Fool us 56 times, shame on us

Georgia law manages to give career criminal but 12 years

Take heed, Georgia state legislators: We appear to need a “57 strikes and you’re out” law.

The reason: An Augusta judge recently could only sentence a man to 12 years in prison whose criminal résumé includes 56 arrests.

Now, we realize that arrests aren’t the same as convictions. But come on. He also sported 13 felony convictions. So he got fewer years in prison than his number of felony convictions.

And how does someone get arrested 56 times – surely not by minding his own business?

It doesn’t happen that way. You’ve got to go way out of your way to get picked up that much.

Even so, Norman Eugene Parker, 55, had the audacity to ask Judge Wade Padgett for leniency.

“He had recently reconnected with his children,” The Chronicle reported, “and discovered he is a grandfather. Parker said one grandson was starting to get into trouble and he wanted to use his own experience with the criminal justice system to convince the child to choose a different path.”

Really? He wants to be a mentor? Is he kidding? Well, perhaps his absence might send a more constructive message than his presence.

We’re not big on one-size-fits-all mandatory sentences. But in Parker’s case, we’d make an exception: Anyone who’s been arrested nearly five dozen times, and convicted of a baker’s dozen of felonies, needs to go away for more than 12 years. Such a person pretty much defines a career criminal – a one-man decades-long crime spree.

And how many offenses has he committed that authorities don’t know about?

It takes unbridled chutzpah to break into other people’s cars and homes and steal the stuff they’ve worked hard to earn money to buy. And to do it over the course of more than three decades requires a very thoughtfully cultivated contempt for civil society.

After 56 arrests and 13 felony convictions, it takes an exceedingly rare brand of gall to then ask for leniency because you claim to have finally gotten your priorities straight. Spare us.

But he’s had plenty of help along the way, and many of his accomplices wear suits. Fact is, Georgia law and the courts are complicit in allowing this low-level but strikingly chronic predation to go on quietly in our city. Which judge, at which point in the string of 13 felonies and 56 arrests, was going to put a stop to it? What law might have been brought to bear in order to do it?

Judge Padgett did what he could. He gave the man all he could – six years in the latest affront and another six from an earlier one via probation revocation. And even that 12 years was pitiably lame for the occasion.

The crime spree has much to do with drug use, we’re told. But even if so, we’ve done a pretty poor job of responding as a society.

Tell us, lawmakers and law enforcers: How many applications of a crowbar before one is considered a career criminal and given a permanent office with bars for windows?

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