Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

The rule of law is dying in the US, and the police are the ones killing it

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Along with prosecutors and DAs and judges: the legal system has become protective of the powerful, and thus ends justice. Latest episode, reported in the NY Times by Mike McIntire and Walt Bogdanich:

In the early morning hours of Oct. 5, as this college town was celebrating another big football victory by Florida State University, a starting cornerback on the team drove his car into the path of an oncoming vehicle driven by a teenager returning home from a job at the Olive Garden.

Both cars were totaled. But rather than remain at the scene as the law requires, the football player, P. J. Williams, left his wrecked vehicle in the street and fled into the darkness along with his two passengers, including Ronald Darby, the team’s other starting cornerback.

The Tallahassee police responded to the off-campus accident, eventually reaching out to the Florida State University police and the university’s athletic department.

By the next day, it was as if the hit and run had never happened.

The New York Times looked into how the police handled this case, reviewing law enforcement records and interviewing witnesses, lawyers, the police and a university representative. The examination found that Mr. Williams, driving with a suspended license, was given a break by the Tallahassee police, who initially labeled the accident a hit and run, a criminal act, but later decided to issue him only two traffic tickets. Afterward, the case did not show up in the city’s public online database of police calls — a technical glitch, the police said.

Mr. Williams eventually returned to the scene. But Tallahassee officers did not test him for alcohol. Nor did their report indicate whether they asked if he had been drinking or why he had fled, logical questions since the accident occurred at 2:37 a.m. The report also minimized the impact of the crash on the driver of the other car, Ian Keith, by failing to indicate that his airbag deployed — an important detail because Mr. Keith said in an interview that the airbag had cut and bruised his hands.

The university police, who lacked jurisdiction, nevertheless sent two ranking officers — including the shift commander — to the scene. Yet they wrote no report about their actions that night. Florida State dismissed the role of its officers in the incident as too minor to require a report or enter into their own online police log, comparing it to an instance when campus officers responded to a baby opossum falling from a tree.

The car accident, previously unreported by the news media, comes amid heightened national scrutiny of preferential treatment given to athletes, including articles by The Times examining how the authorities have sometimes gone easy on Florida State football players accused of wrongdoing. The Tallahassee police conducted virtually no investigation of a 2012 rape accusation against quarterback Jameis Winston, the 2013 Heisman Trophy winner. Mr. Winston is scheduled for a student disciplinary hearing Dec. 1, nearly two years after the accusation was first made. He denies that he sexually assaulted anyone.

Elijah Stiers, a Miami lawyer who helped write a state law enacted this year that toughened penalties for hit-and-run drivers, said the basic facts of the Oct. 5 crash warranted criminal charges and a sobriety test.

“Two-thirty in the morning, people fleeing on foot — at the very least you’ve got to charge them with hit and run,” he said, adding, “You don’t get out of it just because you come back to the scene.”

The Times also showed its findings to the Tallahassee police chief, Michael DeLeo, who said in an interview that the department would “conduct an investigation to determine what happened and whether the officers acted appropriately.” He added, “No one should be shown any favoritism.”

Florida State declined to make anyone available for an interview. In a series of written responses to questions, the university gave shifting answers, at one point saying, incorrectly, that Mr. Williams drove his car home and that the Tallahassee police were required to call campus police under a “mutual aid agreement.” A Tallahassee police spokesman said there was no policy requiring its officers to contact the university when its students commit traffic violations.

Neither Mr. Williams, named the most valuable defensive player in this year’s national championship game, nor Mr. Darby responded to a request for comment.

In their report of the crash, the Tallahassee officers justified not charging Mr. Williams because he returned “approximately” 20 minutes later without being contacted by the police. That stands in sharp contrast to how the police treated another driver who left the scene and drove home after a minor, low-speed accident in the same area late last month. That driver and his mother contacted the police about a half-hour later to report the accident.

At 5 miles per hour, the collision inflicted far less damage than that caused by Mr. Williams’s car — and no injuries. Even so, the police charged the driver, who was not a Florida State football player, with hit and run. . .

Continue reading.

I can understand the way the perpetrators will not comment or talk. They want this to go away. Sure, they did wrong, but they are important, and things like this should not be held against them.

The death of democracy in action. As transgressions such as these multiply, they reshape our community values, and the rule of law, as a value, vanishes entirely. Soon police will begin stealing money from people, quite openly—oh, wait. They are already doing that.

Written by Leisureguy

14 November 2014 at 1:35 pm

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