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

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

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

Let’s meet a few:

Lonnie Hyram Johnson, Utah

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

Onto Denver:

Edward Romero, Colorado

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

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

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

David Thomas Orton

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Judge Bronfin is refusing to explain his sentencing decision.

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

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

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

Apparently so.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Like Aaron Davon Williams did:

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

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

Ruben Reyes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What a tool.  But I digress.

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

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

Kevin McGregor

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

~~~

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

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

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

Let’s see the savings in that.

Al Franken’s Latest Rape Joke: Chatigny Advances

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Robert Chatigny, whose controversial advocacy for serial killer Michael Ross may have inspired Obama to nominate him to the Circuit Court, advanced out of the Senate Judiciary Committee on a party-line vote.  I wrote here about the reasons why I think Obama would nominate someone like Chatigny:

Obama Shows Contempt for Victims

Chatigny’s supporters, especially Senator Amy Klobuchar, have argued that singling out the Michael Ross case misrepresents the judge’s overall record.  To the contrary, I think his treatment of Ross typifies his approach to criminal law.  Chatigny opposes minimum mandatory sentencing and registration for sex offenders.  He repeatedly delivered minimum or less-than-minimum sentences to men convicted of various sex crimes.  In opinions, he expressed sympathy for all sorts of excuses made by offenders.  He is a judge who has gone out of his way to practice leniency for sex offenders throughout his career.

And before he was a judge, he represented Woody Allen.  You can’t make this stuff up.  So why would the president choose Chatigny over other candidates?  From the Washington Times:

Judge Chatigny has a weird record of empathy for those accused of sexual crimes involving children. It started when he served as co-counsel for director Woody Allen in 1993-94 when Mr. Allen filed a complaint against a prosecutor for discussing in public the potential charges against the moviemaker for reportedly abusing a minor stepchild. Mr. Allen and Mr. Chatigny lost both administrative proceedings in the case.  In another case, the U.S. Supreme Court eventually reversed Judge Chatigny, unanimously, when the judge tried to rule against one aspect of his state’s version of a Megan’s Law sex-offender registry. In 12 child-pornography cases, Judge Chatigny imposed a sentence either at or more lenient than the recommended minimum – with most downward departures involving sentences less than half as long. And in an outrageous case of judicial abuse, Judge Chatigny threatened to take away an attorney’s law license if the lawyer failed to appeal the death sentence of an eight-time murderer of girls and young women. The judge claimed the killer’s “sexual sadism” was a mental disorder that made the murderer himself a victim.

This and other defense attorney ilk is thick on the ground in Washington these days.  During the Chatigny hearings, Sen. Patrick Leahy incontinently ranted about innocent men (purportedly) being rescued from near-death on death row.  Not only is this subject irrelevant to the Michael Ross case, but anti-incarceration activists have wildly exaggerated the prevalence of actual wrongful conviction and misrepresented the majority of cases in which convicts are released from death row.  It may be surprising to hear it, given the strong presumptions to the contrary by people like senators and anchormen and pretty much everyone else, but activists have not, to date, produce evidence that even one person has been wrongfully executed in the U.S. since 1972 (some would set the date far earlier, but the possibility of evaluating the two dozen cases identified by activists spanning 1900 – 1972 are slim).

Between 1972 and 2010, however, there were 700,000  murders in the U.S.

Virtually no one is released from death row because anyone thought they were innocent; they are re-sentenced to serve life or other prison terms because of clemency or reversals in some element of their convictions (disputes over mitigating factors, technicalities, court errors).  These cases then get cynically misrepresented by activists as innocence cases.  Wrongful conviction for capitol crime, while of course tragic, is nearly non-existent, and when it happens, the system works.

