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

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Here’s another one.

Another what?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What is there to learn from this?

Under-prosecution may be the problem.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 . . . read the whole thing here 

 

Timothy Alan Oates: Florida Under Gov. Bob Graham Let Another Child Rapist Free To Rape Again, Thank God for Registries

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. . . The bad old days.  This is Timothy Allen Oates:

In 1987, according to the Tampa Bay Times, he was sentenced to “27 years for ransom, attempted sexual battery on an adult and indecent assault on a child younger than 16.”  Actually it looks like it was ten years.

In any case, he was not supposed to be out of prison until 1997.  Or maybe 2014.  But he only served four years.  He got out in 1991, and guess what he did next?  He went back to prison for additional charges (and some of what may be the same charges).  In 1993, he was sentenced to 27 years and served ten years and nine months.  He got out a second time in 2004.

And then guess what he did next?  We don’t know the whole story, but last month he allegedly molested at least one child younger than 12 and took off for Washington State.

So why was he released in 1991, just a few years after being sentenced for multiple, violent sex crimes?  Why did he receive a sentence of 27 years in 1993 and get out a little more than ten years later?

In order to understand this case, you have to do a bit of digging.  Here is his record with the Department of Corrections.  This first block is the sentencing from 1987.  The second block is the sentencing from 1993.  The third block is the time he actually served in prison.  Look at the dates of the offenses — the 2/1/87 and 9/2/87 offenses appear in both sentencings.  The 5/18/86 charge was only part of the 1987 court decision, while a new 3/1/92 charge appears in 1993.  So my guess is that he was released VERY early for the first set of charges, then re-offended the minute he got out, then was re-sentenced on some crimes and given additional time for the new charges.

There are some other things to understand: he was 23 when he was first sentenced for this set of crimes.  So we don’t know if he had a juvenile record.  He was given a serious second chance, then he went right back into prison.  He got a third chance after his sentence was cut by more than 60%.  Now he’s been caught again.

This is what crime control was like in the 1980’s.  Things got better in the 1990’s, but not enough.  What does it take to put away a child rapist?  I’ll get back to you when we figure that out.

Thank God for sex crime registries.  Without registration, this guy would still be on the loose.  If only the media would mention that once in a while.

Prior Prison History: (Note: Data reflected covers periods of incarceration with the Florida Dept.of Corrections since January of 1983)
Offense Date Offense Sentence Date County Case No. Prison Sentence Length
05/18/1986 L/L, INDEC.ASLT CHILD U/16 09/29/1987 HILLSBOROUGH 8607334 10Y 0M 0D
05/18/1986 KIDNAP MINOR FOR RANSOM(ATTEMPTED) 09/29/1987 HILLSBOROUGH 8607334 10Y 0M 0D
09/02/1987 SEX BAT BY ADULT/VCTM LT 12(ATTEMPTED) 09/29/1987 HILLSBOROUGH 8711422 10Y 0M 0D
02/01/1987 SEX BAT BY ADULT/VCTM LT 12(ATTEMPTED) 09/29/1987 HILLSBOROUGH 8711423 10Y 0M 0D

Current Prison Sentence History:

Offense Date Offense Sentence Date County Case No. Prison Sentence Length
09/02/1987 SEX BAT BY ADULT/VCTM LT 12(ATTEMPTED) 03/11/1993 HILLSBOROUGH 8711422 27Y 0M 0D
02/01/1987 SEX BAT BY ADULT/VCTM LT 12(ATTEMPTED) 03/11/1993 HILLSBOROUGH 8711423 27Y 0M 0D
02/01/1987 SEX BAT BY ADULT/VCTM LT 12(ATTEMPTED) 03/11/1993 HILLSBOROUGH 8711423 27Y 0M 0D
03/01/1992 KIDNAP;COMM.OR FAC.FELONY 12/09/1993 PINELLAS 9206504 27Y 0M 0D
03/01/1992 L/L, INDEC.ASLT CHILD U/16 12/09/1993 PINELLAS 9206504 15Y 0M 0D

 

Incarceration History:
Date In-Custody Date Out-of-Custody
10/02/1987 11/27/1991
04/08/1993 01/01/2004

There’s Nothing “Senseless” About Nicholas Lindsey’s Killing of Police Officer David S. Crawford

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The St. Pete Times (now Tampa Bay Times) has run its latest sob story** about an accused killer, this one Nicholas Lindsey.  True to form, the Times announces in its headline that it will explore why life unravelled for the St. Petersburg teen.

There is the usual objection to be made about such stories.  The reporting is all about the killer’s alleged good qualities, and the reporters work hard to diminish the killer’s responsibility, even though doing so crudely diminishes the value of the murdered police officer’s life.  Buying a Pepsi for a teacher is presented as mitigation against murdering a good man in cold blood.  In the past, I’ve had reporters from that paper tell me they believe they are being “balanced” in their reporting by telling the sob story of the murderer one day and the life story of the murder victim the next, as if doing so balances some ethical scale.

And so, the brute known as mawkish sentimentality strangles moral perspective at her rickety desk in the darkest corner of newsroom.

But even if one sets the lack-of-human-decency objection aside, the reporters still failed.  They failed to explore what they claim to have set out to explore, which is the alleged “unravelling” of Nicholas Lindsey’s life.  The young man committed other serious crimes and apparently faced no consequences for them, but the reporters don’t want to talk about this, so they shove it away quickly, as if it is irrelevant.  In doing so, they deny the very thing they claim to be seeking: the reason why Lindsey went so wrong so young.

Nicholas Lindsey had already been caught and arrested, found guilty, and allowed to walk out of some courthouse laughing over prior crimes.  His father and brother, too, served time.  This ought to be the beginning, middle, and end of the search to explain Lindsey’s escalation to cop-killing, but the reporters do not linger on the subject.  Why?  Have they internalized anti-incarceration biases to the point that they actually believe his prior record is irrelevant?   Or are they that afraid of ruffling the feathers of those who control the anti-incarceration message by shouting “prejudice” when anyone broaches the subject?

Either way, the prior crimes are brushed over, and the “unravelling” is presented as a “mystery” and also a “surprise.”  This is a complete fabrication.  There is no mystery.  There is no surprise.  The reporters scurry away from the facts, tumbling over themselves to reach the only acceptable meme, the “too many minority youths are incarcerated” meme.  Here is the story they must tell, the only story they allow themselves to tell: the prior arrests are irrelevant because punishing the youth for them would have been prejudiced; “gang life” has simply “changed” an otherwise decent young man; the young man is not really responsible for the murder he committed because he is a decent young man, only changed by gang life; more money spent on more social programs for youths who commit crimes is the only answer: thus the only real villain is anyone who refuses to throw more money at youth programs in St. Petersburg . . . a city that already has more youth programs than cockroaches.  Yet young black men keep killing each other and innocents who cross their paths.

There is a great deal of money to be had in this view, and real danger in questioning it.  There is, in fact, a virtually unlimited amount of money to be had in this view, for every time a young person commits a crime, that crime may be used as evidence of the need for more “programs,” which keep bad kids out of jail to commit more crimes, thus increasing the need for more programs.  The alternative — arguing that a youth who steals a car ought to go to jail so he learns his lesson if he is capable of learning a lesson — is virulently attacked as pure racism by the anointed experts who populate every university and law school, federal agency, and editorial board.  Who wants to risk that?

Here’s a question: what comes first, the social program or the teen murderer?

This is less a journalism problem than an “experts” problem.  The journalists just carry the experts’ water.  And so, after closing their eyes to the only real clue and tiptoeing cautiously around the other taboo — assigning blame to the killer’s drug-selling, absentee dad — the St. Pete Times reporters are left with nothing but an embarrassing handful of anecdotes about a violent young man’s paltry virtues: a soda purchased for someone, Lindsey not screaming at a teacher in detention once, an ex-girlfriend who has a mother who is eager to insert herself into the news.  The reporters talk about the killer being a “shy wisp” of a boy and bemoan the “fuzz” just “starting to grow” on his face.  This is repugnant stuff, but it’s all they’ve got because they won’t ask the real questions.

Here are the questions they refuse to ask: who is the judge who let Lindsey walk on previous serious crimes?  How many other youths who walked out his or her courtroom committed more crimes, destroying their lives and others’?  What can be done about it?  Who in our justice system bears responsibility for the legal decisions that enabled Lindsey to be free to commit more crimes?

And this: if Lindsey’s parents were so worried about their son’s involvement in gangs, what, precisely, did they do when he was previously arrested?  Why did they let him advertise his gang connections on Facebook?  Why didn’t they move away from the apartment complex which, allegedly, as the reporters choose to assert as undeniable fact, was the sole source of Lindsey’s transformation into a murderous gang-banger?

If the bar to acceptable behavior is set so low in Lindsey’s community that multiple car thefts aren’t taken seriously, then somebody decided it would be so.  Members of that community who really want change should be protesting outside the courthouse, demanding that judges and prosecutors save young men’s lives by throwing the book at them the first time, and every time they break the law.  They should be sitting alongside the police, who are attending Lindsey’s trial in street clothes because they are not allowed to wear their uniforms, lest doing so deprives the murderer of every little drop of the sympathy the activists deem as his portion.

I know there are people in that community who want to support law enforcement and want to do it out of love for the children who grow up to be Nicholas Lindseys.  I’ve worked in communities like the one that produced Nicholas Lindsey and met those people.  But they are silenced by wealthy and powerful anti-incarceration activists, people who don’t live in or visit such places.  The good people trapped in bad neighborhoods will never be heard so long as the elite activist class — and their eager water-carriers in the media — continue to silence them.  More Officer Crawfords will be murdered as a result, and more Nicholas Lindseys will live their ruined lives behind bars.

But the activists and the reporters will feel virtuous.  And isn’t that all that really counts?

 

 

**bad link, try: http://www.tampabay.com/news/publicsafety/crime/article1220622.ece, or: At 16, Life Unravels for St. Petersburg Teen Accused of Killing Police Officer

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

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

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

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

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

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

James Alan Fox, Professional

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[formatting updated 8/18/11]

Serial Killer Bobby Joe Long: Why Florida Courts (And Those In Other States) Are Really Out Of Money

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This is Bobbie Joe Long:

Serial Killer Bobbie Joe Long

Bobby Joe Long raped scores of women in the Tampa Bay area and murdered as many as 11 and possibly more.  He confessed to multiple murders and there are mountains of evidence, including a victim who escaped and left personal items in his bedroom to prove she had been there.  Bobby Joe Long has been behind bars since 1984.  27 years later, we’re still paying for his legal games.  How many millions of dollars has he cost us in all that time?

He is the real reason why the entire Florida Court system is in danger of shutting down for lack of money.

Sure, there are other reasons.  There’s these guys . . .

Hon. Paul Hawkes, FL Rep. Marti Coley(R), Hon. Brad Thomas

Appellate Judges Paul Hawkes and Brad Thomas, who went on a wild spending spree with 48 million taxpayer dollars to build what is being dubbed the Taj Mahal of courthouses, complete with mahagony-lined private suites for . . . Paul Hawkes and Brad Thomas.  Yes, they are wearing cunning hardhats with their names engraved on them.

Florida’s “Taj Mahal” Appeals Court

There’s also cash flow problems due to another real estate boondoggle, the foreclosure crisis.  The State Bar says they will run out of operating funds very, very, very soon.  And what happens then?

“The courts are running out of money, and if we run out of money, we cannot keep our doors open,” said 10th Circuit Judge John Laurent, chair of the Trial Courts Budget Commission.  “It’s important we keep the doors open. One reason is access to justice, and one is public safety. I don’t think we could go for several months without a court system. No, that’s not an experiment we want to participate in.”

Access to justice and public safety: good things.

But the real problem with funding our justice system is the limitless resources and vast latitude given to any criminal who ever gets convicted of anything.  If they get convicted, that is.  According to a group of researchers who put together a list of every time Bobbie Joe Long skinned his knee or bumped his nose, his first rape charge came in 1971, when he was only 18 (a juvenile record might be sealed).  Before that he shot his dog to death through her vagina, but, whatever.  The girl wasn’t believed.  Nor apparently was his wife, a few years later.  Nor was the next rape victim who dared to put herself through reporting him in 1981, only to see him receive probation for lesser charges, then demand a retrial, receive one from some compassionate judge, and walk free, acquitted that time.  Then there was the twelve-year old girl he tried to abuse while in police custody (he got two days for that crime).  There was the hospital job where he was fired for sexual abuse of the patients, but nothing else was done.  He was hired by several other hospitals after that. Then in 1984, a gunpoint abduction charge that was reduced, astonishingly, to a fine to pay for the damage to the woman’s vehicle (which she had crashed in order to escape him).

When you read through a record like this, it’s hard to see the criminal justice system as anything other than a sort of playground for inhuman psychopaths, with defense attorneys and judges standing on the sidelines virtually encouraging the Bobbie Joe Longs of the world to go out and kill again.  I find it very hard to believe that, with the exception of the police, any of the public servants who came into contact with Long in all those years felt the least bit motivated to get him off the streets.  He did everything short of walking into a police station and confessing to raping and murdering women, and then he finally even did that, and then the location of the game changed slightly, but the courts kept playing with him and encouraging him, and they continue to do so today.

Meanwhile, what percentage of his victims received so much as one day in court to address the vicious rape and attempted murder they barely survived, or the murder of someone they loved?  How many serious violent crimes, even murders, attributed to Long were carelessly shelved without a second thought?

The reality of our criminal justice system is this:  we could spend ten times as much as we do today and 75% of crime victims still wouldn’t see their cases addressed by the system.  Liberals care only about criminals, and, increasingly, conservatives care only about cutting costs.  And liberals control the judiciary, and conservatives control the purse strings, especially in Florida.  The math isn’t hard to do.

In 1970, when Bobbie Joe Long was just beginning his violent career, Milton Eisenhower, one of the most respected criminologists in the United States, complained that of the 10 million serious crimes committed annually in the United States, only one-and-a-half percent resulted in even temporary incarceration of anyone.  Those numbers are probably better today.  But the people we trust to keep us safe have grown worse: they’re no Milton S. Eisenhower, who actually believed the justice system should protect the innocent and punish the guilty.  Bobbie Joe Long will have many more taxpayer-subsidized days in court, probably in the Taj Mahal, which is essentially a playground for him and his peers.

