If you are in the unfortunate habit of relying on the national media for your news and information, you probably didn’t hear about the brutal assault of a Macy’s employee a few months ago. The assailant, 18-year-old Damire Palmer, attacked the unnamed employee at the Genesee Valley Mall in Michigan on June 15 while his brother filmed the crime and later posted it to social media.
The brother told the always credulous (at least when it comes to these kinds of issues) media that the employee, who is white, called him and his brother, who are black, the N-word. It was obvious to anyone with two brain cells to rub together that this story was a fabrication, but it shouldn’t matter anyway. No bad word could possibly justify felony assault. Apparently the local prosecutor, David Leyton, wasn’t so sure. It took him over ten days to finally charge Palmer with a crime.
BREAKING: This afternoon, a Genesee County prosecutor charged 18 year old Damire Palmer with assault to do great bodily harm less than murder – a maximum 10 year sentence – after this brutal attack on a Macy's store employee that took place 2 weeks ago.pic.twitter.com/k8izEiL9Zo
— John D ● (@RedWingGrips) June 26, 2020
When announcing the charges, Leyton called the alleged slur “vile” and “provoking” yet expressed doubt that the employee had actually said it.
Now, according to MLive.com, the rather unsurprising truth has come out. No slur was ever used. It was a lie.
Proving there is no honor among people who randomly assault retail workers, Damire Palmer pointed the finger at his brother in court, claiming that his brother told him that the word was said. He claims he acted out of mistaken wrath and vengeance.
According to a local media report, the assistant prosecutor Patrick McCombs assured Palmer that “he understands the anger that would fuel the assault.” Perhaps that’s why Palmer may escape with probation and no criminal record.
Palmer pleaded guilty to assault with intent to do great bodily harm, but McCombs says that he will be sentenced under something called the Holmes Youthful Trainee Act. The Michigan law allows offenders — “trainees,” they’re called now — between the ages of 17 and 24 to have their criminal record wiped clean after a probationary period. What this means is that Palmer, after he serves out a sentence that could be as light as probation, will have his charges dismissed and his criminal history magically erased.
Official sentencing isn’t until September. Technically, Palmer could still be given up to 10 years in prison, but signs seem to be pointing to extreme leniency. Indeed, Leyton says: “Nobody’s looking to hang felonies on young men. I never have and never will.”
Yes, nobody is looking to randomly hang felonies on young men, but what if young men actually commit felonies? Apparently we are supposed to just pretend it never happened.
We should note that the victim in this case has consented to the lenient sentence. But that hardly seems relevant. He’s already been attacked once before. He may not want to come out and demand stiffer penalties. Perhaps that’s because he’s feeling generous, or perhaps it’s self-preservation. Whatever the reason, it doesn’t excuse the injustice being done here.
A few additional points:
First, why has the court focused so much on whether the bad word was said or not? Who cares? It is most definitely not understandable for an adult to commit felony assault in response to a word. The implication from the way this sentencing is working out is that felony assault is essentially legal — or at least not very illegal — if the assailant even so much as believes a racial slur was uttered.
Second, I am sounding like a broken record but here we have another incident that, with races reversed, would not only be headline news but the assailant would almost certainly be looking at hard time behind bars on federal hate crime charges. I personally don’t think the hate crime designation should exist at all, but if we are going to have the category, it ought to be evenly applied. And by any coherent definition, this was a hate crime.
In fact, Damire Palmer’s admission makes clear that it was a racially motivated attack. He claims he assaulted the store clerk because he thought the clerk had said a word. We can reasonably assume that Palmer would not have assaulted a black man for saying the word. So it’s not just that the employee allegedly said a word, but that he was a white man allegedly saying it. This is not an argument that the word is the same when used by white people as by black people. Rather it’s an argument that this assault was motivated by the combination of the alleged word and the race of the person who allegedly said it. That, it would seem to me, makes this a racially motivated assault, and thus a hate crime.
Thirdly, this case again serves to highlight the type of “criminal justice reform” that is actually needed in this country. The justice system in Michigan, home to one of the most violent cities in America, considers violent and dangerous criminals of a particular age to be “trainees” and will release them back into the community without providing any indication or warning that they are violent and dangerous. This is an outrageous failure to protect society, and the failure is on two levels. First they unleash the dangerous people on society, and then they refuse to tell anyone that they are dangerous.
I do not think we have a large scale problem in this country of the justice system coming down too hard on the bad guys. There are no doubt some examples of that sort of thing, but there are many more examples of the justice system doling out slaps on the wrist when it should be throwing the book. This is just the latest example. The streets of our cities are overrun by violent people who are known to the system and yet are permitted to stay out on the street, until they have finally done something so remarkably heinous that even the most useless prosecutor has no choice but to respond accordingly. I hope that Damire Palmer’s story doesn’t go in that direction, but I am not very confident.
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