News came last week that Ingmar Guandique, a 29-year-old illegal immigrant, had been sentenced to 60 years in prison for the 2001 murder of Chandra Levy.
U.S. Attorney Ronald Machen Jr. told NBC4, “Ten years ago, everyone wanted to know who was responsible for Chandra Levy’s murder. That question was answered in November, and today the man responsible was held accountable and will spend 60 years in prison.”
The sentencing in this case was big news. But it’s unusual, really, for the media to follow up horrendous crimes with news about the indictment of suspects or conviction and sentencing of the bad guys.
We looked over dozens of chilling news releases issued in recent months by Bill Miller in Machen’s office. Few, if any, made news. Here are the details from a couple:
- One of the most violent members of the Todd Place Crew, a gang known for engaging in murder, assaults, drug trafficking and other crimes, was sentenced to 50 years in prison. He was 25 at the time.
- A 51-year-old man pleaded guilty to charges stemming from armed sexual attacks against two women and one boy in separate incidents linked by DNA evidence. He faces up to 45 years in prison and must register as a sex offender.
And here are some headlines from news releases:
- Former accountant convicted of stealing.
- District man sentenced to more than 30 years for January 2009 murder.
- Two men sentenced to 36-year prison terms in connection with 2007 witness slaying.
- Man sentenced to six years in prison for scalding and nearly drowning girlfriend’s 10-month-old baby.
- Man sentenced to 50-year prison term for first-degree felony murder of 21-month-old boy.
- Man sentenced to 105 years in prison for deadly shooting rampage.
- Maryland woman pleads guilty in fatal stabbing.
- Government subcontractor sentenced to prison for stealing $1.8 million from NIH project.
- Man found guilty of compelling women to engage in prostitution.
- Man sentenced to 14 months in prison in attack against transgender women.
- Jury convicts mother in slaying of child.
The work of law enforcement -- police, prosecutors and correctional officers -- is tough and grimy. We only wish our news media were as diligent at reporting the end road of crime -- tough sentencing -- as we are in trumpeting the crimes when they occur.
• Bag the bag search?
Metro police last week defended their sporadic bag searches of transit riders. They said unpredictable searches keep terrorists guessing.
Some Metro board members said police should be given wide latitude on this issue. Fairfax member Jeff McKay noted that the board members are not “terrorism experts.”
Other members fear choosing to eliminate the searches only to have the decision thrown into their faces should some horrible incident occur. (That’s the “what if” syndrome that keeps a lot of people from questioning police tactics.)
And some board members worry about delayed riders, intrusive searches and an image of hyper-security tactics making riders more nervous.
At last week’s meeting on the subject, some shrugged and noted that people are asked for identification or sent through metal detectors at many buildings, sports venues and the like.
But no one raised the questions that come to our mind. When hundreds of thousands of people get on the subway at so many points, isn’t it needle-in-the-haystack stuff to stop only a few?
If a terrorist did in fact have a bomb -- or several did -- would they stupidly walk up to a checkpoint and be searched? (There’s nothing stopping a person from turning around and heading to another station or even another entrance to the same station.)
When people try to ask questions like this, someone invariably says something like, “Well, you don’t know what the police know.”
We do know that we live in a free and open society, and with that comes risks. Your Notebook loves life, but we’ve said more than once that we’d rather die in a horrific terrorist attack than live in fear behind the barriers that continually are erected in America. Capitol Hill is a good example. Walk the streets around Congress and remind yourself how free and open we are.
We can almost hear the groans now. “Oh, Sherwood, you don’t know what you’re talking about. This is a different time and a different era.” Et cetera, et cetera.
Well, we say we love America, land of the free and the home of the brave.
• Policing our debt.
Mayor Vincent Gray, Council Chairman Kwame Brown, chief financial officer Natwar Gandhi and council finance head Jack Evans made a crucial, one-day trip to New York City last week.
The city leaders paraded before the three bond-rating companies, whose decisions could add or subtract millions of dollars in interest the city pays on its debts.
Evans said the meetings went well -- but the city leaders had to assure the bond companies that the city won’t keep spending down its reserves. Those reserves once stood at $1.5 billion. They’re now down to $600 million.
And the trip heightened concerns that the District needs to do something about the United Medical Center in Southeast Washington. The bond companies say the city can’t afford to keep the hospital afloat. Watch for more intense efforts to sell the hospital. Just closing it isn’t really an option given the number of people who need medical services east of the Anacostia River.
• Let’s play ball.
We want to end on an upbeat note after all the grousing about crime and money and Metro. This coming President’s Day weekend, the Walter E. Washington Convention Center will host a volleyball tournament that is expected to draw about 25,000 people.
It’s the fifth annual Capitol Hill Volleyball Classic. The tournament “showcases the versatility” of the downtown facility, said convention center director Erik Moses. He said the event has quadrupled in size since it was first held.