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Commentary, sarcasm and snide remarks from a Florida resident of over thirty years. Being a glutton for punishment is a requirement for residency here. Who am I? I've been called a moonbat by Michelle Malkin, a Right Wing Nut by Daily Kos, and middle of the road by Florida blog State of Sunshine. Tell me what you think.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Where's the dramamine? Part nine

From yesterday's Palm Beach Post-

The 17-year-old boy who shot a friend in the head and killed him should be charged as an adult.

The Thanksgiving weekend tragedy started with a loaded gun stolen from a patrol car parked at the home of Martin County sheriff’s deputy George Primm in the teenagers’ neighborhood. Dustin Williams, Robert Scott Thomas and Azahel Millan Jr., were staying overnight on Nov. 24 at the Williams’ home. Who stole the firearm isn’t clear, but Dustin Williams had it. He removed the magazine but didn’t understand that a bullet remained in the chamber. He pointed it at Robert Thomas, 16, and fired.
Williams woke his father, who called an ambulance and sent the two boys outdoors to wait for it. They left the scene, but later cooperated with Port St. Lucie officers, who arrested Williams on grand-theft charges. He remains in the St. Lucie Regional Juvenile Detention Center in Fort Pierce.

The state attorney’s office has 21 days to decide on charges. One case for comparison is that of Nathaniel Brazill, who at 13 stole a gun with which he killed Lake Worth Middle School teacher Barry Grunow. Brazill was charged, as an adult, with second-degree murder. That charge probably is excessive for Dustin Williams, but the recklessness is similar. At 17, he also is much nearer adult age than Brazill was.

In addition, the state would have much more flexibility in dealing with Williams if he is charged as an adult. He still could be sentenced as a juvenile if the state determines that his situation warrants it. But if he is charged as a juvenile, the courts must follow set procedures in determining his fate. Running away after the shooting may have been a juvenile reaction, but Robert Thomas’ death was the result of adult crimes.
Based on the Post's reporting, Dustin Williams may deserve to be charged as an adult. The decision should be made by the state attorney, not by the press or the public they inform. I doubt Randy Schultz and company are in posession of all the facts in this case just as they aren't with this story either.

Contrast yesterday's editorial with one I blogged about last June.

There is a case for the board to say no. There is a better case for the board to say yes.

Inmate K63957 is 20-year-old Stephen Bromstrup. Four years and one day ago, the Martin County High School freshman ran a stop sign while driving 80 mph in a 25-mph zone. He crashed his mother’s Pontiac Firebird into a Cadillac, killing 14-year-old Sarah Stone of Palm City and 13-year-old Alexandra Quaroni, who was visiting from France. Jennifer McKinney, Miss Quaroni’s cousin, was seriously injured.
The tragedy rocked Martin County. It followed other crashes that had left teenagers dead, and spotlighted the community problem of teenagers obtaining alcohol.
Bromstrup attended a party and drank beer before the crash. His blood-alcohol level was half that at which the law considers a person too drunk to drive. It was, however, twice the level allowed for drivers under 21, who cannot drink legally. Prosecutors cited alcohol as the main reason they charged Bromstrup as an adult. Parents of the dead girls sued the adults who held the party where Bromstrup drank beer. A jury found them not liable.

In 2003, Bromstrup pleaded guilty. A judge sentenced him to nine years in prison for vehicular manslaughter and culpable negligence. A different judge reduced that sentence to seven years, with a release date of September 2009. In 2004, his parents and prison officials tried to have him moved from Brevard Correctional Institution to a boot camp, which could have released him after four months. Now, he will ask the clemency board.

Should Bromstrup get a break? Miss McKinney, who just graduated from Martin County High, and her family don’t think so. After years of anguish, though, Sarah Stone’s parents met with the Bromstrups and were able to forgive their son, whose release they support. While the thoughts of victims’ families are a factor, a proper sentence balances the crime with what is best for society, and Stephen Bromstrup has a chance to do something for society.

Near Martin County High is a billboard. On it are photos of the crash victims, the crushed car and Bromstrup’s prison mug shot. He endorsed the billboard because he wants to warn other teens about the consequences of reckless driving. While in prison, he has written letters, essays and messages for groups that educate teens and parents on responsible driving. The local driver license bureau includes a letter he wrote to his former classmates, read at graduation in 2004, as a handout to all new teen drivers.

If Bromstrup is released to house arrest, he would remain under Department of Corrections supervision. But he could speak to high school students about his mistake, which he wants to do. At 20, having been valedictorian of his GED class, Bromstrup is still close enough in age to reach his target audience. He can’t drive again, and one violation of his probation could send him back to prison.

Making Bromstrup finish his sentence might be a symbolic statement, given what he did, and it would be the politically safe call for clemency board members Attorney General Charlie Crist and Chief Financial Officer Tom Gallagher, candidates for governor. But Stephen Bromstrup also could save more lives than he took, and spare other parents the anguish he caused. That would be the right call.

Why doesn't Dustin Williams deserve the same potential treatment as Mr. Bromstrup. Granted, the Post doesn't say what they wish the outcome of any criminal charges should be in the Williams case.

But Bromstrup took two lives through his criminal actions. Williams just one, and his actions have yet to be proven as criminal. Shouldn't Williams get leinency rather than Bromstrup?

Then expecting consistency from the Palm Beach Post editorial board is almost like expecting the rain to start travelling upward. Some things are just impossible.

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