Category Archives: Crime and corrections

More Mob Rule in Charlottesville

Charlottesville City Council loses control.

Charlottesville City Council loses control.

On Monday the Charlottesville City Council broke down in disorder. Sean Tubbs, reporter for Charlottesville Tomorrow live blogged the anarchy but the incident got little media attention otherwise. Louis Schultz, who attended the meeting to address the council, emailed me this account of the event. Although he did not write with the intention of having it published, I reproduce it here with his permission. — JAB

A large group of people fresh from a march on D.C. went to the meeting to talk about police contact with minorities, racial profiling etc. Their message was one that I wholeheartedly agree with. My viewpoint is general left/center with a few radical deviations in both directions.

Council allows for 12 people to sign up for matters by the public. Each is alloted 3 minutes to speak.

Wes Bellamy, an African-American high school teach and former City Council candidate spoke first. His time ended and he was allowed to go on for several minutes over time.

Second (pretty sure, but my memory may not be perfect) was a girl who said she was 12 years old. She spoke on a similar topic from her perspective as a kid. She also went several minutes over time with nothing but smiles from Councilors.

no_justice_no_peaceBoth Bellamy and the girl were loudly cheered on by the crowd including me, which, by the way, is not really allowed by Council rules.

John Heyden, a Council meeting regular, spoke third, maybe fourth. He at times asks interesting questions, but frequently couches them in racial terms that I think interferes with his message, which is never a popular one. I generally disagree with his position, even if I think the questions should be addressed. At the very least, I believe he ought to be free to ask them if he pleases.

As Mr. Heyden walked to the microphone, audience members who recognized him began to yell at him. Mayor Satyendra Huja very weakly tried to quiet that, but it quickly escalated as he spoke. He was completely shut down by yelling but he tried to speak over it and said he intended to finish. The crowd started to yell that his time was up even while time remained for him to speak. I did not participate in any of that, I thought it was way out of line.

heydenAs the three-minute mark arrived, Councilor Kristin Szakos (self described community organizing advocate and wife of Joe Szakos of the VA Organizing Project) started saying that his time was up. Mayor Huja also said that. Mr. Heyden tried to continue until he was finished and at that point, Mayor Huja called the police officer who is supposed to keep order at meetings to the front to take Mr. Heyden away.

Comments continued with many more people going over time, myself included. No one else was called out for going over time and no one else was taken away by the police. After the regular comment period ended, the mob essentially took over the meeting, with no effort by the Mayor other Councilors or the police to restore order. The mob took over for somewhere around 30 minutes.

I heard a snippet of a radio interview with Councilor Kristin Szakos on Monday. She said that she didn’t think the mob takeover was a problem since they said things Council needed to hear. No mention that I heard of what she did to Mr. Heyden.

December 15 2014 Charlottesville City Council meeting archive on video here.

– JAB

Presumed Guilty

UVa fraternities -- guilty until proven innocent? Photo credit: www.andrewkouri.com.

UVa fraternities — guilty until proven innocent? Photo credit: www.andrewkouri.com.

by James A. Bacon

Suspending the social activities of University of Virginia’s sororities and fraternities is a violation of student rights, said the National Panhellenic Conference (NPC) earlier this week in a statement to the Washington Post. The suspension, put into place by UVa President Teresa Sullivan in response to now-discredited allegations of a gang rape at Phi Kappa Psi, is scheduled to last until January 9.

While stressing the organization’s commitment to combat sexual assault and improve campus safety for women, NPC protested the indiscriminate nature of the shut-down: “The sanctions imposed on the sorority and fraternity system, particularly at U-Va., have punished all members with no cited wrongdoing and their rights have been violated.”

Admittedly, the ban is largely symbolic. Greek-system organizations hold few social functions during exams and the Christmas holidays. But the symbolism is important. It’s a sign that the UVa administration holds sororities and fraternities collectively accountable for a presumed epidemic of sexual assault. The administration is effectively saying that the Greek system, as opposed to specific fraternities, is responsible in whole or in part for the problem.

The university’s persistence in sanctioning sororities and fraternities is all the more remarkable given the fact that the Rolling Stone gang rape story that ignited the controversy has been thoroughly discredited. While it remains possible that the young woman, “Jackie,” who told the story may have experienced some kind of traumatic event, there is almost no way at this point of knowing what happened, where it took place or who was responsible. The evidence suggests that Phi Kappa Psi, where the gang rape allegedly occurred, was not involved at all.

