-missing children once gained brief attention, until there was no more money for politicians to milk from their deaths, gangs of feral children-of-children-of-children still wander the streets.  It was no place to be a child thirty years ago, and it is no place to be a child today.  How many millions of dollars have been squandered in the interim, to absolutely no effect?

Aaron Wyche, who lived in Thomasville Heights and was found dead nearby, in 1980

[I wrote about one of the unreported victims of Thomasville Heights here.]

Nothing is new except two very posh-looking public health clinics within blocks of each other. The private businesses on this stretch of road, including a grocery, a clothing store, a carwash, and a fast-food restaurant, are now all shuttered or burned out.

In my old neighborhood, the talk is all about installing increasingly ornate and expensive alarm systems, as if technology will outpace the criminal energies of the aimless children from broken homes. While living there, I repeatedly heard the lament that what was needed was more “programs” and “resources” for the “deprived” kids.  I never met anyone who could answer the question “more than what?”

None of these well-intentioned folks knew the sheer quantity and reach of the “services” that already existed, let alone the political infrastructure and clout created by them.  Conversations about expanding “services” always struck me as surreal: the programs support the behaviors that create the need for the programs.  The complaint about lack of resources for the poor is a lie.

Over the twenty years that I lived in Atlanta, gaining firsthand experience in poverty-and-social-justice programs, I cannot recall one conversation where I was able to change the mind of someone who believed that social problems persisted merely because society hadn’t “done enough” to help the underclass.  I could talk myself blue in the face naming programs and resources and community care that was already being funded; I could list the many interventions that had been attempted with this or that 14-year old repeat offender, and the response would inevitably be: “Well, we need to do more.  We don’t do enough for them.”

It’s a form of insanity, conditioned by an educational system that tells middle-class people that they should feel bad for merely existing and having more stuff than the “unfortunate.”  The riots in Britain peeled away a lot of delusions last week, forcing people over there to begin to reconsider the “more” argument, but I don’t see that happening here.  I can’t imagine an American newspaper printing any of the following:

There has been much bewildered talk about ‘feral’ children, and desperate calls upon their parents to keep them in at night and to ask them about any stolen goods they are bringing home. As if there were responsible parents in such homes! We are not merely up against feral children, but feral parents.  Of course these parents know their children are out on the streets. Of course they see them staggering back with what they have looted. But either they are too drunk or drugged or otherwise out of it to care, or else they are helping themselves to the proceeds, too . . . The result of this toxic combination of welfare and non-judgmentalism was an explosion of elective lone parenthood and dysfunctional behaviour transmitted down through the generations at the very bottom of the social heap — creating, in effect, a class apart.

–Melanie Phillips, Daily Mail

[The rioters] are an absolute deadweight upon society, because they contribute nothing yet cost the taxpayer billions. Liberal opinion holds they are victims, because society has failed to provide them with opportunities to develop their potential. Most of us would say this is nonsense. Rather, they are victims of a perverted social ethos, which elevates personal freedom to an absolute, and denies the underclass the discipline — tough love — which alone might enable some of its members to escape from the swamp of dependency in which they live.  Only education — together with politicians, judges, policemen and teachers with the courage to force feral humans to obey rules the rest of us have accepted all our lives — can provide a way forward and a way out for these people.  They are products of a culture which gives them so much unconditionally that they are let off learning how to become human beings. My dogs are better behaved and subscribe to a higher code of values . . . Unless or until those who run Britain introduce incentives for decency and impose penalties for bestiality which are today entirely lacking, there will never be a shortage of young rioters and looters such as those of the past four nights . . .

–Max Hastings, Daily Mail

I am not really very sorry for the elite liberal Londoners who have suddenly discovered what millions of others have lived with for decades. The mass criminality in the big cities is merely a speeded-up and concentrated version of life on most large [public housing] estates – fear, intimidation, cruelty, injustice, savagery towards the vulnerable and the  different, a cold sneer turned towards any plea for pity, the awful realisation that when you call for help from the authorities, none  will come.  Just look and see how many shops are protected with steel shutters, how many homes have bars on their windows. This is not new.  As the polluted flood (it is not a tide; it will not go back down again) of spite, greed and violence washes on to their very doorsteps, well-off and influential Left-wingers at last meet the filthy thing they have created, and which they ignored when it did not affect them personally.  No doubt they will find ways to save themselves. But they will not save the country. Because even now they will not admit that all their ideas are wrong, and that the policies of the past 50 years – the policies they love – have been a terrible mistake . . .

–Peter Hitchens, Daily Mail

Thank goodness for the internet, because without it, discussion of the British riots — and the “flash mob” beatings and mini-riots and toxic everyday criminality here in America — would be filtered through the sensitivities of the mainstream media, which is to say that views critical of the criminals perpetrating the violence, and the social policies enabling them, would be utterly suppressed.

I feel for my former neighbors, good people all, trying to protect their houses and loved ones with ever-more intricate alarm systems, burglar bars, reinforced doors, dogs, and guns.  But in the end, all the preparedness in the world will not protect them.  You can make your home a prison, or make sure the criminals live in one.

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

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

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

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

James Alan Fox, Professional

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[formatting updated 8/18/11]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Somebody screwed up.  Why does nobody care?

No Answers Yet in Mr. X Case. Lots of Questions.

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The print news coverage of the Michael Harvey trial continues to skirt important questions:

  • Why did the Fulton County (Atlanta) D.A.’s office fail to act for at least three years once DNA evidence linked Harvey to the brutal 1994 murder of Valerie Payton? According to news reports, they identified Harvey’s DNA in 2005 and arrested him in 2008.
  • And why didn’t the G.B.I. make the link between the Harvey’s DNA and Valerie Payton’s rape kit back in 2002 or 2003, at the latest, when they were supposed to have entered his sample into the state database for which they’re responsible?

Meanwhile the AJC’s coverage is even more confusing today than it was a few days ago:

Harvey was released from the Georgia prison system in 2007 after serving two years on an aggravated assault conviction. He also was imprisoned four other times since 1980 for crimes such as aggravated assault with intent to rape, burglary and car theft.  Police arrested him in 2008 in connection with Payton’s death.  His DNA was linked to the crime in 2005, the Fulton District Attorney’s Office said Monday.

OK, don’t ask the D.A. to explain himself about the three-year gap between the DNA match and the murder charges.

But do explain this: how could Harvey have been in the “Georgia prison system” in 2007 when that isn’t recorded in the Georgia Bureau of Corrections database?  The database reports a different record, and they, at least, unlike Fulton County, keep coherent records and behave as if the people who are paying their salaries have a right to know what they are doing:

STATE OF GEORGIA – INCARCERATION HISTORY
INCARCERATION BEGIN INCARCERATION END
02/04/2003 06/14/2003
05/12/1998 09/16/1999
02/04/1985 11/01/1985
10/23/1980 11/02/1984

Maybe Harvey was in the county jail.  But that is Fulton County jail, not the “Georgia prison system.”  The paper seems to be saying (without saying too clearly) that there are these other aggravated assault charges for which he was imprisoned in 2007 (for how long is also unclear).  But he never got sent up to the state system for them.  So, at most, that must have been a sentence of a year or less, which would have placed Harvey in a courtroom in Fulton County after his DNA was linked to a heinous murder, and the D.A. should have known about the match.  Yet that evidence wasn’t, apparently, even brought up in court, or else (one must hope) he wouldn’t have been released in 2007, right?

