I was blown away. No kidding. I couldn't believe the media was actually reporting on this:
No Hate Crime Charge in Torture Case
By SHAYA TAYEFE MOHAJER, AP
Posted: 2007-09-12 18:21:09
Filed Under: Crime News
BIG CREEK, W.Va. (Sept. 12) - Authorities decided Wednesday not to pursue hate crime charges in the kidnapping and weeklong torture of a black woman, instead going after the suspects, who are white, on state charges that carry stiffer penalties.
While federal civil rights or state hate crime charges remain an option, a state kidnapping count that carries a sentence of up to life in prison will provide the best chance for successful prosecution, officials said."
As a practical matter, sentenced to life, what else can be done?" U.S. Attorney Charles T. Miller told The Associated Press.
Six people face charges, including kidnapping, sexual assault and lying to police in the torture of Megan Williams, 20, at a remote hillside home in Big Creek.
State hate crime charges, which carry a sentence of 10 years, could come later, prosecutor Brian Abraham said. State sexual assault charges carry a penalty up to 35 years in prison.
The woman's captors forced her to eat rat droppings, choked her with a cable cord and stabbed her in the leg while calling her a racial slur, according to criminal complaints. They also poured hot water over her, made her drink from a toilet, and beat and sexually assaulted her during a span of about a week, the documents say.
Williams was not a random target, prosecutor Brian Abraham said Wednesday. She had a "social relationship" with one of the suspects, he said.
The Associated Press generally does not identify suspected victims of sexual assault, but Williams and her mother, Carmen Williams, agreed to release her name. Carmen Williams said she wanted people to know what her daughter had endured.
At one point, a suspect cut the woman's ankle with a knife and used the N-word in telling her she was victimized because she is black, according to the complaints.
It wasn't until an anonymous tip led Logan County sheriff's deputies to the property on Saturday that her ordeal ended, authorities said. She limped toward the deputies, her arms outstretched as she cried, "Help me," officials said.
Williams remained hospitalized Wednesday in Charleston. The hospital declined to release any information about her condition.
The victim had a previous relationship with Bobby Brewster, one of the six in custody, Abraham said. He was charged in July with domestic battery and assault after a domestic dispute involving the same woman."
She obviously had some sort of social relationship," Abraham said. "That is based on the fact that she was present at his residence on a prior date."The suspects have arrest records going back several years, according to records from Logan County Magistrate Court, and Abraham said he had "some familiarity with all those individuals."Since 1991, police have filed 108 criminal charges against the six.
Brewster's mother, Frankie Brewster, 49, faced the most serious charges among them. She was charged in 1994 with first-degree murder but pleaded guilty to manslaughter and wanton endangerment. She was released from prison in 2000 after serving five years in the death of an 84-year-old woman, court records show.
In Williams' case, Frankie Brewster is charged with kidnapping, sexual assault, malicious wounding and giving false information during a felony investigation.
Bobby Brewster, 24, also of Big Creek, is charged with kidnapping, sexual assault, malicious wounding and assault during the commission of a felony.
In March, Brewster was accused in criminal complaints of attacking his mother with a machete at her home, according to court records. The outcome of those charges _ domestic assault, brandishing a deadly weapon and obstructing an officer _ was not immediately clear.
Danny J. Combs, 20, of Harts, is charged with sexual assault and malicious wounding. Karen Burton, 46, of Chapmanville, was charged with malicious wounding, battery and assault during the commission of a felony.
Burton's daughter, Alisha Burton, 23, and George A. Messer, 27, both of Chapmanville, are charged with assault during the commission of a felony and battery. She previously faced charges of assault during the commission of a felony and battery; in May, she was accused of striking Messer with a shovel and smashing the window of a woman's car. The charges are pending.
All six remained in custody Wednesday in lieu of $100,000 cash bail each. Bobby Brewster is scheduled to appear before a Logan County Circuit Court judge on Monday to be arraigned on the kidnapping charge, according to court records. A date for his mother's appearance on the kidnapping charge has not yet been set.
Public defender Dwyane Adkins, appointed to represent Bobby Brewster, and public defender Betty Gregory, appointed to represent Karen Burton, declined to comment. The other defendants' court-appointed lawyers were either in hearings or did not immediately return telephone calls Wednesday.
Here's the thing about it that kills me:
AOL normally lets you comment on stories they post. Yesterday when I was reading articles about this ordeal, naturally, I had a few choice words about it. But, hmmm...I could click on other articles--articles about Britney Spears at the VMAs, Michigan and Notre Dame's completely f*cked up football seasons, and just about anything else you could (and wouldn't want to) think of, you could comment on. Not so with the racially-charged article that depicts whites in a negative light.
Then today, once I finally see an article on AOL I could comment on relating to this incident, I see tons of other comments basically denying that what happened to that woman was a hate crime. Hmmm. Let's see if we can guess what race the majority of people who claim to feel that way are! Well, it was an entirely different story a few months ago when some blacks attacked a white couple in Knoxville, wasn't it, Whitey? Only in that case, there was pretty much nothing to suggest that race was a motivation for the attack whereas here you only have the torturers saying race was a motivation.
