It Could Be Worse
He is a good man to whom the Fates have not been kind. Strong and sharp as a tack, he was a rising political star, pegged as the next Mayor of a great Southern metropolis. And he was courageous, one of the few elected officials to stand against powerful forces determined to control his city. It is a battle he won. But it was a victory which cost him dearly. Fore as soon as the dust settled, this good man was charged with multiple counts of public corruption.
By no means perfect, he may well have committed some of the offenses. But even if so he was not nearly as bad as those who served with him but were neither charged, tried, convicted or imprisoned. Such is the nature of the criminal justice system, the most odious institution in America. Its shortcomings are many and the problem extends far beyond a question of which lives matter.
Quick to judge, slow to recognize much less admit its mistakes and unforgiving of all but itself, the system approaches justice as if it were a contest; a competition to be won, an enemy to be vanquished. Caring not one wit about fairness and ever ready to send an innocent person to prison for decades, it routinely prosecute the relatively innocent while ignoring the mostly guilty.
More insidiously, those who kneel at the feet of “Lady Justice”, these keepers of the faith, these paragons of virtue are often no better and sometimes far worse than those they prosecute. Theirs is a perverse game of checkers. They intentionally skip over some while unfairly settling on others. And they landed with brutal cruelty on this good man whose fate was sealed long before the jury uttered the word“guilty”.
Convicted of all but a few counts he was sentenced to 19 long years in the Graybar Hotel. His wife and co-defendant as well as all others in the case were also convicted and sentenced to prison, she for 9 years.
What happened here bears no semblance of justice. And what make this an American instead of a personal tragedy is that these miscarriages happen all the time. The system convicts on a whim, incarcerates with abandon and punishes with an indecency that shatters our faith in justice. And once marked by the “Beast” the stain is indelible.
Sadly, these are the ones fortunate enough to make it to the courthouse. Recent events demonstrate that many are not so lucky.
This good man is scheduled to be released from prison in December of 2025. But having been diagnosed with stage 4 colon cancer that has now spread throughout his body, he may not make it. He may well die in prison, a fate which only compounds this tragedy.
But as sad as is his situation, it nonetheless imparts two significant lessons. The first such lesson is the moral imperative of reaching out to those we love. I could have easily reached out to this good man when he was charged, lent moral support when he was tried or visited him in prison after he was sentenced. But I didn’t.
Perhaps I was too embarrassed for him and didn’t know what to say? Maybe his predicament made me uncomfortable; a constant reminder that there but for the grace of God go I? Or possibly I simply did not want to be seen with him, too afraid that his problems might rub off on me; that I might somehow catch his cooties. While certainly not alone, this is a duty I failed and did so miserably. This is a moral lapse, a failure of character I hope never to repeat.
The second lesson this tragedy offers is the importance of gratitude. The universe is cruel, life is hard and fortune is fleeting. No matter ones station in life, it is easy to fall. Just ask Bill Cosby, Suge Knight, Jared Fogle, Josh Dugger, or Caitlyn Jenner.
But we must resist the urge to become overwhelmed by our problems, to feel sorry for ourselves or to believe that the world is picking on us. Even when something unpleasant happens to us, it is seldom about us. And like the man who complained to his dermatologist about a minor skin condition until he witnessed a child with third degree burns over 90% of her body, we must remember that all things are relative.
So as we pray for this good man and all others who are catching hell. We hope that his cancer goes into remission and that he is soon released from prison. And we count our blessings. Regardless our individual trials and tribulations, it is important to be grateful for what we have.
Despite our many challenges, it could always be worse. It could be a lot worse.
Leo Barron Hicks, Founder and CEO
Blackacre Policy Forum