Friday, November 30, 2007

Sheehan on Gell

In her column this morning, Ruth Sheehan makes a compelling case that selective prosecution occurred in the recent Alan Gell case. For some background on the case, see Wednesday's article by Joe Neff.


Debrah said...

Dear Ruthie--

A very sound column. It appears that you've really got your head screwed on straight when you report on this case.

Your last point regarding all these unfortunate people ending up on public assistance is the most significant point.

This entire case is one in which the taxpayers have been the real victims.

Tediously irresponsible people. The father who molested his daughters deserves a much longer sentence.

Such an irresponsible justice system whose mistakes--deliberate or not--are always ameliorated at the public trough.

But Ruthie, this is something that is occurring everyday in the black community as you well know.

It's a theme: Commit crimes, impregnate girlfriends, go to the slammer for the crimes.....yada, yada, yada.......

This way, the taxpayers pay not only to feed and house the criminal, but for his girlfriend and her new baby, or babies.

And over....and over.....and over it goes.


BTW, Ruthie. Do you think the N&O editors will allow you to update us on how Crystal Mangum and her babies are doing?

I'd like to see you continue this theme---if the N&O editors will allow such honesty.

mac said...

North Korealina.
For sure.

mac said...

You're right: the CGM story should be pursued. I also agree with posters who've stated that Mangum ought to get her say in court. As a defendant. Then she can blather and fabricate and hallucinate all she wants. Under oath.

She should be heard, I agree.

I wonder what Alan Gell would have to say about the Hoax, and about false-accusers like CGM? Perhaps Ms. Sheehan could ask him.

Anonymous said...

One of LE statements is " if they are not quilty of this crime, they are quilty of another one, they got away with earlier." Gell puts himself in these positions.

Anonymous said...

Not sure I get this one, KC. Sheehan convieniently omits one crucial piece of information: Gell's age. As best as I can tell, Gell would have been 30 at the time he violated NC law by having sex with a 15 year old girl. That age difference is important because NC deems sex between a 15 year old and anyone more than six years older as stautory rape. Why the hell is a 30 year old engaged in a sexual relationship with a 15 year old?

Sheehan instead wants us to pretend that Gell was actually 19 (conveniently placing him outside the parameters of the 6 year age difference rule) at the time he had sex with the 15 year old. Gell was 19 at the time he was sent to jail. Sheehan says of Gell: "Maybe, after being sent away at age 19, he is stuck in a teenage timewarp. Maybe he couldn't keep his trousers zipped. Maybe the State Bureau of Investigation is out to get him."

Oh, the conspiracy! Another N&O article notes in passing that Gell also possessed cocaine. Hmmmm.

Sheehan must have stayed up late last night finding ways to portray Gell as a victim. She states: "This even though there were no aggravating circumstances in the Gell (stautory rape) case. This, even though the Gell (statutory rape) case involved a CONSENTUAL relationship and neither the victim nor the victim's mother wanted Gell prosecuted. Rather, they want him to be a father to his year-old son." (emphasis added).

Perhaps Sheehan should have consulted her legal team before publishing this article. Statutory rape, by its very definition, assumes that the minor involved in a sexual relationship with an adult lacks the legal capacity to consent to sexual intercourse. This rule applies with particular force when there is a gross age discrepancy between the adult and the child. Does Sheehan think this law is wrong?

Sheehan's article would have been much more effective if it had launched a frontal attack on NC statutory rape laws. Then she would have the more honorable burden of convincing the N&O readership that sex between a 30 year old man and a 15 year old girl is appropriate in whatever context she chooses to present it.

Perhaps then she could have pointed out that in the Gell murder trial, his main accusers were two 15 year girls who apparently were treated as adults by the prosecution as the prosecutors strong-armed the girls into tetifying against Gell under threat of a 10 year prison sentence.

Alas, Sheehan chose instead to make Gell a martyr. I, for one, don't buy Sheehan's routine.

Anonymous said...

Off Topic - the Law and order episode last night was the worse I have ever seen. Actually, Nifong and gang came off badly. The story line was inept and poorly written. I don't know what Wolf was trying to do there, but it was awful.

bill anderson said...

I agree with the comments, and emailed Ruth Sheehan to thank her for what she wrote. I also have posted a similar message on the Liestoppers board.

One does not have to endorse what Gell did (he did not endorse it either, for that matter) to know that the State of North Carolina was anxious to pay him back for exposing the corrupt nature of North Carolina prosecutors. This case was payback, pure and simple.