By carelessly repeating utter lies about our prisons being stuffed with innocent men, Leahy contributes to an atmosphere in which judges like Chatigny justify their dangerous biases against incarceration for anyone, no matter their crime.  To talk about wrongful convictions in a hearing that is supposed to be addressing the refusal to enforce unambiguously rightful conviction is just exploitative.  But nobody dares to call upon people like Leahy to provide facts.

Just to be clear about what happened: the Democrats, who claim the mantle of women’s rights, voted for a judge with a reputation for going particularly easy on sex criminals, a man who called a serial killer’s sexual compulsions a “mitigating factor” for the murders of young girls, and who now calls his advocacy for this killer “a learning experience” but also says he’d do it again.  The Republicans, who stand accused of neglecting women’s rights, all voted against Chatigny (Feinstein, in a real show of courage, simply declined to vote).

Voting For Chatigny:

  • Patrick Leahy
  • Russ Feingold
  • Arlen Spector
  • Chuck Schumer
  • Dick Durbin
  • Benjamin L. Cardin
  • Sheldon Whitehouse
  • Amy Klobuchar
  • Ted Kaufman
  • Al Franken

Voting Against:

  • Jeff Sessions
  • Orrin Hatch
  • Chuck Grassley
  • Jon Kyl
  • Lindsey Graham
  • John Cornyn
  • Tom Coburn

Remember Al Franken’s first rape joke, in this never-run skit about Andy Rooney for Saturday Night Live?

“And ‘I give the pills to Lesley Stahl. Then when Lesley’s passed out, I take her to the closet and rape her.’ Or ‘That’s why you never see Lesley until February.’ Or, ‘When she passes out I put her in various positions and take pictures of her.”

Here is the N.O.W.’s response to the controversy over that one:

[T]he Franken campaign distributed a statement in his defense from Shannon Drury, president of Minnesota’s chapter of the National Organization of Women.  “Now [the skit] is being used as an excuse to label him a misogynist. Nothing could be further from the truth,” Drury wrote Tuesday. “In fact, Al Franken will be a senator who will work tirelessly in support of women’s issues. After meeting with Al personally, I find his honesty and openness refreshing, his intelligence and perseverance inspiring.”

Who says feminists can’t take a joke? Or make one?  The N.O.W. is staying silent on the Chatigny nomination, of course.   Thank goodness we have principled feminists like Tom Coburn, Jeff Sessions, Orrin Hatch, and Lindsey Graham to speak for women in the Senate.  I really mean that.

Meanwhile, the conservative Concerned Women for America are protesting Chatigny’s nomination.  Click on the link in the Penny Nance article below for troubling footage of the Senate nomination hearings:

Brutal Rapists and Serial Killers Find an Advocate in Obama’s Latest Pick

Do you ever wonder WHO those insane judges are that believe sexual predators are only sick and should thus not be given maximum sentences?  I think those judges are unfit to rule.  However, President Obama apparently wants to give one a promotion.

Michael Ross, in a documentary on serial killers, describes how he tied up 14-year-old Leslie Shelley, put her in the trunk of his car, and “took the other girl, April Bernaise [also 14] out and I raped her, and killed her, and I put her in the front seat.”  He said he killed eight girls, ages 14-25, and if he wasn’t caught, he’d still be killing.

It was of this man that Robert Chatigny, a U.S. District Judge in Connecticut, said: “[Michael Ross] never should have been convicted.  Or if convicted, he never should have been sentenced to death.”  Then Chatigny fought to stop Mr. Ross’ execution — twice — and was both times overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Robert Chatigny is President Obama’s latest nominee to the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals, a lifetime appointment spot and can be a stepping stone to the Supreme Court. . .

Chatigny was grilled by Republican Senators recently in his Judiciary Committee hearing.  Only one Democrat Senator showed up, and she asked no hard questions of the rapist defender.  Here’s a shocking video from the hearing, interspersed with an interview from Michael Ross himself on how he killed and raped his victims.

June 1st, 2010 by Penny Nance

The Guilty Project: Who Let Child Rapist John Speights Escape on Bond? And What About Those Other 30 Arrests?

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This is John Speights. He strolled out of a Tampa courthouse last week during his trial for raping a 12-year old child and disappeared.  The sheriff couldn’t stop him because a judge had let him bond out back in 2008, when he was originally charged with ten counts of child rape.  And, oh yeah, he’s been arrested at least 30 other times in Tampa alone for charges including battery, bigamy, aggravated assault, cruelty to a child and domestic violence, yet he has no state prison record, which means that prosecutors had to drop some or all of those charges, or other judges cut him serial breaks for multiple violent crimes . . . or all of these things happened, enabling him to remain free to rape children.

