Suffer the Little Children - Redux
Nathaniel Hawthorne, The Scarlet Letter. 1850.
Contrary to popular impression, Porcupine does not need to seize upon every little thing for comment. Especially in a week such as this, mellowed with good cheer, port wine and fine, aged cheese. Especially the cheese. Live and let live, fools dance about, t’was ever thus…..
Then something happens to break the mood of benevolence, and compels comment.
Last July, I wrote about the well-to-do teens who called in a bomb threat to the Steamship Authority so they could spend some extra time on Nantucket. (HERE). At the time, I said they were terrorists, if the purpose of terrorism is to inspire fear and disrupt society, and that they were being encouraged to evade responsibility for their actions. “Does anyone need a criminal record? At what age should they be held responsible for their actions, then? After the drunk driving offense at age 20? After they default on student loans at age 28? After the divorce and lack of child support at age 32? Indeed, why should they ever have to shoulder any responsibility at all, when assuring people that they are really very, very sorry will suffice?” When the news arrived that they had been mildly punished with a slap on the wrist (story HERE), Porcupine was full of Yuletide good will. While a follow-up was intended, it was allowed to slide. Heigh-ho, no surprises.
Then Porcupine was stung into action by television news footage of the court appearance of over 100 youths who had been drinking and trashing a hotel in Rockland. Like the Nantucket terrorists, they were all given a stern ‘talking to’ by the judge, and released. But that was not enough for these young hedonists. In fact, one was so rude the judge had to cite him for contempt; while all of them made it manifest that contempt was what they felt for the process of law and the courts. It was the television images of these young louts mugging for the cameras as they were escorted away that stung Porcupine into action, and made a reconsideration of the Nantucket teens important, as the lessons learned about the criminal justice system are so similar in both cases.
“They have learned the lesson of their life,” said attorney R. Bradford Bailey, who represented Reed and Williams. “It’s given them a lesson they will never forget and they will carry forward. They have repeatedly expressed their remorse.” Yes, remorse and an expensive lawyer will get you off from felony charges these days. The 400 hours of community service will be performed in Connecticut and Texas (parenthetically, WHEN did community service become debased from being something that responsible people gave to communities they cared about to a get-out-of-jail-free card for the well-connected?) and will give no benefit to Cape Cod. It would have been more fitting to sentence them to chambermaid work in the various hotels that stranded travelers had to take refuge in when they tried to find rooms at the height of the summer season, but sort of menial duty would be beneath these pampered felons. They will probably wind up using the ‘community services’ that they perform as punishment on their college resumes as demonstration that they are good citizens. The $39,467 that the four must split three ways will barely put a nick in their families’ mad money.
“The idea of this disposition might be misunderstood, but I don’t see a reason to destroy the lives of these youngsters. I’m sure their parents have paid a bigger price. I think justice has been achieved”, said Judge O’Neill. Yes, a fine lesson was learned, in Rockland and Nantucket. An expensive lawyer will keep your permanent record clean. If there are enough of you, the judge will have to let you all go. Under no circumstances should the young be punished, as that might damage their self esteem and ‘destroy’ their young lives. Instead, a profession of remorse will wipe every slate clean.
Until the next time.