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Keeping his eye on the news and offering commentaries and insights on what is happening in Oakland County, around the world, on the tube and in the news.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

News that bothers (and it's not Monica)

It is a difficult story to understand because it seems so unfair.
Man runs down another man, killing him, while driving drunk. And not just a little drunk, but quite drunk (not super drunk, we're talking .12-plus, not 0.08 or 0.30.) 
He goes to jail -- for 30 days.
In Oakland County, it would be at least months, maybe years, if the driving was bad enough.
But Donte' Stallworth was not in Oakland County, and, many readers have noted, he is a rich NFL star.
And this story sickens me. I'll try to give him the benefit of a doubt.
I try not to get riled up by the news, especially political or crime reaction stories. But you want at least for the system to pretend to be fair.
I don't know what happens in other drunken driving causing death cases. If 30 days is standard in Florida, then OK, that's fine. It's what anyone would get, then that's the law or at least the way the law is practiced.
But in Oakland County, if you drink and drive and kill someone, look for the hammer. Juries are sympathetic, judges are outraged, and prosecutors are out for blood. No one in the media is complaining, and defense attorneys are generally outgunned by very efficient police forces who know how to gather and collect the evidence to prove the allegation.
Some examples from cases I've covered this decade:
***Thomas Wellinger: The former executive ended up pleading to charges that will keep him in prison for 19 to 30 years. He killed a mother and her two young sons in Farmington Hills, speeding down a road improperly in a middle turn lane and driving over their car. He was at something like a .35 BAC. (Keep in mind, he didn't even get the 28-year minimum handed to the illegal immigrant who drove his car over an off-duty police officer on a motorcycle, killing him.)
***Dean Lee Rector: The former auto worker received a minimum 25 years for running red lights for five miles from Rochester Hills into Troy, passing people at speeds of 90 mph-plus before slamming into a woman's SUV and killing her. He was not drunk; but was high on cocaine (he didn't help himself with, as Assistant Oakland County Prosecutor Rob Novy characterized, by claiming cocaine fairies had left the powder outside his car, telling a jury he would never buy the stuff to get high. He just found it and because his back hurt, he snorted it. Judge Gene Schnelz doesn't like liars, especially the part about the throttle being stuck for five miles).
***Eugene Wright: He left a work party drunk and drove for miles on 3 wheels after striking a couch and flattening his tire. Still going, he finally clipped a car and forced it off of I-75, crashing and killing an 80-year-old Fraser woman, a mother to 20 grown children. He pled and was happy to receive 17-and-a-half years minimum.
***Sandeep Sabapathy: The one-time medical student from Troy was lucky to get only a 5-to-15 year sentence on a manslaughter charge after a jury declined to convict on a charge of murder (the judge found that stories about beer pong and partying were too prejudicial). He killed a friend when he tried to drag race a friend on a snowy night after returning back to a party following a Coney Island snack.
What I will give Stallworth is that he did stop at the scene and admit what he did. Except for Wellinger, who never stood a chance and had an entire region wanting to lynch him, these guys tried to weasel out of it. Of course, if one could arrange for a 30-day sentence then there's not much more to weasel. 
The years of home confinement and lifetime driving suspension will be interesting, down the road. Let's hope he's at least sincere about his regret and learning his lesson.
In court what amazed me was the stance of victim taken by drunken driving offenders, put off because they did not mean to kill who they killed or hurt who they hurt.
And if the victim's family (in their private settlement) pushed for the 30-day sentence as a trade off for a payday, then I really feel sorry for the victim and sickened by whole thing.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

what scare me about Oakland County Jail... they leave their inmates inside for months at a time without seeing daylight. This is inhumane as well as a hygene problem. Even Quantamo Bay inmates can get fresh air. But Bouchard is looking for some votes for the Govenors position. So it looks good to keep these prisoners held in the bowels of OCJ. Mind you these prisioner have not been to trial yet.

June 22, 2009 at 9:16 AM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What prison did Thomas Wellinger, the Farmington Hills man go to?

August 11, 2009 at 2:54 PM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Does anyone know what prison Thomas Wellinger, the Farmington Hills resident went to? Thanks for your help.

August 11, 2009 at 2:55 PM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Please email me if you know what prison Thomas Wellinger, from Farmington Hills went to. My email address is

August 11, 2009 at 3:09 PM 

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