Your Moral Compass

Something I want my son to learn: Do the right thing. You will know what this is. Do what’s right even when it’s awkward, hard, lonely, frightening, or dangerous.

You’ve probably heard all you need to hear and more about what’s going on at Penn State. I thought I’d heard all I needed to hear and more but sat glued to the tv yesterday, unable to look away except to turn to Google now and then to get more details. If you want to get more details, I recommend reading the Grand Jury Report (this is very detailed and exceptionally disturbing) (I always recommend reading the original documents related to something like this when possible). There’s also a really good post about the situation here.

As a former criminal defense attorney, I take the whole “innocent until proven guilty” thing very seriously. I’m not going to play judge and jury. I’m not going to sit here and condemn anyone involved, as much as doing so might give me (as a mother of a young son and a sports fan) some level of emotional satisfaction.

What I will do is talk about what we can learn from Penn State.

There is nowhere in the world where these kinds of horrible things don’t happen. There is no person or type of person who is always good all the time.

If you walk in on an adult engaged in any sort of sexual activity with a child, the right thing to do is: (1) remove the child from the situation if it is physically possible to do so; and (2) immediately go to the police. If somebody reports to you that he or she witnessed an adult engaged in any sort of sexual activity with a child and you believe he or she is telling the truth, the right thing to do is: (1) immediately go to the police.

The reason I say “immediately” is that something so simple can become so complicated as soon as you let it sit for any period of time. And the right people to go to are the police — not your father and not your boss (although feel free to tell them, too). The police.

Do the right thing even if it requires speaking out against your co-worker, boss, coach, significant other, spouse, parent, child, sibling, friend, idol, or favorite blogger. Nobody is above or exempt from the right thing. Do the right thing even if people call you a snitch, tattletale, bully, hater, or troll. Don’t ever be afraid to question anyone and call out bad behavior when you see it.

I’m worried about the state of the right thing today. Right now, the world is a place where too often, people are more concerned about covering their own asses or the figurative asses of their institutions or being 100% positive and supportive of their loved ones all the time no matter what than they’re concerned with doing the right thing. Don’t be part of that.

Don’t you know, in your heart and in your mind, what you’d do if you walked in on some dude raping a child? Isn’t preventing further tragedy for that child and for other children more important than whatever is going to happen to you as a result of doing the right thing? Quoting myself is gross, but I said this on Twitter yesterday: “I love my job but dudes, if I had to get fired for calling the police after seeing/knowing about child sex abuse, I’d do it. I mean, duh?”

If your moral compass is telling you “duh,” listen to it. Do the right thing. Always.

My thoughts on Willie D. Clark

When I worked as a criminal defense attorney, I represented many clients who could be considered “bad guys.” I had clients who committed theft, stalking, battery, and burglary; clients who got caught driving drunk three or four times; clients who were registered sex offenders. Of all those people, there was only one time I actually felt a little creeped out and like my client might actually be a bad guy — this was the time the prosecutor showed me pictures of what my client did to his girlfriend. (I used a coping technique I developed that time I tried to volunteer at the Anti Cruelty Society and they make you go though orientation, which involves watching a video of people euthanizing animals. This coping technique involves pretending you are looking at something you don’t want to see while actually looking just off to the side so you don’t actually see it.) The prosecutor was trying to rattle me before we presented our arguments on sentencing for a probation violation to the judge, and it totally would’ve worked had I actually looked at the pictures. (For the record, I don’t think it’s cool for a dude to beat his girlfriend. I do, however, strongly believe in the Constitution and the rights of individuals accused of crimes, especially their right to counsel.)

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Why an animal abuser deserves more jail time than a guy who kills someone.

Today I had to turn off the local sports radio station because it pissed me off so much. The discussion went something like this:

Michael Vick abused some dogs and got sent to prison for two years.

JR Smith was recklessly driving and killed a guy and got sent to jail for 30 days.

Therefore, the criminal justice system says dogs > humans.

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D-Will

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AP/Jack Dempsey

An interview with Denver Broncos wide receiver Javon Walker will air on HBO’s “Real Sports” tomorrow. (Denver Post story here.) This is the first time Walker publicly discussed the Williams slaying, and the only time he plans to do so.

I can’t even imagine what it’s like to have a teammate and friend bleed to death in your arms, or what it’s like to have the bloody clothes from that night in your house somewhere because, well, because you have to keep them. I don’t know what it’s like in Javon Walker’s head and how he deals with this. I’m not sure Javon Walker knows how he deals with this.

