communication, complaints, controversies, ethics, law, true crime

Why do so many people like to blame the victim?

Yesterday was an interesting day. It started in the usual way and ended with a couple of situations that have led me to ponder this morning. Why do so many people seem to think others deserve anything negative that happens to them? Why do some people have this innate instinct to spin any tragic or awful situation into something that could and should have been avoided or prevented? And why do so many people seem to want to see other people suffer?

Take Brittney Griner’s situation. Griner is a basketball star who won gold medals at the Olympics and played for the W.N.B.A. She went to Russia to play basketball. In February, she was arrested at an airport in Moscow when customs agents found vape cartridges that contained hashish oil in her luggage. Griner’s arrest happened just before Russia invaded Ukraine. Her case was soon international and daily news, especially when in August of this year, she was sentenced to nine years at a Russian penal colony.

Yesterday afternoon, Europe time, it was announced that Griner was exchanged for a notorious Russian arms dealer named Viktor Bout who was doing time in a U.S. prison. Bout had been languishing in the United States for eleven years, and was sentenced to twenty-five years.

My first reaction, when I read about Brittney Griner’s release, was relief. I always like to hear about Americans who are locked up abroad– especially when they are obviously being used as political pawns– being released and coming home. Yes, I know that fellow American, Paul Whelan, is also locked up in Russia, serving sixteen years of hard labor, and President Biden wasn’t able to secure his release. But he was able to get Brittney out, and now she’s coming home to her wife, Cherrelle Griner, and her parents. Yes, I know she broke Russian law by having hashish oil in her luggage, but I don’t think that crime should warrant being locked in a Russian hellhole, being tortured, starved, and forced to work in inhumane conditions. I don’t think ANY prisoner should be treated that way, regardless of their crimes. Russia is well known for mistreating prisoners.

Maybe trading Griner for Bout was an “uneven exchange”, but what was the alternative?

I read a number of puzzling responses to the news that Brittney was released. Some people were actually ANGRY about it. They cited the fact that Whelan is still locked up, and he is somehow a “better American” than Brittney is. One woman, upon reading that Griner would be going to Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, wrote that she should be happy, since “medical marijuana is legal in Texas.” Was that response that really necessary? Why can’t people simply be happy that an American citizen is not going to be tortured for nine years for a very minimal offense? Whose side are they on, anyway?

One of the comments regarding Brittney Griner’s situation.

I also get that some people don’t like Brittney Griner because they see her as immoral and unAmerican. She’s a Black lesbian who took a knee during the national anthem, protesting racism. She moved to Russia to play basketball instead of staying in the United States. For these “crimes”, she should have to languish for years in a Russian hellhole prison? I know a lot of people are also upset because marriage equality in the United States is about to be made federal law, and Brittney Griner’s “out” sexual orientation and marriage to another woman are very visible displays of what some Christian Americans see as an abomination. It amazes me that so-called Christians enjoy it when people suffer, especially as punishment for things that are beyond their control.

I’ve seen this kind of negative “victim blaming” response in a lot of situations. I’ve also seen a lot of Americans expressing very harsh reactions to people who commit what amount to minimal violations of the law. I’ve written about this a few times in my blog. See my unpopular comments about Debra Hunter, Lori Loughlin, and Skylar Mack, women who did jail time for what turned out to be pretty minor offenses. 😉

Recently, I read about a Tik Tok user named Katie Sigmond who decided to hit a golf ball over the rim of the Grand Canyon. In the course of sending the ball over the edge, she also tossed her golf club. This was all filmed and put on Tik Tok, where Sigmond has almost seven million followers. Officials at the Grand Canyon found out who Sigmond was and issued a fine. The amount of the fine wasn’t specified, but one official said that the fine for what Katie did was usually about $280.

The comments about the fine were pretty ridiculous. I saw more than one outraged person writing that Sigmond should get a jail sentence for her stunt. Really? I could see a jail sentence if Sigmond’s Tik Tok stunt had actually hurt someone. What her offense actually amounted to, though, was littering. Should we really jail people for being litterbugs? I think a fine, community service, and perhaps being banned from the Grand Canyon for awhile is punishment enough.

Why do so many Americans think that jail is the end all, be all for punishment? Do people ever stop and think about how being incarcerated affects the person who is jailed, and their families? Do they consider how putting people behind bars affects society? And do people ever stop and think about when a person has been disciplined enough for a crime? At what point would some of these jail cheerleaders think Sigmond has suffered enough for littering? Would a week be enough, or would they rather see her sit in a prison cell for years? Is that how they would like to be treated if they ran afoul of the law?

