Monthly Archives: March 2007

Seven Years for Shoving?

That’s the sentence 14 year old Shaquanda Cotton received in Paris, TX after shoving a hall monitor in a dispute. Now, while readers of this site certainly would be interested in such an apparent miscarriage of justice, I don’t think it’s too much to say that this wouldn’t get much play in the national media unless there was another angle.

Shaquanda Cotton is black. Another 14 year old girl in the same town received a sentence of probation from the same judge after burning down her family’s home. The other girl is white. It would seem the charge of racism is fairly easy to make in this case. That’s certainly the angle this Trib article takes:

And then there is the case that most troubles Cherry and leaders of the Texas NAACP, involving a 14-year-old black freshman, Shaquanda Cotton, who shoved a hall monitor at Paris High School in a dispute over entering the building before the school day had officially begun.

The youth had no prior arrest record, and the hall monitor–a 58-year-old teacher’s aide–was not seriously injured. But Shaquanda was tried in March 2006 in the town’s juvenile court, convicted of “assault on a public servant” and sentenced by Lamar County Judge Chuck Superville to prison for up to 7 years, until she turns 21.

Just three months earlier, Superville sentenced a 14-year-old white girl, convicted of arson for burning down her family’s house, to probation.

“All Shaquanda did was grab somebody and she will be in jail for 5 or 6 years?” said Gary Bledsoe, an Austin attorney who is president of the state NAACP branch. “It’s like they are sending a signal to black folks in Paris that you stay in your place in this community, in the shadows, intimidated.”

However, as in most cases of this nature, things are not so neatly cut and dried. There’s a lot going on behind the scenes in this one, and this article from the local paper that focuses on the Judge and his decision ties a lot of that together. Money quotes:

County Judge Chuck Superville says he fears for the community’s safety and is calling for the national media and other organizations to investigate the facts before drawing conclusions about the Shaquanda Cotton case.

The judge said a March 12 story in The Chicago Tribune unfairly painted the community as racist and a recent protest as well as the threat of future protests by organized groups with national media coverage could “spin this thing out of control.”

Superville said he has refrained from commenting until now because of his position as the judge in the Cotton case, but that he believes he has a higher duty as county judge to maintain order in the community.

“I call on the media and others involved to go to the public record to get the facts of the case before they rush to judgment,” Superville said Saturday.

< ...>

“If Shaquanda had been white, the outcome would have been the same,” Superville said. “My decision was based on facts and law and I am confident this was the correct decision based on the facts I was presented.”

< ...>

Superville said he gave the 14-year old an indeterminate sentence up to seven years — her 21st birthday.

“Once I set the indeterminate sentence, Shaquanda holds the key to her jail cell,” Superville said. “It is up to the child and TYC.”

< ...>

“The juvenile officer said the mother refused to cooperate and said he had no reason to believe the mother would cooperate if Shaquanda received probation,” Superville said.

“That theme was repeated witness after witness—that the mother made it impossible to help Shaquanda,” Superville said. “She blamed everyone except the child for misbehavior.”

So we have a mother that refuses to hold her child accountable and, if I may indulge in a stereotype, appears to be playing the “angry black woman” card. We have the national media and organizations like the NAACP getting ahold of the story and turning it into a federal case. We have a town with apparent race issues. But none of that matters. At the end of the day, we have a now 15 year old girl who will quite possibly be in jail until her 21st birthday because everyone failed her. The system, her community, and her family. How is Shaquanda doing now? From the Trib story:

Inside the youth prison in Brownwood where she has been incarcerated for the past 10 months–a prison currently at the center of a state scandal involving a guard who allegedly sexually abused teenage inmates–Shaquanda, who is now 15, says she has not been doing well.

Three times she has tried to injure herself, first by scratching her face, then by cutting her arm. The last time, she said, she copied a method she saw another young inmate try, knotting a sweater around her neck and yanking it tight so she couldn’t breathe. The guards noticed her sprawled inside her cell before it was too late.

She tried to harm herself, Shaquanda said, out of depression, desperation and fear of the hardened young thieves, robbers, sex offenders and parole violators all around her whom she must try to avoid each day.

“I get paranoid when I get around some of these girls,” Shaquanda said. “Sometimes I feel like I just can’t do this no more–that I can’t survive this.”

Shaquanda needs someone to give her the help she’s not received from the places I listed above. Somehow I doubt playing the race card and turning this into a national Jesse Jackson/Al Sharpton media spectacle is going to get her that. On top of that, a system that allows a 14 year old with no prior record to be sentenced to 7 years in prison for shoving is seriously broken, regardless of race.

A lot of stuff is wrong in this case, and it doesn’t appear that any of it is going to get better anytime soon.

h/t: Chap. More here, including some good thoughts about the failure of the community to help Shaquanda.

The United Nations Is A Fraud

For the past week, the world’s attention has been focused on the simmering crisis centered around 15 British Navy seamen taken into custody by Iran for allegedly violating Iranian territorial waters.

Let’s leave aside the fact that all of the available evidence demonstrates conclusively that the sailors were in Iraqi territorial waters when they were seized and consider for a moment this fact —- under international law, even if the boat that these sailors were on was inside Iranian territory, what they should have done what warn the boat away. Taking the men and women on the boat into custody was, and is, a violation of international treaties and about as close to an act of war as you can get.

