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A Case of Misplaced Sympathy?

Perhaps you’ve seen this video of Tony Farmer, a rising senior at Garfield Heights High School in Ohio and a top college basketball prospect, reacting to hearing a judge sentence him after he pleaded guilty to several crimes, including 3 felonies:

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There it is! Another young black man going to prison instead of college! Another hateful white judge, ignoring the pleas of teachers, coaches, family members, and even the crime victim not to send Tony Farmer to prison! This is what’s wrong with America – killing opportunity for young black people even before they can realize their potential! This situation requires immediate action. People need to organize. Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson need to travel to Ohio and speak to this situation. Recall Judge Pamela Barker! . . .

Ok, forgive me. I put my “social justice” hat on for a moment; only way to complete that rant since that “social justice” stuff can make people say and write strange things. The hat’s off now; back to reality.

First, Farmer’s attack on his former girlfriend, Andrea Lane, was caught on surveillance video. Farmer faced charges of kidnapping (perhaps dragging Lane by her hair back into the lobby of the apartment building was a bad idea), felonious assault (might have been that kick to Lane’s head as she cowered in fear in a corner), and robbery (dude took Lane’s cellphone, a bank card, a laptop computer and her car keys).

Second, a grand jury who, no doubt, viewed the video of Mr. Farmer’s antics, indicted him. So, even though a decent district attorney can, as the saying goes, indict a ham sandwich, ordinary citizens also concluded Farmer’s case warranted criminal charges.

Third, Farmer rejected a plea bargain which contained less prison time than he ultimately received. Interestingly, Farmer’s attorney, Joe Dubyak, said he expected his client would receive probation after his guilty plea.

Now, I’m no lawyer, I don’t play one on TV, and I don’t live in Ohio, but a cursory review of state law makes Mr. Dubyak’s comment seem strange. According to the Ohio Revised Code:

    • Kidnapping is a first degree felony, Chapter 2905.01(C)(1),
    • Felonious assault is a second degree felony, Chapter 2903.11(D)(1), and
    • Robbery is a second degree felony, Chapter 2911.02(B).

The code speaks of mandatory sentencing for those convicted of, or pleading guilty to, the first two crimes. The code also prescribes definite prison terms of 3 to 11 years for first degree felonies, and 2 to 8 years for second degree felonies (Chapter 2929.14(A)(1) & (2)).

Mr. Dubyak’s client pleaded guilty 3 felonies, 1 first degree felony and 2 second degree felony, with two of those calling for mandatory incarceration. It is hard to fathom why he believed probation was a possibility. Judge Barker showed leniency to Farmer, imposing minimum sentences and allowing all sentences to run concurrently. This spared Farmer at least another 4 years and 9 months in prison, and as much as another 24 years and 9 months.

Of course, none of these facts are apparent when watching Farmer collapse as he sees his college hoops aspirations evaporate. There is one other thing that is not apparent, at least not immediately, in the dramatic courtroom video:

The woman Farmer dragged by the hair, the woman he beat and kicked in the lobby of her own apartment building, the woman whose property he stole after assaulting her, is also black.

With so much “concern” of late over attacks on women through the words of politicians, I can only wonder where is the concern over this real attack on a woman, involving fists and feet, all because that woman no longer wanted to have a romantic relationship with the man who would attack her? Is there truly a stronger reaction to what this young man lost than there is to what he did to another black person?

I hate to see young black men go to prison, but can anyone condone Tony Farmer’s crimes? Make no mistake: giving ANYONE who commits 3 felonies against a black woman anything other than prison time is unconscionable. To my thinking, giving anyone who commits 3 felonies against a black woman minimum sentencing, that effectively condenses three crimes into one, also devalues that black female victim, and minimizes the ordeal she suffered.

Again, I hate to see young black men go to prison. However, I cannot say, in good conscience, that what a young man can do with a basketball should entitle him to a pass when it comes to kidnapping, assaulting, and robbing another person. For a violent attacker of a black person to have his talents put aside, the same way he put aside the humanity and dignity of another human being, affirms the value of black people in American society. I always promote human dignity (which all people have) over human talent (which not all people have).

I have no clue why Tony Farmer did what he did, nor do I care, though I hurt for the immediate opportunities that he has sacrificed. My sympathies lie with the woman he attacked, who had a 6′ 7″, 220-pound man drag her by the hair, beat her, and kick her in the head. Anyone who would do that to another human being doesn’t belong on a college campus or on a college basketball team. Anyone who would do that to another human being looks good in an orange jumpsuit.

Copyright 2012.

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  1. Anonymous says:

    I hate to see our youth go to prison also but at the same time our youth needs to stop doing stupid shit to put them in the situation where they have to go before a judge I don’t feel sorry for him at all and I’m from Cleveland, Oh. He beat on a woman which no man should ever do and stole her belongings so if it was anyone of you people’s daughters or sister what you think what he did was cool? What cause he good at basketball he should get a slap on the wrist? He got exactly what he deserved. My heart goes out to the young ladie he beat on.

  2. KP says:

    Very well said. I feel sorry that such talent had not been taken in account while he attacked that girl; that such talent has now been wasted, but, as you said, I feel more sorry for the victim, her emotional scars. I hope this lesson is not only learned by Tony Farmer, but also by his community and other rising talents.

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