In a case that came up in the race for sheriff last year, Imperial mom Sherrie Gavan was convicted last week of 3rd-degree misdemeanor assault for hitting her addicted son’s alleged heroin dealer with a baseball bat. She faces up to a year in jail and/or a fine of up to $1,000, and will be sentenced June 4th.
It’s really hard for me to see the sense in the prosecution or conviction here (and online commenters at the Post-Dispatch and, to a lesser extent, RFT agree). Sure, hitting someone is against the law. But these details hardly cry out to me for justice:
[Gavan] said Loyd [the dealer/”facilitator”] and another man came into the restaurant, and Klaeton told his mother that Loyd was his drug “facilitator.”
Loyd and the other man left, and Sherrie Gavan followed them in her Jeep. Eventually both parked at Loyd’s residence in Imperial, where a confrontation took place.
What began as a heated discussion, with Gavan warning Loyd to stay away from her son, escalated and she struck Loyd with a bat she took from her vehicle.
She said she struck him because she feared Loyd was about to attack her.
Goldstein said Gavan, at 4-foot-11, hardly intimidated Loyd, who Goldstein described as 5-foot-9, 195 pounds.
“She was scared, terrified,” Goldstein said. “He (Loyd) said he was never afraid of her. He said he was never hurt.”
Loyd waited three hours to contact police after being struck on his left forearm. Also, he declined to be taken for medical treatment when police asked if he needed it, Goldstein asserted.
Are Jefferson County prosecutors bored? A very small woman tapped a much bigger man on the arm, and he’s some sort of victim? The prosecutors are making “the law is the law” and “go through proper channels” arguments:
[Prosecutor Jacob] Costello said the jury needed to remember that Gavan took matters into her own hands instead of going through the authorities.
“She made the choice to pull out the baseball bat,” Costello said.
This is reminiscent of the JeffCo sheriff’s comments in March of last year:
Jefferson County Sheriff Oliver “Glenn” Boyer said his office was compelled to turn the case over to the prosecuting attorney.
“How can we as law enforcement turn our backs on someone who has been assaulted?” he said. “I understand her intentions, but we have laws.”
Indeed, we need justice for this poor, poor man.
Gavan has no regrets, even though she declined a plea bargain:
Throughout the trial, Gavan said she fought the charges rather than plead guilty to help shine a spotlight on the problem of heroin.
“I thought it was important to get the story out,” she said.
And despite the conviction, she said, she achieved what she wanted by confronting Loyd. Loyd has not contacted her son since, and Clayton has been clean for more than a year.
“My son is alive,” she said. “That’s all that matters. … I will take my life over his any day.”
I’m a little bit surprised the jury came back with this verdict, and in only two hours. A few factors, I’m sure, were in play. First, deliberations started at 6 pm after a two-day trial, so people probably wanted to go home; second, the jury was swayed by the “law is the law” argument; and third, nobody on the panel had the passion to argue for a nullification. Such a move, while possible, of course never comes up during a trial, and it would require someone (more likely at least a couple of people) who felt strongly about this idea to argue for an acquittal. Even if a person or two felt this way, most people are unlikely to mount a protracted 12 Angry Men-style campaign against a majority of the jury over a misdemeanor charge. Easier to vote guilty and assume (hope?) the judge goes easy at sentencing.
I just hope that Gavan’s son doesn’t fall off the wagon (he’s been clean for 14 months) while Gavan sits in a jail cell. If he does, and then commits a crime to pay for drugs, will this have all been worth it to stamp out a very minor case of vigilantism?