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.