I am always astonished by the cruelty of some people.
Yesterday I received three comments presenting “the other side” in one of our cases. The information this person offered was unhelpful in the extreme to our boy; yet, in the interest of getting to the truth (no matter what the truth might turn out to be), we at first took this person’s allegations seriously.
I wrote back to this commenter—an anonymous person identifying him/herself only as “WC”—explaining that, because these allegations could have a significant impact on the quality of justice meted out to a juvenile, I was going to delay publication of the comments until we had vetted the commenter. I received no reply.
As it turns out, the e-mail address provided by the commenter was phony. Our e-mail messages to the commenter were bounced back to us and the IP address turned out to originate in a blighted redneck town in Florida, hundreds of miles from where our kid lives and is locked up.
As it happens, that blighted town is Pensacola, a place with which I am quite familiar because of my history with Derek and Alex King. Pensacola is their hometown and the place that incubated the perversion of justice that has characterized the King Brothers’ story from the start. Pensacola is a mean and ugly place that I am always happy to leave. Years of reading online comments to stories about Derek and Alex make me wonder if Pensacola isn’t home to a social ethos that is particularly cruel.
This afternoon I received word that Paul Henry Gingerich’s home, Kosciusko County IN, has surfaced in the news again as a place that favors cruel and unusual punishment. This time a boy named Lucas Anthony Howland received a two-year jail sentence for breaking into a church and stealing $8.00. The judge on this case was none other than Duane Huffer, the same guy who presided over Paul Henry’s rushed, pre-wired, and unconstitutional waiver hearing, and the prosecutor was Dan Hampton, the same guy who also figures so prominently in Paul Henry’s case.
According to court documents, Lucas told police he had just been kicked out of his parents’ home at the time of the break-in. He was 18 years old, unemployed, and homeless. I don’t know much about the case yet, but Lucas did show up on a list of missing children back in 2009, so it’s a safe bet that the kid had a troubled home life.
These guys in the Kosciusko County court are so unbelievable. They are going to lock the kid up for two years at a cost to taxpayers of at least $35,000 for stealing less than ten dollars! This excessive punishment will not rehabilitate the boy; it may, in fact, harden him and guarantee his recidivism. Prosecutor Dan Hampton was quoted by a local television station as saying that the kid got off easy; he could have gotten 20 years, according to Hampton. So knowing how these guys work, the 20-year sentence is probably what Hampton was using as a threat to get the kid to agree to a plea. Lucas had a court-appointed defender.
Just as one is able to statistically map crime “hot spots,” I am wondering if there aren’t also “hot spots” of injustice and cruelty? In places like New Castle PA, Pensacola FL, and Warsaw IN, bad judges and prosecutors do not operate in a vacuum, but within a social culture that supports (or at least does not object to) their actions. I am wondering if injustice is a symptom of a more general malaise in the community—a state of spiritual rot that affects many more things than just the functioning of the courts and law enforcement?
If this is so, the task ahead of us is very daunting indeed.
Groove of the Day
The above story contains factual innaccuracies based on a flawed media report. Please view my January 29 post for the true facts. Thanks.