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Good Thing It Wasn’t A Hate Crime: Raymond Harris Just Tortures Women and Sets Them On Fire

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He’s not a hate criminal, just a guy who likes to rape women and stab them and beat them to death or near-death while torturing them by setting them on fire.   Second City Cop has the only real coverage — nobody else is outraged by the fact that Illinois let this guy go, not once, but twice, after he raped and tortured and set a woman on fire, and tried to get another one, and now he’s attacked a third woman (surely there were more).  This time, the victim, a 73-year old nurse, died.

Raymond Harris, serial torturer and rapist of women.  But not a hate criminal.

Well, thank goodness it wasn’t a hate crime: we can all take comfort in that.  From Second City Cop, who links to this Chicago Sun-Times article:

Only in Illinois can 30 years in the joint equal 13 years:
  • A parolee who fatally beat and robbed an elderly nurse in Bridgeport last month used the dead woman’s engagement and wedding rings to propose to his girlfriend, Cook County prosecutors said Thursday.Raymond Harris, 36, showed the rings off at a party just hours after he attacked Virginia Perillo in her garage in the 3300 block of South Parnell, assistant state’s attorney Melissa Howlett said. In addition to her rings, Harris also took Perillo’s purse, Howlett said.Perillo, 73, was discovered by a neighbor in a pool of blood with severe head injuries and defense wounds to her forearms on the night of Oct. 22. The brain-dead woman died at Stroger Hospital two days later.
  • Harris was paroled in May after serving 13 years of a 30-year sentence for his 1997 attempted murder and aggravated arson convictions, Howlett said.
And this isn’t the first time he violated parole:
  • In that case, Harris broke into a woman’s home, raped and beat her for several hours, Howlett said. He also threatened that victim at knifepoint, cut her neck and set three separate fires in the woman’s home, Howlett said. The woman woke up with her legs on fire and suffered third-degree burns.Just three weeks before that attack, Harris had been released from prison for a 1993 armed robbery, vehicular invasion and burglary. In that case, Harris brandished a gun at a woman getting outside of her car outside her home, Howlett said.
Obviously, this piece of s**t doesn’t learn from going to prison.

And just as obviously, the Illinois Parole Board and the Bureau of Prisons haven’t learned that some people are beyond redemption and reform. Where’s the outrage? Where’s the outcry that yet another violent offender isn’t serving even 50% of his sentence before being loosed upon society once again to maim and kill.

Note that among those participating in the lack of outrage is the Chicago Civil Rights Unit, which doesn’t give a damn because these particular beaten, raped, and tortured victims just aren’t the right type of victims.  They aren’t calling these crimes hate crimes because the victims were just women, and doing this sort of thing to just women isn’t as serious as picking other types of victims, thanks to hate crime laws.  Eric Holder says so — he said so repeatedly and belligerently when Clinton made him the point man for implementing the deceptive enforcement standards that pretend to include but quietly exclude heterosexual females and many other living things from hate crime law enforcement.

Note too that the other usual suspects — the Jessie Jackson types, the Leadership Council on Civil and Human Rights, the gay activists, the Anti-Defamation League, CAIR — not a peep from any of the braver arbiters of what is and isn’t to be “counted” as hatred.

Just torturing and raping and setting women on fire doesn’t count.  Not the right kind of body, see?

Imagine for a moment the headlines if Raymond Harris had a nasty habit of repeatedly trying to beat black men to death and setting them on fire.  Imagine if he targeted Jews, or Muslims, or gays, or lesbians, instead of “just women.”  Then it would be candles-in-paper-cups, rally-outside-city-hall time for all the professional activists and politicians who view the torture of some as particularly heinous, while run-of-the-mill rape-torture-torchings are just . . . well, technically, they’re understandable, and lesser, in the hierarchy of human value these activists have imposed on our justice system.

Some victims get politicians carrying candles.  Others don’t.

By dividing the world into “understandable” versus “outrageous” victim selection, where no such legal distinction existed before, the hate crimes industry desecrates the human dignity of every victim of a serious crime whom they don’t count as a “victim of hate.”  Nobody dares to challenge them, because doing so makes you a target of their rage, as I learned in Atlanta.  And rage, it is. These activist groups operate as if they are purely above question, above scrutiny and challenge.  I gave up a long time ago trying to get any reporter, anywhere, to ask any of these organizations why they don’t view crimes like the ones committed by Raymond Harris, or dozens of other brutal serial killers, as worthy of being investigated and prosecuted as “hate.”*  How much more evidence do they need that this man targets women for acts of extreme and random violence, including setting one on fire?