Also, wouldn’t recidivism sentencing have kicked in by then, murder charges (so bizarrely) notwithstanding?  We do have laws about getting popped for several violent offenses in a row, and they should have applied to Harvey, with his prior kidnapping conviction (His attempted rape conviction presents an interesting quandary: rape counts, but does attempted rape?  It should: why reward failure to complete the crime?).  So in addition to all the other apparently squandered chances to do something about Harvey’s ties to a murder, was the 2007 aggravated assault yet another situation in which some Fulton County Judge didn’t bother to enforce Georgia’s laws? Is it another situation in which Fulton County’s D.A. utterly failed to bother to investigate the criminal history of the defendant and ask the judge for appropriate sentencing?

Why did yet another person with a long history of serious violent and felony property crime (not to mention a DNA link in a bloody murder) stroll into court some time between 2003 and 2007 for another violent crime and get sentenced, apparently, to some brief stint in county jail, if that is indeed what happened?  Where is the curiosity about any of this?  It’s pretty clear it happens every day.

And I still wonder whether Harvey’s multiple aggravated assault charges aren’t actually pled-down sex crimes.

How overwhelmed is Fulton’s criminal justice system? Who is responsible for taking three years to get around to charging Michael Harvey with murder after the belated DNA match, for this?

Payton had over 50 carvings on her body when she was found, and a photo of her 8-year-old son was placed on her stomach, Ross said during opening arguments. Handwritten on the back of the photo were the words, “I’M BACK ATLANTA, MR. X,” written in a block style with all capital letters, Ross said.

There seems to be an insinuation (again, not a very clear one) either in the AJC coverage or coming from the D.A. himself that the reason all of this unfolded so slowly is because Michael Harvey isn’t suspected in any of the other unsolved murders of prostitutes that were so thick on the ground in the 1990’s.

You know, that he was merely the suspect in one heinous murder.

Is the D.A.’s office so swamped (or distracted) that murders are taking decades to process while the murderers are left on the streets to commit more crimes?  For, in reality, Harvey’s DNA should have been taken and compared to outstanding rape-and-murder kits back in 1996, when he was convicted for rape, or in 1999, before he was released, or right away in 2002, when he was re-incarcerated.  There were the beginnings of a good DNA database before 1999, and the first people who were entered into it were people with sex offense convictions, like Harvey.  By 1999, when he was released, that database should have been functional enough to check at least the outstanding rape/murder cases in the state, like Valerie Payton’s death, against the DNA of convicted sex criminals, if it mattered enough to anyone.

Which, apparently, it didn’t.

Or was Payton’s rape kit one of the many left stockpiled on a shelf somewhere in the Atlanta Police Department while Bill Campbell mouthpiece and Chief of Police Beverley Harvard, no friend of rape victims, jetted around the country picking up awards and running political interference for her boss, the soon-to-be convicted mayor?

Harvard presided distractedly over some of the most bloody years on Atlanta’s streets.  Thanks to such official neglect, multiple opportunities to get sexual predators off the streets were simply squandered.  Was the Valerie Payton murder another one?  Was another raped and murdered mother just not important enough?

Or was it the GBI that screwed up? Were they the ones sitting on Valerie Payton’s rape kit?  Michael Harvey’s DNA sample?  You have to really wonder what’s going on, when the spokesperson for the agency is busy telling the public not to worry about all the sex offenders they’ve lost track of but can’t be bothered to explain whether or not his agency is responsible for delays in processing these DNA samples during the time that a murder suspect with a long record of violent crime was still in state custody.

If GBI spokesman John Bankhead or Fulton County D.A. Paul Howard ever came forward and said, Look, we just don’t have enough resources to even pay appropriate attention to murder cases, they would receive resounding support from the public.  But instead, it seems that both men are refusing to explain what went wrong in this investigation.  And they are enabled in flying under the radar by many things, including a Clerk of Court system that behaves as if the public is not entitled to know what’s going on in their courts.

A clever ninth grader could create a database system for sharing court outcomes with the public, using nothing more than his lunch money for implementation, but, sadly, there are no clever ninth graders working at the Clerk of Court’s office.  So long as an uninformed public continues re-electing political cronies to the head offices of the Clerk (and the print media remains silent on that and other well-known, substandard practices), that situation will not change for Atlanta.

Why is there no political push for sunshine in the courts? Neighborhood advocates have worked to great effect with the police to make streets safer, but those efforts are ultimately wasted if similar scrutiny is not applied to the court system, which is directly responsible for repeatedly releasing both violent and property offenders.

This is why full disclosure and frank discussion of the criminal history of offenders like Michael Harvey is so important, and why it is so unsettling that the D.A. is not being forthcoming with that information.  Here is a known alleged killer, and it seems that nobody acted with appropriate speed to restrain him.  Two, or five, or eight years ago, it would have been far easier to try Harvey for this murder.  Fourteen years ago, when he was tried for another rape and should have had his DNA tested, it would have been easier still.

Now, it seems like an afterthought.  And everybody involved seems to be covering each others’ mistakes.  This is justice on the cheap.  We’ve all been accepting utter neglect of most criminal behavior for so long that it doesn’t even seem noteworthy that an accused killer has been walking the streets all this time, in plain view.

Mr. X: Did the State of Georgia Let a Serial Killer Go?

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Some mornings, it’s pitifully easy to find something to write about.

Like, this morning.  Back in the early 1990’s, a serial killer was stalking women in the Reynoldstown neighborhood in Atlanta.  Reynoldstown was, in all senses of the term, crack-infested.  There were a lot of drug-related deaths.  There were a lot of prostitutes: the two go hand in hand.  Men from all over metro Atlanta would drive there to get an extremely cheap woman, or girl.  Or boy, I imagine.  This was precisely the same area where little boys were disappearing during the Atlanta Child Murders in the 1980’s.  It wasn’t a very long walk to some of the body dump sites.

I lived a few blocks east, in Cabbagetown.  On Fridays, I avoided gardening in my front yard because the men with Cobb County plates were trolling the streets, picking up emaciated prostitutes.  Some of the prostitutes jerked and twitched as they walked from cocaine-induced tardive dyskinesia.  Anyone who believes prostitution is a victimless crime is an intellectual buffoon.  The wives of the Johns were certainly victims.  There was a mother-daughter team jumping in and out of cars on my street corner: the daughter didn’t wear shoes.  She looked like she weighed about 75 pounds.  Her arms and legs were a constellation of bruises and sores.  What were those old men from the suburbs thinking?  She could be their granddaughter.  She was visibly sick.

By 1990, when I moved in, Wayne Williams had been sitting in prison for nearly a decade.  The cameras had gone elsewhere, and the money, too: politicians like Maynard Jackson and Arthur Langford (curious story, that) had sucked up the cash decent people sent to Atlanta to help the murder victims and long ago moved onto the next gravy train.  Eight female prostitutes dead in Reynoldstown didn’t attract much attention outside the police, who, contrary to stereotype, were actually the only people who gave a damn about the deaths.  Police, relatives, and local people — they knew who had children, and who went missing, and who had been a nice teenager before she got hooked on drugs.  On the other side of town, both female and transvestite male prostitutes were getting killed.  The transvestites were getting shot in the head: the women were mainly strangled or beaten to death.  If I remember correctly, if this particular murder didn’t occur later, one of the female victims was found strung up from a tree in a graveyard.  I went looking for more information about the transvestite killings and found only this blog post by “atl-Steve,” who lists nine of the Atlanta transvestite murders, eight between 1990 and 1992, seven shot in the head.  There were probably several serial killers preying on people in Atlanta at that time.  The drugs and the prostitution gave them extremely easy access to victims.  Life was extremely cheap.

