Pagotto sentencing miscarriage of justiceI have written...


March 08, 1997

Pagotto sentencing miscarriage of justice

I have written letters to the editor in the past, however, nothing has prompted me to write as much as the manslaughter sentencing of Sgt. Stephen R. Pagotto.

I am affected by this sentencing in several ways: foremost by the fact that my son is a police officer and every working day he puts his life on the line while performing his duties. I hear firsthand about life on the streets, and the stories are often very upsetting.

If my phone rings late at night, I am always afraid it is a call that I would not want to answer. Police officers must often make split-second decisions that can affect not only their lives, but the lives of the citizens they vow to protect and defend.

It is often said that it is better to be judged by 12 than to be carried by six. Unfortunately, in Sergeant Pagotto's case, this is not true. The criminal justice system worked in favor of the criminal -- Preston E. Barnes. Mr. Barnes was far from a model citizen, and while it is unfortunate that he died, Sergeant Pagotto was doing his job, and I feel his sentencing is a great miscarriage of justice.

Our police officers need our support, which they certainly did not get in this case. Our city streets are not safe for children to play, or working people to walk to their cars. I can only hope this sentencing will not affect the excellent manner in which our police officers have been doing their jobs.

Ginny Phillips


Protecting president from prying lens

In an interesting and informative account in the (Perspective section, Feb. 23) Robert Erlandson recounts the illnesses of a number of presidents dating back to George Washington. He notes that knowledge of these ailments was kept from the public via a cooperative press.

In the case of Franklin D. Roosevelt, however, Mr. Erlandson makes a journalistic misstep when he states that FDR's disability was ''concealed.'' On the contrary it was fairly well known that the president suffered from the effects of polio.

What FDR, a very proud man, took great pains to conceal was the extent to which his disability limited him physically.

Ignorant of this self-imposed ban by the press, I came face to face with the steps taken to protect the president from prying eyes. The occasion was the 75th anniversary in September 1937 of the battle of Antietam, an event to which I was assigned by a metropolitan daily.

To record this historical event pictorially, and for my own enjoyment, I brought my camera. FDR was to give the principal address.

In moving to the microphone, he was assisted by two aides, one on each side. His movements were shielded by a phalanx of Secret Service agents who ringed the small platform. Only a small aperture appeared. Conveniently, it was in front of where I was seated on the front row.

In my youthful naivete, I was congratulating myself on this stroke of good luck. Not so pleased, however, was the burly presidential bodyguard in front of me.

Hearing the click of my camera, he swung around furious, striding toward me, demanding to know of my intentions and threatening to confiscate my camera.

Trembling in my shoes, I gave my solemn promise that the photos were not to be published. And they never were.

Abner Kaplan


Stop witch hunts over fund raising

If President Clinton's fund-raising activities were so scandalous and illegal, why doesn't some self-righteous zealot (spelled ''Republican'') stand up on his hind legs and demand impeachment?

All of us, possibly even the writer of the lead column on the op/ed pages of this morning's Sun (Feb. 27, "One less professor in the academy," by Peter Jay) know the answer to this question.

Possibly, this is why Mr. Clinton was willing to release the allegedly damaging documents.

Maybe Attorney General Janet Reno should appoint your columnist, Mr. Jay, as an independent counsel to look into the matter. This would seem to lie squarely within his principal area ,, of expertise, although I'm not sure we could depend on his fairness.

Let's get on with conducting the legitimate business of government and stop wasting taxes on witch hunts.

Grover C. Condon


Taking a Bowe not for this Marine

I can see it now. It's early in the Korean War (or police action) and this writer is just finishing up his first week in boot camp at Parris Island.

My recall of that time period was that it wasn't exactly great fun, but there was a reason for it all. I can just see myself casually telling my drill instructor that I was lonely for my family and wished to leave the Marine Corps.

Somehow I think that my request would not have followed the route of Riddick Bowe. Heck, the thought of such an action wouldn't even have entered my mind.

The Bowe event is almost personally nauseating to me. But sorry to say, the Corps is probably just as much at fault in this matter as Bowe.

Howard K. Ottenstein


DARE doesn't scare kids from drugs

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