While researching hate-crime enforcement, I also gave up trying to speak to sentencing experts in law schools after one pitched such an astonishing hissy fit at me that I resigned myself to the cowardice of the academic classes.  I gave up trying to interview other types of academics when they refused to speak on record about their opinion of the enforcement of these laws, even when they privately expressed consternation about precisely the types of things I write about here.  Academic freedom — to quiver in the herd, indeed.  Hate crime activists guard the boundaries of their fiefdoms with extreme care; they threaten people who dare to question their agendas.  They use accusations of prejudice to maintain silence, when open and ethical conversation about the real meaning of “hate” is what is needed.

They also control the messages delivered about hate to every school-aged child in America.  If you encourage your child to question these laws when they are taught to them in the classroom, don’t be surprised if there are consequences.

Much is being said these days about the Justice Department’s departure from colorblind enforcement of voting rights laws, thanks to J. Christian Adams, a former DOJ attorney who courageously blew the whistle on intentionally biased enforcement of voting rights cases.  But what happens when the law itself is the creator of bias?  Hate Crime laws are a disturbing departure from the very values civil rights activists once labored to impose on the justice system: equal protection under the law, equal treatment of all victims, equal punishment for offenders.  The laws themselves are the scandal, but on top of that scandal, these laws are being enforced in deceptive and rankly prejudiced ways that magnify the injustices they produce simply by existing.

How on earth do you blow the whistle on that?

How many more women, and men, and children will be raped or murdered because the justice system divides victims into “important” and “unimportant” categories, and the criminals targeting the unimportant ones get chance after chance to kill again, as Harris got?  In 1997, at precisely the time Clinton and Eric Holder were grandstanding in the White House about hate, pounding their fists on tables, proclaiming that nobody should even dare to ask why “hate crimes” are worse than other crimes (Holder’s speciality was the “don’t ask” line), Raymond Harris raped, tortured, and stabbed a woman.  He set her body on fire, leaving the victim covered with third-degree burns.  Clinton and Holder could have used Harris’ assault to illustrate the alleged need for their new law, but they didn’t consider that crime — and thousands more like them — important enough to count as “hate” because the victim was just a woman.  So 13 years later, Raymond Harris slipped out of prison again — something that surely would not have happened had he been prosecuted as a hate criminal after the 1997 attack, or even just labeled a hate criminal by activists.  Hate crime activists could have prevented Harris’ most recent parole merely by showing up and using that magical word, hate.  But, in truth, they don’t see what he does to women as hatred, because he just does it to women.

And now Eric Holder is the Attorney General of the United States, still busily and selectively deploying hate crime laws for his political ends, and Raymond Harris, abetted by the other policies Holder endorses,** has killed a 73-year old nurse named Virginia Perillo.

And the silence, from the activists and journalists and politicians, is deafening.

Virginia Perillio, dancing at her son’s wedding

*In fairness, there is one mention of “hate”  in reference to the Raymond Harris case in the Chicago Sun-Times: the Times reminds its readers that it will not tolerate hate speech in their comment threads.

**prioritizing prisoner “re-entry” over incarceration; increasing the use of early parole; making outsized claims about “rehabilitation” of violent offenders; promoting second chances for everyone except “hate” criminals

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Everybody knows who he is.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Remember Police on May 13: A Sister’s Eulogy

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May 13 is the Annual Candlelight Vigil for Fallen Police Officers in Washington D.C.

Last May, Chicago Police Officer and Army National Guard Lieutenant Thomas E. Wortham IV, 30, was gunned down outside his parents’ home just after returning from a trip to Washington to honor other fallen officers.  This year, it is his turn to be honored at the memorial along with the 157 other officers who died in the line of duty in 2010.

Thomas E. Wortham IV

There are no words to describe Sandra Wortham’s extraordinary eulogy for her brother.  Just listen.

The Coming Year of Prisoner “Re-Entry”: Attempted Murder in Chicago, Then Back on the Streets in a Fortnight

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As the Justice Department and everybody else barrel forward with plans to get as many violent offenders back on the streets as quickly as possible (to save money, you know, and aid those poor benighted, imprisoned souls), here’s a reminder of the inevitable consequences of anti-incarceration-early-re-entry-alternative-sentencing-community-control chic, from the Chicago Sun-Times, via Second-City Cop:

She lost 20 teeth. She suffered a brain injury and seizures. And she struggled to pay her medical bills because she didn’t have insurance.  Jen Hall was the victim of a brutal, disfiguring beating outside a Jewel store in the South Loop in August 2008.

Her attacker, Derrick King, was later sentenced to three years in prison for the crime. King, 48, went into state Department of Corrections custody in early October, but he was paroled only two weeks later under a policy change by Gov. Quinn’s administration. . .

