When this story was first brought to my attention, it just startled me. I had to read it a couple of times to get the full gist of it.
In case you don't know what I'm talking about, here's the outline of the story:
Student who shot classmate to graduate, no jail time
updated 10:19 a.m. EDT, Fri May 15, 2009
From Gary Tuchman and Ismael Estrada
ATLANTA, Georgia (CNN) -- About 500 students will graduate this weekend from Atlanta's prestigious Morehouse College. One person who won't be there is Rashad Johnson, shot three times by a fellow student. But the shooter will receive his diploma -- part of a plea deal that spared him up to 20 years in prison.
It's a puzzling case that raises a huge question: How can this be?
Even Atlanta's chief district attorney, Paul Howard, is outraged by the generous plea deal, an offer that was made by a prosecutor under his command.
"First of all, for the victim and his family, they deserved a better resolution," said Howard, a Morehouse graduate himself. "It seems like the wrong person got the right benefit."
Joshua Brandon Norris faced one count of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and a second count for possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony. But in a court hearing in January, he was presented with what the judge described as "the break of your life."
He pleaded no contest to the first count; the second charge was dropped. He got six years of probation, a $1,000 fine and 240 hours of community service. He avoided any jail time, and the plea also mandated that he "remain in college and complete your college degree," according to court transcripts. The sentence was not the judge's idea, but he followed the prosecutor's recommendation.
Johnson, who still has a bullet in his left leg, says he wasn't told about the court hearing. When he learned of the plea deal, his reaction was: "He's gotta return to college? This criminal?"
CNN also asked Morehouse officials to comment on why Norris was allowed back in school and asked if they ever talked about safety considerations involving other students there. The school had allowed Norris to return to classes, even before the plea was entered.
Morehouse refused to discuss the issue on camera. But in a written statement, the school said, "The college cannot comment on specific student conduct matters, incidents of inappropriate student behavior, whether on or off campus."
The assistant district attorney who made the plea deal could not be reached for comment. Howard, his boss, said that the prosecutor of the case has resigned and that he would have been fired for his handling of this case. Howard feels a stiffer penalty was warranted.
"We are sorry this happened for so many reasons," Howard said. "When something like this happens, I am very upset by it."
He added, "It was an inappropriate sentence."
As for Johnson, he is attending Sacramento City College and plans to attend law school after he graduates in 2011. Johnson said he no longer wants to be a Morehouse man. The fact that Norris is graduating this weekend, he said, is an injustice.
"I really feel sick, like how could this happen," he said, fighting back tears.
Morehouse student shoots other Morehouse student - and, not only is he not in jail, but he's going to GRADUATE?
I gotta tell you, the thing that crossed my mind was, 'how'd this kid get White folk's justice?'
Dr. Boyce Watkins chimed in:
Bottom Line with Dr. Boyce: Morehouse Men or Morehouse Money?
Posted May 19th 2009 2:52PM by Dr. Boyce Watkins, PhD
Filed under: BlackSpin
In the intro to one of his songs, the rapper and former gang member Snoop Dogg (replicating a scene from the 1973 film 'The Mack') says to another man in a nightclub, "We can settle this like some gentlemen or we can get into some ol' gangsta sh*t." While one might expect such a conversation to occur between two gang members, one would not expect to see this exchange between two men from Morehouse College, arguably the most prestigious Historically Black College in America.
But that is one summary of how things went down on that strange October night. Joshua Brandon Norris attended a Halloween Party in 2007 and was kicked out of the party for causing trouble. A few minutes later, everyone ducked for cover when they heard gunshots. The shooting victim, Frank Rashad Johnson, said that he got into an altercation with Norris, and that Norris rolled up a few minutes later in a Hummer and put a gun to Johnson's head. Johnson then grabbed Norris by the arm and that is when the shooting started. Although he did not kill the victim, Norris shot Johnson three times. Yes, two Morehouse men getting "into some ol' gangsta sh*t". Wow.
The only thing crazier than the story is how it was resolved. Norris, the shooter, faced one count of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and a second count for possession of a firearm in the commission of a felony. The prosecutor, who may have lacked necessary supervision, really put the hammer on Norris: six years probation, a $1,000 fine and 240 hours of community service. Oh by the way, he was also allowed back into Morehouse College to graduate with the rest of his 2009 class this past weekend after serving no jail time. I have to do a Gary Coleman on this one and ask,"Whatchoo talking 'bout Morehouse?"
Johnson, the victim, had just lost his father during the same year. Given the obvious discomfort of going to school with the man who shot him, Johnson has chosen to move out west to be with his mother. After going through such a traumatic experience, I would want to be with my mama, too. Norris, the shooter, has stayed to enjoy the university, along with his $450,000 condo (quite the standard possession for a 22-year old college student). So, the real Morehouse man, whose family had been at the school for three generations, was being run out of town by a rich, gun totting punk who thought he could shoot someone because he disagreed with him.
I fight for black men on a regular basis, and have put my career on the line for them. But I must say that we all deserve certain fundamental rights of blackness. One of those rights should be that a student at Morehouse College who gets into a fight with another student should not expect to have a gun put to his head. Let's be clear: Morehouse College did not do this. Hip-hop did not do this. Morehouse also has the wealthiest of traditions when it comes to educating black men and making them strong. But in this case, Morehouse administrators' behavior appears to be very "unMorehouse" in nature.
Rest of article at link above.
Black Scholars Speak Up on the Morehouse College Shooting Incident
After the recent shooting incident between two Morehouse College students, we felt compelled to make sure that Black scholars from around the nation had an opportunity to chime in.
Juan E. Gilbert, Ph.D., President of the Brothers of the Academy
"When I saw this story on CNN, I thought there was something strange about it. Here's a young man that is a 2nd or 3rd generation Morehouse man that had to leave school after being shot by a young man that is graduating, what? It appeared to me that there is more to this story than meets the eye. I don't know the full story, but there has to be more to this story. Lets keep it real, I am all about giving a young Black man a second chance, but how did he get to come back to the same school as the victim? I don't have answers, just questions.”
Dr. Marc Lamont Hill, Columbia University
“Institutions like Morehouse College have a long and deep history of
producing some of the most extraordinary Black men in the world.
Sometimes, this tradition forces the institution into a protective
posture that privileges "respectability" over "responsibility." This
tragedy also highlights the ways in which HBCUs sometimes replicate
the same class-based inequalities that govern the institutional
decision making of predominately white universities.”
Rest of scholars at link above.
So, what say you, MOA?
Is this a matter of Class?
If this had been Jerome, on Scholarship, would he have been under the jail by now?