Editors note: After the following comments were lodged, Bryant Wilkerson was acquitted of manslaughter, aggravated assault, and felony endangerment. The jury found Wilkerson guilty of fleeing the scene of an accident he didn't cause. See Sarah Fenske's column for coverage.
Racist hellhole: Kafkaesque indeed! This story should be sent out to anybody even thinking of moving to Maricopa County, especially if [he or she is] a minority.
This county is filled with racists who elect racists as sheriff and county attorney. Why should we expect anything else to happen to Bryant Wilkerson? Of course, they are going to nail the N-word for the crime instead of the pretty white young thing with affluent parents!
For a minority like myself, this story is terrifying. With the bad economy, [I] won't be [moving] for a while, because I'm stuck like everybody else, but I'm going to move away from this hellhole as soon as I can.
Millicent Jones, Tempe
Yeah, we all try to keep a low profile here: I'm so glad I moved out of Maricopa County when I did. Because it was only a matter of time until I violated some minor law and spent time in one of Joe Arpaio's gulags. It doesn't take much, as Sarah Fenske's article proves.
Must be nice to have connected parents who can get you out of trouble at the expense of a man who (while not totally innocent) certainly is less guilty than a drunken teenager driving recklessly.
Just another outrage by the MCSO and County Attorney Andrew Thomas. Par for the frickin' course.
Terry Gentille, Tucson
Yuma's now a beacon of justice: Too bad Bryant Wilkerson isn't an illegal alien. He might just get kicked out of the country for what he's done. Seriously, this is unbelievable!
I've thought of moving to Phoenix for years, to get out of Yuma, which truly has little to say for itself. But I'd much rather stay put these days, after reading in New Times what's going on over there with Joe Arpaio and Andrew Thomas. Though I'm a citizen, I'm sure I'd wind up with an ICE hold and probably get the crap kicked out of me, to boot.
Sure, Wilkerson shouldn't have left the scene, but decades in jail for a death caused by a rich, drunken, white teenager?! If he were a well-off, middle-aged white man, this wouldn't be happening to him.
And I think the argument that he booked because he knows how minorities are treated by county cops is valid. Arpaio is famous for his racism these days!
People of color will never catch a break as long as Arpaio and Thomas rule. I hope the U.S. Justice Department takes care of Joe Arpaio. Too bad the feds can't find a reason to go after his pal, Andrew.
Raul Urrea, Yuma
Apparently the jury in this case: I can't believe this is happening in the United States of America! Is Arizona even a real state?! Where are the civil rights organizations regarding this?
Something needs to be done. The public officials involved need to be made to account for this gross miscarriage of justice. Are there no decent people in Phoenix, besides reporter Sarah Fenske?
Ray Pendergast, Las Vegas
He's still busy fixing the economy: Great story! Just shows that racism and injustice are alive and well in John McCain's Arizona. If he's such a good guy, why doesn't Senator McCain himself step in and help this young black man?!
David Preston, San Francisco
They mishandle the truth: What a total bunch of bullshit! Once again the MCSO screws up a case by being so inept, and once again Candy Dandy Thomas couldn't care less about justice or the truth.
Maricopa County's justice system has got to be the most fucked-up thing I've ever seen. Only in this county does the truth mean nothing. Should be called the county "injustice system."
Jim Cozzolino, Peoria
Got the wrong guy: Just face the facts, the MCSO screwed up, and now — instead of doing the right thing and admitting it — [authorities] just charge Bryant Wilkerson with manslaughter.
I've never heard of someone being charged with manslaughter because someone hit him from behind and killed [the passenger in the rear car].
This is a tragic case, but one that should have been resolved a long time ago with Wilkerson getting time served — he spent three months in jail — and probation.
Laura Varker shouldn't have a driver's license, much less get off with just one day in jail and fines.
If she didn't do anything wrong, why the need to coach witnesses the next day? Sorry, this shows me that they knew she screwed up.
David Saint, Phoenix
Eric, pleeeease come help us: Add this to the pile of letters going to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder on civil rights violations in Arizona. Sarah Fenske did a great job of showing the public what is going on in Maricopa County courts.
This case is so wrong on so many levels that it sends chills down my spine.
Gives kangaroo court a bad name: The bias and bigotry in the county and state are well known. This is a kangaroo court unless this judge doesn't cave in to the prosecutors who control the courtrooms.
Or American Idol: Well done! I'd like to see this story get much more publicity. I am hoping Dateline or 20/20 picks it up.
Only the finest: What a travesty and a farce. Super job reporting and detailing the events. Amazing what [kind of injustice] money can buy!
Burden of truth: How do we prevent this from happening again? Underage drinking, fake ID, and intoxicated equals one day in jail?
I'm not convinced skin color played a role in the judgments by MCSO or the county prosecutor's office, but what could be the reason? Oh, yeah, financial disparity. Teenage girl with well-to-do parents; private investigators aren't cheap.
I've had my run-ins with the MCSO and the county attorney. And . . . I felt mistreated. I had my home broken into and was accused of staging it. They presented no facts, just false accusations. Eventually after spending a pretty penny, the case was thrown out of court.
Oh, by the way, I'm black.
What a waste: Once again, another travesty churns the Maricopa County Attorney's Office, which is known for abuse of power and retaliation.
The taxpayers cannot afford to keep throwing away people's lives by putting them in jail for decades. This travesty [could] not only ruin this vulnerable man's life and his family's but cost taxpayers millions putting him through the system.
And the wealthy young woman goes free? How do these [law enforcement authorities] sleep at night? You think this can't happen to you? Think again.
Just suck it up: I don't understand why the parents are supporting this girl, instead of making her take responsibility for her actions. Until they do, she will not [be] a responsible adult, just an overgrown child taken care of by mommy and daddy. Parents, you won't be able to save your daughter by enabling her.
It's a green thing: I think the only color that has affected this case is green. Dad has [money], and he is using it to ruin a guy who was unfortunate enough to be in the way of daddy's drunk little girl.
Colorblind: I can't believe your reporter would suspect the Maricopa County sheriff and C.A. of racism. Their entire record is going after only bad people who coincidentally happen to be minorities. It's not their fault criminals only come in brown and black.
Sheriff Joe makes Phoenix a laughingstock in the eyes of the nation. Fifth-largest city in the country with a racist sheriff right out of Deliverance. That's world-class!
Thereby hangs retail: I'm afraid "Dude" has given you some false information regarding the old Breuners furniture store building. You quote him as saying, "and before this place was a Breuners, it was LaBelle's."
The truth is that LaBelle's was directly north of Breuners, where it became BEST for a few years before it was torn down to make way for L.A. Fitness. Breuners and LaBelle's were doing business simultaneously for many years.
Having lived in the area for 50 years, I must tell you how much I enjoy your coverage of "surreal estate" in New Times. I enjoy learning about the history of many buildings that have become landmarks in their own way.
Carl J. Cross, Tempe
Um, we've learned not to call him Bob: Okay, Bob, you clearly suffer from "Van Winkle Syndrome (Rip)" [for whining about buildings getting renovated and turned into other stuff]. Unusual for a young guy.
I'm 75 and real cranky. I pound my cane in rage when I try to catch a movie at Cinema Park and then stumble into a strip mall at Seventh and Missouri. Same thing at the Busy Bee Restaurant at First Avenue and Washington or the nearby Jewel Box Pawn.
The other day, I walked into Bob's Big Boy drive-in at Central and Thomas demanding a "Big Boy with Secret Sauce."
"Sorry, no roller skates here," responded a suit claiming to be a lawyer.
Thank God we still have Joe Hunt's. I'm heading there now!
George Preston, Scottsdale