Three Short Takes: Liberty University, Theresa Riggi and William McCormick III

Here are three quick updates.

First, a couple of days ago I reported that a Tennessee pastor had been arrested for allegedly abetting the international kidnapping of a child by her once-lesbian mother, Lisa Miller.  According to voluminous reports, Miller had gone on a multi-year, multi-country spate of parental alienation to try to keep her daughter, Isabella, from Miller’s previous partner, Janet Jenkins.  Faced with a court that was fed up with her alienation and disobedience of court orders, and that had transferred custody to Jenkins, Miller disappeared a little over a year ago.

The FBI now believes that the girl is in a safe house on the beach in Nicaragua that’s owned by an officer of Liberty University, Jerry Falwell’s fundamentalist school.  I commented in my last piece that that must have come as good news to Jenkins, not only because she may have a lead on the whereabouts of her daughter, but, if Liberty is involved, she’s got someone to be responsible in damages for the kidnapping and deprivation of parental rights.

In due course, as this article says, Liberty officials are fairly shouting that they had nothing to do with helping Miller kidnap the child (The Advocate, 4/27/11).

Mathew Staver, dean of Liberty University’s School of Law and chairman of Liberty Counsel, called the accusations “absurd.” He said the organization’s relationship with Miller ended when she stopped communicating with it via e-mail and phone.

He added, “None of us would be stupid enough to place our careers and our futures and our law licenses on the table to try to help someone violate the law.”

That’s not surprising, but the whole truth about this one won’t be known for some time.

Meanwhile in Scotland, Theresa Riggi has been sentenced to 16 years behind bars for stabbing her three children to death.  Read about it here (Fox News, 4/27/11).

Embroiled in a custody battle with her husband Pasquale, the American mother stabbed each of the  8-year-old twin boys and 5-year-old girl eight times with a kitchen knife, inflicted minor wounds on herself and jumped off the balcony of her third-floor apartment.

Early this year she had pleaded guilty to causing the children’s death but with diminished capacity, the equivalent of a manslaughter charge in the United States.

Judge Alastair Campbell told Riggi that “while your responsibility is diminished, you are still responsible for your actions.”

“It is clear that any degree of responsibility for such ghastly and grotesque acts must be visited with a lengthy sentence of imprisonment,” the judge said…

Her lawyer, Donald Findlay, said she was suffering from narcissistic, paranoid and hysterical personality disorders and acute stress.

No word as yet on the father’s reaction to his ex-wife’s sentencing.

Finally, there’s this development in the William McCormick III case (Brown Daily Herald, 4/27/11).  The article is long – far longer than necessary.  It’s about the differing standards used by, on one hand universities and on the other hand the police, when dealing with rape allegations against students.

That’s interesting enough, but a good bit simpler than the writer would like to think.  Briefly, colleges and universities, when faced with a sexual assault claim by one student against another, have fairly abbreviated  procedures for hearing and deciding them.  Some would argue that those hearing give short shrift to the due process rights of the accused.

By contrast, the police have much more stringent requirements for gathering evidence, presenting it to a grand jury, the rights of the accused, etc.

Now, the short answer to why there’s a difference is that the consequences are different depending on who’s deciding.  If the college or university finds the young man “guilty,” the consequence is that he gets tossed out of school with a nasty notation on his record.  If he’s found guilty in a court of law, he probably goes to prison, has his name placed on a sex offender registry and is kept out of a vast array of occupations when he gets out.

So, different consequences, different procedures.

But that’s not what’s interesting about the article.  No, that comes from something else entirely.

Readers will recall that the woman accusing McCormick has a very wealthy and powerful former Brown alumnus for a dad.  He also donates lavishly to the school.

It is McCormick’s contention in his lawsuit against Brown that the school failed to adequately investigate the woman’s claims and essentially railroaded him out of the school.  It did that, he maintains, in large part because the allegations were made by the daughter of an alumnus that the school didn’t want to displease.  McCormick has always denied the original allegations.

Into the bargain, McCormick’s wrestling coach at Brown agrees with him, saying the college played fast and loose with even its scanty due process rules for accused students.

Now it turns out that a week before the woman’s allegations, a counsellor in her dorm, one Shane Reil (class of ’09) had asked the woman’s father for some career “guidance.”  The English translation of that term is “he was hustling him for a job or for a connection to one.”  The dad responded cordially saying he’d be happy to meet with Reil.

Then, shortly after the woman leveled her accusations of the incident she alleged had occurred a week previously, the same Shane Reil provided a report to the campus investigators saying some pointedly unpleasant things about McCormick.  What a coincidence!

And what an opportunity for Reil.  Opportunities to scratch the back of the wealthy and influential don’t come along every day for college students, particularly not those who’ve just asked the same heavy-hitter for a favor.

And of course, that’s exactly what McCormick has been saying all along – that Brown rolled over for its powerful alum, so it’s scarcely a surprise that a young man, not yet out of college and still looking for a real job did too.  I shouldn’t have to add that Brown was likely pleased enough to get Reil’s report that it wouldn’t have scrutinized its accuracy or veracity too closely.

That’s corroborated by the fact that Reil’s criticisms of McCormick were nothing but opinions about his character and almost entirely lacking in factual support.

In the final analysis, that’s just what the Daily Heraldarticle is saying – that the college’s procedure for handling that type of serious allegation is quick and slipshod.  The absence of rigorous standards of due process allows plainly biased “evidence’ like Reil’s to become part of the record against the accused.

In short, it’s a kangaroo court.  That’s what William McCormick III has been saying all along.

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