The police catch ‘em and the courts let ‘em go:

John Speights, aka “Poppa Love”

Oh and, by the way, Speights impregnated his child victim, yet the judge granted bond anyway, even, apparently, after the results of the DNA test were known.  The child victim gave birth two years ago, and Speights was unambiguously identified as the father.

If ten counts of child rape affirmed by DNA doesn’t count as a no-bond situation, what does count?

Was the judge who let him go in 2008 (despite knowing about the DNA) the same judge who presided over Speight’s trial last week, or did two entirely different Tampa judges independently make the same troubling call: that a man who impregnated a little girl should be permitted to remain free while being tried for an offense that would put him behind bars for life?

And if there were two judges involved, why didn’t the trial judge withdraw Speight’s bond?  Is this another case of one judge not wishing to “second guess” the decision of another (see here, here, and here)?

The judge who let Speights bond out in 2008 put his child victim, a relative, in grave danger, but she’s hardly the only child who was endangered by Speight’s bond.  Speights has fathered 32 children of his own, and he raped his victim in a household where 12 of his children were also living.  So he was committing child rape in a house with 12 other potential victims, and he even committed child rapes in a room where his infant was sleeping, and yet, some judge looked at this evidence and let him go back to that household and those children to await trial?

That betrays a profound lack of seriousness in the court’s approach to this crime.

For, does anybody actually believe Speights only raped one little girl?  Besides the judge, that is?  Thanks to DNA, prosecutors and police were able to build the current case against him, but detectives told America’s Most Wanted that they had tried to build sexual assault cases against Speights in the past, only to have the victims withdraw out of fear.  Given that, and his prior arrests for acts of violence against women and children, and the fact that his relatives are defending him and have turned on the current victim, there is no way this man should have been permitted to see the light of day since his first appearance in the courtroom two years ago.

Not only is Speights a violent child sexual predator who tried to flee the police when they went to arrest him for child rape, but he is an extremely dangerous type of violent child sexual predator: one who has groomed a cabal of accessories among his own family.  The family is so well-trained that they left the courtroom when he waved his hand, marching out as he absconded.

It takes a village to rape a child.

In this case, the “village” includes Speights’ family, the Hillsborough County Courts, and twisted exclusionary rules that make it nigh-on impossible to mount a successful prosecution of even the worst offenders.  Not a very nice place to live, this village.  How many other children are in danger from Speights at this very minute?

It utterly defies comprehension how some judge could sit in a courtroom, look at Speights’ 30 prior arrests, his prior history of absconding, the intimidation of the victim, the age of the victim, the impregnation of the victim, the evidence of rapes committed in the presence of an infant and multiple other children, the record of violence, the family members supporting the rapist, and still say: “Hey, here’s a guy who deserves to be released on his own recognizance.”

And why isn’t anyone in the media asking the right questions? Instead of asking the court why a dangerous child rapist with a history of fleeing police was granted bond in the first place and then had that bond upheld by the trial judge, reporters asked the sheriff why he couldn’t keep Speights from leaving the courthouse.  The answer, of course, was simple: the law wouldn’t allow them to stop him, once the judge granted bond:

Speights had been free on $60,000 bond since 2008. According to Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Larry McKinnon . . . when a person has been released on bond, it is not the responsibility of the bailiffs to monitor them when they are in court. They are allowed to go as they please, although they have been entrusted to show up for all court matters.  “The bailiff’s responsibility is to monitor the proceedings of the court and not to guard or supervise those out on bond. That’s why they’re out on bond,” McKinnon said.

Reporters have carefully avoided naming any of the judges involved.  I imagine that’s because they know that if any judges get criticized, they will lose valuable media access to all judges.  That’s how the game gets played, after all.  I’ve had more than one reporter tell me so.  Easier to point fingers at the nearest cop and call it a day.

And God forbid if Bill O’Reilly comes knocking on the courtroom doors about another Tampa rapist inappropriately cut loose by a judge.

