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Retorts Hartley's attorney, Greg Clark:
"You get these gang cops involved, and they're gonna create this wild atmosphere -- that every crime is related to gangs who are out of control and running the streets. This whole thing just snowballed. My guy did make a mistake doing what he did, but he should have been handled in juvenile court as the probation officer there recommended. I like Darrion, and I plan to help him when he gets out."
Stuart is a strapping white guy who lives with his wife and two young sons in the far east Valley. He's aware that some folks take a look at him, learn of his Midwestern upbringing, and envision a redneck hick who has had little casual contact with people of color. Actually, the former Iowa State University football player says, he attended a racially mixed high school in Des Moines, and sees himself as color blind.
"I'm about as far from racist as you can get," he says. "Most people of all colors and stripes are good people. And there are assholes, too. I know we cops do lose perspective because we see so many of the assholes. But it's people like [the rape victim's mother] who keep me down there, people who stand up to the bullshit.
"Where me and the good Reverend Tillman would differ strongly is that I think community leaders should take much more responsibility for what happened to [the victim], and what happens all too often in that neighborhood. All he does is throw stones. For him to say that we are racists and somehow had it in for those Chipman Road guys is unbelievable. I know the schools have let these kids down, and so have other institutions, but it shouldn't be government's job to make sure kids do the right thing.
"I hated the plea-bargain offers to those guys. . . . Yeah, these cases are always tough -- rape cases and gang cases. Sometimes, you can't get the victims to even show up because of gangs' intimidation and threats. But that doesn't mean we should let people get away with crimes that we think we can prove they've committed."
Stuart says the so-called "peer pressure" at the Chipman Road rape house went beyond what most people can comprehend.
"Suppose T-Bone had said, 'What you guys are doing is fucked up, and I'm leaving,' what do you think was going to happen to him? He's gonna be a punk and they're gonna beat him down like a dog. When you're a Park South Crip and you're engaged in this type of violent act, you're not just a party pooper if you don't go along. The ramifications are far worse. How many people do you think saw Blackman and Hartley take that girl off the street to the house? But no one said a word until afterward, and even then -- after they knew what had gone on -- they kept their mouths shut. Why didn't Oscar Tillman get in their faces? Why didn't he ever say something about the victim, other than she was a liar? I think the word is hypocrisy."
Given to hyperbolic denunciations of allegedly racist-based motivations he sees at almost every turn, the Reverend Oscar Tillman makes an easy target. But he does have a constituency, and he's not speaking just to hear the sound of his own voice.
The Chipman Road rape case put Tillman in a sticky spot: How could a black leader possibly fault authorities for pursuing suspects in a vile gang-rape of a mentally handicapped black teenager -- even if the bad guys were black?
"I called Rick Romley a 'righteous racist' after the sentencing [of three Chipman Road defendants] because he goes around with syrup rolling off his chin talking about how fair he is and color blind. Then he throws the book at black and brown kids like nobody's business. Historically, Romley finds a way to send young black men to prison."
In the next breath, however, Tillman says he's "not defending those boys, and I never have. I'm not condoning their behavior. In all honesty, though, I think that little girl was manipulated by her mother, and it's regrettable. The whole thing was about peer pressure, not about gangs running the streets of south Phoenix. Four or five of those boys had sex with her consensually before. What changed that day?"
Though he's never spoken with the victim, Tillman says he "would have loved to say to her, 'If these young men did what you said they did, then I'm behind you all the way. But if they didn't, then I want you to really consider what you're doing to their lives.'"
Tillman says a juror told him by phone after the verdict that several panelists hadn't believed the victim, but that the defendants confessions to police had swayed them against the five.
"I'm thinking, the cops kept those kids in there until they started talking," says Tillman, a retired military policeman himself. "Then they twisted and turned them until they got what they needed."