There is a generalized upwelling of angst and concern at UVa about unhappy sexual encounters, some of which may legitimately be called “rape” but some of which may not. Many women have told stories of being coerced into sex, usually in the context of binge drinking and hook-ups. Undoubtedly there is a very real problem that needs to be addressed — women should not be coerced into having sex under any circumstances, period, end of story — but there is much that we don’t know. We don’t know how many of these incidents occurred while both participants were drunk, and we don’t know whether consent was given or implied, and we don’t know how many episodes constitute “regret sex” — women waking up in the morning and going, ewwww, I did what? or waking up in the morning and being shabbily treated by the man she’d just slept with.

We don’t know how many of these incidents took place in fraternities, as opposed to sororities, dormitories or off-campus housing.  We don’t know how many incidents involved physical coercion by males or how many involved social coercion — women engaging in sexual activity solely to avoid ridicule by their peers. I don’t know the answers to those questions, and neither does anybody else.

But who needs facts? At UVa, anti-rape activists are imposing an ideological template that conflates every form of sexual transgression — from pinching fannies to stalking, raping and murdering someone — as “sexual assault.” We also have a prevalent mindset, that extends into the faculty and administration, that views issues through the prism of gender, race and class and is primed to blame “white male privilege” for every evil under the sun.

Perhaps an unbiased investigation will show that some UVa fraternities are dens of orgiastic depravity. Anything’s possible. Even so, we must hew to the fundamental American principle that we don’t punish the collective for the sins of an individual. Insofar as sexual assaults occur at particular fraternity houses and it can be demonstrated that the fraternities knowingly created an atmosphere of permissiveness that allowed the assaults to occur, the University is arguably within its rights to shut them down. But the idea of punishing innocent fraternities for the sins of the guilty ones is reprehensible. The idea of punishing sororities is beyond reprehensible, it’s ludicrous. Has there been a single documented incident of rape at a sorority house?

A century ago, white segregationists dealt with rape — especially if a black man allegedly raped a white woman — by stringing up a rope and hanging the guy on the spot. Who needs facts? Who needs a court of law? Thankfully, no one is being lynched in the literal sense anymore. But we still have mob rule energized by emotion and prejudice. University administrators need to to address the problem of sexual assault within their community, but it should not be part of the mob.

Facing the Problems at UVa: a Wake-up Call

uvaby Gerald L. Cooper

President Terry Sullivan is the lead person in facing the problems at the University of Virginia, which include sexual misconduct and assault on innocent persons. Sadly, some of these behaviors have lurked around the Grounds of the University for 60 or more years.

President Sullivan is not, however, the only leader who must step up and see that justice is done and that new solutions and attitudes are achieved, both on the Grounds and around the university community.

Dr. Sullivan’s suspension of fraternity and sorority social events is, at this point, a step toward dealing with the problem. It is not some sort of mass punishment. Those who are experienced in college administration — and, hopefully, many level-headed students, alumni and parents as well — will recognize President Sullivan’s actions as unprecedented steps toward collecting as many facts and viewpoints as possible, and then moving toward solutions that will also be previously untried but in a new era both effective and productive for all.

We who love the University expect the Board of Visitors to demonstrate high levels of good judgment and selfless leadership in taking their part of the responsibility for student behavior and safety at UVa. That will be demonstrated if the BOV stands firmly behind the president and her administration, making the appropriate inquiries of the president in official meetings, being assured of appropriate steps as proposed by the president’s operating team, and supporting the president’s proposals to move the University of Virginia forward in the areas of student behavior and safety — especially where violations may have occurred in the past.

I for one will be grateful if all parties — board, administration, faculty, students and alumni — are able to show remarkable restraint in what they/we say in the midst of this time of crisis. Specifically, one or two members of the Board of Visitors in the past, dating back to the repugnant attempt to oust President Terry Sullivan, have shown bad judgment in assuming and promoting self-serving public positions. This activity is contrary to the best practices of university governance nationally and to successful precedents at the University of Virginia specifically.

If those individuals continue to function unilaterally and to stir up questions about the University’s president and her colleagues, then the University is diminished and subject to ridicule in the broader public view. (Note: To be avoided are organizations that are notorious for their right-wing agenda and efforts to destroy many of the traditions, practices and opportunities in America’s leading universities.)

When I was working on a book, “On Scholarship,” especially a chapter titled, “Leading to Diversity at the University of Virginia,” back in 2001-08, I was most favorably impressed by how much information was available on the Web and Internet about the University of Virginia. (And it still is.) As I see it, virtually no aspect of UVa is left out of public access, including Board of Visitors’ meetings, which are live-streamed and watchable online in real time.