~~~

America’s Most Wanted featured Speights on their show and have offered something nobody in the local press seemed to think important: a detailed description of the man, and his tattoos.  They’re hard to miss:

5 feet 10 inches tall and 205 pounds — and he’s covered with tattoos, including: praying hands and Playboy bunny on his right arm; snowman and tiger on right shoulder; cross with a rose on his left arm; a rose with the name “Twandra” on his chest; “Pop” on the left side of his chest; “$$$” on the inside of his left thigh; and the word “Psych” tattooed on the left side of his neck.  Catch this convict before he hurts someone else. Call us right now at 1-800-CRIME-TV if you’ve seen him.

Rapists, Child Molesters Treated With Most Lenience: Washington Examiner

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Why does it seem like the people who commit the most heinous sex crimes are the ones getting multiple breaks from the courts?  Apparently, I’m not the only person wondering.  I certainly hope the Washington Examiner doesn’t mind that I’m copying their article in its entirety.  It’s so staggeringly rare to find stories outside the “Hooray, We’re Emptying the Prisons” media drumbeat these days:

Freed criminals prey on public

By: Scott McCabe
Examiner Staff Writer
March 21, 2010

From left: Darryl Hazel, Robert Joseph Williams and Virgilio Nunez

Cops hunt felons turned loose by system

A high percentage of the top fugitives sought by U.S. marshals in the region had been in the hands of authorities only to slip away through cracks in the legal system or questionable judicial decisions.
Of the criminals designated “Most Wanted” by the Capital Area Regional Fugitive Task Force, more than 70 percent had been released from custody for various reasons, requiring marshals’ deputies to track them down again.

Imagine the cost of tracking these felons down, not once, but twice, and sometimes more than that.

Some presented a clear danger to area residents:

» Two-time convicted killer Darryl Hazel was two months out of prison when he was arrested on drug charges, released on his own recognizance and went into hiding.

» After Virgilio Nunez was charged with 15 counts of child sex abuse involving multiple children, the El Salvador native was allowed to post $10,000 bail. He remains on the loose, authorities said.

» Robert Joseph Williams was out on supervised parole after serving 20 years of a 35-year prison sentence for raping his adoptive mother. He was put on supervised probation. But during that time he was charged again with drug distribution. He violated the conditions of his probation and disappeared.

» D.C. Jail inmate William Brice, awaiting trial in a near-fatal shooting, was allowed to be released into the custody of his defense attorney and attend his father’s funeral. The inmate fled the funeral, his lawyer failed to notify the court and Brice has the been on the run for more than two years.

William Chambliss, a criminologist at American University, said the biggest mistake when talking about the law or the courts is to think the system is rational, organized and precisely managed.

“It’s fundamentally flawed,” Chamblis said. “It’s impossible to create a large bureaucracy that is not going to make a lot of stupid mistakes.”

Hazel, 33, already had two murder convictions under his belt when he was re-arrested in D.C. for misdemeanor marijuana and heroin charges last year. At age 15 he pleaded to the shotgun death of a Capitol Hills store clerk. At age 22, Hazel killed again, this time in Northern Virginia. He pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in federal court, served eight years hard time and was placed on probation.

