I Don’t Get It

Column by George Drake

Three recent stories have me flummoxed. The first was of a child in Floriduhhh who got life in prison for beating a girl to death when he was 12. He claimed that he was imitating World Federation Wrestling. Didn’t matter.

The second story is the reaction to the latest shootings in San Diego. None of the usual rhetoric about gun control – the Democrats are apparently too afraid of calling attention to themselves. Rather the discussion is all about ending bullying – an undeniably noble goal.

The third is of a local 19-year-old who was nearly killed February 21 in what witnesses have described as a savage beating by another teen. It is still unclear whether he will fully recover. At first, this was reported as a “fight” and an arrest for attempted murder. A second story, only 21 days later, indicated the charge was assault with great bodily harm, that there had been a guilty plea, and the assailant would probably be given probation. Both articles were on Page 3 of the Tahoe Daily Tribune, and neither was more than a few inches long.

Soon, I heard enough about the case through the grapevine that I decided to investigate.

What I learned was that witnesses did not describe it as a “fight” but an attack.

ACCORDING TO THE INVESTIGATING DETECTIVE, the victim had no offensive or defensive wounds – i.e., he was out after the first blow, and it was not he who delivered it.

POLICE SAID the alleged attacker, who is 17, got angry when the victim befriended his girlfriend and left a party with her. Had passers-by not intervened, could this young man have been another national statistic?

As it was he was care-flighted to Reno in critical condition. At one point, according to the true local hero who disrupted the onslaught, the assailant broke off the attack and walked away, but then returned to kick the motionless victim some more.

Throughout the entire time the witnesses were aware of the attack, the victim appeared to be unconscious. He remained comatose for a week and a half after the incident.

The perpetrator will likely serve nine to 12 months in county jail and then a year in a live-in rehab center.

How can one explain the disparities and inconsistencies in these three stories? One kid waits two years in jail before being sentenced to life. But another young adult (he’ll be 18 before being sentenced) gets off with county jail and probation, all decided in three weeks.

We are inundated with talk about the efficacy of a zero tolerance policy for bullies in San Diego, but a young man in Tahoe appears to get a wrist slap after what witnesses describe as a truly vicious attack. And because California protects juvenile records, we aren’t able to determine if the perpetrator has prior incidents of bullying or beatings.

Of course, if the local case is at one extreme, surely the Florida case is on the other. There appears to be little justice in either one.

But what’s the difference? Is it just that one perpetrator was black, the other white? Is it merely little town versus inner city? Is it as simple as having money vs. not? Or is it a more ominous money factor?

Is it the difference between trying to kill someone and succeeding? Are we in California more compassionate to our wayward youth than to their victims?

Are we wise in providing for rehabilitation, or are we foolish in coddling blind aggression? How can “justice” be so broad a term as to encompass “life” in Florida and “probation” in Tahoe? If it is just the luck of the draw, is it justice at all?

The law is a strange beast, and I admit to not understanding it very well. Perhaps I would agree with both sentences if I comprehended it better and just knew all the details. Perhaps the minimal coverage in the Tribune gave the impression that no one cares about this case or this victim? Maybe it’s even OK if cases that catch the public’s eye get more scrutiny from the justice system than those that don’t – but it doesn’t seem so to me.

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