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

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

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

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

Jordan Anthony Gibson, Atlanta, Georgia:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

~~~

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

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

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

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

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

Shouldn’t every sex crime be prosecuted?

~~~

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

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

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

~~~

Leonard Earl Scroggins, San Diego, California:

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

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

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

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

Jesus wept.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jeffrey Dwight Carr, Michael Ray Tackett: Violent Recidivists Wandering the Streets

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While investigative reporters and their academic mouthpieces busily crochet their latest screeds against the notion of putting criminals in prison, here’s a quick sampling of people who should have been behind bars, but weren’t.  Of course, this isn’t a criminological study, because we’re going to actually mention the crimes these men committed, instead of just breathlessly envisioning the endless possibilities of their next “re-entry” into society.

It looks like the last re-entries were easy to a fault.

Jeffery Dwight Carr, Orlando Florida:

Police in Central Florida say a registered sex offender cut off his electronic ankle monitor, kidnapped a woman and tried to have her cash a $1,000 check. Jeffery Dwight Carr has been charged with robbery, false imprisonment and kidnapping.

Although his juvenile record is not available, Carr wasted no time racking up offenses the minute he turned 18: five auto theft convictions in two years.  How precocious of him.  He got a rolling slap on the wrist and just a few months behind bars, which is too bad, because if he hadn’t, he wouldn’t have been free to commit that sexual assault of a minor in 2002.

Of course, people don’t serve time for every crime they commit, so once they’re popped for something, it makes a certain kind of criminal sense to keep committing more crimes, because you won’t actually serve more time for them.  Unless the state has a recidivism law.  And bothers to enforce it.  Which Florida does.  And didn’t.  Oh well.  He’s behind bars now, and the victim was very lucky to escape with her life.

~~~

Michael Ray Tackett, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania:

You’d think we’ve lost enough police officers recently.  None were injured hauling Tackett back into custody last week for the brutal, armed 2007 rape of a real estate agent, thank God.  But why was he out on bond awaiting a 2009 charge for the brutal, armed rape of another real estate agent, when he has a criminal record of multiple rape charges, and a neighbor reported that this was Tackett’s second armed standoff with the police?

Michael Ray Tackett

Tackett was previously acquitted twice for raping women who were prostitutes, in 2003 and 2005.  Both women admitted to selling sex to him on different occasions but went to police when he became violent, pulled weapons, and raped them.  You would think that type of history would be enough to keep him in jail awaiting trial after he committed his 2009 rape — of a real estate agent he stalked and attacked in an empty house she was showing.  Yet after that terrifyingly violent crime, and despite his extremely scary record, Tackett told the court that he had a back problem that couldn’t be addressed in prison, so he’d need to await trial at home.   The judge actually bought the back pain story and decided Tackett was a good candidate for pre-trial bond.  You know, like Ted Bundy:

Dec. 16, 2009: A West Pittsburg man accused of luring a real estate agent to an empty Jefferson Township house and raping her June 11 is free on bond.  Michael R. Tackett, 38, had his bond reduced Thursday from $200,000 to $100,000 by Mercer County Common Pleas Court Judge John C. Reed after his defense attorney Thomas W. Leslie called the initial amount excessive.  Assistant Mercer County District Attorney Ryan Bonner said Tackett testified Thursday that he required medical attention due to back surgery, and that he couldn’t get it through the Mercer County Jail. . . “Obviously, we were disappointed and alarmed that he bonded out,” said state police trooper Dan Sindlinger.  He said Tackett is potentially dangerous and may have a pattern of targeting real estate agents, and warned them not to show homes alone.

In other words, the judge decided that rather than using stuff like prison guards and bars to keep an eye on Tackett, he would place the burden for watching out for him directly on the real estate agents he was known to be stalking.  After all, lots of real estate agents are part-time ninjas trained in taking down potential serial killers, right?

Tackett was charged with rape in 2003 and 2005 in Lawrence County and acquitted both times, according to published reports. . .  Authorities said Tackett met the woman during a real estate open house. About a week and half later she was showing him a house on Seidle Road when police say he pinned her down, told her he had a gun and raped her repeatedly.  Tackett threatened to kill the woman. He ordered her to answer questions about her family, recited her address, and threatened to kill her and her family if she reported the incident, police said.

And now, the parade of technicalities begins:

Tackett used a fake name when he contacted the woman but she found a photo on the state’s Megan’s Law sex offender registry that looked similar to the man she said raped her, police said.  A Neshannock Township policeman saw the picture, which was not Tackett’s. He realized it looked like Tackett, with whom he’d dealt before.  The policeman showed the woman Tackett’s picture, and she confirmed it was him.  Leslie is trying to have that identification, and any subsequent courtroom identifications of Tackett suppressed in the case. He said showing the picture outside a lineup was “unduly suggestive.” A hearing is scheduled for Jan. 6 on that motion.  In a later state police lineup, the woman said she was “100 percent sure” it was Tackett who raped her, police said.  She also identified Tackett’s car, and was able to point it out from a block away while driving through West Pittsburg with her husband, police said.

The details from the 2007 rape are also chilling:

[Tackett] had been sought by police in the rape of a real estate agent on May 24, 2007. State police said the agent had agreed to meet with Tackett to show him a home along Huson Road in Woodcock Township, Crawford County.  According to documents filed earlier this year in the office of District Judge Lincoln Zilhaver of Saegertown, Crawford County, the agent showed the house to Tackett, who had given her the false name of Randy Thompson, for about four hours, starting around 10:30 a.m.  Toward the end of the showing, Tackett asked to see the basement. Once in the basement, police said Tackett used a stun gun on the woman and raped her.  The woman provided a detailed description of her attacker, including his height and weight, that he wore glasses, had a tattoo and shaved his pubic area.  She also identified Tackett in a photo lineup. During the investigation, police searched Tackett’s wife’s car, which the woman also described to police as the vehicle used by her attacker.  That vehicle search turned up items including a copy of Real Estate magazine and a stun gun.

This sounds like a case where insane pro-offender evidence rules, in addition to judicial and juror leniency, slowed down police in their efforts to contain a suspected serial rapist and, possibly, serial killer.  Let’s hope the body count isn’t too high.  But of course, the real problem is that we just put too many people in jail, man.

Tomorrow: more violent recidivists wandering the streets . . .

Rodney Alcala’s Criminal Appeals: Is Alcala Smart, Or Is The System Stupid?

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Much is being made about Rodney Alcala’s allegedly superior intelligence. I don’t buy it any more than I buy it when defense attorneys wave a piece of paper in the courtroom and claim their client is mentally challenged and thus deserves a break.  It’s just theater.  Alcala’s a haircut with cheekbones: his IQ, whatever it might be, matters far less than the pro-offender sentiments of the era when he was first tried, and re-tried.

It certainly didn’t take a rocket scientist to play the California criminal justice system for a fool back in the 1970’s.  Unfortunately, in many ways, the same is still true.

Here are ten specific breaks the system gave Alcala, breaks that either enabled him to add to his body count or torment the families of his victims.  Such breaks weren’t reserved for serial killers with MENSA memberships, which is why places like L.A. were so fatal for all sorts of women.

How fatal?  Seven, or fifty, or even 100 women and girls, depending on how much evidence Alcala provides and the police uncover with the massive public appeal for assistance now underway.  Again, I have to ask: why weren’t these pictures distributed to the public decades ago?  Why were families forced to sit in limbo while authorities had hundreds of photos linking a known sadistic rapist and murderer to scores of unidentified women and girls?  I’m sure the police, given adequate resources, would have worked these cases.  But we’ve never given police adequate resources.  We still don’t charge even serious offenders with the totality of their known crimes.

Still it’s a tribute to reformers that some (though not all) of these fatal justice system errors would not occur today.

#1: Judicial Leniency, Indeterminate Sentencing Sets a Killer Free, 1971

Rodney Alcala was 25 in 1968, when he was caught in the act of raping and beating an eight-year old child to death.  That’s a chilling number, 25.  Kidnapping from a public place, the brutality of the rape, the extreme violence — all are hallmarks of an experienced, brazen killer who had escalated his behavior long before that crime.  If Alcala conformed to typical patterns (and there’s no reason to believe he did not), he probably started sexually victimizing girls and women around the time he reached puberty, a full decade before he attacked “Tali S.”  That’s potentially a lot of unnoticed crimes:

His first known attack was in 1968, when he abducted a second-grade girl walking to school in Hollywood, using a pipe to badly bash her head and then raping her — only to be caught red-handed because a Good Samaritan spotted him luring the child and called police. When LAPD officers demanded he open the door of his Hollywood apartment on De Longpre Avenue, Alcala fled out the back. Inside, police found the barely-alive, raped little girl on Alcala’s floor. It took LAPD three years to catch the fugitive Alcala, living under the name John Berger in New Hampshire — where the glib and charming child rapist had been hired, disturbingly, as a counselor at an arts-and-drama camp for teenagers.

Attempted murder, plus kidnapping, plus rape of a child, plus absconding.  Seems like he’d never see the light of day again.  Unfortunately, for future victims at least, pro-offender psychologists and other activists had so infiltrated the criminal justice system in California that the horror of Alcala’s crime was ignored by the courts.  From the moment he appeared in some California judge’s courtroom, he ceased to be a (failed) killer and child rapist.  He became a client and recipient of social services, a victim needing guidance, rehabilitation, “education,” and counseling.  It’s a soul-sickening travesty, one that deserves more exposure:

When Alcala was caught hiding out under the assumed name Berger on the East Coast [in 1971], a conviction for brutally raping a child in California was not a guarantee of a long prison sentence. California’s state government of that era had embraced a philosophy that the state could successfully treat rapists and murderers through education and psychotherapy.  The hallmark of the philosophy was “indeterminate sentencing,” under which judges left open the number of prison years to be served by a violent felon, and parole boards later determined when the offender had been reformed. Rapists and murderers — including Alcala — went free after very short stints. He served a scant 34 months for viciously raping the 8-year-old, who is known in official documents only as “Tali” . . . Deeply controversial, “indeterminate sentencing” was ended by then-governor Jerry Brown. But by that time, Alcala was free. . . . Retired LAPD Detective Steve Hodel, who investigated Alcala’s rape of Tali, recalls, “My impression was that it was his first sex crime, and we got him early — and society is relatively safe now. I had no idea in two years [he would be out] and continue his reign of terror and horror. I expected he was put away and society was safe. … It is such a tragedy that so much more came after that.”

“Education and psychotherapy.”  For raping and trying to kill a little girl.  It is important to understand that these highly educated “experts” were not simply trying to grope towards to some psychological discoveries that would only be discovered later.

Knowledge that murder is bad, for example, pre-dates 1971.

As I’ve written previously, I believe Alcala would have received a more severe sentence if he had just bludgeoned the little girl, instead of raping her and bludgeoning her.  I suspect the rape actually acted as a mitigating factor, turning him into a victim in the eyes of the people empowered to run our courts.  For when a prison psychiatrist found him “considerably improved” and ready for release less than three years after being convicted of attempted murder and child rape, that psychiatrist was undoubtedly referring to the fad psycho-sexual therapies in use at the time — and still being promoted by many academicians and practitioners today.  Like Dr. Richard Rappaport, Associate Clinical Professor of Psychiatry, UCSD Medical School, San Diego, who testified in Alcala’s most recent trial that Alcala should not be held responsible for serial sex murder because he just can’t help enjoying . . . sexual murder.

#2: Parole Board Leniency, 1974

It takes two to tango: a judge who refuses to hold a sick predator responsible for his crime by giving him an indeterminate sentence, and then a parole board that decides the “rehabilitation’s taken.”  Who served on that parole board in 1974, the one that decided to cut Alcala loose?  I’d love to see the transcript.  If anyone would send it to me, I’ll post it.  This wasn’t some gray-area first offense.  I wonder why the media hasn’t sought out these people and asked them why they let Alcala go.  As public servants, the parole board members should feel obliged to revisit such a devastating error.  A year’s worth of such decisions would make interesting reading — and yet one more interesting corrective to mythic beliefs that our country is too harsh on criminals.

#3: Prosecutorial/Judicial Leniency, Not Believing a Victim, Failure to Punish Recidivism, 1974

After the parole board cut him loose, it took Alcala two months to get caught with another child.  Two months.  Or, possibly, less:

In 1974, two months after he got out of state prison, Alcala was found at Bolsa Chica State Beach with a 13-year-old girl who claimed he’d kidnapped her. He was convicted only of violating parole and giving pot to a minor, however . . .

A convicted, violent, child rapist is found with a 13-year old girl who tells police she has been kidnapped.  What happens next?  Somebody doesn’t believe the child.  Who?  The judge?  The prosecutor?

#4: Parole Leniency, 1977

Alcala served another short sentence, and was apparently declared “re-reformed.”  Then a parole officer cut him some breaks.  It makes you wonder: was there anyone, anywhere in California’s criminal justice system, outside police themselves, who harbored a negative attitude towards violent offenders?

[T]wo years later, upon his second release from prison, the law went easy on Alcala again. His parole officer in Los Angeles permitted Alcala, though a registered child rapist and known flight risk, to jaunt off to New York City to visit relatives. NYPD cold-case investigators now believe that one week after arriving in Manhattan, Alcala killed the Ciro’s nightclub heiress Ellen Hover, burying her on the vast Rockefeller Estate in ritzy Westchester County.Orange County Senior Deputy District Attorney Matt Murphy, who hopes during the current trial to put Alcala permanently on death row for Samsoe’s 1979 murder and the slayings of four women in the Los Angeles area, says: “The ’70s in California was insane as far as treatment of sexual predators. Rodney Alcala is a poster boy for this. It is a total comedy of outrageous stupidity.”

