law, racism, true crime

Chasing and finally catching justice for Ahmaud Arbery…

I remember being horrified as I first read about Ahmaud Arbery’s last moments on this planet. The 25 year old Black man was out running in Brunswick, Georgia on February 23, 2020. He was unarmed, and made the unfortunate decision to pass through Satilla Shores, where he would eventually encounter the three White men who ended his life. Travis McMichael, his father, Gregory McMichael, and their neighbor, William “Roddie” Bryan, chased Arbery in their vehicles. Unlike Arbery, two of his pursuers were armed. The two McMichaels had weapons and rode in a vehicle together as they chased the young man who was out for a run. Bryan brought his camera, which he used to video the confrontation. In light of what happened yesterday, I’m sure Bryan wishes he’d left the camera at home.

Gregory McMichael, a former police officer in Brunswick, had initiated the chase when he saw Ahmaud Arbery run past his house. He had wrongly suspected Arbery of burglary or theft in Satilla Shores and decided to take it upon himself to make a “citizen’s arrest”, bringing along a .357 Magnum pistol revolver. Travis joined his father, toting a shotgun. Bryan inexplicably decided independently to join in the chase, but hadn’t known if Arbery had done anything illegal.

Although Arbery had, on several occasions, entered an under-construction house with no doors in the neighborhood, there was never any evidence of theft, according to security camera footage. Travis McMichael had made a call to 911 about a week and a half before Arbery’s final run. He reported that Arbery was breaking into the unfinished house. Moreover, according to The Toronto Star, Arbery’s relatives were known to local law enforcement.

Gregory McMichael did have a past with Arbery, as McMichael had been an investigator for Brunswick Judicial Circuit District Attorney’s Office from 1995 until his retirement in May 2019. When he was in high school, Arbery was sentenced to five years probation as a first offender on charges of carrying a weapon on campus and several counts of obstructing a law enforcement officer. He was convicted of probation violation in 2018 after he was charged with shoplifting. McMichael had been involved with the case, and was instrumental in getting Arbery’s probation revoked.

Arbery’s mother, Wanda Cooper Jones, had asked that the Waycross Judicial Circuit District Attorney, Roger Barnhill, recuse himself from the case. This was because Barnhill’s son was a prosecutor who had worked with Gregory McMichael in a previous court case involving Ahmaud Arbery. It was very fortunate that Cooper Jones had made that request, particularly since she hadn’t known that McMichael and Barnhill had any ties to her son’s legal past. She simply hadn’t wanted Barnhill on the case because his son worked for the Brunswick district attorney’s office. If Barnhill hadn’t recused himself, Cooper Jones’s lawyer, Lee Merritt, said, “the case would’ve been no billed to a grand jury and the McMichaels would’ve gotten away with murder.”

Barnhill had written in his letter of recusal that Arbery and his family had been in trouble with the law in Brunswick, and that his older brother was incarcerated. One of Arbery’s cousins also had a past with the police department. To those revelations, attorney Lee Merritt said:

“This speaks to the wider issue of mass incarceration. If Black people have any kind of criminal record, somehow that justifies their murder.”

But talk to some people in the community, and they will swear up and down that a person with a rap sheet deserves to be killed if they’re caught doing something illegal. Especially if the person with a rap sheet is not White. Sure enough, it took 74 days before the three men who were responsible for killing Ahmaud Arbery were finally arrested and charged with murder. The local prosecutor was friends with Gregory McMichael and did not want to bring charges against the men. So yes, the men were brought to justice, but it could have easily gone the other way.

Justice is served.

The trial took place in Brunswick, but every Brunswick Judicial Circuit Judge recused themselves from the case. Consequently, Chatham County Superior Court Judge Timothy Walmsley presided over the trial. Yesterday, I watched as Judge Walmsley read the verdicts for the three men who claimed “self-defense” when they decided to pursue and kill Ahmaud Arbery. I’m not sure why these guys thought Arbery didn’t have the right to defend himself when he was confronted by three men, two of whom had weapons.

Travis McMichael was pronounced guilty of all charges. Gregory McMichael was pronounced guilty of all but one charge of malice murder. William “Roddie” Bryan was pronounced guilty of felony murder (3 counts), aggravated assault, false imprisonment, and criminal attempt to commit a felony (1 count each). These were just the charges brought against them by the state of Georgia. There are still federal charges pending against the three men.