One of the stories that circulated was about a Mr. X: in 1994, a woman’s body was found with a note that said: “I’m back in Atlanta, Mr. X.”  The woman was a prostitute, and she had been strangled.  This morning, in the Atlanta Journal Constitution, there is a story about the upcoming trial of Michael Harvey, who is linked to her murder through DNA.

That’s where the story stops making sense.

Michael Darnell Harvey: Mr. X

The newspaper is reporting that Michael Harvey was linked to the murder through DNA in 2005 and arrested in 2008.  It isn’t clear why it took three years to arrest him.  Was he on the run?  Was he being held on other charges?  It doesn’t say.  But it seems to me that if the police had been looking for him all this time, somebody would have said that.  And if he had been in custody in Fulton county pending charges after the DNA match, somebody would have said that.

Because the alternative is so extremely disturbing.  The alternative is that Michael Harvey was identified as a murderer, likely a serial killer, in 2005, and then nobody did anything about it for three years.  In the age of DNA, that can’t possibly be true, can it?  I hope I am missing something here.

Since 2000, all felons sentenced to state prison in Georgia have had to provide DNA samples to the state, to be added to a DNA database.  That law was passed thanks largely to recently deceased feminist activist Vicki McLennon and Lt. Governor Mark Taylor, and it has solved many sex crimes and saved lives.

In 2002 or 2003 (it isn’t clear from the state database), Michael Harvey was convicted of an aggravated assault in Fulton County.  The crime occurred August, 2002.  He was sentenced to six months and spent February to June, 2003, in state prison.  At that time, he should have given the state a DNA sample.  He also had a prior false imprisonment and attempted sexual assault conviction on his record.  Wouldn’t the DNA from anyone with a sexual assault conviction be  carefully checked for other sexual assaults?  In any case, if the law was followed, Harvey gave the state a DNA sample no later than June 2003.  His DNA was matched to a stranger serial murder in 2005.  He was charged with that murder in 2008.

So somebody has some questions to answer:

  • If he was in fact released, why was Michael Harvey, a convicted sex criminal, released from prison in 2003 without his DNA sample being entered into the state database?
  • Why wasn’t he arrested and charged with murder in 2005, when the GBI linked his DNA to a serial murder?
  • Why did it then take three more years to charge him with the crime?  Is this a screw-up that should be laid at the feet of Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard?

And some larger questions:

  • Was he really convicted only of aggravated assault in 2002/3, or was that a sex crime charge pled down to mere assault by some willing prosecutor and judge?  Were any other convictions actually sex crimes that got pled down, too?
  • Why did Michael Harvey get only three years for attempted rape and false imprisonment in 1996?  Three years for trying to rape a woman?  Nice.
  • Why didn’t the state of Georgia bother to take a DNA sample from Harvey when he was convicted of rape in 1996?  DNA was being widely used by then, and as a sex offender, Harvey probably had to provide a sample, even though the state law requiring DNA of all felons had not yet been passed.  Did he give the state DNA?  Why wasn’t it tested, if it wasn’t tested?  Is that sample one of the thousands shelved and forgotten by a criminally careless criminal justice system?
  • Does Michael Harvey’s DNA match any other crimes, especially crimes committed since the state last cut him loose?

Here is Harvey’s prior conviction record:

CASE NO: 130362OFFENSE: NOT AVAILABLE
CONVICTION COUNTY: CONVERSION
CRIME COMMIT DATE: N/A
SENTENCE LENGTH: NOT AVAILABLE

CASE NO: 130362OFFENSE: NOT AVAILABLE
CONVICTION COUNTY: CONVERSION
CRIME COMMIT DATE: N/A
SENTENCE LENGTH: NOT AVAILABLE

CASE NO: 130362OFFENSE: BURGLARY
CONVICTION COUNTY: FLOYD COUNTY
CRIME COMMIT DATE: N/A
SENTENCE LENGTH: 2 YEARS, 0 MONTHS, 0 DAYS

CASE NO: 130362OFFENSE: THEFT BY TAKING
CONVICTION COUNTY: FLOYD COUNTY
CRIME COMMIT DATE: N/A
SENTENCE LENGTH: NOT AVAILABLE

CASE NO: 130362OFFENSE: THEFT MOTORVEH OR PART
CONVICTION COUNTY: FLOYD COUNTY
CRIME COMMIT DATE: N/A
SENTENCE LENGTH: NOT AVAILABLE

CASE NO: 130362OFFENSE: THEFT MOTORVEH OR PART
CONVICTION COUNTY: FULTON COUNTY
CRIME COMMIT DATE: N/A
SENTENCE LENGTH: 6 YEARS, 0 MONTHS, 0 DAYS

He spent four years behind bars for these crimes, October 1980 to November 1984.  A long time for motor vehicle theft.  And that burglary: was it really just burglary?

CASE NO: 176538OFFENSE: NOT AVAILABLE
CONVICTION COUNTY: CONVERSION
CRIME COMMIT DATE: 09/07/1984
SENTENCE LENGTH: NOT AVAILABLE

CASE NO: 176538OFFENSE: CRMNL INTERFERE GOVT PROP
CONVICTION COUNTY: HABERSHAM COUNTY
CRIME COMMIT DATE: N/A
SENTENCE LENGTH: 1 YEARS, 0 MONTHS, 0 DAYS

CASE NO: 176538OFFENSE: simple battery
CONVICTION COUNTY: HABERSHAM COUNTY
CRIME COMMIT DATE: N/A
SENTENCE LENGTH: NOT AVAILABLE

He appears to have served nine months for these crimes, February to November 1985.  Then the Atlanta killings began.

CASE NO: 392286

OFFENSE: FALSE IMPRISONMENT
CONVICTION COUNTY: FULTON COUNTY
CRIME COMMIT DATE: 08/08/1996
SENTENCE LENGTH: 3 YEARS, 0 MONTHS, 0 DAYS

CASE NO: 392286

OFFENSE: AGG ASLT W INTNT TO RAPE
CONVICTION COUNTY: FULTON COUNTY
CRIME COMMIT DATE: 08/08/1996
SENTENCE LENGTH: 3 YEARS, 0 MONTHS, 0 DAYS

CASE NO: 392286

OFFENSE: AGG ASLT W INTNT TO RAPE
CONVICTION COUNTY: FULTON COUNTY
CRIME COMMIT DATE: 08/08/1996
SENTENCE LENGTH: 3 YEARS, 0 MONTHS, 0 DAYS

He appears to have served 1 year, 4 months in state custody for this crime, from May 1998 to September 1999.  He probably served some of his sentence in county custody prior to being transferred to state prison.  But his DNA, if it was sampled, was never checked against other rape and rape-murder cases in Fulton County while they still had him behind bars.  Come on, folks: 1999?  Unsolved rape-murders?  There’s no excuse.

CASE NO: 515573OFFENSE: AGGRAV ASSAULT
CONVICTION COUNTY: FULTON COUNTY
CRIME COMMIT DATE: 08/18/2002
SENTENCE LENGTH: 0 YEARS, 6 MONTHS, 0 DAYS

He served February – June 2003 in state custody for this crime.

2005: Harvey’s DNA is matched to the 1994 murder of Valerie Payton.

