On April third, I put up a post entitled, The perks of being the son of the senate president about the sweetheart deal that Yavapai County prosecutors cut with Clifton Bennett, the son of state Senate President Ken Bennett, and a co-defendant, dropping all but one of thirty-six counts of assault (already watered down from sexual assault-- as I discussed in the post last month) against Bennett for sodomizing eighteen boys aged 11-14 with broomsticks and flashlights at a 'leadership' camp for gifted students. In that post, I pointed out that what Bennett and Kyle Wheeler, counselors at the camp did, is the same crime that former New York police officer Justin Volpe was sentenced in 1999 to thirty years in prison for doing to Abner Louima.
Well, today, the rest of raw justice was served. Even that one count was knocked down to a misdemeanor which could even be erased (pending completion of the sentence) by Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Thomas O'Toole (I gather the case was moved to Maricopa County due to the publicity that surrounded the case in Yavapai County.) Bennett will serve thirty days in prison and Wheeler 45, plus two hundred hours each of community service, and three years of probation.
Does this sound like a misdemeanor to you? (quoted verbatim from today's print issue of the Arizona Republic:
Several of the 18 victims left the courtroom, angry and frustrated. Since the assaults, many have had trouble sleeping and going to the bathroom, their parents say. Their grades have slipped, and many are undergoing counseling.
Keep in mind that these victims were children. WHO THE HECK SODOMIZES A CHILD WITH A BROOMSTICK?!! I mean, someone was really sick just to think that one up. AND WHO THE BLOODY HECK LETS THE PERPETRATORS OFF EASY like this? As justification, it was pointed out that these boys were sodomized through their underwear or nightclothes. That is supposed to be a defense?
And here is the really scary part of it: knocking it down to a misdemeanor means that they may even get to work with kids again:
(keeping the crimes as felonies) would have prohibited Wheeler and Bennett from getting jobs that put them in contact with children. But now, they can get those jobs. And we wonder why child molesters keep popping up in our schools.
Oh, and Yavapai County Attorney Sheila Polk insists that the reason they got the deal they got in the first place was not related to the fact that Clifton Bennett's father is one of the most politically powerful men in Arizona.
Yeah, right. If you or I sodomized eighteen children with broomsticks, we'd be getting a sentence more like the one Justin Volpe got (which we should get, if we did what they did.) So this unbelievably good deal has nothing to do with Ken Bennett... Uh, huh, and if you believe that then I can get you a great deal on a house in New Orleans (or maybe some prime wooded land near Overgaard).
There is one other way that the families are seeking justice. According to today's article, eleven of the victims have hired lawyers, and six have already filed lawuits against Bennett, his father (who is a multimillion dollar oilman who just happens to run half of the legislature in his spare time) and the operators of the camp.
Now, I'm not usually a fan of lawsuits. The only time I've ever hired a lawyer to sue anybody was after I was run into by another driver, and after several weeks of being jerked around while trying to deal directly with the other driver's insurance company, which kept transferring the case file to another, then another, then another person, I said the heck with it and called an attorney, who did in fact handle that situation to my satisfaction.
That said, this case is exactly why those who push for tort "reform" are wrong to do so. In a case like this, the only way justice is likely to be served is through the civil courts. Take that away, and these guys really do get 'in like Flynn' and can walk away scott free from eighteen cases of sexual assault with only a misdemeanor and thirty days in jail. Other than through the civil suits though, justice has most decidedly not been served in this case.
Meanwhile, somewhere in a small prison cell in New York, another day went by just like yesterday went by, and just like tomorrow will go by. Justin Volpe is counting down to the day later this year when he will be able to mark only twenty three years left on his sentence. Too bad for him, he wasn't related to anybody rich enough or powerful enough to get him a 'deal.'