Pedro Gonzalez on January 12, 2022
It’s no secret that the Democratic Party has arrayed itself on the side of crime and criminals. But the GOP, for all its chest-thumping about law and order, has done little to help and, in some instances, actually sided with the forces of anarchy. Consider the cases of two prosecutors, Jackie Johnson and Frederick Franklin, both of whom served under Republican governors.
Franklin has been praised for railroading a white man, Jake Gardner, who shot dead a black criminal, James Scurlock, in Nebraska. Johnson has been charged on specious grounds for her role in the investigation into the killing of a black man, Ahmaud Arbery, by a white man, Travis McMichael, in Georgia. Franklin has long supported left-wing causes, while Johnson is a Republican. Both incidents involving them occurred in 2020, but their fortunes couldn’t be more different.
Johnson was indicted with obstruction, a misdemeanor, and allegedly violating her oath of office, a felony, for “showing favor and affection” to Travis’ father, Greg McMichael, one of three people charged in the Arbery case.
Arbery had been wandering through a house under construction in Satilla Shores about two miles from his home in February 2020 when the McMichaels and a neighbor, William Bryan, thought he committed a burglary. The owner claimed that things had previously been stolen from the property. He installed cameras and allowed a neighbor to perform “neighborhood watch” there.
Arbery had been seen at that location on five different occasions between Oct. 25, 2019, and Feb. 23, 2020. Just days before Arbery was shot, Travis saw him at the house, called the police, and accompanied Greg there to confront Arbery. A police officer later testified he planned to give Arbery a trespass warning.
At the time, Arbery was on probation for attempted shoplifting, and that probation had been extended from an incident in which he tried to bring a pistol into a high school basketball game and then fled from police. According to court papers presented by lawyers for the McMichaels, he had previously “used running or jogging as a cover to commit crimes” and demonstrated an alleged pattern of either fleeing when confronted or aggressively challenging his accusers.
Burglaries already had Satilla Shores on edge. Police records obtained by FOX5 show a resident reported rifles stolen from their unlocked car on Dec. 8, 2019. Police noted another theft on Dec. 28. Travis McMichael filed a report of a firearm stolen from his truck on Jan. 1, 2020. Amid this atmosphere of suspicion, Arbery visited the empty house one last time on Feb. 23.
A neighbor who thought he recognized Arbery from surveillance footage saw him in the building and called the police, which may have caused Arbery to run. The McMichaels saw him, grabbed their guns, and pursued, thinking he was a burglar, while an unarmed Bryan recorded the incident from a different vehicle.
Footage shows the McMichaels catching up to Arbery in a truck and trying to talk to him. Rather than fleeing or stopping, Arbery charged toward and around the vehicle to confront Travis, who initially said he fired once after Arbery grabbed his shotgun. He shot twice more in the video as Arbery repeatedly punched him and tried to take the gun before succumbing to his wounds.
During the trial, a judge ruled that Arbery’s criminal record could not be admitted as evidence. On Jan. 7, all three men were sentenced to life in prison. The McMichaels received life without the possibility of parole. Bryan, who was unarmed and filmed the incident from a short distance, will be eligible for parole only after serving 30 years in prison. It’s worth noting Gregory McMichael is a former police officer and investigator with the local district attorney’s office without a criminal record and did not fire his weapon during the confrontation.
All three are still scheduled to face federal hate-crime charges in 2022.
Now, Jackie Johnson has become another casualty. According to the indictment released by Christopher Carr, Georgia’s Republican attorney general, she hindered law enforcement and violated her oath of office, essentially for not immediately treating Bryan and the McMichaels as racial terrorists.
“It is just not even close in my opinion to alleging a crime against Jackie Johnson in this case,” criminal defense attorney Don Samuel told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “I’m just shocked that the attorney general would think that this indictment even comes close to being a legitimate indictment and against a district attorney.”
“I will never waiver from the position that a DA who uses caution and says I want to finish the investigation before I make arrests is in fact doing her job, not committing a felony in Georgia,” he said. Samuel is among several members of the legal community who question the charges against her.