The longer I live, the more I think that people don’t really stop and think about the long term consequences of their actions. I’m sure Griner thought she’d get away with bringing hashish oil into Russia. Her mind was probably on playing basketball, not on the fact that she’s an American who was living in country with a leader who has no qualms about finding any excuse whatsoever to use people as pawns. I know for a fact that Russians aren’t inherently bad people simply because they’re Russian. But a lot of Americans seem to think that Griner “asked for” her situation simply because she moved to Russia to play a sport she apparently loves.

Lots of people seem to think Brittney Griner should still be sitting in a Russian prison. They see her as a “traitor” for not staying in the United States. I don’t know what Brittney Griner’s reasons were for moving to Russia. It might have simply been about making money, which I think is fair enough, especially when a person makes a living as an athlete. Professional athletes have a limited shelf life. Maybe she needed the money. Maybe she thought it would be an exciting adventure. Maybe she just loves the game and wants to play during the off season. In any case, she moved to Russia for whatever reason, and got caught up in an international game.

Do people really think Griner deserved nine years in a penal colony for what she did? And why is making money a crime? Especially in our capitalistic society, where people’s successes and worthiness are often based on whether or not they make money?

Awful… and totally unnecessary.

I’ve got more to write on this subject, but I’m going to put those thoughts in my travel blog, because the other situation I want to write about has to do with travel… But the theme is the same. A lot of Americans LOVE to blame the victim. And they love to criticize anyone who has a valid complaint. I don’t understand that mindset, but I notice that it’s especially prevalent in military communities. Bill calls it the “suck it up and drive on” mentality. I call it annoying as hell… Anyway, if you want to read about that situation, have a look at the travel blog later, after I’ve vented my spleen. 😀

I’m glad Brittney Griner is going to be free. I hope she has the best holiday season this year. Her life is meaningful, and Americans should be glad that she’s out of prison instead of wishing to see her rot.

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ethics, law, true crime, Trump

Ghislaine Maxwell gets sentenced to 20 years in federal prison…

Thank God for other items in the news besides Donald Trump’s January 6 shenanigans and the aftermath of the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade. As I mentioned yesterday, I’m pretty tired of thinking and writing about abortion. And I’ve been tired of Trump for years now. Nevertheless, if Ghislaine Maxwell hadn’t been delivered a prison sentence yesterday, I could still write reams about abortion and Trump. There’s still a lot to be said and written about both subjects. But I won’t be opining about those two tired topics this Wednesday morning. Today, I’m going to write about what I think of Ghislaine Maxwell’s punishment. So here goes…

Yesterday afternoon– I think it was afternoon in Germany, anyway, Ghislaine Maxwell, former British socialite and ex girlfriend of sex offender extraordinaire, Jeffrey Epstein, finally got sentenced for her role in Epstein’s disgusting crimes against young women. Ms. Maxwell was accused of sex trafficking young women. She befriended beautiful young girls who hoped to become models and lured them to Epstein’s lair, where they would be forced to engage in sex acts with Epstein and his powerful and wealthy friends.

Jeffrey Epstein had been awaiting his own trial when he allegedly committed suicide in jail back in August 2019. Many people questioned whether or not Epstein wasn’t actually murdered, since many high powered people were his friends and stood to lose a lot if he testified in court. How powerful were these people? Well, they included people like Prince Andrew, Bill Clinton, Bill Gates, Kevin Spacey, Itzhak Perlman, astronaut John Glenn, many US senators, and our very own loser ex “president”, Trump.

In 2020, I watched Netflix’s revelatory documentary about what went on in Epstein’s fancy homes in Palm Beach, Florida, London, England, New York City, and his private island in the Caribbean. Ghislaine Maxwell was in the thick of it, and she presented a gentle, friendly face to trusting young women who were looking for a big break. Instead, they were used and abused by Epstein and his depraved, corrupt buddies. When I think about the metaphorical snake pit those women faced, filled with slimy narcissistic scumbags, it makes me cringe with revulsion.

Ghislaine Maxwell orchestrated much of the abuse, funneling girls and young women into the vortex of Epstein’s inner sanctums, victimizing them as she smiled and pretended to be their friends. They would trust a woman before they’d trust the lecherous middle aged men who wanted to use them for their own sexual gratification. Now, those women are living with the aftermath of that abuse, and Maxwell knows that she will be in prison until at least her late 70s. She must also pay a $750,000 fine.

