Letters

Contact us via voice mail at (714) 825-8432, or by e-mail: letters@ocweekly.com. Or write to Letters to the Editor, OC Weekly, P.O. Box 10788, Costa Mesa, CA 92627. Or fax: (714) 708-8410. Letters may be edited for clarity and length. All correspondence must include your home city or service provider and a daytime phone number.NOT GUILTLESSThank you for bringing attention to the issue of using juveniles to fight the "war on drugs" and the legislation dealing with this issue ("Cops: 'Hooray for Child Labor!'" Sept. 18). You correctly mentioned that AB 2816, the Juvenile Informants Bill, was a result of the torture and murder of 17-year-old Chad MacDonald, who had served as an informant for the Brea Police Department.While you correctly pointed out the bill was altered from its original language, your characterizations that law-enforcement officials gutted Chad's Law and that "the bill now facing Wilson would likely have no effect on MacDonald's case" are incorrect.There were four key issues in the MacDonald case that were considered in drafting the final version of the bill, which would have precluded MacDonald from being used as an informant. First, AB 2816 requires, among other things, that a judge inform the minor and the parent of the mandatory minimum and maximum consequence for the underlying offense. MacDonald's mother related to me that she was told her son would have to serve hard time in prison for his offense, but the juvenile court's presiding judge said the worst punishment for MacDonald would have been six months in a drug-diversion program. Mrs. MacDonald told me she would have never consented to her son being used as an informant had she known what his real punishment would have been.Second, Mrs. MacDonald was told her son was caught with "a lot" of drugs at the time of his arrest. She was not given a precise amount, which left her with the impression that MacDonald had a very large quantity of drugs. We know that the drugs in question were about 11 grams of methamphetamine. A judge would have taken the time to properly explain to Mrs. MacDonald that 11 grams is, in fact, not a large quantity of drugs.Third, Mrs. MacDonald related to me that the police discouraged and/or prohibited her from consulting her friends and family as to whether she was doing the right thing. In fact, she indicated that the police told her the "deal" was only good for a short time that day. Mrs. MacDonald appears to have been under a great deal of pressure to make a very serious decision quickly, with little and/or false information. A judge would not only have clarified the false information, but the court process itself would also have provided Mrs. MacDonald with ample time to evaluate her options. While the police assert that they have no responsibility for MacDonald's death because he and his mother signed a consent form, it appears that the "consent" was not "informed consent."Finally, I spoke to several judges and narcotics officers about whether a judge would authorize putting the life of a young person like MacDonald in jeopardy. They all said no. While MacDonald was probably not a model citizen, no judge would have authorized sending a kid into harm's way.Based on the foregoing factors, it is clear MacDonald would not have ever been used as an informant if AB 2816 was in effect at the time of his death. While it is my belief that law enforcement should not use juveniles as informants at all, we didn't have the votes in the state legislature to obtain a complete ban. Instead, we have crafted a law that pragmatically stops law enforcement from using juveniles in the so-called war on drugs. This approach was far superior to seeing a complete ban die in committee.-Scott Baugh
Member of the Assembly
Huntington Beach

Nick Schou responds: I commend you for your leadership on the issue of police use of juvenile informants; you took a tough stand against a bad policy. But nothing in AB 2816 would actually prohibit someone like MacDonald from becoming a police informant in the future-unless, of course, we share your faith in the judiciary. I don't. Given your own rough treatment in the legal system, I find it heartening that you think any judge would stand in the way of a police department eager to enlist the service of a child in the all-consuming war on drugs.THE DEAD POOLI go away for two weeks, and your paper goes to hell. Literally. First, there's the hit piece on Harold Ezell, a man who, whatever his shortcomings, is dead ("Adios, Hypocrita," Sept. 4). And you have the temerity to: (a) call him an idiot (in Spanish), and (b) break in on his funeral and brag about it (Commie Girl, Sept. 4). Reminds me of the time another Orange County newspaper picked on Tom Riley while his corpse was still warm. Wait a minute-that was you guys, too. And there's your bizarre story about demons at the Irvine Spectrum (Fine Print, Sept. 11). Thanks for the warning, but I think you've got your iconography wrong. You see, the left hand (which you say has satanic resonance) is also featured in the title of a profound book of sociology and science fiction, Ursula K. Le Guin's Left Hand of Darkness. The title has 18 words, divided over three main words (not counting the preposition), which equals six times three, or 666. You see, two (or 666) can play this game.-L. Hilger
Orange

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