Anonymous said...

How anyone, can call sex between a 30 year old adult and 14-15 year old adolescent "consenual" is a mystery. That is a double standard . Ruthie, of course, gets it wrong. again. He did it and gets to pay the consequences. If you are not doing scuzzy things, the law pays you no mind.

Michael said...

re: 11:39

Maybe the writers strike crippled the story quality.

Anonymous said...

I disagree with the "payback" angle completely. Gell "did not endorse what he did". WTF does not mean? Now that he is charged and convicted - he is sorry - well - aren't they all? Sure looks to me like Anderson is endorsing Gell's actions.

One Spook said...

Bill Anderson @ 11:42 AM writes:

"This case was payback, pure and simple."

I tend to agree with Bill and this sentence from the Sheehan column provides some additional proof of his point:

"Department of Correction data show that Gell got a longer sentence than 75 percent of the people convicted of the same crime this year -- nearly half of whom got only probation."

Not only was the prosecution selective (payback 1), but the sentencing was selective (payback 2) as well.

Here's a novel concept for folks like Gell who serve time for wrongful conviction. The state could give "time-served credits" for the years served under a wrongful conviction. Those credits would only apply to any future non-violent crimes, and would require the person convicted of a crime to serve probation for any conviction.

Thus Gell would serve 5 years probation for his current conviction, and have five years of "time-credit" remaining. At the least, this freedom the state illegally took away from Gell should have been a mitigating factor in his current sentencing.

The theory is that the motivation of LE to seek "payback" would be less if they knew it wasn't possible to jail a person who had "time-credits."

I may parlay this concept into a full dissertation for a PhD in cultural anthropology at Duke, titled: Payback is a Bitch: I Fought the Law and the Law Lost.

One Spook

darby said...

Brilliance One Spook,

Until the realist in me slaps me up side the head and says that would just give those released carte blanche to rip off whomever, with no fear for jail time.

Anonymous said...

One Spook --

I don't know how serious you were with this suggestion, but one difficulty I see with the proposal is that it would complicate the issue of settlements. If a wrongly convicted man receives $20,000 for each year served under his wrongful conviction, does he then have to surrender $20,000 if he gets hit with a legitimate conviction with a one-year sentence? That would actually encourage "payback" sentencing even further.

One Spook said...

darby @ 6:15 PM writes:

"Brilliance One Spook,"

Darby, I feel it only fair to point out to you that my "brilliance" only seems to appear when my tongue is firmly planted in my cheek ...

One Spook

Anonymous said...

There appears to be an intelligence deficency in Gell's case; how rural is Raleigh/Durham? When in jail, didn't he read up on the law to find a possible loophole to get out? Didn't he learn through other inmates about why they were in jail? If he had done either, then he would have learned about the age of consent, etc.
This case points out the need for psychiatric counseling when prisoners are released after a year or longer in jail. Inmates are released and expected to continue with their lives without reentry assistance.
I don't think there was as much payback as there was lack of follow-up by social services. Prosecutors must apply the law as it is established; it is the legislature's role to define the law.
Regarding the Duke Rape Case, establishment of a pattern of earlier suppression of evidence in other cases would seem to strengthen their case for redress for malicious prosecution.

mac said...

If Gell preferred immature females, he shoulda tried to make it with someone from the 88 or with Claire Potter instead of a 15 year old. Even so, the 15-year old in the Gell case seems much more mature than Michael Hardt and Mark Thuggafuggaintellectual Anthony, and Gell himself has likely published as much as Ms. Lubiano.

I agree with Bill Anderson, though, about selective prosecution.

North Korealina is a scary place these days. Who teaches these prosecutors and investigators? Torquemada?

Debrah said...

Calling Michael Hardt!

Calling Duke's king of love!

This one from Salon is just for you:

A rose is a rose is a rose

Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar, and sometimes a rose is a way of representing mutilated genitalia.

A Swedish advertising firm has come out with a new campaign for Amnesty International to fight female genital mutilation. (Thanks to Feministing for the tip.) The ads depict roses with their petals sewn together above copy explaining that 2 million girls suffer genital mutilation annually. Close-ups of the full ads are here and here.

Some will find the whole flower/genitalia thing tired, but I am hard-pressed to think of another image that would work better, that wouldn't be brutally graphic. One New York ad copywriter argues that no euphemistic image can do this subject justice, and an ad with the stark words "genital mutilation" would be more powerful. In any case, I'm glad to see that Amnesty International is trying to bring more attention to this practice as a violation of human rights.

