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

Simple Enough II

Maybe the article 4th shooting suspect arrested", would help the Mr. Newell understand that yeah, its not racial its criminal behavior we have a problem with. By themselves they are to chicken sheet to do these things but in a group it becomes pack mentality and it can get very ugly quickly for someone!

dbstr

@ Jason
Did you ever stop to think how his rape victim might feel seeing your newspaper give him an open forum to voice his opinion? I wonder how the tables might be turned if it was a member of your family that he had raped...
Opinions are more fun when they are controversial, right?

lmalley77

Dbstr....have you ever considered that maybe, JUST maybe, that Damon was 18 and dating a 17 year old whom he had consensual sex with and then the girls parents pressed rape charges on him because they couldn't stand to see their white baby girl with a black man!?!?...I'm NOT saying that this IS the case, but before you know exactly what the case entailed, how about u don't just assume that he just went out and raped some random chick!!..I know Damon, he is a good guy, yes, he did some things and had to serve his time, but does that make him scum for the rest of his life???..That is the problem with society now, people look up your record and ASSume that they know all about you because of what they read online!!...Many of you act like people can't be rehabilitated and change their lives for the better!!!
..At least he has a JOB at the register, so he obviously learned from his mistakes and is living his life in a good fashion now!....And for everyone else who is dogging him and making statements like he must not have had any involved parents in his life, his father was a police officer for MANY years and his mother is one of the nicest people you will ever meet!!...He had a good upbringing, with parents who loved him and tried to steer him in the right direction, but once a child turns 18, it is up to them to apply what their parents installed in them....Damon made some mistakes at a younger age...I have made mistakes in my life...how many of you people on here commenting have NEVER made any kind of life altering mistake!?!?!?....Come on people...grow up and understand that a person is not trash just because of their past!!!....If that were the case, then there sure would be ALOT of trashy people in this world!!...Damon....i commend you for even getting on here and using your REAL name to state YOUR opinions!!!

Subtle

If his dad was an officer of the law, he should know that police don't arrest people because of the color of their skin, they arrest them because they committed a crime, plain and simple.

Julie R.

Imalley77's comment makes sense. Does anybody really know the circumstances behind this man's record that everybody is crucifying him for?

A good example of a joke criminal record ---- take the disbarred Oak Harbor attorney Elsebeth Baumgartner. Her criminal record is the following:

1. Intimidation
2. Falsification
3. Intimidation/Public Servant/Party Official
4. Possessing Criminal Tools

"Intimidation of a Public Servant/Party Official" was for calling some corrupt old rent-a-judge corrupt and the "criminal tools" the corrupt clowns said she was "in possession of" was her COMPUTER.

dbstr

@ Julie
I'm not sure of your idea of a joke, but 1st degree felony rape isn't a joke to most people. No one is crucifying him, he put himself in this position by committing these acts by his own free will. Just because someone is the same race as you doesn't mean you HAVE to defend all of their actions. I, for one, will NOT do it.

Julie R.

I don't think rape is a joke and I would never come to the defense of a rapist. I just pointed out how the legal system can and does fabricate idiot criminal charges against people. So how many years did he get for a brutal rape? Was it more or less than eight? (enough said)

DickTracey

Julie, in your attempt to continually criticize the judges and prosecutor , you are going so low as to take the side of a rapist?

This guy brutally raped and beat a woman , among 24 other crimes, but you are going to give him the benefit of the doubt because his article is cutting down the very system you hate on!

http://statecasefiles.justia.com...

You have reached new lows today Julie, as a woman, you should be ashamed for sticking up for a rapist. SICK!

cockynurse

LIKE

2Timothy1-7

Elsebeth Baumgartner a 50 something white woman charged with intimidation/retaliation for internet comments and federal lawsuits alleging a retired visiting judge was protecting corrupt activity (case fixing, drug trafficking and sex crimes by local law enforcement and prosecutors)and intimidation/retaliation of her former business partner by internet comments including a parody of an Eminem rap song. She received 8 years in prison (4 years for the judge case and 4 years for her former business partner case)

The business partner was given an unlimited platform by the Register to spread his side of the story but he never provided the public with the actual "threats" that were posted because he shut the website down as requested by a certain local government attorney (and associates) with a proven allegation of drug abuse. The shut down occurred, despite the fact that he didn't own the website and had received tens of thousands of dollars in payments from Baumgartner.

The Register, supposed guardian of the First Amendment never questioned or allowed Baumgartner an opportunity to publish the so called "threatening statements" that frightened a veteran judge and former Marine to find if they rose to the level of "true threats" that are not protected by the First Amendment as opposed to the type of political hyperbole found on this website. In fact under the precedent of the Baumgartner case most anonymous posters and Mr. Newell are subject to indictment for intimidation for making "false statements".

