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Silence could be more eloquent

You say it best when you say nothing at all.

Alison Krauss

For a guy up for re-election and prone to headlines, Hillsborough Commissioner Brian Blair seemed awfully quiet of late. Though he did pop up from his hidey-hole for a lively spar with Democratic opponent Kevin Beckner on Sunday's Flashpoint, hosted by Ch. 28's Brendan McLaughlin.

"Be an encourager, never be a discourager," intoned the Blair we've come to know, a line worthy of his previous gig as a professional wrestler. Blair was referring to his personal stance against bullying — even if he did lead the charge against a student-led silent protest against such treatment of gay people. Despite his feelings on gay marriage and a gay "agenda," he said he has a gay friend he loves "like a brother."

He was just getting warmed up.

Beckner accused the commissioner of marginalizing and slighting segments of the community, including blacks. Blair ticked off his support for the NAACP and his coaching of black children, among other things. He said he was born in a Gary, Ind., neighborhood of few whites where he "didn't know what prejudice was."

"Probably the only two white people in my neighborhood were myself and Michael Jackson," he quipped, referring to the light-skinned but definitely black pop star, who also hails from Gary. Good one, huh?

• • •

Citrus County Circuit Judge Ric Howard said practically nothing, and plenty, when he finally took himself off the case of William Thornton IV.

You'll recall Thornton is serving a stunning 30-year prison sentence for skidding through a stop sign on a badly lit road when he was 17, hitting an SUV and killing two people. The sentence has been blasted as excessive, and his current attorney says Thornton was misled into pleading guilty.

Even with questions of bias raised, the judge refused to recuse himself. A new wrinkle, however, turns him into a witness: Thornton's then-public defender claims a conversation with the judge and prosecutor led him to believe Thornton was looking at probation or a juvenile sentence.

A terse order from Howard removing himself spoke volumes in terms of getting a fresh and thorough look at what happened — not to mention whether the sentence is anywhere near just.

• • •

Speaking of justice, some politicians are particularly good at those law-and-order lines that play so well with the public.

An August piece in the Florida Bar News chronicled the financial woes of public defenders, the lawyers who represent people accused of crimes but too poor to pay private attorneys (see William Thornton IV, above.)

Sen. Victor Crist, R-Tampa, said more should be done to get money from those defendants. "Most are guilty and are receiving appointed counsel for crimes they put themselves in," he opined. "To think that they should skate without some kind of obligation is wrong."

Music to the ears of some citizens of our cash-strapped state — unless you consider you're generally talking about getting blood out of a stone.

And then there's that whole right-to-an-attorney, innocent-until-proved-guilty thing, allegedly for rich and poor alike. Then again, maybe that's just talk, too.

Silence could be more eloquent 09/16/08 [Last modified: Monday, September 22, 2008 11:38am]
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