A City Commissioner's son, JACOB KLINE, 19, was arrested for an armed robbery he allegedly ordered to recover five pounds of marijuana that was allegedly stolen from him.
His case will be prosecuted by RALPH JOSEPH LARIZZA, our estimable State's Attorney.
We pray for the alleged armed robbers, their families, their victims and their families. We're thankful for law enforcement for doing their jobs without fear or favor.
Meanwhile, rumormongering and backbiting by former friends and allies of Commissioner former Vice Mayor NANCY SIKES-KLINE is rolling around our community. It's Lashon hara. Or as JFK said, "Politics is a business of knives." Some of the written words, and nasty rumors, I will not repeat. But suffice it to say that it is fundamentally unjust to blame the parents for an adult's actions. JACOB KLINE is 19 years old, an adult. Attacking his parents is just plain wrong.
Calm down, people.
Remember that we are supposedly a "Compassionate City," and as my mother would always say, "There but for the grace of God" go the rest of us.
FULL DISCLOSURE No. 1: I have always liked Commissioner NANCY SIKES-KLINE. She is not perfect, but she has often been a force for good in our community (except when she's not). She recently voted with her heart against the Planned Unit Development (PUD) extension for the former Ponce de Leon Golf Course, known as "Madeira," agreeing with Commissioner Leanna Freeman and Mayor Nancy Shaver that it was a "bad project." She then recused herself because of an indirect conflict of interest. Then, with modifications, the PUD extension was granted until 2027.
FULL DISCLOSURE No. 2: I was once a victim of an armed robbery, a street mugging by three armed young men, at midnight near my office next to Union Station in Washington, D.C. in 1993. I can tell you that the crime takes a toll in its victims that takes years to heal. Fortunately, two of the three armed robbers were swiftly caught by the United States Capitol Police (the police force for Congress and surrounding acreage): the two pled guilty, and went to prison. I wanted to sing the Star Spangled Banner when the U.S. Capitol Police caught and the United States Attorney successfully prosecuted two of three armed robbers. One of the officers stayed in touch with me to see if I was alright. One of the robbers was only sixteen years old, which made me think, "there but for the grace of God go I." One Assistant United States Attorney (one of our former law clerks at the Government Accountability Project) recused herself (she had attended my gnarly two hour discovery lecture, and was so ethical that she recused herself, even though I never supervised her in her work on whistleblowers cases for another lawyer). So another AUSA prosecuted.
FULL DISCLOSURE No. 3: I too have been attacked by the "Anonymice" on The St. Augustine Record and other local websites, including a former Circuit Judge, ROBERT KEITH MATHIS (an equal opportunity hater whom I have never met). BUT we are now officially a "Compassionate City." My religious tradition teaches forgiveness. "Forgiveness is like a muscle, and if you do not exercise it, it atrophies."
Five accused home invasion armed robbery suspects, including alleged mastermind JACOB KLINE have the presumption of innocence and rights protected under the Bill of Rights.
But for the absurdity of current marijuana laws, none of the five defendants would probably be in jail tonight, as filing a writ of replevin or calling the police was out of the question, so a rash decision was allegedly made by a nineteen year old to order his friends to commit armed robbery, a serious felony.
At age 19, one's brain is not fully formed. Nineteen is an age when young people are still impulsive -- for that reason, Chicago and New Zealand do not hire officers younger than 25.
Nineteen is the same age as JEREMY BANKS was hired by St. Johns County Sheriff DAVID SHOAR and the same age as SHOAR was when he was hired by the Palatka Police Department (where he spent two months as a dispatcher and two months as a patrolman, facts he has never disclosed or discussed).
Will the armed robbery home invasion case of Commissioner NANCY SIKE-KLINE's son be "fixed?"
Before 2013, the answer might have been "yes."