So this guy killed two people.  He served something less than 15 years for two murders.  The D.C. court simply decided to stop monitoring him, and once they got around to picking him up again, he’d been involved in another shooting:

According to records, after his drug arrest, D.C. court officials attempted to call Hazel’s probation officer but the officer had been transferred and the replacement was unavailable. Five days later, the U.S. Attorney’s Office withdrew its request to keep him behind bars.

Hazel was set free and told to return to court in four weeks. He didn’t.

Seven months later, on the day he was featured as a Most Wanted fugitive in The Examiner, U.S. marshals said they got a tip from a reader who reported that Hazel was living under the name of a dead relative. Marshals arrested him.

During their investigation, detectives discovered that Hazel was involved in a shooting three months earlier while using his alias. Hazel has not been charged in connection with the shooting.

Hey, why bother charging him?  It’s just his third known violent crime.  And the other two were just murders.  Yet what you read in virtually every newspaper, day after day, is overstimulated, breathless reporting on “alternative sentencing,” emptying the prisons, and the newest pro-offender cash-cow, “prisoner re-entry.”

None of these initiatives, they tell, us, will apply to violent offenders, of course.

They’re lying:

The most lenient cases, said one Maryland prosecutor, seem to fall on people accused of sex, child abuse or domestic violence crimes, especially if the supsect “doesn’t look like central casting with the knuckles dragging to the floor.” One violent sex offender had to be picked up three times for violating his parole.

Virgilio Nunez, 44, was indicted on 15 counts of child sex abuse in February 2009 when a Montgomery County court commissioner allowed him to post a $10,000 bond, authorities said. Nunez, who was born in El Salvador, hasn’t been seen since. Nunez’s court records were sealed under adoption privacy laws.

State’s attorney for Montgomery County John McCarthy’s office said he could not comment.

Valencia Mohammed, a victim’s rights advocate who lost two sons in separate killings, said she’s amazed that Nunez was allowed to post bail.

“Immigrants seem to be let off on things that I know that we would be held on,” Mohammed said. “Why give them the opportunity flee? Why put the bail so low or make the sentence so lenient that you let the person out to commit so harm? It makes no sense.”

Joe diGenova, former U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia, said these incidents are inevitable in a system that handles huge numbers of cases.

It happens all the time,” said diGenova. He said sanctions should be considered against judicial officials whose mistakes endanger the public. “This is important stuff,” he said. “The public relies on the function of the system.”

Good luck with that “judicial sanction” fantasy.  Judges are above the law: there are barely any mechanisms by which they censure each other, and forget about the rest of us weighing in.  What of that defense attorney who helped his client escape?  Were there even consequences?

Duplicative, hyper-vigilant review boards monitor every move the police make; civil rights organizations scream endlessly over every defendant’s rights and privileges; prosecutors face a rising tide of disruptive legal actions to keep them from doing their jobs.  But defense attorneys can do virtually anything in court with no fear of censure, and judges who fail to enforce sentencing law or make appalling errors that result in wrongful releases are never held responsible.  Not even when someone gets murdered as a consequence of their carelessness.

No, consequences are for the little people.  The non-lawyers, non-judges, non-criminals.

~~~

Here is a very interesting post from Britain by a cop who sees the same thing, day in and day out.  The cops pick them up, and the courts cut them loose, says PCBloggs:

[I]t disturbs me that the courts seem to operate in a world apart from the rest of us, with no accountability whatsoever when flagrantly ludicrous decisions are made and a nonsense made of facts. I have sat in court and heard a defence solicitor telling a magistrate that his client had not been in trouble with the police since the incident in question, with no recourse whatsoever for me to leap to my feet clutching the defendant’s police print screaming “Damned lies!” If a police officer falsely presented facts in court, regardless of whether through ignorance or malice, they would be rightly investigated and potentially prosecuted.

Likewise, if a police officer attended a report of child rape and decided to leave the offender wandering free to attack his next victim, he would probably be jailed for neglect. This judge remains free to continue unchecked. It appears that in the interests of a fair trial, anything goes.
So should the Yorkshire Ripper achieve his parole and go onto offend days, weeks or months later, the judge who frees him would at the worst face removal from office via an internal process. More likely, they would merely be villified in the press but no actual sanctions brought, largely because there are no serious disciplinary or criminal measures that can be brought. I am not suggesting we can or should realistically prosecute masses of judges for manslaughter or neglect for every offender who reoffends under their grammercy. But why should those options be ruled out when they weigh on the minds of every other member of the criminal justice process? Why should accountability fall at the last hurdle?
Why should accountability fall at the last hurdle?  Indeed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fox News reports:

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

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

Michael Ross: Not a Victim

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

