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Thursday, March 09, 2006

Good Punk-Bad Punk

I often catch myself generalizing our culture as though its members are a fairly vigilant group. I manage a television station's news web site, and whenever I create a survey asking users whether they think this former state trooper killed his wife or that guy deserved a particular sentence, the results are always in line. The guy definitely did it and death by firing squad tomorrow morning is far too late.

But then I also catch myself saying I think we're a forgiving lot. We truly allow many to get away with awful things, whether we're talking about folks we've dated or just good friends, or maybe even people we've never met, like O.J. Simpson.

I get a kick out of professional athletes who say things about troubled fraternity members like, "He's a good kid. He just made a bad decision."

You know what? Maurice Clarett and hundreds of others are not good kids. They made poor choices because that's what they do best. They buy guns and use them either to harm others or threaten to harm others. Maurice Clarett is not a good kid; he's been troublesome ever since he stepped foot on the campus of The Ohio State University (to my delight, I'll concede), and has been a problem ever since.

And in Louisville, Ky., there's a guy who, as a teenager, shot and killed his younger brother after a video-game dispute in 1999, was sentenced, then released on what some states call shock probation. This is something that people convicted of serious crimes can sometimes earn if a judge is convinced that once the scumbag spent a short time behind bars, he's definitely learned his lesson. Well, this kid, Aaron Hardin, was let out of prison, then committed some crimes, so was sent back to jail, then probated once more.

Well, guess who's in trouble again?

Yes, a prosecutor now wants Hardin's second shock probation revoked now that the punk is being accused of holding a woman down on the ground so his girlfriend can beat her up.

Yeah, I know, innocent until proven guilty. But there's a thing called the benefit of the doubt. I didn't get it much when I was a teenager because I didn't get good grades and was kind of the class clown. I was a good kid who made bad decisions. Behavioral risks included things like egging houses on Halloween, staying out past curfew and that awful white tuxedo I wore to prom.

They did not, however, include shooting anyone for any reason, let alone a 13-year-old brother who beat me on Atari.

So the curious portion of the community will await a judge's decision on whether to revoke Hardin's probation. Until then, just don't tell me he's a good kid.


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