They’re children, not gang members

Sandusky Register Staff
Oct 2, 2013
Thirteen teenagers — children — are charged with participating in criminal gang activity, aggravated rioting, burglary and vandalism for their alleged actions during a brawl inside a hallway at a Fox Run Trail apartment building last month.

There are photos of the boys with their shirts off, throwing their hands in the air.

The Sandusky Police Department and prosecutors determined it was a “gang turf war.”

There’s a video clip from a surveillance camera, scaring the good people of Erie County into an anti-young-black-male frenzy.

Welcome to “The Erie County Threat Matrix.” It’s a place where they think if they repeat words like gang, youth, assailants and dangerous — often enough — residents will be too scared to realize Erie County is preparing to send up their children.

It would be better if we could see this for what it really was: A fight between teenagers and about a dozen men that started over a basketball game. It resulted in the vandalism of a hallway. There were no serious injuries.

But 13 city teens are charged with participating in criminal gang activity, a second-degree felony, and aggravated rioting. It was just a fight, not much different from the schoolyard fights that have occurred every day for generations.

The charges that resulted can bring serious prison sentences, however, which will have serious impact on the children involved, diminishing their opportunities to build a normal life. For what? Actions that really don’t deserve any charges more serious than a misdemeanor assault, disorderly conduct or vandalism.

It’s ridiculous.

There’s no precedent in Erie County for the kind of charges filed against these kids.

The Hell’s Angels and the Outlaws operated here for years. No threat warnings went out. Erie County did not go to DefconFive, and no members of those groups were ever charged with participating in criminal gang activity or aggravated rioting for a brawl.

There was never an effort to address the so-called “gang problem,” even after the murder of David Hartlaub by members of the Hell’s Angels in 1988.

So why are officials handling these children differently?

Could it be “gangs” are not the issue?

Every Bike Week, each year, we get an influx of gangs sporting their colors on the back of their vest. These gangs have been responsible for brawls, other criminal activities and murder. Yet the county never addressed any gang problem in those situations.

Is it simply the complexion of the gangs has changed? If not, then why now? Why these kids? Why bring such serious charges against kids over an incident that resulted in no serious injuries, resulted in only minor property damage, didn’t involve a firearm, and put no innocent people in danger?

I’ve witnessed plenty of what can be considered “gang turf wars” in parking lots of bars throughout the city, and the gangsinvolved were not always comprised of black males. Yeah, surprise — young and old caucasian males are known to “brawl” as well, yet I can only remember black people being charged with aggravated rioting.

Has a caucasian ever been charged with aggravated rioting in Erie County, or are charges like participating in criminal gang activity and aggravated rioting reserved for Erie County’s African-American population?

What makes these Sandusky boys a criminal gang? They don’t have a drug empire. They don’t extort local business owners. They’re not a terrorist cell. What criminal activity do they come together as a group and collectively plan and execute?

It would better serve the community to approach the potential incarceration of our children with extreme care, as if we fear wasting Erie County’s most valuable resource: its youth.

Comments

getit right be4...

Well your bicker friends must be white. And the county only arrest African- Americans. Did't you read the story?

I'm sure Damon was just sitting on a park bench and was picked up by the police charged and prosecuted with rape, assault, and kidnapping just to get another Africa-American off the streets and in the clink.

Jason Werling

DT- I had started to respond to your previous post, but couldn't put my thoughts into typed words in the right way. (if that makes sense).

I'm not sure if this gets my point across, but Damon never attributed murders, brawls, etc. to bike gangs as they visit our Bike Week. But did say there is an influx to Erie County of the same gangs as they come here showing their colors. Although, as you state, they do not cause many problems while having a good time during our Ohio Bike Week.

Sorry for the delay in the response, but I had some important Tribe-losing to watch.

Subtle

"This is something that the reporters, bloggers and letter-to-the-editor community members do every day."

You know what your average reporter, blogger and letter-to-the-editor community member DON'T do every day?