On Aug. 25, 2008, King and Joyce Burgess attacked Hall and her boyfriend, police said. King asked the couple for cigarettes, but when they said they didn’t have any, Burgess knocked down Hall, who was celebrating her 36th birthday.  King, who police say was homeless, kicked Hall in the head and face, knocking out her teeth. King also struggled with Hall’s boyfriend and reached into his pockets to try to rob him, police said.  King was convicted and sent to prison on Oct. 6. He was paroled under the MGT-Push program on Oct. 20, records show.

And then, of course, he not only immediately set out to commit another crime, but he terrorized his next victim by bragging to her that he was the man who had attacked Hall:

Then, on Oct. 21, King was nabbed by Chicago Police in a similar crime. He threatened a 49-year-old woman after asking her for a cigarette in the 500 block of West Roosevelt, not far from where he beat Hall.  When the woman declined, King said: “Remember the couple who got beat up real bad for not giving a cigarette? That was me!” according to a Chicago Police arrest report. King then charged toward her, police said. The woman flagged down a patrol car and the officers arrested King. Police charged King with simple assault, a misdemeanor.

Disturbed yet?  Here’s where it gets even more disturbing. Even after King tried to beat two people to death, then attacked a third victim, the Department of Corrections was not particularly motivated to pull him in.  He was almost on his way out the door again, and it sounds as if only police vigilance actually resulted in Corrections agreeing to issue a warrant:

The Department of Corrections initially declined to issue a warrant to send King back to prison on a parole violation, but eventually a parole supervisor signed off on a warrant, according to the police report.

So if this were not a case of some notoriety, it is likely that no judge or parole official or prosecutor would have bothered to enforce the law regarding King’s parole.  I can’t count the times I’ve looked up an offender’s record, and he has two, or five, or ten additional recorded offenses during the time that he is on parole — that is, during the time that he is supposed to be returned to prison for any additional offense.

And it’s not as if people like this get caught every time they throttle someone.  How many of his fellow homeless has King beaten or threatened?  How many people has he terrorized, people who escaped and decided, reasonably, that there was simply no point in trying to get the authorities to act on a criminal complaint?  Derrick King nearly killed a woman and strolled out of jail fourteen days later.

Fourteen days for what should have been attempted murder.

Illinois Governor Pat Quinn is now calling his secret early release of violent offenders “a mistake.”  Bunk.  A mistake is when you do something in error: this is both a guiding philosophy and a policy.  The offenders released in two weeks are merely one step further down a deliberative path that has similar offenders released after two months or six months, at most.

Or simply not prosecuted in the first place.

Derrick King’s early release is something that happens with most offenders in every major city in the country, with the exception of those that have reformed the behavior of their courts by adopting “broken windows” policies, most notably, New York City.  A Derrick King probably wouldn’t slip through the cracks in New York City: he slipped through in Chicago.  It’s simple, really.

And yet, in much of the mainstream media, and in the universities, and in courtrooms, and in Eric Holder’s Justice Department, the mantra of “emptying the prisons,” and “prisoner re-entry” is relentless.  The Justice Department is funding (that is, we are funding) scores of programs designed to keep the maximum number of offenders out of prison and in the communities where they victimize others.  These programs go by various names and make various unattainable promises, but they operate on one unifying principle: anything but incarceration as the default response to crime.

Some Preliminary Observations About Walter Ellis, the Milwaukee Serial Killer

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The Walter Ellis case is still unfolding, but there are already lessons to be learned.

One of those lessons is that police agencies around the country are on the verge of connecting serial rapists and killers to many unsolved crimes, thanks to DNA and re-opening cold cases.  The picture that is emerging of these men will change what we know about serial offenders.

It will also, hopefully, change some assumptions about what goes on in our justice system.  Many people believe that we are too harsh on offenders, that people deserve one or two or five “second chances,” that rehabilitation works, and that minimum mandatory sentencing and “three-strikes” laws are too harsh.

The Walter Ellises of the world pretty much drive a stake into such preconceptions:

AP — MILWAUKEE — Walter Ellis was anything but unknown in his north side neighborhood in Milwaukee — a mix of condemned and run-down houses with some nicer, newer homes.  Even as the bodies of suspected prostitutes began turning up in garbage bins and abandoned buildings near his home, the stocky Ellis had regular — sometimes violent, often friendly — interaction with neighbors and family, and more than a dozen run-ins with police.

If those run-ins were scrutinized, what would they tell us?  How many times did some judge let him walk?  How many times did a prosecutor decided it wasn’t worth sending him away for a few months?

Ellis was not a stranger to law enforcement, with 15 arrests since 1978.

How many times did he get first-offender status?  Time served?  Community counseling?  Simply no prosecution at all?  Would minimum mandatory laws or three-strikes laws have kept him off the streets?

