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  • Doug Tjapkes

Unfair sentences----simple or complicated?

I’m simple-minded. That was the inference, in a recent discussion with a well-educated friend. She insists that things just aren’t that simple...issues aren’t just black and white. And that’s where I get into trouble, especially when we talk about things like Black Lives Matter. See, I take a look at the recent sentencing of Paul Hodgins, 38-year-old white guy from Florida, who pleaded guilty last month to obstructing congressional proceedings --- which he helped delay on January 6. He was among those hell-raisers inside the Senate chamber, wearing a Donald Trump shirt and carrying a Trump flag. As a result, he rightfully got arrested and charged. That was a sad day in American History. As writers Dan Zak and Karen Heller put it, in the Washington Post: Some defendants seemed bent on bloodshed and were charged with felonies including conspiracy. One group dressed in combat attire, used walkie-talkies, adopted code names such as “Gator 1” and “Gator 6” and, once inside the Capitol, appeared to be searching for legislators, according to the government. One militiaman wore a patch on his vest that read “I don’t believe in anything. I’m just here for the violence,” according to an affidavit from an FBI agent. So, what kind of sentence does this white man receive for his involvement in domestic terrorism? 8 months in prison! District Judge Randolph Moss, while agreeing that Hodgkins had contributed to a grave offense against democracy, allowed that he deserved some leniency. Why? Because he pleaded guilty "exceptionally early," wasn't involved in violence and issued a "sincere" apology." And then I look at the recent case of Crystal Mason. This black woman, mother of three, cast a provisional ballot in 2016 while she was on “federal supervised release,” a preliminary period of freedom for individuals who have served their full time of incarceration in federal prison. Problem is, that happened in Texas, and you may not do that in the Lone Star State. It was an honest mistake. Crystal had no idea she was not allowed to participate in an election What was her sentence for casting a vote? 5 years in prison! For me, it only takes a glance at these two stories to grasp why the BLM movement continues to gain momentum. I know, I know. It’s much more complicated than that. Simple-minded me! (Sigh)

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