This afternoon I spoke with Pastor Stephen Leininger of the Milford Christian Church to follow up on the story of Lucas Howland, 19, who two days ago I reported had been sentenced to two years in jail by Judge Duane Huffer of the Kosciusko County Superior Court for breaking into Pastor Leininger’s church in September and stealing $8 from the secretary’s office. Two days ago I ran with the facts as reported by Rachel Glaser of the ABC affiliate television station in South Bend IN.
“That reporter got her facts wrong,” Pastor Leininger told me.
“Once we were into the interview, I could see she wanted to spin the story a certain way. The boy didn’t get a jail sentence. It was suspended. He is serving two years’ probation.”
“Oh, that changes everything,” I said.
What Rachel Glaser’s story also left out is that this was the second break-in at the church. According to Pastor Leininger, the first break-in obviously involved more than one person because so much stuff—a couple computers, a projector, and a heavy safe—was taken, loaded into the church’s van, and then driven off. This second break-in, he said, had all the earmarks of having been committed by someone who already knew his way around in the dark. He told me the thief (or thieves?) caused $800 in damage to a window through which he (or they?) gained entry to the church.
“Our only contact with this case was reporting the break-in to the police,” Pastor Leininger said. After that, he was not asked to testify or otherwise become involved. He seemed to be satisfied that justice has been served by the suspended sentence. He read me an excerpt from a news story that ran in the Warsaw Times-Union (which unfortunately I was unable to find online) in which Judge Huffer had lectured Lucas at sentencing, saying that he was being given a second chance as a kind of act of grace, and that he (Howland) now holds the key to his own jail cell—that if he blows his second chance, he will have turned the key himself. Pastor Leininger said that he’d heard that Lucas is living with an aunt and has a full-time job—and now has a real chance to get his life together.
This is all good. The kid has a second chance. It suggests that the Kosciusko court is not as dysfunctional as the erroneous facts of the Lucas Howland story had suggested. It also indicates that the harsh judgments some readers made of Pastor Leininger (based on their viewing of Rachel Glaser’s story) were unwarranted. He is a decent man and genuinely concerned about the welfare of young people in his community, which is experiencing a methamphetamine crisis and all the collateral social damage that goes with it.
Our quest for authentic justice is about discovering the truth and dealing with it honestly, unselfishly, and in a spirit of love and respect for everyone involved. Our mission is not to “win” by any means necessary (as has so widely perverted the ideals of justice in America), but to help influence outcomes that benefit children, families, victims, communities, courts, etc. Only by discovering the truth is reconciliation possible, and only by serving the truth is the redemption of young lives possible.
I’m glad the facts as I reported them two days ago were wrong. I’m glad I am able to correct the disinformation that was put out there by Ms. Glaser’s bad reporting and which might have done some real damage to our cause had I not learned the truth.
Groove of the Day