Maxwell was arrested in July 2020, and she’s been sitting in a Brooklyn jail cell the whole time, as her case has slowly ground through the court system. Now, it’s time to get down to business. She didn’t get the five years her lawyers asked for, and she didn’t get the 30 years prosecutors wanted. She might not die in prison, but her life as a socialite is over. As she learned her fate, Maxwell addressed her victims, claiming to empathize with them, and telling them she hoped her prison sentence would bring them “peace and finality”.

I read about this case last night, as many people were still reeling from the Roe v. Wade decision, and learning about Donald Trump’s horrible conduct on January 6, 2021, as Cassidy Hutchinson testified about Trump’s incredibly narcissistic and abusive behavior. Trump was a friend of Epstein’s, and I know of at least one person who described what he did to her at Epstein’s home. A lot of people are quick to deny Hutchinson’s testimony about January 6, and they doggedly defend their man, Trump. I have little hope that Trump will ever face punishment for his crimes against people. But at least they got Ghislaine. I think 20 years in prison and having to pay a huge fine is fair. And in spite of how terrible her crimes are, I hope Ghislaine Maxwell is treated humanely while she does her time in prison.

Someone in the Facebook comments wrote that Ghislaine Maxwell should spend all 20 years in solitary confinement. Against my better judgment, I wrote “That would be inhumane. She needs to be punished, not tortured. America should be above torture (even if it isn’t).

A few people liked my comment, but at least two people gave me grief over it. One seemingly outraged woman asked me if I would feel the same way if it had been one of my daughters who was victimized by Ghislaine Maxwell. To that, I responded “Yes, I would. I don’t condone torture. Twenty years in solitary confinement would be torture.” A man tagged me in his angry comment about how much Maxwell should suffer. I wrote to him that he was entitled to his opinion, but I disagree with it. I don’t ever want to get to a point at which I think torturing other people is okay… even if I completely understand the sentiment behind those thoughts. Solitary confinement, even just for a couple of weeks, is considered inhumane and akin to torture. I am not okay with that.

Once again, I’m left sitting here scratching my head at the logic of some of my countrymen. So many people are happy to excuse Donald Trump for his egregious and well documented crimes against people over his long career as a businessman, politician, and “star”. A lot of them would be absolutely delighted to see him elected president again, even though he boldly admits to having no control over his sexual impulses, abuses his employees, cheats his creditors, and demonstrates an attitude that he is ABOVE the law. But some of those same people want to torture Ghislaine Maxwell. The mind boggles. Maybe it’s because she’s a woman, and women aren’t supposed to be “monsters”.

I remember a couple of years ago, when Lori Loughlin and Felicity Huffman were in the news for their fraudulent actions of trying to buy their daughters spots at prestigious universities. I read so many comments from “outraged” people who thought they should just ROT in prison for decades. What Loughlin and Huffman did were not crimes of violence. Yes, their crimes were dishonest and unfair. Yes, they abused their great privilege and wealth. They needed to be held accountable, and they were. But plenty of people felt that their sentences were too light, and they should be locked up for years.

I remember when 18 year old Skylar Mack went to the Cayman Islands and flouted the COVID rules there. She got caught by the police, and faced incarceration as punishment. At one point, she was sentenced to four months in jail, and some Americans were complaining when her family members tried to get her sentence reduced, which it eventually was. I wrote about her case several times in this blog. A few people wanted to tell me off for not wanting Skylar to rot in jail. My response is that I don’t see how locking up an 18 year old for two more months in a hellish Caribbean jail, potentially traumatizing her for life, would be justice.

Ghislaine Maxwell, of course, is no Skylar Mack, Lori Loughlin, or Felicity Huffman. Her crimes were much worse than theirs were, and she really did legitimately hurt people. So yes, she needs to be severely punished, and it’s entirely fitting that she spend a couple of decades locked up. But even though Maxwell’s crimes against young women were horrific, we are not much better as a society if our response to Maxwell’s crimes is to punish her using methods that are considered cruel by most civilized members of the global community. The United States is supposed to be a first world nation. Americans, as a people, should be above torturing people.