2008: Harvey is charged with Valerie Payton’s murder.

~~~

“I’m Back in Atlanta.  Mr. X.”

Living in Cabbagetown in the early 1990’s gave me a front-seat view of the realities of prostitution.  Not that they’re particularly difficult to discern from further distances.  Ironically however, just a few years later, I entered graduate school and found that academic feminists had a very different attitude towards what they euphemistically termed “sex work.”

While real feminists were pounding the halls of the Georgia legislature and city officials to strengthen laws against rapists, child molesters, and pimps who targeted children (Mayor Shirley Franklin’s finest legacy), many of the academic feminists I met were busy “celebrating” prostitution as a “liberatory practice.”

So, in a city where scores of prostitutes, including children, suffered addiction, disease, violence, rape, and murder as a direct consequence of their “careers,” the academics were excitedly playing at being fake prostitute labor organizers and paying fake professional “sex workers” like the repugnant Dolores French to come titillate them with trumped up stories about happy hookerdom.  French is married to defense attorney Michael Hauptman, who used to specialize in getting violent child molesters off (his e-mail name is loophole) — sort of a two-fer for those whose outrage over date rape never bled over into actually advocating for harsher sentencing for any rapists.

The distance between Valerie Payton’s murdered body and this dismal intellectual buffoonery?  Four miles, or a thousand light years.  Take your pick.  Meanwhile, I hope somebody in Atlanta will get to the bottom of Michael Harvey’s story.  Nothing is particularly clear right now.

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

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

Nejad, Before and After Dye Job

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

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

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

~~~

Criminal Appeals

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Update on Marcus Wellons, and the Eternal Appeals Machine

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

Jury Regrets Racy Candy That Fed Killer’s Appeal

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

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

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

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

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

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

~~~

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

images

Wayne Williams

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Q: Was Wayne Williams your most formidable opponent?

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

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

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

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

A: No, I haven’t kept up with them.

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

A: No. I don’t like graveyards.

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

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

A: No.

Q: Why did you make that appeal to him?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

~~~

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Michael Barber

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Michael Brown

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

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

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

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

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

Lots of them.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Do Jobs Programs Cause Crime?

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With something approaching fifty years of economic and crime statistics consistently disproving any correlation between recessions and crime, not to mention the last 12 months of terrible economic news coupled with still-dropping crime rates, you’d think journalists might finally start questioning their knee-jerk pronouncements about “lack of opportunity” being the primary motivation for unlawful behavior.

But they won’t.  Journalists simply can’t, I think, let go of the idea that young people (males, mostly) commit crime primarily because they are being unjustly deprived of economic opportunity.  To let that idea go would result in nothing less than the catastrophic collapse of a myth on which rests perhaps a fifth or more of the emotional underpinnings of the fourth estate.   It would require shifting culpability for criminal behavior from society at large, where journalists and policymakers are comfortable placing it, onto individuals who commit crimes (and in many cases their families and immediate communities, but no farther).

With the exception of some big city newsrooms, however, the rest of the world is moving on.  Journalists who cling to the disproved crime-economy calibration are even starting to sound out of step with many crime experts, and not just conservative think tank ones like Heather Mac Donald who have long argued against “root theories” of crime.  Even James Allen Fox of Northeastern University was quoted this week denying the correlation between recession and crime:

Prof. Fox said a common assumption that crime goes up during a recession is wrong. Historic data show there is little connection between economic conditions and crime, particularly violent crime.

Then again, this was an article in the Wall Street Journal.  Almost exactly a year ago, in a now-widely derided editorial, the New York Times drew a very different inference from Fox’s statements on the economy:

Federal and state programs that are supposed to provide jobs, services and counseling have been poorly financed for years. They are likely to suffer further as cash-strapped states look for ways to save money. The timing couldn’t be worse.

Fewer jobs programs are going to equal more crime, the Times cried.  They continued:

A new study by James Alan Fox and Marc Swatt of Northeastern University suggests that violent crime among young people may be rising, that the much-talked-about reduction in the crime rate in the 1990s may be over, and that much more must be done to prevent young people from succumbing to the gang culture.  The study also shows that the murder rate for black teenagers has climbed noticeably since 2000 while the rate for young whites has scarcely changed on the whole and, in some places, has actually declined. While more financing for local police would be useful, programs aimed at providing jobs and social services are far more important.

The inconsistency here is not Fox’s: he was calling for varied interventions, including policing.  But the Times is simply incapable of acknowledging the role of policing and incarceration in lowering crime rates.  They can’t stop chanting “jobs or crime,” even though economic and crime trends in the 1960’s, 1970’s, 1980’s, 1990’s, and now 2000’s utterly belie that claim.  Only one thing will stop crime, they insist (hysterically, it’s fair to say):

[T]he economic crisis has clearly created the conditions for more crime and more gangs — among hopeless, jobless young men in the inner cities. Once these young men become entangled in the criminal justice system, they are typically marginalized and shut out of the job market for life.  President-elect Barack Obama’s administration and Congress will need to address the youth crisis as part of the country’s deep economic crisis. That means reviving the federal summer jobs programs that ran successfully for more than 30 years.

Ah yes, summer jobs programs.  The single biggest graft incubator and inner-city political corruption cash cow since the mafia tipped its first garbage pail.  Start a riot and burn down all the legitimate businesses in your neighborhood?  Get a jobs program.  Serial killer on the loose?  Get a jobs program.  Fiscal conservatives take over Washington?  Get a jobs program to sop mayoral nerves.  Big government liberals take over Washington? Jobs programs, jobs programs, jobs programs.

After years of observing jobs programs in Atlanta, which is an epicenter of such things, I came to the conclusion that jobs programs themselves are a cause of crime, and not just the proximate crimes that arise directly from the grants-giving process, like kickbacks, or pay for play, or just plain stealing, though such graft is not inconsequential.  Beyond the immediate larceny, jobs programs grow a culture of extreme political corruption.  They bankroll the most crooked, on-the-make actors in city and county politics, many of whom started out on the jobs side of community outreach and resurfaced a few years later peddling substandard mortgages and community redevelopment scams, scams that contributed mightily to the current economic crisis.  When a critical mass of community leaders are on the make, when political appointees like chiefs of police are chosen by people who are themselves on the make, you get a culture where crime flourishes.

I’m no statistician, but somebody who is could probably create a nice chart correlating jobs program dollars with indictments for political corruption: in Atlanta, that chart would prominently feature former Mayor Bill Campbell, who built both his indictable inner circle and his “get out the vote” muscle on such programs, most notably the hundreds of millions of dollars in squandered and pilfered “empowerment zone” monies.  Hundreds of millions of dollars buys a lot of bad actors, large and small, from the “community activists” who can be relied on to squeal and grandstand for a few thousand bucks, to the classes who expect a few hundred thousand in contracts for their spouses and children in return for political cover.  These people didn’t care that some neighborhoods in the city were ringing with gunfire: that sound was merely cha-ching in their pockets as they held out their hands and Washington filled them with money.

Atlanta’s worst years, while crime skyrocketed and the mayor and his cronies ransacked city government, only came to an end after the jobs program money ran out, and chastened city leaders had to cope with the hangover.  And with this reality: jobs programs don’t create jobs: they create programs.  Once the grant money runs out, or, more likely, gets pocketed, there’s nothing left in its place.

