[Previously by Nicholas Stix: The Knoxville Horror: Crime, Race, The Media, And "Anti-Racism" ]
In the first Knoxville Horror trial in April, Eric Dewayne "E" Boyd was convicted by a federal jury in Knoxville, Tennessee, of being an accessory after the fact to carjacking. Recently, on October 15, U.S. District Judge Tom Varlan sentenced Boyd to 18 years in prison, the maximum possible sentence, which federal prosecutors had sought.
The carjacking was the first in a chain of crimes, including kidnapping, assault, theft, multiple forms of gang rape, torture, murder and corpse desecration committed in Knoxville on January 7, 2007, variously against Channon Christian, 21, and her boyfriend, Christopher Newsom, 23, that U.S Attorney James R. Dedrick recently called "one of, if not the most, horrendous crimes ever committed in Knoxville, Tennessee."
The victims were white; Boyd and the four murder defendants are all black. The authorities and the MSM long insisted that the crime had no racial motivation. They condemned as "white supremacists" all critics (including yours truly) who maintained otherwise. In a major concession in April, however, Knoxville News-Sentinel reporter Jamie Satterfield, who has covered the case more than any other journalist, and who previously expressed hostility towards critics suggesting a racial motivation, wrote neutrally that it "has gained notoriety as a black-on-white crime."
Boyd was charged with hiding alleged carjacking ringleader Lemaricus "Slim" Davidson from the police after the murders. Boyd insisted that he had had nothing to do with the gang rape-torture-murders, and did not know of them at the time. He has not been charged in their commission, or as an accomplice to them.
And yet Judge Varlan still had a huge mess to clean up. It remains to be seen if he succeeded.
"What Varlan did Wednesday was as bold as it is rare. Federal judges rarely impose maximum, consecutive sentencing.
He did so unapologetically, citing Boyd's history as a lifelong criminal who in 1994 embarked on a violent robbery spree that included the attempted murder of a witness and, once behind bars, assaults on other inmates and threats to prison guards.
'Simply put, the defendant shows a lack of regard for the law,' Varlan said. 'Even when the defendant has been incarcerated for breaking the law, he has failed to follow the law.' "[Boyd sentenced to maximum time; He gets 18 years for hiding suspect in couple's slaying, By Jamie Satterfield , Knoxville News-Sentinel, October 16, 2008]
In his defense, Boyd argued, "I'm asking for the mercy of the court. I didn't have to do this, but I did it to make sure this man [Davidson] didn't hurt nobody else."
The sentence is a mixed bag. On the plus side, the judge reversed years of the negligence by the prison system's stewards, who never punished Boyd for crimes and misconduct he committed while inside.
On the minus side, Varlan violated the established understanding of co-operation by a defendant.
Back in 1994, Boyd "admitted" (the term formerly known as "confessed") to committing, among other crimes, nine robberies over the course of two months, in a plea deal which got him a sentence of only 20 years for the robberies, and dismissal of numerous other crimes, including attempted murder.
But the family of his white crime partner, Ernest Boyd Collier III, hired a fancy lawyer, who got him some fancy justice—eight years of probation, with no time inside. Knox County prosecutors had promised Boyd that they would offer Collier no less than 20 years.
Boyd had already made an anticipatory charge of racism before making his deal. He found receptive judges on Tennessee's Court of Criminal Appeals, and got himself some fancy justice. By August 2002, he was paroled. in October 2002, the appeals court nullified the rest of Boyd's prison sentence, threw out his convictions and reinstated the charges against him. He cut a new deal, for ten years, but would not have done another day, had he not violated parole. That netted him only another five months, at which point he could not be held any longer. Boyd had run out the clock.
Boyd's present attorney, Phil Lomonaco, argued that, since Boyd had told the authorities where Davidson was hiding, he had provided them with invaluable assistance, and therefore deserved leniency. Lomanaco asked for a sentence not to exceed four years. Judge Varlan countered that Boyd had only helped the authorities because he had already been caught, and thus deserved no consideration.
Boyd's professions of altruism and Varlan's skepticism notwithstanding, criminals do not help the authorities out of the goodness of their hearts.
An interagency fugitive task force was able to locate and quickly take Davidson into custody without a struggle, based solely on Boyd's cooperation. A hard case like Boyd would never have cooperated, had he known that there was no payoff.
The three main ways that criminals get put away are through community cooperation, aggressive police work, and bad guys "flipping" on each other.
Lemaricus Davidson was released from prison in August 2006, after serving a token sentence for a previous carjacking and robbery conviction. He then allegedly spent the next four months-and-change on a wave of robberies with Boyd, his alleged crime partner, who allegedly also committed some stickups with Davidson's half-brother, Letalvis "Rome" Cobbins.
Prior to the murders, the black community, perhaps following the "don't snitch" rule, was of no help in catching the suspects. And though Davidson's white girlfriend, Daphne Sutton, testified at Boyd's trial that she knew Davidson was doing stickups, she not only never alerted the police, but lied to them for hours, hindering their search for him.
That leaves bad guys betraying each other as the only effective crime-fighting tool. But if Judge Varlan's precedent spreads through the grapevine, that option may dry up, as well.
Judge Varlan repeatedly cited the pre-sentencing report of federal Probation Officer Myra Melton Buffalo, as justification for the sentence he meted out to Boyd.
Judge Varlan argued that, since Boyd had confessed to 1994 robberies that were dismissed, but the federal sentencing guidelines had insufficiently counted those "criminal history points," a lenient sentence would let him off too easily in the instant case, and thus that he deserved the maximum sentence.
Lomonaco, who said he will appeal, will surely challenge that argument.
The biggest legal problem with the Boyd trial was its timing. Boyd was convicted as an accessory to a crime allegedly committed by someone (Davidson) who has yet to be convicted for said crime. That required pre-empting the presumption of innocence regarding Davidson. Cart, horse.
And Davidson is unlikely ever to be tried for the carjacking. He is scheduled to be tried next June on 47 state charges, including rape and murder. Presumably, convictions and a death sentence would moot the federal charges of carjacking.
The scheduled state trials of the other four defendants on rape, murder, and other charges are: Letalvis Cobbins (January 26, 2009); Cobbins' girlfriend, Vanessa Coleman (April 13, 2009); Lemaricus Davidson (June 22, 2009); and George Geovonni "Detroit" Thomas (August 10, 2009), respectively.
Now Boyd will be more certain than ever that he is a victim of racism. It's hard out here for a stickup man.
Our legal system was not designed to deal with offenders like Eric Boyd, with their multitudinous crimes and mitigating circumstances.
The more "diverse" America becomes, the more it will be comprised of hostile communities who refuse to police themselves, the more police will be handcuffed, the more common Knoxville-style atrocities will become—and the more commonly judges will face issues that King Solomon himself couldn't see his way through.
Nicholas Stix [email him] lives in New York City, which he views from the perspective of its public transport system, experienced in his career as an educator. His weekly column appears at Men's News Daily and many other Web sites. He has also written for Middle American News, the New York Daily News, New York Post, Newsday, Chronicles, Ideas on Liberty and the Weekly Standard. He maintains two blogs: A Different Drummer and Nicholas Stix, Uncensored.