Thursday, September 8, 2011

Kasich: Profile in Courage? #fail

The Kelley Williams-Bolar case has dominated news coverage, commentary and published opinion for nearly a year now, leading up to Governor John Kasich's decision Wednesday to bump her felony convictions down to misdemeanors. "When I first heard of this situation, it seemed to me the penalty was excessive for the offense," the Governor told reporters after his decision was released.

Apparently, the Governor hadn't done much thinking beyond the "first heard" and the message he's sending ought to alarm anyone looking for a message that the state's Chief Executive is as much a protector of the taxpayers as he is a final arbiter of justice.

There was outcry when Williams-Bolar -- convicted by a jury of tampering with government records for her lies to get her daughters enrolled in Copley-Fairlawn Schools and receiving school lunch benefits -- was found guilty, then sentenced. The law is pretty clear on government records tampering being treated as a felony, but the facts of the case didn't seem to stand in the way of a good story fitting an editorial slant here in Akron and around the country.

It was a slam-dunk in the word of editorial and commentary writing: hard-working, African-American, single mother, student working on her degree singled out by an uncaring system that wouldn't give her a break. What's not to love about jumping on the bandwagon of Akron's version of Les Mis? Plenty of people did, especially the national media relying on a slim outline of facts to base it's opinion.

As opposed to the jury of Williams-Bolar's that actually sat through the entire trial. Or the Copley-Fairlawn school board, lawyers, and administrators who took more than a year to try and get the case resolved, as it did with every other family with residency issues.

Or the abused prosecutors who quickly came to realize Williams-Bolar and her father had no intention of taking responsibility for their actions but, instead, opted to play craps with the justice system and see if they could get a better deal. Or the abused judge who gave Williams-Bolar one of the most lenient of sentences on her convictions when the Williams-Bolar's defense crapped out.

Or most of you who've commented on this story the past nine months, especially after the facts ignored or discarded in the first round of editorial outrage started to come out.

Or the Ohio Parole Board, which spent months compiling evidence and conducted a hearing that showcased the following:
  • Williams-Bolar's depiction of her education status revealed a career student of more than two decades, with assistance in the tens of thousands of dollars. How many other students are able to tap the system for so long and for so much?
  • Williams-Bolar's inability to tell the truth on where she lives, even to the point of using her father's Copley Township address to renew her driver's license less than two weeks prior to going before the Parole Board;
  • Williams-Bolar's inability to communicate with credibility to the Parole Board, or a jury of her peers, that she truly accepted responsibility for her own actions;
  • Williams-Bolar's unconscionable and despicable claim she'd been "deployed" to avoid confronting her situation with the Copley-Fairlawn School Board. She's not in the military, and from my perspective this was the worst of her strategies used to avoid responsibility;
  • That Williams-Bolar was afforded every opportunity -- from the start, middle, and finish -- to do the right thing.

The facts do matter in this case, but they've been glossed over by a narrative that has more to do with a social agenda and vision than they do with the State v Kelley Williams-Bolar. It's apparent from Governor Kasich's comments, reported in the Columbus Dispatch, that his decision was not based on the rule of law. It's apparent from Governor Kasich's comments, reported by the Dispatch, that his decision wasn't based on the facts. It is apparent, from Governor Kasich's comments, that his decision was based more on an editorial viewpoint slanted by ignoring the facts.

What is even more disturbing is the insinuation that the Governor acted in a political manner based on racial politics.

After a speech yesterday in Cleveland, Kasich said he is “very sensitive to the notion that we want our African-American community to have as much opportunity as we can. Now, what she did was wrong, but in my opinion, it did not rise to the level of a felony."  - Columbus Dispatch September 8, 2011

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Does this mean Valerie Ziemba of North Canton, who was also convicted by a Summit County jury of felony charges relating to scamming food stamps and welfare benefits at about the same time as Kelley Williams-Bolar, isn't entitled to the same "opportunity" because there's no sensitivity to her race? Ziemba was sentenced to 10 days in jail, four months house arrested, two years probation and ordered to repay $14,427 to the Ohio Department of Jobs and Family Services. Williams-Bolar got a trip to Dr. Phil.

We frequently hear the phrase that America is a nation of laws, not men. Apparently the laws making tampering with government records a felony don't apply when your friends include Congressman Jesse Jackson, who urged his friend John Kasich to look on this case "...from his heart and saw a child of God, not an offender." Apparently the taxpayers of Copley-Fairlawn, who follow the rules, aren't a consideration when enforcing the law. Apparently even Ohio's own BMV, which administers drivers licenses, isn't a consideration when a motorist convicted of using a false address to obtain benefits she is not deserving of employs the exact same strategy just days before appearing before the Parole Board to show why she is deserving of consideration for clemency.

There are some who will note the Governor's decision shows moral courage. I offer it provides the opposite, with a view of political expediency. This was a decision where race, friendships and opinion formed before the facts were even known mattered more than the rule of law. Where compassion depended on sending a message that the "we want the African-American community to have as much opportunity as we can" instead of the opportunity to reinforce the seemingly outdated notion that we are responsible for our own actions, and the justice system is more than a roll of the dice to catch a better deal.

Where some see Kelley Williams-Bolar as a symbol of oppression, I see a symbol of a grifter mentality that hurts rather than strengthens the system of a safety net designed to help those in need. Those who seek help lift themselves and their families out of their present circumstances rather than using it as a way of life. Where getting is part of going forward and improving to the point where individuals do more than take.

Governor Kasich, acting as a judge in the case of the State v Kelley Williams-Bolar, had an opportunity to show courage by showing us he would consider all that came following the initial narrative defined by national pundits with ill-informed opinions. His rapid decision reflects his mind was made up long before this nation of laws -- and not men -- even started.

1 comment:

  1. May be govt is doing different things for their people but you know until they going to take some strict action in favor for people, these people have to suffer. Anyway people I heard that different party in US pressuring the ruling party to change their segments.
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