Let’s start thinking about this question in a relatively sleepy town called Monticello, New York. The local mayor is called Gordon Jenkins and there are several hours of his behavior on the internet after he was arrested for drunken driving. Not only is he seen verbally assaulting the officers for arresting him and showing him lack of respect by handcuffing him to the wall, he’s also shown pulling a clock from the wall and smashing it on the floor. Although one of his functions as mayor is to appoint the police officers for the town, it’s not his right to spend several hours shouting at them after being arrested for drunken driving. No matter what your standing in the local community, everyone has their roles to play. In this instance, he was charged and, while in a police station, he should have acted with a reasonable amount of civility. He’s pleaded not guilty and, of course, under our great system, he’s innocent until proven guilty. However, no matter what may happen over this specific charge, there’s a broader question of how voters should react when their elected representative proves unreliable.
Unreliable? Well, Gordon Jenkins and his domestic partner, Rochelle Massey, were recently handcuffed by NYS State Police for alleged copyright infringement. They run a store where they are accused of selling fake branded sneakers and boots. Trademark counterfeiting is a felony and they are at risk of up to four imprisonment depending on the value of their stock found to be illegal. This mayor has also been somewhat controversial in selling pipes and bongs associated with drug use, sex toys and adult videos. As the first African American mayor in the town, he may be the subject of some harassment, but the law must take its course when charges are filed.
So here’s the problem. People with power and money are able to buy the best possible legal representation and often get special treatment from the prosecutors and courts because of their status. In fact, in a perfectly equal society, everyone could get the same quality of legal representation. That never happens. The results are often heavily weighted in favor of the rich and powerful. This mayor is slightly different because he was only a corrections officer who began a local business and got into politics. Yes, he has an attorney but he’s not rich. Indeed, he may well be targeted because of his race.
As a comparison, six members of the current administration under President Obama have been convicted of criminal offenses. They are Senators Mike Crapo, Jesse Jackson Rick Renzi and Trey Radel. Two federal judges, Samuel B Kent and Thomas Porteous have been convicted of offenses of dishonesty. This is as it should be, but there are hundreds of others who never face charges whether as politicians or as CEOs of corporations or just because of their celebrity. It should be a general rule that no one should be above the law. If any offense is suspected, they should be charged and tried like everyone else.