To hear the Internet tell it, Tracey Attaway was a beaten and broken victim of Old South military-style vigilantism after he tried to steal from an Augusta Best Buy store last Christmas season.
Cyberspace has been abuzz since last November about Attaway supposedly being beaten to a pulp by some Marines, and implications that the police covered it up by reporting that his supposed multiple fractures and other injuries occurred after merely stepping off a curb.
Or, according to the Internet, it might have happened in Australia. And his name might have been Tyrone Jackson. And it might have been a Toys “R” Us.
Of course, the plain truth – which won’t make as much noise on the Web as have the Paul Bunyan tall tales – is that Attaway is a guilty-as-sin armed robber and inveterate blight on society with 30 arrests in his past who tried to conceal himself amid the hubbub of the year’s busiest shopping day to steal property armed with a knife, with which he gashed a young Marine serving his country and community in the Toys for Tots program.
Thankfully, Richmond County jurors heard the facts, not Internet fiction, in a trial this week, and after just an hour of deliberation found him guilty on all counts, including armed robbery and aggravated assault. Testimony indicated the Marines merely held Attaway for authorities, even after he’d stabbed their comrade. Testimony indicated no injuries to Attaway, and his defense lawyer never broached such a thing at trial.
After a tearful plea for mercy in which he pathetically owned up only to being a “small-time criminal” – albeit a high-volume one – the 40-year-old was handed life plus 30 years in prison. That’s what they call “big-time.”
The Internet has not yet been charged with defamation, though it should. Its fractured fairy tales of vigilantism and Old South justice and police cover-ups were total fiction that defamed Augusta, the Marines and local law enforcement, and at one point actually prompted a crusading Connecticut writer to call The Chroncile’s editorial department in an effort to confirm his stereotypes of the South.
They so wanted to believe the worst about us.
The truth isn’t as much fun.