Letters from the issue of Thursday, February 7, 2008
Cruel crackers: The Israel Correa story would be unbelievable if we didn't know Sheriff Joe Arpaio's biased tactics so well ("No Holds Barred," The Bird, Stephen Lemons, January 31). This just proves what anybody with any sense thought all along: All that bigots like Arpaio are going to do is round up anybody who's brown.
This is truly an outrage! Why can't something be done about Arpaio? Here he was, out there grandstanding, and what do his goons do? They arrest the first brown-skinned man they find. When the suspect tells them he's an American citizen, they scoff because he speaks with an accent. It would have been simple for them to check out his driver's license and Social Security number over their little radios, but instead they throw him in jail — with a phony ICE Hold.
The deputies involved in this should be brought up on false-arrest charges. The Bird's right: This will turn into just another big lawsuit judgment that we taxpayers will have to pay. All because Arpaio and his deputies are classic dumb crackers — and cruel, to boot.
J.B. Thomason, Glendale
We all speak with accents, James: If this guy wasn't illegal, then why was he speaking with an accent? He had to be lying, and I'll bet his papers turn out to false. The Bird is just a pro-illegal immigration, open-borders asshole. He thinks every Mexican is a saint. You can take one look at Israel Correa and see that he's up to no good.
I say arrest anybody who even looks like a Mexican and hold them until things get sorted out. If they have brown skin, you can bet that somebody in their family came here illegally sometime.
James Tingle, Phoenix
RACE, CLASS, DEATH
Editor's note: Sarah Fenske's column "The Wrong Driver" (January 24) drew almost 200 letters and Web site comments. Most of these outraged readers refused to add their names to their opinions, so New Times is publishing the following responses without names and hometowns:
A life of injustice: I just read your article on the drunken girl who got off the hook while a young black man is facing many serious charges.
This is heartbreaking, albeit par for the course. As a 50-year-old black man, I've experienced this kind of injustice on a regular basis. You need only to follow me to an upscale mall to see what I'm saying. Can you say James Byrd? The message of Louis Farrakhan is beginning to sound pretty normal to me.
Put Laura Varker behind bars: Bryant Wilkerson should have received nothing more than a slap on the wrist. He is innocent through all this. A ticket for a moving violation is the only punishment he should receive. What has this man done that he should have to pay a price for someone else's callous acts?
On the other hand, Laura Varker is 100 percent guilty, was not in control of her vehicle (her judgment was clearly impaired due to alcohol consumption), and she thinks she can just hide behind her rich parents and their attorneys?
She should be facing manslaughter charges and should spend her next 21 years behind bars.
Drunk but not responsible. Hmm: The New Times article sounds so one-sided, and it's unfair that the author didn't get both sides of the story. It's not all about black or white. Even if Laura was drunk, he obviously caused the accident with his reckless driving. That's why he left the scene.
Everyone in his car knew he was guilty. He knew it, too, and now he's getting what he deserves. It's not her fault that her family is successful. And that was a fucked-up intro [to the column]. You're not a tabloid. Stop trying to be one.
It has to be the sober one's fault: Wow! Unbelievable. How can you say that this article is not racist when the author starts it with: "Guess which driver's facing 21 years in prison — the drunk, rich white one or the sober, poor black one?"
I've been to the river where the accident happened, and I know the street where it happened. There is no way you can make a U-turn without hitting anyone! If anything, she did the right thing trying to dodge him. It's just a shame that [her car] flipped.
And his speeding off away from the accident like that is totally wrong! He knows he was wrong. While a teenage girl's life was being taken away, he was speeding off.
It's all about the money: This story outrages me. It's sad to believe that just because Laura Varker has money and a bunch of lawyers, she can get off easy.
Wilkerson was just in the wrong place at the wrong time. The authorities say his U-turn slowed down traffic and was dangerous? What? And Varker's absolutely reckless drunken driving wasn't 10 times more dangerous?
I hope the justice system takes a serious second look at this case, and charges the right person this time.
Karma will come full circle: This is so wrong. This girl needs to be brought to justice. Wilkerson was in the wrong when he fled the scene, but a drunken teen with a record not being held as the primary cause of the accident is the most absurd thing I have ever heard.
