Editor's note: In early May, 21-year-old Jerry Lee Ross was convicted of his 31st felony, a burglary. On May 13, his fiancee wrote a letter to the Pasco Times saying that the community should provide treatment for people who commit crimes while under the influence of drugs instead of meting out long prison sentences. On June 4, the burglary victim wrote a letter about the trauma suffered by her family as a result of Ross' entry into their home. On Monday, Ross was sentenced to life in prison. The following letter is from Ross himself and is directed at the victim and the public.
Editor: Who are you to judge me? What makes you better than me? Just because I'm a person who has made mistakes and a person that has some problems doesn't give you the right to judge me. If you like to write stories, you should become a story-writer, only next time use a true character.
When I was released from prison, I was more worried about finding a place to sleep than finding a job. My parents had told me if I could stay out of trouble I could live with them. I went out, on foot, for two straight weeks to try to find a job. I walked from Fivay Road in Hudson, down U.S. 19 to Gulf View Square Mall, and also walked a number of other places filling out applications. I waited a couple of weeks for any phone calls regarding a job. There were none.
My parents were coming down on me because I didn't have a job. Worst of all, I started to fall into deep stages of depression. I felt that nobody wanted to hire me because I was a convicted felon, and I felt I would never get a job. My parents were on the verge of throwing me out of the house, and I felt I had nothing to lose by going back to the way I knew how to get money. I had also started doing drugs. The drugs cost money, and I had to steal to get money. I did the drugs because I felt that the drugs helped me out of my depression; instead, they got me into trouble again.
In your letter, you said I could have come to your house and asked your husband for a job. Do you really think you or your husband would've hired me? I don't. You're just like the rest of society _ you judge a book by its cover, and only read what you want between selected lines. Also, do you believe everything a person tells you? You must. In your letter you said that someone told you _ not me, someone else said _ that I watched you and your house and that I knew your routine of coming and going. Well, all of that is a lie. When I burglarized your home, it wasn't planned, it just happened to be your house.
Do you actually think I deserve life in prison? I think doing 15 calendar years in prison is a little ridiculous. I haven't killed anyone, I haven't raped anyone or sexually molested anyone. None of my charges are violent, I am not a violent person and burglary is not a violent crime. So what you're saying is that I should do 15 years, 15 calendar years in prison because I caused you "mental anguish"? People have killed, raped little girls and have committed more violent crimes than burglary and have served not anywhere near 15 years in prison.
So, Tersa Wellman, I think you should sit down and think about what I did, and why I did what I did. I know what I did was wrong, but as I said, when I came home from prison, there weren't too many places I could go for help. I lost all hope and a person can't do too much without any hope. I also think you need to put yourself into my shoes. Imagine going to prison for possibly 15 to 30 years for burglary, while rapists and murderers go with much lighter sentences. Imagine how I feel. Now that I'm asking for help, you and the courts want to put me in prison for 15 or maybe even 30 calendar years. What is your point? Is this justice?
I would like to thank Cindy Holmes, who is now my fiancee, for sticking by me and for giving society and the people of the courts another way to view "criminals," as you call me. I don't think Cindy was trying to make me look like the victim. I think she was trying to be understanding.
Jerry Lee Ross
Renke's old, new roles seem to conflict
Editor: Re: Commissioners weren't cornered.
Looking back when Mr. John Renke was an elected representative that came home to become involved in representing homeowners associations against the homeowners who fell into disfavor with their homeowners association, and now his sudden emergence as a defender of the elderly and the struggling young couples, according to his letter referenced above, leaves one feeling just a bit insecure about his new-found role.
He attacks the Times' alleged editorial position on taxes; however, where was his concern and where is it now over the unconstitutional taxes imposed by homeowners associations with no independent audits required or no redress for homeowners outside the legal arena that bled them dry? Where was Mr. Renke's concern when homeowners were forced out of their community because their homes were foreclosed on by bigots? Where is Mr. Renke's concern for homeowners victimized by the elitists of those associations he represented?
What of due process? For the homeowner in disfavor with the homeowners association, due process in Pasco County is the equivalent of trying to catch smoke in one's hand. Mr. Renke is a member of that system of injustice, and no one has ever publicly identified where he, as a legislator or as an attorney, was concerned or provided any leadership to bring these homeowners associations into line with what is reasonable and necessary conduct of abusive exercise of police powers which constitutionally lie within the domain of the state, not private corporations.
Young couples struggling to get by, with most unable to own a home, and the elderly who struggle to pay their bills and keep a home certainly need protection from certain segments of our own society, including our politicians. So try to understand when I claim to be more nervous than ever when Mr. Renke, without explanation, suddenly pretends to identify with the working class or those of us on fixed income. We take no comfort in political rhetoric, nor does it serve our needs.
Albert P. Johnson,
New Port Richey
Lawyer's criticism doesn't add up
Editor: In his June 11 letter, attorney N. John Stewart Jr. bemoans the June 5 commentary made by former New Port Richey mayor George Henry about the unkempt historic downtown. Did Stewart and I read the same letter?
Stewart says, "Mr. Henry ignores the improvements that have been made to downtown by the property owners since his term of office."
The Times I read says, "The majority of buildings are maintained. Some are elegant. About six are shabby but occupied."
Further on Henry said, "The disgraceful shabbiness of downtown _ the dirty rundown look _ is created by the city's lack of repair and maintenance." Still further Henry said, "I have been off council for seven years. The current mess did not exist in my tenure, except for some cracked sidewalks, which still have not been replaced."
Stewart says, ". . . sidewalks and paving that must be replaced due to age and neglect, one wonders why Mr. Henry is so opposed to making attractive improvements to the public areas of our downtown . . ."
Henry's "opposition" clearly is directed at the last few councils for their bungling and gross mismanagement of city funding and over-spending on historic downtown projects. The truth is that city staff and its hand-selected consultants create the waste and mess. But council is guilty because it neglects its role as people's watchdog, through a combination of ignorance, inexperience, cowardice and inability to learn no matter how many learning experiences citizens pay for.
Stewart accuses Henry of "a thinly disguised attempt to scuttle a good program . . . and wants a portion of his tax dollars being spent on physically attractive improvements." Really? Henry, too, wants a "portion" of downtown businesses' taxes spent on those same desired improvements.
The problem, which lawyer Stewart cleverly avoids, is that businesses throughout all of historic downtown paid in $47,000 last year and the city spent close to $100,000 for trees, grates and brick sidewalks for one very short block. The portions are badly skewed, so citizens indeed are paying excessively to "beautify" a select handful of landlords' properties.
I think Stewart is irritated over Henry's correct assertion that west-of-the-river to U.S. 19 is not historic downtown. Stewart's law building, which he maintains nicely, just misses. Oh, the ignominy of being located on the wrong side of the tracks.
Ronald S. Ryner,
New Port Richey
Editor's column ignores Constitution
Editor: It's obvious that Greg Hamilton ("Keeping God Out of Our Public Schools") doesn't know what the Constitution says or he wouldn't write about "separation of church and state," which is not in our Constitution, but in Russia's.
"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble and to petition the government for a redress of grievances."
That means that the government shall not set up a state church or stop people from praying in public places, including schools or across the street from an abortion clinic. Students have a right to have prayer in their schools if that is what they want. Faith in God is not a jacket that you take off at the door and put in the closet.