There’s another, more selfish reason I don’t condone torturing Ghislaine Maxwell. And that’s if, by some circumstance, I ever end up on the wrong side of the law, I would not want to be tortured. I wouldn’t want torture for my friends or loved ones, if they ever got sent to prison. I don’t think abusing people delivers good results for society, especially if there’s a chance that a person in prison will ever be released. I don’t want to see that person so completely shattered that they can’t recover. Not only is it not good for them, or their friends and loved ones, it’s also not good for everyone else in the world, who might be victimized if they go off the rails. Abuse has a terrible effect on people. It makes them angry, jaded, and potentially violent. I don’t think that angry, jaded, violent people, fresh from incarceration, are safe to be around. People should be able to recover from their mistakes. Otherwise, why go on living? And what would they have to lose, committing more crimes against other people?

I don’t think there are many truly evil people in the world. As long as someone still has a shred of humanity within them, we should have some respect for them as human beings. Every one of us would want the same consideration. And, as people who haven’t committed serious crimes, we should be at a level at which we can grant basic mercy, even if someone has done something really terrible. Of course, I write this as I’ve also read many comments from people who think anyone who has had an abortion should be jailed for life. It’s probably hyperbole when people say or write these things. I still wish people would stop and think for a minute when they express this kind of vitriol. At best, it’s unhelpful and unrealistic. At worst, it promotes barbaric ideas that put the United States in the same company as Middle Eastern countries where prisoners are routinely tortured and denied basic rights.

But I do understand the outrage… and I do agree that Maxwell should suffer the consequences of her actions. I think that will happen. Ghislaine Maxwell has spent most of her life pampered and cosseted, cushioned by extreme wealth and privilege. Prison will not be pleasant for her. We don’t need to make it worse for her by locking her in a hole for twenty years. That’s extreme, and it would make her go insane… and then we would be obliged to treat her mental illness, although the reality is, she would probably be neglected. And then there would be people who would actually pity her… which she probably doesn’t deserve at all.

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politics

New York is going to close some prisons, and some people aren’t happy about it…

I had quite a busy day yesterday, updating my travel blog. I’m not even halfway through our vacation, so I suspect I have a few more days of intensive travel writing and video production ahead of me. Travel blogging is fun, and I really enjoy looking at the photos I take when we travel. On the other hand, when I upload a lot of photos, my Internet invariably craps out, wasting time and frustrating me as I have to repeat tasks.

Writing on this blog is less frustrating, because I don’t use as many pictures… and also, I feel like I can be more authentic on this blog, because most of what I write is about how I feel, rather than what I’ve seen and experienced. Regular readers of my blog may know that I’m not a big fan of prison. In fact, the older I get, and the more I read up on the subject of criminal justice, the more I think we have too many prisons and way too many incarcerated people in the United States. I’ve actually felt this way for a long time, even before I started watching Jessica Kent’s excellent and informative YouTube videos.

According to the Federal Bureau of Prisons, a whole lot of people are in prison due to drug offenses. While sometimes people on drugs do terrible things to themselves and to other people, quite a lot of drug offenders are non-violent. Some states are starting to realize that putting people behind bars for drug offenses isn’t always the best idea. In New York State, lawmakers have been dismantling the strict anti drug laws that were passed in the 1970s. Consequently, their prisons are gradually emptying. Over his almost 11 years in office, former Governor Andrew M. Cuomo shut down 18 prisons in New York. His successor, Governor Kathy Hochul, is following Cuomo’s lead, and has plans to close six more prisons.

Republicans, in particular, are unhappy about the decision to close prisons, even though New York’s prison population is at its lowest since 1984, and there are several facilities that aren’t even close to full capacity. Again, this is because of criminal justice reforms and decriminalization of the use of certain drugs, like marijuana. You’d think Republicans, who so often speak of being the “law and order people”, would be glad to see a decline in people going to prison, especially since there’s a monetary and societal cost to locking people up. For one thing, a person with a prison record has a harder time finding work or housing. People who can’t find work or housing are more likely to turn to crime as a means of survival. Or they might try to access welfare, which we all know Republicans aren’t too keen on. They’re all about protecting life, as long as the life is that of the unborn. But once a person is born, a lot of them don’t really give a shit, do they?

In any case, some Republicans in New York are against closing the prisons because they provide jobs in rural communities where places to work are lacking. Some also mention that they’re worried about safety and the increase in crime. But… the New York Times article I linked mentions that there are a lot of empty cells in New York. Those cells cost money to maintain. And consolidation is a great way to save money. According to the article, if those six prisons are closed, taxpayers could save $142 million. Of course, there’s also money to be made in the prison industry. For profit prisons do exist, and there are companies that produce products for prisons, which then get sold to inmates for rip off prices. I’m sure some Republicans don’t want to see prisons closed for that reason. And let’s not forget that inmates also often work for pennies on the hour, which also is a money maker for some people.

