Past Opinion, Edition 114-June 1, 2014
Edition 114-June 1, 2014
American justice: Hard to find
In some cases charges and decisions contrary to common sense
By Thomas Terrio

Something is very wrong with the police and criminal justice system in the United States. Recently, three particular cases have emerged where police have overstepped their boundaries by using excessive force and abuse, along with unusually excessive charges and sentences being handed down by judges in the judicial system, for what many in other jurisdictions would consider minor offences. Indeed, the word “scary” rather than “wrong” is more in tune with reality here.

In July of 2013, Jianqing Klyzek a 32-year-old nationalized American citizen from China, had her Chicago tanning salon and spa raided by undercover police. Klyzek is now suing the Chicago Police Department.The raid included a tirade of abuse and threats from the officer who initiated the bust. The officer was identified through court documents as Gerald Di Pasquale. The threats were filled with racist brutality and hatred towards the 5-foot-2, 110-pound Asian woman.

The security video not only shows Klyzek being physically assaulted by police while in handcuffs, but also threatened with a Taser and slapped by Di Pasquale. Here is an excerpt from the surveillance video:

Officer Di Pasquale: You’re not fucking American! I’ll put you in a UPS box and send you back to wherever the fuck you came from!

Klyzek: I’m a citizen, OK!

Officer Di Pasquale: No you’re not! No, you’re not a citizen! No, you’re not! No, you’re not! You’re here on our borrowed time. So mind your fucking business before I shut this whole fucking place down. And I’ll take this place and then whoever owns it will fucking kill you because they don’t care about you, OK? I’ll take this building. You’ll be dead and your family will be dead.

It’s easy to become angry when watching a video like this, because the injustice of such an act is readily apparent due to the nature of video that does not lie. When Chicago police became aware of the video, they attempted to seize it, but fortunately, it was at a separate location.

These police officers are nothing more than legalized bullies with badges, who have obviously done this more than once. Most of us would like nothing more than to take Officer Di Pasquale down to the Dojo for a good four-hour lesson in discipline with the Master. Furthermore, Di Pasquale is of obvious Italian descent whose family must have immigrated to the US at one time or another. This cop is truly an ignorant and inconsiderate piece of worthless bull-shoot. And if there’s any credibility left at the Chicago Police Department, they will deal with Di Pasquale and others like him quickly, in order to save whatever face they have left. The civil case is now pending.

On April 15, a 19-year-old Round Rock, Texas man named Jacob Lavoro was arrested for making and selling chocolate brownies made with hash oil. Hash oil is the most potent of three main cannabis products derived from the marijuana plant.

Lavoro was charged with a first-degree felony and is now facing five to 35 years in jail. Lavoro has no prior record. His lawyer Jack Holmes says the punishment is higher than the punishment range for sexual assault or aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. “It’s kind of crazy, I’ve been doing this for 22 years as a lawyer and I’ve got 10 years as a police officer, and I’ve never seen anything like this before,” he said.

Now I’m not sure if jurisprudence in Texas recognizes that 23 states in the United States have either legalized marijuana, decriminalized it, or allow it for medical uses. Lavaro’s father, who is a Vietnam war veteran and Conservative thinker, believes his son should be punished, but five to 35 years in prison is a very harsh sentence.

Well Mr Lavaro, it’s outrageous, ridiculous, and contrary to common sense. The threat that hangs over your son and family is real. The judge must be given the benefit of the doubt here in the hope he or she will see the charges as applied and the law which preceded it in this particular case, to be more than unjust, but asinine. In my view, probation is in order here, nothing more.

In 2008, Denise H. Harvey, 47, of Florida was convicted of five counts of sexual activity with a minor. Harvey, a mortgage broker, had consenual sex on five occasions with a 16-year-old boy from her son’s baseball team. For this, Harvey was sentenced to 30 years in state prison.

In 2009, Harvey, along with her husband and son, escaped Florida to seek asylum and refugee status in Canada. The Canadian Immigration and Refugee Board initially granted Harvey asylum on her claims the sentence was “cruel and unusual punishment.” The law in Florida clearly states it is illegal for anyone over the age of 24 to have sex with a person 16-years-old or younger. On the contrary, in Canada the age of consent is 16-years-old: and if the person is a teacher, coach, or in a position of authority, the age is 18.

In 2011, she was arrested by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police when the Minister for Citizenship and Immigration intervened and appealed the decision in the Federal Court of Canada. Unfortunately, the Christian leaning Conservative government of Stephen Harper would like nothing more than to send Harvey back to Florida to serve her sentence. Because of the Minister’s actions, Harvey lost her refugee status.The situation brought about another Immigration Review Board hearing where the Federal Court upheld her protected status, and Harvey is now free to live in Canada. Eventually, her refugee status will allow her to apply for citizenship.

In my view, a 30-year prison sentence for consensual sex with a 16-year-old is quite severe for a one-time case of bad judgment. Let me explain my view. In most cultures, a boy begins his manhood in his early teens. For example, the Hebrew bar mitzvah is a religious initiation ceremony for a Jewish boy that happens at age 13. According to the Hebrew religion, this prepares him to observe religious rules and allows the young man to take part in public worship and discussion. In the Catholic faith, the Sacrament of Confirmation is given between the ages of 13 and 15, which according to the Christian faith initiates the young man as a soldier of Christ. Yes, what Harvey did was a mistake, but sentrencing her to 30 years in jail is simply compounding one case of bad judgment with another.

These two examples lead me to believe we are walking a very fine line between boyhood and manhood at 16-years-old, which means as a society we must show good judgment and tolerance in cases such as these. Obviously, Denise Harvey was shown no tolerance whatsoever in the State of Florida, and the final decision to accept her as a refugee and allow her to remain in Canada was the right one; regardless of what the Conservative government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper believes.

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