cruel hot spots

I am always astonished by the cruelty of some people.

Yesterday I received three comments presenting “the other side” in one of our cases. The information this person offered was unhelpful in the extreme to our boy; yet, in the interest of getting to the truth (no matter what the truth might turn out to be), we at first took this person’s allegations seriously.

I wrote back to this commenter—an anonymous person identifying him/herself only as “WC”—explaining that, because these allegations could have a significant impact on the quality of justice meted out to a juvenile, I was going to delay publication of the comments until we had vetted the commenter. I received no reply.

As it turns out, the e-mail address provided by the commenter was phony. Our e-mail messages to the commenter were bounced back to us and the IP address turned out to originate in a blighted redneck town in Florida, hundreds of miles from where our kid lives and is locked up.

As it happens, that blighted town is Pensacola, a place with which I am quite familiar because of my history with Derek and Alex King. Pensacola is their hometown and the place that incubated the perversion of justice that has characterized the King Brothers’ story from the start. Pensacola is a mean and ugly place that I am always happy to leave. Years of reading online comments to stories about Derek and Alex make me wonder if Pensacola isn’t home to a social ethos that is particularly cruel.

This afternoon I received word that Paul Henry Gingerich’s home, Kosciusko County IN, has surfaced in the news again as a place that favors cruel and unusual punishment. This time a boy named Lucas Anthony Howland received a two-year jail sentence for breaking into a church and stealing $8.00. The judge on this case was none other than Duane Huffer, the same guy who presided over Paul Henry’s rushed, pre-wired, and unconstitutional waiver hearing, and the prosecutor was Dan Hampton, the same guy who also figures so prominently in Paul Henry’s case.

According to court documents, Lucas told police he had just been kicked out of his parents’ home at the time of the break-in. He was 18 years old, unemployed, and homeless. I don’t know much about the case yet, but Lucas did show up on a list of missing children back in 2009, so it’s a safe bet that the kid had a troubled home life.

These guys in the Kosciusko County court are so unbelievable. They are going to lock the kid up for two years at a cost to taxpayers of at least $35,000 for stealing less than ten dollars! This excessive punishment will not rehabilitate the boy; it may, in fact, harden him and guarantee his recidivism. Prosecutor Dan Hampton was quoted by a local television station as saying that the kid got off easy; he could have gotten 20 years, according to Hampton. So knowing how these guys work, the 20-year sentence is probably what Hampton was using as a threat to get the kid to agree to a plea. Lucas had a court-appointed defender.

Just as one is able to statistically map crime “hot spots,” I am wondering if there aren’t also “hot spots” of injustice and cruelty? In places like New Castle PA, Pensacola FL, and Warsaw IN, bad judges and prosecutors do not operate in a vacuum, but within a social culture that supports (or at least does not object to) their actions. I am wondering if injustice is a symptom of a more general malaise in the community—a state of spiritual rot that affects many more things than just the functioning of the courts and law enforcement?

If this is so, the task ahead of us is very daunting indeed.


Groove of the Day 

Listen to Gene Pitney performing “A Town Without Pity”



The above story contains factual innaccuracies based on a flawed media report. Please view my January 29 post for the true facts. Thanks.


23 Responses to “cruel hot spots”

  1. January 28, 2012 at 1:06 am

    What a fascinating and astute observation, Dan, and surely right on track. Add Walton County, GA to your list of hot spots.

  2. January 28, 2012 at 7:10 am

    quoted: Leininger said, “When you don’t know why someone would do such a thing, that’s the disturbing part.”
    According to court documents, Howland told police he had just been kicked out of his out. At the time of the break-in, he was 18-years-old, unemployed, and homeless.

    Well Mr Leininger have a guess, jobless, homless in the missing children list from 2009, what do you think was the reason he decided to steal 8 dollars. You don’t need to be a genius.