Do the Varkers not have a conscience? Their money will only protect them for so long. Karma will come full circle.
The real crime? No charges for Varker: Sounds like both of them should be serving time. Both of them are guilty. Varker for DUI and reckless driving. Wilkerson for leaving the scene of a fatal injury accident, unlawful flight from law enforcement, and five counts of endangerment.
Ultimately, though, Varker should be the one serving time for involuntary manslaughter. She's the one who was underage and over the limit, and she's the one who allowed Felicia Edwards to ride in the back on tubes. If Edwards had worn a seatbelt, she might still be alive today.
Either way, the fact that Varker hasn't been charged with anything is a crime in and of itself.
Wilkerson shouldn't have fled: If his U-turn was actually legal, I think that she was at fault for the accident itself. She crossed the yellow lines. I believe that if he had stayed at the scene, he would probably not have even gotten a ticket.
He passed the drug and alcohol tests, and she flunked, in addition to crossing the yellow lines. It looks like the focus of blame would then be all over her like ugly on an ape.
I can't see him in any serious trouble if he had done the right thing and stayed. You hit and run and that changes everything.
Prosecutors are dropping the ball: People make choices in life and unfortunately have to face the consequences of their actions, regardless of race, age or social economic status.
Laura Varker made a choice to get behind the wheel of a car while under the influence of alcohol, was involved in an accident, and that accident resulted in her being responsible for killing her friend.
Bryant Wilkerson made a choice to leave the scene of an accident where a death occurred. There are laws in place for both wrongs that should give the parents of the victim a sense of justice.
This is not a case in which the Sheriff's Office is not doing the right thing, it's a case where prosecutors are not. Because, for whatever reason, Varker's not charged with any crime.
It's a class issue: Both Varker and Wilkerson should be punished — Wilkerson for driving under the influence of marijuana and fleeing the scene of the accident, and Varker for purchasing and consuming alcohol while underage and driving while legally intoxicated.
Both should serve jail time, be stripped of their licenses, and be forced to attend a drug or alcohol program. Both of them were responsible for their drug use while driving.
I don't see this as a racial issue; it's more about class. The police seem to be intimidated by Varker's family connections and its ability to hire "dream team" lawyers. I can only hope that the next time Varker causes an accident, she is the one who suffers.
Varker's an ignorant teenager, and until she's willing to accept full accountability for her actions, she'll be an ignorant adult.
Why are you surprised?: I cannot believe this is happening. There will be no repercussions to the young woman who caused the accident, at all?! Race, class, and wealth will be the most important factors here, rather than drunken driving?
Land of the free?: This is an insane story. I hope that justice is served and Wilkerson is set free. Sounds like he has served his time already. Now I remember why I don't live in Arizona.
White people are still racist: It is not his fault the car hit him. The girl should not have been driving, especially after having a similar accident (though not as horrible) a year earlier. She was very responsible for what happened. Of course the "witness," who happens to be a friend of the girl, will bend the story to make it out to not be Varker's fault.
That girl needs to be prosecuted, regardless of what you may think of him. She deserves to spend her life in jail. I guarantee that if the situation were reversed (black drunken driver in the SUV and sober white driver in the Hyundai), white people would be up in arms.
The reality is that white people are still very racist. I'm one, and I know. You can't deny it.
Mr. and Mrs. Varker are irresponsible: Throw her fucking parents in jail. How is this person under 18 given a 3.5-ton motor vehicle and allowed to drive it after a previous crash?
And then she's ignored as she buys booze (five years under the legal limit) with a fake ID. Reverse the roles and make it a drunken black kid crashing into a white mother, and I guarantee you the turnout would be different.
Revenge-obsessed Americans: What is the purpose of putting this young lady or this black man in jail for 21 years? It was an accident and not done on purpose. She will suffer anyway for the rest of her life. One life was already destroyed, why permanently destroy another young life?
Luckily, we in Europe usually put people responsible for this kind of accident in prison for a maximum of three years. You Americans are obsessed with revenge.