Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Woman Gets 8 Years Prison for Saying Black Men Kidnapped Her

  by Dr. Boyce Watkins, Your Black World

You may remember Bonnie Sweeten out of Philadelphia from about a year ago.  Sweeten is the woman who made a fake call to police from the trunk of a Cadillac, claiming that she’d been kidnapped along with her daughter.  The truth?  They’d actually taken a trip to Disneyland.

A judge put an end to Sweeten’s antics, at least for a while.  She has been sentenced to 100 months in federal prison, equivalent to eight years, four months.   U.S. District Judge William H. Yohn Jr. made things very clear for Sweeten.
“You’ve done great wrong, and you have to pay the price,” Yohn said. Yohn called Sweeten a “master con woman,” and guessed that she’d committed 2,000 acts of fraud over a five year period.

“I’m very ashamed of myself,” Sweeten said.

Sweeten’s actions not only initiated an unnecessary manhunt for innocent black men, she also stole over a million dollars between 2004 and 2009.  Roughly $640,000 was taken out of law firm accounts, and another $280,000 was taken from the account of an elderly relative.  She forged a drivers license, court order and passport, and also convinced her second husband that she’d graduated from law school.
Sweeten was finally caught in 2009 when she spent money on an expensive house, car and in-vitro fertilization.

There isn’t much to say about Bonnie Sweeten other than the fact that she is clearly a sociopath.  It’s hard to imagine that she has any remorse for the harm she’s caused her human beings, and it’s very difficult to feel sorry for her.   What’s also interesting is that Sweeten the con artist was smart enough to know that she lives in a society where it’s easy to convince others that a black man did something harmful to her.  She’s not the first, nor the last, person to make such a claim.

Sweeten’s actions are a reminder of the collective image problem shared by black men all throughout America, as media continues to portray us as entertainers, athletes and criminals.  This misrepresentation spills over to impact law-abiding, normal, hard-working black men who rarely stand a chance when compared with the presumed innocence of kind, sweet-looking white women.  When it was all said and done, Bonnie Sweeten, the con artist, was able to use America’s racially-biased perceptions against it.  I shudder to think about how many innocent black men throughout history have served long prison sentences because of the lies of all the Bonnie Sweetens of history.

While there is plenty of reason to be angry at what happened in the Bonnie Sweeten case, there are also plenty of reasons to celebrate.  The same society that is racist enough to believe Bonnie Sweeten’s story was also the one that investigated the holes in that story and arrested her.  Thirty years ago, Sweeten likely would not have gotten caught.   Also, I dare say that if she were in the south, she would have gotten away with her crime with flying colors.  But the fact that there are officers who truly believe that justice is color blind gives us hope that there is a better day for our justice system in the future.

 Dr. Boyce Watkins is a Professor at Syracuse University and founder of the Your Black World Coalition. To have Dr. Boyce commentary delivered to your email, please click here.

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