To the Editor:
A little over three and a half years ago, after 45 years of living as a law-abiding citizen, I found myself in the Warwick police station having my mug shot and fingerprints taken after being arrested for assaulting two individuals with whom I had been having what the Rhode Island Supreme Court characterized as “an ongoing feud.” As the Supreme Court further stated, “The increasing enmity between the parties escalated into a brawl that occurred on July 11, 2008.” At the conclusion of a four-day jury trial in Kent County Superior Court, on Nov. 19, 2009, I was found guilty of one count of misdemeanor assault and not guilty of three counts of felony assault. Although I am a college graduate with many personal and professional achievements of which I am proud, I sullied my good name and reputation and am now a convicted criminal because of one very poor decision.
It is no exaggeration to say that the three years and seven months in which my case was pending were the most stressful of my entire life. This is so even though I, myself, was the victim of a vicious hate crime in 1998. Not only was I remorseful, embarrassed and ashamed of my actions, but I was also extremely fearful of what fare would befall me. As a gay man with a number of physical and medical challenges, I was worried sick about going to jail. The emotional upheaval that I experience during my years in the criminal justice system was immense, unrelenting and, at times, overwhelming. Crime has such far-reaching, injurious effects – on the victims and their families, on the defendants and their families, and on society at large. The familiar adage that “Crime doesn’t pay” took on a new, and very personal, meaning in my life.
I now realize that I utterly failed to respond in an appropriate way at the time of the incident. What I should have done that terrible night was to walk away from the situation instead of engaging in a confrontation. I should have called the Warwick Police instead of foolishly taking matters into my own hands. Vigilantism is always ill advised: people can end up hurt – or worse.
The lesson that I would like to share with the citizens of Warwick is this: When tempers flare, diffuse the tension by leaving the scene. If help or intervention is needed, immediately summon the police for assistance; do not take matters into your own hands. Otherwise, things may very swiftly go from bad to worse.
Colonel Stephen McCartney and the men and women of the Warwick Police Department are there to protect and serve us and they do an exemplary job. As the colonel stated in his online message to our community, “Warwick remains one of the safest cities in the nation to raise a family.” Please remember to let law enforcement do their job so we can keep it that way.