Well, that certainly hit a sore spot. Last week, I highlighted the 8th District's decision in State v. Ollison, affirming a 3½ year sentence for a 76-year-0ld Korean War vet who'd fired a shotgun at someone who'd been harassing him, hitting the "victim" in the back of the leg with three small pellets, resulting in injury so grievous that the latter's medical treatment consisted of EMS coming out and telling him to rub dirt on it, then have his mommy spray something on it when he got home. Judge Sean Gallagher reluctantly agreed with the result, but wrote a concurrence blistering the prosecutor's office for not offering Ollison a deal.
So the Cleveland Plain Dealer got wind of this (maybe from my blog -- hey, it could happen!), and the Metro section of Monday morning's PeeDee features the headline, "Appellate judge is critical of charges," and goes into the whole thing.
The response from the prosecutor's office is interesting. First, the office spokesman tells us that Ollison was offered a deal, but turned it down. The deal would have dropped the three-year gun spec to a one-year spec; what's not explained is that this would have also involved a plea to a third-degree felony, so Ollison would have faced a minimum two years in prison.
But the big guns are hauled out by County Prosecutor Bill Mason hisself, who tells us in no uncertain terms:
"This office takes gun violence very seriously. In this judge's opinion, it is OK to shoot an unarmed man in the back. Apparently, he would like this office to ignore the law."
Well, this makes sense, I suppose. Judge Gallagher doesn't live far from me, and we occasionally run into each other, the last time about a month ago right before the Rego's grocery shop at Kamm's Corner closed. While discussing the relative merits of the store's produce offerings, Gallagher told me that not only did he not have a problem with people shooting other people in the back, but confided that, as far as he was concerned, wife-beating and selling heroin to schoolkids were "no big deal."
Sure he did.
Here's the thing, Bill. Harry Ollison had spent three quarters of a century on this mortal coil without ever getting in trouble with the law. He had served his country in Korea. He did a dumb thing, firing a shotgun at a convicted felon who, by all accounts, including the trial judge, was harassing and threatening him. He fired at a sufficient distance that the "wounds" he inflicted were inconsequential. In a just world, the worst crime he could be convicted of would have been discharging a firearm into a public nuisance. Harry suffers from congestive heart failure, and probably doesn't have more than a few years left.
Your office insisted that he spend at least two of them in prison. If you can come up with a reason for that, if you can explain to the people of this county why they should feel safer now that septuagenarian Harry Ollison is behind bars, we'd love to hear it. But the fact that you feel compelled to take cheap shots at judges, especially one who is so soft on crime that he spent eight years working for your office, tells me that explanation isn't forthcoming anytime soon.