#5:  Social Leniency, 1977 – 1979: The Polanski Effect

It really does take a village.  Between the time Rodney Alcala was released from prison on his second child offense charge, and when he was captured after the murder of 12-year old Robin Samsoe, it seems that nobody he encountered (outside the police) felt it was right to judge him for — oh, little transgressions like trying to murder a young child he was raping, or being a suspect in several other murders, or being investigated in the Hillside strangler cases, or ending up on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted list.  Surely, FBI agents and other detectives approached Alcala’s co-workers and employers when he was being investigated for these crimes; surely his family and friends and professional acquaintances knew about the rape and beating of the 8-year old child.

So why did the L.A. Times choose to hire him anyway?  Why didn’t his supervisors there act on the knowledge that he was circulating his home-made child porn to co-workers?  Why did the Dating Game producers allow a child-rapist on their show?  Why did Alcala have such success in high-end social circles, in the art world, and with celebrities such as Roman Polanski?  Well, that one’s pretty easy to answer.

Was Alcala’s social success, in fact, based on his status as a “sexual outlaw,” being “persecuted by the pigs”?  Such was the argot in newsrooms and art circles, after all.  Funny how all the people who knew him then are so tight-lipped now: it sounds as if he really got around, between slaughtering young women:

1977  Ellen Hover, Jill Barcomb (18), Georgia Wixted (27)

1978  Charlotte Lamb (32), Monique H. (15), Jill Parenteau (21).  And more to come.

#6: Yet More Judicial Leniency, and Help From Mom, 1979

Another kidnapping and rape, another lost chance to get Alcala behind bars.  The police catch ’em and the courts let ’em go, leaving two more girls dead.  This type of behavior from the bench, sadly, continues today:

Alcala’s alleged reign of terror might have been halted in early 1979, when a 15-year-old hitchhiker called police from a motel in Riverside County to report she had just escaped from a kidnapper and rapist. Although Riverside police quickly charged Alcala with kidnapping and rape, a judge set his bail at just $10,000, paid by his mother. While free, police say, Alcala killed 21-year-old computer keypunch operator [Jill] Parenteau five months later in her Burbank apartment. The killer cut himself climbing through her window, and prosecutors now say Alcala’s rare blood type has been matched to the blood remnants.  Six days after Parenteau’s slaying, Robin Samsoe disappeared, a child-snatching that sent fear rippling through safe, quiet Southern California communities. Samsoe’s friend Bridget told police the two swimsuit-clad girls were approached that day by a photographer who asked if he could take their pictures. The man was scared off by a suspicious neighbor, but shortly after that, Bridget lent Samsoe her yellow bicycle so that Samsoe could make it to ballet class. Samsoe was never seen again.  Detectives circulated a sketch of the mysterious photographer to the media, and a parole officer recognized his parolee Alcala. Twelve days after she vanished, on July 2, 1979, Samsoe’s skeletal remains were found by U.S. Forestry Service rangers. Alcala was arrested on July 24 at his mother’s house in Monterey Park.

#7:  Criminal Appeals, 1984

Alcala was found guilty of murdering Robin Samsoe in 1980 and was sentenced to death.  But that verdict was overturned in 1984 by the California Supreme Court.  The court found that the jury had been “unduly prejudiced” when prosecutors introduced information about about the rape and attempted murder of the 8-year old child in 1968.

Evidence of prior crimes is sometimes admissible at certain times, so long as the priors are materially similar to to crime being tried.  For instance, is raping and trying to murder an 8-year old girl at all similar to raping and murdering a 12-year old girl?  There’s a four-year difference in the ages of the victims there, and a higher success component on the whole “murder” thing.  I’m sure, however, that the California Supreme Court could not have overturned Alcala’s death sentence on such a frivolous distinction.  It must have been some other frivolous distinction.

#8: Criminal Appeals, 2001

This time, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals got a piece of the action.  They decided that, because one witness’ testimony from a previous trial was read from the stand without the witness being in the room, the entire second trial, which doubtlessly cost hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of taxpayer dollars to re-try, simply had to be tossed out because of this.

What’s the matter with the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals?  Richard Posner says they’re just too large for their own good, with too many different justices thinking together, and he’s got a well-known large brain that thinks in perfect unison with itself.  Me, with my quotidian little intellect, I think they just never saw a serial killer appeal they couldn’t bleed for, since they don’t have to, like, literally bleed, like the victims.  Not a very elegant argument, I know, but maybe it would pass muster before the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

#9: Alcala’s Exclusive Access to the Courts, 1979 – 2010

With his denim pantsuit aesthetic and not-very-bright courtroom performances, Alcala doesn’t really present as a brain trust.  But he doesn’t need to be one.  And defendant can tie up the courts — and further devastate victim’s families — with frivolous lawsuits and endless appeals designed to catch certain activist judges’ eyes:

Alcala has spent his time behind bars penning You, the Jury, a 1994 book in which he claims his innocence and points to a different suspect; suing the California prisons for a slip-and-fall claim and for failing to provide him a low-fat diet; and, according to prosecutors, complaining about a law that required he and other death-row inmates to submit DNA mouth swabs for comparison by police against unsolved crimes. Alcala is still as cocky as ever — bold enough to represent himself in the trial for his life, now unfolding in Orange County. And why not? He has a talent for mining legal technicalities and has repeatedly enjoyed success with appellate judges.

Orange County prosecutor Matt Murphy likens Alcala to a video game villain that keeps coming to life and says that the appellate courts have hit restart on this real-life murderous villain’s rampage through the system. The families of the victims as well as those close to the investigation criticize the decisions as misguided political statements by justices who opposed the death penalty and ignored the facts of the case. For Murphy, who tried the latest Samsoe case, each decision to overturn stripped away more evidence from his arsenal against Alcala. And for Robin Samsoe’s family, the legal setbacks have altered the course of their lives, ripping through like aftershock upon aftershock following a devastating earthquake. . . Samsoe’s mother [Maryanne Connelly] spoke eloquently about the hardships she has endured in the 31 years since her daughter’s murder, waiting for justice that never came. . . Meanwhile, her daughter’s killer has spent most of his life in prison, and has perfected the art of working the system to his advantage, filing lawsuit upon lawsuit when he felt his rights were violated while in custody – such as a civil suit against an investigator who did not respond to a request for discovery within 10 days. In fact, a contempt case against the Orange County Jail is still pending. . . Connelly wonders where her rights were, while the man who killed her daughter became comfortably institutionalized. This inequity has become the rallying cry of all the victims’ families, as well as victim’s rights advocates, who say the system has coddled a vicious killer while failing victims’ loved ones.

If the victims’ families had the same rights as Alcala, they could sue him for mental cruelty.  Where such a trial could be held is a difficult question, because his co-defendant would be the justice system itself.

#10: Turning the Courtroom into His Last Killing Field, 2010, and Beyond

“He was blowing kisses at me across the courtroom, and I thought I was going to lose my mind,” Connely said. “And I thought I was going to go crazy, you know. And I reached into my purse and I was going to grab it, you know, and I thought, ‘I can’t do this.'”

That’s Marianne Connelly, speaking recently about Alcala’s 1980 trial for the murder of her daughter: back then, she once brought a gun to the courtroom to shoot Alcala.  I doubt anyone would have blamed her then, and they certainly wouldn’t blame her now, after thirty more years of sitting in courtrooms watching Alcala toy with her, and other victims, for fun.

Where was the judge while Alcala was blowing kisses at his victim’s mother?  Did that judge feel his hands were tied, thanks to our perverse appeals system?  Or did he simply not care?  Why did he allow the defendant to behave that way?

This unique, public humiliation and torture of crime victims is one thing that has not changed in 30 years.  From the most recent trial:

Robin’s brother Tim Samsoe, 44, said the worst thing was watching Alcala perk up in court every time he got the chance to see old photographs of his alleged victims.  “You see the gleam in his eye,” said Samsoe. “He’s enjoying this again.”

According to prosecutors, Alcala always enjoyed torturing his victims:

[Orange County Senior Deputy District Attorney Matt] Murphy told the packed courtroom that Alcala took his time terrorizing his victims by choking them with his bare hands, waiting for them to wake up at least once, then strangling them again — sometimes using shoelaces or panty hose. “It is a staggeringly horrific way to die,” exclaimed Murphy. “There is ample evidence the women put up some resistance….He gets off on it. It was fun.”  Once they were dead, Alcala allegedly [he has since been found guilty] would then pose their bodies.

Now the only victims he has access to are the relatives of the women and children he killed:

Robert Samsoe, who was 13 when his little sister was slain, tells L.A. Weekly, “I don’t have any faith in the system. Some people, they are just afforded all the chances in the world. Alcala has cost the state of California more than any other person because of his lawsuits. And they treat him like a king. Everybody is walking on pins and needles around him.

Alcala dragged out his latest trial for weeks, representing himself, attacking victims, rambling on and enjoying himself.  If this judge felt he simply had no power to prevent such behavior, he should now take steps to do something about the warped system of which he is a part.  When is enough enough?

At the trial’s close, Alcala forced family members to listen to a recording of Alice’s Restaurant, a move that nearly drove one columnist to violence.  Frank Mickadeit, of the OC Register, wondered how family members could hold themselves back:

To make the family and jurors listen to somebody, even Guthrie, sing: “I wanna kill. Kill. I wanna, I wanna see, I wanna see blood and guts and veins in my teeth”? I guarantee you, that made nobody in the room think about how horrible Alcala’s death might be, as was apparently his intent. . . In all the years I’ve covered trials, I’ve never once wanted to personally wreak vengeance on a defendant. I can dissociate along with the hardest of professionals. But at Minute 50 on Tuesday, Murphy got me to go to that unprofessional place, where the father, brother and uncle lives.  I think it might have been one young woman’s morgue-photo – a head that was missing a third of its face because Alcala had bashed it away with a rock.  I stared hard at the back of Alcala’s tan sports coat, where the collar met the unruly mass of gray curls that cascades down his back (Arlo-like, if you must know), and I thought hard about that 15 feet between me and that thin neck. A cat-like leap, a bound, a forearm-lock, a snap – he’d never see me coming. The burly deputy sheriff between us would, though, so there was no chance even if I had indulged my momentary fantasy.  I looked to my left. Immediately across the aisle from me was Robert Samsoe, Robin‘s brother – roughly my age and size. He was wearing jeans, penny loafers and white socks, and I could see his right foot tapping nervously during these last 10 minutes of Murphy’s closing. The photo of another victim, her lower lip torn away, flashed up. Murphy hadn’t even begun recounting Robin’s death yet. . . Mercifully, there are no morgue photos of Robin, at least not in the sense that there are of the other murder victims. When they found Robin, just a skull was left – albeit a disfigured one from where Alcala had bashed in her teeth.  Robert Samsoe didn’t leap out of his chair and break Rodney Alcala’s neck, as part of me would have like to have seen.

Of course he didn’t.  The victims figured out long ago that they are not actually people, with human rights, including the right to dignity, in the eyes of the law.  The only person in that courtroom whose rights were being protected was Rodney Alcala.

It doesn’t have to be that way.

Rodney Alcala: The Forrest Gump of Sex Murder. And What That Says About the Rest of Us.

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Yesterday, serial killer Rodney Alcala was sentenced to death for the third time for the 1979 murder of 12-year old Robin Samsoe.  He was also sentenced for the torture-killings of four other women.

Today, the media is reporting brief, painful snippets about the five victims.  Many other victims are believed to exist.

Tomorrow, Alcala will undoubtedly begin appealing the sentence again.  Why not?  The taxpayers of California pay his legal bills: his lawyers have grown fat over the past three decades, helping a serial killer play games with the appeals process.   The victims have spent lifetimes sitting in courtrooms watching him toy with their loved ones’ memories.

Perhaps the worst part of this story is the role played by certain culturally powerful people who knew about some of Alcala’s most vicious crimes but still allowed him get out of prison or provided him with the cover of social credibility.

Had Alcala been put away for life after he was caught, in 1968, in the act of raping and beating an 8-year old girl, his later victims — Georgia Wixted, Jill Parenteau, Charlotte Lamb, Jill Barcomb, Robin Samsoe, and others — would be alive today.  But in 1971, at his sentencing, the state of California decided that Alcala deserved another chance.  They gave him to just a handful of months for the crime, practically letting him walk free for the near-murder of an 8-year old.  The child survived only because police broke into Alcala’s house while he was beating her head in with a steel pipe.

This sentence is a perfect illustration of the theory that, until recently, predators actually received lesser sentences when they sexually violated their victims.  I believe Alcala would have gotten a much longer sentence if he had merely tried to kill the child, without raping her, too.  In the therapeutic environment of the 1970’s justice system, being a sexual offender was literally an excuse for lawbreaking.  Sex offenders were to be pitied, if not slyly admired.

Anybody care to challenge that?

Rodney Alcala

Now for the weighty hangover of such indulgences. Investigators are asking anyone missing loved ones to look at this gallery of photographs that were in Alcala’s possession.  It’s not known how many women and girls he killed, so the photos may lead police to more victims.

You have to wonder why this wasn’t done decades ago.  The photographs have been in the possession of authorities since around 1979.  Perhaps if the state were not so strapped from subsidizing Alcala’s relentless manipulation of the courts, they would have a little more cash on hand to look for more of his victims:

Alcala has spent his time behind bars penning You, the Jury, a 1994 book in which he claims his innocence and points to a different suspect; suing the California prisons for a slip-and-fall claim and for failing to provide him a low-fat diet; and, according to prosecutors, complaining about a law that required he and other death-row inmates to submit DNA mouth swabs for comparison by police against unsolved crimes. . . He has a talent for mining legal technicalities and has repeatedly enjoyed success with appellate judges.

Astonishingly, after being convicted of the vicious rape and attempted murder of an 8-year old, making the FBI’s ten most wanted list, absconding, being sent to  prison, being released, then getting packed off to prison again for abducting a 13-year old girl, Alcala landed a job at the Los Angeles Times.  The newspaper is being quite circumspect on the whole serial killer recruitment snafu thing, but it was reported in L.A. Weekly.

You might think a whole building full of investigative reporters would have betrayed a little curiosity when a two-time convicted child rapist started flashing home-made child porn around their water cooler, particularly considering the fact that he was also under investigation for the Hillside Strangler killings at the same time.

