"You'll never get ahead if you don't take care of what you have." - Doris Waddell, RIP

A historic building on our U of M-Morris campus - morris mn

A historic building on our U of M-Morris campus - morris mn
The multi-ethnic building was the original home of the music department at UMM. (B.W. photo)

Friday, March 14, 2014

It's spring but not all is happy for Motown

"snirt" (March phenomenon)
Spring has stumbled into the picture. It had to happen sometime. Long-time Minnesotans will realize we shouldn't get too giddy. Don't load up your closet with your short-sleeve shirts yet.
"Snirt" abounds around us. It's quite the March phenomenon. It's that mixture of snow and dirt of course. Maybe this is what winter is like in Iowa. In Minnesota we have the benefit of crisp, dry snow. Until spring.
Then we get the slush and those "rivers" of water from snow melt.
Yesterday (Thursday) the temperature got up to about 60 degrees. I took a nice long walk out toward the Pomme de Terre River. It's easy to underestimate the amount of outerwear we need this time of year. That's because of spring "giddiness." Turns out I was a little guilty of "over-dressing" yesterday. Better to do that than to feel chilly, I guess.
I didn't make it all the way out to that gazebo by the riverbank. Once I make it that far, I can declare spring to be fully here.
News isn't kind
It's kind of a bummer spring here in Motown. The pre-trial hearing for our high school principal is set for Wednesday, March 19. It's hard to know what all will transpire. There is potential for substantial media coverage. That's because this is a "man bites dog" story. That's the most common barometer for newsworthiness. You don't expect a "pillar of the community" like the high school principal to face such serious charges.
Let's review: We're talking about first degree criminal sexual conduct. This guy has been sitting around worried about serving as many as 30 years in prison. That's psychological torture. In theory, I suppose, he could actually be convicted of this.
When I hear the term "first degree criminal sexual conduct," I envision some sort of sociopathic monster. And this case just doesn't seem to conform to that. I'm commenting as a layman of course.
I don't know any of the principals in this - the accuser, Principal Peterson or the prosecutors. I wouldn't know the prosecutors if I saw them on the street. Even if I heard the name of the accuser, I wouldn't be so stupid as to type the name here. If Peterson is exonerated or at least cleared, maybe the accuser's name will come forth, I don't know.
I could swear that when this case first broke, the term "assault" rather than "conduct" was used. I just did an online check and found that the "Bring Me the News" website of Rick Kupchella, a popular state news website, did in fact use the term "sexual assault" in regard to the Peterson case, and in the headline no less. Is there really any difference between "conduct" and "assault?" I figure if there's a 30-year prison sentence, there must be some sort of assault involved.
I'm not Mr. Legal but I think one of the things that will happen on the 19th is that the judge will make decisions on allowing evidence. The principal faces not one but two counts of first degree criminal sexual conduct. Re. allowing evidence, I have to wonder about the credibility of testimony from people who were admittedly "drinking" (I assume alcohol).
Not that this has ever happened to me, but any time you have to tell a police officer you've been drinking, they won't give you the benefit of the doubt on anything. "Been drinking, eh?" This sexual conduct case seems different.
Actually this pair of stumblebums appear to have run the risk of being pulled over for DWI. That didn't happen, but events as the night transpired sure resulted in an entangled legal mess. Is this trial going to be expensive for Stevens County? Does anyone think there's any chance that Peterson will be convicted of first degree criminal sexual conduct? Or that he'll be sent to prison for 30 years? I'm just talking about probability.
Anything is possible.
Two people have posted thoughts under the radio station's online article about this, and both seem to come from a sympathetic perspective toward Peterson. These individuals are Chris Hopkins and Sheila Reinke. "Mr. Peterson has been an incredible principal and just because he is accused of a crime does not mean he committed one," Reinke wrote. Hopkins emphasized the "innocent until proven guilty" line.
I'm not sure we can ever settle on uncontested "proof" in this disturbing case. Part of the reason is what I've already cited: alcohol consumption.
Our police prepared a report that asserted that Peterson "forced" the woman to perform oral sex on him. I'm trying to visualize that. Bill Clinton argued that oral sex wasn't even sex, remember? How was this "force" asserted or applied?
The police report says the alleged victim "fell asleep or blacked out." Blacked out? This whole thing just sounds strange or strains credulity. Was the "blacking out" from alcohol? And we're supposed to trust the accounts these people share?
I should note that there are some women who believe the very act of sexual intercourse is rape. Our very human biology means that a man is much more likely of being suspected for sexual assault than a woman.
So, would the Morris school system be advised to take the more risk-averse position of hiring women only? Maybe women are on the verge of taking over our whole world. Maybe men will be segregated off into places where their only purpose will be to supply semen, and that would come from only the most desirable or strongest males.
On to sports
We might feel better about spring if our high school basketball teams had done a little better. Both the boys and girls lost in the first round of post-season. I realize most people don't even follow this anymore. In the old days, Minnesotans talked about how we always seemed to get a blizzard at the time of the state tournament.
Remember the one-class state tournament? It was a big deal even though it was profoundly unfair, with the likes of Edina beating up on less fortunate, smaller communities. But as kids we got let out of class, if we wanted, to go watch these games on TV in the cafeteria. Edina would kill some town like Hayfield.
Today the system is totally fair but it doesn't draw the mass interest anymore. We get lessons on what "Christ's Household of Faith" is. Rochester Lourdes gets glory. "Praise the Lord," we all say, while the public school teams get forced to the sideline.
Can our MACA basketball teams be made stronger? Can we get to where New London-Spicer is now? Why not go for it? Well, our AD Mark Ekren is a little preoccupied now covering for the absent Craig Peterson. Our superintendent is distracted.
Will we learn that we have seen an example of prosecutorial overreach? It's a real phenomenon. The ethical code of the National District Attorneys Association emphasizes that prosecutors should be "ministers of justice." A white paper concludes that prosecutor misconduct is now widespread to the point of reaching "epidemic" levels.
It couldn't happen here in Motown in our bastion of prairie innocence? We used to think that about the Catholic priest misbehavior - that happens out in Boston, not here - but then we discovered quite the problem here in Morris, and a priest had to just mosey on down the road (forced).
Yes, there are discouraging aspects to our spring of 2014 here in Motown. My friend Del Sarlette has suggested in jest that we consider a "snirt festival" complete with a "snirt queen." I had a good friend in college, ol' Brad the "ranger" from Virginia MN, who said in March a long time ago: "It's spring and everything is new - except me."
Yours truly will continue taking those walks out to the east until I get to that gazebo. It would be fun to meet a woman there sometime. Except, that I wouldn't want to be accused of anything later. Lawyers just end up making money.
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

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