He’s received probation or fines for burglary . . .

Probation for burglary.  Nice.  The DNA database “hit” lists are littered with rapists whose only prior convictions were for burglary, or drugs.  Sometimes rapists were allowed to plead down to burglary when there was a rape but prosecutors didn’t feel the victim would be believed.  Sometimes these men were caught entering or hiding in a house before they committed a planned sexual assault.  For many decades, burglary was a commonly-known get-out-of-jail-fairly-free card for rapists.

So when a judge gives a burglar probation because “burglary isn’t a serious crime,” he or she may very well be letting a sex offender walk free.  All residential burglars should be required to provide DNA samples.  Too bad that didn’t happen before Walter Ellis murdered this woman, in 2007.  Her murder, and others, could have easily been prevented:

Ouithreaun Stokes

[Ellis has] received probation or fines for . . . delivery of a controlled substance and retail theft. He also has faced charges of soliciting prostitutes, battery, robbery and recklessly endangering safety, all of which were later dismissed. He received a 3-year prison sentence for drug possession in 1981.

When you see a drug possession conviction, think about this: often offenders will agree to plead to drug offenses if other charges are dropped.  Often, the drug charge is the one most easily proved, even though the offender is known to be responsible for other crimes.  So when people claim that we live in a prison state because “X% of offenders are in prison for non-violent drug charges,” realize that a substantial percentage of these people committed other crimes.  They just weren’t prosecuted for them.

It was in 1988 that [Walter Ellis] pleaded no contest to second-degree reckless injury. According to the criminal complaint, he hit his ex-girlfriend in the head several times with a claw hammer, causing her to get 30 staples and more than 22 stitches. The complaint said the woman woke and found him standing over her, smelling of alcohol and accusing her of cheating. She got out of bed, they struggled, and he hit her with the hammer, it said.

It looks like the AP got it wrong: it was 1998, not 1988.  Attempted murder with severe physical injury.  Good thing it was just a domestic, or else he might have gotten life in prison, you know?  Ah, the magic of plea bargaining: attempted murder – domestic violence = second degree reckless injury = five years.

Police have said Ellis’ DNA matches that found on nine women ages 16 to 41 who were killed in a three-square-mile area from 1986 to 2007.

Wow.  Too bad nobody in the courts took that claw-hammer-to-the-brain-thing very seriously.

Here is an excellent blog-post tracing Ellis’ crimes and incarcerations.  The blogger, Kathee Baird, gets the offense dates right, unlike the AP.  She observes:

Online court records show Ellis has been busted at least twelve times for crimes against people as well as property crimes and that he once lived near the area where many of the homicides occurred.  It appears that every time that Ellis was incarcerated the strangulation killings on the north side subsided. Between 1987 and 1994 there were no homicides that fit the North Side Stranglers m.o. . . .

Back to the AP:

Ellis, sentenced to prison, was supposed to have DNA taken before he was released in 2001 under a state law that mandated taking samples from people convicted of a felony.  The state Department of Corrections said it did take the sample, but the state Justice Department said it has no records showing they ever got it. On Wednesday, legislators demanded to know why the DNA sample never made it to crime analysts. If it had, police say, the case might have been solved before the last of the slayings occurred in 2007.

Our justice system is criminally lenient.  We have a pathological contempt for rape victims: we still utterly lack the public will to put rapists away.  What, you say?  This must be an isolated case?

50,000 Felons Released Without Submitting DNA

CHICAGO – About 50,000 felons have been released from Illinois prisons and county probation systems without submitting DNA samples.  Under Illinois law, every felon sentenced on or after Aug. 22, 2002, must provide DNA. The samples are stored in databases that can be used to link suspects to other cases.  A spokeswoman for the Illinois Department of Corrections says nearly 10,000 felons were released from state prisons without providing DNA. And Attorney General Lisa Madigan‘s office estimates county probation departments didn’t get samples from 40,000 additional felons due to delays in implementing the law.  DuPage County State’s Attorney Joseph Birkett helped push for collecting DNA from felons. And he says the failure to get samples from all felons means “serial murderers and rapists have probably remained on the loose.”

Back to Milwaukee:

In 2006, Ellis pleaded guilty in a hit-and-run involving Carolyn S. Prophet, 57, of Milwaukee. Prophet, who is disabled and has problems walking, said Ellis hit her car repeatedly and then swore and threatened her.  “The man is a psycho,” she said. “He kept ramming me.”  Bystanders stepped in when he got out of the car, she said. Ellis told them he was going to call police at a pay phone but never returned. She said the police who investigated the crash told her they knew Ellis from prior run-ins.

