by Kerry Dougherty
Ronald Albert Barnes.
That was the name of the Southampton County Correctional Center guard who died in March of 1975 after being beaten and stomped by two inmates, including convicted rapist Tony Lewis.
If you read Sunday’s Virginian-Pilot, maybe you were moved by the front-page valentine to “Tony The Tiger,” as he was affectionately known by his family, who are trying to get him out of prison after 50 years behind bars.
The story – “A Pursuit Of Freedom Blocked At Every Step” – is what journalists used to call a “Sunday thumb sucker,” a long-form piece dedicated to a heartwarming topic.
Perhaps you, too, read yesterday’s drivel about how this poor guy from Hampton – grew up fatherless in the projects, blah, blah, blah – and has been incarcerated since he was 16. His first conviction was for a 1973 rape (absolutely zero details on THAT crime) and later for his part in the murder of the prison guard, an escape attempt and other crimes associated with a deadly prison riot.
Inches and inches of ink about a killer. Yet the newspaper couldn’t be bothered to print the name of the man he murdered.
Color me unsurprised.
Let’s be honest, giving the dead man an identity might turn Tony the Tiger into Tony the Ruthless Killer and dilute the sympathy The Pilot is trying to gin up for the inmate.
Naturally, as is the case with virtually all of the leftist legacy media, the front page of the paper was dedicated to a poor guy, mistreated by the justice system who is just trying to go fishing again. It wasn’t until the “jump,” on page 16 that there was a passing reference to the crime that’s kept him locked up all these years. As you’d expect, it was treated lightly. Lewis got in trouble for “restraining a correctional officer” who was trying to help another prison guard who later died as the result of the beating he took during what the writer characterized as a “chaotic escape attempt.”
No gory details about the crime. No name for the dead prison guard.
As we all know, the corporate media concerns itself only with criminals, not victims.
And newspapers wonder why they’re in a death spiral.
It took me about five minutes of Google research to find court filings that detailed what went down in the Virginia prison when Officer Barnes was beaten to a pulp. Describing what transpired inside the prison as “chaos” is not accurate.
“Chaos” is what happens in a high school hallway when the final bell rings.
When two bloodthirsty prisoners take down a couple of guards and viciously kick and stomp one of them into unconsciousness, that’s wanton savagery. It was an act so brutal that the inmates involved were sentenced to death for the killing.
Oh, and repeating the tall tale that Lewis was not part of the escape attempt is laughable. He was caught trying to scale the fence.
Their death sentences were commuted to life in prison by then-Gov. Mills Godwin. Not because the two convicts were innocent but because the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the way some states, including Virginia, applied the death penalty was unconstitutional.
Now the family of this inmate – who got to live 45 years longer than Robert Albert Barnes – has run to the newspaper in hopes of a front-page bleeding-heart story about how their killer-relative deserves his freedom.
Instead of fleshing out the story of the crime, the newspaper focused on technicalities in the law to make it appear that this murderer should be released back into society because of his age or the circumstances of his commutation. Frivolous legal arguments at best.
There is a passing reference to the reasons Tony was denied parole in the past: the serious nature of his crimes and his need to demonstrate a “longer period of stable adjustment.”
Translation: Tony has probably been a discipline problem in prison. If he hasn’t shown “stable adjustment” after 50 years, he never will.
There are also brief mentions that the newspaper was unable to reach Tony’s rape victim, the dead man’s family or even the prisoner himself before “press time.” Hilarious. As if there was a compelling reason to get this piece in the paper on Sunday.
Beyond that, if the former chair of the parole board, Adrienne Bennett – who merrily freed a passel of murderers – didn’t wave her magic wand of freedom over Lewis, you know he’s a menace.
Frankly, the way the Pilot ended its attempted heart-tugger was absolutely masterful:
Lewis has always cared deeply for his nieces, whose names he had tattooed on his arm. When Carol’s daughter died at age 11, Lewis “tore apart” his cell, the sisters said.
When they talk about what he would’ve done if he’d never gotten in trouble, Lewis has mentioned wanting to serve in the military. He had expressed interest in various trades while a teenager, according to evaluations in the records of his case.
“Here it is that you have a 16-year-old that entered prison and spent so much time — 50 years — he’s never experienced love, he’s never experienced life, he’s never experienced fishing or anything else,” Morrison said. “When he had the eligibility for parole he just felt like that would be his voice or his opportunity.”
What a coincidence!
You know who else never got to experience love, life, or fishing after 1975?
Ronald Albert Barnes.