Right to the Point (10/15/09)


Inadequate justice is an injustice

Oct. 15, 2009

Almost three weeks ago, Swiss authorities arrested director Roman Polanski while he was on his way to the Zurich Film Festival. He is currently in jail awaiting extradition back to the United States. Polanski’s arrest stirred up a hornet’s nest of outrage from his supporters.

Polanski jumped bail more than 31 years ago to avoid jail time for admittedly raping a 13-year-old girl. He fled to France to avoid extradition. Although a fugitive, Polanski continues to direct movies, winning an Academy Award for “The Pianist” in 2002.

USA Today points out, “If Polanski were not a celebrity, he’d have few defenders. What he allegedly did is indefensible: He plied a 13-year-old with champagne, slipped her part of a hypnotic-sedative tablet, then raped her.”

Since Polanski is a world-renowned director, many in Hollywood defend him. Because the attack happened long ago and he is now an old man, his followers want the matter dropped. The fact a violent crime occurred and that he has been on the run since 1978 does not bother them.

New Horizons

Closer to home, as the Williston Observer reported last month, New Horizons in Sports will be shutting down retail operations following charges of embezzlement by Patrick Taze Huntley. The former employee allegedly took more than $44,000 over a four-year period.

Tim Simard reported that because of New Horizons’ debt, it will close its athletic clothing and equipment retail store — keeping only its embroidery and screen-printing business open.

Co-owner Nancy Johnson said her company used to employ up to 18 workers, but after the company downsizes, it will retain only two or three employees.

Rosemary Altea

This past summer, former bookkeeper Denise Hall pleaded guilty to charges of wire fraud and filing a false tax return. The wife of a Manchester police officer admitted embezzling up to $200,000 from Rosemary Altea, a best-selling author, spiritual teacher, medium and healer who lives in southern Vermont.

Hall’s actions devastated Altea’s life savings and shattered her trust. While Hall pleaded guilty to taking a portion of the money, a forensic accountant hired by Ms. Altea calculated that she is missing about $1.6 million. In addition, many items were missing from Altea’s home (where her office is), but due to a misunderstanding, the police did not investigate any theft.

Earlier this month, I interviewed Altea as she cleaned out her house. Because of debt, she is forced to sell her home in Dorset and is permanently moving to Florida. Additionally, Rosemary said she has to sell her healing center located near Rutland.

Ms. Altea said that Hall’s crimes would affect many people who are already suffering. Among others, her healing organization assists the dying, the terminally ill, and those who have lost children. The charity will be unable to help as many Vermonters once she leaves.

Apologists not needed

The sad fact is that apologists for criminals are everywhere. To them, the judicial system should be lenient to offenders, especially if the criminal had difficult life experiences.

Oftentimes, it seems like the criminals receive more sympathy than the injured party. Even worse, some — like Polanski — become heroes. While that may be acceptable to some in society, it has no place in the courtroom.

When criminals receive inadequate punishment, victims have greater difficulty rebuilding their lives. Often, it takes years before they make a full recovery. Some never recover — the physical and emotional scars accompany them for the rest of their days.

While the justice system should contain an element of mercy, due process requires perpetrators serve appropriate sentences. Otherwise, the victims will suffer once again — the second time via the judicial process.

Epilogue

The young girl Roman Polanski raped, Samantha Geimer, is now a grown woman. She has long since forgiven him. His sexual assault, however, undoubtedly hurt her psychologically.

For Williston’s New Horizons, Patrick Taze Huntley’s alleged actions are causing the business to be dramatically reduced. In these difficult economic conditions, the timing could not be much worse for those laid off.

According to Rosemary Altea, Denise Hall’s sentencing is scheduled for Nov. 23 in Burlington. The Rutland Herald reported that Hall faces maximum sentences of 20 years in prison for wire fraud and three years for tax fraud. Altea is concerned Hall will receive only a light sentence.

Rosemary told me that during the police investigation, a Vermont state police officer informed her, “This is Vermont. We don’t put people in prison in Vermont.”

Let us hope for justice’s sake — and all those Rosemary Altea tirelessly serves — he is wrong.

 

Michael Benevento is a former Air Force fighter jet weapon systems officer. He has a bachelor’s degree in Military History and a master’s in International Relations. Mike resides in Williston with his wife Kristine and their two sons, Matthew and Calvin.