Rape people >.<

dbstr

^^^^This^^^^

santown419

I do think you are blowing this out of hand. As a former member of a gang. This is not new as a kid growing up we had fights with boys from Detroit and it wasn't a gang thing. Some of what Damon said is true just last summer I witnessed a group of guys fighting at Daly's mostly white and not one was called a gang member.

big_d

As I child, I was taught that "you are judged by the company you keep." The families of those involved would do well to remember that.

/no racism involved, just common sense/

Tru Grit

Jason, I know your not. I am simply saying I don't think he would feel that way if he saw with his own eyes 13-15 year old kids putting CO's and other youths in the hospital and doing it because they are in a gang and are told to do it.

Jason Werling

I'm sure Damon will be checking back in to read the comments here and would welcome constructive dialog like this.

Stop It

Damon Newell has a racist POV, IMHO.

Pastor Ron

Is this column going to be done by Register personnel past and present? If so, will the guy who got in trouble having sex with his picnic table be doing a column on how to care for patio furniture?

Feisty

Getting back to Damon's opinion, I think that these are troubled youth. I don't have enough information about them to determine whether or not they are officially a gang, but they acted in concert at the time of the incident.

Given the facts that no one was seriously injured and no weapons were involved, I, too, think the charges levied against them are overblown. Should there be charges? Absolutely, but let's be more realistic about them.

Centauri

"A convicted felon who has served prison time, Newell was born and raised in Sandusky."

Check criminal record here for start. Check other records.
http://www.sanduskymunicipalcour...
AGG ARSON
AGG MENACING
FORCIBLE ENTRY
RAPE
KIDNAPPING
ASSAULT
DOM VIOLENCE
THEFT

Fine citizen of Sandusky, Ohio?

DickTracey

Centauri, I saw his record at 5:00, before I posted to Jason. I held my anger and said nothing, but I find it very interesting that he has the guts to cut down bikers, when he has done far worse than 99% of the biker crowd at Bike Week. Also, Jason came on and responded to everyone else's comment, but not mine.

Apparently , just because you put your real name on a story, you can write lies about bikers and bike clubs and Bike Week.

I find it repulsive that the Register handed this felon a microphone to call call our prosecutor a racist. It's obvious Damon still harbors quite a bit of anger towards Erie Counties law enforcement.

After all, I'm sure they only arrested him 25 times because he is black.

Jason Werling

DT- I'll get back to this after the Tribe game. I wasn't avoiding your post.

getit right be4...

If he was a whit guy he would of been handed ice-cream and cake for all of his charges.

But instead he was sent to the clink for just being a black citizen.

santown419

Your wrong Damon was born in iowa

Centauri

"Damon Newell is a pressman at the Register and a CONTRIBUTOR at sanduskyregister.com"

Big Dog maybe? Just kidding.

donutshopguy

"A fight between teenagers and a dozen men."

What teenager fights with a man over a basketball game? One on one this would not happen. But with a gang, reputation is the driving force.

If you want to fight with men then take your punishment as men. No sugar coating needed here. Remember, your reputation is in question. Man up.

Ned Mandingo

Wow what a bitter racists article.

Julie R.

A lot of the things this man has said is the truth.

Subtle

@ Jason First, people don't post with their real name because those 'children' in the video would look up their names and addresses and destroy their homes, vehicles, and try to take their lives for pointing out the obvious... that they are unsupervised, amoral, violent thugs, as are the majority of commentators here that like to push the Register's race war agenda.

Racism is dead, most people aren't racist... if you refuse to have a blood transfusion because you think the blood may have come from another race, you are racist. If you refuse to let a surgeon operate on you because he/she is a different race, you are racist. If you see one of these kids approaching your car and lock the doors, it simply means you aren't an 'idiot' trying to upgrade your status to 'victim'.

One gang was from Detroit, the other from Sandusky... do you really think that a group of 'children' from Detroit just decided to go on vacation and drive to Sandusky to start a fight with some random people?? They are drug dealers, one and all. They were in a brawl over their drug territory. Now, if I said everyone who lives in Pioneer Trail was a drug dealer, I'd be making a false statement based off a stereotype; however, everyone in the video are gang bangers and thugs and the video proves it.