And then what happened?  Did anything happen?  Didn’t his other violent crimes lead to a long prison sentence?  Didn’t his 12 crimes against persons matter?  Doesn’t ramming a disabled, elderly person with a car count for anything?

The following comments by Ellis’ neighbor are chilling.  The woman says that Ellis is a good guy and yet that he is unpredictably violent and dangerous.  She doesn’t blame him for any of this, or even for threatening her repeatedly: she blames other people for “not helping him.”  This is what happens when people convince themselves that prior criminal acts should be overlooked, and the courts reflect that belief:

[Ellis'] neighbor[] said that as a child she tried to avoid walking past Ellis’ house — “He would come and just hit you out of nowhere,” she said.  But Jordan said Ellis seemed to have changed when she saw him about a year ago at a birthday party. She described him as pleasant and intelligent. She said she was shocked to hear of his arrest, but wishes someone would have helped Ellis early in his life.  “When I look back at it, all the indicators were there,” she said. “That behavior, the violent nature in him was already embedded.”

Maybe something will be learned this time.  Maybe nothing at all.

Gang Outreach or Just Enforcing the Law: Chicago, LA, Atlanta

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Will Atlanta be the next Chicago or L.A.? Those cities have been shelling out big bucks to “ex-gang members” and holding summits and negotiating with gangsters rather than prosecuting them.

Imagine the impact this must have in communities where these thugs live, where they now draw paychecks because they are/were thugs, and walk the streets empowered by their special relationships to certain politicians.  How does that not teach children the value of going bad?

Predictably, the people drawing paychecks from these programs declare them a complete success, while, jarringly, also insisting that if the money doesn’t stop coming, the killings will start again.  Think about that for a moment: do gang prevention programs just create a new ways for gangs to shake people down?  Meanwhile, despite the purported success of these programs, the body count keeps growing:

A 15-year-old Chicago girl who was shot in the head outside her Far South Side home Wednesday as she shielded a younger relative from gunfire has come through surgery, a relative said this morning.

And in L.A.:

The gang member accused of murdering a local high school football player will face the death penalty, prosecutors announced Wednesday. . .

Espinoza, an 18th Street gang member and illegal immigrant, had been released from jail on a firearms charge the day before Shaw was killed.

So what would have kept 17-year old Jamiel Shaw from being killed?

  • A fiscally unaccountable, money-hemorrhaging program with a fancy name that pays politically-connected ministers to “pastor walk” the streets (as Mayor Franklin is proposing), or a policy of not releasing offenders caught with guns prior to their convictions?
  • A “gang negotiation” program that pays thugs who pretend to have gone clean (and later it turns out they haven’t, even when powerful politicians get snowed by them), or sentencing laws that take thugs off the street for significant periods of time when they get caught with guns?

I worked in the world of non-profits and community outreach for a long time, and that is precisely why I’m so cynical about gang summits and pastor walks.  We already spend billions on this stuff, and there is little untainted evidence that it does anything but enrich the non-profits themselves and feed the machines of local politicians.

I’m always amazed when people say to me: “why don’t we do more to reach out to delinquents and help them get jobs and other services they need, instead of throwing them in jail and throwing away the key?”

Well, to answer the first part of the question, we already do, and to answer the second part, that is precisely what we don’t do, even though it would save lives.

Do readers have any idea how much is already spent doing social services, and to what little effect?  The city, county, state, and Federal Department of Justice (DOJ) already directs billions of your dollars into job training and outreach and gang prevention and social service programs  — as Stephanie Ramage details in this excellent article about money spent on Atlanta’s Vine City, and the dubious results:

[M]oney is not the area’s primary problem.  According to Ivory Lee Young, who represents them on the Atlanta City Council, English Avenue and Vine City get more government money than any other neighborhoods in Atlanta. They have received more than $23 million in public funding in recent years. . .There’s the Parcel 25 Trust Fund, which takes a small percentage of earnings from the Courtyard at Maple apartment development and reinvests it in Vine City. . . There’s the Urban Residential Finance Authority (URFA), which has shelled out more than $10 million to the area over the past 20 years. . . The Westside Tax Allocation District (TAD), managed by the Atlanta Development Authority, also includes both neighborhoods. On Aug. 17, it made $2.8 million available for capital improvement projects only . . . In 2005, the Westside TAD disbursed almost $14 million to English Avenue and Vine City. The federally funded Title 20 empowerment zone has allocated $5.8 million for the area.  A Weed and Seed resource audit found that between $4 million and $5 million in funding was disbursed into English Avenue and Vine City in 2008 alone.