Personally, I find it disturbing that so many people in the United States, the supposed “land of the free”, are locked up in jails and prisons. According to PrisonPolicy.org, which admittedly has an anti-mass incarceration agenda, one out of every five prisoners in the world is incarcerated in the United States. That same source reports that less than 5 percent of the world’s population live in the United States, but about 20 percent of the world’s incarcerated are in the United States.

I noticed a lot of people commenting that it’s wrong for New York to close the prisons because they think the crime rate with increase. More than one person compared closing the prisons to the decision to deinstitutionalize people with mental illnesses. But, the difference is, a lot of people who wind up incarcerated aren’t there because they’re a danger to themselves or society. They’re there for non violent offenses, as a means of filling the local coffers or allowing politicians to make names for themselves as being “tough on crime.”

Some politicians and elected law enforcement officials– Joe Arpaio, former sheriff of Maricopa County in Arizona comes to mind— get off on being inhumane to prisoners to show how “tough” they are on crime. They save money by serving barely edible food, forcing prisoners to live in shitty or squalid conditions, and humiliating them by making them wear pink underwear. Then, when the person is inevitably released after having been abused and traumatized, that person is expected to function on the right side of the law and go out and get a job. But, as recidivism rates show us, a whole lot of people wind up back behind bars once they’ve been in the first time. Shouldn’t the goal in a decent society be to help people choose a life without committing crimes?

I’ve also noticed that a lot of people, especially in the United States, have this attitude that jail or prison is the only way to punish someone who has broken the law. I recall how so many people were calling for Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin, rich, white actresses who committed mail fraud, to sit in prison for years. The actresses got short prison stints instead. So many people seemed disappointed about that. I guess it’s because they saw what the actresses did as the height of white privilege. But how does it serve society for two non violent offenders to sit in a prison cell for years on end? Huffman and Loughlin will surely recover from their time in the jug, but people of more average means have a harder time doing that. Locking people up doesn’t just affect the person who ends up in prison. It also affects their families, friends, employers, and anyone else who depends on them for any reason.

There’s something really grotesque about the idea of people whose livelihoods depend on locking up other people. I know prisons are necessary for those who commit violent offenses and are a real danger to others. I do think we should have prisons for people who can’t safely function in society. But we shouldn’t be wanting to lock people up simply so people in rural communities can continue to make a living. It’s a violation of human rights. And the fact that the United States is a wealthy, western country with so many people behind bars is concerning. We should want to do better than that. Besides, having a prison in a community isn’t exactly a draw for community growth, is it?

So… count me among those who is happy that Governor Hochul wishes to close six prisons in New York. I hope it happens, and she saves taxpayers money, and families anguish. Those who are working in the prisons can do what Republicans often tell people in trouble to do… They can pull themselves up by their bootstraps and find another line of work. Seriously… that’s what they tell the down and out and disenfranchised, don’t they? Maybe Governor Hochul can find a way to repurpose those facilities so that they can be of a positive use to the communities they serve. And people who work in the prisons can find work in the repurposed facilities, which will hopefully focus more on rehabilitation and compassion, rather than warehousing human beings, mistreating them, and ripping them off through slave labor and their commissary accounts.

I think the United States criminal justice system needs a massive overhaul. From abusive and corrupt police officers who have tainted the reputations of all cops, to inhumane and unfair prisons that make people worse instead of correcting their behaviors, to locally run police departments that depend on ripping off people through issuing extortionate traffic tickets in order to pay salaries… The goal should be on fairness and creating a better society, not enslaving, abusing, and extorting money on citizens so that people will have work to do.

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education, poor judgment, stupid people, true crime

I hope you know that this will go down on your permanent record!

Good morning, y’all… It’s my third Wednesday as a pseudo single person. Bill is supposed to come home sometime between tomorrow night and Friday night. Originally, the plan was for him to come back Friday night, but he needs to get a new ID card or he can’t work. Our cards expire on the 23rd, even though we just updated them in September. Bill is now on a new contract and that means new cards. Come to think of it, before long, I’ll also need a new regular military ID– the one I’d use in the USA if we were there.

In any case, Bill tried to get a new card made at an installation somewhat close to where he is right now, but that office ran out of ID cards on the day he was going to go. The other ID office near his current location is closed until the 29th. So then Bill said maybe he’d come home on Thursday night and get new cards made in Wiesbaden. I assume he’d be taking me, too, since I also need a new card, not that I spend any time on the installation during the COVID-19 mess. But then last night, he said getting one in Wiesbaden is also not possible. So now he says he will try to get one in Hohenfels, which was his original plan. Maybe they have a restock of IDs by now. If he does that, he says maybe he’ll be home Friday morning. That would be good.

