Probation is an Opportunity: A Limited One

A recent article in the Providence Journal by Katie Mulvaney titled, “RI man, never tried in Rape, remains imprisoned for it.” (https://www.providencejournal.com/news/20190503/ri-man-never-tried-in-rape-remains-imprisoned-for-it) is disingenuous.

The inmate, 52-year-old Robert Raso, violated the conditions of his parole and probation based on allegations he committed sexual assault. After prosecutors decided not to go forward with the criminal matter, Raso appealed his violation and return to prison for the balance of his original sentence.

Judge William Carnes upheld the violation and denied his petition for release. The court based the decision on the testimony of the original prosecutor, Assistant Attorney General Daniel Carr Guglielmo. Guglielmo told the court the decision not to prosecute was not because of any doubt in his mind that probable cause existed to continue the case and the victim’s allegations and statements were credible.

Sometimes, even when the police identify a perpetrator and evidence is available, the best course of justice is no trial. Here, the victim suffered twice. Once at the hands of the man who assaulted her and then by family members who chose not to believe her, and tried to force her to recant. She did not, and this is the key aspect.

Roger Williams University Law Professor Andrew Horwitz, said, “the case — and the sentence — is ‘exactly’ what is wrong with the state’s probation system.” Professor Horwitz argued that “very serious allegations were resolved through a probation violation hearing instead of a trial in which the defendant would have enjoyed a full panoply of constitutional protections.”

The title of the piece skews the core element. Mr. Raso “enjoyed” his full constitutional benefit at the violation hearing. He had competent counsel, a neutral court, and the opportunity to question the evidence used to support the violation.

Raso is serving time for violating probation on the original criminal charges he faced, not for an unresolved Rape case.

Also from the article;

“In March 2011, Judge Savage sentenced Raso to serve 25 years for violating the terms of his probation from a slew of offenses committed more than a decade earlier, including kidnapping, attempted murder, armed robberies, and arson. Raso served 12 years for the previous offenses. A 28-year suspended sentence with probation remained hanging over him upon his release.”

To be clear, Raso is serving the balance of his sentence because a court found he violated the conditions of his probation. Despite the lack of a criminal trial in the case triggering the violation, a Judge heard competent and convincing evidence that Mr. Raso violated the conditions of probation. Before he could secure his release, Mr. Raso had to accept and agree to the conditions of probation.

He violated those conditions, and Judge Savage rightfully returned him to prison. If there is anything to question about the Rhode Island Probation system it’s why did a man sentenced to forty years serve barely one-third of his sentence?

The onus fell on Mr. Raso to make sure he avoided even the whisper of violating conditions. Probation is an opportunity, yet a limited one. While I often argue the inequities of prison sentences and see them as a poor solution to the problem of crime, in this matter, it is appropriate.

Alabama Supreme Court Justice Roy Moore: Seeking a Return to the Dark Ages

I wrote this last year about “Judge” Roy ‘get ’em while they’re young” Moore.  If a Supreme Court Justice can’t follow federal law, how can he represent Alabama in the Senate?

This is just one aspect of a troubled, character-flawed, hypocrite. Mix in unlawful sexual proclivities, and it is frightening. Come on, Alabama, this is not the America you are part of.

 

In case you have never heard of Justice Roy Moore, he is the current Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court. He’s held the job twice and lost it once.

So far.

In 2003, he was removed from office when he refused to comply with a federal court order to remove a Ten Commandments monument he installed in the rotunda of the court.

So, of course, the progressive segment of Alabama voters re-elected him in 2012.

Now his battle is same-sex marriage. He is suspended from office for sending an administrative order to Alabama probate judges telling them Alabama Law banning Same Sex Marriages was in full force and effect.

He lied. It was not.

In 2015 the US Supreme Court, in Obergefell V. Hodges, legalized gay marriage thus trumping (I love that word) any State prohibitions. Keep in mind, the US Supreme Court still had the full complement of Judges. Scalia, a staunch opponent of same-sex marriage, still sat on the court.

Even he couldn’t persuade the court to uphold the ban; law and rationality prevailed.

Moore sent the letter six months after the Supreme Court decision. He either knew the letter was not based on established law or didn’t care.

But, to Justice Moore, it makes no difference. He has God on his side. Just ask him, he’ll tell you he does. He’ll tell you that his faith is the one true interpretation. The one true path. The basis for the entire government of the United States.

He’ll tell you that the diversity of this country, the willingness to accept people as they are not as we think they should be, will be its demise.

The law be damned.