But today: unlikely, thanks to two facts:
1. The New York Times investigation of the September 2, 2010 Michelle O'Connell shooting in the home of St. Johns County Sheriff's Deputy JEREMY BAKNS.
SOME BACKGROUND ON MY EXPERIENCE: True, case fixing is "an operative fact" of life in America, from the U.S. Supreme Court's Bush v. Gore decision (5-4) in 2000 to to security clearance cases to illegal dumping by government agencies, from the Atomic Energy Commission, U.S. Department of Energy, Oak Ridge Operations, Rocky Flats, Union Carbide, Rockwell, Westinghouse to the City of St. Augustine.
I learned a lot about the criminal injustice system, corruption and compassion in the office of Anderson County District Attorney General James Nelson Ramsey (D-Clinton, Tennessee) during 1981-83 & 1984, as twenty-something Editor of the Appalachian Observer, a weekly newspaper he called "The Aggravatin' Disturber." (I came back on a busman's holiday as a law student in 1984, watching the arrest and guilty plea of Sheriff Dennis O.. Trotter, but that's another story).
General Ramsey and I had a good rapport. I was sometimes present during prosecution deliberations and plea bargains, seeing the justice system as a proverbial fly on the wall. But at one point, General Ramsey had the county spend $53 erecting a half Dutch door with a bell on it, which General Ramsey funnily dubbed "the Slavin barrier," so he would have a clue when I was coming down the hallway to his office to "examine [his] proceedings, as Article I, Section 19 of the Tennessee Constitution has empowered journalists to do since 1796.
General Ramsey explained small town Southern folkways, pathways and corruption, and fought corruption in the Anderson County Courthouse. He was like the prosecutorial equivalent of Atticus Finch, a Unitarian, and a proud card-carrying member of the American Civil Liberties Union.
One day, his assistant and a local defense attorney clued me on an injustice that I wrote about: three equally situated nineteen year olds up for probation revocation, treated unequally. All three were first offender burglars with drug habits. Two were kept on probation, while the African-American had his probation revoked and was sent to state prison: his violation was being late to work. The two white defendants were told, as was typical in that time and place, "I know your father, and I know you're from a good family"
There is injustice in the world and it is our job on Earth to expose it and end it. As JFK said, "Here on Earth, God's work must truly be our own."
Years later, I helped my DA friend Jim Ramsey keep his law license, after he was unmercifully attacked by the (Democratic) Courthouse Gang, with dozens of disciplinary complaints, advising the late Roger Adelman in his splendid defense of General Ramsey before the Tennesssee Supreme Court. (Roger was a Kirkpatrick & Lockhart partner and a former prosecutor of President Reagan's assassin, John Hinckley, and the only Republican charged in ABSCAM, Rep. Richard Kelly (R-Fla), and when he died last year, I suggested The New York Times run an obituary for Roger Adelman.)
THE BOTTOM LINE:
Watching the JACOB KLINE case:
1. We must expect that the five defendants will be treated equally, ceteris paribus, regardless of their race or family background, without fear or favor.
2. We should hold our yokel news media to a higher standard than The Record and HCN have shown thus far. How can any defendant get a fair trial if news media members disdain the Sixth Amendment in favor of allowing reckless anonymous comment about other people's private lives and foibles? Enough prejudice: St. Augustine has declared itself to be a "Compassionate City," and let's demand that our news media outlets act thattaway.
3. In Sheppard v. Maxwell, 384 U.S. 333 (1966), the Supreme Court held that prejudicial pretrial publicity may violate Sixth Amendment rights. "Anonymice" comments are nothing but a "high-tech lynching," in the words of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas." Potential jurors must not be prejudiced by such Lashon hara. "Anonymice" commenting on The Record's website should be ended, particularly for any pending criminal prosecution. How would The Record's owners and editors feel if squirrelly anonymous comments were posted about them or their kinfolk, risking the rights to a fair trial? Empathy, please. There will be no "high-tech lynchings" tolerated in Our Town.