In short, three men received life sentences for trying to protect their community after law enforcement failed to do so, while the prosecutor who wanted to avoid a Black Lives Matter legal lynching was professionally ruined. What the trio did was foolish, but the severity of the punishment considering the circumstances is a clear political gesture — a burnt offering to Black Lives Matter.
But the basis for Johnson’s punishment can just as well and should apply to prosecutors like Frederick Franklin, who are guilty of far worse things. Indeed, Franklin is currently being sued by the family of Jake Gardner. They claim his biased prosecution pushed Gardner to commit suicide.
Amid 2020’s riots, Gardner, a Marine veteran and business owner, watched agitators smash the windows of his bar. Before engaging them, Gardner waited half an hour for police to arrive, but they never came. Black Lives Matter protests damaged a dozen businesses and police cruisers and injured two officers and one civilian the night before.
Footage of that night shows Gardner calmly talking and even sympathizing with protestors outside his wrecked business. At one point, an agitator knocked his father to the ground. The crowd grew increasingly aggressive with Gardner, even as he tried to deescalate and retreat from the situation. He displayed a pistol tucked into his waistband while walking backward and warning people to leave him alone. “Keep the f— away from me,” Gardner told James Scurlock while backpedaling. Scurlock was a Black Lives Matter supporter with a long and violent criminal history.
Gardner pulled out the pistol and kept it down by his side while continuing backward. Then a woman tackled him to the ground from behind as another man tried to join the dogpile, video shows. Gardner fired two warning shots and tried to stand. Scurlock tackled Gardner and reportedly put him in a chokehold. The Marine fired a single round over his shoulder after repeatedly warning Scurlock, fatally wounding him.
So cut and dry was the shooting a case of self-defense that Douglas County Attorney Don Kleine, a Democrat, initially declined to file charges against Gardner. But pressure from the Black Lives Matter movement proved too much for the prosecutor. “Donald Kleine, the county attorney who initially declined to press charges against Scurlock’s killer, ceded to public outrage,” Courthouse News Service reported on June 7. Douglas County District Judge Shelly Stratman appointed Franklin to lead an inquisition against Gardner on June 8.
“I accepted this responsibility not to advance any organizations’ agenda. Not to advance the agenda of Black people because I am African-American,” he assured Nebraskans during a news conference. But that claim is at odds with the fact that Franklin served as the Midlands Bar Association president, which “exists primarily for the benefit of Nebraska’s African-American attorneys” and is dedicated to serving the “African-American community,” according to its website. Among other things, it focuses on combating “anti-affirmative action legislation.” He has also received various awards from left-wing organizations, like the “Necessary Trouble Award” from Inclusive Communities, specifically for his advocacy of “equity” in the “BIPOC” community.
Franklin, in fact, could hardly contain his glee at prosecuting Gardner. During one news conference, Franklin bragged about the “slam dunk” he was going to score on Gardner. In the end, four felonies were fabricated against him.
Franklin used Gardner’s veteran status to portray him as a cold-blooded killer, and suggested Gardner’s support for Trump was also proof of his murderous motive. Even Kleine questioned the handling of the case, saying Franklin seemed to have “his mind made up before he went in there as to what his theory of the case was.”
So disturbed was Gardner by the trial and the death threats it brought against his family that he committed suicide on the day before he was expected to turn himself in. The Gardner family suit claims that the “false and misleading statements to the media” by Franklin and his team violated Gardner’s “rights to a fair trial and due process of law by implying [his] guilt, implying he was a racist, and inflaming the community regarding the case.” They have implored Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts, a Republican, to intervene and request that the grand jury transcripts be unsealed.
Prosecutors who use restraint, like Johnson, are condemned, while those who carry out the dirty work of Black Lives Matter, like Franklin, are praised, and our communities are less safe in the end.
Even “red states” seem to offer little, if any, protection from anarcho-tyranny. But it doesn’t have to be this way. For it to change, though, Middle Americans must learn that beating back the lawlessness of the left requires first confronting the weakness of the Republican Party.
Pedro L. Gonzalez is associate editor at Chronicles: A Magazine of American Culture
The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of the Daily Caller News Foundation or Shore News Network.
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