It occurs to me how lucky we are to like each other so much. Yes, we love each other, but we also LIKE each other a lot. And we miss each other when we aren’t together. Bill’s business trips are boring for both of us. Sometimes I go with him, but then I end up hanging out by myself all day in a hotel room or wandering aimlessly. I am actually glad I got to go with him to Poland in November 2019, though. That was a pretty interesting trip. It would have been even better if we could have driven ourselves there rather than flown.

Anyway… on to today’s topic. I cannot, for the life of me, understand the mentality of some people– mothers especially– who feel the need to commit crimes on behalf of their children. Especially crimes that are more about their egos than preserving life or limb. I mean, I can understand a woman going all “mama bear” on someone who literally threatens or hurts her child somehow. But what about the moms who feel like they need to engage in fraud, harassment, or computer crimes to make sure her little darling(s) is/are on top of the heap? We’ve spent the last two years hearing about Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin committing fraud and cheating to get their daughters into good schools. But more ordinary moms of more modest means also commit these crimes on behalf of their children.

I ran across two such stories yesterday involving meddlesome moms who are now in legal trouble because they couldn’t or wouldn’t let their daughters achieve things on their own. In one case, the mom and daughter were both involved and BOTH of them got arrested. I’m sure that will look good on the girl’s permanent record.

Case #1

Meet Raffaela Spone, a 50 year old mom from Chalfont, Pennsylvania. She is currently facing misdemeanor charges for producing “deep fake” nudes of her daughters’ rivals on her high school cheerleading team. Ms. Spone was arrested on March 5, having been charged with three counts of cyber harassment of a child and three counts of harassment. In her mug shot, she stares blank faced at the camera, her heavily lined eyes glaring, her thin, maroon lips pursed into a line. She wears a chartreuse colored top and a necklace, indicating that fashion and looking snappy is important to her.

Ms. Spone allegedly doctored photos of her daughters’ rivals on a Doylestown area cheerleading team, creating realistic looking images that make it look like the girls were photographed nude, vaping, or drinking beer in bikinis. She sent these fake photos to cheerleading coaches in an effort to get the girls kicked off their team. She also texted the photos to the girls themselves and suggested that at least one of them should kill herself. The three victimized girls were all on the same team as Spone’s daughter, but investigators don’t think she had anything to do with the harassment or was aware of what her mother was doing.

A case like this has all the trappings of a Lifetime movie. In fact, back in the 1993, HBO made a satirical movie about Wanda Holloway, a mother in Texas who actually hired a hitman to kill her daughter’s cheerleading rival. Fortunately, the would be hitman turned Wanda in and the plot failed. In that film rendition, The Positively True Adventures of the Alleged Texas Cheerleader-Murdering Mom, Holly Hunter played Wanda Holloway. In 1992, ABC also made a movie about Wanda Holloway, Willing to Kill: The Texas Cheerleader Story, with Lesley Ann Warren playing Wanda. I haven’t seen either film. Maybe I’ll seek them out today.

I wonder if Raffaela Spone thinks someone might portray her on film someday. I’m sure Lifetime would be all over it. At least in this case, no one was physically hurt and murder was never on the table. If she is convicted, Raffaela Spone could spend six months to a year in prison. Mitigating matters is the fact that in one of the doctored photos that was supposed to appear to be a nude, Spone had digitally removed the bikini in the photo and overlaid flesh colored bars that gave the photo a “Barbie doll” effect, with no genitalia showing. Had anything private been showing, Spone would be facing much more serious charges.

Meanwhile, I’m sure everyone in their town now knows who Spone’s daughter is, even though she wasn’t implicated in the case. In her quest to cheat for her daughter, Spone has made things much worse for her. Even though the daughter wasn’t involved, her permanent record now has a blight. Hopefully, the people of that community are empathetic. I can only imagine Spone is probably a nightmare when she’s behind closed doors, particularly if she’s willing to go to these lengths to cheat for her daughter.

Case #2

We now move south to Florida, where a 17 year old high school student and her mother, Laura Rose Carroll, who also happens to be an assistant principal at Bellview Elementary School, have been arrested for hacking the school’s computer system. Ms. Carroll is alleged to have logged into the school’s computer system and casted 246 votes for her daughter, who was on the Homecoming Court. Ms. Carroll’s efforts, had they not been discovered, would have resulted in her daughter winning the contest under false pretenses.