What do Broadsheet readers think?

Debrah said...

Here is KC's interview with Frontpage from November of last year.

Most remember this one.

I highlight it again because in this interview he states the specific reason he got involved with the lacrosse case.

Sometimes people show up to argue....then proceed to say that Wonderland exists because KC and the rest of us are consumed with Duke and Durham.

You have to repeat over and over that the behavior of those in his own profession was the reason KC got involved in the first place.

Not Duke. Not Durham. Not even lacrosse, initially.

I think that a few complain because they wish the focus could move beyond the behavior of the Gang of 88.

Debrah said...

I'm a bit curious why the media haven't revisited the issue of the prosecutors who hid evidence during Gell's first trial.

When Nifong was taken down by the State Bar, I thought more people would focus once again on the prosecutors in this case.

Anonymous said...

michael @ 12:59

The writers for Law and Order in recent years should be permanently out of work. The show, and all its spinoffs, have been unwatchable for quite a while, particularly the daft Special Victims Unit.

Debrah said...

I think I might have to devise a special little section in The Diva World for KC's extra-DIW activities to be discussed.

His recent column about Trent Lott's resignation was very good.......too bad we can't discuss it here.


Anonymous said...

Michael-"to each his own, said the olde maid as she kissed the cow." I love law and Order - particulary Criminal Intent with Vincent.

Debrah said...

I'm sick of Law and Order.

They've beaten it to death.

While the show is very high quality, the spin-offs are not.

Moreover, it is said that some who plan to commit crimes get lots of their ideas from watching the show.

It was Michael Peterson's favorite.


William Jockusch said...

Hmmm. In its 2004 report on human rights in Russia, the State Department said that Russia's arrest of Michael Khkordokovsky "raised a number of concerns over the arbitrary use of the judicial system" In a nutshell, their concern is that Khorcdokovsky, who is a putin opponent, was prosecuted for tax evasionk, while others, who were equally guilty of tax evasion, but were not Putin opponents, were not prosecuted.

So if this is wrong in Russia, why is it OK in North Carolina -- even if the "Selective" part happened at plea bargaining and/or sentencing -- rather than the initial decision to prosecute?

hman said...

First of all, the subject of FGM is seriously off topic. But before any outside agency is ever going to make headway in changing that social custom, they will need, imho, to do a better job of understanding the real motivations of those who insist on its being carried out. Who benefits? in other words. Hint: it is not the menfolk.
As for the Gell case of statutory rape; there is no "sex crime" more in need of wise careful judgment before prosecution because often there is no victimization and no bad intent - by anybody. And the damage done to peoples lives by bringing a case is of nuclear dimensions.

Anonymous said...

As the parent of three daughters -- the oldest of whom is 15 -- I say that the age of consent is too high in most states. Yes, it may be "scuzzy" behavior, but that doesn't mean we need to criminalize it. No one should go to jail because my 15 yo daughter consents to sex with him. Wasn't it just a little while ago that everyone was all "outraged" about the Georgia man who got 10 years (the statutory minimum) for sex with a minor?


Anonymous said...

JLS says...,

Certainly the sentence for Gell is out of bounds. For a DA to ask for a sentence higher than 75% of others pleading to or convicted of the same crime when the person was falsely jailed previously by the same state for over a decade is outrageous. [And heck I wonder if that 75% includes those who face a jury and are convicted? In that case this sentence might be longer than 80% or 90% or more who have pled out to this charge.]

And it seems the sentence was negotiated with the DA making it all the more clear this is a case of NC prosecutors closing their corrupt ranks and reasserting that they and they alone hold the freedom of everyone in that state in their hands. Those Yankee boys may have gotten away as they live out of state, but the Gell's of this world who dare to live in NC, clearly are being told they live free in NC at the discretion of the all-mighty DA.

Finally, I must agree with RRH. I raised a daughter and I would not want the state wasting time locking up someone she voluntarily engaged in sex with at age 14 or 15unless she were somehow enticed in some very under handed manner.

traveler said...

Flashback: Dave Evan’s Graduation Day-
“I didn’t want to cry.”

Dave Evans and his family went through his graduation that Sunday knowing that he would be indicted the next day. “It was a very long weekend,” he later told Ed Bradley of CBS 60 Minutes.