Justice Moore is the poster child of our sordid and bigoted history. Those in a position of power imposing their faith, their beliefs, their views on those with no power. The fact that someone holding such archaic and prejudicial beliefs can rise to such a position speaks volumes about the lack of progress toward true universal tolerance in this country.

It is because of people like him that we need a strong and intellectually honest judiciary. One that looks at the law and ensures its fair application. One that also abides by their decisions.

There is no better evidence for the gravity of the upcoming Presidential election than someone like Justice Moore.

Bigots embrace this man’s philosophy and seek to impose it on all by seizing power in government.

A true nightmare would be a US Supreme Court comprised of people like Justice Moore. A man who seeks to justify his own ignorance, intolerance, and lack of empathy for his fellow man by cloaking himself in a judicial robe.

I don’t know where Justice Moore went to Law School, but he should seek a refund. To the people who elected him and re-elected him, do the country a favor and skip the election in November.

In All Fairness

President Trump nominated Judge Neil M. Gorsuch for the Supreme Court. The rancor and rejection by those who oppose Trump now rises to a new level of vitriol. I place myself in the ranks of those who did not vote for Trump. I find his initial actions in office to be counter-productive at best and terrifying at worst. I have great apprehension for the near future of this country.

But, with that said, let us not forget the process of government given to us by the founding fathers. One created to weather such storms.

Let us not forget the constitutional concepts upon which these nominations proceed to Congress. They are to “advise and consent.”

When President Obama (oh where, oh where have you gone?) nominated Judge Merrick Garland, the Republicans acted like fools. Spouting all sorts of nonsense about election year nominations being improper.

No doubt someone will point out that more people voted against Trump than voted for him. They’ll suggest this as a reason he should not nominate anyone.

Nonsense. As much nonsense as blocking election year nominations.

Republicans refused to give Garland a hearing. They subverted the constitution. They knew the hearing to “advise and consent” is not about the nominee’s positions, but about their qualifications. Garland was as qualified as Gorsuch appears to be, philosophical differences aside.

These differences are not a basis to reject a nominee.

We cannot scream about violating the spirit of America with a religious test (couched in fear) that bans immigration based on being a Muslim, then seek to block an otherwise apparently qualified nominee for the court because we disagree with his opinions.

Democrats need not follow the Republican circus act. They can follow the rule of law and Senate decorum.

Quotes are like friends, we pick them because we like them. Facts are like blood relatives, often uncomfortably embarrassing. We can quote all we like by cherry-picking decisions by Gorsuch. The fact remains that on the surface he appears qualified for the position. If a Senate hearing discovers otherwise, so be it.

And that is all the constitution requires.

History is replete with justices who turned out to be much less rigid than expected.

If Justice Gorsuch demonstrates his qualifications for the Supreme Court, the Senate should advise and consent. If we demand the Republicans follow the law, and criticize them when they don’t, we must ourselves take the high road.

To do otherwise is to cast aside 200 plus years of our way of conducting the people’s business. There are those in Congress who do not care, those of us with some rationality left should.

The alternative is inertia in government.

Once Again, it is Obama’s Fault

 

New Author Photo

The disaster that is the Obama Presidency has struck again. His abject failure to improve on the robust economy handed to him on a silver platter by the Bush administration has caused the loss of more jobs.

Carrier Corporation, a division of United Technologies, is closing its Indiana plant and putting 2100 workers out of a job. The company cites labor costs and their inability to compete with other companies that made similar moves south of the border.

They did not say they would find better, more qualified workers. They did not say it was a shortage of workers. They did not say it was for better business prospects (they fully intend to sell things in the US, just not make them here.)

What they said they would find is cheaper labor. I bet they will.

Of course, this is Obama’s fault. Obama’s economic policies have not improved the economy and have hurt business according to his critics.

Odd, since the numbers do not reflect that. According to Factcheck.org, an independent non-political organization (http://www.factcheck.org/2015/01/obamas-numbers-january-2015-update/) under Obama:

  • 2014 was the best year for employment growth in 15 years (6 million more jobs since Obama came into office in 2009. Under George W. Bush the country suffered a loss of 4.4 million jobs in his last year)
  • Overall inflation under Obama has been moderate, 11.8%
  • Real weekly earnings (adjusted for inflation) has risen 1.7%
  • Corporate Profits have soared under Obama, after-tax profits are running at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $1.9 TRILLION
  • Stock market is up 156% since Obama came into office.

There are some negatives as well. Long-term unemployment (those out of work for more the 27 weeks) is higher than before Obama. The number of families on food stamps is higher as well. Much of this is the hangover from the 2007-2009 recession.

I wonder if these negatives are compounded by business decisions like Carrier Corporation moving to find cheap labor in Mexico.

