Friday, January 12, 2007

Taking Up a Collection for a Plane Ticket

Bill Lueders of The Isthmus is getting rave reviews for his new book Cry Rape, and I have enjoyed the excerpts of it that I've read. That being said, his piece in this week's paper that attempts to make apologies for local criminal Vairin Meesouk is simply preposterous.

The story goes like this: Meesouk, 21, was arrested at and charged with multiple felonies at age 15 for breaking into and robbing several gas stations and convenience stores and setting a fire at one. A protracted legal battle followed, with the understanding that if sentenced to a felony, Meesouk (here legally but not a legal resident) could be deported to Laos. Eventually, the charges were reduced to misdemeanors.

By the time his charges were reduced, howerver, Meesouk had committed another crime. He and a group of friends broke into an apartment where the 77 year old resident was beaten and smothered until he lost consciousness. Meesouk initially lied to police and denied involvement, but later plead guilty to three felonies. One of his accomplices said Meesouk had punched the old man in the testicles.

The prosecutor immediately asked for a 10 year sentence, while Meesouk's attorneys have asked for 364 days, to avoid the one-year threshold that could trigger deportation. Meesouk now has a two year old daughter, and his attorneys argue that he should stay in America to care for her. Since breaking in and assaulting the elderly man, Meesouk has had "minor scrapes with the law," including a 2003 "altercation" with his sister for which he received two years probation.

Lueders concludes that deportation is too harsh of a penalty for Meesouk, as he is still a young man and is now a caring father. My observations differ dramatically:

1. We have reached a point in society now where having an illegitimate child is actually a sign of responsibility. The article doesn't explicitly say the child is out of wedlock, but trust me - if Meesouk was married to the mother, that would have been in his talking points. Meesouk's attorneys argue that he can't be deported because he's responsible... because he had a child with a woman to which... he's not married. It's like we're living in a bizarro world - it's like a kid killing his parents and then complaining that he's an orphan.

2. Meesouk's attorney argued for leniency and "maintained the youths broke in believing the residence was empty." So it's the old guy's fault that he was there in the apartment when they broke in? How dare he be sitting home and enjoying Wheel of Fortune when these thugs broke into his house - the nerve of that guy! Kind of sounds like he deserved to be beaten and smothered unconscious to me.

3. The article argues that Meesouk is no longer a threat because he has a job. What happens when he's fired or quits? Does he then go on an uncontrollable elderly nut-punching spree?

4. The article quotes the 77 year old victim as saying "that the trauma of this crime paled compared to what he experienced in World War II." What in the world does this possibly mean? When people commit crimes, should we immediately compare their transgression to a World War II battlefield to see if it measures up? Does Meesouk deserve a lenient sentence because he wasn't throwing grenades at the old guy? Try this defense when your wife catches you sleeping with your babysitter - "Yeah, honey, it was wrong. But you should have seen what was going on in 'Nam."

5. Chances of Lueders going to the wall for Meesouk if he has a white kid from suburban Middleton - zero point zero. Unfortunately for the victim, testicular pugilism knows no skin color.

So anyone willing to chip in for a plane ticket for Meesouk, I'll set up a collection. It'll save you the cost of having to wear a protective cup while you're sitting at home watching "According to Jim." In fact, I might make the trip with Meesouk, if only to save myself from having to hear about the Rosie O'Donnell/Donald Trump feud anymore.

(Oh, and lest you think I'm bagging on The Isthmus, they are more than generous in linking to my posts via their internet site. And lest you think I'm afraid of using the word "lest," I have now proven you wrong.)