. . . And in McMin­nville, Ore­gon

The Washington Times Weekly - - Commentary -

At Pat­ton Mid­dle School in McMin­nville, Ore­gon, stu­dents cre­ated some­thing called “slap butt day.” On one such day in Fe­bru­ary 2007, ac­cord­ing to The Ore­go­nian (July 22, 2007): “Two boys tore down the hall of Pat­ton Mid­dle School af­ter lunch, swat­ting the bot­toms of girls as they ran — what some kids later said was a com­mon form of greet­ing. But bot­tom-slap­ping is against pol­icy in McMin­nville Pub­lic Schools. So a teacher’s aide sent the gawky sev­enth-graders to the of­fice, where the vice prin­ci­pal and a po­lice of­fi­cer sta­tioned at the school soon in­ter­ro­gated them.”

A po­lice of­fi­cer in­ter­ro­gated them?

“Af­ter hours of in­ter­views with stu­dents,” The Ore­go­nian con­tin­ues, “the day of the Fe­bru­ary in­ci­dent, the of­fi­cer read the boys their Mi­randa rights and hauled them off in hand­cuffs to ju­ve­nile jail, where they spent the next five days.”

Two sev­enth-graders were read their Mi­randa rights for butt-swat­ting?

And hauled off to jail for buttswat­ting?

And kept in jail for five days for butt-swat­ting?

This is worse than a bad joke; it is ac­tu­ally sick.

And it gets worse. The sev­enth-graders were not per­mit­ted con­tact with their par­ents for 24 hours, they were brought into court in shack­les and jail garb, and they were strip-searched four times.

All be­cause the Yamhill County Dis­trict At­tor­ney, Bradley Berry, brought felony sex charges against the two boys. When he fi­nally ex­plained him­self un­der pres­sure from the me­dia, Mr. Berry told The Ore- go­nian, “From our per­spec­tive and the per­spec­tive of the vic­tims, this was not just horse­play.”

In fact, it turns out that the girls in­volved did re­gard it as horse­play. And they claimed from vir­tu­ally the out­set that they had been pres­sured into mak­ing a case against the boys.

The Ore­go­nian has re­ported that lis­ten­ers to my ra­dio show across Amer­ica pro­vided nearly all of the more than $40,000 for de­fense costs for the two boys. But they have done more. They have also sent let­ters to the two boys as­sur­ing them it is not they, but Bradley Berry, who acted per­versely. One of the boys’ moth­ers, in tears, told me that th­ese let­ters pro­foundly af­fected the boys, who were made to ap­pear as per­verts and sex­ual preda­tors and who could have been placed on sex­ual preda­tor lists for the rest of their lives. My lis­ten­ers also re­ported that when they phoned the of­fice of Bradley Berry, they were told that “there was more to the story,” that more ev­i­dence would be forth­com­ing.

That was a lie. Mr. Berry had noth­ing more to re­veal and did in fact drop the felony charges. The boys were then charged “only” with sex­ual ha­rass­ment.

Our beloved coun­try is flip­ping out. The ef­fects of The Age of Stu­pid­ity ush­ered in dur­ing the ‘60s and ‘70s are om­nipresent. It is highly doubt­ful that there is a liv­ing mem­ber of the World War II gen­er­a­tion who could have imag­ined that sev­enth-graders would one day be brought in shack­les into an Amer­i­can court­room for play­fully swat­ting a girl’s but­tocks. It is also true that there is no mem­ber of that gen­er­a­tion who could ever have imag­ined some­thing as low-life as a “slap butt day” in an Amer­i­can mid­dle school. But that is an­other mat­ter.

Ap­par­ently exRaleigh/Durham Dis­trict At­tor­ney Mike Ni­fong is not the only D.A. in Amer­ica who has used his al­most un­lim­ited power to hurt in­no­cent boys.

Mr. Ni­fong, it will be re­called, brought phony charges of gang rape against three Duke lacrosse play­ers, lied about hav­ing more ev­i­dence, with­held crit­i­cal in­for­ma­tion from the de­fense and in sundry other ways did what­ever he could to ruin three in­no­cent boys’ lives.

Mr. Ni­fong has since been dis­barred.

Mr. Ni­fong has met his match in Ore­gon, where Bradley Berry has done his best to ruin two in­no­cent boys’ lives. Per­haps the ma­jor dif­fer­ence is that the boys Mr. Berry is abus­ing are sev­enth- graders, not col­lege stu­dents.

The story is so an­ger­ing that one can only won­der whether Amer­ica is suf­fer­ing from a sur­feit of dis­trict at­tor­neys who are ei­ther in­com­pe­tent or just lack el­e­men­tary hu­man de­cency. One prays th­ese two dis­trict at­tor­neys are ex­cep­tions. But there is only one way to en­sure that they are. Mr. Bradley, like Mr. Ni­fong, must be re­moved from of­fice. Any­one who be­lieves that sev­enth-graders who swat girls’ but­tocks on “slap butt day” are sex crim­i­nals who should be charged with crimes that would per­ma­nently la­bel them as sex of­fend­ers is a dan­ger­ous fool. A dis­trict at­tor­ney who be­lieves that is a dan­ger­ous fool. Mr. Berry has acted like Mike Ni­fong. He needs to be pun­ished like Mike Ni­fong.

My show and my lis­ten­ers have been in­stru­men­tal in help­ing get­ting all the charges against the boys dropped — this hap­pened just last week. Now we will fo­cus our at­ten­tion on re­mov­ing Bradley Berry from of­fice.

A democ­racy can­not long sur­vive the con­tempt more and more Amer­i­cans feel for Amer­i­can law.

Den­nis Prager is a na­tion­ally syn­di­cated colum­nist.

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