And so on.  That doesn’t include all the other resources from private and corporate non-profits, not to mention the vast amounts of taxpayer dollars that go into high-need education, day care, after-school care, city-funded summer camps, Head Start, housing, food stamps, W.I.C. free health-care, transportation, and job training programs, all the types of outreach that activist and the Mayor and Police Chief are now saying we need more of.

Frankly, I wish people would start talking back a bit when their elected officials tell them they’re not doing enough.  It’s utterly untrue, and it’s also pretty insulting.  If you spent a couple of years bopping around in those “outreach” programs, you’d be amazed at what some people are milking off your largesse.  I was surprised.  Salaries of 80K, 150K are hardly uncommon in community outreach — and salaries, frankly, are only the tip of the iceberg.  Then there are the questionable land investment deals that enrich the activists, the power that comes from being able to employ (and thus indebt) vocal community activists and naive VISTA and AmeriCorps neophytes, and the ever-so-flexible category of “administrative costs” that are used to build astonishingly cushy fifedoms, thus laying the ground for future grant-getting.

From Ramage’s article:

There is the Northyards Business Park Improvement Fund, which takes a portion of the money earned from the office park where Bauder College is located and infuses it into English Avenue. The fund is overseen by Antioch Baptist Church North, which boasts a $4.5 million annual budget on its Web site and runs the Bethursday Development Corporation.

Bob Jones, the head of Bethursday, failed to return calls for this story. However, the church’s Web site states the following:

“In addition to the ultra modern, multi-million dollar worship center which was dedicated in 1991, the church campus includes a bi-level administrative complex, a large formidable business plaza that houses the offices of the Antioch Urban Ministries, a community computer center, and the membership orientation facilities, four major parking lots, and a multi-functional Youth Center and adjoining recreational green space for outdoor activities. Dr. [Cameron Madison] Alexander [the church’s minister] has organized the Bethursday Development Corporation to manage building development and other investment opportunities of the Antioch Congregation. In late 2003, construction began on the church campus for a 261 unit apartment building.”

Look, if community programs and community development worked, I’d be the first person in line to support them.  But in addition to largely being theft and waste of taxpayer money, they don’t work.  They often make problems worse, because once you’ve got activists being enabled by tax dollars, those people are empowered through their political connections and your money to promote agendas that actually undermine public safety.

Like doing away with minimum mandatory sentencing, which Attorney General Eric Holder mentioned as part of that “gang summit” Mayor Franklin and Chief Pennington famously attended last week.

How on earth, one might ask, would doing away with laws that take the most violent offenders off the streets actually help with the gang problem?

Good question.  In order to answer it, you have to first understand that the people overseeing the movement to “talk to gangs, not prosecute them” are philosophically opposed to incarceration as a response to crime.  They’re not just anti-incarceration: they believe that people who commit crimes are not really responsible, just deprived.

They believe that you are responsible, for not giving these folks enough things, and that’s why they’re stealing your television set.

Broad strokes, I’ll admit.  But this is the philosophy of the courts, where municipal and criminal court judges have been drawn narrowly from anti-incarceration activist circles for decades.  It’s not the philosophy of the cops on the streets, but it is the philosophy of many Police Chiefs and Sheriffs, many chiefs and sheriffs being elected officials first and cops second.

And it is definitely the philosophy of our new Attorney General, who by saying the things he said at that gang summit clearly delivered the message that he, and the feds, plan to impose themselves on a government power that is not theirs, that is supposed to lie in the hands of the states: sentencing for crimes.

Listen very carefully as Pennington and Franklin and even Fulton D.A. Paul Howard talk about the new gang initiative in coming weeks.  Think about the weird undercurrent of chatter about how this isn’t about putting people away, and we can’t possibly get these people off the streets.

And while you’re at it, take a good look at that child holding up his pants with one hand while trying to break into your car with the other.

How well do you think “negotiating” with him is going to work?

And who’s going to get paid to pretend it did?

Blogging Crime Versus “Disappearing” It: Chicago and Atlanta

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Chicago:

In Chicago, something interesting is happening as “twittering” and blogging and e-mail bring in first-hand reports that deviate from official versions.  It is hard to whitewash incidents of violence and rioting when people are reporting them in real time and police are going back over their incident reports to compare notes later.

Take a look at two different sources discussing the Taste of Chicago event.  First, there is the official statement, reported in the Chicago Tribune:

The volatile vibe remained at this year’s holiday fireworks and food festival along Chicago’s lakefront, and authorities Saturday detailed the arrests of eight people accused of carrying guns or knives and several fights that triggered stampedes for the exits Friday evening.

Unlike last year’s pre-July 4 celebration — when one person was killed and several were injured — police said no one was shot in the vicinity of the Taste of Chicago on Friday.