You’d think so, but you would be wrong.  From the L.A. Weekly:

Even as the L.A. Times was publishing sensational articles in the late 1970s about the mysterious Hillside Strangler, who terrorized much of L.A. at that time, Alcala, who worked typesetting articles for that paper, was being questioned by the LAPD in relation to those very murders.  In an interview with the [L.A.] Weekly, Alcala’s former Times colleague Sharon Gonzalez remembers: “He would talk about going to parties in Hollywood. It seemed like he knew famous people. He kept his body in great shape. He was very open about his sexuality. It was all new to me.”  He brought his photography portfolio to show his Times workmates, she says, and the photos were “of young girls. I thought it was weird, but I was young, I didn’t know anything. When I asked why he took the photos, he said their moms asked him to. I remember the girls were naked.”

You don’t want to seem like you’re judging the man.

Gonzalez adds that she wasn’t “smart enough or mature enough to know” that she was looking at child porn. Yet incredibly, she describes how L.A. Times‘ management in the 1970s had a golden opportunity to turn Alcala in, but did nothing: “There were other people in the department who were in their 40s and 50s. The [Times] supervisor at the time — she saw it.” Instead, the reaction at the newspaper was, “We thought he was a little different. Strange about sex.”

Which L.A. Times managers knew about Alcala’s record? His impromptu workplace polaroid shows?  Good for Gonzalez for coming forward: does anyone else have a conscience?  Considering the paper’s current editorial stance opposing sentencing enhancements and measures to monitor sex offenders, it would be illuminating to know if any current editorial board members were among those who knew him back then.

Of course, doing nothing to stop child rape was in at the time.

It is actually hard to believe that Alcala was given a job at the Times despite his heinous record.  Was he given the job because of it?  There is no way they couldn’t know about his past: he was a registered sex offender, had made a daring escape and had been, you know, in the papers.  Were journalists actually so besotted with ideas about the illegitimacy of incarceration that they bought the idea that he had been . . . rehabilitated?

Had Maileresque outlaw mentality really eroded such giant chunks of the ethical hive?

Alcala studied film-making under Roman Polanski, too. I wonder what other passions they shared.

Hollywood pedophiles, media crusaders, rapist-loving parole boards, lenient judges, hip defense attorneys, art-world glitterati, The Dating Game (also post-child rape): this guy was the Forrest Gump of sexual torturers.

The most painfully comprehensive coverage of the Alcala saga is Christine Pelisek’s excellent series of articles in L.A.Weekly.  Read them and weep:

Dating Game Serial Killer Suspect Cross-Examines Himself Over His Hair

Orange County Prosecutor: Suspected Serial Killer and Dating Game Contestant Rodney Alcala Savagely Killed His Victims Because “He Enjoyed It.”

Rodney Alcala’s Final Revenge: Begged to Spare Victims’ Families At Trial, The Alleged Serial Killer Ratchets Up The Suffering

Rodney Alcala: The Fine Art of Killing: One Man’s Murderous Romp Through Polite Society

Orange County Judge Sentences Serial Killer and Dating Game Winner Rodney Alcala to Death

~~~

Tomorrow: Rodney Alcala’s Criminal Appeals

Real Recidivism *Update*

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I received this interesting note from Dr. Greg Little (see yesterday’s post) explaining his research methods in more detail and discussing his findings:

Overall you present a good summary. But I can answer your questions. The study’s subjects all applied for entry into a drug treatment program (MRT) operated by the Shelby County Correction Center in Memphis, TN from 1986-1991. All were felons serving from 1 to 6 years. The control group was formed from a smaller number of individuals who were randomly excluded because of limited treatment slots. The treated subjects were randomly selected to enter…after all the subjects were placed into a pool of eligibles.

So both the study group and the control group were people who had applied to take part in a drug treatment program.  That solves the problem of self-selection, in a way, making the data on the effect of the treatment more reliable, for the main difference between the two groups would be the treatment program, and only the treatment program.

It makes me wonder about the recidivism rates for offenders who didn’t try to apply for the drug treatment program, though (not that you can get a recidivism rate much higher than 94%).  Were they simply not substance abusers?  Were they excluded because of behavioral issues such as violence?  Additionally, felons serving more than six years were excluded from the study, so we don’t know the recidivism rates for them.  Undoubtedly, members of that group include the sorts of violent criminals whose propensity for recidivism is most worrying.  And offenders serving less than a year weren’t counted either.

None of this is to say that the study isn’t valuable, nor that the researchers here are misrepresenting their findings.  But it’s important to be aware of the difference between what a study proves and what it cannot prove.  Too often, the media ignores this difference.  And when the research is conducted by activist organizations with anti-incarceration agendas (not the case here), like the Pew Foundation, or the Sentencing Project, the claims they make are often extremely unreliable.  At best.

Dr. Little continues:

There were no differences between the treated and control groups. There have been about a dozen prior published studies in peer-reviewed journals on these groups covering their time periods from 1 to 10 years after release. We were interested in what honestly happens to these people after 20 years of release. The local government, which we are not affiliated with, supplied the data.

You are correct that the authors (I am the senior author) are engaged in starting programs that reduce recidivism. We all make our living in criminal justice, we are all long-term professionals, and I have been in the field since 1975. All rearrests, only with minor traffic charges excluded, were collected as were all reincarcerations. The criminal justice system has always supplied misleading statistics, and that’s something we have battled for decades and have included such ethically-challenged issues in our textbooks and articles. There is a difference between what could be called “accurate” and what is “true” or “honest,” and we wanted to present a true and completely honest picture of what happens after 20 years. The data were, quite frankly, highly disappointing, but also somewhat encouraging. The real point is that there is a proportion of offenders that will return after their release no matter what we do. Right now, reducing those rearrested from 94% to 81% after 20 years is the best anyone has found. Reducing the reincarceration rate (which is rearrest, conviction, plus new sentence) is from 82% to 61%, also the best ever found. It means even using the best treatment known currently, 81% will be rearrested and 61% will still be reincarcerated. Without using that method, 94% are rearrested and 81% are reincarcerated.

The link to the original full article can be found here:
http://www.i-newswire.com/what-happens-over-twenty-years/21666

As I wrote yesterday, I don’t oppose realistic rehabilitation efforts (who would, really?).  What I object to is using substance abuse as an excuse for crime, which results in untold numbers of offenders escaping punishment simply because they say they’re helpless addicts.  And that doesn’t do anyone, including them, any good at all.  Nor does it help to romanticize criminals, or encourage them to believe that they are victims of society, as so many rehabilitation programs do.  Changing Lives Through Literature, for example, seems less about “rehabilitating” offenders than convincing them that their own convictions were unjust (see here and here).

Unfortunately, such anti-incarceration activists (who are currently in force in the Justice Department, in academic departments, and, of course, in the rehabilitation industry) never change their tune, no matter the evidence presented about the inevitability of re-offending.  Their first line of defense is claiming that recidivism rates are not nearly as high as many believe.  But hand them a 94% re-arrest rate, and they will say it’s proof that prison doesn’t work.  If we never incarcerate anyone, the line goes, then there will be less crime (thank goodness they’re not in charge of the laws of gravity).

A few years ago, I ran into a former co-worker who attributed his ability to kick a cocaine habit to a long sentence behind bars.  He never would have stuck with drug treatment, he told me, if he had not been incarcerated.  Then he listed other co-workers we knew who died young.  He considered himself lucky.  The so-called drug war, and stiff sentencing, doesn’t get enough credit for saving lives.

What do we do with a 94% re-arrest rate?  There’s no one good answer.  But one thing we definitely should not do is keep pretending that all that crime doesn’t really exist.

Real Recidivism: The Numbers Aren’t Good

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Whenever some academician tells the media that this program or that program has “reduced recidivism,” or that “this group of offenders aren’t likely to commit more crimes” there are three questions you should always ask:

  • how long were the offenders tracked after they got out of prison?
  • how were offenders selected for (or excluded from) study?
  • who paid the academician?

I have an especially hard time trusting studies that are designed to test one specific program or sentencing initiative.  Such studies are usually designed by people who have a vested interest in proving the program a success — either the program directors themselves or some professor or consulting firm hired to evaluate their outcomes.

It’s sort of like telling a bunch of ambitious eleventh graders to grade their own performance on the SAT’s . . . based on effort.

Unfortunately, there is no graveyard where skewed studies go to die: they live on in debates about recidivism, sentencing, and crime.  This is how myths like “sex offenders almost never re-offend” seep out into the conventional wisdom.

How do you cook the books on recidivism? You follow tiny pools of offenders.  You pick offenders who have already shown initiative by enrolling in a program or being admitted into one — self-selecting, ideal participants.  You use partial information: convictions instead of arrests; post-plea sentencing instead of pre-pleaded charges.  Mostly, you follow offenders for very short periods of time after they are released, like, down the street to the first stoplight.

When you don’t do these things, this is what the headline looks like:

Recidivism rate worse than statistics indicate, Memphis-area study finds

20 years of research discovers 81 percent of former inmates end up back behind bars

Yikes.

Jeff Smith had been free of drugs for four years. Two of those years were during a stay at the Shelby County Correction Center and two were while working at the Salvation Army after his release from jail.

It was at the Salvation Army that Smith, 54, says he felt “a sense of purpose for the first time in years.” He was doing what he says he loves best — working as a carpenter and furniture refinisher. And he counseled other former inmates to try to keep them from repeating their mistakes.

Smith wishes he had followed his own advice. “I was tempted by the devil, and I failed,” he says. Carpentry, counseling and church services at the Salvation Army weren’t enough to break the “revolving-door” cycle that means, like Smith, up to 94 percent of former inmates will be rearrested and up to 81 percent will wind up behind bars again.

94% re-arrest rate.  This is from a 20-year study that recorded every re-arrest and re-conviction, avoiding the “partial information” scheme.  The study itself was conducted by people who have a program of their own to promote: they claim that their moral reconation therapy (MRT) resulted in a 25% decrease in recidivism:

About 94 percent of inmates receiving only standard counseling had been rearrested and 82 percent of them wound up back behind bars.  Of those receiving MRT therapy, 81 percent had been rearrested and 61 percent again wound up behind bars. It was reduction of about 25 percent from the group that did not receive MRT therapy.

Well, OK.  It’s not that I think that there’s no such thing as rehabilitation.  Consequences and 12-steps and therapy do work.  But I’d need to know a lot more about their selection process to buy the 25% claim.

Besides, when anti-incarceration activists claim that we save X amount of money by not incarcerating someone, that’s just untrue.  Most offenders receive significant social service dollars — housing, medical, food stamps — when they are out of prison as well, not to mention the price of policing them and the costs that arise every time they commit an additional crime, which 94% of them apparently will do.  Offenders who return to abusing substances when they get out of prison are particularly costly as their health deteriorates and their habits drag down the families and neighborhoods around them.  Innocent bystanders and misinformed taxpayers pay the tab either way.

Without acknowledging these costs, statements like this are, frankly, meaningless:

[T]he cost of housing an inmate like Smith is more than $24,000 a year, so cutting total costs by 25 percent would mean a huge savings.

Yet public policy debates rise and fall on questionable claims like these. The media needs to do a much better job of skeptically approaching all research claims.  After all, if there is reliable research showing that everything policymakers have been believing is not only wrong, but staggeringly wrong, the debate needs to be re-calibrated:

Tennessee Department of Correction studies show recidivism rates of about 51 percent over a three-year period, and national studies show recidivism averages of roughly 65 percent over three years. But [Dr. Greg] Little and [Dr. Kenneth] Robinson say the numbers keep going up over time, and the numbers are higher because most studies don’t count re-incarcerations that took place in other states or in courts other than the original case. For instance, an inmate released on state probation or parole is seldom counted as a recidivist if later jailed for a federal crime.

There is a very large difference between 51% recidivism and 94% recidivism.  You don’t need to throw out the rehabilitation baby with the research bathwater just because the research bathwater is hopelessly dirty, but you should wash the baby in clean water.


Sex Offender Two-Step: Those (Pricey) Revolving Prison Doors

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Crime Victims Media Report is back, after an unexpected hiatus.  Some updates:

Loc Buu Tran

A reader informs me that Loc Buu Tran, previous granted probation for a kidnapping and sexual assault in Clearwater, Florida has finally been convicted of murder in Orlando, after his trial for slaughtering his girlfriend was repeatedly delayed:

Another appeal in the making, yes, but a little light filters through this cloudy justice journey. Today, Loc (Anthony) was judged “guilty, 1st degree murder”. His jury found fourteen stabs a bit zealous for simply giving her the head’s up that he was in control.

Jo Frank

Loc was convicted of sexual battery, kidnapping, and obstruction of justice in 1998.  The woman he kidnapped and raped had “rejected him.”  For this shockingly violent crime, he got . . . a get out of jail free card by some sympathetic judge who probably believed it was merely an acting-out-sort-of-kidnapping-and-rape-thing.  Two years probation for sexual assault and kidnapping.  They probably apologized to him for his inconvenience.

In 2001, the state had another chance to punish Loc and protect women when he violated his probation by committing multiple acts of credit card fraud.  Consequently, he faced prison time for the sexual assault, along with the new charges.  But instead of taking into consideration his new status as a recidivist, another judge gave him another “first offender” chance and telescoped down all his charges to one sentence.  You can guess what happened after that:

[A]fter letting Tran get away with a known rape for four years, then catching him violating his probation with several other charges, then sentencing him to an absurdly short prison term . . . [t]he State of Florida let him go early, after serving only 26 months of a 38 month sentence.

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

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

Well, he is now, at least until the defense attorneys manage to find the golden key that sets the rapists free.  When Floridians pay property taxes this year, they should remember that they’re now bankrolling Loc’s endless appeals.

I’ll be writing that in the subject line of my check.

Maybe it would be cheaper if we just let him go again, like all the anti-incarceration activists chant.  Of course, they’re also the ones making it so expensive to try people in the first place.  CourtWatcher Orlando, which witnessed Tran’s trial(s), has more to say about the way defense attorneys ran up costs at his trial.  Tran committed murder in 2006.  A few months ago, after the state finally got around to trying him, his trial was suspended because the judge realized Tran had been her client earlier in his epic crawl through the courts.  Responsibility for this mess-up can be laid directly at the feet of the defense bar, which has made prosecuting any defendant so mind-numbingly drawn-out and irrelevantly complicated that the courts can’t cope with even an obvious murder like this one.  Every delay is a victory for the defense bar, which tries to make trials as expensive as possible in order to bankrupt the system.

Then last month, Tran’s trial was postponed again because a translator got sick.  That means dozens of people on the state payroll, and all the jurors who had reorganized their lives to do their duty to society, and the traumatized family members and witnesses, were all left twiddling their fingers for the second time in a row.  Yet CourtWatcher is reporting that Tran didn’t even need a translator.

And, of course, we paid for the translator.  If we had not paid for the translator, that would doubtlessly be grounds for appeal, even though Tran didn’t need a translator.  Nevertheless, I predict that something relating to the translator will be appealed anyway, just because it’s there.  All this costs money.  Our money.

Instead of letting convicts out of prison early to save money, state legislators should be taking a hard look at the ways the defense bar wastes our money, all in the name of some people’s utterly manufactured version of “rights.”  It’s another must read from Orlando, here.

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Meanwhile, in Georgia, Michale Coker writes to report the capture of Charles Eugene Mickler, one of the absconded sex offenders featured in a story in the Atlanta Journal Constitution:

You will be happy to know Mickler is currently in the Gwinnett County Detention Center on a probation violation. This weirded me out since I know this guy. Oddly enough it was Need To Know* publications where I discovered he was wanted.

Charles Eugene Mickler

*Need To Know is one of the for-profit broadsheets detailing offenders.  It is not on the web but sells in hard copy.

Mickler does not appear to have served any time in prison for his 2007 sexual battery conviction.  Then he absconded.  Of course, the story in the paper didn’t raise the question of why someone convicted of sexual battery was not imprisoned for the crime.  Instead, the reporter wrote that the public need not worry about all those absconded sex offenders because they generally “just” target people (ie. children) they know.  Except for the ones who didn’t, as I detail here.  See my original post here.

How many of those absconded sex offenders have been located?  The media already answered that question.  The answer goes something like this:

How heartless of you to believe these men should be monitored, you vengeful hysterics!  I’m not telling.

In fact, the only coverage, to date, of these 250 absconded sex offenders has been the one story focusing on scolding the public for caring that these men have violated parole and gone hiding.

Policing public sentiment is so much more important than policing sex offenders, you know?