~~~

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

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

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

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?

The Guilty Project: Patrick Hampton

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From the Bradenton (FL) Herald:

Repeated Judicial Leniency, Misuse of Mental Incompetence Status, Parole Board Leniency, Repeated Failure of “Community Control”

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This is Patrick Hampton. In 2003, he tried to kill a man by stabbing him “several times” with a steak knife.  Instead of sending him to prison, Judge Peter Dubensky sent him to a mental institution.  Some six months later, Dubensky ruled that Hampton was competent for trial.  Then he sentenced him to four years in prison.

Four years for aggravated battery with a deadly weapon.  Why?  Hampton walked into prison in March of 2005.   Two and a half years later, August 2007, he walked out.

So, between Judge Dubensky’s inane sentencing and the equally inane actions of Florida’s parole board, which persists in letting violent felons walk early despite the trail of broken bodies that ensue (like, mine), Hampton was free to kill his stepmother last Friday.

There is nothing wrong with judges finding people mentally unfit to stand trial, of course.  But once they are deemed fit, they need to actually be held responsible for their crimes, or they need to be kept incarcerated if they’re so dangerous that they’re not responsible.  One or the other, right?  Mental illness combined with criminal acts shouldn’t be treated like some sentencing version of an early-bird two-for-one.

Did Dubensky go easy on Hampton because he decided that his mental illness excused his attempt to murder someone?

Or does Dubensky just go easy on extremely violent, recidivist felons?

Or did he go easy on Hampton for some other reason, some dangerously misguided paternalistic impulse for a man he’d seen in his courtroom before?

According to Manatee County’s criminal records, the 2003 stabbing was not the first time Judge Dubensky encountered Patrick Hampton in court.  That would be way back in 1997:

ADJUDGED GUILTY SENTENCED TO 6 MONTHS COUNTY JAIL WITH CREDIT FOR TIME SERVED CONCURRENT WITH 93-3601F $261.00 COURT COSTS BY JUDGMENT THIRTY DAYS TO FILE AN APPEAL-JUDGE PETER DUBENSKY PLEA SHEET FROM 07/07/97.

From what I can tell from the on-line sources, that incarceration appears to have resulted from the last time someone went easy on Hampton because he was mentally ill.  After he attacked his father, he was given outpatient therapy and probation instead of a prison sentence, then he violated the terms of probation:

REPRESENTED BY PATRICK FORD, ASSISTANT PUBLIC DEFENDER STATE REPRESENTED BY IRENE PLANK WITHDREW DENIAL ACKNOWLEDGE & WAIVER OF RIGHTS FILED IN OPEN COURT COUNT I ADMITTED VIOLATION OF PROBATION. PROBATION REVOKED ADJUGED GUILTY ON ORIGINAL OFFENSE PLACED ON 2 YEARS COMMUNITY CONTROL, CONTINUE AND COMPLETE OUTPATIENT PROGRAM AT MANATEE GLENS. CONTINUE TAKING MEDICATION. ORIGINAL CONDITIONS TO APPLY. COST OF SUPERVISION WAIVED. COUNT II ADMITTED VIOLATION OF PROBATION. PROBATION REVOKED CREDIT OF TIME SERVICE IN THE COUNTY JAIL 30 DAYS TO FILE AN APPEAL-JUDGE ROBERT J BOYLSTON VIOLATION OF PROBATION DOCKET FROM 4/3/96

So, let’s get this straight: Hampton violated probation, so he was placed on outpatient community control?  What the heck is probation anyway?