    Leininger said if Howland would have apologized or explained, he would not have involved his “If there would have been a desire to confess to this and to work it out,” Leininger said, “Then it wouldn’t have been an issue at all.”

    I guess Mr Leining was dissapointed the kid didn’t kis his ass and ask him for forgivnes on his knees and with tears on his eyes.?

    But the Kosciusko County Prosecutor said the Howland got off easy. According to Dan Hamilton, because the teen broke into a church, he faced a Class C Felony, which could have gotten up him to 20 years in jail.

    But Howland did not meet with the pastor. Instead, he made a plea deal with the prosecutor. The burglary charge was reduced to a Class B Felony and the judge actually gave the 19-year-old the minimum sentence, two years in jail.


    Maybe someone should check on this prosecutor and judge because this looks to me another kids for cash. Wth!!! If stealing 8 dollars (even if he had to break a window to enter) can get you 20 years the system is really fucked up. sorry for the language.

  3. 3 Julianne
    January 28, 2012 at 9:06 am

    I can not be upset by this latest report. The kid wasn’t given a 2-year sentence for stealing 8 bucks. The sentence was for breaking into a place of worship. The prosecutor and judge downgraded the felony class and assigned the lightest sentence under the law. In this case, perhaps it is the law that needs to be changed. The USA is supposed to have separation of church and state, so why is it that breaking into a church carries a steeper penalty under the law than breaking into a home?

    On another note, it’s kind of funny that the anonymous commenter used the initials “WC”, referring to themselves as a “water closet” or toilet 🙂

  4. 4 Jeffrey Crunkleton
    January 28, 2012 at 9:23 am

    We live in Ohio and travel to Indiana often for various events. Next week we are going to the Super Bowl with my 12 year old grandson in tow, needless to say I will keep a sharp eye on him, The odd thing is Indianapolis is a nice city and as Monica Foster eluded to in her court brief on Paul Henry , his case would have been handled different there in the Marion county court than Kosiusko county. We have been to some small town festivals in Indiana and it`s like the 1950s in some of these towns with Confederate flags flying on pick up trucks. I guess they forgot their ancestors were for the Union. I would therefore say the courts of Kosiusko county are formed on this narrow and mostly incompetent mindset and hope Paul Henry`s case goes better in Marion county with the Appellate court. This boy like Chase Williams should already be home with his family. Florida on the other hand shocks me a little more as you think of it as being a little more cosmopolitan than rural Indiana and that juveniles would be dealt with in a more progressive manor. The problem here is the state legislatures who created laws to treat juveniles as adults as a knee jerk reaction to violent urban gang members with long criminal histories and those laws are being used on kids like Paul Henry and Jordan Brown.

  5. January 28, 2012 at 10:55 am

    over 8 dollars thats crazy to put him in jaul for 2 years. court and creepy judge is stupid is stupid does. that church needs to forgive the boy and just forget 8 dollars the kid is homeless, hungry, cold, thats why he broke in is to get some cash for fiood. not like he wanted to steal them blind. come on now. get over it. as far as damage to break in then do community service. thats all he needs. and the poor kid was having a family issue. trouble times.

  6. 6 Wolfgang
    January 28, 2012 at 1:06 pm

    I think this young man was just stupid, – He should have immediately spoken with the pastor! I thing this problem had could be solved with a lot more common sense. Two years of community service would serve the public interest, the taxpayer and himself a lot more. So what the DA does was without common sense and at last surely not in the public interest. Let him out on probation, let him prove that he is not a criminal, give him a chance. Let him work for the church until all his damage he caused is paid. I think after that he will be better men than after two years of prison!

    • January 28, 2012 at 1:29 pm

      That would have been the most sensible thing to do. But it seems Kosciusko County prosecutors and judges lack of any common sense at all. That a young man can be that stupid sometimes is something understandable and a reaction you could expect of an inmature and stupid young man in same way but I would have expected more common sense from the adults. Guess I forgot we were dealing with useless prosecutors and judges. sighs!!!, I think in the end is all about money:(

      Very well said Wolfgang.