Bradley: “What was going through your mind at graduation?”

Evans: “I didn’t want to cry. I was surrounded by all these people who were so happy.

If you remember, it was Mother’s Day. So, this should have been on of the greatest days of my mom’s life. The culmination of twenty-three years, of schooling, all this work and she couldn’t experience that.

When I wanted to walk and get my diploma with all my friends but I couldn’t. My dad had to go and get it because so many people in the press knew I was going to be indicted the next day and they wanted to take a picture of me with my diploma. And, I never got to get it.”

Bradley: “You didn‘t feel comfortable walking up to there?”
Evans: I didn’t want to give them the satisfaction of that photo.”

Until Proven Innocent - Page 224

Debrah said...

TO RRH (5:35 PM)--

I agree.

Although as a teen, I didn't choose to engage in sex, many girls I knew in high school and at university---most of my suite mates as a freshman and sophomore--were having sex with great frequency.

Fifteen seems young, but if it's consensual, the guy should not go to jail for it.

The justice system seems bent on overkill for the less serious offenses......then does almost nothing in response to many of the heinous crimes.

Debrah said...

Ashley's Sunday diary entry:

The way we read is changing

Dec 2, 2007

Newspaper editors and others who ponder the decline in newspaper circulation point to a number of factors: the increasingly busy American lifestyle; the profusion of news from other sources online, over the air and on cable; a decline in civic engagement and corresponding decline in interest in public affairs.

All true, along with, our critics would no doubt add, a host of newspaper flaws and imperfections real or perceived.

But recently came a new report that suggests yet another reason.

Americans simply are reading less.

That, at least, was the conclusion of "To Read or Not to Read," a study concluded last month by the National Endowment for the Arts.

Not only are we reading less, the report argued, we are reading less well -- "reading comprehension skills are eroding."

The decline in reading seems most pronounced among teenagers and young adults, the report said.

"Although there has been measurable progress in recent years in reading ability at the elementary school level, all progress appears to halt as children enter their teenage years," NEA chairman Dana Gioia wrote in a preface to the report. "There is a general decline in reading among teenage and adult Americans. Most alarming, both reading ability and the habit of regular reading have greatly declined among college graduates."

Almost immediately, critics questioned the NEA findings.

Matthew Kirschenbaum, writing in The Chronicle of Higher Education, suggested that the NEA data, while factually correct, failed to take into account the ways in which what we think of as reading are changing. "Clearly, the report comes to us at a moment when reading and conversations about reading are in a state of flux," wrote Kirschenbaum, an associate professor of English and associate director of the Maryland Institute for Technology in the Humanities at the University of Maryland.

" 'To Read or Not to Read' is not an elegy for the bygone days of print culture," Gioia wrote.

Kirschenbaum isn't sure. He acknowledged that "the authors of the report repeatedly emphasize that they include online reading in their data," but contended "the report sounds most clumsy and out of touch when referring to new media."

"Reading your friend's blog is not likely a replacement for reading Proust," he wrote, "but some blogs have been a venue for extraordinary writing."

Other data tend to paint a brighter picture of our reading habits -- and to reflect the changing ways in which we read or at least absorb information once accessible only or mostly on printed pages.

Just last week, the Association of American Publishers reported that book sales in September were up 5.7 percent over the same month last year. In 2007 so far, book sales are up almost 10 percent over 2006.

Some of the largest sales gains were for audio books, up 40 percent so far this year. I'm not sure how the NEA study would classify an audio book experience. But it seems absorbing a book while cruising I-40 and listening has its merits.

While Gioia observed a "general decline in reading among teenage and adult Americans," AAP President Pat Schroeder pointed in a news release to strong sales gains in the young-adult category. "Teenagers and young adults will read books that are relevant to their lives, that can help them understand and deal with tough questions," Schroeder, a former congresswoman, said in the release.

The NEA data showed that the percentage of youngsters reading declines as they move through the teen years.

Given Schroeder's remarks, one wonders whether today's school curricula may discourage readers.

Academic success and career success correlate to reading habits. Employers, the NEA report noted, "rank reading and writing as top deficiencies in new hires." Moreover, "good readers generally have more financially rewarding jobs."

That should be enough to conclude the stakes are high.

The NEA report is available on-line at

Bob Ashley is editor of The Herald-Sun.