Note, too, the “cost of supervision waived.”  It and other waivers appear throughout his lengthy trips through the Manatee County Courts.  Between that freebie, and the price of giving him multiple public defenders, and dozens of separate court hearings, and the cost of hospitalization for his victims, and the cost of some court shrink evaluating him every time he decided to stop taking his medication and went on another tear, and the cost of the police catching him and delivering him to one courtroom or another, where yet another well-paid judge let him go on “community control” again and an admonishment to take his meds, can you imagine how much it has cost the taxpayers of Florida to allow this violent, recidivist felon to walk the streets?

Think about that the next time some liberal state politician screams that alternatives to incarceration cost less than incarceration.  Also think about it the next time some conservative state politician screams that we’re spending too much on the state prison budget and quietly betrays his own “tough on crime” stance by colluding with the liberals to let offenders out early to save a dime (thus displacing costs to the counties, where they’re harder to track).

And then there’s that other cost: one human life, Maxine Hampton, 83. Evidence of her murder includes a broken glass, a knife, and a frying pan.  Imagine that.  Who could have possibly predicted that a mentally unstable, non-medically compliant, violent recidivist who had stabbed at least one person in the past and had a history of violence towards his parents would do the same again?

1994:

REPRESENTED BY DAVID EHLERS, ASST PUBLIC DEFENDER STATE REPRESENTED BY IRENE PLANK COUNTS 1 & 2: PLEAD NOLO CONTENDERE, ADJUDICATION WITHHELD COUNT I- WITHDREW PREVIOUS PLEA ACKNOWLEDGE & WAIVER OF RIGHTS FILED IN OPEN COURT PLACED ON 5 YEARS PROBATION. ENTER AND COMPLETE THE OUT PATIENT PROGRAM THROUGH GLEN OAKS OR MANATEE GLENS. TIME SERVED COUNTY JAIL WITH CREDIT FOR TIME SERVED. WAIVE COS. WAIVER OF PRIVILEDGED COMMUNICATION SIGNED AND FILED WITH PROBATION. $250.00 COURT COSTS BY JUDGMENT.COUNT II-PLACED ON 12 MONTHS PROBATION CONCURRENT WITH COUNT I. COS WAIVED. TIME SERVED COUNTY JAIL WITH CREDIT FOR TIME SERVED. THIRTY DAYS TO FILE AN APPEAL (PAUL E. LOGAN) PRE TRIAL CONFERENCE DOCKET FROM 3/24/94

1995:

NOTICE OF CASE ACTION FILED CRIMINAL CHARGES WILL NOT BE FILED AS TO AGGRAVATED BATTERY & 2 COUNTS OF CRIMINAL MISCHIEF CHARGES WILL BE FILED AS BATTERY & 2 COUNTS OF CRIMINAL MISCHIEF UNDER MISDEMEANOR CASE #95-5668M

1996:

PROBATION REVOKED ADJUGED GUILTY ON ORIGINAL OFFENSE PLACED ON 2 YEARS COMMUNITY CONTROL, CONTINUE AND COMPLETE OUTPATIENT PROGRAM AT MANATEE GLENS. CONTINUE TAKING MEDICATION. ORIGINAL CONDITIONS TO APPLY. COST OF SUPERVISION WAIVED. COUNT II ADMITTED VIOLATION OF PROBATION. PROBATION REVOKED CREDIT OF TIME SERVICE IN THE COUNTY JAIL 30 DAYS TO FILE AN APPEAL-JUDGE ROBERT J BOYLSTON VIOLATION OF PROBATION DOCKET FROM 4/3/96