The crack epidemic ended the same way: things got crazier and crazier and crazier until people burned out, or they went to jail and cleaned up their acts, or they died, and those who survived were more cautious not to go down that path again.

This time around, positive results are occurring in cities where police and courts, or the public, or all three engage in tactics that can be broadly named “broken windows” policing.  A neighborhood group that patrols its own streets and takes on vandalism and abandoned buildings and shows up in court to testify is engaging in broken windows policing, even if the police aren’t officially involved and the judiciary is still dragging its heels.  Atlanta is the best example of that happening at the community level — while New York, Los Angeles, and Orlando are proving the effectiveness of the “broken windows” theory directly through their police and courts.

In contrast, cities that continue to do things the “old way,” and, not incidentally, are still mired in the same old political culture — Philadelphia, Detroit, Chicago — still have high homicide rates, give or take a few points.

I don’t know what, if anything, will “tip” the current pockets of high-crime, inner-city culture away from self-destruction this time.  But empowering two-bit political hacks by handing them wads of money for fictional “jobs programs” will just make things worse.

No matter what the editorial board at the New York Times believes.

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

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(Hat tip to Pat)

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

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

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

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

Criminals know this, though the public remains largely oblivious.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You Have The Right to Commit Crime. Nothing You Say or Do Will be Used Against You in a Court of Law.

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Yesterday, I linked to one section of an interesting Philadelphia Inquirer series on chaos in the courts.  The entire series is worth reading, but you have to download a flash player to view it all (pathetically, that’s onerous for me): here’s the link.

Anyone who believes the problems described by the Inquirer are limited to the City of Brotherly Love has not visited a courtroom in their own jurisdiction lately.

Such problems are not even limited to our country, though the panoply of indulgences we shower on criminal defendants used to be the envy of criminals throughout the world.  As in so many other endeavors, the rest of the world is catching up with us.  Britain may be even more lenient than we are on serial recidivists, and simultaneously hard on ordinary people who break the law, a phenomenon crying out for a name.

See, for example, this from the U.K. Telegraph:

Businessman Jailed For Attacking Intruder, Who Goes Free

Munir Hussain, who was threatened at knifepoint and tied up by a gang of masked men in his living room last year, was told he must go to prison for 30 months to preserve “civilised society”.

But Walid Salem, a criminal with more than 50 convictions, was handed a two-year supervision order for his role in the break-in at an earlier hearing.

He was one of three men who ambushed Mr Hussain, his wife and children . . . Their hands were tied behind their backs and they were forced to crawl from room to room before being forced to lie down in the living room . . . when Hussain’s teenage son managed to escape and raise the alarm, he seized his chance and turned on his captors. While two of them got away, Salem was cornered in a neighbour’s front garden. With the help of his brother, Tokeer, 35, who lived nearby, Hussain set upon him with a metal pole and a cricket bat, the court heard.

Hussain and his brother got long prison sentences: 30 and 39 months, for retaliating in the heat of the moment against a man who was terrorizing their community and had tied up and threatened — in a word, tortured — Hussain’s wife and children.  Walid Salem, he of the torture and 50 priors, got no jail time.  No matter what you think of the Hussain brothers’ actions, it is hard to read the words of their sentencing judge without simply recoiling:

“[I]f persons were permitted to take the law into their own hands and inflict their own instant and violent punishment on an apprehended offender rather than letting justice take its course, then the rule of law and our system of criminal justice, which are the hallmarks of a civilised society, would collapse.”

Whatever part of walking free after 50 prior crimes and a current crime of such severity does not indicate the collapse of both civilization and the British system of criminal justice, eludes me.

Meanwhile, in Philadelphia:

Just 23 years old, John Gassew has been arrested 44 times, mostly on charges of sticking a gun in people’s faces and robbing them.

But in the eyes of the law, Gassew isn’t an armed robber.

He’s never been convicted.

Gassew has only been sent to jail once, for a drug charge.  So on the books, he looks just like all those imaginary people locked away for no reason other than that they once took a toke of pot.  Remember that the next time some activist starts ranting about the unfairness of our “barbaric” justice system.  It’s unfair, allright:

Despite being called one of the city’s more prolific, and sometimes violent, stickup men by police – they say he bashed a delivery man over the head with a bat, shot at a 13-year-old neighbor, and smashed in the face of a robbery victim – Gassew has been sentenced to jail only once, for a drug charge.

The Northeast Philadelphia man has become so confident in his ability to beat charges, police say, that he openly scoffs at the system. In December 2007, officers arrested him as he ran down a street, leaving behind a car that police said was filled with the loot from 21 robberies he committed in just one weekend.

“It looked like a store in there,” said Detective Bob Kane.

As Kane and Detective Robert Conn of the Northeast Detective Division tell it, when they confronted Gassew with four trash bags of evidence, he leaned back in his chair and told them he’d take his chances in court.

“The bad guys know that if they come in the front door, the back door is usually open,” Conn said.

That back door being the courts, where some bloviating magistrate listens hard to the sound of his own voice as he ushers felons back onto the streets.  It’s the same story everywhere:

A small-time criminal emboldened by a system that fails time and again to put him away graduates to more violent acts and, eventually, a standoff with police.

Gassew has beaten cases in almost every way – including three trials in which he was found not guilty after witnesses changed their story on the stand or were found not credible.

“Twenty-three years old and 44 priors. There’s no excuse for that,” said Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles H. Ramsey.

“A second chance? OK. A third chance? OK. But how about a 30th? At some point, you have to realize this guy’s a menace to society. You can’t keep cranking him out,” said Ramsey.

After a decade of attempts to crack down on gun crime, the streets of Philadelphia are still awash with armed robbers, and the courts are unable to put them away even when they are caught red-handed.

And why is that?  Because those “decades of attempts” coincided with and were not nearly as powerful as the vast and systematic dismantling of consequences for criminal actions enacted by an unholy cabal of activists, attorneys, academicians, all abetted by cherished public fantasies about our prisons being stuffed full of innocent men, and felons being misunderstood innocents crying out for help.

One of the most effective ways of keeping people out of prison is to de-fund the courts by creating unnecessary, virtually unenforceable sets of hoops to be jumped through in order to achieve a prosecution.  Philadelphia is the poster child for such legal shenanigans, but it’s bad everywhere, and behind every legal loophole, there’s some self-satisfied appellate judge telling his grandchildren how gramps bravely protected the poor and weak — criminals, that is.

That’s how streets ended up “awash” with crime.  Fitting adjective, awash:

Of the 9,850 gunpoint robberies reported in the city in 2006 and 2007, only a quarter were brought to court, according to an Inquirer analysis. In the end, only two in 10 accused armed robbers were found guilty of armed robbery.”There’s a law on the books that enhances the penalty when you commit a crime with a gun. It’s not enforced,” noted [Police Commissioner] Ramsey, referring to the state’s mandatory minimum five-year sentence for brandishing a firearm in the commission of a felony.

I would love to hear an explanation from any judge — or law professor — regarding the state of affairs that exists today, in Atlanta, Philadelphia, every major city, wherein judges and prosecutors simply disregard the laws they are required (you know, by law) to enforce.  I’ve never heard an explanation, nor have I heard one peep about censure of the many judges whose careless abdication of their responsibilities have most recently resulted in horrific subsequent crimes:

A 13-year-old girl who lived next door said Gassew pointed a sawed-off shotgun at her and asked, “Do you all want to die?”, before firing at her. A judge found the story credible enough to allow Gassew to be tried as an adult. But a different judge found him not guilty.