“No Shootings This Year,” reads the headline, a low bar to set.  But is it true?  Here is Mike Doyle, reporting from the blog Chicago Carless:

To compare the stories, I jotted down a thumbnail list of each version of events–the official, and the insider. Here’s what I found:

Events Reported to News Media by City Officials

–One gun-related arrest in afternoon (gang member with shotgun in bag.)
–Arrests for unspecified reasons at Buckingham Fountain at 8:30 p.m.
–No mention of early fireworks start.
–One major fight at 9:45 p.m. (30-person gang melee at Michigan and Congress.)
–Various small, unspecified incidents.

Events Reported by Second City Cop Blog

–Gang members “take over” Buckingham Fountain area and by one account officers are told by police commanders (“Gold Stars”) to “leave it alone, let them have it.”
–911 dispatchers report two people shot at Buckingham Fountain.
–A potential effort (noted here and here) to silence radio reports of shots fired or gang fights.
–Gangster Disciples “50 deep” walking through Taste grounds and throwing gang signs.
–Latin Kings platooning along Roosevelt Road and heading towards Taste grounds.
–Multiple gang fight calls (10-1s.)
–”Numerous chases” and “multiple weapons recovered.”
–Fireworks start at least half-an-hour early.
–At least ten significant gang fights along Michigan Avenue in addition to the large melee as crowds left the southern end of the Taste grounds.

Next, I checked in with my Twitter followers and performed several searches of Twitter’s public timeline to look for tweets that might bear out the Second City Cop version of events. Here’s a sampling of what I found:

“my first year at the taste of chicago fireworks and go figure a shooting occurs 10 ft away from me!” (@chibookgrl, 7:00 p.m. Jul 4th)

Doyle’s appeal for more information bring in detailed accounts of fights and even a possible shooting.  Cops are under enormous pressure to downgrade crimes.  Prosecutors are under enormous pressure to write off charges.  How much crime gets “disappeared” these ways?

Atlanta:

Meanwhile, in Atlanta, the activity of court-watching is providing residents with criminal-by-criminal details of crimes that could have been prevented, if only some judges would actually incarcerate some offenders at some point in their fulsome careers.  Here is only the latest career criminal, finally put away, thanks probably to the mere fact that, this time, somebody was watching when he walked into the courtroom, as reported by intrepid IntownWriter and court-watcher Marcia Killingsworth:

Arrested over 27 times and with three prior felony convictions, Andre Keith Grier returned to Fulton County Superior Court Judge Wendy Shoob’s courtroom this week. This time, he came to enter guilty pleas to negotiated charges. . . .

Here’s the final outcome on the three cases:

  1. Robbery and Burglary:  15 years to serve 10 years; balance probated. The conditions of his probation are a drug evaluation and treatment, a job, and to stay away from Zone 6.
  2. Theft by Receiving Stolen Property:  10 years to serve
  3. Entering Automobile:  5 years to serve
    Theft by Taking:  10 years to serve to run concurrent
    Possession of Tools:  5 years probation consecutive with the same terms as Case 1 and restitution to the victim.

“All of cases run currently, so the total sentence is 15 years to serve 10 years with balance on probation,” Schwartz says. “Although he is parole eligible, with his record and the robbery charge he is not likely to be paroled until he has completed the majority of his sentence.”

Make that armed robbery charges.  Holding a gun to somebody’s head ought to be enough to get you sent away for ten years, no questions asked, but that does not always turn out to be the case.  I am hesitant to criticize judges at precisely the juncture when they being to respond to citizen demands for real incarceration for serious crimes, but I still have to ask — what happened in court the other 24 times he was arrested?

And that leads to another question: whither those other 24 alleged crimes?  What becomes of them, statistically?

Killingsworth reminds readers:

Fulton County Senior Assistant District Attorney Andrew Schwartz says he believes the presence of neighborhood representatives made a difference. “In my opinion, the reason Mr. Grier received this sentence is because of your community’s involvement and willingness to come to court.”

Here is a notice from the Fulton County CourtWatch about a pending case involving another serious repeat offender.  Several things about his record stand out:

–Demetrius Lester is an 17-Time Convicted Felon.*
–Lester is charged with 3 Felonies – Theft by Receiving (Auto), Criminal
Damage to in the Second Degree and Fleeing & Attempting to Elude.
* The previous notice stated that Lester had 18 prior felony
convictions.  Another review showed that one Burglary case had been
reduced to Theft by Receiving (Misdemeanor).  Therefore, he has 17 prior
convictions.

Seventeen convictions.  What on earth were the sentences?  There are repeat offender laws in Georgia.  If they have so little teeth, or if some loophole is enabling judges to ignore them, why isn’t the legislature doing something about it?

