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The Daryle Edward Jones Case Grows Worse

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

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

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

Here’s the story:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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Here’s another one.

Another what?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What is there to learn from this?

Under-prosecution may be the problem.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 . . . read the whole thing here 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Equality isn’t the goal anymore.

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

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

Slain woman predicted her own death

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 read the article here

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

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

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

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

You know, kind of like fantasy role-playing.

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

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

Well, some people’s liberties.

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

Ed Kramer, Pre-Pretend Spinal Cord Disease

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ed Kramer sporting a Barr ’08 button

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

Ed Kramer at the 2008 DragonCon

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ed Marger and His Carefully Staged Pelts

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

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

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

~~~

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

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

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

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

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

James Alan Fox, Professional

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[formatting updated 8/18/11]

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

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

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

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

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

John Struve’s letter:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Not true.

Just like Cameron Todd Willingham.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Again, defamation?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I welcome any suggestions for identifying anonymous e-mails.

~~~

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

Careless reporting gives careless people free reign.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Slain Officer Mark Allen MacPhail’s Children

Officer Mark Allen MacPhail’s Website

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

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Imagine the crappiest job in the world:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cop Injured By Lakers Enthusiasm

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

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

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

~~~

That job would really suck.

It’s called “policing.”

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

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

Imagine what a strictly factual report would say:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

~~~

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jordan Anthony Gibson, Atlanta, Georgia:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

~~~

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

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

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

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

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

Shouldn’t every sex crime be prosecuted?

~~~

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

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

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

~~~

Leonard Earl Scroggins, San Diego, California:

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

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

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

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

Jesus wept.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Government Waste in Georgia

A billion-dollar burden or justice?

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

AJC investigation: Georgia leads nation in criminal punishment

By Carrie Teegardin and Bill Rankin

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Oh, never mind.

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

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

How intellectually dishonest.

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

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

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

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

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

Riots and Reporters

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

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

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

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

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

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

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