Let’s Ignore the Cabal in Criminal Justice

I have watched with increasing concern, the behavior of some folks who have sworn to uphold the laws and the Constitution. Seems we have a cabal of individuals who believe that certain people are to be treated more fairly than others. A privileged class of individuals has grown who flagrantly violate the law – the same law that others without political power or money are prosecuted under and are often sentenced to prison when convicted.

Why am I worried about what some would call “old news?” A couple of reasons. First, I’m very proud of our Criminal Justice System (“CJS”) in this country. It’s not perfect but I know that we have dedicated folks who are passionate about insuring that changes are made so that we can achieve the fair and impartial administration of justice. These individuals should not have their efforts tarred with the self-serving conduct of others who support a privileged class of select citizens.

More importantly, with the cabal in place dominating the headlines, time, and effort, those of us looking for meaningful changes in the way in which victims are protected and served throughout the entire CJS will be stymied.

Getting laws passed is the least of our concerns – fair and impartial enforcement is the most important concern. Prosecutors who pick and choose who to prosecute based upon status and perceived political power; judges who consider the future of the offender over the rights of victims; or, universities and colleges which decline to press for criminal prosecution for a campus rape, continue to threaten our efforts to implement change. Members of the CJS who work daily to insure the fair and impartial administration of justice are the folks which should be grabbing the headlines. Indeed, their efforts and passion about protecting the rights of victims should be fully acknowledged and recognized. Shine the spotlight on these dedicated folks, and let’s ignore the cabal.

Failure – oh my!

I attended a meeting today during which the question arose as to how to make the educational experience more meaningful to students. With subtle filter in place, I offered the idea that as faculty, we need to help our students deal more effectively with failure. Why is that?

Well, not everyone is going to get a participation trophy for simply registering for class. (At least I hope not.) I know things have changed since I was last in undergraduate school. But I think it’s still required that students participate in class discussions and activities, do well on exams, quizzes, etc., and turn in required assignments on time that meet the academic standards for whatever school they’re attending. College should prepare students for the real world of being an adult – a responsible adult. In the real world, we don’t usually have someone telling us when to go to work, how to dress, how to do every assigned task, etc. If someone has a job where the supervisor looks over the shoulder of every single employee, pointing out when they’re making a mistake and taking the time to correct that mistake for them, and the employee is still getting paid (on top of keeping his/her job), please tell me where I send in an application.

Failure is not a horrible thing.  Think of it as an opportunity to learn from our mistakes and improve our skills. Certainly it hurts the ego when we fail.  For all those former students out there who sailed through high school with straight A’s, remember how it felt when you received your first ever B or C in college? Once the shock passed, what was the result? More than likely it was a higher level of motivation and effort so the B or C was quickly overwhelmed with A’s again. I don’t think we’re doing our younger generation any good by awarding them prizes for simply showing up.  Life requires more than that. It requires a commitment to do our best each and every time. Remember that success is usually the result of hard work.


Last week I got to shake hands with Tommy Lasorda. This week, I met and spoke with Jim Thome. Both men are legends in sports and probably in life in general. And yes, it was nice to meet both.
For me, a legend is someone who is committed to doing the very best he or she can do and passionate about overcoming the challenges and obstacles that stand in the way of that commitment. Legends are found in all walks of life, to be sure. Do I think legends are perfect? Certainly not. They’re human. While meeting these two men was exciting, I recall that the most impressive person I ever met was while I was in college.
Christine Jorgenson was invited to speak at a women’s symposium on campus my senior year. She was forthright and candid about her life story and challenges she had to overcome. I’ve read her autobiography and I know her story. She wasn’t there to persuade but rather, she was there to share information and let us each make our own decisions. Christine didn’t appreciate patronizing questions and as for stupid ones – she didn’t do stupid at all. She was passionate about sharing her story with others, to let them know that she understood and appreciated how they might be facing personal issues. She was captivating throughout her entire presentation. Perhaps it was her own expression of passion, or perhaps it was her way of paying forward something that was given to her – a word of encouragement and support in a nonjudgmental way – that made her presentation so effective.
What I remember most was the brief meeting Christine and I had after the symposium. She encouraged me to never apologize for being passionate about something that was close to my heart. Her words have stuck with me for a whole lot more years than I really care to admit, even though our meeting was no more than five minutes, at best. Even in low moments, Christine’s words have been a guiding light for me, encouraging me to remain true to my commitment. I understand better the importance of following my passion, of inviting others to share the journey in their own way, and remaining true to making a difference. Christine Jorgenson made a lasting positive impression and I’m forever grateful to that legendary individual.

