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The Franklin Street Outrage By: Michael Tremoglie
FrontPageMagazine.com | Thursday, August 30, 2001

FIVE YEARS without parole.

That was the sentenced meted out to Theresa Martin, a poor mother of five ages 10, 7, 6, 2 and 6 months. Five years in a federal prison without a chance for parole.

What was her crime? Was she a drug dealer? No, she was not. Was she a child abuser? No! Murderer? No! Robber? No! Career criminal? No! What was her crime then?

Martin's crime was that she committed perjury to a federal grand jury investigating the 1996 racially motivated vandalism of a vacant house on her street Franklin Street in South Philadelphia.

(Ironically, she was convicted about the same time Congress was arguing whether President Clinton should be impeached for perjury.)

For fiscal year 2000, the average sentence for perjury in U.S. District Court was two and a half years.

Martin did not participate in the actual vandalism. Five men, who were friends or neighbors of hers, did. They were each given sentences of five to ten years.

The prosecutors claimed Martin was a racist.

Martin denied it. However, U.S. District Judge J. Curtis Joyner was not convinced. He remained unconvinced, even though a black woman who called Martin "sister" testified on her behalf. The woman traveled six hours by car from Williamsburg, Virginia to do so.

Judge Joyner was unconvinced that leaving a six-month-old baby and five other kids all younger than ten without a mother for five years was too harsh a sentence.  

Several months ago, in Seattle and Cincinnati, the television camera captured images of numerous hate crimes. Video of brutal assaults of whites by blacks was broadcast for the whole world to observe. Initially, these criminal acts, these racially motivated criminal acts were not even investigated.

In Seattle, the Police Chief denied for over a month that black-on-white hate crimes were committed. Even after acknowledging that there was evidence of such crimes, he still did not actively investigate them. And even after one black youth (Khalid Adams) admitted to assaulting a white because he was white, he still was not prosecuted for a hate crime.

Preposterously, in Cincinnati, the first person charged with a hate crime was white.

One of Martin’s transgressions was that she was a " gatekeeper." She was keeping track of whether or not black people were moving into the neighborhood.

Five years without parole for noticing who your new neighbors are? For fiscal year 2000, the average sentence for second-degree murder in U.S. District Courts was four years.

I believe in strict sentencing, yet this sentence is Draconian by my standards. There was no loss of life, no threat to persons, and the property that was damaged did not belong to the complainant.

If I consider Martin’s sentence harsh, what about the ACLU, the Sentencing Project, and similar organizations? Their current mantra is that prison should be reserved for only the truly violent. Theresa Martin did not commit a violent crime. Should they not vehemently protest this sentence?

During the 1994 crime bill debate, then Democratic Congressman Chuck Schumer said prison is not the answer. He echoed the sentiments of Jesse Jackson and Charles Rangel and the ACLU.

Does anyone think Schumer or the ACLU would disapprove of Martin’s sentence? Why is it that those who say that punishment is not the way to prevent crime call for stricter penalties for hate crimes?

Why is it that Jesse Jackson is not sanctioned for calling Jews "Hymies?" Surely, a person of Jesse Jackson’s stature using an ethnic slur is more egregious than a poor mother of five young kids. More people listen to Jackson than to Theresa Martin.

But Theresa Martin is poor and white. She is neither rich nor politically powerful. She is politically incorrect. She is an anathema to the liberal elite.

After much research, I have yet to learn the disposition of hate crimes cases. Apparently, there is no available data to determine if there is a correlation between the race of the offender and the type of sentence.

However, from what I can tell, Theresa Martin’s sentence had as much to with her being white as anything else. That and the fact that she was charged in Philadelphia instead of Seattle or Cincinnati.

Theresa Martin went to jail because she is a member of the only ethnic group in America about whom it is still acceptable for TV comedians to tell jokes.

Michael P. Tremoglie is the author of the new novel A Sense of Duty, and an ex-Philadelphia cop. E-mail him at elfegobaca@comcast.net.

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