Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Diversity, Sentences and Crime

Loving Arlington's Diversity
Just the other day I was in Ravi Kabob in my neighborhood (but this story could have happened anywhere in Arlington) to pick up some dinner.

It’s named after the Ravi River in Pakistan, so I assume that most of the men sitting around me were Pakistani. On that night, however, the restaurant also fed a couple of young, 20-something, white guys wearing T-shirts and jeans at the next table, talking books; a father, his teenage son and a teammate of the son talked football (the ‘Skins were going to need some offense), and were treated very well by the staff (they must be regulars); and a white couple nearby, youngish and married, waited for their meal to-go.

The man of that couple wore a long-sleeved T-shirt with the distinct “C” emblem from Colorado license plates. We both heard our numbers called at the same time and found ourselves sharing the crowded, tiled floor space near the register staring at our food as it got its final preparations in the Styrofoam containers.

“You from Colorado?” I asked.

“Yes.”

“Where?”

“Cherry Creek.”

“Just outside Denver, right?” I asked. I knew this because my wife’s family has a cabin in a town about an hour from Denver and my wife and I have friends downtown. I told him all of that, and he listened politely and told me that he knew where my in-law’s place was. Just then, his wife walked up.

“I grew up in Lake George,” she said, pointing at my sweatshirt from the most beautiful lake in New York’s Adirondack mountains. Before I could respond, she said, “Well, a little south of that, actually.”

“Queensbury,” I said. “You’re a Spartan.”

“Yes,” she said.

“So am I.”

Then she asked what year I’d graduated from Queensbury High, and I told the truth, God help me (1984), and she responded by being 10 years younger than I. We shook hands. His name’s Greg and hers is Danielle (I hope I’m getting their names spelled correctly), and they live a few blocks south of Arlington Boulevard. They told me they came down to D.C. to work on the Hill, for
John Boehner of Ohio.

I was flabbergasted at how uncanny this all was. I mean,
Republicans! In Arlington! You see it all in this county!

I hope you know I jest.

My politics do lean a little left of center (I grew up in Northern New York—you can’t lean too far left without pulling a muscle), but I can’t help but feel in this time of campaigning that I wish the Republicans could at least mount a good fight in county races. The Republican,
Mike McMenamin’s, front page of his web site talks a lot about taxes and development. I’m tired of that line from the Republicans. If he’s going to talk development, then talk about how development will help low- and moderate income people to stay in the county.

For that reason, I’m liking what I’m seeing from
Josh Reubner, the Green Party candidate. He’s got a focused message on the housing issue, and he’s mounting a rather strong attack. Scott McCaffrey at the Sun Gazette has been looking to Mr. Reubner as a threat to Democrat Chris Zimmerman’s left, but I don’t think he’s got a chance in November (I doubt Mr. McCaffrey thinks this, either), and I don’t think he’ll peel enough votes from Mr. Zimmerman to allow Mr. McMenamins to win. We are, after all, in Senate race that will draw voters out in force come November, and that’s likely to be good for Mr. Zimmerman.

Still, it’s nice to see someone asking some good questions on relevant issues; he’s logical and passionate. Good for him.

By the way, I was at the old Ravi Kabob, not the new sit-down place—if anyone’s been to the new place, please
email me and tell me how it was.

++++++++++
Sentences Aren't Making Sense.

Is it just me, or is there something amiss here:

From the Sun Gazette, yesterday:

“An Arlington Circuit Court jury on Sept. 15 sentenced a New York man to 117.5 years in prison, after finding him guilty of 52 felonies and one misdemeanor that included identity theft.“Mihai Gheorghiu, 27, was part of a ‘sophisticated and organized criminal operation’ that targeted residents both locally and across the nation, said Deputy Commonwealth's Attorney Evie Eastman.”

From the Washington Post, today:

“U.S. District Court Judge Leonie M. Brinkema sentenced Ossie K. LaRode, 23, who is homeless, to 31 years and 10 months in prison. In January 2005, LaRode, who was leading Alexandria police on a six-mile-long chase in a stolen Cadillac, hit Feltis, 41, outside a Pentagon traffic booth.”

Although I don’t mind a thief of the magnitude of Mr. Gheorghiu—he had credit cards and had stolen numerous identities—getting a very tough sentence, it seems out of whack with the fact that LaRode, who drove the wrong way down an I-395 exit ramp and the wrong way into the Pentagon parking lot where he struck Officer Feltis and knocked him unconscious before the blow killed him five weeks later, should get a mere 31-years.

I’ve taught in a medium-security prison before, so I know that it’s not the walk in the park people often believe it to be, and 31 years would be a LONG time there, but for killing the police officer, LaRode gets one-third the sentence of a big-time thief seems a little much.

I know they were tried in different courtrooms by different judges and all, but it just doesn’t seem right.

++++++++++
More Violent Crime
Today marks a month of this blog, and I’m already writing about another violent crime. I didn’t think I’d have done any of this, let alone a second story within the month:

Police have announced the
arrest of Carlos Antonio Ramirez (a.k.a. Carlos Rudolpho Florez-Gomez), 21, and an unnamed 17-year-old juvenile in an assault of another man (whose name is being withheld) on the 4300 block of North 4th Street, the police said.

Although the police do not have a motive for the attack outside a laundry room, Det. Steve Gomez said the 17-year-old has been known by police to have had some ties to MS-13, a Latino gang in the area. These ties put Mr. Ramirez “on the radar” for gang-related motives in this attack.

Mr. Ramirez was arraigned Sept. 18 and faces three charges in general district court: failure to identify (himself); assault by mob; and possession of a concealed weapon. As well, he faces charges in juvenile court of contributing to the delinquency of a minor. All the charges are misdemeanors. He’s being held on $3,500 bond for those charges, Det. Gomez said.

The juvenile was released to a parent and petitions are pending, police report.

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