Now in a somewhat related story, we learn that the law enforcement officers who assisted in the raid of her home based on false information provided by her "victim" were found by two courts to have lied under oath and fabricated evidence in a drug case. In short they made false statements to "intimidate".

My point is charges are trumped up for political reasons (and were in Baumgartner's case) but it doesn't sound like the charges against these teenagers were trumped up to me. If internet comments can justify felony charges and prison time, then the behavior on the video certainly qualified too.

Julie R.

LIKE.

dbstr

@ Lmalley77
Yes, I considered that until someone brought up his rap sheet that lists his rape as 1st degree rape NOT 3rd degree rape which happens to be statutory rape. First degree rape (a.k.a. Felony Rape) is charged whenever a rape results in serious bodily injury or death to the victim. So maybe that helps you out on my opinion of this individual. Good guys don't rape and kidnap people.
Now you have me questioning your opinion. What kind of person are you that you would condone this type of behavior and try to brush it under the rug as if it was a lesser charge than it is. Trying to convince me and others that it was a simple boyfriend/girlfriend situation when you probably DO know what the real charge was. Shameful. :(
I wasn't discussing his parents, there are plenty of people that have good parents and then go on to do bad things.
You should take your own advice next time and not ASSume that I hadn't already looked into it prior to posting. Although it is most likely that you already knew that.

DickTracey

Imalley77, you need to do a little more research on your "friend" that you call a "good guy".

I just got done reading the BRUTAL details of his beating and brutal rape of his CRACK CUSTOMER, that he said owed him money for past debt!

Do your homework, before you ASSume, he is a "good guy" .

This is not an Op-Ed, it is his chance to criticize the prosecutor that sent him to prison, for what Damon calls consensual barter sex for crack.

SICK!

santown419

Did you ever stop and consider the victim has now changed her story

The Hero Zone's picture
The Hero Zone

Damon, I agree with your sentiment that youth are a very precious resource. It becomes a complicated mess after something has gone wrong because there are systems and laws that are supposed to offer justice, rehabilitation, incarceration, or just set an example. But what happens before those incidents of poor decision making is much more crucial. If children aren't taught nor raised civilly by any combination of parent, mentor, faith, neighbor, etc. to hold value in other people or their things then these decisions will come naturally since they are a primitive reaction.

It's heartbreaking because in some cases these kids literally don't know better. Yet, they are held responsible in a society that generally does. It's a hard lesson and unless there is followup by the entities above, this will begin a lifelong spiral down of never advancing past this mentality and understanding.

There's also the fact that kids just do dumb and dangerous things on impulse. Not even a "Superman Syndrome". But, I am willing to have faith that as this incident gets meted out the circumstances will come to light for each of them and a hopefully appropriate punishment/rehabilitation will begin.

BDupler

The Hero Zone- great post,thank you!

Mum-of-One

gang 1 (gng)
n.
1. A group of criminals or hoodlums who band together for mutual protection and profit.
2. A group of adolescents who band together, especially a group of delinquents.
3. Informal A group of people who associate regularly on a social basis: The whole gang from the office went to a clambake.
4. A group of laborers organized together on one job or under one foreperson: a railroad gang.
5. A matched or coordinated set, as of tools: a gang of chisels.
6.
a. A pack of wolves or wild dogs.
b. A herd, especially of buffalo or elk. See Synonyms at flock1.
v. ganged, gang·ing, gangs
v.intr.
To band together as a group or gang.
v.tr.
1. To arrange or assemble into a group, as for simultaneous operation or production: gang several pages onto one printing plate.
2. To attack as an organized group.
Phrasal Verb:
gang up
1. To join together in opposition or attack: The older children were always ganging up on the little ones.
2. To act together as a group: various agencies ganging up to combat the use of illicit drugs.

Ned Mandingo

It's clear that whoever wrote this article is a racist. He just happens to be a black convicted felon. That doesn't change anaything.

Mum-of-One

This is really about choices and consequences. Law enforcement have a duty to keep the whole community safe. What a convicted felon finds acceptable may not be acceptable to other community members. I certainly would not feel safe if a group of youths came into my apartment block and behaved as they all did. I certainly would be very disappointed if they were not held accountable for their actions.

The Bizness

Jason, just do as Pop Science did, and shut off comments for good.

dbstr

Now why would he do that? Controversial subjects bring in a lot of web traffic. It doesn't matter if things are getting out of hand or if a race war is being started, it is all about the hits (page views).

thinkagain

Some websites have eliminated pseudonyms for their forums as a way to promote civility. It hasn’t worked.