Not a happy day for these guys. They will probably not see the light of day as free men again. Bryan looks like he’s about to burst into tears as the judge announces the verdict.

I am impressed by Judge Walmsley. He handled this case very soberly, professionally, and fairly. I think his conduct starkly contrasts that of Judge Bruce Schroeder, who was reportedly more brash and quirky in the way he ran Kyle Rittenhouse’s recent trial in Wisconsin. The result of Rittenhouse’s trial was much less lauded by the public, as Rittenhouse was acquitted of all charges. Of course, these two cases have to do with race relations, but they aren’t really that similar. It still surprised me that Ahmaud Arbery’s case in Georgia seemed to end much more fairly than Kyle Rittenhouse’s case did in Wisconsin. Personally, I think Rittenhouse was acquitted because the prosecutor was too ambitious about the level of charges against Rittenhouse. I do think Rittenhouse should have gotten some prison time.

Today is Thanksgiving, and I have no doubt that Ahmaud Arbery’s family is giving thanks that the men who were responsible for killing Ahmaud will have to pay for their crimes. Ahmaud Arbery’s father, Marcus Arbery, let out a celebratory whoop when the first guilty verdict was read. He now says that he and his family can move forward. Maybe this is a sign of some progress in our country.

This video was key evidence that got three men convicted. It was recorded by William “Roddie” Bryan, who probably wishes he’d minded his own business on that February day last year.

I don’t take any delight in seeing people locked up in prison, but I do think prison is necessary and just for violent crimes, especially those done out of hate. There is no excuse for the way these men hunted down Arbery and killed him. I do have some compassion for the loved ones of the incarcerated, even though I do think they belong in prison. Prison is tough on families, and Gregory McMichael’s wife is going to see her husband and her son go away, probably for the rest of their lives. I’m sure that is heartbreaking for her. But I also think that justice is finally being done. The McMichaels and Mr. Bryan should not have taken the law into their own hands.

If anything good has come out of this incident, it’s that some very old and bad laws have now been stricken from Georgia’s books. According to The New York Times:

…the trial of [Arbery’s] accused killers also brought up issues of policing — although in this case, it involved questions about private citizens and their rights to detain people who they believe to be breaking the law.

Those rights in Georgia were spelled out in a controversial Civil War-era statute that was significantly weakened by state lawmakers in direct response to the outrage over the Arbery killing. Lawmakers also passed Georgia’s first-ever hate crimes law as a result of the incident.

All of that set up a remarkable kind of trial in which the defendants claimed they were not guilty based in part on an old law that their actions helped to dismantle. At the same time, they were not charged under the new Georgia hate crimes law., though all three have also been indicted under the federal hate crimes statute.

Maybe the new legislation against hate crimes will mean that Ahmaud Arbery’s death won’t be entirely in vain.

Incidentally, Bill and I have been to Brunswick, Georgia. We went there in October 2009 to pick up my car, which was brand new and had just been shipped from Germany. I remember it to be a very weird town, mainly due to the strange taxi driver who picked us up at the tiny airport there. He was an old guy who drove like a maniac and scared the wits out of Bill. Bill ended up complaining about the dude at the hotel where we stayed– an Embassy Suites that was connected to the mall, which apparently didn’t even have an ATM.

The manager of the hotel actually refunded the cost of our stay because Bill noticed that the hotel had a shuttle and it wasn’t mentioned on their Web site. He had If we had known the hotel had a shuttle, we could have been spared the wacko taxi ride with the sketchy guy who had to be paid in cash and drove us to a bank. We never went back to Brunswick, although the beach area was kind of appealing. I think if we ship our cars next time we move to the States, we’ll have them delivered in Charleston. It may cost more, but it’ll be a lot less weird.

Happy Thanksgiving, if you celebrate. I think our holiday will mostly be a normal day, albeit with Bill off. He just vacuumed for me, which is a real treat.

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narcissists, politics, poor judgment, stupid people

Jenna Ryan is soon to be off to the pokey, and she’s bitter. Someone should tell her, “Pride goeth before the fall.”