    • January 30, 2012 at 4:08 pm

      THE boy should of talked to him like either call church, wait to get hold of someone in church. i know the guy was desperate just wanting to get food or something. maybe the church should step in say no don’t give him 2 years of Jail and just have him do a commumity service, find a place to stay till he gets on his feet to provide on own, hes 18 and was kicked out. who knows what else issues he had to be kicked out. money is root of all evil, judge has a attitude issue i say. church does too. i betta kid was desperate wanting shelter, get warm, get something to eat. the bible says clearly jesus speaks i was hungry u did not feed me, i was naked u did not clothe me, i was homeless and u did not help me, i was in prison u did not visit me. Well seems like we turn this kid away were doing it to jesus. Give God a black eye when we just allow things such as this to go on. They need to show compassion. sure punishment needs to happen like community service, pay for damage. find a place to stay and clean up, eat, shelter and give him a job..

  7. January 28, 2012 at 1:46 pm

    look at this article I just come across.

    Peer jury hits dubious mark in ’11

    I don’t really understand what they mean but “Peer jury hits dubious mark” but I support the peer jury program 100%

    The peer jury is made up of three to six juveniles who hear cases in a training room at the police station, deciding punishment, not guilt. Jurors try to learn about the defendant’s life and the reason for their offense. Some offenders have become peer jurors themselves. The program began in October 2000.

    As of Dec. 31, 2011, there were 1,032 juveniles processed since the program’s inception, of whom 86 percent were boys. The most common offenses were curfew, disorderly conduct, theft of property worth less than $300 and retail theft. The average age was 14. Almost 93 percent of the juveniles completed their sentences; in the cases where this was not so, the cases were referred back to the arresting officer. The rate of juveniles who reoffended was 14 percent.


    quoted: Jurors try to learn about the defendant’s life and the reason for their offense

    Childrens seems to have more common sense than adults at least they want to know why and what provoked that bad behaviour and try to correct it.

    quoted by Mr Leininger “When you don’t know why someone would do such a thing, that’s the disturbing part.”
    Guess he should learn from the peer jury in my opinion.

    What do you think, do you support Peer jury? I do.

  8. 10 Frank Manning
    January 28, 2012 at 5:39 pm

    North Florida, particularly the panhandle, is a part of the Deep South, with all its legendary backwardness and barbarities. Not surprising the troll was from Pensacola, heart of the redneck riviera. Read some of the comments on stories about Cristian Fernandez in the Jaxville media and you’ll see that that particularly cruel social ethos pervades that whole area. No, Florida isn’t cosmopolitan, especially in the north. The brand of redneck justice folks prefer there is particularly cruel and vindictive. And judging from comments on stories I’ve read, those people would just as soon crucify these kids as lock them up.

    Does the name Willie Bosket ring a bell? I’m sure it does. He is a 1 in 10,000,000 homicidal sociopath who brought about the whole idea of crucifying, err, prosecuting, juvenile offenders as adults and punishing them with the harshness and brutality of adult prison. In response to one bad egg, much of our society–in every state–has embraced the idea of punishing children like adult criminals. It’s a disease, a virus, of the very soul of our society. Even here in WA comments on new stories about juvenile crimes can be disturbing.

    And that breaking into a church law in Indiana is a splendid example of a good law abused by an unscrupulous prosecutor. That law was enacted in response to KKK attacks on and burnings of African-American and Catholic churches. It was never intended to give 20 yrs to a hungry homeless kid breaking in to steal the poor box. Jeez, why not just hang him, like in Henry VIII’s time!

    • January 30, 2012 at 3:58 pm

      pensacola is stupid putting a teenage boy in with a adult men 19 and above, there is men in 20, 30, 40, 50, 60 with these kids and sure is risking christian, and other boys like paul, jordon, blade, james and others with pevert men. Don’t matter ho they are its very wrong, risky and imapropiate matter. GET THEM KIDS AWAY FROM ADULTS NOW.