In May 2004, Gassew was charged with clubbing a pizza-delivery man over the head with a baseball bat and stealing about $100. The victim, who spoke only Spanish, identified Gassew at the scene and later in court. But Gassew was found not guilty after a witness changed her story on the stand.

Prosecutors said she was scared. Another neighbor, who also identified Gassew, failed to appear. Even a codefendant in one of Gassew’s robbery cases said he was scared of him.

Police say they had reason to be frightened. His own aunt, Neilene Calloway, took out an emergency restraining order on him in April 2005 after several armed men came looking for him at the house.

It appears that court authorities in Philadelphia were content to wait for Gassew to murder someone before they acted.  We are all responsible for letting such things go on.  We sacrifice victim after victim and do nothing:

Jennifer Mulholland, who was a bartender at Brian’s Sports Bar in Frankford, got a taste of [Gassew’s threat].

Gassew drank there often, she said in an interview, and befriended her.

One night in May 2006, Gassew said good night and left. A short time later, a man wearing a mask burst into the bar with a gun in his hand and demanded that she empty the register.

Mulholland thought it was Gassew. “Quit playing,” she told him.

“It’s not a joke,” the robber replied, pointing the silver gun at her head.

“I knew it was him,” she recalled.

He grabbed her by the neck and told her to open the register.

She gave him the money.

Mulholland, whose father is a police sergeant, said she was prepared to testify.

“I never got a court notice,” she said.

There are millions of Jennifer Mulhollands in this country (and elsewhere), victims whose lives were treated like garbage, and then “the system” decided they had no rights, who could have died and then were told that their right to even be heard in court was irrelevant because the rights of criminals are the only rights that matter at all.

I’m one of those people; my husband is another.  We were both merely lucky to survive.  So were the cops who ended up getting shot at by John Gassew, in the utterly inevitable, thankfully non-fatal, denouement of a decade of criminal negligence on the part of the Philadelphia court system issuing from the end of Gassew’s semiautomatic handgun.

The law comes down hard on decent people, while prolific thugs are literally groomed in-court by irresponsible judges and lawyers to escalate their violence to the tipping point.

At what point do people like us get some answers from those responsible?

Martez McKibben, Young Working Man Murdered in Another Robbery Turned Violent

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    McKibbon_20091207122849_320_240.JPGMartez McKibben
    I received the following notice from several people in Atlanta:

      21-year-old Kavader [Martez] McKibben was murdered Friday night while working at the Moreland Package store.  He was killed while two men committed an armed robbery – they shot him even though he’d already given them the money they asked for.  It all sounds too similar to the way John Henderson was murdered not even one year ago.McKibben  was known by many in our community and has been described as the guy who was  never in a bad mood and was always nice to everyone; was a pleasure to talk – had a good heart and a warm smile.

      We will be gathering in the parking lot of the package store tomorrow night [that would be tonight] at 7 to show our support of his family and friends.  The Moreland Package store is located near the intersection of Moreland Ave and Wylie St – beside the old Texaco gas station and across from the new Goodfella’s Pizza. Please join us, bring some friends and your candles, and let’s show our support for this sweet young man’s family and friends.  We will also be collecting money for his family to use to pay for funeral expenses.  If you’d like to donate, please bring a check with you to the vigil and we’ll let you know who to make it out to once we’re there.

      Amanda Blocker

    I don’t know if I ever met Kavander, but the older Asian man who owned the store was always kind to anyone who walked in the door, as were his employees.  You set a tone, and people rise to the occasion, and that’s how the social contract keeps going.  I often went to the convenience store across the street, and the laundromat a block south, and the Mexican restaurant down from the package store, the one in the holler.

    I mention these places because all of them get hit repeatedly by criminals.  When you think about it, there are few places where people haven’t had their lives threatened by common criminals along that strip of Moreland, and, frankly, emanating out from it in every direction, throughout the city.

    McKibbon’s mother also worked in the package store, for 20 years.  What will she do now?  Shaun Yu, the store owner, talks about watching McKibbon grow up in this amazingly sad Fox 5 interview.  Yu remembers the young man as a child of 10 and talks about the sense of humor the two shared.

    When will enough be enough? Judges in Atlanta act as if their courtrooms are private fiefdoms; prosecutors are too busy playing politics for their own professional advancement to bother expending political capital by asking for the money they need to do their jobs properly.

    Certain professional activists fat with grant dollars don’t pause to consider the consequences as they waddle towards the nearest microphone to lash out at the police or underhandedly encourage adolescents to “stop snitching” (until, of course, they get that grant from the Chief to encourage snitching instead).

    Meanwhile, decent, hard-working people like Martez McKibben and his boss, and all the other working people up and down Moreland Avenue are left to fend for themselves, as if they’re living in some post-apocalyptic movie, paid for with their own tax dollars.

    ‘How dare you complain?’ the politicians and police chiefs and newspaper editors sneer.  ‘It’s the big city, kiddies, crime happens.  Not where we live, of course, in our Inman Park mansions and gated penthouses with private patrols and security guards.  Didn’t we tell you it’s just a perception of crime?  The numbers are down, you hysterics.  Our pals in academia say they’re down, so how dare you complain about it.’

    Go light a candle for Kavander McKibben tonight.  Give his family some money to help bury a young man who was just starting his life.  Another one gone, one of five in another bloody Atlanta weekend.

The Possibilities of Realpolitick: Now That Kasim Reed or Mary Norwood Have Won the Atlanta Mayoral Election, What Will They Do?

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Regardless of who wins, they will have to address the betrayal of the public that marked Shirley Franklin and Richard Pennington’s last years.

Choosing a new police chief will be part of that.  But there are deeper problems.  Most, if not all of the people pictured below would be alive today if not for the radical leniency shown to repeat offenders in Atlanta’s courts.

A new mayor is limited in his or her power to directly impact the justice system.  But they control some purse strings, and as representatives of the city to the Georgia legislature, they can make it a legislative priorities to change the sentencing loopholes that still enable judges to go easy on recidivists and first-time offenders guilty of violent crimes.

People are dying because of this leniency.  What’s more important?

And as a prominent voice in politics, the new mayor can promote an ethic of selecting judges who view the courts as a place where everyone comes for justice, not a place where offenders go to be showered with attention, or just let go.

At the end of the day, 90% of the problems in our justice system boil down to resources and priorities.  What will the next mayor prioritize?  Or will he or she do nothing, as Franklin and Pennington did?

Look at these beautiful, kind faces.*  Pray for their families.

*I am sorry this gallery is far from complete.  These are pictures I have been keeping of murder victims killed in Atlanta since I started this blog.  There are others.

