Blair County’s Idiotic “Justice” System, Take 217

Ya gotta love Blair county.  Our conservative judges think nothing of piling on sentences that beg to be overturned by a higher court, such as the Carter case, where a non-violent drug dealer was sentenced to 104 to 216 years in prison.   I’m sure you can tell that rehabilitation wasn’t high on the list of things the judge cared about.  Yet Blair county seems to have another disturbing trend when it comes to prison sentencing; wrist slaps for sexual assault of a minor.  If you follow the above link to a previous story here at Foster Disbelief, you’ll see that I was comparing Gene “Shorty” Carter’s sentence with the following sentence that was just announced at the time of publication:

A 39-year-old Centre County man who entered a no contest plea to indecently assaulting a 5-year-old Tyrone girl will be required to register his whereabouts with state police for the rest of his life.

Kevin J. Ross, 39, 1052 W. Fowler Hollow Road, Port Matilda, agreed to the requirement in Blair County court on Monday, where he also pleaded no contest to corruption of minors.

Judge Jolene G. Kopriva handed down the negotiated sentence of three to 23 months in prison, followed by five years probation. Because Ross already served five months in prison before posting bail, he was credited for time served and allowed to remain free.

3 months for “indecently” assaulting a five year old.  Full disclosure?  I was sentenced to 1 to 2 years in state prison for a probation violation.  I guess I should have had his lawyer….and judge.

Another wrist slap was recently handed down, and although the case isn’t the abuse of a five year old, it still involves a minor, this time with her creepy boss:

Samy El Masry, 64, who owned Samboli’s Restaurant at 25 W. 10th St., Tyrone, was accused 19 months ago of improperly touching, kissing and making sexual comments to male and female teens who were part-time workers.

The incidents occurred between April 1, 2013, and March 2, 2014.

On March 3, 2014, a 16-year-old girl and her parents reported to Tyrone police that the day before, when the girl began working at the restaurant, El Masry made comments to her such as, “I bet if I cooked you in the oven, you’d taste yummy.”

The girl said she was touched throughout the evening, and El Masry requested to kiss her. She replied, “No,” according to the police affidavit of probable cause.

He allegedly ignored the rejection, kissed her and then made a sexual comment.

He then paid her $20 in hush money and offered to buy her anything she wanted, including diamonds, the affidavit stated.

When her story came out, several other Tyrone Area High School students who had worked at the pizza shop said they, too, were harassed by El Masry.

Ew.  I mean, just….ew.  “You’d taste yummy”?

So we have a serial offender harassing teenage girls who work for him.  It appears that, luckily, nothing ever went beyond some groping and a forced kiss or two, but we can’t know that for sure.  We just know that among those victims who came forward, nothing more serious than the above occurred.  Some of you may even be reading this (and I really hope no one is, but…) thinking the guy may have been creepy but not criminal.  But the power differential between employee/employer is huge.  Saying “no” to your boss could cost you hours, shifts, good sections, or even your job.  Depending on how badly the employee in question needed the job, the pressure to do something they did not want to do could have been immense.  (And I hope I don’t even have to say this, but forcibly kissing someone and/or groping/touching someone when they don’t want you to be touching them is seriously not fucking okay.)

Now I’m not suggesting that this guy should be locked up for the next ten years.  I’m not actually sure what an appropriate sentence would be for him, to be honest.  But it deserves something, because this case just screams “potential rapist” to me.  He’s a repeat perv, and has already stepped over enough boundaries to make me wonder where, or for that matter, if, he would stop.  (Seriously people, if someone doesn’t want to kiss you and they don’t want you feeling them up, then don’t kiss them and keep your grimy hands off of them.  It really isn’t that fucking difficult.)  So while I am not sure what sentence I would hand down if I was the judge, this sentence is a joke.

El Masry was initially charged with 28 offenses. After spending seven months in the Blair County Prison, he entered pleas to one count each of unlawful contract with a minor, indecent assault, corruption of minors and harassment.

Blair County Judge Wade Kagarise sentenced El Masry to time served to 23 1/2 months in prison followed by 10 years’ probation.

“Priorities, people,” Judge Kagarise didn’t say after handing down the sentence.  “If we lock up all the sex offenders for long sentences, then we won’t have enough beds for the non-violent drug offenders.”



Ending the Disease Model, or “It Isn’t My Fault I Keep Shooting All This Heroin. I Have a Disease!”

Salon has a good piece up today on the book “The Biology of Desire: Why Addiction is Not a Disease.”

Lewis’s argument is actually fairly simple: The disease theory, and the science sometimes used to support it, fail to take into account the plasticity of the human brain. Of course, “the brain changes with addiction,” he writes. “But the way it changes has to do with learning and development — not disease.” All significant and repeated experiences change the brain; adaptability and habit are the brain’s secret weapons. The changes wrought by addiction are not, however, permanent, and while they are dangerous, they’re not abnormal. Through a combination of a difficult emotional history, bad luck and the ordinary operations of the brain itself, an addict is someone whose brain has been transformed, but also someone who can be pushed further along the road toward healthy development. (Lewis doesn’t like the term “recovery” because it implies a return to the addict’s state before the addiction took hold.)