~~~

Until it isn’t:

Chelsea King

King’s parents, at a vigil, after her body was found.

John Albert Gardner, who is being held in Chelsea King’s murder, is a convicted sex offender who had been given an easy plea deal for a prior sex offense.  He could have served 30 years in prison but was released in five, instead, against the recommendations of psychiatrists, who said he was a high risk to attack more little girls.

But, hey, California saved some money cutting him loose instead of incarcerating him, didn’t they?  And prisoner re-entry is so important.

Now Gardner is also being investigated in other horrifying crimes.  Isn’t there a different end to the story?

According to the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department, a 16 year old girl, walking to a friend’s house in Lake Elsinore, said a man pulled over and asked her for directions. She told police he asked if she was a virgin, showed a gun, and tried to force her into the car. She ran away. This happened in October 2009.

At the time, Gardner was not registered as a sex offender in Riverside County because he was living in San Diego County, said John Hall, with the District Attorney’s office.  Gardner registered in Riverside County, in January, when he moved to his grandmother’s house near Lake Elsinore.

Escondido police are trying to figure out if Gardner is responsible for the disappearance of a 14-year-old Escondido girl.

Gardner is also a suspect in the case of a 22-year old girl who was attacked in the same area where King’s car was found.

Gardner had already admitted to molesting a neighbor girl back in 2000. According to court records, he had lured her over with a movie.

King’s parents are planning a memorial. During an interview, King’s parents expressed concern that Gardner was released from jail after serving only five years, despite a psychiatric evaluation that recommended he stay locked up for 30 years.

John Gardner

Disturbed enough, yet?  Here is more disturbing information:

As recently as November 2009, Gardner registered as a sex offender at an Escondido address two miles from the school.

People living at the Rock Springs East condominiums said they were shocked to learn Gardner had lived in their building.

A woman with small children who lived next door to Gardner and recognized him from photos posted online over the past few days said he lived with a blond woman and two toddlers.

The former neighbor, who didn’t want to give her name, said teenagers, both male and female, often came over to play video games at Gardner’s apartment. She said she could hear the loud games through the walls.

She and other neighbors said Gardner had moved out about six months ago.

In 2000, Gardner was convicted of a forcible lewd act on a child and false imprisonment after he took a 13-year-old neighbor girl to his mother’s home in Rancho Bernardo. The girl accused him of repeatedly punching her in the face and touching her private parts.

A psychiatrist who interviewed him in that case said he would be a “continued danger to underage girls” because of the lack of remorse for his actions.

Prosecutors initially charged Gardner with more-violent sex crimes that could have resulted in a sentence of more than 30 years because the terms would have been served consecutively. He was sentenced to six years in prison as part of a plea agreement and served five years before he was released in September 2005. He completed probation in 2008.

In 2000, Gardner didn’t go out and attack a stranger: he targeted someone he knew, a 13-year old neighbor, to be precise.  If Gardner had lived in Georgia, that would qualify him for the “don’t worry, those absconded sex offenders only target people they know” category.

Until they don’t.  And what does it matter anyway, except as an idiotic argument by people who can’t stop justifying the behavior of sex offenders and opposing sex offender registries?  Gardner’s record illustrates a disturbing point that anti-registration types never acknowledge: it takes real nerve, and a real lack of worry over consequences, to target children who know you and can identify you.  Maybe people should be more worried, not less worried, about child molesters who know their victims.  Unlike anti-incarceration activists, child rapists don’t worry so much about the distinction.  They go after children they know, and they go after children they don’t know: one is just easier to access than the other.

Although the real solution would have been to never let Gardner out of prison again, once the sick coddle of California justice cut him loose, DNA database laws and sex offender registration probably saved some lives, including the lives of the little girls whose mother was shacking up with Gardner.  How could any mother let some man move into her house, with her two young children, without checking to see if he shows up on a sex offender registry?

If you know a co-habitating mother who hasn’t checked her partner’s background, do it for her.  Today.  The world is full of sex offenders cut loose by some judge or prosecutor or parole board.

Quote of the Day: “Getting Into Prison Is Not Easy”

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Milwaukee’s Chief of Police says what needs to be said, and what nobody else is saying, about the nation-wide push to release state prisoners before their sentences are served:

“Getting into prison is not easy,” Milwaukee Police Chief Edward A. Flynn said in an interview. “You’ve got to get locked up and convicted a lot of times before we get you prison space. We’re looking at a class of offenders that have already demonstrated a history of reoffending, and that’s not likely to change anytime soon.”

Unless you actually murder someone as a first offense, virtually every offender serving prison time is a person who has already failed at one or more “second chances.”  How will they behave this time around?  Expect criminologists to cook up statistics purporting pristine conduct by all.  It won’t be true, but expect it anyway.

Read the rest of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel article here.

Three Strikes Laws: The Myth of Jerry DeWayne Williams and His Pizza Slice

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As California begins emptying prisons over the protests of voters, a powerful coalition of anti-incarceration activist groups are declaring victory over the quaint notion that people should be punished for crime:

Prison reform advocates such as Jim Lindburg, a lobbyist for the Friends Committee on Legislation, hope that the state’s first significant corrections-policy change in decades ushers in a whole new mind-set on crime.  “There’s really nothing scientific or magical about the length of prison sentences,” Lindburg said. “Those are political calculations made in a political environment. It seems preposterous to me to suggest that letting people out a little bit early is going to have any kind of (negative) impact on crime rates. I think we just need to change the way we think about public safety.”

Well, actually, there’s already been at least one disturbing crime committed by one of the first men released a “bit early,” so scratch the “no negative impact” thing.

Also, there’s nothing “magical” about the length of prison sentences.  To the contrary, imprisonment works in the most mundane and predictable way: it keeps non-reformable offenders away from fresh victims for a set amount of time, and schools others in the consequences of offending again.

What hubris, accusing the public of “magical thinking” because they want offenders off the streets.  Why is it that those who trumpet loudest about their own peace-loving natures and non-hierarchical ways always come off as angry, insufferable elitists?

The Friends Committee on Legislation of California  (FCLCA) , guided by Quaker values, advocates for California state laws that  are just, compassionate and respectful of the inherent worth of every  person.

Make that the inherent worth of offenders, full stop.  Oh please, just do it.  You know you want to.  The Friends do not waste their breath or stationary advocating for the inherent worth of people who aren’t convicts, or ex-cons.  Ditto all those activist nuns getting their jollies on death row.  There’s no thrill in standing alongside ordinary people who fear for their safety — no thrill, and generally no microphones, either.

~~~

As the anti-incarceration movement gears up to exploit the financial crisis, expect more mass early releases and the gutting of three-strike and other recidivism laws.  Consequently, alongside all the faux-Buddhist arguments about one hour in prison being the same as 100 or 1,000 days (the real magical thinking), academic cheerleaders have now exhumed that all-time sorriest argument against three strikes laws: the fake-life-for-stealing-a-slice-of-pizza guy.

Why fake?  Because Jerry DeWayne Williams didn’t get life.  He didn’t serve 25 years under three strikes.  His sentence, like the sentences of 25% to 45% of the offenders who qualify for three-strikes, was downgraded to a “second-strike” offense . . . because judges and prosecutors have that discretion and use it every day.

Here is professor Jennifer Walsh, writing in late 2002:

[S]tatistics indicate that discretion in three strike cases is invoked frequently and consistently. A 1998 survey of California District Attorneys revealed that prosecutors in urban jurisdictions use discretion in approximately 20-40 percent of eligible cases [now higher] . . . An evaluation of judicial discretion exercised in San Diego County found that judges exercised discretion in 29 percent of eligible three strike cases. They were also 100 percent more likely to use discretion if the triggering offense was minor. Moreover, judges were more likely to strike a prior strike if the defendant had no history of violence and no history of weapons possession or weapons use.  Perhaps most reassuring is the data that shows that in San Diego County, over half of the initial third strike filings that involved a minor third strike offense were later downgraded to second strike offenses. This exercise of discretion by prosecutors and judges prevented these defendants from receiving the enhanced sentence when they were perceived as undeserving.  Findings like these confirm that the judicious exercise of discretion under the California three strikes law creates a safeguard for defendants who are technically eligible for the mandatory sentence, but whose past and present conduct is considered to be outside the spirit of the law.

Read that paragraph carefully, because you’re not going to see it in the news, where reporters simply cut and paste rhetoric from various activist groups, wildly misrepresenting the law itself.  Professor Walsh notes that those subjected to California’s three-strikes law generally had violent or serious crimes as their third offense:

State statistics indicate that the third strikers in prison include 294 for murder; 34 for manslaughter; 1,408 for robbery; 356 for assault with a deadly weapon; 416 for other assaults or battery; 136 for rape; 241 for lewd act upon a child; 136 for other sex offenses; 83 for kidnapping; 776 for residential burglary; 288 for possession of drugs for sale; 191 for sale of drugs, 28 for manufacturing drugs; 356 for weapons-possession; and 25 for arson.

First and second offenses must be for serious or violent felonies to trigger the enhancement, another little-noted fact.

But facts simply don’t matter to the activists.  If facts mattered to them, they wouldn’t be holding up Jerry DeWayne Williams as an example of a person who was sent away for 25 years for stealing a piece of pizza, because he wasn’t.

And it’s very much worth asking why criminologists and reporters cling so eagerly to this one story, repeating it endlessly when it is not true in the first place and is also decades old now: can’t they produce a better tale of woe?

But it gets worse.

This week, the Los Angeles Times ran a bizarre feature on Jerry DeWayne Williams.  The gist is that Williams is a victim of three-strikes even though he was not subjected to it.  It is apparently enough that the law exists for Williams to continue to feel victimized by it.  The reporter calls this serving a “life sentence” of having to abide by the law:

“I walk on eggshells,” [Williams] said. “Any little thing that I do, I could be back for the rest of my life.”

Strangely, however, not even that claim holds up under scrutiny.  Williams has received lenience repeatedly since the pizza incident, a fact that neither he nor the reporter seem to view as a contradiction of his profound feeling of victimization.  One of his subsequent crimes was even a threat of violence:

in September 2003, his girlfriend called 911 and reported that Williams was verbally abusing her. A police officer arrived to find Williams moving out after a fight and demanding $150 he had paid toward the bills.  As the officer looked on, Williams told his girlfriend: “I’m going to put a bullet in your ass if I don’t get my money.”

A prosecutor and a judge let him off:

Williams, who was unarmed, was arrested and charged with making a criminal threat, a felony that could have landed him back in prison for life. But Kings County prosecutors did not treat the crime as a third strike. Williams pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor and was released from jail after 17 days.

And then he immediately broke the terms of his probation upon leaving prison, again with no consequences:

As part of his sentence, he was barred from leaving Kings County without permission. Nevertheless, Williams moved to Moreno Valley to live with another sister. An arrest warrant was issued and remains active.

And then again:

Since landing in Moreno Valley, he has been arrested once — for being drunk in public — but was released without charges being filed.

How on earth does the reporter square such facts with his depiction of Williams as a desperate, haunted man peering nervously over his shoulder, terrified of the slightest slip-up?  He was not afraid to violate his probation.  Twice.  He was not afraid to threaten to murder someone — in front of a policeman.  He doesn’t sound particularly frightened at all.  He sounds as if he knows that he can avail himself of a passel of silk-stockinged civil liberties attorneys any time a knucklehead cop dares to take him in for attacking a woman, or some other offense.

He sounds as if he knows that his notoriety has placed him above the law.

In one of the many courtrooms, Williams has been sentenced in, a prosecutor “unfurled a computer printout of Williams’ criminal history that extended from his outstretched arm to the floor,” and yet Williams is not behind bars.  Considering the gang and drug activities that consumed his earlier years, the threat of three-strikes has probably saved his life, but he is far too busy whining to be grateful.