Turkey Seeking New Gravy Train, or Misunderstood Geek?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Or don’t.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

~~~

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How Not to Change

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Chief Pennington is leaving, but Al Sharpton has set up camp. Atlanta can’t catch a break.  From an Atlanta Journal Constitution article:

Sharpton Decries Black on Black Violence

In West Atlanta, Sharpton called thugs “a disgrace and a shame to the community.”  And he blamed civil rights leaders like himself for failing to rein in violence.

Nearby, youths held signs urging peace as drivers honked their horns.

Sharpton called for town hall meetings in each of the cities that were participating in Monday’s event.

“None of us have done enough,” he said.

I think Al Sharpton has done quite enough already.  I smell grant money, federal or county or city: somebody should check to see exactly how much Sharpton’s palm is getting greased, and by whom, for this so-called “National Day of Outrage.”  Such things aren’t done for free.  We always pay for them, through Weed and Seed or some other Justice Department tax-dollar give-away, or city funds, or police discretionary budgets that are supposed to be used to, you know, catch criminals.

Follow the money, especially the public safety budget.  Remember back in July, when Pennington and Mayor Franklin finally got around to holding a press conference on crime?  Then the ministers got in on the action, rallying behind a local Sharpton affiliate.  Now Sharpton shows up.  Do you have any idea how much you might be paying for these professional activists?

That’s Chief Pennington standing with Markel Hutchins, an anti-cop activist and local Sharpton representative.  He has a history of sowing divisiveness between communities and police officers.  Why did Pennington join hands with him, and by extension, Sharpton?  Did the Chief actually have this little respect for his own officers?

Good cops risk their lives every day to protect residents in dangerous neighborhoods.  In other cities, the Chief of Police doesn’t get into bed with people like Sharpton.  Pennington did.  If any of Sharpton’s “activism” is being bankrolled by city public safety taxes, or the feds, whoever approved of such expenditures needs to be held accountable.

~~~

The arrival of Sharpton this week to “speak out about crime” reminded me of a comment somebody made on the AJC‘s website after Pennington and Mayor Franklin finally deigned to hold a press conference to scold the public for caring about crime.  File it under “be careful what you wish for, because you might end up paying for Al Sharpton’s lunch.”

Seriously, though, it’s worth reading:

“Captain”   July 30th, 2009

Where are the City’s self proclaimed righteous and pious leaders such as Rev Joseph Lowery, Rev Markel Hutchins, Tyrone Brooks and others? The same leaders who were so quick to go after Police Officers who shot a car thief some 3 yrs ago are silent during this crime wave. Where are they? These are Atlanta’s self appointed leaders who called for “Community Review Boards” to monitor APD, who routinely protested action by APD, never failing to find fault with virtually every aspect of APD operations. Much of this current crime wave is as a direct result of their anti-Police actions and activities of the past several years. These same leaders can’t wait to villify police officers, call for investigations, call white officers ‘racist’, accuse the Police of being ‘out of control’ when the Police do their job. Amazingly, when an athlete is gunned down by those trying to steal his vehicle, when a City council members vehicle is stolen we have a crime wave and they demand action from that same Police force they’ve hammered with relentless accusation after accusation the last four years. The message from Atlanta’s high and might self appointed leaders has been crystal clear to the outlaws during the past few years, the Police are not to be respected, nor are the laws.

“Captain,” whoever he is, is absolutely right.  These activists have been tearing down the police for decades.  They invented the very “no-snitching” anti-cop culture they’re now suddenly so eager to grandstand against.  “Captain” continues:

The ‘thugs’ are running the streets doing as they please. For months it was the ongoing ’smash and grab’ across the city, store after store, time after time. Then it was home breakins, apartment breakins, Atlantic Station breakins, then they moved to shooting restaurant employees, store clerks, followed up by assaulting and robbing college students, now the crowd has moved to car jackings. What a surprise!!! Who could have seen that coming?

Where are Rev Lowery, REv Hutchins, Tyrone Brooks and others today? Their war against the Police Dept has resulted in today’s crime wave. When police officers are treated as these self proclaimed leaders have treated them, is it any surprise the ‘thugs’ feel they have no constraints? I have to wonder, if an APD officer shot and killed one of these outlaws during an attempted car jacking tonight, would one of Atlanta’s ‘leaders’ applaud the Police or call for an investigation, a community review board, prosecution of the officer, and if he were white, allegations of racism and calls for a FBI probe?

Why can’t these same pompous and self proclaimed leaders who have,by their actions, contributed to this current crime wave take to the podium, in front of those TV cameras they so adore, and publically call for Atlanta’s citizens to rise up, stop the crime, and encourage the APD to do all within it’s power to make the City safe? Why won’t they publically SUPPORT APD rather than again ‘blaming”? Why are they so quick to speak out and blame, yet so silent when times call for real and honest leadership? Atlantans are reaping what has been sown, it’s a shame, a real shame.

Some might say that any anti-crime advocacy is welcome, even from the likes of Al Sharpton.  But Sharpton has attacked crime victims, unrepentantly ruined an innocent man’s life with false allegations of rape, and repeatedly incited racial antagonism and violent protests, one of which led to an arson attack where several people burned to death.  He has no business claiming to be a leader against violent crime.  

And then there’s the money.  A few years ago, Sharpton was busy shaking down other people over other causes; now he smells green in people’s demands for safe streets.  Don’t let him leech off the anti-crime movement: it’s disrespectful to victims, and he will do everything he can to divide people by race, which will shatter chances for change in the long run.  Staged activities like “National Days of Outrage” do nothing to stop crime.  They garner a few headlines and line Sharpton’s pockets, while real representatives of the community continue to be frozen out by politicians like Franklin and Pennington, the types of regressive politicians who benefit when people are pitted against each other.

And that’s what Sharpton does best.

If local ministers really want to unite all Atlantans against crime, they must honor all victims and distance themselves from Sharpton and his ilk.  If they want to work to heal divisions between some neighborhoods and the police through personal example, more power to them.  But the movement must be inclusive, and it must be a two-way street with the police: activists need to acknowledge the risks cops take and the thankless work they do in the face of hostilities fired up by people like Sharpton.

It was bad enough that Pennington and Franklin only came out of the bat cave after a well-known athlete got killed.  With that said, kudos to Vernon Forrest’s family for using their influence to push city leaders to action.  But now, if anti-crime activists choose to acknowledge only some crimes, as Sharpton is trying to do, it is a step backward, not forward, for the city.

Anything involving Sharpton is a step back.  He has no business in decent company. (Et tu, Newt G.?)

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

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

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

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

~~~

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

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

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

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

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

Anyway, what I actually wrote was this:

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

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

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

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

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

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

~~~

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

~~~

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

~~~

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Courts in Crisis? Thank a Defense Attorney.

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So suddenly the Fulton County Courts cannot function, thanks to a huge planned budget cut.  But how were they functioning before, with violent felons and repeat offenders getting a free stroll out the door for a variety of reasons?  This is a scene playing out across the country:

Georgia’s biggest court system warned Wednesday that a 2010 Fulton County proposal that cuts $53 million from the judicial budget could force them to shut down the courthouse, jeopardize death penalty cases and slash as many as 1,000 jobs.

Fulton County’s judicial leaders declared an “economic state of emergency” and warned that the cuts, which amount to about a fourth of Fulton County’s judicial budget, would lead to drastic changes at the Fulton County Jail, the sheriff’s office along with prosecutors, judges and public defenders.

“This is not something you can adjust to,” said Doris Downs, the county’s chief superior court judge. “This is going to dismantle the justice system.”

The proposed cuts, which were released last week, are part of a spending plan that would slash the county’s funding by $148.2 million in 2010. Downs and other judicial leaders said the cuts came as a surprise to them and urged commissioners to rethink the spending plan before it plunges the legal system into a “crisis.” . . .

Among the possible aftershocks, said Downs, is a more aggressive early release program to lower jail expenses.

Not so fast.

If judges feel they must circumvent justice for even more victims, they had better allow the public to see precisely how many victims are being denied justice already, through failures to prosecute offenders or sentence them properly, and then let the public decide where resources should be cut.  It’s their money.  And their safety.

