Friday, June 27, 2008
In Regard To Thomas Banks (An Open Letter To Judge Mel I. Dickstein)
Fair comment and criticism
Summary: Judge Mel I. Dickstein gave Thomas A. Banks approximately 7 days in jail for disorderly conduct instead of 90 days, and a short while later a "Thomas Banks" was involved in an incident with a bunch of gang members and a TEC 22 pistol. I believe it's the same Thomas Banks who got a "slap on the wrist" sentence from this judge. Click below for his campaign website.
Dear Honorable Judge Mel I. Dickstein,
Defendant Thomas A. Banks is near and dear to my heart, because I submitted a community impact statement about him on May 1, 2008, and it was the first time I'd ever submitted such a statement...
Since then, I've submitted dozens of statements about various defendants. I imagine the prosecutors now say things like, "We don't have any community impact statements about this guy...well, except for one from Johnny Northside, of course."
Why don't more people submit community impact statements? Because we are held hostage by crime on the North Side, and it scares the [expletive] out of most people to confront it so directly. Why are we held hostage? Much of it has to do with the consistently puny sentences these offenders receive in court for stuff like openly selling crack, not to mention many inexplicable dismissals for "discretion."
But Thomas, he was my first. Thomas was...special. My spunky, spirited Thomas committed disorderly conduct at 3119 4th Street North, a building with a long and troubled history rather like Banks, himself, has a long and troubled history. That was Thomas for you!
Sir, on May 15, 2008--after receiving my heartfelt statement about what this guy was doing to our community and how we needed a geographic ban on him--you gave Banks a 90 day sentence, with 83 days stayed, 5 days credited. I assume Banks did two more days in jail and then was let loose to walk the streets as a free man.
(Oh, and let's not forget the $50 fine. Way to break his gonads, Your Honor)
Seriously, this is hardly what I was hoping for, Your Honor, when I stuck my neck way the heck out and submitted that community impact statement. I had hoped that by doing so, and by being public about it, and by hopefully living a few more months without being rubbed out, I might instill courage in others to submit similar community impact statements.
Last Saturday, a guy named "Thomas Banks" was part of a group of self-identified gang members caught with a TEC 22 pistol at West Broadway and Irving. I wrote all about the incident in a blog entry (click here, Your Honor) and it includes a picture of a TEC 22 pistol.
Pretty serious piece of hardware, wouldn't you agree?
(Yes, I know, there's a bunch of other stuff in that particular blog entry, including my scathing review of "The Interpreter" with Nicole Kidman and Sean Penn. I'm sure you understand such freewheeling writing is standard for blogs, Your Honor)
Back to my main point:
If Thomas Banks had been before your bench and received the full 90 day sentence on May 15, he would still be cooling his heels in jail instead of hanging out with a bunch of homeys, one of them packing a stolen TEC 22 pistol, and wearing T-shirts broadcasting their gang affiliation and--oh, here's the rich irony--support for a gang member in jail.
They must have produced those t-shirts quickly, Your Honor, because (with deference as I make my pointed point, sir) judging by the sentence you handed down to Thomas A. Banks, those gang members don't stay in jail very long!
Sir, I will be watching your future actions in regard to sentencing offenders. I will be watching your election efforts, as well. I will be watching with interest and, as you correctly suspect, I will probably be commenting.
But, of course, it's not just you, Your Honor.
Sir, you are not the only judge on the bench who hands down "slap on the wrist" sentences. In fact, since you gave Thomas A. Banks almost a week in jail instead of two days, you are practically a "hanging judge" compared to some others.