Friday, April 9, 2010

DA Will Rule On Ben Roethlisberger Case Monday

On Monday Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger will learn whether or not he will be charged with the sexual assault of a college girl in Georgia.

The DA appears to have finished his investigation in to the situation and is ready to either file charges against Big Ben, or drop the case.
Ben allegedly assaulted a college girl in the bathroom of a Georgia nightclub, but has pled innocent to the accusations.

Steelers mini camp has already began but Ben has stayed away from the practice facility and plans to do so until this situation is resolved.

“The investigation, interviews and report in the Roethlisberger matter have completed and reviewed,” said District Attorney Fred Bright. “We will be announcing the decision in this case at a news conference to be held on Monday, April 12, 2010 at 2 p.m. in the Baldwin County Courthouse.”

Sports, Politics and Redemption

By Richard A. Lee

The list of public figures who have fallen from grace is a long one. The list of those who have successfully returned to the limelight is much shorter.

This week with Tiger Woods, we witnessed an extremely high-profile case of a public figure taking steps to repair his reputation and put his troubles behind him.

Tiger wasn’t perfect at his news conference on Monday. There were questions he did not answer fully, and his responses to others were vague. But overall the image he conveyed – which is the one that will remain in people’s minds – was a positive one. His performance at the news conference was well-planned and well-executed – in sharp contrast to the public relations disaster that ensued after he crashed his Cadillac Escalade into a fire hydrant and a tree outside his home on Thanksgiving weekend. He was calm and personable. He acknowledged his mistakes, and he appeared ready to move ahead and return to public life and the world of competitive golf.

Tiger Woods wasn’t the only public figure in search of redemption this week. Although he didn’t create the same media frenzy we saw in Augusta, former New York Governor Eliot Spitzer was making news again amid rumors he may run for political office – something that seemed like an impossibility when he resigned from office two years ago because of a prostitution scandal.

Spitzer’s comeback also appears to be well-orchestrated. About nine months after his resignation, he made his first foray back to the public arena by writing an op-ed article on financial regulation for The Washington Post. Two weeks later, he began writing a regular column for Slate and he soon expanded his resume by teaching at the City College of New York and lecturing at Harvard. More recently, Spitzer has been making the rounds of popular cable television talk shows.

According to New York Times reporter Jan Hoffman: “Eliot Spitzer’s swift return to the bully pulpit may say as much about us – a scandal-fatigued public’s diminishing expectations of its officials – as it does about Mr. Spitzer’s restless inability to stay gone.”

If Hoffman is right, then what message should we read into the reception former Newark Mayor Sharpe James received when he returned to New Jersey this week after serving time in a federal prison in Virginia? The Associated Press reported that James received “a hero's welcome” from a crowd of 300 cheering supporters with signs that proclaimed “no crime committed” and “Sharpe for Governor.”

Regardless of whether the individual in question is Sharpe James, Eliot Spitzer or Tiger Woods, there is real dilemma when a fallen public figure attempts to rehabilitate his or her public image.

On one hand, these individuals are at fault -– criminally, morally, or both. They have no one to blame but themselves, and they must face the consequences for their actions. On the other hand, they pay a price for their misdeeds –disgrace, embarrassment, loss of job, even time in jail. Do they deserve a second chance or should we continue to punish them?

I believe there are benefits to giving second chances – not just for those who receive them, but also for those of us who grant them. Had Tiger Woods never played a round of golf again, we would have been denied the opportunity to watch the man who may be the greatest golfer in history. If Eliot Spitzer returns to office, perhaps he can strengthen existing efforts to crack down on white-collar crime and securities fraud. If there are people in Newark happy to have Sharpe James back, can their enthusiasm be translated into something positive for the city?

Redemption is a term most often related to religious activities and beliefs, but it also can apply to public figures who fall from grace. Some redeem themselves; others do not. Some get a second chance and turn it into something positive. Others squander their opportunities. But if they never receive that second chance, there can be no hope for redemption.

# # #

Richard A. Lee is Communications Director of the Hall Institute of Public Policy — New Jersey. A former journalist and Deputy Communications Director for the New Jersey Gov. James McGreevey, he also teaches courses in media and government at Rutgers University, where he is completing work on a Ph.D. in media studies.

Surviving Black Miner in W. Virginia Speaks

By Paul Shepard
Melvin Lynch knew something was wrong when his ears popped. The air pressure in the West Virginia coal mine he was working in had changed violently, and Lynch knew that couldn't be good news.

Lynch escaped the mine, but his brother, Roosevelt, who was working farther below with 24 other miners, wasn't as fortunate. He is among those being mourned in the worst U.S. mine disaster in more than 20 years.

Rescue crews at the Upper Big Branch mine outside of Charleston are working their way through the mine owned by Massey Energy Co. in search of four other trapped miners.

While families for the 4 missing men are holding out some faint hope that their loved ones might be rescued, Melvin Lynch isn't optimistic about his brother's fate.

Knowing coal mining as one of the most hazardous jobs in the world, Lynch is pretty sure it took his brother's life.

"When you've been a coal miner for so long you understand the risk you have to take," Lynch said in comparing the risk to those who serve in the military.

I commend Lynch for his attitude but question whether there is a small piece of bitterness focused on the spotty safety record of Massey Energy Co., which operated the doomed Upper Big Branch mine.