If the courts want the public to support their efforts to prevent these budget cuts, they must start having a conversation with the public.

The sanctimonious anti-incarceration activists who call themselves journalists are howling that the real emergency is that we must find more more money to spend on death penalty defendants.  Or else the most horrible thing will happen: murderers won’t get phalanxes of silk stocking lawyers jetted in, all expenses paid, to bloviate about nothing for months on end while making a mockery of the notion of truth in justice.

This is a crisis manufactured by the defense bar.  This is about defense lawyers taking away the public’s right to decide whether or not to try people for death by spending all their money on the defense of one man, then crying poor, stomping their feet, and demanding that all defendants get as many lawyers as the last defendant.

They shouldn’t be allowed to get away with this anymore.  Where does it say that defendants deserve teams of expensive private lawyers, rather than public defenders?  The public gets public prosecutors on a shoestring: why do certain criminals fly first class on our dime?  None of this has anything to do with “fair trials” or “the right to a defense”: it is the defense bar pillaging the system to force legislation by other means — the destruction of death penalty trials.

And no matter what you think of the death penalty, don’t think they’ll stop there: life without parole is the next thing in their sights, once death penalty trials are priced out of existence.

Why have we permitted jury selection to bloat into weeks-long parades of experts?  Why has the right to an attorney morphed into the right to six private activist lawyers jetted in to game the system with frivolous inanities as earnest journalists fancying themselves “speaking truth to power” lovingly cover the spectacle?

And, meanwhile, how many cases end up not being prosecuted at all because of such charades?

Before the courts simply inform the public that they will have to accept more violent criminals walking because the defense bar went on a bender, they must speak up about the real costs and pressures on the system.  They must open their books.  And they must finally stand up to the dysfunction they know is ruling the Clerk of Court’s Office and other parts of the system.

Everybody knows which things waste money and which people have no business representing the justice system.  If the public is going to be asked to take yet another hit, they at least deserve an honest conversation in the process.

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

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

This is what happens to the offender:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

~~~

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Contretempestuousness or Tempestucontretemps in Marvin Arrington’s Courtroom

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Pardon the brief hiatus from journalistic ethics week, which I’ll just roll over into journalist ethics fortnight, Jane Austen style.

Everybody was behaving so ethically out there, I just lost steam.  Nobody ran headlines falsely accusing the families of the D.C. sniper victims of being “vengeful” for saying things like: “It helped to see the completion.  It helped to a degree,” upon witnessing John Muhammad’s execution.  Nobody made utterly false allegations of prosecutorial malfeasance, claiming, “[t]here are several documented cases where DNA testing showed that innocent people were put to death by the government,” then refused to correct the record when it was brought to his attention that there are actually no documented cases where DNA testing showed that innocent people were put to death by the government (and that’s according to death penalty opponents).

~~~

Nope, everybody in the fourth estate is just behaving so well, there’s no point in blogging about such things, especially when another outburst of crazy in the Fulton County Superior Court is raising troubling questions, again:

A disagreement between a judge and a senior assistant prosecutor last month erupted on Thursday into a heated confrontation in a back hallway of the Fulton County Courthouse between the judge and the district attorney. . . The fracas is rooted in an Oct. 6 murder trial of Randy Murray, charged with killing a man in a dispute in order to steal some marijuana.

In a nutshell (you can read the details here), Judge Marvin Arrington lashed out at a Senior ADA during a murder trial and ordered her to pay a fine for “trying to be smart” with him.  District Attorney Paul Howard told his ADA not to pay the fine, and Arrington subsequently had the attorney taken into police custody when she showed up in court on a different case.  Howard and Arrington then had a “ruckus in the back hallway,” as Arrington put it, in his inimitable legalese; Arrington filed a contempt order against Howard and his ADA; the Georgia Supreme Court issued a temporary stay of the order, and now everyone’s waiting to see what happens when the second shoe drops, joining a growing pile of other second shoes littering the hallways of the Fulton County Superior Court.

Paul Howard denies behaving threateningly to Arrington.  Here is what he had to say (Arrington, in contrast, had his say by throwing an lawyer into jail for allegedly dissing him, remember):

Howard issued a statement on Thursday saying, “The Contempt Order issued by Judge Arrington in this case is just plain wrong. It sullies the reputation of one of the finest, most honorable and ethical lawyers in this country.

“The transcript of the October 6th case shows clearly that [Senior ADA Linda] Dunikoski was courteous and professional at all times while standing up for her right to cross-examine a defendant charged with murder. Judge Arrington, for some unknown reason, did not allow her to complete her cross-examination after only 45-minutes of questioning.”

He continued, “As is my right as District Attorney, I orally objected to the wrongful and illegal incarceration of Ms. Dunikoski. Her incarceration was demeaning, inappropriate and injudicious. My office disagrees with Judge Arrington’s characterization of my actions and welcomes further examination of this matter.”

I’ve had my own strange run-in with Arrington, which I’ll detail next week.  So have many others.  Arrington is a lightning rod, but there are more important issues that, I hope, won’t be subsumed by the Sturm und Drang of personality conflict and fist-cuffies:

  • Was Arrington wrong to shut down ADA Dunikowski’s cross-examination of a defendant in a murder case?  Did his attitude, or judgment (or judicial philosophy) stand in the way of doing his job, which is to ensure that jurors receive all appropriate information about a defendant in order to make an informed decision about his guilt?
  • If so, is anybody going to actually do something about it?  When is the state going to acknowledge that it can’t run a judicial oversight board on the pocket change collected from redeeming soda cans in each courthouse?  Or is everyone going to keep behaving as if judges are simply above scrutiny, no matter the consequences of their carelessness, inattention, or sheer violation of the Georgia Code?
  • Likewise, are there going to be any consequences for Arrington’s rash act of interrupting another court proceeding to have an ADA arrested?  Is anybody in the media going to ask him, point-blank, whether he thinks he did the right thing in interrupting the people’s business and using the power of the bench that way?  Or is this headline just going to fade away, like all the rest?

I wish the media would be more forthcoming and inquisitive about the operations of the courts.  The public is denied access to virtually every important aspect of the functioning of our court system, and they can only gain partial access to what is going on if enough of them actually skip work to go sit in every courtroom, every day, observing all the proceedings, because the powers-that-be in the justice system deem their own actions above public scrutiny.  Spend a week or two reading this blog from the Orlando courts, and you’ll get an idea of what you’re missing.

When things erupt in soap opera fashion, it’s all good fun, or not (until somebody loses an eye, of course), but we need to be more than entertained (or horrified).

It is unacceptable that the judiciary chooses to keep their actions cloaked in darkness, rather than making the effort to make every case disposition available to the public (not to mention their dockets, so we can see who is getting what done, or not).  It is a disgrace that we cannot log onto the internet and see the outcome of every criminal case.  These records are, of course, being recorded electronically behind closed doors.  It would take about two lunch breaks for some Georgia Tech student to install a system to share this data with the public, along with court transcripts detailing the real goings-on in our courtrooms.

I had several people ask me questions about the judges up for election this time, and I couldn’t offer any information.  The fact that there is no way to evaluate the performance of any individual sitting judge is a situation that desperately needs to change before the next election.  If somebody decided to run for Judge (and let’s not forget Clerk of Court, still firmly in the grip of the machine-politics-patronage-cabal) on a platform of bringing total transparency to his or her courtroom, imagine the difference that simple, ethical, democratic gesture would make.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I’m at a loss.

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

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

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

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

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