I’ve never been a big fan of complexity. Give me a story with a mustachio-twirling villain strapping a beautiful dame to the train tracks, and a hunky do-gooder protagonist rescuing her and bringing the dastardly villain to justice. I don’t want to be bogged down by an insufferable, indecipherable gray area. I want a tomato in each hand and a morally bankrupt jackass within throwing range.
I didn’t enter this world with many brain cells, and my extracurricular activities in the decades that have followed haven’t done much to sharpen my capacity for mental acrobatics. One of my favorite pastimes is wandering into courtrooms and yelling, “Get him!” before I know all—or any—of the facts. Once, I even tried to convince the court to tar and feather the judge because his robe was wrinkly.
This is why I don’t like Robert A. McDonald’s cover story this week. He’s forcing me to defend a convicted rapist—the type of guy who would usually be within throwing range of the aforementioned tomatoes (or worse). Then I put on my thinking cap—which is really a pair of five-inch black stiletto heels, but who are you to judge?—and had an epiphany: I’m not interested in defending a convicted rapist so much as protecting the justice system from the hands of sheriff’s deputies as well as the DA who happily drove this truck of legal BS.
Billy Mannon raped a woman 25 years ago. There’s no pretty way to say that, and there shouldn’t be. It’s an ugly, brutal act. But—and this is a massively important “but”—he went to trial and served his time. According to the laws that we all agree to live by, it’s done.
Do I think that he should have done more time? Yeah. But if that’s the case, then I need to try to amend the laws so that he, and every other rapist, receives a stiffer penalty for that particular crime. That’s the way the justice system works, but if we all go out with cowboy notions of vigilante payback, then the justice system no longer works. We’ve officially set back the clock to a yesteryear of mob lynchings without trial.
Now you might expect that type of hair-brained, screw-the-consequences behavior from someone like, well, me. But you don’t expect it from cops, who are an essential cog in the justice system. Cops obviously need to be vigilant in the face of scumbags, but if they don’t respect the laws, then we have no method of enforcing them. So what did they do that was so bad?
Besides targeting and harassing Mannon, they took their own version of the truth and forced him through the wringer for a crime he didn’t commit: harassing two girls. When they brought him in for the crime, he pointed out that he could easily prove his innocence. All they had to do was consult the seven functioning video cameras at the deli where the harassment took place. But Deputy Matthew Danielson didn’t. Now, Danielson didn’t seem to much care about the particulars of Mannon’s guilt or innocence. He wanted him to snap. To pile on anything he could—again, details be damned—to break him.
“Good for him,” some of you are thinking. And I get that. The idea that someone once convicted of a crime still has rights might be difficult for you to comprehend. And if you’re one of those people who has difficulty grasping that fact, don’t worry. It just means your brain is functioning at a lower capacity than everyone else’s. But once a law enforcement officer decides that he or she gets to play loose along the way, what’s to stop him or her—them, really—from coming after you or me? If you can’t sympathize with Mannon out of a sense of fairness or right, consider what happens in a community where you can’t trust the cops: Where they fudge facts or don’t do their homework in their efforts to promote their own agenda, where they blatantly disregard the truth. Which is actually the situation in which we now find ourselves.
The court determined that Mannon was innocent. Disregarding the obvious fact that he never should have gone to trial, that our DA could have spent five minutes reviewing the case and reasonably concluded that enforcement agents had a defendant lined up and just needed a crime, as far as we know Danielson is still employed by the Sheriff’s Department. If that doesn’t scare you, it should. In a taped conversation in which Danielson gave incorrect information to a witness (he told the witness that Mannon was a child molester), he also brags about fighting people while he’s arresting them, leading me to conclude that he gets off on hurting people on the public dime.
So where does that leave us? At the very core of his campaign, Sheriff Ian Parkinson promised that he would be different from former sheriff Pat Hedges. Remember the secrecy, the blatant abuse of power, the sense of being above the law? Parkinson’s got a deputy in his employ whose accounts were successfully counterd in court, who spent public resources building a bogus case, who apparently tussles with suspects for jollies. I, for one, don’t want him prowling the streets with a paycheck essentially signed by the taxpayers. So, here’s your chance, Parkinson. What kind of sheriff, what kind of public servant, are you going to be? ∆
Shredder thinks Parkinson’s going to cop out. Send predictions to firstname.lastname@example.org.