Anonymous said...


re:sexual prosecution malfeasance, nothing beats Janet Reno's whirlwind performance as the DA of Miami-Dade during the eighties.
Try googling "RENO - SEX CASES - MIAMI DADE - FUSTER" and have a read. Mr. Gell got lucky -- he didn't get multiple life terms and have Laurie Bruckheimer make an agit-prop pseudo-doumentary about himm.

Anonymous said...

I think making excuses for a pedophile beats anything Janet Reno did. Too bad the 15 year old, Gell preyed upon did not "get lucky".

hman said...

To 5:36
Sexist bigot. You apparently cannot imagine a 15 year old girl being the aggressor, she must be a "victim" of the guy. Automatically.
We know that such robot-mindedness saves time and reduces the wear and tear of the brain caused by processing extra information but there is a cost. The cost is that reality will constantly surprise you.

Anonymous said...

Newspaper editors and others who ponder the decline in newspaper circulation point to a number of factors: the increasingly busy American lifestyle; the profusion of news from other sources online, over the air and on cable; a decline in civic engagement and corresponding decline in interest in public affairs.

All true, along with, our critics would no doubt add, a host of newspaper flaws and imperfections real or perceived.

But recently came a new report that suggests yet another reason.

Americans simply are reading less.

Americans (we trust) are able to obtaib news from various sources - MSM being one of many sources.

IF B Ashley has any hope of continuing readership, he must 1)offer the true story (and background) without editorializing or injecting his/reporters personal views; 2) IDENTIFY all sources for all stories ; 3) acknowledge any prejudices about stories (frequent advertisers, local 'heavyweight' constiuents - City of Durham, Duke, Durahm County, etc); 4) above all be HONEST.

If B Ashley, as editor of HS is required to all above, we can say good-bye to him, and HS now.

Anonymous said...

5:36 here - Nothing surprises me and I am certainly familiar with the reality that 30 year olds having sex with 15 year olds is illegal and against the law. I saw "LOlita" too. The female teachers preying on male students under the age of consent is just as bad. What say you???

Anonymous said...

To all of the Sheehan/Gell apologists: Let's assume that your 15 year old daughter comes to you one day and says, "mom, dad...I think I'm pregnant". Your head spins, your legs get weak, your daughter's life with you flashes before your struggle to stay afoot. You think of the innocence: the picture of your daughter going off to her first day of school, the video of her 10th birthday party, the peurile screams of her and her friends at the Green Day concert celebrating her graduation from middle school (she was 14).

You regain your composure (wondering who among her 15 year old boy peers is the "father"...oh, my god!) as you anguish over how this story will unfold. You draw upon your depleting parental resourses to be strong and fair. Who were you sleeping with, honey? How did it happen? Where? When? You then question your competence as a parent. You blame yourself. Afterall, you had THE talks. You took an enlightened approach and warned you daughter of the power of 15 year old boy hormones. You explained that 15 year olds simply weren't emotionally capable of understanding or handling the profound emotional magnitude and practical consequences of sex at 15.

You probe. "Well, mom, well, dad....there was this guy. I met him at a friend's house...he was so cool, so mature..." You wince. "Mature". You ask, afraid of the answer: "how old is he, honey?" A pause...a truly pregnant pause. "Well, he is like 30 or something." Now you feel your stomach turn. You want to continue the conversation, but you also feel the nausea churning inside you. You are fighting for your soul as a parent. The anger is one which you have never felt. Stay calm, don't throw up, don't ask your neighbor to borrow his shotgun.

The details emerge. Your daughter is crying like the child she is. She begs for understanding. She wants you to leave him alone. Afterall, she said "yes". She wails: "please don't be mad...please don't blame's okay...really, really okay. He's like so nice to me; it's like you just can't understand...I'm like 15, you know, almost ready to drive; don't you trust me?"

And then you hit rock bottom. You cry. You scream. You see the make-believe world you lived in just moments before vanish into a nauseating reality. You see, YOU are really the problem. You just don't "get it". 15 is the new 25 and your daughter is responsible for her own actions; besides, she probably led him on. C'mon, what's your problem? You want to send a 30 year old man to jail for simply having sex (and impregnanting) your 15 (ah, 25) year old daughter.? Grow up! It's 2007.

hman said...