Oh, and wait for the kicker: the only article about this case on AOL that I found accepting comments limits comments to 500 characters. Well, since they are trying to prevent race wars over there and that's so clearly not what I'm about, here's what I'd have to say about it:
It's kind of funny how when black people do something to white people, whites want to focus on race...but when whites do something to blacks, all of a sudden race shouldn't matter. When those blacks in Knoxville raped and killed a white couple out on a date, white people were yelling that was a hate crime and why wouldn't anyone call it that when people call crimes like that against blacks hate crimes. The difference in how whites (and Asians and Latinos) and blacks view and talk about these kinds of crimes demonstrate that race matters to all of us more than some of us want to admit, and also shows the way we stick up for our own races without realizing it. To whites, it's okay for blacks to look like the bad guys based on race but not for white people to. When a white person commits a crime, the argument is, "Oh, what does the race matter? It's just horrible either way!!" Yet anytime a black person does something, their race has something to do with it.
This was obviously a racial issue. You have about 6, maybe more (information about two people possibly driving her to the place where she was held and tortured pending), whites on one black person who is being tortured and degraded, clearly because of race since they used racial slurs and basically told her they were doing this to her because she was black. The reason why you focus on race in crimes like these, whether the victim is black or white, is because sometimes people really are victimized because of their race. Therefore, you have laws to protect people for crimes based on race. If all we really cared about was a crime being a crime, then we wouldn't distinguish between murder, rape, child molestation, kidnapping and so on. There are different causes and different kinds of crimes.
Throughout our nation's history, many awful things have happened just because people are different races, and the point of calling some crimes today "hate crimes" is to acknowledge that history and the fact that people are still victimized because of race. Sorry if some of you don't want to face that whenever the people doing the victimizing are of your background, or because you simply don't want to believe severe racism still exists. Even if she knew one of the terrorists, race still was one of the factors.
To be frank, when we keep reading and hearing about stuff like this, I don't understand how anyone can think that a black person isn't justified in feeling like he or she hates white people. And I know that not all whites are racist, and certainly not all whites do anything like this to blacks. But this kind of thing is our history, yet it still happens. How could you not understand why some of us try to speak to whites as little as possible, try to be around whites as little as possible, don't trust whites or worry about our safety around whites? I think the same arguments could be made by white people for how every time you turn on the news, you hear that a black person has done this or that. The bottom line is we all can do awful things. Virginia Tech made us aware that it's not always just black or white men.
It just seems like when it's someone who looks like us who is the wrongdoer, we want to disclaim a connection. And we want to do that because we feel so bound up by race in this country, because we do identify so much with race and other people of our race, whether we realize it or want to admit it. And then when the victim looks like us, we get angry for everyone who looks like us and we make everyone who doesn't look like us the bad guys. So if we're all going to look at the news, racially identify with victims and then ask "Now do you see why people like us hate people like you?"...well, it's going to happen, no matter what, but what does that mean for America? I think that means we're missing a key similarity between blacks and whites...and maybe among all races. What would be great is if we could turn that distrust of "others" around by truly seeing we're all in the same nation and, if anything, it maybe should be us against the world. Instead, we have about four or five different countries in one, more if you want to look beyond race and ethnicity to include the poor, the gay, etc.
And if it were me--if I were a white person looking at this story--I'd feel helpless. I would recognize that there were black people out there lumping me in with those 6 whites who did that, who would look at me on the street the day of reading that article and the day after with distrust and wonder if I might physically hurt him or her. In short, I'd read that and be like, "Oh, shit!" Stories like these can't help but bring racial tensions to the forefront. And this is all to go without saying that I'd react like this mainly if I were a white person with social consciousness, who knew how to face the truth about the US.
And, honestly, I think more whites than we realize have some semblance of social consciousness, but they just bury it because some of these things are too painful to admit or face. I think those are the kind of whites who quickly say, "I don't think this is about race." Because they don't want it to be about race, because they know, deep down, that they are going to be getting even more of the cold shoulder than they normally receive from some blacks they encounter. They know they will get the black counterpart to the looks whites give blacks, particularly black males, and they know that can be painful if you're not an insensitive, jaded individual such as myself. They know they will look like the bad guys even though they, in particular, haven't necessarily done anything, and they know that they--or know someone who does--do that to blacks all the time. Trust me, they know that much. They just try not to think about it. Denying racism, or admitting racism but denying its severity, is a defense mechanism for these people.
Ultimately, I'm just sick of opening Internet Explorer and seeing crazy celebrities and the sickest "laypeople" happenings ever. The crazy celebrities were enough to make me completely lose interest in working in the entertainment industry, and the sick laypeople are just about enough to make me never want to leave my room.