Eric Lee Can’t Help It If He’s Lucky. But What About Those Who Aren’t?

This follows up on yesterday’s post, Be Careful What You Post on Social Media: Remember the Lee Brothers? and you should read that first.

I ended that post with a few questions. In December 2011, 4 people were arrested for trafficking. Two have court case numbers. Two don’t. The two that don’t aren’t the sons of the owners of the Pinnacle School, which has as one of its campuses the Elk River Treatment Program (ERTP). The CEO is owner Karen Lee. Her son Eric was employed at ERTP as a counselor and is now a supervisor and is one of the 4 arrested who doesn’t have a court case number.

This puzzles me: What does it mean not to have a case number? Not guilty? Dismissed? Or trial pending?

My speculation is that it means either not guilty or charges were dismissed. Why? Because the other son with no case number, Charles Lee, Jr., was arrested 1/30/2013 on an unspecified felony charge and released 1/25/2014. My thinking is that if he were still awaiting a court date for the 2011 bust and was convicted of a felony, then he would not have been released. This could well be erroneous thinking since it doesn’t factor in money and influence.

So if the 2011 charges against the brothers Lee were dismissed, I guess there would be no reason for the guy not to be a supervisor at a remote whatever ERTP is. His mother seemed sure all along he wouldn’t be convicted. But why?

As I said in the title, Eric Lee can’t help it if he’s lucky. Here he is, in the presence of 24 lbs of pot, $37,600 in cash, and a small arsenal when the Madison-Morgan County Strategic Counterdrug Team comes busting through the door of a $138,000 home in Madison. And yet he is free.

He can’t help it if someone (Mom?) can come up with $25,000 bond for him and another $25,000 for his brother so they were in jail only 4 days.  You, I and the man on the moon all know if he had been poor — guilty or not — he’d be in jail awaiting trial. Contrast his predicament with that of the 19-year-old who died naked on the floor of his Madison County jail cell from an infected foot that was never treated. He was arrested in June 2013 for shoplifting Star Wars DVDs and in July for passing a fake $100. By August he was dead. Couldn’t come up with bail, I guess. Freedom isn’t free.

So where are we? Either Eric Lee is awaiting trial or his 2011 problems just dissolved. If he is awaiting trial, then his mom, Pinnacle CEO Karen Lee, has some explaining to do about his job.

If not? Well, then there was no mistake about posting the picture of supervisor Eric on the ERTP Facebook page, maybe as a message that all is clear for Eric, or maybe as a middle fingered salute.

I don’t care if any of the Lees smoke pot or not. I’m unequivocally in favor of the legalization of the plant. For one thing, its illegality continues to destroy the lives of some who are arrested and not for others, and this is unfair. But even if marijuana were legalized and possession for personal use not a crime, trafficking would be. Legal marijuana would be taxed. And one of the best reasons for legalization would be to avoid the culture of trafficking, which includes being willing to harm others, which is why the rifles and weapons were confiscated.

I’d say that Eric could be a nice guy for all I know, except that even if he just stumbled into the house with the 24 lbs of weed, $37K in cash, and shotguns and rifles, what kind of man would be at ease earning his [artisan] bread and [creamery] butter for depriving teens of their liberty and subjecting them to who knows what kinds of torment because they were stupid enough to get caught with a joint in a Huntsville City School and unlucky enough not to have money for a high-profiled attorney and were not to the manor born? One with the integrity of puddle scum, I guess. Or a question of upbringing.

Even if Eric just stopped by the house at the wrong time, his judgment at hanging out with traffickers should disqualify him from a position of responsibility for other peoples’ kids. What does this have to with Huntsville City Schools? Some of those whom Eric Lee are supervising have been sent to ERTP by HCS, and some I expect are there because of social media monitoring. If private pay parents wish to spend tens of thousands of dollars on ERTP without questioning the qualifications of its staff, that’s their decision. But if the public is footing the bill, it should have the assurance that ERTP’s staff, every single one, is qualified and has good judgment. 

As I said back on Sept. 14, 2012, it wouldn’t surprise me if the Lees were not convicted. I would be a little surprised if the charges were simply dismissed, but just a little. Why?

Enter Robert Broussard, DA Madison County.

If the charges against the Lees were dismissed, it comes down to the District Attorney for Madison County, Robert L. Broussard, a man for whom I have even less respect than I do for Col. Wardynski. And that is saying something. 

The  Madison-Morgan County Strategic Counterdrug Team is a division of his office, and this team is a specialized and extra-well trained and funded one. I would imagine that they look before they leap, and had an eye on the four people they arrested long before 12/9/2011. All four. A raid like this should have been executed when no stray people were on the premises. This was no broken tail-light, oh my, there’s 24 pounds of weed in the trunk bust. But “Lee” is a fairly common name, and so maybe they hadn’t done their homework well enough to discover they were about to mess with the sons of the power elite.

If the charges were dismissed, I for one would love to hear the story concocted to explain this.  I haven’t the brainpower to imagine how a specialized drug squad could make such a boo-boo. How, exactly, can you be in a house with 24 lbs of marijuana, etc. and walk away from the charges? What was special about the Lees’ presence that didn’t apply to the other 2 arrested, who do have court case numbers? 

