Sun line flooded by calls in support of flogging

April 14, 1994|By Lisa Respers | Lisa Respers,Contributing Writer

Baltimore Sun readers yesterday responded overwhelmingly in favor of the possible caning of 18-year old Michael P. Fay, an American teen-ager who pleaded guilty to vandalizing cars in Singapore.

With comments such as, "I'm 100 percent behind Singapore," and, "They should get that kid," callers flooded the phones lines of The Sun's Sundial system to voice their support of Mr. Fay's receiving six lashes from a rattan cane.

About 1,600 responses were recorded by the telephone information system before an announcement saying calls were no longer needed was placed in the system late yesterday afternoon. Another 300 calls came in yesterday evening despite the announcement.

Although some readers voiced concern for the young man and a criticism of the punishment itself, a heavy majority said they favored the caning.

"I think not only should they flog him, but it ought to be on CNN," said Lou Jordan of Essex. "I think it ought to be piped into all of the prisons where our prisoners are sitting there doing nothing but watching TV, playing cards and having dope and doing whatever they want to do."

Mr. Jordan is a former health care professional who said that he saw nothing cruel about the punishment, which experts say will probably cause permanent scarring.

"If they had caught him stealing in some of the other countries they would have cut off his hand," he said. "I'm sorry that he won't be able to wear his scars on the outside."

Many of the callers took the opportunity to express their anger at the United States' justice system.

"If the young fellow broke a law over here, we would have patted him on the hand and said 'naughty, naughty, don't do it again,' " said William Harrington of Crownsville. "Over there, they take a stricter view, and they're correct. Maybe we should institute flogging or caning."

Helen Waldron of Ellicott City agreed.

"I think the United States should have stricter laws against juveniles," Mrs. Waldron said. "You have gangs of fatherless boys roaming the streets doing nothing but robbing and shooting and causing complete chaos."

Sid Finkelstein theorized that the American public is fed up with crime.

"People are just tired," said Mr. Finkelstein, a Lochearn resident. "We [he and his wife] are old enough to remember when flogging was used at the Baltimore penitentiary for wife beaters, and it seemed to be effective then."

"If we would start punishing criminals for what they do instead of letting them go and feeding them and putting in pool tables and everything in jails, we'd have less crime," said Ron Steen of Pasadena.

Baltimore resident Richard Messick first called to say that he supported the caning but called later to amend his comments.

"The fact that so many Americans think he deserves to be flogged is frightening to me," he said. "This whole case seems to be nothing but a barometer of the impotence Americans feel in the face of crime in this country.

"While something drastic needs to be done here to curtail the spread of violence, I don't think flogging is the answer."

Sarah Crites of Essex expressed concern for Mr. Fay.

"This is terrible, and I think it should be stopped," she said. "I mean, they are going to flog a kid for spray painting a car?

"I spanked my kids for doing stuff like throwing furniture out of the upstairs window, but this is terrible," she added.

"Flogging is just sadistic," said Eric Tolmach of Mount Airy. "There are many other ways of making the boy pay his debt without resorting to physical cruelty."

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