For those of you who didn’t see yesterday’s personal Facebook post, Sue Sarkauskus did a good job explaining the background of my pickup truck firebombing as well as yesterday’s court proceedings in which the adult offender was sentenced. You can read her report right here.
Since I chose not to be in court yesterday, the following is an email I sent to Judge David Kliment and Chief Judge Susan Clancy Boles in lieu of proving what would’ve been a victim impact statement that would’ve been summarily ignored.
This is a cautionary tale, because if this is what happens to a major Kane County crime victim with a voice, I can only imagine what transpires for all you regular folks. So, when I say there’s no justice in the 16th Circuit, I speak from observational and personal experience.
I wasn’t in court yesterday for the Castelvecchi plea and sentencing because:
1. I was warned by KCSAO insiders that if I said what I really wanted to say, you’d quickly find me in contempt and I’m convinced they were right.
2. Unlike the two juveniles involved, Mr. Castelvecchi is a lost cause who will be back in your courtroom before too long. He’s still drinking, by the way. And when I make that statement, please remember that I’m a well-regarded Kane County investigative journalist. Of course, considering the state of things, that’s like saying I’m the best judge in the 16th Circuit.
3. Given the abject bullshit I’ve had to put up with from Prosecutor Alex Bederka, I probably would’ve said something about him that would’ve made point number 1 even worse.
So I’ll have my say here and on my popular blog.
Prosecutor Bederka failed to follow the victim’s rights checklist every single step of the way. All I ever received from him was a form letter three days before the hearing stating that there might be a guilty plea on the 19th. To that end, going down the victim’s rights form checklist:
1. Aside from Victim’s Rights Advocate, Judy Bland, I was never treated with fairness, respect or dignity throughout this entire adult offender prosecution process. In fact, it’s been just the opposite. And your bailiff referring to me as a “stupid motherfucker” under his breath during the only hearing I attended, was the icing on the cake, too. Yes, as a journalist, I’ve learned to read lips, although anyone who’s ever watched a sporting event can discern those epithets without much effort.
2. I don’t consider a three-day notice as “timely notification of all court proceedings.”
3. Bederka regularly refused to respond to emails and phone calls. And when he did respond – about 50 percent of the time – it was typically two weeks late and he was generally abusive in those responses. To be fair, I happily returned that favor at one point.
4. Timely disposition? Over a year-and-a-half later this case is adjudicated? Right! That was nothing but a ploy by defense attorney David Camic to get this worthless kid working and in school so you’d go easy on him, which is exactly what you did. I thought you were smarter than that, your honor.
5. Reasonably protected? The bail judge and clerk didn’t even bother to check off the “don’t contact the victim” and “no alcohol” boxes on the form. And the vandalism and harassment by his friends continues. Please see the attached video. I have many more videos, but the files are too big so send via email.
6. Per number 5, my family’s safety has never been considered at any point in our journey through the system as victims, and it’s still not being considered. He gets to serve just fifteen days with good behavior? Yep! That’s justice.
7. I’ll never see a dime of restitution from this kid. Did I say he’s still drinking? I still have Mr. Castelvechhi’s post-arrest tweet stating, “I am the liquor.” It’s exactly the kind of individual he is.
8. I was never provided the details of the plea agreement beforehand and Mr. Bederka never provided an opportunity for me to have input as the victim’s rights agreement clearly stipulates. The only reason Bederka suddenly reached out to me two days in a row (10/18 and 10/19) is he’s seen the effect my journalistic efforts can have on a public official’s career. Before that, he never reached out to me one day in a row.
9. This plea agreement is the kind of abject bullshit that doesn’t come close to justice for me or my family. Did I say the seven-year harassment by Mr. Castelvecchi’s friends continues? It could be him in that video, your honor. Perhaps you might want to order a voice analysis. This has been an utter farce in which, you sir, are a willing partner. I’ve covered all sorts of court cases over the past 11 years, so I know the drill.
Lest you think I’m just being a dick, please ask Judge Parkhurst, prosecutor Lark Cowart and defense attorney Gary Johnson about my victim impact statements regarding the two juvenile offenders. Those kids, one of whom I coached in soccer for 3 years, are retrievable. Not only did I say as much in court, but I’ve been keeping tabs on both of them and even offered to speak on behalf of the one who was just arrested in Indiana for drinking – again. His parents hold me in the highest regard.
As far as your Bailiff goes, even as a journalist, I hate being late to morning court calls. It’s disrespectful. But on that spring day, the line to get through security was out the door and, as usual, one of the Judicial Center elevators wasn’t working and the line for the other one was down the hall. So I ran up the stairs to get to your courtroom and started taking off my coat and hat ASAP. But before I could completely remove my hat, your bailiff began to berate at length for not doing it quickly enough. When I responded “I am removing my hat,” he called a “stupid motherfucker” under his breath as he walked away. I’ve since learned that kind of thing is his specialty.
So, given your short temper as described, and your bailiff’s surly demeanor, I decided not to attend further court hearings because I wouldn’t take that kind of abuse a second time. And if I spoke up, I would’ve suffered the consequences, not the bailiff. It’s so much fun being a victim in the 16th Circuit.
So no! I do not agree with this plea bargain, to which I had no input, in any way shape or form.
Fifteen days when he could’ve received 15 years? And then he gets to serve his jail term on his terms? That certainly wouldn’t have happened if the defendant were black or Hispanic – a point I’ll be making going forward.
That pickup truck was parked under my and my younger son’s bedroom windows. Had I not gotten up so quickly and put the fire out with a garden hose, the gas tank could’ve gone off killing both of us. My only solace is, like I said, Mr. Castelvecchi will offend again, and he will be back in jail again. A felony conviction is no small matter either.
In conclusion, I can’t tell you how disappointed I am in my former friend Joe McMahon. Did you know I advised him – in writing – on how to handle Chairman Lauzen during that difficult time with him where they were essentially threatening to sue each other?
I’m even more disappointed in Mr. Bederka. I understand his mother was murdered in a truly horrific fashion when he was just 18, but even that kind of loss doesn’t entitle you to treat people like shit for the rest of your life. I can go into far more specific detail and provide emails in that regard at your request.
And I’m disappointed in you sir! You’re clearly not a very good judge on a number of levels, but compared to some of the others, I suppose… I would rather go through the Kane County justice system as a felony defendant than as a victim. And doesn’t that say it all, your honor?
Oh! And since Chief Judges Boles’ response to a previous email regarding this lack of justice was to block me from the entire KCSAO and 16th Circuit email servers, I’ll send this via another email address and snail mail, as well.