What was different about the Lees in contrast to McDonald and Porter? Money. Not just the Lee’s own stash, being augmented by the public through their contract with the HCS, but the money that has gone into propping up Wardynski, who is a great enabler of Karen Lee.

So here’s the situation again. I expect no answer.

1. The charges against Eric Lee are still pending. This means that Karen Lee’s assurance to the public that Eric would not be counseling at ERTP needs some scrutiny.

2. The charges against the brothers Lee were dismissed or they were found not guilty. Did the Madison-Morgan County Strategic Counterdrug Team screw up? Or did Broussard choose not to prosecute? Why?

 

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He Spies, etc. Pt. 5. Why is Deterrence Not an Option?

I wish that I had access to a sampling of HCS middle and senior high school students to ask two questions: What happens to students who are expelled? Does it matter how old they are?

For most of my life I have believed that being expelled was the same as dropping out, but with more drama. At least the outcome was the same: prospect of not getting a decent job unless the school-leaver got a GED. Family fireworks. Nothing worse, though.

I’m thinking now I was wrong. Consider this statement from the article alerting us to the HCS surveillance program, or whatever you want to call this latest outrage:

“The students were expelled and placed in alternative school and boot camp programs.”

If expelled means kicked out of school, how can a superintendent place an expelled student in an alternative school or boot camp?

What is the procedure? Pages A14 to A19 of the 2014-2015 HCS Student/Parent Handbook outline the procedure for expulsion, but there is no mention of alternative schools or boot camps. So how do students land in boot camps?

And more importantly, why are students not told that being expelled doesn’t mean they are through with school?

Why are they not told in graphic detail what they can expect their lives to be like if they land in Wardynski’s “boot camp” which I assume is the Pinnacle School’s Elk River Wilderness camp (the “teepees”) but can’t say for sure, since nowhere on the HCS website or in the handbook is there a single mention of an alternative school or boot camp.

This is what Wardynski said way back when he and the Board shut the Seldon Center and got in bed with Pinnacle:

“Those who do not comport themselves according to the regulations and rules of Pinnacle Schools will find themselves living in a teepee. And they won’t be coming back until they can behave. And if they can’t behave, they won’t be coming back to our schools.”

The contract included this:

“. . . HCS may refer students who are being removed from the program to Pinnacle School’s Elk River Treatment Program for intensive therapeutic treatment, upon such terms as may be agreed to by TPS and HCS and at the sole discretion of the Superintendent.” [emphasis added] — Pinnacle and Huntsville City Schools Contract

The prospect of being sent to the sticks far from friends and family with no phone, no internet, no privacy, and no freedom, for an indeterminate stretch could be a good deterrent to those contemplating an expulsion worthy offense. But not wanting to go through such a program would serve as a deterrent only if would-be offenders had a clue what awaited them on the other side of expulsion.

Why don’t they know? Why does the HCS keep this secret to surprise kids with after they have done wrong? 

I find it sinister and sociopathic to operate thusly.

Wardynski has his fantasies of calls from the NSA alerting him to Yemenis plotting to cut off teachers’ heads.

I’ll offer a fantasy of my own.

Imagine you have had enough of high school but you are only 15. You long for your 16th birthday when you will be able to drop out. You turn 16, go to get your license, and discover that the school leaving age has been bumped up to 17 (did you know this, Reader? Meanwhile, the UK has extended voting privileges to 16-year-olds). Despair follows. You cannot take another year of standardizing testing — why bother with all that when you could be preparing and taking the GED, a test that if you perform well will mean something to you, and not the suits? But you also have heard of truant officers and you don’t want to land at the juvenile detention center. So what are your options?

Maybe, you think, if you can’t leave voluntarily, you can get them to throw you out. So you devise a full-proof scheme. You buy a stiletto at the flea market, print out a picture of your principal, pin it to your wall by jabbing the stiletto through the eye, and take out your phone. You post it with the caption, after today I will never have to look Mr. Principal in the eye ever again, on your FB wall and a bunch of your friends’, toss the stiletto in the glove compartment, and off you go, happily thinking this is the last time you will be making this trip.

You are cheerful when confronted by all the assistant principals, etc. and show no remorse because all is going according to plan.

You are expelled the next day,

And then you are informed you will be spending as long as it takes to break you or until your 17th birthday in a teepee. Now it’s W who is flying high.

And there is nothing at all you can do.

No one ever told you that expelled doesn’t mean you are free of the school system’s authority. You didn’t factor in that if you aren’t 17 you have to be educated somewhere, and Mom and Dad don’t have the resources to send you to a private school, even if one would take you, and they have been threatened with arrest and jail if they don’t sign you over, and are too shocked to figure out a workable plan — if there is such a thing.

You would never have done the stupid little charade to get kicked out if you had known that kicked out really meant losing all your freedom.

Nobody is going to believe you that all you wanted was to be free and get on with your life.

You are screwed, in other words, facing weeks, months, years (do they have to release you at 17?) in a private prison with no legal representation, wondering why no one warned you.

Too bad.