The [Thursday] Papers
"An Iowa appeals court on Wednesday reversed the conviction of an off-duty Chicago police officer who says he hit a man in self-defense three years ago while visiting his brother in Dubuque," the Tribune reports.
The officer is Michael Mette, the beneficiary of a campaign started by John Kass.
"Prosecutors in Dubuque and Judge Monica Ackley sent Mike to prison for throwing one punch at an aggressive and abusive drunk who repeatedly attacked him verbally and physically," Kass writes today.
Once again, Kass is not telling you the whole story.
I first wrote about this in July 2007, and I'm sure if you look at the item "Kass's Cop" at the bottom of this column, you'll find it quite revealing. Do it now and come back.
So, in short, Mette and his buddies crashed a party at 3 a.m. that had dissipated, they refused to pay for their beer, an argument ensued, someone in Mette's crew took the cell phone of the host - a college student named Jake Gothard - after he threatened to call the police, and then they left. Gothard and his buddies went after them. Recollections vary, but there is no dispute that Mette punched Gothard in the face - or that Gothard had a blood-alcohol level of .270. Then, according to the court, Mette took his shirt off and advanced toward another person.
When police arrived and questioned Mette, Mette said that Gothard had fallen. In other words, he lied to the cops. Then he said that Gothard had pushed his brother. Self-defense was his third story - and he didn't come up with that one until after he was in jail.
The appeals court on Wednesday overturned Mette's conviction on these curious grounds: "After being pushed and knocked backwards two or three times, there was nothing in the record to indicate Michael could have avoided Gothard's next blow without his defensive punch."
Of course, there is nothing in the record that says Gothard ever delivered a first "blow." He drunkenly pushed Mette at best.
"While it may be possible to speculate on Michael's ability to retreat," the appeals court said, "the record is utterly void of any testimony to support that assumption."
So the prosecution's mistake was not putting on any witnesses or experts to testify that Mette had an alternative to delivering a single crushing punch to Gothard's face that not only broke his jaw and cheek, but fractured four vertebrae in his neck.
Mette is a trained police officer. He knows how to subdue a drunk man without punching him in the face. He also could have simply tackled Gothard and held him down, waiting for the police to come. Or he could have simply blocked an incoming punch or - mercy - ran the hell away.
How a judge could find that Mette had no choice but to slam an incredibly intoxicated man so hard in his face that doctors first suspected a life-threatening brain hemorrhage is beyond me - and not supported in the court's ruling.
More likely, the court felt that justice would be done by releasing Mette instead of making him serve five years in prison - a sentence the initial judge had no choice but to impose because of the heinous mandatory-minimum laws that Kass's conservative pals love so much.
In fact, that's probably why Dubuque County Attorney Ralph Potter told the Sun-Times he wasn't upset with the court's decision.
But in today's print edition, Potter also says that "he was obligated to try the case, adding that Mette refused to negotiate a deal" and that "our police feel differently about this case - and about how [Mette] treated them that night."
Kass's theory of a cornfield conspiracy never made much sense. As you can see in the item here called "Corn Meal," Potter says Kass should direct his ire at mandatory-minimums, not the Iowa cops and prosecutors who did their jobs.
Meanwhile, Kass carps again today about how there weren't any protests - by liberal university professors for example - about the injustice done Mette. Maybe they're too busy trying to get railroaded poor black kids off Death Row. They don't have mayors and governors and state's attorneys working on their behalf these days - in fact, we have a mayor and state's attorney who very well may have put some of them there.
Kass has always complained that this case was political, but he's the one who made it so. The notion that Iowans wanted to teach a big-city cop a lesson is ridiculous. The big-city columnist and the pols he dragged along with them have done the teaching.
The View From Iowa
You might notice, too, that the version of the story Mette just told to the Windy Citizen omits a number of key details in the court's finding of fact. Mette's version went by the Citizen, but bear in mind the reporter had previously called the situation a "fiasco" and linked to Mette's defense fund.
"Palin's Small-Town Snobbery Is Faulty," Steve Chapman writes today.
Chapman is just the latest commentator to have missed the fact that Palin's comments at the Republican National Convention were a response to the elitism directed her way not only for having been the mayor of a small town, but for being the governor of a state apparently not large enough to count.
"After School Matters' growth can, first and foremost, be attributed to the huge need for teen programming in underserved urban communities, with Chicago being no exception," the charity said in a written statement in response to questions.
Questions they were apparently afraid to answer in person. Perhaps this is why:
"Five years ago, After School Matters had programs available for 11,600 teens. A spokesman for the charity said they don't know how many kids participated, though, because the organization started keeping track only two years ago. Last year, the charity served 21,649 teens in 900 programs at 57 high schools and 111 community groups, down from 297 groups the previous year.
"City Hall has declined to identify those community groups and how much money they got from After School Matters."
I'm not sure what City Hall has to do with it - I thought this was a private charity. Oh, oops:
"After School Matters got nearly half its money in 2006 - about $8.9 million - from the city of Chicago, the state of Illinois and other governments. The private charity operates out of city-owned offices, using city telephones and other equipment. And its records are kept by the Mayor's Department of Cultural Affairs, headed by Lois Weisberg, who helped Maggie Daley start the charity 17 years ago."
Thus the headline "City Hall's No. 1 Charity."
And here's where the cross-promotion comes in.
"Last month, After School Matters held its annual gala - expected to raise nearly $3 million - on a yet-to-be-opened runway at O'Hare Airport.
"City Hall would not identify the 3,000 guests, but they included numerous city contractors who paid as much as $25,000 for a table of 10 to mingle with the mayor's family and top city officials. Several O'Hare contractors also were among those who attended."
Just a coincidence - in the most coincidental city in America.
The Beachwood Tip Line: No baggage fees.
Posted on October 2, 2008
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