Saturday, December 14

16-year-old drunk kills 4, gets probation; Media makes it about wealth, not lib judge

It's amusing to watch the media spin a story to make it fit The Narrative.

In this case the story is about the 16-year-old from Fort Worth who stole a couple of cases of beer, got falling-down drunk--blood alcohol level three times the drunk threshold--and crashed into a disabled car on the shoulder of the road, killing four people.

Now in a plea agreement the kid has pleaded guilty and been sentenced to...wait for it...probation.

Oh, and just three months before the fatal accident the killer had been charged with drunk driving and was ordered by the judge in that case not to drive unless accompanied by someone at least 21 years old--an order the killer blithely ignored.

At the hearing to determine the sentence the killer's attorney had a psychologist who'd "treated" the guy testify that putting him in any kind of detention would be too harsh because the kid hadn't ever had to pay any price for misbehavior before, so it just wasn't fair to start punishing him now...

The psychologist also tossed off one word that scored big with the Media:  He said the kid suffered from 'affluenza'--a play on the fact that his parents were well off and he'd always gotten everything he wanted.  (His dad owned a company.)

BAM!  Instant media firestorm!

The talking heads were shouting that this was proof yet again that The Rich could always get away with murder because they could afford the best attorneys and expert witnesses.  The Huffington Post had a headline "Teen Avoids Prison Because He's Wealthy." and included in a short story coverage of other cases of light sentences being given to wealthy defendants.  (For a similar take click here, and do read the comments too.)

This meme got even more traction from the fact that the kid was white!  Ooooh!!  See?  "White defendants get away with stuff that blacks do hard time for!"  There was even lots of speculation by commenters that the judge or DA might have taken a bribe in exchange for probation instead of prison.

Classic class-warfare stuff.  Fodder for MSNBC and all their allies.

Compared to this mythic tale, the truth is not only mundane, but completely contra to the "rich kid bought his way out of prison" meme:  The liberal juvy judge who accepted the deal has been giving probation to poor-widdle-kiddy killers--of all races--for her entire 26 years on the bench.  She is adamant that these poor kids shouldn't be punished because...well, they're so young.  How could they possibly know right from wrong at such a tender age?  Besides, everybody knows prisons--including juvy lockup--are just awful places, so who could possibly wish to send a poor widdle kiddie to such a place?

So while there can be no doubt that being able to afford the best legal representation results in lighter sentences, this wasn't a case of money buying acquittal.  Nor is there any need to posit a bribe.  The liberal judge was just doing what she'd been doing routinely for 26 years.

I'll admit I don't have a magic bullet fix for juvenile killings caused by negligence or stupidity or whatever.  But I'm pretty sure letting the perps off with probation won't encourage a single person to think before getting shit-faced and then driving.  And in this case I think not sentencing the killer to really painful punishment sends a devastating signal.

One commenter summarized:  If you can't imprison 16-year-olds for homicide while driving drunk, maybe 16-year-olds shouldn't be allowed to drive.

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