1997:

REPRESENTED BY ASSISTANT PUBLIC DEFENDER CYNDEE NEWTON STATE REPRESENTED BY CYNTHIA EVERS WITHDREW PREVIOUS PLEA ACKNOWLEDGE & WAIVER OF RIGHTS FILED IN OPEN COURT PLEAD NOLO CONTENDERE, ADJUDGED GUILTY SENTENCED TO 6 MONTHS COUNTY JAIL WITH CREDIT FOR TIME SERVED CONCURRENT WITH 93-3601F $261.00 COURT COSTS BY JUDGMENT THIRTY DAYS TO FILE AN APPEAL-JUDGE PETER DUBENSKY PLEA SHEET FROM 07/07/97

2003:

REPRESENTED BY DAVID EHLERS, ASSISTANT PUBLIC DEFENDER STATE REPRESENTED BY DAWN BUFF WITHDREW PREVIOUS PLEA ACKNOWLEDGEMENT AND WAIVER OF RIGHTS FILED IN OPEN COURT PLED /NOLO CONTENDERE, ADJUDGED GUILTY PLACED ON PROBATION FOR 3 YEARS COST OF SUPERVISION WAIVED 100 HOURS PUBLIC SERVICE HOURS IN EQUAL MONTHLY INSTALLMENTS WITHIN 34 MONTHS COURT IMPOSE COURT COSTS OF $261.00 BY JUDGMENT $150.00 COURT FACILITY FEE PURSUANT TO ARTICLE 5 TRUST FUND BY JUDGMENT $40.00 PUBLIC DEFENDER APPLICATIONS FEES, REDUCED TO JUDGMENT $150.00 ATTORNEY’S FEES BY JUDGMENT . . . TAKE ALL MEDICATIONS AS PRESCRIBED DEFENDANT SOCIAL SECURITY NUMBER SENTENCING GUIDELINES FILED IN OPEN COURT THIRTY DAYS TO APPEAL – JUDGE MARC B. GILNER FROM 02/12/03 PLEA SHEET

The on-line records from Manatee County indicate at least five separate felonies against Hampton, along with either three or four other cases prior to 1993 that cannot be viewed on-line.  Some are serious felonies, some minor felonies, but in each case the result appears the same: the judge ignores Hampton’s mounting record of recidivism and sends him for more therapy.  The dockets for each viewable case involve multiple court hearings, multiple lawyers, multiple instances of judicial leniency.

One of Hampton’s many defense attorneys blamed a lack of mental health resources in the wake of his client’s latest attack:

[David] Ehlers on Monday recalled his former client as a man with obvious mental illness and needing more treatment.  “He was clearly someone who was mentally ill,” said Ehlers. “But the situation is that the demand for mental health services is overwhelming, and the state probably doesn’t keep everyone in as long as they should.”

So what did Ehlers do about his client’s obvious inability to live safely in society, which he says was clear to him?  He cut a deal with a judge for a pittance of prison time and got Hampton back on the streets as fast as he could.

In hindsight, was that really in “the best interest of his client”?

And did the state really fail to provide Patrick Hampton with mental health resources?  Since at least 1994, he has been ordered to receive, and provided with, state-provided in-patient and out-patient mental health care.  Over the last 15 years, he repeatedly rejected the outpatient treatment, but instead of protecting the public from an unstable man with a proven record of violence, judges kept sending him back for more “community control.”

What’s that saying about the definition of crazy?

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.

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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Then, of course, after letting Tran get away with a known rape for four years, then catching him violating his probation with several other charges, then sentencing him to an absurdly short prison term . . . well, why break a perfect record of sheer contempt for victims of crime, not to mention the safety of women?  The State of Florida let him go early, after serving only 26 months of a 38 month sentence.

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

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

Take a good look at his face.

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