Justice has finally been delivered to Jenna Ryan, the blonde real estate broker from Frisco, Texas (near Dallas) who flew on a private jet to Washington, DC and bragged about taking part in the insurrection on January 6th. I wrote about Jenna a few times last spring and I’ve noticed some folks hitting those links. So, even though we need to pack up our stuff and get on the road to our final vacation spot of Salzburg, Austria, I’m going to take a few minutes to opine about her upcoming sixty day prison stint.

First off, I want to remind my regular readers that I am truly not a big fan of incarceration, particularly for non-violent offenses. I’m the one who famously wrote a few unpopular blog posts about Skylar Mack, the pretty blonde teenager who went to the Cayman Islands and flouted COVID rules. Many people thought Skylar should sit in jail for four months, thinking about what she’d done, which really just amounted to disrespecting local laws, since she wasn’t actually sick with COVID. So many people commented that Skylar was a “spoiled brat” and needed to do time, locked up abroad, cuz’ that would “learn her” about obeying the rules. I was against Skylar having to rot for four months and wrote several times about it. I was glad when her sentence was reduced.

I remember that Jenna Ryan’s case began while Skylar’s was still in the news… and, even though Jenna Ryan technically didn’t hurt anyone when she took her jaunt to DC in January, I found her behavior much more offensive than I did Skylar’s. Jenna is in her 50s, and is supposedly a successful business person. She must have known very well that storming the Capitol building wasn’t going to be legal. And then she bragged on social media about doing that.

When she got arrested, Jenna made a point of predicting that she’d never spend time behind bars. Why? Because she’s blonde, had a “great” job, and has “white skin”. Then she attempted to crowdfund her legal fees, later claiming that she didn’t even need the money, but wanted contributors to be “blessed” by God.

Well, the chickens have finally come home to roost, and Ryan is going to have to do some time. The judge in her case has given Jenna Ryan sixty days. I read in the above link that she doesn’t have to report to prison until after the New Year. I also noticed that she seems somewhat less interested in interacting with the public. Below is her Twitter reaction to the sentence.

Pathetic… no wonder Donald Trump didn’t pardon her. What a loser.

I don’t blame Jenna for not wanting to talk to anyone about this outcome. Being sentenced to sixty days in lockup, after you’ve bragged about never having to go, is embarrassing and humiliating. But honestly, I don’t know why she didn’t see it coming. Oh wait… yes, I do know. Jenna Ryan is yet another person who seems very narcissistic. I don’t know for certain that she is, since we’ve never met, but I do think she shows all the classic signs. In fact, if I were looking for clues that someone might be a narcissist, I might think of Jenna on television, pleading for a pardon from Donald Trump, and then going on Twitter, arrogantly predicting that she was only going to get a slap on the wrist for her part in the insurrection. She really brought this on herself on all levels.

I also notice that Jenna’s attitude toward interacting with the public has changed significantly. Below is her tweeted excuse for why she’s going to be incarcerated.

Notice that she’s limited who can reply. In one sense, I can understand why she’s limited replies. I, myself, have turned off comments on older posts. Nasty comments aren’t fun to read. On the other hand, this is quite a change from last spring, when she was happily taking on all comers. Someone should remind Jenna that “pride goeth before the fall.”

I’m sure that Jenna Ryan is quite familiar with smear campaigns. She’s probably engaged in a few herself. The above tweet amounts to a pathetic excuse for her ridiculous and offensive conduct. I suspect that if she’d shown more remorse and kept a much lower profile, she might not be going to prison. Maybe she wouldn’t be doing any time behind bars at all. But she had to embrace the spotlight in a grandiose way, and now she’s “high profile”. Her behavior has been obnoxious, defiant, and insufferable, and it’s right for the judge to make an example out of her. Maybe putting her in prison won’t deter people who are anything like Jenna Ryan, but it might make more impressionable people think twice about trying to disrupt and overthrow government procedures.

I also think Jenna Ryan’s case might be a clue to Trump supporters that he does not care about anyone but himself. He certainly doesn’t care about anyone who isn’t a “winner” and can do something for him. In my view, Trump values people who can make him money, satisfy his libido, or garner him more power, fame, or prestige. Jenna Ryan and her ilk can’t do any of those things, so her dramatic trip to Washington, DC was an exercise in pointlessness and stupidity. Below is what Jenna said last January, when she found herself on the wrong side of the law…

“President Trump I want you to know that I have been a true supporter of yours and I believe that you won the election. I believe in America and I believe in your values. And I was not a violent protestor and I would ask that you would pardon me from this misdemeanor.”

