It’s hardly surprising that a guy screaming about all the racial injustice in the world perpetrated by the police would gain a following. But that he got a gig writing for the Daily News bordered on shocking. Sure, they wanted his followers to pump up their eyeball numbers, but doesn’t credibility count? Then again, as it turns out, Shaun King worked cheap, so it makes more sense now.
For our Brooklyn apartment, my family of seven currently pays more in monthly rent for what is literally the second smallest of the fifty-five homes my wife and I have lived in between the two of us. The smallest ever was our first New York apartment. The monthly rent here is more than my entire Daily News paycheck.
Unlike others, my problem with King isn’t with his perspective, though he’s the first to praise the cops who serve his ends with the same absurd hyperbole as he uses to accuse them of destroying humanity. Well, minority humanity, anyway.
What I’m about to tell you is the most painful, traumatic, outrageous, outlandish, over-the-top story of government sanctioned police brutality, wrongful imprisonment, wrongful convictions, forced testimony, widespread corruption, money, lots of money, and deep, deep, deep soul-snatching psychological abuse in modern American history. I would not have believed it had I not seen it all for myself. The rabbit hole I am about to take you down is deep and twisted. It should lead to the termination of a whole host of officials. Many should be arrested and a comprehensive independent investigation should begin immediately.
Sounds serious, right? So what is this “most” awful thing ever?
I receive hundreds of personal emails about injustice in America every single day. In mid-July, dozens of those emails were about a Bronx teenager named Pedro Hernandez. People all over the country had seen reports from Sarah Wallace of NBC New York or James Ford of Pix 11 on how Hernandez, who was jailed at Rikers Island, was running out of time to be released in time to start college. Hernandez had won awards at Rikers for his leadership and academic performance, and had also been granted a scholarship from the Posse Foundation to enter college this fall. Offered a plea deal from the Bronx DA’s Office to be released for time served, Hernandez did what few people in his position would do — he turned down the deal. Accused of shooting Shaun Nardoni, a neighborhood teenager, in the leg on September 1st, 2015, Hernandez was offered a ticket out of Rikers in exchange for admitting he shot Nardoni. The District Attorney even sweetened the pot and pledged to expunge his record in five years if he met all of the terms of his probation. Hernandez still refused to take the deal — continuing to pledge that he was completely innocent and would rather take his chances with a jury before admitting to something he didn’t do.
The first sentence is classic Shaun King, ever the self-promoter, but the rest of the paragraph in sad need of editing (I usually break up paragraphs like this into readable chunks). So a guy was arrested for a shooting and refused to cop a plea. Good on him if he didn’t do it. Mind you, we’re now two years down the road, so trial should be in the offing. There are any number of reasons why a sweet deal was offered, such as missing witnesses, but that doesn’t necessarily mean the cops or prosecutors don’t believe he did it.
But see that word in there, “expunge”? There is no such thing in New York. It doesn’t exist. It should, but it doesn’t.
As I Googled Pedro’s name and case, I saw several local reports that stated he had been wrongfully arrested and harassed by the NYPD for years. A guard at another facility was actually arrested and charged with criminal assault, endangering the welfare of a child, criminal obstruction of breathing and blood circulation, and harassment after being caught on film brutally beating and choking Pedro. Eight different eyewitnesses had all come forward to state that Pedro was not the shooter. Many even went so far as to identify the actual shooter. Why then, did Pedro remain behind bars?
That’s terrible that a guard “brutally” beat Pedro, but what does that have to do with Pedro’s shooting someone? And if there are eight witnesses for the defense, then they should kick butt at trial. Who’s the defense lawyer? Why hasn’t there been a trial? Why is Pedro still held on the Rock?
Why did it seem like the NYPD had it out for him? And how could the Bronx DA simultaneously believe that Pedro was safe enough to set free if he took the plea, but so dangerous, that if he didn’t, his bail would be set at an outrageous $250,000 with a stipulation that he not pay the typical 10%, but pay all $250,000 — effectively ensuring that he’d never get out on bail.
So King knows what Darcel Clark, the Bronx DA, believes? Don’t be silly. King projects his limited understanding onto her because it plays to his audience. Bail in New York is based on risk of flight, not danger to the community. The sum here is low normal for a shooter, and there is no such thing as a 10% alternative in New York, no less “typical.” He could be dean of Twitter Law School with his mad knowledge of law.
But the kicker is that the next 10,000 words are all about a 2010 case, Stinson, where NYPD wrote 900,000 quality of life summonses, to fill quotas that were tossed. What does this have to do with Pedro Hernandez?
I’ve written nearly 1,000 stories about police brutality and misconduct and have interviewed hundreds of families suffering through the consequences of those things. Almost every single one of those families, particularly when they are still in a stage of grief or conflict, without fail, want to speak exclusively about their very specific case. Pedro’s family was different. They immediately wanted me to know that Pedro was not alone, but that he was just one of hundreds of victims whose lives had been turned upside down by officers from the 42nd precinct in the Bronx who were working in close concert with the Bronx District Attorney’s Office.
So nothing. The deeply passionate love this crap because they’re good team players and this tweaks their feelz. Serious people cringe as this nonsense impairs real efforts to reform by outraging the groundlings while ignoring systemic problems, the type that rely on facts and law, in favor of hysteria and ignorance.
But then the kicker had a kicker of its own.
The Fair Punishment Project comes out of Harvard Law School. What they gained from Shaun King’s “passion,” they lost in credibility by bringing on a “writer in residence” who may be one of the loudest, and most ignorant, voices in criminal reform. At least he won’t be making people stupider at the Daily News anymore. It’s a start.
Serious people seek serious reform based on actual law and actual facts, but Shaun King touches the crowd’s soul. Now he’s going to Harvard. And you wonder why serious reform never happens.