  9. 12 Jeanne
    January 28, 2012 at 7:20 pm

    So where on earth was the pastor in all this? We can expect cruel and unusual punishment from prosecutors and judges who act like they are doing a person a favor by giving them two years in prison for a theft of $8.00 but where are the forgiving hearts within that church? It seems everything in this life stems on money. Incarcerating this young man will amount to a lot of money that the taxpayers will blindly dish out. The holy hypocrites who do not practice what they preach, who will they feed with their collections, if not a young man right in front of their eyes. A possible test sent right down from God, they have clearly failed.

    The public needs to understand the dollar amount, the waste, the poor ethical decisions of people in authority, the out-dated law, and the fact that young adults are literally starving right in front of them as they stuff their faces full. Can anyone imagine having no where to sleep, nothing to eat, and no one to trust?

    Do we need a petition? How do we come together and expose the money behind the terribly pain that is inflicted on you younger generation day in and day out? Sadly, people hear you clearly when you talk dollars. With today’s economic problems, I think people might start to add one plus one together. It does not take a brain surgeon to see all of these cases add up to millions of dollars.

    This boy could have been placed on probation, given a place to stay by the church members, and the $35,000 that will house him, could have been used for the boy to learn a trade or get an education. I have a really hard time believing there was no other alternative for the prosecutor, the judge, the public defender, and the church. Very hard to believe this was the best they could to.

    Truly a fucked up world.

  10. 13 £ance
    January 28, 2012 at 10:37 pm

    Here we go again. This is something that really gets me off-side with the religious right, even over here in Australia. To lock up a kid (yes, at 18 he still is – and I can assure you that I was too at that age) is nothing short of monstrous! As some correspondents supra have mentioned “where was the pastor/minister/priest in this whole débacle? Like a few other things (Dan, you know about which I am talking), the mind just boggles at the mentality of these prosecutors (persecutors??), judges and other (so-called) law enforcement individuals. Enough of being on the soap box. Looks like another one for The Gang over here to try and take under our wing with you Dan. £x.

  11. 14 Cyndy
    January 29, 2012 at 9:34 pm

    I do not know if locking teens/young adults up in adult prison is the answer- but I did just watch Young Kids Hard Time (Colt and Paul story) on MSNBC and I am disturbed by Colt speaking of what he thought the consequences would be after he murdered his step-dad. (he was not charged with an actual count of murder in exchange for the plea deal he accepted) I am mystified that this is somehow going back on the judge. This boy/child said he just thought at the MOST he would get probation or something like it. So since that was not the case he is now sorry? I am not convinced that adult prison is the place for him at this age– but I am convinced he should not be on the streets any time soon. I think some of you might have a different opinion had he perhaps chosen a different victim, oh let’s say a kid he did not like in his biology class. He murdered his step-dad in cold blood. He admitted firing two shots, on in his face. It scares the hell out of me to think anyone wants this person out of custody at all.
    As for Lucas Howland mentioned above– I understand the comments about the prosecutor using that he broke into a church to get more time might seem overzealous thing to do- however he is 18 and did break into somewhere he was not invited and stole money. Just because he was only able to steal 8 bucks should have nothing to do with it. He took what was there. Had there been more I am certain he would have stolen it, and that should be considered not that the church only had a measly 8 dollars that he was able to find. If he went to rob a bank and only stole 50 bucks should he get less time than if he stole 10,000? How about if he stole someones car and then brought it back- would that be OK? What if the car was 15 years old should he then get even less punishment because it was not as valuable as say a new Mercedes? Slippery slope in my opinion. I also sincerely doubt he got kicked out of his parents house for no reason. If Lucas is such a good egg- why is he not in college or have gainful employment? Even if his parents where “horrible” that would not have precluded him from finding a job and making good use of his time. If he is 18 and has a total disregard for the law that you do not break into any kind of an establishment and take anything does not belong to you, he is exactly where he belong in my opinion.