The list of charges against Laura Rose Carroll and her daughter is long. According to The Hill, “the mother and daughter will be charged with offenses against users of computers, computer systems, computer networks, and electronic devices, unlawful use of a two-way communications device, criminal use of personally identifiable information and conspiracy to commit these offenses.” Arrest records also indicate that Ms. Carroll’s daughter also had improper access to her mother’s “FOCUS” account. I’m assuming that FOCUS is some kind of school computer system that has all of the permanent records of the students in the school system. Naturally, that would include personal information that should not be accessible to anyone who doesn’t specifically need access to such personal and confidential information. A witness claims that the daughter had access to the FOCUS account for a long time and use it frequently to get information about test scores and grades. The daughter also allegedly divulged private information about other students to her friends.

Given who Ms. Carroll is, it’s highly likely that everyone knows who her daughter is, despite her name not being printed in the media due to her age. Not knowing anything at all about this duo and not finding the news articles about them particularly illuminating, I wonder what the conditions were that led to this mother-daughter crime spree. Which one of them is the more toxically ambitious of the two? Is it mom who wants to see her daughter crowned in a means to stroke her own ego and, perhaps, vicariously live through her daughter’s achievements, even if they were ill gotten? Or is it the daughter who convinced her mother to help her cheat? It will be interesting to see if the media reveals any more details about this case.

I suspect Ms. Carroll is now unemployed. If she’s not unemployed yet, she probably will be very soon. Her bond was set at $8500, while her daughter was carted off to juvenile hall. I wonder if it was worth it to them.

These cases make me appreciate my mom more. I mean, hell, my mom won a beauty contest when she was 16 years old. I’m sure she would have loved it if I had been pretty and popular instead of outspoken and obnoxious. Fortunately, my mom is not ambitious for anyone but herself, and she pretty much stayed out of my life once I was at puberty. She stuck to paying the bills and encouraging me to get a job and GTFO on my own. She sure as hell wasn’t involved in my horse shows, which was what I was doing when I was a teen. She didn’t even look at my report cards. At the time, I thought that made her uncaring, but now I think she did me a solid. Anything I achieved, I did so legitimately and mostly on my own. At least neither of us were ever arrested for cheating or harassment or any other embarrassing misdeed that would have wound up on my permanent record. I have the satisfaction of knowing I can do things on my own… which I’ve been unhappily proving for almost three weeks now.

On another note… for some reason, as I type this, I am reminded of this classic song by Violent Femmes… the album this song comes from never ages, even though the lead singer can’t sing. What he has is vocal charisma. I’m sure it’s served him well over the years.

“I hope you know that this will go down on your PERMANENT RECORD!” Oh yeah?
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rants, true crime

Getting out of jail early…

This morning, I read that Skylar Mack got out of jail and came back to the United States. Skylar Mack is the young American woman from Georgia who made headlines last month after violating COVID-19 quarantine rules in the Cayman Islands. She was there to see her 24 year old boyfriend, Vanjae Ramgeet, in a jet ski race. People at the race saw her violating quarantine and turned her in to the authorities. Skylar was initially given a light punishment, but some Cayman officials decided to make an example out of her and re-sentenced her to four months in prison.

Skylar is now out of jail.

Lots of Americans were outraged by Skylar Mack’s behavior and fully supported the tougher sentence. I went on record to say that I thought it was too harsh. Cooler heads in the Cayman Islands prevailed, and Skylar got a reduced sentence of two months. And, thanks to the local custom of letting well-behaved prisoners out after they serve 60% of their sentences, Skylar and her boyfriend, Vanjae Ramgeet, have both been released. Skylar Mack is said to be at home and very happy to be back in the United States, having survived her ordeal in a Caribbean prison.

I, for one, am glad she’s out. I hope she’s learned her lesson and will not offend again. I’m sure she won’t soon forget what she went through, and may now have more appreciation for what she has. I don’t think having her sit in jail for more time would have changed much of anything, and would only give her nightmares and personal setbacks. Life is tough enough right now, for EVERYONE.