Although I’m just a fan and I didn’t know him, I remember the day Darrent Williams died like some people remember when Kennedy was assassinated or when the space shuttle exploded. I was sitting on the couch watching some game or other and the ticker at the bottom of the screen said that Darrent Williams had been shot. I didn’t see the whole thing at first, or didn’t process it right away — the fact that he was dead took a minute to sink in.

I used to make fun of people who got upset when some famous person or other dies, because I thought it was lame to get upset about the death of someone you don’t even know. But there I was on January 1, probably in my pajamas, drinking coffee, just in shock and incredibly sad. Not Darrent Williams. I love him.

You know how there’s one guy on a team you just love even though he’s not the star? Darrent Williams was that guy for me, and probably for a million other people, too. He was so much fun to watch on the field, and his frohawk was, hands down, the best hair of any professional athlete, ever (DerMarr Johnson gets honorable mention). He had an awesome attitude — check out this Denver Post article and watch the video. Don’t you just love him? I can’t even look at that now without getting upset and now that some time has passed, pissed the hell off. Why does shit like this happen in Denver?

Darrent Williams wasn’t the only professional athlete shot in Denver. In 2003, Joey Porter (formerly of the Pittsburgh Steelers, now with the Miami Dolphins) was shot outside a bar on Denver’s north side. In 2006, Julius Hodge (formerly of the Denver Nuggets, now with Italian team Cimberio Varese) was shot while driving on I-76 after leaving a bar. No suspects have been arrested in either case.

As a resident of Denver, I feel like I need to take some ownership of incidents like this. I want to do something to make it better, even if the only things I can do seem small and inconsequential. I can apologize. On behalf of Denver, I’m sorry that these things happened. I’m sorry that Darrent Williams is dead. I’m sorry that Javon Walker has to live with this in his head for the rest of his life. I’m sorry that Julius Hodge was shot and for whatever effect that had on his career. I’m sorry that these guys all came to Denver and this shit happened. I’m sorry that these crimes haven’t been solved. I’m sorry that Denver is a surly adolescent of a city that can’t get its shit together and that we have gangs and assholes and so much ridiculous shit that Reggie Evans has to apply for a concealed weapon permit and Carmelo Anthony gets harassed at the convenience store.

What else can I do? I can support the Broncos and send the team all my “good football” vibes. I want them to have an awesome year — maybe we, the people of Denver, need them to have an awesome year, because we love them and want them to kick ass because it would honor Darrent Williams and running back Damien Nash, who died in February of natural causes (apparently heart related).

But really, I’m not sure how that helps. I love football, but I don’t think it’s some profound, meaningful thing. Maybe it can be, though, in situations like this. The Broncos are a football team, but this year, it’s about more than just being a football team. It’s about tragedy and pain and getting through it as best you can and hopefully, someday, healing and becoming something better than you were before.

I joke about it all the time, but it’s true — sports are a metaphor of life and usually it’s kind of bittersweet funny, like when Tadaguchi gets traded to the Phillies and I feel like the new boyfriend I thought was the one dumped me and I eat ice cream and dream about what might have been. Sometimes — thankfully, not as often — it’s horrible and tragic and ugly and leaves you feeling sad and alone.

I know that the Broncos aren’t my family or my friends. I can’t call them up on Saturday night when I want to go drinking or ask them if these pants make my butt look big (I wish!). But in a way, they are my family and they are my friends. When you love a team, their pain is your pain, even if it’s a diluted, tangential pain. Their loss is your loss, but their healing and power and ass kicking is yours, too, and when you’ve shared the pain and loss with them, the ass kicking is even sweeter. If the Broncos can come back from this and be better, so can the rest of us.

In that Denver Post article, Darrent Williams said, “That’s why I work every day to get better.” If you’re a fellow Broncos fan, this is our year to work every day to get better. We’re all family and friends and, as fans, it’s up to us to cheer on this team and honor D-Will and everybody we’ve ever loved by working every day to get better.

Another Foul for the NBA

Allegedly, an NBA referee has been betting on games over the past two seasons, including games he refereed, and might have made calls that affected the point spread in games on which he wagered. (Full story here.) The referee, who is referred to as a “veteran” and “he” in the article, also has alleged ties to organized crime.

NBA referee statistics are here. I don’t really know how to interpret this, but apparently the Jess Kersey numbers are interesting. He has a bit of a flair for the dramatic, not that ejecting the Spurs’ mascot from a game means he’s a dirty ref. He also was indicted on tax evasion charges in 1997 and pled guilty several days into his trial.

