Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Judge Says He's `Not That Stupid'; Do We Believe It?

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Judge Says He's `Not That Stupid'; Do We Believe It?

Article excerpt

FOR THE MOST part, it was just another missed opportunity for meaningful reform in the criminal justice system.

The story began Saturday night in St. Charles when Roland and Dee Wetzel heard a pounding noise in their front yard. They discovered three men, including Circuit Judge William T. Lohmar Jr., putting a "Lohmar" yard sign on the lawn.

The Wetzels had not given the judge permission to put one of his signs in the yard. Nor would they have. The Wetzels are Republican officials - their yard was already adorned with Republican yard signs - and Lohmar is a Democrat. So they weren't satisfied merely shooing the judge away. They filed a trespassing complaint. It would be possible, I suppose, to make fun of the Wetzels. Republicans are supposed to believe in smaller government, but as soon as the Wetzels had a minor complaint, they turned to government. No wonder taxes are so high. But making fun of the Wetzels would be missing the point. The cops submitted the trespassing complaint to St. Charles prosecutor Timothy Braun. He refused to file a charge. He's a Democrat, but he insisted that politics had nothing to do with his decision. He said he thought the trespassing complaint was much ado about nothing. Meanwhile, the judge was claiming that the whole thing was an honest mistake. He said the sign was supposed to have been placed two doors down the street. "I swear to God I never had any idea I was in his yard. I'm not that stupid," he said. Frankly, I've heard that excuse before. And the people I have generally heard it from have been behind bars. Which is exactly where the judge should be. You see, part of our problem in this country is lack of empathy. Nobody identifies with the other side. The people who want to end welfare have no empathy for the people who get welfare. And so on. This lack of empathy is especially acute in the criminal justice system. Few judges, who are, after all, very successful people, can identify with the unfortunates who find themselves beached on the shores of justice. That's something a lot of people don't understand about our jails. In addition to the really evil characters, our jails are also populated with guys who have stumbled once or twice but aren't necessarily bad fellows. …

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