Breaking in a New Cold Front

Family and friends living on the east coast – you’re welcome!
It’s been chilly of late here in the southwest desert. If you don’t believe me, take a look at the photo taken late last week at about five in the morning.
I don’t know about anyone else but it’s a bit strange that the Phoenix area would set records for high temperatures in January and the week before MLB’s spring training starts, we’re colder than a number of places east of us. Now there could any number of ways to handle such an event. We could complain mightily, wrap ourselves in every single layer of clothing we own and top that off with a new pair of flip flops (another story for another time), or simply go with the flow. I no longer own a serious winter coat and haven’t seen my good winter gloves in over a decade. It’s a shock to the system to get the pups up and out around five in the morning only to see the temperature is well below the mandatory minimum 60 degrees. The three looks of, “seriously, Mom? It’s freezing out here,” are priceless but Mom prevails.
This cold snap might help explain why I never complain about the triple digit weather we experience here throughout an extended summer. I guess I’ve finally reached that point in my life where I know there are simply things over which I have no control, the weather being one of them. That doesn’t mean I simply give up. With this cold snap (hopefully done by the weekend) I can’t control how cold it is but I can control my response. Fussing isn’t going to change a thing and complaining to folks who are well below zero and still shoveling snow is sort of like spitting into the wind – another waste of time and often inconsiderate to boot.
I know that the task I took on late last summer is something that contains a number of things I can’t control. What I can control is my passion and my commitment to making a positive change, even if it’s only in the lives of the three young boys I met over two years ago. And if we all work together, each of us can make a similar change in the lives of any number of young people whose lives have been seriously impacted by neglect and abuse. Do I know for certain that the weather’s going to change? Yup. Do I know for certain that I’m going to make a positive difference in someone’s life? Not really, but that uncertainty isn’t going to stop me from trying.

No automatic alt text available.


The annual harbinger of spring is about to occur – the start of major league baseball’s spring training.  It’s early this year but I see it as a time for a new dedication to insuring that we are practicing ethical, compassionate leadership, and making a positive difference in people’s lives by letting them know that they matter.

Sounds like Pollyanna, doesn’t it.  I don’t disagree with that for a moment.  But after watching the sentencings for Nassar and delving into the debacle that allowed such heinous behavior to occur, I feel the need to take a deep breath and look forward to warmer, sunnier days.  Better days need to come for all of the victims involved in that decades long horror, as well as for all victims of criminal behavior.  The one thing that often gets lost in the sauce for victims is how do we as leaders within our organizations and communities help them regain a sense of trust in themselves, in other people, and in our society at large.  When one “responsible” person turns a deaf ear and a blind eye to the egregious conduct of another, all of society gets the blame.  By now you’re wondering why I entitled this posting, “Spring.”

For me, spring represents the season of renewal and rebirth.  We have a unique opportunity within this country to rededicate ourselves to insuring that victims of criminal conduct are treated with respect, dignity, and given the necessary sense that despite what has happened to them, they continue to have value as individuals.  Nothing we say or do will erase the horror they endured.  But we can work together within our workplaces and communities to minimize the damage as best we can.   Not only can we do this, we really need to do this.

Spring is right around the corner.  Time for a fresh start, one with a renewed sense of purpose.

