Case leaves unanswered questions

Published 12:05 am Sunday, September 4, 2011

Has anyone seen the Mystery Machine lately? If you aren’t familiar with it, you probably didn’t watch many cartoons in the 1970s.

The Mystery Machine was the silent star of the CBS cartoon series, “Scooby-Doo, Where are you!”

The Mystery Machine was the shagged out van that carried Scooby-Doo, Shaggy, Fred, Velma and Daphne around the fictional world where they solved criminal caper after criminal caper.

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Invariably, at the end of the episode the captured criminal would be unmasked and announce, “I would have gotten away with it, too, if it hadn’t been for you meddling kids!”

Laugh if you will, but the two-dimensional drawings entertained my generation for years and, in the process, set the expectation that the world was a just one.

Eventually, though the process may have scared the heck of the loveable Scooby and Shaggy, good would come out on top of evil and the bad guys would be taken away.

And that’s where the story always ended. It was logical — at least in the mind of this 7-year-old at the time — to think the bad guy was going to be punished, likely locked up so he could never repeat the crime again.

A few decades of the three-dimensional real world, and it’s clear that child-like view of the world isn’t always rooted in the truth, no matter how much we’d like it to be.

Adams County residents learned of what appeared to be a horrible example of just how unfair our judicial system can be last week.

The seemingly inexplicable plea bargain and sentence of a local man originally accused of possessing nearly 1 pound of cocaine with intent to distribute it has citizens scratching their heads and law enforcement officers fuming.

Both reactions are understandable.

Not unlike a generation of Scooby-watchers, law enforcement officers have to believe what they’re doing each day is helping the community. Sure, they need to be paid, but few people would deal with the risks and frustrations of dealing with criminals just for a paycheck.

Most law enforcement officers, or at least the best of them, are motivated by the belief their work matters and their jobs are helping our community. If they lose that faith, the quality of our law enforcement could spiral down quickly.

So when a man who law enforcement officers believe to be a drug dealer is freed with only a fine and probation, something doesn’t add up.

The answers to the twisted equation need to come from Adams County Circuit Court Judge Lillie Blackmon Sanders and the DA’s office.

The DA’s office should explain why they agreed to a plea bargain and why they don’t suggest sentences, as they’ve said, leaving it up to the judge to decide.

Hopefully, the judge will explain to the public — and to law enforcement officers — why she felt the accused deserved no time in jail, but only to pay $20,000.

Sanders immediately seized the fine for use by her judicial baby, the Adams County Drug Court. The drug court is a great concept, but it’s seen significant financial cuts at the state level, leaving Sanders a big hole to fill. County supervisors refused to allocate additional funding to the drug court.

It seems Sanders found a quick way to fill it, with funds law enforcement officers believe to be dirty money.

Somehow the whole thing just smells fishy.

The message to other would-be drug dealers is clear: If you get caught, it’s possible that you just have to pay a fine and promise to be good — again.

Adams County deserves better.

Scooby-Doo, Where are you!

Kevin Cooper is publisher of The Natchez Democrat. He can be reached at 601-445-3539 or