Not to make light of this man’s behavior, but when I looked up his state prison record, I could not help but be amazed by the number of aliases he has accumulated:

KNOWN ALIASES
A.K.A. HAWKINS,DENICO
A.K.A. LESTER,DEMETERIUS
A.K.A. LESTER,DEMETRE
A.K.A. LESTER,DEMETRIC
A.K.A. LESTER,DEMETRIUS MICHAEL
A.K.A. LESTER,DEMETRTIUS
A.K.A. LESTER,DEMETRUIS
A.K.A. LESTER,DEMETRUIS MICHA
A.K.A. LESTER,DEMETRUIS MICHAEL
A.K.A. LESTER,DEMETRUS
A.K.A. LESTER,DEMETTUIUS
A.K.A. LESTER,DEMTRIUS
A.K.A. LESTER,DOMETRE
A.K.A. RACKO,FREDDY
A.K.A. ROOKS,TRAVIS
A.K.A. SMITH,DARRLY
A.K.A. SMITH,DARRYL
A.K.A. VESTER,DEMETRIUS
A.K.A. WOODS,ANTONIO

Freddy Racko? That’s not a very good alias.  If I met somebody named Freddy Racko, I would assume they were doing something illegal.

OK, back to not being amused. Lester/Hawkins/Racko/Rooks/Smith/Vester/Woods has three separate burglary convictions.  Two homes and a church, this man entered.  Four separate convictions for breaking into cars.  One conviction for possession of firearm by a felon.  Not one, but two terrorist threats and acts convictions.  Two obstructions of a law enforcement officer.  One criminal interference of government property.

Eight separate stints in state prison, and who knows how many arrests.  This is beyond revolving door justice.  More from Fulton County CourtWatch:

Facts:  Around 10:00AM on Tuesday June 9, 2009, Officers J. Storno and
I. Streeter of Zone 3 saw the Defendant driving without a seatbelt in
the area of Grant Terrace and Georgia Avenue, Atlanta, GA 30312 (between
NPU-W and NPU-V).  Upon initiating a traffic stop, the Defendant sped
away at a high rate of speed and in a manner that was dangerous to the
public.  At one point, the vehicle flew off the ground and caused a
smoky haze upon landing.  The Defendant finally hit a telephone pole and
fled on foot.  Officers Storno and Streeter were eventually able to
apprehend the suspect after an extended chase.

I have spoken to the victim of the car theft.  He has been left without
a vehicle and has endured a significant financial hardship as a result
of having his car stolen.  His vehicle was a total loss and the
insurance company had to pay off his lien-holder, leaving the victim
without a car. Fortunately, no one was injured during Defendant’s
attempt to elude the police but, according to the officers, he was
driving in a manner that easily could have injured someone.  Defendant
is also suspected in other car break-ins in the Summerhill and Grant
Park neighborhoods.  One incident was caught on video and posted on You
Tube, but a positive ID was not able to be made.

Criminal History:  Defendant has 17 felony convictions, including 5
prior convictions for Entering Auto (all in Fulton County), 3 prior
convictions for Burglary (2 residential, 1 for burglarizing the Georgia
Avenue Presbyterian Church), as well as convictions for Terroristic
Threats, Interference with Government Property and Sale of Marijuana.  I
have obtained certified copies of all of his convictions and will be
presenting them in court.

The District Attorney is asking for the maximum penalty which is 16
years in prison (10 years for Theft by Receiving, 5 years for Criminal
Damage to Property in the Second Degree and 12 months for Fleeing and
Attempting to Elude).  However, under the law, the judge can sentence
the Defendant to anything, including straight probation.  The District
Attorney has recidivised the Defendant under OCGA 17-10-7(c), therefore
the Defendant will have to serve every day of the prison sentence he is
given, if any, without parole.

Community Support is greatly appreciated to keep this repeat offender
incarcerated.

So what is the problem?  It’s called 17-10-7 of the Georgia Code.  It requires people convicted of a second felony to serve their entire sentence.  Sounds good, right?  Except there is nothing in Georgia’s recidivist code that prevents judges from suspending that entire sentence after delivering it.  Thus Freddy Racko can climb into your car, steal it, endanger police and civilian lives, and total the car — yet still walk away without a single day in prison.

Hopefully, it won’t happen this time.  But how many times has it happened with Racko(Lester) before?  How many times, outside those 17 convictions, have charges against him been dropped?  How many charges were dropped in the process of assigning those 17 felonies?  It boggles the mind.

And remember, those are only the times he got caught.

The New Normal: Chicago

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

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

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

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

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

Four Dead, 22 Wounded in Six Bloody Hours

July 5, 2009

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Weekend Tally: 10 Slayings, 63 Shootings

The weekend that started violently has ended the same way.

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

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

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

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

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