Moving Forward

It was gratifying to watch as Larry Nassar was sentenced in the latest of his court cases to a minimum of 40 years and a maximum of 125 years, concurrent to the sentence imposed by Judge Aquilina and consecutive to the federal sentence of 60 years. The question now looming over this situation is how do we move forward from this point?
First and foremost, we must make sure that the victims of Nassar’s criminal conduct are supported as they begin or continue the healing process. I understand from the sentencing hearings that restitution is still open and will be decided at an upcoming court hearing. Restitution will address the victims’ needs for therapy or continued medical care.
Second, as leaders within our organizations and communities, we must work with legislators, law enforcement, and courts to insure that the laws are complied with by all organizations. The conduct of MSU, and USA Gymnastics enabled Nassar’s criminal conduct to continue for over two decades. Had the officials who were originally told of his conduct in the mid-1990s fulfilled their responsibilities with due diligence, scores of young girls and women would never have been exposed to the horrors of sexual assault. We must insure that not only are the offenders held accountable but that those who enable the offenders are also held to account.
And finally, we must work together to insure that our communities are safe for all residents. People of all ages and genders must have the confidence that when they legitimately report that they have been sexually assaulted, law enforcement will act responsibly upon that information, in full compliance with the laws. Where the laws are weak or ineffective, we must insure that new laws are passed and upheld. When victims are found, we must do all in our power to insure that they are made whole again. To do nothing is not an option.

Ignorance Versus Compassion and Understanding

While watching the sentencing hearings for Larry Nassar, I took an opportunity to also watch the hearings on social media, reading many of the comments which folks posted. I was struck on many occasions by the complete lack of compassion and understanding expressed in some comments. A disturbing trend were comments to the effect that somehow, the victims of Nassar’s criminal conduct lost any right to pursue justice because they failed to speak up in a timely manner. What appears to have been lost on those observers was any understanding or appreciation for a victim’s response when sexually assaulted. To all those individuals who believe that none of the victims had any right to speak because they did not speak up previously, a brief lesson in compassion is now offered.
How can we expect victims of sexual assault to speak up when, in this specific case, those who bravely did so in the mid-1990s were intimidated and coerced into silence? What exactly is expected from a six-year old victim of sexual assault? What about a nine-year old victim? What about a fifteen-year old teenager who is assaulted by someone she has been conditioned to trust implicitly?
For those who believe the victims are somehow at fault for not reporting the conduct, I respectfully recommend that you talk with any victim advocate, especially those who deal with young child victims on an almost daily basis. That victim advocate will tell us that we can’t undo the harm that was done. But once we learn what has happened, we owe each and every victim our compassion and our understanding. As responsible adults we also owe the victims a restoration of their sense of security – that we will do all that we can to insure no further harm is done. Let’s stop the rush to judgment and instead, start creating a society where our children are no longer at risk from sexual predators and others who seek to do them harm. We can do no less.

Does resignation equal absolution?

(Dear readers:  I appreciate your patience and understanding more than you know.  As you have come to realize, a passion of mine is victim advocacy.  I have and will continue to use this forum to share information with you and hope that you will join me in that passion – seeking better ways to protect our children and our fellow citizens from degrading, demeaning, and dangerous harms caused by others.)

Does resignation equal absolution?

No, no, a thousand times no!

I read with interest late last night that MSU’s President Simon has resigned her position and I humbly offer this observation.  I am very glad that she saw the writing on the wall and took that step, although from her published written statement, it doesn’t appear that she gets it.

In my assessment, the following citation from President Simon’s statement reflects the crux of the problem with MSU and especially President Simon, and all those school officials who failed to protect the victims.  In her published statement, President Simon (2018) wrote, “Throughout my career, I have worked very hard to put Team MSU first.  I have tried to not make it about me.”  What an indictment of the harmful philosophy that is in place at MSU!  When the first complaint was made to school officials in the mid-1990s, the response by those mandated reporters made it painfully obvious that it was all about the institution, MSU.  It was never about doing the right thing.  There was no ethical leadership being practiced by those most responsible for protecting the young adults and children being harmed by the monster in their midst.

As leaders in our organizations and communities we have a perfect example here of what not to do when allegations of sexual assault, harassment, or abuse are made.  We know the importance of not only educating ourselves about the principles of ethical leadership, but actually practicing those principles.  Our children, our employees, colleagues, and others are depending upon us to do the right thing.  We can be a role model within our communities and our professions by working to secure the futures of our young people, families, colleagues, and employees by keeping them safe from the predators and the indifferent within our society.