Initial investigations of the mine disaster show the company leadership placed a premium on the company's bottom line and had been criticized for its safety standards. Massey Energy Co. leaders have denied that they put the health and safety of their workers at undue risk.

In 2008, though, a group of Massey shareholders sued the company's board members for "disregarding their fiduciary obligations," because safety violations contributed to preventable deaths among workers. The suit was eventually dismissed.

Meanwhile company leaders say Massey's operations have been safer than the industry average in 18 of the last 20 years and that federal regulators ruled their operations to be safe.

Do people have to die in coal mine, though?

Unfortunately, the answer is yes. While the mine operators are obliged to make mining as safe as possible, it is a risky way to make a living. Bus drivers crash in fatal accidents. Airline pilots suffer horrific air disasters. Foreign journalists die when entering war zones.

Lynch should demand answers as to whether the mine that claimed his brother was operating as safely as it should have been, but ultimately, he will have to resign himself to the knowledge that he has chosen a very dangerous way to put food on the table.

Man Defends Teens Arrested for Raping His 7-Year-Old Daughter

The father of a 7-year old girl who police say was gang raped is defending three of the men who were arrested for the crime. He claims that the three men tried to help his daughter leave the apartment, where she was allegedly attacked. The father also said that they were not allowed to help when other men held them at gun point.

The shocking story of the 7-year-old who was gang raped in a New Jersey housing project has turned the nation's attention to the state of public housing. The girl was allegedly being pimped out by her 15-year-old sister and then raped by as many as seven men and boys at a party that took place on March 28th.

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Police arrested 20-year-old Gregory Leary (pictured above) and held him on $500,000 dollars bail. He is one of the men being defended by the little girl's father. Leary's attorney argued that the crime never happened. He says that the girl was pressured in to making up the story.

"She was not raped, was not gang raped," Robin Lord, attorney for suspect Gregory Leary, said. "I'm 100 percent certain that the 7-year-old was not sexually assaulted. The allegations will not be substantiated by any forensic evidence."

"My son didn't rape anyone," Leary's mother, Robin David, told the media. "My son is a loving child and could never hurt anyone. I feel terrible about my child and anyone else's who is involved in this."

Police say that the girl's 15-year-old stepsister was paid to have sex at the party, who then paid the younger sister money to let the older men touch her. Police say that hospital treatment has revealed DNA evidence that a crime was committed. The five men and boys charged with the crime are aged 20, 19, 13, 14 and 17. Police are expected to make additional arrests in the case.

I appeared on CNN with Judge Glenda Hatchett to discuss this case, and it broke my heart. I happened to be traveling through New Jersey at the time of the call, so it was ironic that I happened to be so close to where this atrocity allegedly took place. I also thought about a case just a month ago about a New Jersey man who killed his own baby daughter by kidnapping her and throwing her in to the river. While these cases are extremely rare, there are millions of abused and neglected children all across America, and all of them need our help.

It breaks my heart when our children are not protected. Perhaps we should all realize that children need love and protection, even when they are not our own. If you don't have children, that doesn't mean you can't go to PTA meetings to advocate for children who have no one in the world who cares enough to help them. They say that it takes a village to raise a child, and in this case, the village failed this little girl miserably. We simply cannot allow this to happen.

Dr. Boyce Watkins is the founder of the Your Black World Coalition

DR. BOYCE: Why Aren’t Black Men Graduating From College?

Last week, the American Council on Education issued a report on the state of black males in the higher education system. The report reveals some interesting and disturbing trends. It turns out that black men are graduating from college at a rate which lags significantly behind other ethnic groups. When determining graduation probabilities over a six-year period, black males were found to have a graduation rate of 35 percent. This compares with rates of 59 percent, 46 percent and 45 percent for white males, hispanic males and black women, respectively. In other words, black men are a little more than half as likely to finish college when compared to their white male counterparts.

I have been a black man for my entire life now, and I’ve taught at the college level for the past 17 years. So, perhaps I can shed some light on the nature of these problems and how we might work to solve them. Some of the factors are institutional and some are cultural, so prepare to be offended by at least one of the things I have to say:

RELATED: Why Aren’t Minorities Graduating From College?

1) Most American universities refuse to hire or retain African American professors, including many HBCUs: If your professors look like you, you are more likely to relate to that individual and enjoy the class. When I went to The University of Kentucky, Indiana University and The Ohio State University (where I earned my PhD), I didn’t see one single professor who looked like me (and I took A LOT of classes). This made for an incredibly awkward and damn near traumatic educational experience. When I first noticed institutions like Morehouse College presenting images of black males in the front of the classroom, I was envious after realizing what I’d been missing. Rather than finding excuses for firing or not hiring black professors, most universities would be well-advised to stop lying to themselves and become serious about diversity. Yes, black professors are out there to hire if you are looking for them, but many academic departments find a reason to believe that they are not qualified. Just look at the experiences of myself, Cornell West and Michael Eric Dyson as cases in point. Each of us has received significant resistance in our careers because our work is connected to the black community. Our stories are just the tip of the iceberg, since there are thousands of black professors who’ve gone through the exact same experience when dealing with the entrenched racism of academia. Many HBCUs are not immune to this trend, as most of them don’t have very many African American professors (Don’t believe me? Go to the Computer Science Department or Business School at any random HBCU and count the number of African American professors).

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Video: Official: Teams Will Begin Entering Mine Again