Trump did not pardon anyone related to the riot prior to leaving office. And I could have told Jenna Ryan that he wasn’t going to do anything for her. She’s not his “type”. I also don’t think Trump cares if he actually won the election (and he didn’t, by the way). He expected to stay in power because he’s a malignant narcissist, and the rules that apply to everyone else, don’t apply to him. I can see that Jenna Ryan has that in common with Trump.

Well, time’s a wasting, so I’d better end this post and get dressed. I will be sorry to leave beautiful Slovenia, but I miss my dogs. I’m also itching to write up this trip and share more of the gorgeous photos I took. So, as I end today’s fresh post, here’s one last thought…

Maybe Jenna needs a little perspective about what a bully is. She obviously missed that Donald Trump is one. Instead of seeing that he’s a power-mad, dictator-wannabe, she embraced and championed his futile bid to keep bullying the American people, and the world at large.

So, to sum things up… I am not surprised Jenna Ryan got prison time. I think she deserves it. I hope she learns something from the experience. I doubt she will, but maybe she’ll prove me wrong.

The end.

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politics

We won’t get screwed again…

Okay… this song is “Won’t Get Fooled Again”… but the sentiment is the same.

As the last days until the election loom ahead, I’m feeling kind of hopeful. I feel this way, even though Germany has now ordered a new partial lockdown for the next month. Supposedly, this is being done to “save” Christmas. Christmas is a big deal in Deutschland. Unfortunately, this year most of the markets have been cancelled. Or, at least I haven’t heard of any going on.

The news of the partial lockdown means that our 18th wedding anniversary will not be spent in a hotel. Hotels and restaurants will be closed to anyone traveling for leisure purposes. Shops, schools, and churches will remain open, but no one can get their nails done. I guess I’ll have to clip Bill’s hair for him again. Good thing I got plenty of practice over the spring. He’ll be teleworking again, too.

All in all, I can’t complain too much. I don’t mind being locked down with Bill. At least we like being together. Thank God we managed to get down to Slovenia to get Noyzi, too. He’s a welcome addition to our home. Every day, I get to see his progress. He’s not the same dog he was on October 4th, when we picked him up in Kranjska Gora. He can now walk on the leash like a gentleman (most of the time, anyway). He does his business outside and often sits on command. He’s learned that the leash and harness aren’t torture devices, and he even had his very first bath in his whole life. He’s still a bit scared of Bill, but he’s getting better.

This is the truth!

I don’t know what the results of the election will be, but I did my part. Weeks ago, Bill and I both sent in straight blue tickets for Democrats. I’ve gotten some shitty comments from infantile men who are angry about my choices. I’ve gladly advised them to go fuck themselves. It’s been a lot of fun. Maybe Trump will win again, but I have hope that he won’t. I don’t love everything about Biden, but I think he’s got to be a better leader than Trump is. So I have hope that he will win…

I have to admit that I really enjoyed this op-ed in The Washington Post. Political analyst Philip Bump introduced me to the term “Trumpsplained”. Bump made me laugh as he wrote about how Trump hopes to appeal to suburban White women by telling them that he’s going to get their husbands back to work. Trump obviously isn’t living in the real world. He thinks it’s the 1950s. It’s been entertaining, infuriating, and downright scary to watch Trump’s increasing desperation to appeal to people he so obviously disdains. Some people still support him as rabidly as ever, but a whole lot of people are jumping ship.

And finally, it looks like a big pain in the ass that we have been dealing with for about two years is about to be resolved at long last. Justice was done. We learned a lot of valuable lessons. And now it looks like we will be able to close the book on this chapter very soon.

So I’m feeling alright today… hopeful for the future. Even if “Won’t Get Fooled Again” is a cynical song, the energy of it resonates with me today, even though it’s Thursday and that is when I do my least favorite chore. Got to get the vacuum cleaner out and suck up all the dog hair on the rugs…

And since we can’t go somewhere for our anniversary, maybe I’ll spend some money on something frivolous, like a lightweight cordless vacuum that I don’t have to haul up and down the steps. Or maybe I’ll buy an electric guitar. Or two… Why not? Since we’re going to be locked down, I’ll have more time to become a better guitar player. So will Bill.

