They say Justice is blind, but if that’s the truth, perhaps some of her other senses have become heightened to compensate.
In the case of former Winkler County Sheriff Robert Roberts, Justice has thus far demonstrated a degree of balance Zatoichi would envy, although we call it karma or maybe a cosmic poetry.
Roberts was convicted Tuesday on the same charge, among others, that he tried to bring against the two nurses who’d done their professional and ethical duty in reporting the dangerous practices of Roberts’ friend, business associate and favorite doctor Rolando G. Arafiles.
Now Roberts has 100 days to serve in his own jail.
This would be a more satisfying outcome if we didn’t already have a good idea how those 100 days will be spent, and how jail staff are likely to treat their apparently well-liked former boss.
We’re a nation of law, so I don’t think it will be like Otis in Mayberry, but the former sheriff Roberts won’t be just any other inmate, and no one, I hope, thinks we’re foolish enough even to claim that.
Dropping a former sheriff in general population would not be even slightly fair, but you know, it would be nice to see him receive no special treatment regarding his former status whatsoever. It’s the ideal of our system, but it isn’t practical, of course.
Certainly a plea agreement for probation following a rather speedy and resounding confirmation of Roberts guilt by a jury of his peers raises one’s eyebrows, especially since another jury in February 2010 just as easily found “not guilty” the nurse he was trying to have prosecuted.
But it wasn’t a surprise.
We respect and celebrate law enforcement, really, only because they’re held to a high standard, not because they risk their lives for us.
(Roughnecks are more often killed or wounded protecting us from the dangers of getting hydrocarbons up out of the ground, after all, but our moral expectations of them are far lower, as is their capacity for abusing power).
Officers have to be very careful not just in terms of warding off bodily harm against them, but in how they fill out paperwork, what they say publicly and how they conduct their investigations. The good ones are that careful, and protect and serve the public.
So it’s troubling when the people supposed to be protecting us decide instead to use their power to target us. But it’s more upsetting when people try to excuse it.
When a sheriff’s only real defense is that he is truly a good ol’ boy, a good man with a long and respectable career, it’s telling.
Old dogs are disinclined to learn new tricks, so if what he did investigating nurses at got him in trouble, and he continues to see nothing at all wrong in how he behaved, one can’t but wonder how he behaved much different during the rest of his long career and was just never held accountable.
It’s possible that without the national attention paid to the prosecution of the whistle-blowing nurses, the state attorney general’s office wouldn’t have bothered to get involved.
Justice is blind, but at least this time, it didn’t look the other way.