In most times and places 15 year olds have been considered marriage-able. Their partners have been called husbands (or wives) not predators. These facts are not really disputable.
If the older one in such a relationship wants to withdraw for whatever reason and the younger starts hinting that, "If you stop having sex with me, I will have you arrested and your life will be ruined" who is now the sexual predator?
It is fun and easy to make up Oprah-worthy tear jerking stories of innocence invaded and helpless victimhood. Most people get good at it because it is a great way to get what you want these days. You don't even need much truth to get started.

Ralph Phelan said...

hman said...
In most times and places 15 year olds have been considered marriage-able.

But in this time and place (an urbanized high-tech economy that has needs for a few well-educated young adults, not an army of farmhands) it is not. And the fact that it is not is well known.

Anonymous said...

11:33 I wonder of Warren Jetts would have been more sucessful in his trial, had his lawyer used that argument, when he married off the 14 year old.

mac said...

Go to one of those "Stans" - countries that end with it - and see if their customs are similar to ours...

In some of them, it's a catch'n keep system: you catch your child-bride of 15 or so, take her home, and if she spends the night, she's your wife.

That's the ugly truth.

Now, in our country, it seems as if the female teachers are doing the same thing, except here it's called "catch'n release."

Gell is obviously short a few brain cells, a couple of neurons short of a full hippocampus, but his sentence is pretty obviously payback.

hman said...

To Ralph
We have been talking about the wisdom of statutary rape laws, not the appropriate age for marriage/sex in economic terms. In this context, marriage-ability clearly refers to psychological maturity, not ones job prospects.
One coud argue that contemporary teenagers are in many cases less vulnerable and naive than earlier generations.
An irritating feature of these sorts of debates is that the range of female attitudes towards sex is often taken to be from "No! thru "maybe" to a cowed, whimpering consent. The reality of "please" to "don't you dare say no" seems to get left out of the discussion.
In Britain there has been discussion of making drunkeness of the woman an invalidation of any "consent" to have sex. Off the radar screen is prosecuting a woman for sexual assault if she is sober but the man is drunk. Why that should be so reveals a lot about stereotyping, which is not a good thing in criminal law, imho.

Ralph Phelan said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Ralph Phelan said...

The reality of "please" to "don't you dare say no"
is clearly central to discussions of sexual harrassment law, date "rape" etc.

However, when debating "the wisdom of statutary rape laws" I would argue that "the appropriate age for marriage/sex in economic terms" is also relevant from the point of view of public policy, as sex has sometimes been known to result in pregnancy, with or (from a social point of view) worse yet without marriage being involved.

As to whether Gell is being overpunished because the system has a grudge against him, that's certainly quite plausible, but unless I see a more detailed breakdown of the data it's not yet proven. His punishment may be 75% percentile harsh compared to the total population, but the total population probably contains many Genarlow Wilson like 19/17 combinations. How does Gell's punishment compare to other thirty-year-olds who've had sex with fifteen year olds?

Anonymous said...

Great point on the 75% data. I had the same reaction when I first read Sheehan's column. My hunch (along with common sense) is that one would find increasingly "harsh" punishments as the age difference increases. How many 30 year old men who had sex with a 15 year old girl got a a kiss on the cheek from prosecutors?

Anonymous said...

Good question Ralph/

Michael Bacon said...

Johnson, it's posts like these that keep me coming back for updates.

As I said in the comments of this entry at my place, in a very engaging exchange (for me at least) with Mr. Phelan, this is a problem statewide in North Carolina, not just in Durham. District Attorneys have no direct oversight. There's no statewide review procedure, no auditing, and rarely a reprimand for prosecutorial misconduct. The Gell cases, the Dail case, the Floyd Lee Brown case, all infuriating, but all have seen little accountability for the prosecutors.

I for one would be glad if you would turn some of you or Mr. Taylor would turn your attention to how North Carolina's oversight system is deficient in comparison to other states. I'm fully willing to pay my share in a reasonable settlement, but doing nothing but suing the pants off of Durham isn't going to solve what is being revealed as a statewide problem.

Michael Bacon said...

Er, sorry to double dip, but one response to RP.

The singular factor about the Gell case is that neither the daughter nor the mother of the "victim" wanted to press charges. In fact both pleaded with the DA to drop the charges. Both remain close to Gell, who has shown his intention to support the child and
Rape, statutory rape, and sexual assault charges are notoriously hard to prove

Anonymous said...