Too many people don’t care if the world knows who they are when they say asinine things on the Internet.

Requiring a Facebook log-in is a joke. Which one of my several profiles would you like me to use?

When the Chronicle Telegram made the switch, they lost the majority of the regulars. All semblance of intellectual debate was lost. The commenting style became typical of Facebook’s inane one line status updates. Civility did not improve.

Ellis dee

Black people are allowed to be racist. That is all that needs to be said

Subtle

Ok since some commentators here are trying to paint a rosy picture of Damon and his family and minimize his past transgressions in much the same way Damon's article minimized the transgressions of the youths in question, here are the UNDISPUTED facts directly out of court records (http://www.supremecourt.ohio.gov...):

{¶ 5} The following undisputed facts are relevant to the issues raised on appeal.
This case arises from an incident in the city of Sandusky on October 1, 2003. Appellant, a crack cocaine dealer, was riding around Sandusky in a motor vehicle with three acquaintances. The vehicle was driven by Shawn Vessey. Appellant was a front seat passenger. Robin Aumend, the victim and one of appellant's crack customers, was seated in the backseat with another passenger, Alvin Lee.

{¶ 6} The vehicle stopped behind a Laundromat. Appellant demanded to switch places with Lee, positioning himself next to Aumend. Appellant believed Aumend had shortchanged him on drug transactions. Appellant struck and punched the victim. Appellant forcibly engaged in various acts of intercourse with Aumend. Aumend did not consent. Aumend sustained significant bruising. DNA evidence confirmed appellant committed the sexual acts. Aumend reported the rape several hours after it occurred.

{¶ 7} Appellant claims the incident was not rape, but merely a "sex for crack" transaction necessitated by Aumend's inability to pay her crack debt. Appellant concedes being a crack dealer. Appellant concedes supplying crack cocaine to Aumend. Appellant concedes engaging in acts of intercourse with Aumend on October 1, 2003.

{¶ 8} On May 14, 2004, appellant was indicted for two counts of kidnapping, in violation of R.C. 2905.01(A)(4), two counts of rape in violation of R.C. 2907.02(A)(2), and two counts of cocaine trafficking in violation of R.C. 2925.03(A)(1).

I guess Damon and some of the commentators here would probably paint the above as:

'just some friends riding around in a car wrongly accused by “The Erie County Threat Matrix”, a place where they think if they repeat words like rape, cocaine dealer, kidnapping and dangerous — often enough — residents will be too scared to realize Erie County is preparing to send up their children.'

"And for everyone else who is dogging him and making statements like he must not have had any involved parents in his life, his father was a police officer for MANY years and his mother is one of the nicest people you will ever meet!!...He had a good upbringing, with parents who loved him and tried to steer him in the right direction..."

{¶ 13} At the conclusion of the victim impact statement, counsel for appellant was permitted to engage in another tirade, unabashedly impugning the victim's character and credibility. Counsel for appellant stated:

{¶ 14} "While she's in tears over there, she forgot to tell you that she's a convicted felon. She forgot to tell you that she's a crack addict. She forgot to tell you that she's currently under indictment. She went to purchase crack with $2 and no underwear. She put herself in a situation. Yes, Damon probably shouldn't have had sex with her. We
were not there. I don't live in that world. She does, he does. He tells me that it was sex for crack. She claims rape. The DNA says yes, he had intercourse with her. As far as any force that was used, we don't know. We have her word and she's an admitted liar. She's a convicted liar."

{¶ 15} The verbal attacks against the victim permeate the transcript of the sentencing hearing and all portions of the record in which appellant, his father, and his counsel, took part. This is particularly troublesome considering the case was settled by plea agreement. These attacks did not take place in the heated course of a jury trial, but during a post-plea sentencing hearing. Decency and decorum were decidedly absent.

{¶ 25} The sentencing transcript reveals a pattern. Neither appellant, appellant's father, nor counsel hold appellant responsible for what occurred. They blame appellant's unemployment, his need to pay rent, his girlfriend's low-paying job, his duties to his daughter, and most often, the victim.

{¶ 26} Appellant's father greatly oversimplified the nature and gravity of the circumstances. Appellant's father asserted, "He's just a hardworking young man. And he's been a hardworking young man up until, like I said, just til he lost his job and lost his way for a moment. And since being charged with this, he hasn't committed any other crimes. So he's basically not a menace to society. He's just a young man who's lost his way for a minute." Such an interpretation of the circumstances does not comport with the record.

I'm not sure if Beverly Newell, the attorney that berated the victim in #14 above is his mother or not (clearly some relation) but if that is the case she does not qualify as "one of the nicest people you will ever meet".

