UPDATE: FBI arrests State Treasurer Martha Shoffner, an abuse of authority

While the headline may seem misinformed or overreaching, and considering Shoffner’s tendency toward transactions that have point toward a self-serving abuse of office, and conceding that she has displayed not a dime’s worth of regret, one must still stand back with mouths wide open at the arrogance and schoolyard bully tactics practiced by an agency of government from which we have come to expect a much higher degree of professionalism. It may be that some power-crazed higher-up may have ordered the unspeakable and indecent mistreatment of a 68 year-old woman.

Why is it necessary to take this elderly lady into police custody and subject her to the horrors and potential dangers of incarceration on a Saturday afternoon. It was a power play and the kind of strong-arm action that bears the markings of a personal vendetta. This kind of unnecessary roughness speaks volumes of a general disrespect for humanity and the due process of the law.

So Martha Shoffner is such a dangerous individual and menace to society that she must be taken to jail at such a time as to guarantee two full nights in the hostile environment, the Pulaski County Jail? Is the federal prosecutor’s case so lame that the only way to compensate for what looks like a possible lack of evidence is to treat a non-violent old woman like Al Capone? This smacks of raw intimidation.

I do not know the state of evidence that might be presented against the constitutional officer, and if news stories and her own quotations are to be believed, things do not look good for Ms. Soffner. Should she be exempted from prison? Of course not. Federal prisons have facilities to accommodate the old and inform. Maybe she will be convicted, but that depends on actual evidence and the decision of a jury. In the meantime, it would have been more respectful of our common humanity, and far more professional, to arrest the woman on a weekday when she could have counsel and immediately appear before a federal magistrate.

Yes, I am calling for compassion. It is a virtue seen to seldom that demonstrates strength of character. As Shakespeare observes, mercy is “mightiest in the mighty.” The obverse side of that coin is a display of public cowardice and an abuse of power almost as great as the allegations against the accused.

UPDATE: Max over at Arkansas Times Blog adds some insight on the Saturday arrest.

Thyer said that the timing of Shoffner’s arrest on Saturday had to do with the fact that the Saturday meeting between CHS1 and Shoffner was the first time they had met to make a cash handoff since CHS1 was offered immunity. According to the criminal complaint, the meetings between Shoffner and CHS1 happened at intervals of up to six months. Shoffner wasn’t indicted, he said, because a grand jury wasn’t available Saturday to hear the evidence. Thyer said they decided to move forward without an indictment because a delay would have meant “we would have left $6,000 in government funds in her possession until the grand jury met.” He said the case will be presented to a grand jury as soon as possible.

Ahhhh. So there it is! And why might a federal grand jury not be available on Saturday? Perhaps it is because things move slow on the weekend and the circumstances allowed for a little game of intimidation. Now about that “$6,000.00 in government funds,” if what prosecutors say is true, and they would NEVER stretch the truth, the money was a bribe. What did Thyer think might happen? Banks are not open on weekends either, so his argument simply makes no sense. Was it cash? OK, fine. Then I guess the next thing they will say is that Shoffner has WMD’s. I guess you can do a lot of harm with six grand laying around.

On the brighter side, I am pleased to know that the zealous Mr. Thyer has organized a task force to oppose public corruption. I’d like to know what Huckabee was hiding on all the hard drives he ground down to dust, but that pesky statute of limitations has probably already run. Thyer is after Democrats, and I can’t really fault him for playing the game. I honestly hope he has better luck than the people have had trying to get a handle on public corruption. The problem is that Arkansans simply do not seem to care. One suspects that there are plenty of them that need to be in the iron bars hotel. If Christ Thyer thinks making an example out of a 68 year-old woman is making some sort of statement, it is. The statement is completely wrong.

President Obama’s stumbling reaction to Boston arrest

It was not a powerful speech. It was hardly a speech. In fact, the President’s reaction to news that the remaining suspect in the Boston Marathon bombings is now in custody was a disconnected, rambling mess of clichés in search of a theme. Perhaps his speech writers have been cut because of the sequester. The only problem with that is that the man has an Ivy League education and should certainly be able to pull together one or two coherent thoughts in a tight spot.

Has President Obama ever heard of the word “alleged?” The suspect is not necessarily a terrorist and it has not been proven that he was radicalized into anything. All we know is that one man has been accused of a very serious crime. So far, he has not even been arraigned. The accused person is, in fact, wrapped in a presumption of innocence. The government must prove that the defendant is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. So far they have proved nothing. A little more restraint might be in order.

Sonny Simpson in perspective

The passing of former Little Rock Chief of Police Sonny Simpson brings up a host of old names and ancient grudges. It is always inappropriate to voice harsh opinions of an individual prior to his burial and that rule will not be violated here.

My experience with the Chief was, unfortunately, not altogether positive. I particularly recall incidents involving the police shooting of a man outside a junk yard in the east part of town and the needless harassment of passengers who were dropped inside the Little Rock airport after the flight encountered mechanical difficulties. There were plenty of questionable occurrences during the Simpson years. One fateful morning, I got on the radio with my pal, Mayor Tom Prince, and coaxed Prince into calling for Simpson’s resignation. It was a notable error of judgment and probably resulted in Simpson hanging around for a few extra years past his intended retirement.

But I hinted that this commentary would be more positive and that is my intention. Simpson needs to be placed in a larger context. Compare Sonny to Gayle Weeks and there is no doubt that Chief Simpson deserves an even-handed treatment by professional rememberers. Simpson was a bit too close to George Wimberly, whose reputation is beyond redemption. Sonny Simpson was a force for racial equality and a more professional police department. That would only be achieved with the arrival of Lou Caudell, an outsider from Dallas, Texas to take the department’s helm.

In the longer view of history, Sonny Simpson deserves a passing grade.

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