At a UVa web site, one can watch President Terry Sullivan give her Address to Students, on Dec. 1, 2014, and also read her words of care and concern about students and the UVa community. This web site also provides links to other useful info, including the Rector of the Board’s statement on these troublesome revelations, and a formal board commitment not to tolerate such behavior in the future. The Board (BOV) meeting was live-streamed for Web reception, and perhaps one may retrieve it for delayed viewing.

The steps UVa’s administration is taking appear to be solid, workmanlike responses to problems that have lurked around the Grounds of the University — and clearly at other universities — for generations. Such situations demand unusual treatment; with full commitment and thorough application, let’s hope that a more productive lifestyle will soon be achieved.

Similar to mass murders on other campuses, this is a wake-up call at the University of Virginia which must be answered.

Gerald L. Cooper (BA, MEd, UVa) spent his 43-year career in education as an administrator, counselor and teacher.

Feds Back Lengthy Prison Term for McDonnell

Image: Verdict Reached In Corruption Trial Of Former Virginia Governor McDonnell And His WifeBy Peter Galuszka

Spotlighting once again just what a parallel universe Virginians live in, federal probation officers have recommended an unusually lengthy sentence for Robert F. McDonnell, a Republican who was the first present or former governor  ever to be convicted of public corruption in the Old Dominion.

The recommended sentence is a minimum of 10 years and one month with the maximum being 12 years and seven months. If U.S. District Court Judge James R. Spencer follows the recommendations, which statistics show is likely during sentencing Jan. 6, McDonnell could technically be in jail until he is past 70 years old.

The irony, according to The Washington Post, is that McDonnell could have gotten a maximum sentence of three years and a minimum of probation had he accepted a plea deal a year ago. He could have pleaded guilty to lying on a bank application. His co-defendant, wife Maureen who was also convicted of corruption, would never have been charged had the deal gone through.

The federal process for recommending sentences is regarded as a thorough and rigorous process. It shows just how serious the convictions against McDonnell are.

This reality is in marked contrast to the series of opinions and wishful thinking one reads in the blogosphere (and here as well) that McDonnell is an innocent who was framed. Among the ideas are that the conviction is tainted because in one instance star prosecution witness Jonnie R. Williams gave conflicting information during his four days of testimony.

A more bizarre idea is that Spencer, a Reagan appointee, is conflicted because McDonnell and other Republican legislators voted down his wife’s nomination for a state supreme court judgeship back in the 1990s.

I gather they can all float away in their sea of delusions. We had to endure their insistence that there was no case against the McDonnells because everybody does it and this is Virginia. Well, the jury didn’t buy it and didn’t take all that long to come back with ringing guilty verdicts. Now federal probation officers are reminding us once again about what we’re really dealing with.

Spotlight in McDonnell Trial Shifts to Judge Spencer

Judge James Spencer

Judge James Spencer

Hmmm…. It turns out that Judge James Spencer, the judge who presided over the trial of former Governor Bob McDonnell, is married to Judge Margaret P. Spencer — whom McDonnell voted against in 1997 when she was nominated in an unsuccessful bid for appointment to the Virginia Supreme Court. Republican/ conservative bloggers are wondering if Mr. Spencer’s overwhelmingly consistent rulings against McDonnell on points of law and his framing of jury instructions reflect personal animus on his part. At the very least, they are asking, did the judge have a conflict of interest?

I don’t know enough to say one way or another. I’d like to know more about that 1997 vote. If McDonnell had been prominently involved in defeating Ms. Spencer’s Supreme Court judgeship, the conflict-of-interest idea might have merit. If he was but one of fifty or so members of the House of Delegates who voted against her in a party-line vote, it’s more difficult to imagine that Mr. Spencer bore a grudge.

What’s also interesting is that in the wall-to-wall coverage of the trial — including the judge’s rejection of the McDonnell defense team’s numerous legal gambits — none of the media took note of this potential conflict. The issue came to light only when raised yesterday by Will Houp at WAVY TV. (His story here contains some details of the 1997 nominating controversy.)

It’s also worth asking why the story surfaced now, just a month before McDonnell’s sentencing. Did Houp just pick up scuttlebutt in the legal community? Or did McDonnell’s defense team leak this information to apply pressure on Spencer to stop leaning so hard against McDonnell?

