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Politicians and Drunk Drivers: Tom Suozzi proves himself typical

[Update: It is January 2009 and there has been a lot of movement on this story. One woman did sue the County because she was not drunk, but having symptoms of diabetes. The Wall of Shame program has now been improved in that photos are only posted after people are convicted. I am not sure I still agree 100%, but the worst part of the violation of rights “innocent until proven guilty” has been addressed. – KW]

A Newsday story notes that when Nassau County Executive Tom Suozzi started having photos of people accused of drunk driving given to the press and posted on a “Wall of Shame”, he made a big mistake. Suozzi ignored the fact that some of the young people convicted might be entitled to a plea bargain under the status “youthful offender” where their record is supposed to be sealed. Tom Suozzi’s public antics disrupts that important justice program.

Worse, the reason that this youthful offender issue appears to have come to Tom Suozzi’s attention, may be mostly because one of the teens who was humiliated under Suozzi’s photo stunt was one of Suozzi’s own campaign contributors. So, it was money that was enough to get the Nassau County Executive’s attention…

Where is the wisdom and leadership?

Tom Suozzi overlooked important policies designed to protect people under the age of 19. He interfered with a program judges use to allow young people to invoke youthful offendor status.

Where is the integrity?

If most people are caught drunk driving, they would be caught, publicly shamed, and dealt with harshly. But, since one of the people caught in the net was a rich contributor to Suozzi’s campaign, with a fancy lawyer, that alleged law-breaker and people similarly situated to him will get leniency.

Where is the consistency that is part of fair laws and just law enforcement?

Here is the story at Newsday:
http://www.newsday.com/news/local/transportation/ny-podwi115759810jul11,0,4067992.story

DWI suspects removed from Nassau’s “Wall of Shame”
BY CELESTE HADRICK | celeste.hadrick@newsday.com
July 11, 2008
(excerpt)

After much hoopla about publicizing the names and photos of drunken drivers, Nassau County Executive Thomas Suozzi has removed a major group of suspects from his vaunted “Wall of Shame.”

All 109 people stopped during the Memorial Day weekend sweep – when Suozzi inaugurated his shaming strategy – have disappeared from the county Web site. But dozens of names and photos of people arrested on DWI charges since then remain posted…

Suozzi acknowledged he changed his policy after he received calls from some upset parents of the teenagers charged…

Suozzi said he had received angry phone calls from parents of the teens accused, including Charles Vigliotti, owner of Long Island Compost and a campaign contributor who lives in the county executive’s hometown of Glen Cove.

“I got calls from a lot of different people about the whole policy, and also got a lot of calls about just the young people. I must have spoken to 15 different people,” Suozzi said, denying that Vigliotti had any more influence than the others…

Wilderside commentary on why it is not fair to show photos of people accused of drunk driving: here.

Poems about photos of people accused of drunk driving: here.

4 Responses

  1. […] Update: The plan starts to unravel (and Suozzi’s politica donors) here. […]

  2. Suozzi said he had received angry phone calls from parents of the teens accused, including Charles Vigliotti, owner of Long Island Compost and a campaign contributor who lives in the county executive’s hometown of Glen Cove.

  3. I enjoyed meeting you guys at BJ Cassidy’s feature. I like your poetry about the DWI wall. But for me, the DWI wall represented the worst example of government/media complex, the idea that if the media backs a certain politician, they will act as an extension of the government. This was the real sin of Suozzi’s “Wall of Shame.” Suozzi had Abe Abramovsky for criminal law at Fordham. Last I remember, my great mentor taught that people accused of crimes were presumed innocent. They pulled that stupid wall once a few innocent people were humiliated on there. I am probably on the other side from you guys on most issues but you get a big thumbs up on the wall. I really think you strove to see the humanity in these accused individuals.

    • Dan,

      It was a pleasure meeting you. Thank you for the thoughtful comments. My crim law prof at GW ending up working in the GW Bush White House, and I cannot remember him ever mentioing a presumption of innocence. I got my worst grade in that class.

      Ian

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