As the mother of an inquisitive 4-year-old, I am interrogated daily as to the ins and outs of how the universe works. While in the past, Mommy or Daddy could get away with “just because,” parents today are not so lucky. Anytime I am unable to answer a question, I get the response, “Well, turn on your computer so we can look it up.” Yes, nothing answers “why” better than the worldwide web.
As children we never feared asking the really important questions: why, how come, are we there yet, why can’t I have a cookie before dinner?
The whole country is in election fever now and it is stirring up a lot of emotions, but not necessarily a lot of the really important questions. Watching political discourse, it is obvious that there is a large number of people who will vote for a particular party or candidate based solely on a name, a party affiliation, or the “likeability” of a candidate. (Remember when everyone voted for George W. Bush because he was the type of guy you would like to have a beer with? We will be sipping - and paying for -that bitter beer for decades to come.)
In the past month, I have been approached by quite a few people with stories about candidates running for office in Gila County. Some of these people were candidates, some friends of candidates, others alleged victims of a candidate’s actions. One particular case caught my eye, not because it involved a Sheriff’s candidate, but because it seemed to be a good example of a case where questions needed to be asked but were not. The case happened on Oct. 5, 2011 and ended in a plea agreement on June 13, 2012. I went to the scene of the crime, spoke with the witnesses and the victim (who was also arrested and charged that day), and read through Gila County deputy reports, witness statements, and the plea agreement offered by the Gila County Attorney’s Office. By the end of my research, I had a pretty good idea of what happened. Unfortunately, the situation escalated from a confrontation over stolen goods to a confrontation with weapons (no one was shot or injured but a warning shot and a lot of threats were reported). Both the suspect accused of stealing as well as the victim were arrested and charged with disorderly conduct.
Without going into all the details of the case, the thing that surprised me the most (and caused my “why” sense to kick in) was the fact that after all the reports, charges, victim’s rights hearings, etc. the suspect was caught shoplifting from Walmart months later. Soon thereafter, a plea agreement was offered to the suspect, stating if he accepted a guilty charge to a class I misdemeanor for shoplifting, the other five charges related to disorderly conduct, assault, and threatening and intimidation would be all dropped. The victim in the Oct. 5 case still faces these charges, however. Perhaps he needed to shoplift so he could have his name cleared of the more serious charges as well.
I know that plea agreements are offered in an overwhelming majority of cases because, as the County Attorney explained to me, it is a guarantee of a guilty plea. But why do we have courts and judges and lawyers to prosecute, defend, and search for the truth? Why can’t the suspect be charged for the assault and the shoplifting if he did both crimes? In the case of Dan Alonzo, who entered a plea agreement to serve five years in prison for sexual misconduct with a minor, the County could have done more. In another similar case in a northern Arizona county, a man received 80 years. (Yes, I did request the reports so I could compare cases.)
Why is everyone up in arms about the controlled sale of medical marijuana to patients required to show ID and are monitored by Big Brother, when it is so easy to get meth or pain pills on the street here in town?
Would investing more in the children cut legal and judicial costs for everyone later on down the road?
I guess my little girl and I have a lot to look up on the worldwide web tonight.