– JAB

Collective Punishment at UVa

sororityhouse2

Collateral damage

University of Virginia President Teresa Sullivan’s suspension of fraternity and sorority social events was a case of collective punishment for the alleged rape of a first year student at the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity house — and arguably unconstitutional. So contends Hans Bader at Liberty Unyielding. Writes Bader:

The University’s action was totally arbitrary in its scope and application.  U.Va. sororities are generally quite law-abiding (for example, they don’t even serve alcohol), and no one says sorority members committed sexual assault. Yet U.Va. shut down their social activities along with all Greek organizations until January. That seems like a flagrant violation of constitutional norms.

I never did understand why sororities were included in the ban. No one’s arguing that sororities are hot-beds of the “culture of rape” at UVa. How can anyone justify this? Where are the women’s rights advocates?

– JAB

UVa: Can We All Calm Down Now?

What would T.J. say?

What would T.J. say?

So, the credibility of the Rolling Stone article about the gang rape at a University of Virginia fraternity has been demolished. I’ll let others sort through the wreckage to determine how much, if any, of the rape story can be believed. The more interesting question now is, where does that leave the University of Virginia leadership? What’s the next move?

The first thing President Teresa Sullivan should do is reverse the shut-down of fraternity and sorority social functions until the spring semester. The crackdown on the Greek social organizations was a panicked reaction to horrifying allegations that the university administration and Board of Trustees appeared all too willing to accept at face value. The shut-down also was indiscriminate, punishing all fraternities and sororities, even though the rape was alleged to have occurred at only one. First the UVa leadership acted before the facts were known; then it punished the innocent.

The next thing Sullivan needs to do is get a handle on whether there is, in fact, an “epidemic of rape” at UVa and, if so, what the nature of that epidemic is. Is it a matter of predatory frat boys drugging or coercing young women into unwanted sex on a massive scale? Is a matter of rampant and promiscuous drunken couplings which the women later regret? Is it a jumble of the two or something else altogether?

It also would be worthwhile to know whether the epidemic of rape/regret sex is confined to the alcohol-soaked fraternity scene, or whether it also takes place in university dormitories or off-grounds housing. Is it fair to blame the fraternities or is the problem wider in scope?

A highly vocal feminist movement has been largely successful in imposing its epidemic-of-rape narrative upon the ongoing controversy. Perhaps predator males are unleashing an epidemic of rape — clearly there is a problem of some sort — but I’m not going to believe it just on the say-so of ideologically motivated activists. As an alumnus, I want to see a dispassionate presentation of the facts.

– JAB

Rolling Stone Backs Down on Rape Story

 By Peter Galuszka

This just in. I am sure there will be plenty of comment. It seems that the descriptions that “Jackie” had of her alleged rapists don’t match reality. The very fact that Rolling Stone now says it has “misplaced” its trust is a huge and troubling step that will seriously damage its credibility.

The Tragedy of Unregulated Home Child Care

Joseph Allen

Joseph Matthew Allen

By Peter Galuszka

Virginia’s attitudes about light regulation are coming home to roost in a most sensitive area – day care for toddlers.

The point was underlined Wednesday when Chesterfield County charged Laurie F. Underwood, 46, with only a misdemeanor  involving the death of one–year-old Joseph Matthew Allen who died after a fire at Underwood’s house Oct. 21. She had been operating her day care operation without proper state licenses — a common occurrence in the state.

The death was a little more than a month after two children — 21-month-old Kayden Curtis and 9-month-old Dakota Penn-Williams – died at another unregulated home day care operation in Lynchburg.

Both operations were supposed to be licensed but neither had permits. And, in the Chesterfield case, no government agency cross-checked to see that Underwood’s home day care operation had proper licensing. Underwood did have a county business license.

Home day care centers handling from five to 12 children are supposed to be licensed by the state Department of Social Services. But no one checks on unlicensed day care centers, Joron Planter, a department spokesperson, told me in October. The only time they do check is if someone complains. She said: “we have no way of knowing [the child care provider] even exists.”

Home day care centers must get businesses licenses from their localities. In Chesterfield, there are 344 listed but the Department of Social Services has only 156 on its tally. One way to check would be for the county and the state to check each others’ records and investigate, but no one does that.

And that is why Virginia is among the eight worst states for proper home day care regulation, according to Virginia child resource group.ranks among the bottom eight states for its regulation of in-home day cares, according to Child Care Aware of America, a national watchdog group.

Even more jarring is the fact that The Washington Post ran a deeply reported series of stories earlier this year noting that since 2004, there were 60 children killed in home day care centers. Of them, the majority, 43, were in unlicensed operations.

