A little stern discipline could be answer

Published 12:01 am Sunday, November 18, 2018

young Natchez man is headed to state prison after a local judge revoked his probation last week.

The move ended what was a multi-year streak of trouble with the law the young man had.

The question is: Was justice served in the case and if so, was justice so delayed that it left a trail of blood all through our community?

First, let’s give credit where it’s due. Local law enforcement officers have worked hard to bring to justice many of the young men who, for whatever reason, have chosen violence over reason, gunfire over good sense.

Also, let’s give credit to Sixth District Circuit Court Judge Lillie Blackmon Sanders for swiftly revoking the probation of 22-year-old Michael “Traedoe” Thomas.

“This kid has a rap sheet a mile long,” said Adams County Sheriff Travis Patten. “This, by far, was one of the quickest that I’ve ever seen someone get a parole violation.”

Patten said law enforcement officers have had concerns over the state corrections officials seemingly not interested in taking back people who were on probation and found in trouble again.

“Prior to all this other stuff going on — the officers being killed in Brookhaven — I’ll be honest with you, the higher ups at MDOC and the parole boards, they made it extremely tough to violate someone on parole,” Patten said. “The objective in the past, it seemed, was to keep those guys out unless it was something drastic.”

Law enforcement officers have said they believe Thomas was either involved in or at least stoked the emotions that led to a long series of shootings — some deadly — between two rival neighborhood gangs.

Thomas posted a series of rap music videos over the last year, some of which appear to have referenced the disputes that were behind the string of shootings.

Law enforcement estimated as many as eight shootings were believed linked to the rival dispute this year alone.

Patten said linking some of the shootings from the past was difficult due to the circumstances.

“This feud has been going on for years, but it’s gotten a lot worse,” he said. “There’s some of them in the past that the suspect and the victims have since been killed, some prior to me taking office.”

To be truthful, Thomas is one of several young men who appears to be at the center of a culture of violence in our community.

In addition to shooting at one another and promoting it in songs and videos, the Wild West-like feud has endangered countless other lives as well. Aside from singing about the recent shootings, potentially stoking the fires, Thomas has not been criminally accused in that shooting.

Thomas and his family helped push out former Adams County Justice Court Judge Charlie Vess.

While Vess got his hand slapped by the state for several infractions during his long tenure on the bench, it was his reaction a young Thomas that ultimately led to his demise.

Thomas appeared before Vess and would not stop putting his hands in the pockets of his hoodie sweatshirt after Vess warned him several times not to do so. Eventually, Vess admitted, he told Thomas that if the young man pulled anything but his own hands from his pocket, the judge would be forced to pull out his own gun and shoot him.

Most law-abiding people agree that Vess was trying to make a point to someone who seemed to show no respect for the authority of the court and not directly threatening the young man.

State officials reprimanded Vess who ultimately resigned.

Vess said at the time he simply feared for his life since security at the court was fairly lax and another judge in Atlanta had recently been shot, making national headlines.

Vess also asked the young man if he did drugs and questioned the parenting skills of Thomas’ mother, both of which judicial ethics experts said was out of line.

But Vess said he was talking to the pair from the role of a father, not a judge and had hoped to make a difference in their lives.

One has to wonder, looking back on the problems that followed, if judges were given a little more freedom to speak their minds and “parent” from the bench would things have turned out differently?

Kevin Cooper is publisher of The Natchez Democrat. He can be reached at 601-445-3539 or kevin.cooper@natchezdemocrat.com.