~~~

What the criminologists and the activists will not admit, will not acknowledge, let alone discuss, is this: for every Jerry DeWayne Williams, there is a John Floyd Thomas, arrested repeatedly in California over the span of more than two decades for sex crimes and burglaries but released repeatedly, to rape and (now we know) kill again.

Jerry DeWayne Williams may owe his life to the three strikes law, but it did not arrive in time to save the lives of the thirty women in Los Angeles Thomas is now suspected of raping and strangling.

Thirty murdered women.

Funny, you never hear Quakers (or most criminologists) talking about that.

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

To read more factual material about California’s three-strikes law, go to the Three Strikes and You’re Out: Stop Repeat Offenders website.  Rather than trumped-up anecdotes and accusations of fascism, you’ll find data on California’s three-strikes offenders, statistics on use of judicial discretion, examples of dangerous offenders who would have been out of prison, but for the law, and studies evaluating the effect of the law on California’s crime rate.

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 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.

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

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(Hat tip to Pat)

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

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

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

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

Criminals know this, though the public remains largely oblivious.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Businessman Jailed For Attacking Intruder, Who Goes Free

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

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

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

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

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

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

Meanwhile, in Philadelphia:

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

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

He’s never been convicted.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I knew it was him,” she recalled.

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

She gave him the money.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Take a good look at his face.

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

The Guilty Project, Dennis Earl Bradford: A Jury Understood Why He Had To Slash That Woman’s Throat

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The Guilty Project documents flaws in the justice system that enable serial offenders to commit more crimes.

Failure to Prosecute, Wrongful Acquittal by Jury, Early Release by State, Family/Employer Cover-Up

Dennis Earl Bradford

Dennis Earl Bradford made the news recently when cold-case investigators in Houston linked his DNA to the brutal kidnapping, rape and throat-slashing of an eight-year old child in 1990.  The child survived and was able to give investigators an excellent picture of her assailant and his first name, Dennis, which he told her.  Unfortunately, Bradford was not identified at the time as a suspect in the crime.

He moved to Little Rock, where he was caught, six years later, after committing a similar crime: he kidnapped a woman, raped her at knife-point, and slit her throat, telling her he was going to kill her.  That victim survived as well and was able to provide Bradford’s tag number to authorities.

According to CNN, Bradford was originally charged with attempted first-degree murder, but prosecutors took the murder charges off the table for some reason.  Sometimes, saying you’re going to kill someone while kidnapping them, raping them, and slitting their throat just isn’t murderous enough, I suppose.

Then a Little Rock jury refused to convict Bradford for the rape.  He had bought his victim a beer and offered her a ride home.  Therefore, they reasoned, she was asking for the rape, and she must have been hankering for a throat-slitting as well.  They did find him guilty of kidnapping, thus putting the final touch on an incoherent, irresponsible verdict: according to this brain-trust, he moved the woman against her will, but she went right along with being cut up with a knife.  And women who drink beer can’t be raped, you know.

Bradford was sentenced to 12 years in 1997 but strolled out of prison a mere three years later.  He had a toddler and a baby at the time he committed the Little Rock rape.  His boss thinks he’s a fine, upstanding citizen despite that little attempted murder/rape/throat slashing thing, and now the revelation about the eight-year old victim:

Bradford worked as a welder for United Fence in North Little Rock. A company representative said Bradford had been working there for 10 years and was a “good guy” who had mended “his old ways” and “changed his life.” He wouldn’t go into specifics about what those “old ways” were.

His family is similarly convinced of his excellent nature.  Good thing he can’t get to his own young daughter anymore:

Members of Dennis Bradford’s family . . . say the Dennis Bradford they know would not do these things.  They say he is a man his grandchildren know as a loving and gentle man.

Why can’t people like this just keep quiet, out of some simulacrum of human decency?

~~~

Lessons Learned, or Not Learned:

Dennis Bradford’s 1996 acquittal for a violent sex crime looks very much like the several free rides Sarasota (Florida) jurors and judges handed Joseph P. Smith before he kidnapped, raped and murdered Carlie Brucia.

Joseph P. Smith

Prior to having the shockingly bad luck of being caught on video abducting the 11-year old, Smith had been caught three other times attempting to abduct other victims.  But after each attack, judges or jurors judged the victims instead of Smith and let him go.

In 1993, Smith jumped a woman who was walking home from a club, breaking her nose and bones in her face.  A police officer interrupted the attack before Smith could make away with the stunned woman, but Sarasota Circuit Judge Lee Haworth decided to go easy on Smith, allowing him to plea to a lesser offense, granting him a mere sixty days in jail, and then reducing that sentence to weekend incarcerations.

For breaking a woman’s face, trying to drag her away, rape and likely kill her.  But she’d probably had a beer or two, after all.

In 1997, Smith, armed with a knife, pepper spray, and confidence that he would not face judicial consequences, attempted to abduct a woman at a gas station by claiming he needed a jump start.  She wouldn’t let him into her car but agreed to follow him back to his vehicle: luckily, someone who witnessed the odd exchange called the police, and they interrupted him again and found the weapons concealed in his shorts.  The officer who stopped him wrote that Smith “intended to do great harm” to the victim.

But another judge let him off easy, letting him plead to a concealed weapons charge in exchange for probation, rather than attempted abduction.

The third attack was witnessed by a carload of retirees, who grabbed their golf clubs and chased Smith away from a screaming woman he’d jumped by the side of a road and was dragging into the woods.  The retirees testified at Smith’s trial, but the jury acquitted him nonetheless: the woman had drunk a few beers, after all.  Jurors bought Smith’s risible story that he thought the woman looked suicidal and he was trying to help her into the woods, to safety.  They shook his hand and called him a good guy, a victim of persecution.

Then Smith raped and murdered an 11-year old.

Joseph Smith and Dennis Bradford both targeted children, targeted adults, and got let off easy for acts of extreme violence against females on the grounds that the women were asking for it.  Judges and jurors simply excused their violent assaults because some of their targets were women in bars.  Such prejudiced acquittals aren’t supposed to happen anymore, but any prosecutor will tell you they’re common, even with the levels of violence displayed.  In some jury boxes, drinking a beer can apparently still spell “deserving rape, or death.”

And in Bradford’s case, the details of his 1996 assault suggest an experienced rapist with the forethought to do away with evidence, good character kudos from his boss at the fencing company notwithstanding:

According to a 1996 police report, the victim told investigators Bradford drove her around for 20 or 30 minutes listening to a cassette tape. He took her to a secluded area and once the car stopped, immediately he began choking her and beating her in the face.

She told investigators Bradford held a knife to her eye and threatened to cut her jugular vein several times while she was raped.

Afterwards Bradford took her to a nearby creek and demanded she wash off all of the blood and evidence.

The victim told police her attacker then drove back into town and dropped her off in front of Oaklawn racetrack. He told her he planned to kill her, but got scared at the last minute.

How many more victims will surface?  You don’t start out kidnapping victims from their bedrooms and slitting their throats, nor do you simply take five years off between violent, thought-out attacks.  What you do is concentrate on victimizing the types of women nobody will believe, women who drink beer, for example, who will be dismissed by jurors who look at their broken faces and slashed throats and say: “she sure was asking for it.”

Anti-incarceration activists often complain that putting men in prison “turns them into hardened criminals.”  In the case of Joseph Smith and Dennis Bradford, judges and jurors letting them off easy for their crimes appear to have done the same.

Jonathan Redding, 30 Deep, the Blue Jeans Burglaries, the Standard Bar Murder, and Disorder in Atlanta’s Courts

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Jonathan Redding, suspect in the murder of Grant Park bartender John Henderson, suspected of firing a gun in an earlier armed robbery outside the Standard (Why isn’t it attempted murder when you fire a gun during a robbery?  Are we rewarding lack of aim?), suspect in a “home invasion gun battle” in which Redding shot at people, and was shot himself (Two more attempted murders, at least, if sanity existed in the prosecutor’s office), suspected member of the “30-Deep Gang,” one of those pathetic, illiterate, quasi-street gangs composed of children imitating their older relatives, middle-schoolers waving wads of cash and firearms on YouTube: Jonathan Redding is 17.

How many chances did the justice system have to stop Johnathan Redding before he murdered an innocent man?  How many chances did they squander?

In May, Fox 5 ran a chilling story about the 30 Deep Gang.  Deidra Dukes reported:

Police say 30 Deep is based in Atlanta’s Mechanicsville community. The gang reportedly popped up on their radar about three years ago, and recruits members as young as in middle school.

“They know that the juvenile laws are a little more lax than they are when they are adults so they get them to do so they get them to do more serious crimes between the ages of 14 and 16, they won’t get into as much trouble,” said Harper.

Everybody knows this.  Everybody knows that there are 14-year olds waving guns on the streets and 16-year olds committing murder.  How can they not know, when there is video evidence of it, not to mention the bodies?  Spend a few minutes on YouTube watching the videos in which young men identify themselves by their housing project, some by the names of housing projects that were torn down but have managed to survive in the imaginations of eighth-graders as places where life was good in direct, not inverse, proportion to violence and chaos.

Look at the apartments these kids live in, that appear in the videos: they have little cathedral ceilings and nice fixtures, but nothing else — no beds, just mattresses, no pictures on the walls.  Nobody is starving: this is cultural poverty.  These are children: they take pictures of themselves in their classrooms, pictures of the school bus, then, inevitably, pictures of wads of cash and guns and little groups of kids who would have a hard time reading Goodnight Moon throwing gang signs with their hands.

What never ceases to amaze me is that I went to college with people who looked upon this stuff as romantic, not tragically stunted.  From the first time I walked into an apartment like the ones on these videos, I could see that what we were doing wasn’t working, if this was the result.  And yet people still debate this, as if there is anything left to say in the face of such colossal ignorance, and violence, and wasted lives, subsidized by us.

For the last year, the Mayor, the Police Chief, the usual editorialists and academicians, have all been denying that any of this is a problem.  One Jonathan Redding is one too many, but the powers-that-be, even at this late and tragic date, want to punish the public for daring to say this out loud.  If voters don’t reject this status quo next week, it will be a shame.

~~~

Jonathan Redding’s defense attorney is laying the groundwork to claim that her client’s profound ignorance is some type of defense — that he “doesn’t understand” the charges against him.  His life was empty, nihilistic, wasted, violent: this is an argument in favor of him.  Such routine suspension of disbelief in favor of defendants, and the rules of evidence that block the search for truth at every turn, are in Redding’s favor from now on.

It is not believable that Jonathan Redding is such a naif in the courtroom.  Some prosecutor or judge let him go, over and over — first as a truant, then as a juvenile, then as “just a robber” or “just a kid breaking into cars,” or “just a member of the gang stealing blue jeans.”  Now he is lucky to be alive, having been shot, and he is facing a lifetime in prison, and John Henderson is dead.

“They know that the juvenile laws are a little more lax.”  Our justice system has tied its own hands in a thousand different ways, and the judge wants Redding to testify before a Grand Jury, to give up names.

Who are we kidding?  Nobody in the juvenile justice system, nobody on the police force, knows who Redding was running with?  How many bites at the apple did they have with this kid?

Sure, put him in front of the Grand Jury; however, the Grand Jury is too little too late: plenty of people with authority to stop him knew precisely what Johnathan Redding was doing and who he was doing it with, but they didn’t take it seriously, and two more lives are over.  When will this price finally seem too high?

And So It Begins: Rhetoric on “Early Release for Non-Violent Offenders Clogging Prisons” is Dangerous Hot Air

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From the Denver Post.  Not exactly Girl and Boy Scouts, these “best of show offenders” chosen as the first early releases in Denver.  Ironically, these records make precisely the opposite point than the one the Justice Department is making, which is that we are too harsh on offenders and “too vindictive” on sentencing.

Expect more of the same as Eric Holder gears up to throw massive amounts of money at anti-incarceration initiatives and activist groups like the Vera Institute, who do “studies” that all end up showing that we need to empty the prisons to save money.

Well, some people’s money, and good luck with that:

DNA Could Have Stopped Delmer Smith Before He Killed, But Nobody Cared Enough To Update the Federal Database

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This is Delmer Smith, who is responsible for a recent reign of terror on Florida’s Gulf Coast that left women from Venice to Bradenton terrified of violent home invasions, murder and rape:

Delmer Smith gave a DNA sample to the Feds 15 years ago, when he was incarcerated in Michigan on federal bank robbery charges.  And then what did the Feds do?  Well, in fairness, they were super busy not watching Phillip Garrido as he repeatedly raped and impregnated the child he was holding captive in his backyard.

So the feds apparently did nothing with Delmer Smith’s DNA.  Now a slew of women have been raped, and at least one murdered, crimes that could have been easily prevented if the feds had done what they were supposed to do and entered Smith’s DNA into the appropriate database.

But they couldn’t be bothered, just like the states so often can’t be bothered, just like Florida couldn’t be bothered fifteen years ago when they let my rapist walk out of prison to commit more rapes of frail, elderly women because they didn’t bother to link him to other crimes using DNA from kits they were supposed to test, but didn’t.

In precisely the same neighborhoods Delmer just tore through: Sarasota, Venice, North Port.

