Killer Chicago Cop's Sentence Shows Black Lives Matter As Much As A Hot Dog With Ketchup
Back in October, the fortunately former Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke was convicted for the shooting death of Laquan McDonald. Van Dyke shot the 17-year-old McDonald 16 times as he walked away from the cop, which would make him the black hat in a spaghetti western. It turns out Judge Vincent Gaughan, however, is a fan of western villains because he sentenced Van Dyke to just six years and nine months in prison.
This was far less than the 18 years minimum the prosecution was seeking, and state sentencing guidelines allowed for up to 96 years or more. This is because McDonald was a human being, not a vintage automobile Van Dyke defaced with his keys because it was parked outside the lines. I'm sure the prosecution stressed this point. McDonald's great uncle, the Rev. Martin Hunter, movingly if perhaps futilely reminded the judge of his nephew's humanity when he read a letter that was written in McDonald's now silenced voice.
"Please think about me and about my life when you sentence this person to prison," Hunter read. "Why should this person be free, when I am dead forever?"
That's a good question. Van Dyke could likely only serve as little as three and a half years with good behavior, but let's not lose our perspective. It's not as if Van Dyke voted illegally. That can get you five years in Texas if you're a black woman. Illinois doesn't always dispense soft-serve sentences, either. Van Dyke received half the prison time of disgraced former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich, who didn't actually kill anyone.
You know Van Dyke's sentence was bullshit when McDonald's family is devastated and Van Dyke is giddy as a school boy on Christmas morning: "I got the Red Ryder BB gun and a miscarriage of justice! Thanks, Judge Santa!"
The officers who allegedly helped cover up Van Dyke's killing of McDonald were acquitted Friday because it's apparently not a crime to support another officer's bullshit account of events. Van Dyke claimed McDonald failed to "comply" and made a threatening move to the police. Dashcam video later showed that Van Dyke was lying his ass off.
During the sentencing, Judge Gaughan said, "You can see the pain on both sides of the family." Maybe he could, but if Gaughan or any other judge sentenced non-killer cops like they were Counselor Troi from "Star Trek: The Next Generation," Illinois state prisons would be empty. "I feel... pain from both sides, Captain. Let's give the Cardassian time served."
It might shock even some well-meaning white liberals to learn that black people charged with crimes also have families who'd rather they not spend the rest of their lives locked away. Edward Douglas, once a Chicago Transit Authority employee, is serving life in federal prison because of ridiculously harsh drug sentences. Certainly, his family demonstrated enough pain? Maybe instead of better public defenders, we need pro bono theatrical training for relatives of the convicted: "Sing out, Louise! Your dad is looking at 20 to life!"
We can appreciate that the family of someone who's committed a crime suffers greatly but it's beyond offensive to equate that suffering with what the victim's family experiences. We saw this repulsive "tragedy for both sides" narrative when Christine Blasey Ford accused Brett Kavanaugh of sexual assault. It's especially vile when one family clearly has suffered the ultimate loss, one that's irretrievable. Van Dyke's life has a good chance of returning to normalcy after he completes his wrist-slap sentence. His "Blue Lives Matter" social circle will hardly hold his killing of a black teen against him and withhold invitations to social gatherings.
In a brief statement, Van Dyke said he'd have to "live with" McDonald's death for the "rest of his life," most of which won't be spent in prison. He'll be 43 when he's released, and his lead defense attorney, Dan Herbert said his client is "happy about the prospect of life ahead of him" and being reunited with his wife and two daughters, which are one spouse and two children more than McDonald will ever have.
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Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He's on the board of the Portland Playhouse theater and writes for the immersive theater Cafe Nordo in Seattle.