Monday, April 17, 2006

Dear Yavapai County Prosecutor James Landis

As I was writing my letter to Arizona Senate President Ken Bennett, I realized that there was no way I was going to be able to sleep without asking you some questions that have been weighing heavily on my mind since reading about the case on April 4. Some of the statements and decisions you made regarding this case are quite troubling to me and many others as well. I was hoping that you might be able to explain more clearly what you meant so that we can better understand how you arrived at the decisions you made in this case. So I guess I will start with the statement you made that really got my stomach churning:

… the case likely would have been treated differently if the victims were girls or if there was evidence that the defendants were homosexual.

This statement has so many implications that it simply boggles the mind. I am having a hard time understanding why gender and sexual orientation would even factor into how this case is handled. The bottom line is that 18 young boys were terribly violated by two boys in positions of power. Whether the boys that committed this crime were straight or gay should NOT matter and should not determine how serious the crime is. Whether the children who were victimized were little boys or little girls also should have absolutely no bearing in the case.

If I am way off base here please help me understand why. I know I am not the only one having a terrible time with how you handled this case and some of the statements you made. From many people’s vantage points this has the foul smell of unequal justice.

Specific immediate thoughts I had after reading the above statement you made:

  1. Now that you have admitted that there is specific criteria that affects how you approach a case, did you just conveniently leave out one more criteria that affected how you handled this case? Did the fact that Clifton Bennett is the son of Arizona Senate President Ken Bennett also play a role in your decision to treat him and the other perpetrator with kid gloves?
  2. And since you stated that if the victims had been girls you would have treated this case differently, do you believe these 18 young boys were less violated, degraded, and humiliated than girls would have been? Do you consider these 18 young boys’ pain and agony less real and unbearable because they are boys? And how about the parents of the victims, is their anger, pain, and feelings of betrayal at the hands of your office overblown?
  3. Now that you have admitted that the sexual orientation of the person committing the crime is taken into consideration, does that mean that if a homosexual had committed this exact same crime, you would have prosecuted this case with full force and righteous, fist-waving fury? Would it have been lock up that evil homo and throw away the key and not the one count of aggravated assault that you offered to Clifton and Kyle, who I assume you thought were just being mischievous heterosexual boys?
  4. And if it had been 2 homosexuals that had committed this crime, do you think the victims would feel more violated than they do now. Do you think the parents of the victims are breathing sighs of relief because their children were violated by two straight bullies rather than two gay bullies?
  5. And if, as you say, the sexual orientation of the perpetrator and the gender of the victim matter, does race or social status matter too – only in a more hush hush, wink wink kind of way? I mean, where do you draw the line? What if the victim had been the sexually active town hussy? What if the accused had been an illegal Mexican immigrant, or a poor black teenager, or a Native American, or just simply poor white trash?
  6. And does the sexual orientation of the victim matter? What if the victims were gay or perceived to be gay? Would you have taken that into consideration too? Would you have minimized their pain and sense of violation also? Would you have even bothered to prosecute the case?
  7. And just wondering, did you try and put yourself in the shoes of any of the 18 parents? Did you ask yourself how you would feel if your young son had broomsticks or flashlights shoved up his rectum at camp by two of the camp leaders? Would you be pleased with how this case was handled?

I am sorry, but I cannot help but join the growing crowd of people horrified by how you handled this case. And as the mother of a gay son, I feel a heightened sense of fear and revulsion since you obviously apply the law with caveats, i.e., Gay? Straight? Girl? Boy? Son of Senator? etc. I cannot help but wonder how you would have approached this case had it been my son (God forbid) accused of this crime. I now know he would not have had a snowball’s chance in hell, in your eyes he already has two strikes against him. He is gay and his parents are nobodies.

This whole thing just sends chills up my spine. It should not matter who commits the crime or who the victim is. Justice should be blind. Unfortunately you have demonstrated that you are not. You have re-victimized these 18 young boys and their families. You have violated your obligation to uphold the law. You have violated the core principles upon which our country was founded. Justice was not served in this case.

Not so respectfully,

Seething Mom


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