I could turn this into an epic rant against the Disease Model or against 12 Step programs, but I’d rather you just go and check out the post at Salon, or even better, just check out and read the book itself and cut Salon out of the deal completely. Of course, I can’t completely stop myself from bitching, so….

Without a doubt, AA and similar programs have helped a lot of people.

No article on addiction treatment can be complete, no matter how antithetical it may be to them, without sucking off the 12 Steps.

Reason 4326 Not to Prohibit Substances People Want:

Yahoo! has a good, old fashioned, scare story on the dangers of the club drug known as “molly” posted currently, but as is the case with most scare pieces, that ugly little secret known as truth still manages to come out somehow:

Molly — the innocuous street name for a drug linked to at least three fatal overdoses in the past month — sounds more like someone’s great-aunt than an illegal substance. A better name for the designer drug, according to both drug enforcement and medical experts, would be “Russian Roulette.” “When a buyer abuses something called Molly, there’s no way to tell what’s in it,” Rusty Payne, a spokesperson for the Drug Enforcement Agency told Yahoo Shine. “That’s the most dangerous thing about these drugs.”

Really?  That is the most dangerous thing about “these drugs”?  Then I guess the only rational response is to force the suppliers to manufacture the drugs in illegal laboratories with no purity standards or quality control.  I mean, after all, we are only one more drug bust away from winning the war on drugs and ending drug abuse in America, right?

Look.  We know prohibition doesn’t work.  We’ve tried it with alcohol, and we are trying it now for drugs with horrible results all over America.  People want to get high.  As long as people want to get high, people will be willing to risk breaking the law for the incredible profit opportunity the black market provides.  Drug abuse is a problem, but it is far past time to quit labeling all drug use as abuse.

Without a doubt, regardless of the substance, the two biggest dangers of using any drug are the law breaking required to obtain it, and the complete ignorance of what is actually contained in the product.  It is time we switch to an education and harm reduction model.  Cripple the black market while controlling purity and quality and you cut the drug problem in half if not more instantly.  Then we can spend all the money we save at reeducation of those employed in the drug war, treatment for those who have drug problems, and honest education of the real risks of drug use.

It’s been a while since I’ve linked to Law Enforcement Against Prohibition.  Go get educated.


Some Letter to the Editor Goodness….

Ah, Letters to the Editor.  Where everyone has a chance to share their often ignorant opinion.  Recently here in Altoonaland, the seemingly heartless have been grasping their crayons and firing off their compassion filled screeds to the local fishwrap.  Drug and alcohol treatment is the issue at hand, and since you know I have a history there, of course these letters have caught my attention.

First up is James Thompson with his letter titled, Why should society have to pay?:

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Ask an Ex-Junkie!

Because of my past and my willingness to talk about it, I sometimes receive comments here at the blog or through e-mail or facebook asking me some form of question relating to addiction and/or opiate usage and abuse.  While many of my visitors will have absolutely no interest in this, I do and will take the time to answer these questions to the best of my ability.  Like I add as a disclaimer to my “Tales of a Junkie” posts, if you don’t want to read them, no one is making you.  Feel free to skip to the next bit of snark or call to action.  In fact to make it even easier, I’ll insert a more tag right about now….

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More Religious Discrimination Added to Blair County’s War on Drugs

I have written before of religious discrimination in the criminal justice system when it comes to the war on drugs, especially when you do not happen to live in a large city.  A quick refresher on the issue:  While there are secular alternatives to 12 step based treatment programs, the farther you get from a major city the less likely you are to encounter one of them.  In Blair county of Pennsylvania. which includes the city of Altoona, and the town of Hollidaysburg, as well as other communities, there are no S.O.S or SMART Recovery meetings available, and all local rehabs are 12 step based.  The 12 steps are an inherently religious program.  You will get arguments on this point from some; people who tell you that anything can be your higher power, that it doesn’t have to be God, that it can be a pencil or a doorknob; that it is a spiritual program, not a religious one.  These arguments, in my experience, come mostly from those trying to get you in the door, or trying to defend the program from claims of religious coercion. Some who have made these arguments have admitted to me later that eventually, for the program to work, your higher power has to become the God of your understanding.  Bill W., the founder of AA and the 12 steps, made no attempt to hide the religious nature of the program.  From the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous:

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Blair County, Pennsylvania: Fair and Just Criminal Sentencings

The Blair County criminal justice system knows its priorities.  They make sure those priorities are known by everyone in the community with the fair and just sentences they pass down to those convicted of crimes in this area.

For example, are you a non-white person convicted of dealing drugs?  You are in luck!  The county is dedicated to rehabilitating you.

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