In the Chesterfield case, a fire caused by disposed cinders began in a garage and spread to the rest of the house. Underwood tried to get the seven children out, but in the confusion, the one-year-old was left behind. He had been strapped in a car seat in the home. He was removed by fire fighters but later died of acute thermal inhalation.

The parents of the boy, Matthew and Jacquelyn Allen, have told reporters they are upset at the laxity of the criminal charges.

But then, this is Virginia, where pandering to the anti-regulation dogma is more important than protecting toddlers’ lives.

U.Va.’s Real “Existential Crisis”

Protesting rape on "Grounds"

Protesting rape on “Grounds”

 By Peter Galuszka

One wonders why the University of Virginia, arguably the state’s most prestigious college, seems to be hit with one bit of horrible news after the other.

We’ve gone through the May 2010 murder of student Yeardley Love, 22, by another student, George Wesley Huguely V, a lacrosse player from a privileged suburban Washington suburbs that included study at Bethesda’s elite Landon School.

Just a few weeks ago, the remains of student Hannah Graham, 18, were positively identified after being found in a rural part of Albemarle County. Jesse Matthew, 32, a hospital worker, allegedly met with Graham near Charlottesville’s bar scene before she vanished.

And, we had the bizarre dismissal of U.Va. President Teresa A. Sullivan in 2012 at the instigation of Board of Visitors member Helen Dragas who complained that there was an “existential” crisis because Mr. Jefferson’s “academical” village had somehow fallen beyond Ivy Leagues schools in setting up online classes. Sullivan was reinstated after a massive outcry “On Grounds” which is Wahoospeak for “on campus.”

Now comes the latest zinger, an explosive Rolling Stone report about a student called “Jackie” who went to a party at Phi Kappa Psi fraternity and ended up being raped and otherwise sexually abused by seven young men. University officials didn’t seem to take the matter seriously – until now.

What is behind this seemingly endless run of bad news? Is the university’s attitude that it is too elite to deal with very serious problems? Are administration officials so out of touch that they don’t know what’s going on and don’t care because it doesn’t fit some kind of mindset? Full disclosure: I am the father of a U.Va. undergraduate, so my interest is personal as well as journalistic.

The school has scrambled with protests and meetings and the (rather pointless) one-month suspension of fraternity and sorority activities. They have come out with a new “zero tolerance” policy regarding sexual abuse, but one wonders why it hadn’t been done long before.

One of the most damaging reports available is not the Rolling Stone piece, but a video made by WUVA Online which interviewed Dean Nicole Eramo who is the administration’s point person on sexual abuse case adjudication.

It was conducted on Sept. 16, months before Rolling Stone’s splashy article (but that’s par for the course with the magazine which tends to jump to the head of the parade with news others have covered).

In the 21-minute-long video, Dean Eramo says that in 2013, she received 38 complaints of sexual abuse. After review by the Sexual Misconduct Board, only nine cases actually progressed for further adjudication. Eramo says that cases can be reported to the police which she noted, “have search warrants and the luxury of surprise.” In some cases, the perpetrators are suspended for one or two years or are expelled.

The interview had a big stunner. Eramo seems to say that the university, with its famous honor code, somehow regards cheating on a test as more important than raping someone. The student interviewer kept returning to that point again and again saying she did not understand the distinction. Eramo held firm, saying that she had answered the question.

It is huge point. Rape is usually considered a very serious felony that can bring prison terms from five years to life. Using a crib sheet on a philosophy exam is usually considered not great to do, but not in the same category as rape.

This is the heart of the matter for the University of Virginia community. It prides itself on its Honor Code but in doing so, things have gotten very much out of whack.

Rolling Stone has done the school a favor, albeit in its typically nasty way. Consider this rather snotty scene-setter:

“A chatty, straight-A achiever from a rural Virginia town, she’d initially been intimidated by UVA’s aura of preppy success, where throngs of toned, tanned and overwhelmingly blond students fanned across a landscape of neoclassical brick buildings, hurrying to classes, clubs, sports, internships, part-time jobs, volunteer work and parties; Jackie’s orientation leader had warned her that UVA students’ schedules were so packed that “no one has time to date – people just hook up.”

To be fair to the school, I must say that I have been “On Grounds” many times over many years and I have never noticed hordes of blond Super Students. Is Rolling Stone saying they are an Aryan race? That’s odd because 28.4 percent of the student body is non-white.  In any event, it is high time the University of Virginia got its head right.