To M. Bacon re your last post: statutory rape may be one of the EASIEST crimes to prove. All the state has to show is the fact of sexual interaction and the age of the girl. Consent is irrelevant. As to your defense of Gell on the grounds that both mother and daughter "pleaded with the DA to drop the charges", that, too, is irrelevant to the fact of the crime. The prosecutor has a duty to make an independent judgment on whether a case should be prosecuted. If a case lacks proper evidentiary support and the prosecutor thinks it should not go forward, should the victim and the family victim's have standing to require the prosecutor to go forward with the case? That was one of Mike Nifong's rationalizations for prosecuting an unprovable case. Finallly, even if a prosecutor should properly consider the victim's wishes in statutory rape cases such as the Gell case, shouldn't he/she then look very carefully at the reasons for the victim's position before sustituting their judgment for his?? In short, the prosecutor represents the people, not the victim or her family. If the victim was 12 and she (and her family) pleaded for a free pass for 30 year old defendant, would you still think the prosecutor should obey the vctim's wishes?

Ralph Phelan said...

statutory rape may be one of the EASIEST crimes to prove
I was about to say that.

Which is one of the reasons those prosecutors whose primary concern is racking up a large number of convictions to use in their next election/performance-review love prosecuting them.

On Gell, there's the mitigating factor of the mother & "victim" not wanting to press charges, the aggravating factor of the 15 year/factor of 2 age difference, and the looming issue of Gell's having embarassed the NC legal establishment by his existence. I can't say for sure he's being treated unfairly without knowing how the above factors usually affect sentencing.

But given recent history, I do think it's arguably justified to assume his punishment is unfair until the state proves otherwise. Some actors are so undependable that they don't even rate "trust but verify."

Ralph Phelan said...

Whoops - posted version without last bit.

However it's also true that Ms. Sheehan's attempt at statistical reasoning is empty and meaningless - as is usually the case in the mass media.

Complex as the calculations can get, they are not really the hard part of statistical analysis. The hard part is asking the right question about the right data set.

Michael Bacon said...

Anon: The second post was one I fat-fingered somehow to submit the post well before I was ready (hence the two incomplete sentences and awkward structure). As it was already late at night, I neglected to try and fix it.

Statutory rape remains a he said/she said, absent DNA evidence or third party witnesses. Even so, with Gell essentially confessing, what's striking is not the guilty plea/conviction, but the extreme sentence. It does not serve the "victim," the child, their family, or the people of North Carolina. It only serves payback for the prosecutors made to look bad by Gell's decade-late acquittal.

Why did Gell feel the need to have sex with a teenager? Well, since he was wrongfully imprisoned at age 19, he probably feels his youth was stolen from him. I would. Gell is no saint, and hardly an upstanding citizen, as his rap sheet before his imprisonment or after shows, but that of course excuses nothing from the prosecution.

Were I governor, I believe I'd let Gell serve a year, then commute the sentence, or maybe just give him credit for time served on a crime he didn't commit.

Lastly, I'd say that looking at the way prosecutors closed ranks here, while it certainly doesn't begin to justify it, it might explain what's going on in Nifong's head when he's indignant that the state isn't footing his legal bill. After all, they stood up for all those OTHER rogue prosecutors, why is HE getting hung out to dry?

Anonymous said...

Ralph...5:28 here. You raise some interesting points. However, before shifting the burden to the prosecutor to show that Gell's prosecution was tainted by retribution and bias, I'd like to know what the true stats are re stautory rape in cases where the age difference is as severe as the Gell case. As a parent of a 13 year old daughter, I'd want a prosecutor to throw the book at a 28 year old man who had sex with her. Is 15/30 any different? The charges that Gell faced are class B sex offenses under NC law. Each act of stautory rape is an independent crime. The prosecutors in the Gell case could have pursued the equivalent of a life sentence given the numerous, and undisputed, acts of sex between Gell and the girl. I think he got off easy. Oops, and I forgot the cocaine possession charge!

Ralph Phelan said...

You raise some interesting points. However, before shifting the burden to the prosecutor to show that Gell's prosecution was tainted by retribution and bias, I'd like to know what the true stats are re stautory rape in cases where the age difference is as severe as the Gell case.
Not having seen the stats on simmilar cases we really have no information at all how it compares to similar cases.
When it comes to NC prosecutors, I've reached the point I think it's completely fair to apply to them the principle of "guilty until proven innnocent," based on their past performance.

mac said...

Gell should have:
1) declared himself bipolar
2) declared himself an alcoholic
3) voluntarily entered rehab

Not that the top two are true. It's just that they work so well for athletes, entertainers and politicians.