It is specifically 13, 14,15, 25 & 26 that make me state that he did not have a proper upbringing, and was not taught that actions have consequences that we have to accept responsibility for. Instead they blame the prosecutors, the victim, the Erie County Probation Department, and the other officer that testified for Damon's conviction even en lieu of the undisputed facts conceded to by Damon himself.

That mentality permeates his article... blame the Sandusky Police Department and the city prosecutors... make it a race issue; because certainly it's not the fault of the 'children' involved or their parents!

gramafun

It took guts for him to write this blog and express HIS opinion on the situation. He is stating it from his point of view as someone who has been through in his personal life and how HE sees the world.

I wonder some times if black people don't see the world in a much different way than white people because of the way they are raised? They are told all through their lives about how black people are put upon, so they hear it forever.

These kids had little to no upbringing. They ran in a "pack" and they did wrong. They got busted for it.

When black kids or adults get arrested for wrong doing lately why is it that they immediately ask why the white people aren't arrested for crimes like this? Because you don't see white kids doing crimes like this would be my answer.

If they ARE doing it, they would be arrested just like these kids were. No difference. I think the black people in this community need to stop thinking the laws are different because the skin color is different.

That is NOT the truth. Sorry, Mr. Newell. I totally disagree.

Should these kids be picked up for what they did? Oh, yes. they did damage and someone needs to put a stop to what they did. Someone needs to educate them. Their parents didn't.

Don't get hung up on the "names" they were given. If you think you can help them, then do so. Instead of just writing your feelings, perhaps you should do something about educating them on proper behavior and doing the right thing before it is too late for them. I think it would be a good idea.

SamAdams

Does Mr. Newell have the right to an opinion? Yes. I object to giving him such a public soapbox, but he has the right to take advantage of it if it's offered. But everyone here also needs to remember that, like all of us, his opinions are shaded with his own experiences, and his experiences aren't what I'd call "savory!"

Newell wasn't convicted of penny-ante stuff. His crimes were serious. He's now out of prison and apparently has a job for which I give him all due credit. But he's going to have to forgive me for failing to take his self-righteous (and frankly racist) rant too seriously!

You can call these gang members "children" all that you like. But when "children" behave in a certain way, certain labels are going to follow. And whether they were "official" members of one gang or another, they behaved as gang members, and they certainly rumbled with KNOWN gang members! This isn't about being black or white. It's about behaving like a thug and adding insult to injury by being dumb enough to get caught on video while you do it.

As for posting under our real names, well, the truth is that I'll stop bothering with the Register all together if that becomes a requirement. At least one previous poster noted that threats are sometimes made in these blogs, and we've no way of knowing who reads comments and gets angry but says NOTHING. I certainly don't intend to deal with somebody showing up on my doorstep because something I said upset them; in fact, I'm not inclined to take the risk at ALL! Secondly, what I say is coming from ME, not my boss, not my place of business, not my friends, and not my family. Yet if my name is known, what I say will almost certainly be reflected at them, too. No, thank you!

If it helps, I DO talk like this to people face to face. But I certainly don't approach strangers on the street corner and gear up for some kind of a rant! That's a fair comparison of what it would mean if we're forced to go THAT public on these pages, and I refuse to play such a dangerous game.

Sal Dali

Well said Sam. I agree. Glad to see someone else recognizes the possible dangers associated with using our real identities. Although you post far more than I do, I would stop participating as well, it is a dangerous game.

dbstr

I would also like to know why Damon continually refers to "caucasians" to make comparisons. This op-ed is nothing but fuel to start a racial issue. What exactly do white people have to do with those African American boys getting themselves into trouble? Why weren't Hispanics or Asians brought up?
I feel that if Damon Newell had really learned his lesson while in prison and made a full turn around that he wouldn't be writing an opinion article making excuses, condoning bad behavior, and trying to convince the viewer that these African American children were only misbehaving because white people NEVER get in trouble. That is all that I got out of that entire article that these kids got a bad rap and white people don't ever get into trouble for anything.
Now any of us that don't agree with Damon have to worry about him getting our personal information and retaliating. He is an employee at the SR and by default that gives him access to our information. Hopefully SR is 100% sure that he has changed his ways because female staff members really shouldn't be put in that situation. People that don't have criminal minds don't write nonsense like this. People that get special treatment for committing crimes write stuff like this.

kURTje

Here is what I do like, everyone gets to put their opinion out. Could you fathom trying to hold this topic for discussion in a public arena? The noise/fist fighting, etc. btw Jason W. how many yellow, blacks, browns, etc. does the Register employ? Thanxs.

tk

Children should be home and in bed at one AM and parents should check to make sure they are where they are supposed to be. Of course that only works if the parents are home.

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