Rather than immediately declaring war on Iran, the United Kingdom first, and quite properly, took it’s concerns to the United Nations, the supposed arbiter of international disbutes. The result was, you might say, far from satisfactory:

Britain escalated international pressure Thursday in its week-old confrontation with Iran over the seizure of 15 naval personnel, winning from the U.N. Security Council a statement of “grave concern” over the capture.

But in five hours of intense debate at the council, Britain failed to get tough language it proposed that blamed Iran and demanded the immediate release of the 14 men and one woman. Russia balked at wording that the British had been seized in Iraqi waters while serving under a U.N. mandate. China, Qatar, Indonesia, Congo and South Africa also resisted blaming Iran, which contends the British trespassed into its waters, according to U.N. diplomats.

The softened version, which is nonbinding, instead appealed to Tehran to provide consular access to the sailors and marines, which has so far been denied, and an “early resolution of this problem.”

I haven’t been a fan of the United Nations for a long time. And this is one of the reasons why. Even in the face of pure evil, and a clear violation of international law, the United Nations, once again, proves itself impotent in the face of evil.

Update: Apparently, it’s not just the U.N. that’s dropping the ball on this one, Amnesty International hasn’t even spoken out against what is clearly an illegal seizure.

The Democrats In Congress: History Repeating Itself

I can’t say that I’m surprised but it looks like the days of tax-and-spend are due for a comeback:

The new Democratic majority begins dancing the next phase of the tax-and-spend minuet in the House of Representatives today. Following the example set by their Senate brethren last Friday, House Democrats will adopt a budget resolution containing the largest tax increase in U.S. history amid massive national inattention.

Nobody’s tax payment will increase immediately, but the budget resolutions set a pattern for years ahead. The House version would increase non-defense, non-emergency spending by $22.5 billion for next fiscal year, with such spending to rise 2.4 percent in each of the next three years. To pay for these increases, the resolution would raise taxes by close to $400 billion over five years — about $100 billion more than what was passed in the Senate.

It had been assumed that the new Democratic majority would end President Bush’s relief in capital gains, dividend and estate taxation. The simultaneous rollback of Bush-sponsored income tax cuts was a surprise. This reflects Democrats’ belief that they can survive a long-term commitment to bigger government. Here is an audacious effort to raise the banner of fiscal responsibility while increasing spending and taxes.

Now, let’s be perfectly clear. The Republican Party deserved to lose control of Congress. As I said in many posts in the wake of the 2006 elections (see here, here, here, and here) they had abandoned any pretense of abiding by the limited government ideas that they had campaigned on in 1994 and had become lap dogs to a President who is more like LBJ thank Ronald Reagan.

That said, I was under no illusions about what we would be getting from a Democratic majority. The fact that they are already starting down the road toward higher taxes and higher spending should surprise nobody.

Politics And The Iraq War Funding Debate

Kevin and I have been having a discussion in the comment thread to my earlier post about the Senate’s passage of an Iraq War funding bill that contains a timetable for withdrawal. The basic question is whether the Bush Administration or the Democratic Congress has the most to lose in what looks like it will be a showdown over funding the war.

Apropos of that disucssion, I though these poll results were interesting:

1. A solid majority of Americans want Congress to fully fund the war in Iraq.

When asked if they favor or oppose Congress fully funding the war in Iraq, 56% favor fully funding the war in Iraq, while just 38% oppose. In fact, more voters STRONGLY favor (40%) Congress fully funding the war in Iraq than out-right oppose it (38%).

Support for funding our troops is consistent across the board:

  • Republicans are unified with 87% support. A majority (55%) of Independents support fully funding the war in Iraq. Despite the party line vote in Congress, more than one in four Democrats support funding for our military in Iraq.
  • Across the country, majorities of Americans support funding our troops – including 51% in the Northeast, 56% in the Midwest, 58% in the South, and 59% in the West.


3. Voters point the finger of blame squarely in the Democrats’ direction for not fundingthe troops.

We read voters the following statements and asked them to pick which statement they agreed with the most.

President Bush has declared that he will veto the bill because it sets a timetable for withdrawal in Iraq and includes billions of dollars in non-emergency spending. By vetoing this bill, a spending bill for the troops will not be passed.

In thinking about this, which position do you agree with most? (ROTATE STATEMENTS)

  • 40% (SOME/OTHER) people say that if President Bush vetoes the Democratic spending bill then Bush should be blamed for not funding the troops because his veto will mean that there is no spending package available for the troops.


  • 50% (OTHER/SOME) people say that if President Bush vetoes the Democratic spending bill then the Democrats in Congress are to be blamed for not funding the troops because they attached restrictions on the President and military commanders in Iraq along with billions of dollars in pork barrel spending to a bill intended to help the troops.

If this poll is to be believed, then the public at this point is on the side of the Administration, or at least opposed to the idea of defunding the war, and that they would blame the Democrats in Congress if a clean Iraq War spending bill did not pass by the April 15th deadline.

Given, this I think my earlier conclusion that the Democrats are taking big political risk here is well-supported.

H/T: James Joyner

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