Now if I understand his critic’s positions, Obama has not done enough to improve the economy. What he has done has not worked and the Affordable Care Act has been a disaster. How can finding a way to provide health care to all Americans be a disaster?

If there are problems within the economy, I think much blame goes to companies that put profits before people. Some would argue that a company has an obligation to stockholders to seek cost reductions and increase profits. At what cost? It would seem at the expense of loyal employees that helped build the company in the first place.

We should not only accept but also applaud their narrow-minded, single purpose pursuit of profits over people. This is what made America great according to some. They would contend that is Capitalism.

Now I am not advocating socialism or any artificial redistribution of wealth. The opportunity to pursue the American dream IS what makes this country great.

What I am advocating is reinvigorating the essence of American capitalism. A capitalism with a heart for those that provide the bulk of the energy for that economic engine.

Funny how the same people that approve companies running to Mexico to avoid paying fair, negotiated union wages and benefits are the same ones with bumper stickers proclaiming Buy American.

I bet many of these same detractors of Obama also trumpet the idea of building a fence to keep the Mexicans from coming to the US.

Take heart, if Americans continue to support companies that flee the US to avoid paying fair wages, it will be Mexico building a fence to keep the unemployed Americans out of their country. Maybe Mexico can hire the unemployed Americans to build the fence as a form of foreign aid.

Somehow, that will be Obama’s fault as well.

Oh, and by the way Mr. President, since you haven’t done anything to help the economy why don’t you take the rest of your term off and NOT nominate anyone to the Supreme Court either. We got this.

 

Where is the Old Southwest Airlines?

Where has the “old” Southwest gone?

Southwest Airline’s Ramp agents have been without a contract for four years.  I was reminded of this by an image posted on Facebook of a group of rampers (as they are known within the company) proudly boycotting an Employee Appreciation Day in protest over the lack of a contract.

Why should this matter to anyone outside of the company?  Let me explain.

Southwest Airlines became a legendary company through the hard work, dedication, and commitment to excellence of it’s employees.  Everyone from the comedic routines of the flight crew, the care and kindness of the customer service agents and operations agents, to the dedication of mechanics and other support staff all made Southwest successful.

Somewhere along the way, those in management have lost sight of that.

Four years without a contract is criminal.

Herb Kelleher, the legendary founder and original CEO, built the Southwest brand. He was proud of the fact he did it with an organization that was 85% unionized.  Kelleher understood the protections of a union were important to the overall satisfaction of the members.

Kelleher recognized that management changes were inevitable and other CEO’s might take a different approach to employees.  Unions insure fair and equitable treatment for their members.

These unions made the company successful.

I find it interesting that with the decline in union membership nationwide, the disparity between those in the lower economic range and the highest has grown exponentially.

CEOs and upper management salaries far outstrip those of labor, perhaps due in part to this decline of unionized representation.

I do not begrudge Gary Kelly, Southwest’s CEO, his salary.  I just do not understand why he has abandoned the philosophy that made Southwest the success that it is, people.  Take care of your employees and they will take care of your customers.

Do not put profits before people.  Southwest has made record profits.  Invest in those that made you successful.

I am not saying the union is blameless in this.  I worked for Southwest for several years. I know understanding the language of the contract can be frustrating. That is what negotiation is about.  The language was negotiated in, change it through the same process.

I also know some union members spend more time trying to figure out how not to work, or gaming the system, exploiting the contract language, than doing the job.  However, it is a small minority of the workforce.

The process of negotiation has to be fair and open; in this case, the company holds all the cards.  They have taken the approach of waiting the union out, at the expense of the very people that made the company successful.

Here is a little perspective. The next time you fly on Southwest watch the ground crew.

There is more to what they do then load bags.

A ramp agent has to plan the weight distribution and the off-loading order of the bags.  They are not randomly put aboard; there is a method to it.

But here’s the thing to really pay attention to.  Something most people do not know.

Everyone has seen the First Officer (commonly known as the co-pilot) checking the outside of the aircraft.  They do that whenever they begin their day, or change aircraft.

There is one person responsible for inspecting every aircraft just before pushing back from the gate.

A ramp agent.

They are the last set of eyes that checks the outside of the aircraft before pushing off the gate.

Think about that.

The lead agent, the one everyone thinks is just loading bags, is the last set of eyes that checks the outside of that aircraft before every flight.

The lead agent then operates the vehicle that pushes that aircraft worth tens of millions of dollars, holding up to 175 passengers and 6 crewmembers off the gate. I’ve done it, it is no easy task.

Yet Southwest thinks it is okay to leave them without a contract for 4 years.  That says a lot about the value they put on people.

Where did the old Southwest go?