    • January 29, 2012 at 11:16 pm

      I think Colt’s remarks on the television program underscore the fact that kids and adults do not think the same and must be judged differently. I also think it is essential that when kids do commit serious crimes, they cannot be fairly judged if the court does not understand the child’s motive for committing the crime–which this court clearly did not. Through our own investigations we have discovered what the police failed to discover and what was not presented to the court. Based on this information, it is understandable why Colt may believe what he does. In time the truth will come out. In the meantime, I ask that you and others keep an open mind and consider the possibility that Colt is not a monster as he was portrayed in the media.

  12. 16 Jeffrey
    January 31, 2012 at 7:12 pm

    I find my self agreeing with Cyndy on much of her take on Colt. In watching him in that program I felt the person he felt the most sorrow for was himself. I feel sorry for this young man but he never expressed any remorse for his actions except in regards as to how it effected his life. Even if Phillip Danner was a jerk he didn`t deserve to be gunned down in his home. Colt could have ran away without doing this. Let us remember he also may have destroyed the life of 12 year old Paul Henry in the process and I didn`t here him regret that. If he wants my respect let him man up and testify at Paul`s appeal that it was his plan and that he bullied Paul and Chase into joining him because he lacked the nerve to act alone. If he takes sole responsibility it takes a lot of the burden off Paul. I don`t think we will see this though.

    • January 31, 2012 at 8:10 pm

      Jeffrey, I can well understand how you might feel the way you do based on the information that is out in the public view. However, there is much more to this story than has ever been revealed either to the court or to the public. I am not able to go into any details at this time, but our research shows that Danner was more than a jerk. One could even build a credible case that the homicide was justifiable. I ask you to please suspend judgment until the truth comes out.

    • 18 Frank Manning
      January 31, 2012 at 8:38 pm

      In the interview Colt appeared to still be in a state of shock at the magnitude of his sentence and the misery of the punishment of confinement in a prison cell. Typical of a 15 yr old’s mentality he was clueless as to how harshly his local society would react to his action. I mentor incarcerated boys 13 to 15 yrs old. It’s often amusing to hear them trying to rationalize some foolish action, because adolescent logic just isn’t all there yet. Then you get the reward of teaching them how a rational adult would deal with the same situation. Lock a kid in a cell for 30 years and you lose the opportunity to show him how to do things right.

      I’ve heard some hints of a dark side of Danner, but nothing specific or concrete. Even a little more info would be helpful in forming a truly informed opinion. With one exception, the teenage killers I’ve worked with feared for their own lives at the time they acted.

  13. 19 jeffrey
    January 31, 2012 at 10:14 pm

    Dan I will take your words to heart and give Colt the benefit of the doubt for now but the clock is ticking. Colt and Paul have already been incarcerated for nearly two years and every day they are in those places they are further from ever coming back to a normal life. I feel Kosuisko county and the state know the longer they stall that the older and more mature looking Paul will get and visual perception is important to the public and a judge. In the appeals court they will be looking at a 14 year old taller Paul not the 5 foot tall 80 pound child of two years ago. I also fear for all of us in society as some innocent victim will suffer in the future because of what will happen to Colt and Blade Reed in adult prison as they will not come out rehabilitated but bitter angry and violent young men because of what we as a society have done to them.

    • February 1, 2012 at 3:54 pm

      i want to work on a program for blade and paul to get rehab, skills, fun, and help somehow. no abuse what so ever. poor kids are suffering and their life is destroyed now cuz of media, cops, guards, judges, prosecutors, jury well thats just so sad and makes me outraged to kick butt to defend these boys, cause there being abused. i pity a fool who hurts kids. thats the truth.

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