No Criminal Charges for the Baby-Burning Stormtroopers of Habersham County

habersham-baby

In Habersham County, Georgia, it is not a crime to mutilate children in midnight raids, assuming that the assailants are privileged purveyors of state-sanctioned violence.

Following a six-day investigation, a Habersham County Grand Jury has declined to indict the law enforcement officers who nearly murdered 19-month-old Bounkham Phonesavanh by heaving a flash-bang grenade into his crib during a no-knock drug raid earlier this year. The raid followed a tip from an anonymous informant that there were drugs and weapons at the residence, which was supposedly patrolled by armed guards. The same informant claimed that there were no children present at the targeted home. While there was certainly a child on the premises, neither drugs nor guns were found during the raid.

The tiny victim, whose face was demolished and whose chest was blown open, was still in a medically induced coma when Sheriff Jerry Terrell officially exonerated the officers who had nearly murdered him: “I stand behind what our team did. There’s nothing to investigate, there’s nothing to look at.”

Public outrage eventually led to a Grand Jury inquest, which did little more than ratify the sheriff’s claims. Rather than preferring charges against the officials responsible for that crime, the grand jury offers a menu of suggested “reforms” and expresses satisfaction that the the Appalachian Drug Task Force has been subsumed into a state-wide counter-narcotics soviet supervised by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation.

The prologue to the grand jury’s “Presentment” is five pages of frothy self-justification and pious persiflage emphasizing the public-spiritedness of the panel and extending sympathy to both the victims and perpetrators of this atrocity.

“Nothing can be more difficult and heart-wrenching than injuries to one’s child,” the document asserts, before suggesting that inflicting such injuries can be just as traumatic to the exalted instruments of state coercion who nearly killed Bou-Bou: “[W]e wish to extend our sympathy also to the law enforcement officers involved… [W]hat has not been seen before by others and talked or written about, is that these individuals are suffering as well.”

That suffering, like the nearly fatal injuries to Bou-Bou, came after an investigation that was “hurried, sloppy, and unfortunately not in accordance with the best practices and procedures.” This wasn’t “criminal negligence,” mind you, but simply the regrettable result of “well-intentioned people getting in too big a hurry, and not slowing down and taking enough time to consider the possible consequences of their actions.”

This assessment might be appropriate in describing the distracted and inattentive cook who sets fire to a stove. Applying it to people who carried out an unjustified 3:00 a.m. military assault that left an infant fighting for his life is an obscenity.

While the Presentment offers a few anodyne criticisms of the SWAT team’s actions, it blithely endorses the tactical decisions that led to the raid, and documents the Grand Jury’s slavish deference to the “expertise” of law enforcement officials in matters of aggressive force.

The most abhorrent passage in this document comes on page 13, where “the parents and extended family” of the victim are cut in for a share of the blame, because they supposedly “had some degree of knowledge concerning family members involved in criminal activity that came in and out of the residence.” Bou-Bou’s parents had taken refuge with relatives in Georgia after their home in Wisconsin was burned down. They weren’t implicated in the alleged wrongdoing of their relative; they were simply desperate for a place to live.

If the “ordinary citizens” of Georgia responsible for this document had conducted an investigation of Sherman’s March, they would have been achingly even-handed in apportioning blame between the Berserkers who burned Atlanta, and the victims of that war crime — including people who had fled to that city as refugees.

Bou-Bou’s parents, who moved back to Wisconsin, have been saddled with more than $1 million in medical expenses. After initially promising to help defray those expenses, Habersham County officials — displaying the selective, self-serving fastidiousness for law that is so typical of privileged tyrants — now insist that it would be “illegal” to do so.

Until the early 20th Century, grand juries were independent bodies of citizens who frequently investigated official corruption by police and prosecutors. By the 1970s, however, the grand jury had become “the total captive of the prosecutor,” observed District Judge William Campbell, who candidly called for the abolition of grand juries on the grounds of redundancy. Habersham County, like so many other tax jurisdictions throughout the Soyuz, is inhabited by the kind of citizens who are indecently eager to exonerate those who commit criminal violence on behalf of their rulers.

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11:09 am on October 7, 2014

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