I’m curious to learn more about this, especially who the ref is and, hopefully, what games were affected. It’s not surprising news — I’ve had serious doubts about the quality of NBA officiating this past year, especially after that Nuggets playoff game I attended in April.

One bad ref doesn’t mean the NBA is dead, but if the allegations are true, it’s another symptom of serious illness. I hope David Stern makes a real effort to fix this, instead of giving us his usual bullshit.

ETA: In other NBA news, it looks like Joey Crawford was reinstated.

Bad Newz for Michael Vick

The Michael Vick indictment is up at The Smoking Gun. I know this doesn’t mean he’s guilty. I mean, we all know that an indictment does not equal guilt. I learned in my criminal law class that prosecutors could indict Mother Teresa if they wanted, and as a former criminal defense attorney who has seen her share of bogus-ass shit in the criminal justice system, I’m really serious about the whole “innocent until proven guilty” thing. I also try to avoid forming opinions on guilt without having all the facts.

So at this point, all I can really say is that if he is found guilty, I hope that, at a minimum, he never plays in the NFL again. Animal abuse is something that disgusts, upsets, and pisses me off more than just about anything in the world. It’s a cowardly and horrible thing to do and people who abuse animals are pussies of the highest order. It’s one of those things that inspires me to act but at the same time upsets me so much I can’t even stand to hear about it most of the time.

The indictment alleges, among other things, that:
1) Vick’s pal Peace (nice name) shot and killed a dog with a .22;
2) numerous other dogs were shot and killed;
3) numerous dogs were forced to participate in dog fights;
4) a dog who lost a fight was wet with water and electrocuted;
5) more than 10 dog fights were held on Vick’s property;
6) dogs were “tested” for fighting ability and the dogs who didn’t do well were killed by various methods, including hanging, drowning, and being slammed to the ground; and
7) 54 pit bulls, some of whom had what appeared to be fighting-related injuries, were found on Vick’s property, along with a rape stand and other dog fighting paraphernalia.

I just read the whole thing and shit, I don’t have anything else to say.

Kircus and the Polygraph

I learned three things in college that didn’t involve alcohol:

1. Correlation does not imply causation.
2. I don’t enjoy reading stuff that was written a long time ago.
3. How to cheat a lie detector test.

David Kircus of the Denver Broncos was charged with assault after getting into a fight at a suburban party last week. Although being at a party in the suburbs might be an indication of poor judgment, I can’t say I was bothered by the assault charge for two reasons. First, as a former criminal defense attorney, I know that charges don’t mean anything and people get charged with stuff they didn’t do all the time. Second, as a general rule, I don’t judge sports figures by their pending criminal matters. This is why I didn’t join the rest of Denver in booing Kobe Bryant — he was charged but never convicted and in my opinion, that doesn’t make him worthy of boos.

That said, there are exceptions. I’m trying to withhold judgment on Michael Vick, but if he had anything to do with dog fighting, I’d like to punch him in the face because nothing pisses me off more than animal abuse.

So anyway, I’m not worried about David Kircus and his assault charges. Apparently Mike Shanahan was worried, because when the case first broke, he said that if Kircus didn’t “handle himself the right way, he won’t be with us.” I guess that means that if Kircus was guilty of assault, he’d be kicked off the team. I can’t say I agree with that position, but okay.

So Kircus took a lie detector test to establish that he was just defending himself and, I suppose, not in the wrong. He passed. Now Mike Shanahan says that Kircus will remain on the team.

I don’t disagree with the result (Kircus stays on the team). That said, I don’t think that being guilty of assault would warrant being kicked off the team. Maybe it would, depending on the circumstances — I don’t know. I just find it bizarre that Shanahan apparently is saying that because Kircus passed the lie detector test, he’ll stay on the team.

If you google “how to cheat lie detector” (even without the quotes), you’ll get more than 346,000 results. There’s a wikiHow on the subject, which mentions the butt clenching technique I remember learning in college. I’m pretty sure my dog could spend some time on the internet and figure out how to pass a lie detector test.

So I don’t know that it makes sense for Shanahan to consider a lie detector the deciding factor. If he said that Kircus is on the team no matter what happens with the case, I’d be fine with that. If he said that whether Kircus stays on the team depends on what happens with the case, I’d be fine with that. Saying that the lie detector resolves the matter seems a little bizarre to me, but like I said, I’m fine with the outcome.

I suppose things are looking up in Denver when our athletes are sending guys to the hospital. At least they’re not getting shot, right?