Maybe I’ll even learn to play this on guitar.
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true crime

Joyce McKinney is back in the news again…

I was going to spend today finishing up my latest travel series, but I’ve found that it’s best to give people a slight break between posts. People seem to like my regular blog posts more than my travel posts, anyway, unless they happen to be about certain topics. So here’s today’s second provocative blog post…

Here she is with her dog… one of the cloned pups?

Some readers may remember that years ago, I reviewed a book entitled Joyce McKinney and the Case of the Manacled Mormon. I originally wrote my review of that book back in 2010, which was during a time when I was reading a lot of books about Mormonism and writing a lot of book reviews. Joyce McKinney was also the subject of a documentary called Tabloid, which documented her very bizarre life, which started as a beauty queen in North Carolina who eventually converted to Mormonism.

A documentary about Joyce McKinney… She was supposedly brilliant in high school, won beauty pageants, and had advanced degrees.

Back in the late 1970s, Joyce Bernann McKinney, then known as Joy, moved to Utah to study theater at Brigham Young University. While she was there, she had a fling with a young Mormon man named Kirk Anderson, who was about to go on his mission. McKinney became obsessed with Anderson and eventually followed him to his mission in England. With the help of a man she’d hired, McKinney kidnapped Anderson, chained him to a bed, and repeatedly raped him in an attempt to get pregnant. Anderson was eventually able to escape and McKinney fled England before she could be put in prison for the year to which she was sentenced. I happened to be living in England when this was going on, but I was much too young to know about this story.

McKinney was also reportedly obsessed with Wayne Osmond. She tried many times to get access to him. Fortunately, Mother Osmond was on the case and put the kibosh on McKinney’s attempts to get her hooks in Osmond.

Fast forward to 2008. A woman calling herself Bernann McKinney was in the news for cloning her pit bull, Booger. She paid thousands of dollars in Seoul, South Korea, to get a little of five cloned puppies. It turned out Bernann McKinney and Joy McKinney are one and the same people.

Joyce McKinney is in the news yet again, for another bizarre and ultimately sad reason. On June 21st of this year, McKinney, who is now 68 years old, homeless, and has been living in her car in Southern California, was arrested in the death of Gennady Bolotsky on June 17th. Bolotsky, who was a 91 year old Holocaust survivor and immigrant from Ukraine, had been walking his dog when McKinney hit him with her roach infested 2006 GMC Sierra pickup truck. Bolotsky died, and now McKinney is charged with assault with a deadly weapon, hit and run, and vehicular manslaughter. People in her neighborhood had called about her repeatedly, because she had a bad habit of defecating on the sidewalk in front of their businesses and in the street.

I became aware of this latest story when a Facebook friend, Mike Norton, who is known for publishing videos of the LDS church’s “secret temple rituals” posted it. He claims McKinney had been harassing him, but it looks like she may now go to prison. McKinney also tried to sue Oscar winning documentary filmmaker Errol Morris for “portraying her as a prostitute” in the documentary, Tabloid. She reportedly attended the movie in disguise, then would jump up at the end proclaiming, “I’m Joyce McKinney!”

I have no doubt in my mind that Joyce McKinney suffers from mental illness. It’s crazy that she was never held accountable for what she did to Kirk Anderson. On the other hand, I must admit she’s a fascinating character. My review of Delano’s book about her case made a whopping $54 of income share on Epinions.com in just one month. To put this in perspective, Epinions’ income share for book reviews at that time usually amounted to pennies. $54 was a HUGE amount of money to make for a single book review, particularly in just 30 days. Most reviews never came close to making that much in the entire 11 years I wrote on the site. I do admit to missing Epinions, if only because it was fun getting paid for writing my opinions, even if the site itself was wonky and dysfunctional.

Anyway… I hope Joyce McKinney gets justice or, at least some much needed help. She now refers to the LDS church as a “cult”. I can’t disagree with her assessment of the church as a cult, although it obviously attracted her, back in the day. And as I have observed before, Mormonism seems to attract the weird. If you weren’t born into it, you’ll probably join because you’re troubled, unhappy, or looking for help. Joyce McKinney obviously needs assistance.

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