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The Daryle Edward Jones Case Grows Worse

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

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

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

Here’s the story:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

Three Strikes and You’re Out: Stop Repeat Offenders 

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

From Mike’s site:

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

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

Read Mike’s site!  

~~~

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

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

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

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

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

~~~

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Great Article About Life Without Parole and the Death Penalty

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The only real rehabilitation is consequences.

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

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

~~~

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

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

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

The Myth of Jerry DeWayne Williams and his Pizza Slice

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

~~~

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

Bill Boyarsky, courageous voice in the wilderness

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

Suppressing Debate in the Michael Woodmansee Case

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Suppressing Debate in the Michael Woodmansee Case

Child Killer Michael Woodmansee

Jason Foreman, one of Woodmansee’s Victims

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rebecca Spencer, Stabbed 58 Times by Craig Price

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

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

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

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

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

~~~

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

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

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

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

~~~

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

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

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

Do you really call this justice?

~~~

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

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

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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.

Is Jennifer Granholm the New Mike Huckabee?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

~~~

Incidentally, the Detroit Free Press article is impressively wry:

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

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

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

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

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

Of course it is.

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

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

genthumbKevin Eugene Peterson

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

~~~

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

charles_montgomery_cousinCharles Montgomery

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I love being wrong about stuff like this.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Too bad nobody listened.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Oh no, it was all Verizon’s fault.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Meanwhile:

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

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

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

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

Answer that, Ms. Plessinger.  Mr. McNeil.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Talk about fiddling while Rome burns.

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

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