This time, to be clear, it wasn’t the Florida courts that screwed up: it was federal authorities.  Funny how they all screw up in precisely the same way, though: serial neglect of serial criminals who rape and kill again.  How much do they screw up?  Well, I’m understandably tuned in to this little piece of Florida’s West Coast, but it takes about fifteen minutes on Lexis-Nexus to find similar “mistakes” in every state.  We are letting extremely violent criminals slip through the cracks, and nobody seems outraged about it: nobody seems to be trying to plug the many holes in the system, or even to try to figure out what those holes are.

~~~

What to do?  Although police are usually the ones singled out when a serial offender is on the loose, their actions are rarely the reason recidivists are free.  Blame the courts — from lax prosecutors to lenient judges, to the hash the defense bar has made of our criminal justice system.  Also blame parole boards, and legislators and governors who refuse to fund prosecutions and prisons at realistic levels.

Finally, blame the activists who will do anything to get certain offenders out from behind bars, all the while banging the drum that “America is a prison state: we incarcerate too many people for too long. . .” Any cursory review of crime reports, arrests and convictions shows that precisely the opposite is true: we incarcerate too few people, and we let them go too soon.

People still routinely get a few months in jail for molesting a child, or probation for shooting someone.  But how do we make this visible, when prosecutors and judges want to hide their actions, and reporters won’t report on it?

It’s Time for a “Guilty Project”

Failure to Update DNA Database

Delmer Smith: suspected in a dozen home invasions, several rapes, one  or more murders, all thanks to the failure of federal authorities to enter his DNA profile in the CODIS database.  Too bad the F.B.I. sent a profiler down to Florida tell the cops that the killer was probably a male with anger issues, instead of making sure CODIS (which is the FBI’s responsibility) was up to date.  How many other violent offenders have slipped through the cracks in CODIS?  Does anybody know?

Serial Judicial Leniency, Failures to Prosecute, Failures to Enforce Parole, Failure to Correct DNA Deception, Failure to Update DNA Database

Walter E. Ellis, arrested at least a dozen times, including two (or three) attempted murders; convicted of several serious crimes, including attempted murder; repeatedly released early, despite multiple parole violations; received merely three years for nearly killing a woman with a hammer; charges apparently dropped for attacking another women with a screwdriver . . . and Wisconsin authorities didn’t bother to get a DNA sample from Ellis at the time they discovered that the sample supposed to be his had been “donated” by another inmate, a child rapist.  12,000 other convict samples are currently missing from Wisconsin’s list.

Serial Judicial Leniency, Failure to Update DNA Database, Reliance on Inaccurate Profiling(?)

John Floyd Thomas, first convicted of rape in 1957, arrested multiple times, convicted of rape again, released early again, now suspected of killing as many as 30 elderly women, avoided giving a DNA sample when he was required to do so, apparently without any consequences.  True Crime Report is attributing his ability to elude capture to inaccurate profiling indicating a white killer, but I’m not sure about that because there were surviving victims thought to be linked to the serial murders.

~~~

Where is the Outrage?

Prior to these belated DNA matches, the only one of these three men who served any substantial time in prison was Smith, and that was for robbing a bank, not assaulting a woman.  Authorities in Milwaukee can’t even figure out what happened to one of Walter Ellis’ previous attempted murder charges for an attack on a woman.

Just trying to kill women still doesn’t count for much, it appears.

The flagrant acts of these men, and of thousands of others — the lack of consequences they experience that enables them to attack multiple female victims — all beg the question: why aren’t serial crimes targeting women counted as hate crimes against women?

Why aren’t the resources of the hate crimes movement — the public outrage, the state and federal money, the well-funded private opposition research, the media attention, the academic and activist imperatives — brought to bear on cases where the people being targeted are women?

The answer is shameful.  Hate crimes leaders and opposition researchers don’t want their movement “distracted” by the the fact that women are far and away the most common category of victims targeted because of their identities.  These activists want to keep the focus on the picture they are painting of America, on race and ethnicity and sexual orientation, so they don’t want their statistics “overwhelmed” by a whole bunch of woman victims.

Consequently, activists who otherwise fight to get certain crimes counted as hate crimes fight even harder to keep any serial crime against women from being counted as hate — as the media laps at their heels, quiescent as a warm gulf tide.

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder has been a central player in this ugly little deception for more than a decade now, so don’t expect changes anytime soon, especially with journalists’ self-enforced code of silence.

However, to give Holder credit where credit is due, he does advocate expanding the federal DNA database, an unpopular position to take in the current administration.

~~~

There is a personal silver lining in the Delmer Smith case. The man who had the temerity and insight to finally put my rapist away for life is the same man who had the temerity and insight to catch Smith before he killed more women.  It was a cognitive leap and real police work, apparently done by linking Smith to the sexual assaults after he got caught in an unrelated crime, a violent bar brawl.  And then locking him up on federal parole violations until a DNA sample could be tracked down.

Thank you, Venice Police Captain Tom McNulty, for taking yet another bastard off the streets.  That’s policing.

Why Police Morale Stays Low: Cop Killer Gregory Lance Henderson was Supposed to be in Prison. Twice Over. And, a Judge Responds.

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From the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer:

Gregory Lance Henderson’s adult life is on the record.

Police and court records. . .

The 31-year-old Columbus man is accused of striking with his car and killing James Anderson, a Lee County, Ala., sheriff’s deputy . . . Henderson was sentenced to 15 years and three to serve for a drug conviction in 2007.  If he had served the full three years, he would still be in a Georgia prison today.

Despite an extensive criminal record (16 bookings in Georgia alone, a felony conviction for aggravated assault, drug convictions), Henderson faced no consequences for most of his arrests.  He drew a 24 months to serve/10 years parole sentence for a violent felony in 2006 and yet somehow didn’t serve that time.  His next arrest came five months later — and even though he’d violated parole (if we can call it parole, since he was actually supposed to be in jail), someone let him walk again.  A few arrests later, he was in front of another judge who apparently did not consider the fact that he was still supposed to be in prison for the last offense and had also been arrested additional times since that conviction.

So, 11 months after he was sentenced to ten years, 24 months to serve, he was sentenced anew on other charges and given 15 years, three years to serve.

Why didn’t the judge revoke the parole, send him off for ten years, and then slap on the additional charges?

Of course, Henderson didn’t serve those three years, either.  He was released 15 months later, and now a Sheriff’s deputy over the Alabama border has been murdered.

Thank you, Muscogee County Superior Court.  Thank you, Georgia Pardons and Paroles.  Hope you send flowers:

Randy Robertson, vice president of the local Georgia Fraternal Order of Police chapter and a Columbus law enforcement officer, said this case illustrates the need for tougher mandatory sentencing laws from the Georgia General Assembly.

“The state of Georgia needs to write an apology to the Anderson family because this guy was not where he was supposed to be, which is incarcerated,” Robertson said Saturday.

Georgia’s recidivism laws are too narrow and its mandatory sentencing laws are utterly meaningless.  The recidivism law excludes all but a few crimes, and defendants can still plead out of the ones that count as “strikes.” (This, as I keep saying, is why we have so many people in prison for “just drug charges” that aren’t really just drug charges.) The mandatory sentencing laws create guidelines and then undermine them by allowing judges to suspend part or all of any sentence (then the Parole Board chops off the other end).  What’s mandatory about that?

Did legislators not read these bills before they passed them?  Were defense attorneys still in charge of the House Judiciary Committee when these bills were drafted with little poison pills attached?  Were publicly law-and-order types privately fudging the legislative intent in order to save the state some money?

Why does nobody ask questions like this?

~~~

Any road, the consequences remain the same: a police officer dead, his family mourning.

Remember this: when cops are dealing with out-of-control recidivists, every arrest, even for minor crimes, puts their lives in danger.  According to comments in the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer, Henderson has a teardrop-tattoo on his face, universal nomenclature advertising intent of and propensity for unpredictable and extreme violence:

So even when he was just getting popped for traffic offenses, he was announcing to the world that it could end very badly for someone.  And finally, tragically, it did.  Nobody should deign to express surprise.

Here are merely the last four years of Henderson’s journey through  — or, mostly, not through — Georgia courts.  Between the rat tangle of lax prosecution protocols, plea deals, judicial discretion and parole, his feet barely touched the courthouse floor, let alone the jailhouse door:

Oct. 14, 2005: Booked into Muscogee County Jail on aggravated assault and armed robbery charges.

Oct. 6, 2006: Pleaded guilty to aggravated assault charges in Superior Court; Judge Robert Johnston sentenced him to 10 years in prison, 24 months to serve.

March 1, 2007: Booked into Muscogee County Jail on possession of methamphetamine and traffic charges.

April 8, 2007: Booked into Muscogee County Jail on misdemeanor battery charges.

May 3, 2007: Booked into Muscogee County Jail on probation violation and aggravated assault charges.

Sept. 7, 2007: Pleaded guilty to possession of methamphetamine charge in Superior Court. Judge Bobby Peters sentenced him to 15 years, three years to serve.

Oct. 23, 2007: Began prison sentence.

Dec. 29, 2008: Released on parole from Hays State prison by Georgia Department of Corrections.

To revisit the math: while on probation (?) for an aggravated assault for which Henderson is actually supposed to be in prison, he’s busted in March, busted in April, busted in May, pleads to “just drug” charges for the March 1 charge in September and gets out of jail, early, 15 months later.  Then, this:

Sept. 24, 2009: Arrested in Lee County, Ala., on capital murder charges in connection with the death of Sheriff’s deputy James Anderson.

Someone claiming to be Judge Peters responds to criticisms in this comments thread.  Of course, there’s no way to know if it really is the judge, but he says the D.A. didn’t bring charges for the second aggravated assault before him, only a drugs charge.  He also seems to have not looked at Henderson’s prior record, because he apparently did not notice that Henderson was supposed to be in jail when he was in his courtroom.  If any of this is true, it simply means that the courts are in even more disarray, not less, frankly.

Scratch the surface of most “just drugs” cases, and you get someone with an arrest record like Henderson’s.  Judges should know that and want full disclosure of prior records, right?

My name is Judge Peters and I am posting this to correct the article. James Henderson did not come before me for aggravated assault. He was arrested for a possession of residue of meth in a straw when he was stopped for improper tag lights. A plea bargain agreement with the DA and his lawyer was an agreement where he pleaded guilty, gave up his 4th amendment rights, sentenced to 15 years, three in jail and 12 on supervised probation with drug testing and drug treatment.

OK, fine.  Blame the D.A. too.  But why would any judge allow a 15-year sentence for, as he modestly puts it, “residue in a straw” without asking why the D.A. wanted to throw the book?  Why would any judge not wish to ascertain the defendants’ criminal history to consider in sentencing, for that matter?

Why didn’t the judge revoke his parole, or whatever it was Henderson was serving or not serving for the 2006 aggravated assault charge?

Why didn’t the judge also see that Henderson had another outstanding aggravated assault charge, which would qualify him for recidivism status?  I’m willing to believe there are more people responsible than just Judge Peters.  But it is his courtroom, his responsibility.  The buck stops with him, and if all this is the prosecutor’s fault, then the judge has a serious responsibility to do something about such costly lack of communication.  Peters (if it his him) continues:

[Henderson] was paroled by the Pardon and Parole Board prior to his 2010 release date. Deputy [Anderson] was a fine man, all jurisdictions mourn his passing and pray for his family. No one could predict this would happen. the sentence received was a tough sentence for possession of residue of meth. the article was wrong when it listed the crime of aggravated assault as an additional charge at that time. Thank you. — Bobby Peters.

Nobody could predict this would happen?  Well, not if you don’t look at the guy’s record.  Or his face.  The writer claiming to be Judge Peters continues:

[O]nce an individual is sentenced, his fate rests with the Pardon and Parole Board. Victims or family members, DA, may appear before the board or send a letter. I dont contact the board to get a person out or to keep them in. The aggravated assault was a plea bargain in front of another judge in 06. I have asked for a transcript of both cases. The case I heard was a residue meth case where Henderson was on drugs and stopped for no tag light. 15 years with 3 years in prison,12 years on probation, drug treatment, drug testing, random searches, and 12 years to serve if he got in trouble again. No one can ever predict what a defendant will do down the road. This case is really a tragedy for the Anderson family. I dont know why Henderson got out early but the main one to blame is Henderson himself. I, like everyone, am so sorry this happened. Note says no more space. You can call me if you have more questions. — Bobby Peters.

“I have asked for a transcript of both cases”?  Now?  After a cop gets killed?  Why would any judge sentence somebody without knowing their record of violent crime, recidivism, prior leniency shown by the courts, and prior conduct during prior early releases, particularly parole violations?

“No one can ever predict what a defendant will do down the road”?

This one did precisely what he did the last time: got another drug charge, another aggravated assault charge, and then another free pass from another prosecutor, another judge and another pushover at Pardons and Paroles.  No mystery there.

~~~

Every police officer in the state should descend on the Georgia General Assembly this year in memory of Officer James Anderson, demanding real sentencing reform and judicial accountability.  This time.

Peter Hermann (Baltimore Sun) Sheds Some Light on the Murder Rate, Looks for Light in the Courts

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If you read nothing else this week, read the following two articles by Peter Hermann.  Baltimore struggles with crime and court issues very similar to Atlanta’s.  More severe, in their case:

Delving More Deeply Into Shooting Stats

Here are some statistics about recent killings in Baltimore:

The 107 people charged with murder last year had accumulated a combined 1,065 prior arrests – 380 related to guns and 99 related to drugs.

The 234 people killed last year had a combined 2,404 prior arrests – 162 related to guns and 898 related to drugs.

That’s an average of 10 arrests per suspect and 10.3 arrests per victim.

If murderers and their victims have been arrested, on average, ten times, then nothing will reduce the murder rate more dramatically than taking recidivism seriously.  Unfortunately, in Baltimore, as in Atlanta, there’s little of that:

Police repeatedly complain that the people they put in handcuffs only return to the streets to do more harm. Here are the number of times some murder suspects and victims from last year had been arrested: 74, 71, 49, 40, 38, 34, 29. … The list goes on.

These numbers don’t say anything about conviction rates, and there’s a sad tale behind each case, a book-length reason why someone can get arrested 74 times before dying on a street corner or get arrested 71 times before being charged with murder.

I wonder who has the highest number of arrests in Atlanta?  Hermann offers a list of factors that result in multiple arrests without significant prison time:

Many are hopelessly sick addicts arrested on petty charges, such as loitering, or involving small amounts of drugs, which tend to pile up but don’t result in much jail time. Cases fall apart in Baltimore for a myriad of reasons that include an overwhelmed court system, distrust of police, jury nullification and witnesses and victims who are too scared or just don’t care to testify. [italics added]

Read the rest here.

~~~

Hermann on transparency in the courts:

Time for Open Records

I had hoped that a video of a juvenile court hearing would help explain how a teenager with a long criminal record who had just been arrested in a drug bust could be sent home from a detention center only to be charged with killing a man two hours later in the front seat of a Buick Park Avenue.

Unfortunately, what I saw not only fails to explain why state officials freed 17-year-old Maurice Brown, but it raises new questions about the case, while revealing proposed procedural changes that would make it easier for more young offenders to avoid detention. . .