The Face of Courage

When we ask the question, who is courageous, it’s reasonable that our first responses would include such people as those in the military, first responders, humanitarians in dangerous places, etc.  But I learned today that the face of courage includes some very remarkable young women, the first among them being Rachael denHollander, the catalyst for finally bringing Larry Nassar to justice.  I cannot even begin to imagine the pain and humiliation Rachael has suffered at the hands of those who knew better and chose not to listen – just as they chose not to listen or even follow the law required under Title IX.  But thankfully, she found the strength and the courage to continue her pursuit of justice.  As a result of her perseverance, Rachael made it possible for more than 100 young girls and ladies to begin the healing process, herself included.

Rachael’s victim impact statement was moving, not because of the words necessarily, but because of her grace under fire as she delivered a stinging indictment of individuals and institutions who failed to protect the most innocent within our society – our children.  Rachael’s questions remain unanswered by those individuals who failed to comply with the law as mandated reporters, and institutions that continued to willingly turn a blind eye to the travesty that was happening right in front of them.  “How much is a little girl worth?”

Rachael – if I may respond.  Our children, our young people are worth the very best that our communities can give them.  We owe each and every one of you a chance to retain your innocence throughout your childhood years, teenage years, and perhaps even young adult years; an opportunity to seek out whatever life has to offer you in a way that contributes to your growth, positive experiences, and learning, all while being protected from the harms that can befall you. That’s simply what responsible and caring adults do.  What has happened to you and all your sister survivors is an epic failure – not because your parents and other adults failed to protect you but because there were some adults who made it impossible for us to fulfill our responsibility of protecting you.  Those adults and those institutions which facilitated the criminal acts of Nassar must be held accountable to the fullest extent of the law, both at the federal and state levels.  As Judge Aquilina said numerous times during the victim impact statement portion of the sentencing hearing – we have heard your voices and they are strong.

There is nothing that can be done or said that will erase or undo the harm that has been caused you.  What we as leaders within our communities and organizations and all adults can do is stand up and tell the predators and the facilitators that such behavior is no longer tolerated in our society and it will be punished to the fullest extent of the law.  Our children need to know with confidence that they are treasured members of our community and we will do our utmost to protect them from harm until that point in time when they can protect themselves.  Rachael, you and your sister survivors have done a good thing.  Each of you has started the healing or continued on that healing journey.  You have also made a significant impact in that we adults now know that we, like you, cannot fully trust those in positions of authority to make the right, ethical decision. We need to remain vigilant.  Thanks to each of you for your statements because we know how to improve our vigilant posture.

“…Tone deaf, unresponsive, and insensitive to the victims….”**

** Cited from the statement issued by the MSU Board of Trustees on the fourth day of victim impact statements during the sentencing hearing for Larry Nassar.

If ever a published statement was the epitome of being tone deaf and insensitive, this certainly qualifies.  I credit the trustees for requesting a review by the Michigan Attorney General’s Office.  But that credit is tempered by their recent statement of support for the current president, stating that President Simon should continue in office.  That statement is, in my assessment, premature and misguided.

Perhaps a reminder of ethical leadership is needed.  Free of charge, here is a quick review of this concept.  Ethical leadership is guided by a profound respect for ethics (what we do when no one is looking), especially such ethical values and beliefs which protect the dignity and rights of individuals.  That guiding principle and such concepts as honesty, trust, and consideration, form the foundation for quality leadership.  President Simon might have been the right leader at some point but a hallmark of a leader is that when the proverbial stuff hits the fan, the one in charge takes the blame.  She was in charge and the majority of this travesty happened on her watch. On that basis alone, she must step down.  She can lament that she did not know what was going on but she had the ethical responsibility to know.  When she found out, she had the responsibility to do whatever she could to insure that the victims were harmed no further.  Her desire to remain in office cannot take precedence over the need for MSU to redress the harms done to the victims.  The Board of Trustees should immediately issue a new statement, acknowledging that MSU needs a new direction, one which adheres to the values of ethical leadership.  That statement should also acknowledge the impact on the victims.  Perhaps the trustees could express the hope that they can work with the victims to develop and implement changes that will insure that such a travesty never again happens at MSU or any other institution.

It’s about the victims now.  Let them know without a doubt that MSU is going to do take a new direction, one that is both ethical and moral.