Great job posting inflammatory commentary from a convicted rapist so that you can fuel your 'black-pitted-against-white' agenda. Racism is dead, but I guess the Register believes if they resurrect it they might sell more newspapers.

Bottom Line

Spot on.

Jason Werling

Subtle- Your name doesn't fit your post. You have been very upfront with your opinion, not subtle at all and I'm not saying that is a bad thing. There is no agenda here as we have been allowing inflammatory commentary for years now with our community in the comments section.

And I do hear what you have to say about anonymous commenting.

Yes, the Register is a business and our business is providing information, news, opinions, photos and whatever might be useful or of interest to our community. There are no rules on where that information or opinion comes from as it can be from anyone white or black, old or young, or someone with or without a criminal record.

The choice resides with you whether you want to read it or not, and with our current website, whether you would like to express your thoughts or not.

I can't speak to what the intentions were of those involved as I was not there that night. Damon expressed his opinion on the matter and it has led to a somewhat healthy conversation here in the comments. And I stress "somewhat."

PyrkinsPyrate

Not only is the author nothing more than a criminal with no moral compass that is incapable of understanding decent society, he is also factually incorrect. The county did take action against one MC, for example by assisting in the harassment and arrest of some 34 men during the funeral proceedings of a local leader of a club.

The New World Czar

While I've rolled my eyes at the article itself, Mr. Newell does have a right as a citizen to compose an op-ed.

The SR putting this on the reader's forum opens the contributor and the newspaper up for ridicule. Didn't anyone learn from past experiences with one Rufus Sanders? Oh, that's right...website hits, anything for revenue.

Jason Werling

Why does this open the newspaper up for ridicule? Because he is born and raised in Sandusky? Because he has a criminal record? Because of the color of his skin? Damon did not hide from his past and I would guess he knew full well what he would be up against when he wrote what he wrote.

The first sentence of your post was correct, he does have a right, but the word "ridicule" in your second sentence could be replaced with the words "serious debate" or "societal commentary."

Subtle

It's pretty simple, criminals always condone and advocate criminal behavior. It's likely Damon, based off his lengthy criminal record, did not have an ideal upbringing, one that most likely lacked parental guidance and the kind of involvement that helps impressionable teens develop a sense of right and wrong. Instead of writing an editorial to the parents of this group of teens, or even writing to the teens themselves, he more or less condoned their behavior and blamed the police who were doing their job. How often do you see residents from housing projects in larger cities complaining on the news that the police ignore what is going on in their neighborhood...or simply don't care. You can't have it both ways.

It wasn't a basketball dispute, that fact has been verified by individuals involved in the dispute, but even if it were, the behavior is still unacceptable. The most important thing you can teach a young adult is that their actions have consequences. If you let the brawl slide, the next time one of them will bring a knife... then the next time a gun. I wonder if Damon's opinion would be different if one of those children had pulled a gun and the stray bullets had killed some scared toddler hiding behind the couch in one of the adjacent apartments.

The police, Perkins and Sandusky alike, don't turn a blind eye to crimes that are caught on camera, even if it were a member of law enforcement, a local judge, or a state senator... why because it's too easy for the video to leak and then everyone loses their job when the story breaks nationally. If those teens had been white, or Hispanic, or Asian, they would still have arrested every person they could identify.

santown419

Well its pretty likely you are wrong since he was raised by one of Sandusky finest.

santown419

Well its pretty likely you are wrong since he was raised by one of Sandusky finest.

Subtle

Ok have it your way... evil soul born evil, what do you want from me; I heard it's the politically correct way to go to point to socioeconomic factors as a root cause of behavior as reprehensible as his. I guess, with your comment in mind, "bad seed is bad" kindof sums it up. Keep in mind we aren't talking about petty crimes like just some kid caught smoking pot on the corner with his friends or shoplifting, we're talking sexual battery just as the tip of the iceberg...

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