The story of Maurice Brown — released to his mother’s custody, committing murder two hours later, could be any one of a dozen recent cases in Atlanta, or more than a dozen.  How many more?  Nobody knows.

Read the rest here.

Not So Funny: Project Turn Around

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So Al Sharpton, Andrew Young, Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard, and Fulton Superior Judge Marvin Arrington walk into a courtroom. . .

There is no punchline.  They walked into a courtroom to hold yet another courthouse special event for yet another group of criminal defendants who were having their crimes excused, who then failed to avail themselves of all the special tutoring and counseling and mentoring provided to them in lieu of sentencing, all paid for by us, the taxpayers.  What is going on in the courts?  Here is the press release from Paul Howard’s office:

On May 22, 2008, the Fulton County District Attorney’s Office joined by Fulton County Superior Court Judge Marvin Arrington unveiled a pilot program designed to clean our streets of rampant, unchecked illegal drug activity. With its innovative programming, this endeavor entitled Project Turn Around . . . [will] provide an opportunity for young drug dealers, with limited criminal histories, a chance to remove themselves from illegal drug activity . . . Project Turn Around is an intensive 12-month program that will provide these young men with drug counseling, G.E.D. classes, job training, family counseling, enrichment courses, life skills training and other social services. . . Fourteen young men, between the ages of 17-25 years old, were officially entered into the program on May 22 with an additional six more program participants enrolling within that same week.

To say that they did not change the landscape of Fulton County is apparently an understatement, according to this comment by a community member who volunteered to mentor the youths assigned to Project Turn Around.  In fact, the post by this person, who goes by “Nich,” challenges pretty much everything the D.A. said about the Project.  The comment appeared in an interesting Atlanta Journal Constitution discussion about crime:

I joined a group called “Project Turnaround” as a council member. (volunteer PO, basically.) This was a program to help these participants/offenders get back on track monitored by the DA’s office. Most every offender was recommended by the council members to be exempted from the program/put back in jail, for repeat offenses. Nothing was done. My participant, for example, never went to the classes, continued to sell drugs and was shot in during a drug deal gone bad. Why was he not thrown out of the program and into jail? The DA’s office eventually just walked away from the program, but the kicker…NONE, NADA, 0% of the participants were put into jail. They basically were given “get out of jail free cards!” They are roaming the streets worse off today, because they don’t believe they will ever receive consequences. Sadly, all evidence supports that theory.

So the D.A. failed to prosecute — how many?  20 repeat offenders?  “Nich” also reports an extremely troubling exchange with another D.A.:

The courts are a very big problem, especially with regard to minors. A lot of the offenders are young. Evidently, there is a 12-step program (you get 12 strikes before you are out) that applies to all minors, per Zone 3 DA. So if a 16 year old boy walks into my home, slays my husband and robs us, is that strike 7?

The public deserves some answers from Paul Howard (not to mention Arrington):

  • How many of the 20 enrolled youths failed to complete Project Turn Around?
  • How many were then prosecuted for the crimes that brought them to your attention in the first place, as you pledged to do?  As is your job, for that matter?
  • How many of these youths were arrested for additional crimes while “enrolled” in Project Turn Around?
  • How many of those crimes have been prosecuted?
  • What were the actual arrest records for the 20 participants prior to their enrollment in Project Turn Around: what constitutes a “limited criminal history”?
  • Is it true that your office has a policy of giving minors multiple passes — 2 or 5 or 12 “get out of jail free” cards — before you actually bother to prosecute them?

And don’t forget these easily-overlooked questions:

  • Who got paid for this?  Where did the money come from?
  • Is this failed attempt at rehabilitation going to be evaluated and dutifully entered into the academic literature on the efficacy of alternative sentencing programs, or is the whole mess just going to be swept under the rug?

~~~

It isn’t just the Fulton County D.A. who stands accused of failing to bother to prosecute serious crimes: over at the blog Dekalb Officers, cops and others are weighing in about multiple failures to prosecute violent offenders in DeKalb County, too.  The pattern of complaints about Dekalb D.A. Gwen Keyes resembles the complaints about Paul Howard, and both are extremely troubling.  Here are just a few:

Thank Gwen for taking years to indict!! When you don’t even get an indictment within a year or two of the crime, what chance does the state have at trial?? Remember, it is the STATE who was to bring in all of the witnesses and evidence. Try finding reports, evidence, and witnesses years after a crime took place. The more time that passes, the easier it is to get a not guilty verdict. Why do you think defense attorneys in DeKalb rarely demand a speedy trial?? It only happens if their client is unable to make bond. If their client is out, they know every day that goes by is to the defense’s advantage. But our DA’s and Judges don’t care.  The dirtbag who dumped his baby son in the sewer committed an armed robbery and kidnapping at a business over a year ago. He STILL hasn’t been indicted!! Defense attorneys like to say, “Indictments don’t mean anything. You can get an indictment against a sandwich.” Apparently, not with our DA’s office!! They can’t be bothered to bring violent criminals up for indictment within a reasonable amount of time!

And:

Most cases are pending for years. They usually get NOLLE PROSCESS.

And:

Take a look at the recent arrest in DeKalb County of a worthless coward who killed three people, including a three year old child. The perp has 5 different felony arrests in his past. Some have multiple felony charges. Guess how many indictments he has? ZERO!! Way to go Gwen!! Maybe if you indicted him on ONE or TWO cases, that three year old child might be alive today!

And this comment, which makes the important point that police officers’ lives are particularly endangered when offenders face no consequences in the courts:

Detectives have a good phrase for the D.A. Office and the Judges…..they plead guilty and guess what ……..TIME SERVE AND PROBATION. They get a second chance to steal again or rob you with a gun.

~~~

There are many reasons why programs like Project Turn Around fail. One of them, surely, is the confidence offenders must feel in knowing that they won’t face real consequences if they don’t bother to follow the rules.  Every young man who entered that program apparently failed to complete it.  Did anything get accomplished, other than reinforcing the participants’ sense of invulnerability?

In the current courtroom culture, any program like Project Turn Around is just one more free ride.

But this particular initiative is even more troubling.  It appears to have encouraged offenders to view themselves as victims of the justice system:

During the unveiling of the program, Judge Arrington told the young men, “I want to make sure before I send somebody to jail for an extended period of time that I’ve done everything I can do to make them a better person.” In addition to hearing from the judge, the young men were addressed by the Honorable Andrew Young, former Atlanta mayor and U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, and civil rights activist Rev. Al Sharpton.

First of all, it’s not Arrington’s job to “make people into better people.”  That’s a nice sentiment, one we can all agree with, but Marvin Arrington’s job is to enforce the law.

Second, what, precisely, was Al Sharpton doing there?  He has committed anti-Semitic and unapologetically racist acts, and his followers, encouraged by his rhetoric, have burned down businesses, threatened witnesses, rioted, and committed murders.  He is anti-cop, and his appearance at the side of Fulton County’s District Attorney sends a disturbing message to every police officer on Atlanta’s streets.

What’s the matter with Howard, in his position, agreeing to associate with the likes of Sharpton?

More mundanely, Al Sharpton has repeatedly demonstrated contempt for the justice system in cases filed against him.  After being found guilty of slander and defamatory statements in his false accusations of rape against a Dutchess County prosecutor, Sharpton disgracefully refused to pay the damages the court ordered him to pay.  The Federal Elections Commission found that he broke election finance laws — apparently with few consequences for him.

Most recently, he shockingly advocated for the release of four men who raped, sodomized and beat a Haitian immigrant in Miami, forced the woman to perform sex acts on her 12-year old son, and then doused them both with household cleansers and tried to set them on fire.

He went from that performance to Marvin Arrington’s courtroom a few months later, ostensibly to encourage young offenders to become better people.  What message did that appearance really send?  Something like this:

Don’t worry about following the law, because if you don’t, nothing will happen to you.  Look at me: I have no respect for the law and I’m rich and famous and on TV.  I hang out with your judge and your prosecutor, who admire me, even though I side with violent rapists and murderers and against the innocent people they torment.  You are the victims of an unjust system and deserve to be set free.

Is it any wonder that the young defendants did not bother to take Project Turn Around seriously?  No courtroom program featuring Al Sharpton should be taken seriously.  Of course everyone wants young offenders to be rehabilitated.  But the public deserves safety, and this is just craziness.

Marvin Arrington and Paul Howard are up for re-election in 2010.

The Real Perception Problem is the Perception of the Courts

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The comments thread in response to this article in the Atlanta Journal Constitution contain a lot more insight than the article itself, which morphed from the purported subject of policing into another attack on the public for caring about crime.*  No surprise there.  While the criminologists try to minimize crime using formulas measuring relative cultural pathology and other number dances, the public hones in on the courts:

It is time that we stop protecting the young criminals – Start publishing names, parents names and city – Might just be that some parents will be so embarrassed that they will take control of these young people – Start publishing names of judges that continually grant bail bonds or m notes for “REPEAT” offenders. — “D.L.”

[T]he court systems are a huge part of the problem…. i am shocked how many repeat offenders of street crimes are released on a “signature bond” …basically they sign their name and promise to come back to court and walk out….below is the legal definition.  “A signature bond, or recognizance bond, is a promissory that is signed by the individual who was arrested in order to be released on bond. Though no monetary transaction takes place when the promissory is signed, a signature bond contends that the arrested individual will pay an agreed upon amount if he fails to appear in court on the given date and time.”” — “Too Many Signature Bonds”

There’s one important part of the equation left out – the court system. Many of these offenders have arrest histories of multiple felonies but are still out on the street. The police can lock people up, but they can’t keep them in jail…how about an expose on the criminal history of these high profile offenders and why they are out on the streets? I’d really be interested in seeing that article. it seems the heat always comes down on the police, but not the courts who let offenders out while they have two or three armed robbery charges. — “Georgia Dawwg”

One major problem is that the Fulton County Courts dead docket over half of the cases that they could prosecute. Also, the judges are too lenient on young offenders. This is destroying our city. — “S.M.”

Most seem to be saying the same thing: the police can only do so much, then the judges and the prosecutors let offenders go free.

Why, for example, has there been no follow-up on the 43 murder defendants walking the streets?

When people start picketing the D.A.’s office and the Fulton County Superior Court to demand full public disclosure of case dispositions and sentencing so they can make informed decisions about electing judges, things will change.

But meanwhile, we’re utterly in the dark, and while the Atlanta Journal Constitution is beginning to respond with more reporting on these issues, for a very long time the newsroom status quo was a sort of mushy empathy for offenders and reflexive anti-incarceration biases, with some color coverage of victims from time to time — while the justice system went quietly to hell.

There’s no other way to put it.  Many scores of people in Atlanta say the same thing — this offender or that offender isn’t being put away — and the newspaper essentially ignores them.  Judges react with petulant anger when challenged.  Academicians cook up wild excuses for criminality.  Journalists point fingers at the public.

The new mantra is “re-entry” and claims that we “don’t do enough to rehabilitate youths.”  Same as the old mantra — we’re “not doing enough for the kids.”  “We’re denying them job opportunities / education / empathy.”

People who say these things are willfully blind to the fact that billions have been spent and will continue to be spent on all sorts of rehabilitation.  The fact that these efforts fail doesn’t mean we aren’t paying for them.  It isn’t lack of effort: it’s the extreme degree to which the underclass is mired in dysfunction — and the ugly fact that many in the establishment are endlessly willing to deny and excuse that behavior, right up until somebody gets killed (and even after that).

Spend some time with a 14-year old kid whose dad and mom doesn’t parent him, whose head is filled with violent and sexualized videos and rap songs and shockingly little else, who goes to school in Atlanta and gets told that he is a victim of the system instead of actually being taught anything useful.  Then try to change that child’s mindset when there are so many forces working to sustain it: the victim culture and some very questionable “educating” in the public schools, the parents who still aren’t parenting, the pop culture violence: it’s too late for that kid if he stays in that environment.  It really is too late, and I don’t say that because I would give up on him; I’m just trying to inject some reality.

The people who go on endlessly about needing to give juveniles more chances are the people who have never gotten involved at all, who blame the police and society but do little other than complain.  People who actually make the commitment to help learn three things very quickly:

  • there are already scores of intervention and rehabilitation and jobs and education programs
  • the programs don’t tackle the real problems, not because we “don’t care enough” but because they wrong-headed
  • kids in the justice system get a “second chance” already: they get serial second chances, no matter what they have done and even as their crimes escalate

I found the following comment especially interesting: “Nich,” whoever she is, from Grant Park, took the time to get involved in a rehabilitation program.  Her experience reflects my own:

The courts are a very big problem, especially with regard to minors. A lot of the offenders are young. Evidently, there is a 12-step program (you get 12 strikes before you are out) that applies to all minors, per Zone 3 DA. So if a 16 year old boy walks into my home, slays my husband and robs us, is that strike 7? Also, I joined a group called “Project Turnaround” as a council member. (volunteer PO, basically.) This was a program to help these participants/offenders get back on track monitored by the DA’s office. Most every offender was recommended by the council members to be exempted from the program/put back in jail, for repeat offenses. Nothing was done. My participant, for example, never went to the classes, continued to sell drugs and was shot in during a drug deal gone bad. Why was he not thrown out of the program and into jail? The DA’s office eventually just walked away from the program, but the kicker…NONE, NADA, 0% of the participants were put into jail. They basically were given “get out of jail free cards!” They are roaming the streets worse off today, because they don’t believe they will ever receive consequences. Sadly, all evidence supports that theory. — Nich

“Most every offender was recommended by the council members to be exempted from the program/put back in jail, for repeat offenses. Nothing was done.”

This person has a story to tell — a shocking, disturbing story about scores of recidivist offenders — given rehabilitation, given help — let out of jail over and over and over by irresponsible judges and prosecutors despite victimizing more people (and ending up, seemingly inevitably, shot).  Why is the AJC retreading the offensive and inane “perception of crime” theme when there are real stories to be reported?  When you can learn more from the comments threads than the article itself, well, maybe the death of journalism isn’t going to hurt all that much.

*Thomas D. Boston’s research on public housing patterns and crime rates, also discussed in the original article, is a different subject.


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.