While some people seem to think that anyone breaking COVID-19 rules is “murderous”, I, for one, think that’s a bit of virtue signaling hyperbole. COVID-19 is very contagious and potentially very dangerous, but it’s caused by a virus. Viruses are tiny, wily, and built for survival. People have to live their lives, and some folks will get sick no matter what. What Skylar Mack did was irresponsible, disrespectful, and very foolish, and she definitely deserved to be punished for it, but she’s not likely to become a habitual criminal. Doing what many 18 year olds would have done doesn’t make her a terrible person. Her life shouldn’t be ruined for breaking the rules… and thankfully, it looks like it won’t be.

I’m not a huge believer in lengthy incarceration as punishment, especially for non-violent crimes. And that’s why I’m also thinking that Lori Loughlin’s husband, Mossimo Giannulli, should also be allowed to serve the rest of his sentence for conspiracy to commit wire and mail fraud and honest services wire and mail fraud at home. Giannulli was sentenced to five months in a minimum security prison for his part in a scam that got his two daughters admitted to the University of Southern California on false pretenses.

I don’t think he’s wrong to complain.

Giannulli was supposed to go to FCI-Lompoc, a minimum security federal lockup near Santa Barbara, California, after he turned himself in back in November 2020. However, after he completed his two week COVID-19 quarantine, he was moved to a small cell at the adjacent medium security penitentiary. For 56 days, he was kept in solitary confinement, only allowed out of the cell for three twenty minute breaks per week. He was finally moved to the minimum security camp on January 13th, probably because his lawyers have been making a stink and word has gotten out in the press.

Solitary confinement is a harsh punishment. It’s inappropriate, given the nature of Giannulli’s crime. He should not have been locked down like that for 56 days, especially if he was supposed to be incarcerated at a minimum security camp. I know people want to scream about privilege, but I don’t think they’ve stopped to think about what it means to be locked in a cell for 24 hours a day for weeks on end. The punishment ought to fit the crime, even if the confinement is, supposedly, for his “own protection”.

Many people think Mossimo Giannulli deserves some abuse. They cite his “white privilege” and “wealth”, as well as an attitude of entitlement, as they haughtily claim that it’s fair for him to rot in solitary confinement. I guess it’s a crime to have money, in some people’s views. It always makes me shake my head when people armchair quarterback these cases and think someone’s prison sentence isn’t harsh enough. When I’ve called people out on their high and mighty positions, asking them if that’s how they would want to be treated if they should ever get in trouble, they always tell me that they would never do what the person has done. But sometimes shit happens, and people find themselves on the wrong side of the law. I think, in a civilized society, we must temper justice with mercy.

I absolutely think it was right for Lori Loughlin and Mossimo Giannulli to have to face consequences for what they did. I don’t even think being in jail was inappropriate. But when it comes down to it, their crimes weren’t violent. Their daughters are now outed, and won’t be getting over anymore. They won’t be committing this crime again. There’s no need to force them to rot in a cell for long periods of time. I don’t think that’s appropriate for ANYONE, regardless of their race, class, or creed, when the crime isn’t one that resulted in injuries or deaths of other people. Americans are way too enamored with putting people in prison to punish them, rather than investing in humanity.

Given the fact that Giannulli has now spent two months in prison under much harsher conditions than what was agreed upon in court when he was sentenced, I don’t think he’s out of line for requesting home confinement. However, I also know that what I think and a nickel will get us nowhere. 😉

A lot of people are big believers in making examples out of others. They don’t seem to realize that someday, someone might want to make an example out of them or a loved one. Someone might think they need to be made an example out of for everyone else. Believe me, perspectives always change when the shoe is on the other foot.

I don’t condone breaking the law. I just don’t think that incarceration for long periods of time for non-violent crimes is the answer. I especially feel that way in situations when it’s a first offense or likely to be an only offense. In both Skylar Mack’s and Lori Loughlin’s and Mossimo Giannulli’s cases, the crimes were non-violent and unlikely to be repeated. If someday, Skylar Mack decides to reoffend in the Cayman Islands, I think it would make sense for her to get a harsher punishment for breaking the rules. But I highly doubt Skylar will be going anywhere anytime soon, and I doubt she’ll cause any more trouble, at least not in the Caribbean.

Likewise, Lori Loughlin and Mossimo Giannulli probably won’t get caught up in another legal situation anytime soon, at least not involving their daughters going to college. So I won’t be upset if Mossimo gets out of jail early. I think it’s appropriate, under the circumstances. And I would feel that way even if he wasn’t a rich, white guy. Incarceration isn’t a good idea during a pandemic, anyway. We’re all pretty much incarcerated as it is.

And… just because I’m happy about it– one more day to go before Trump is out of office. Yea!

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