At a press conference yesterday afternoon, Don Kerr said of the news that a grand jury will not indict him, "I don't feel exonerated, because I never felt onerated in the first place."
It may be hard to swallow for some people, but this means that Kerr is innocent, because under our system of justice, innocence is presumed unless guilt is proven. The grand jury who reviewed testimony in this case didn't find that there was enough evidence to even bring a case against Kerr, which falls very far short of guilt indeed.
When the story of Kerr getting arrested for accepting a package containing eight pounds of pot first surfaced, a client of mine was quick to condemn him, and when I pointed out that it's best to let the courts, rather than gossip, try to convict him, I probably went too far, because I have never worked for that client again.
That we, the highly educated and progressive citizens of New Paltz, are so quick to throw the rights of another human being under the bus sickens me. This community is rife with hypocrisy.
One man whom Kerr singled out to thank, and whom is not guilty of such hypocrisy in this case, is Martin McPhillips. "I don't know the man, and apparently he doesn't like me, but he stood and and said something doesn't smell right here, and I appreciate that."
At the core of this story is the fact that our federal government provides incentives to police for drug offenses, whether or not they are violent. There are no laws which allow for the seizure of assets from a man who beats his kids, or a woman who writes bad checks. Our elected officials don't lose their ill-gotten gains if they're caught with a hand in the cookie jar. But drug offenses are big money for law enforcement.
Kerr was quick to praise the New Paltz police for its professionalism in this case, and I certainly agree with his assessment. However, I'd like to see our town take a stand and reject this unbalanced incentives, and instead focus on crimes that matter. Violent crimes. Crimes which cause the loss of life, liberty, or property. Abuse. Driving under the influence. Graffiti. Theft. Vandalism. Not all drug offenses are dangerous crimes, and not all dangerous crimes are drug offenses. Let's start focusing on the stuff that matters, instead of targeting a man who did a damned fine job as school board president.