What part of pleading guilty does Milt Shook not understand?
In a blog post eloquently titled “In Praise of Evidence,” Milt Shook argued that his new BFF Bill Talley did not deserve to be called a pedophile because a “court log, showing him pleading guilty to a couple of charges of ‘sexual exploitation of a minor’” was unimportant due to the lack of details given out.
Update (5/29/2013): Milt Shook is famous for deleting posts that later embarrass him, so we took the liberty of saving a copy of his magnificently absurd work in case folks like you might want to review it after Bill Talley was sentenced—which he just was. Read the Tennessean’s reporting on the sentencing, and the horrific details discussed in court, and then check out Shook’s screed here. (Try and contain your laughter. It won’t be easy.)
For some strange reason, Shook says we know nothing about any evidence. Which part of hundreds of child pornography photos does he consider non-evidentiary? Oh, right, those bothersome photos escape his mention.
Instead, he moans about the presumption of innocence until proven guilty, and cries that “there has been no trial, and all anyone has seen to date is the prosecution’s case.” While he does admit that Talley “agreed to a plea deal, which is sealed,” he does so as casually as if Talley had just agreed to buy the next round in a bar.
Is a plea bargain all that negligible? In a word, no. In a plea bargain, a prosecutor and someone facing trial for criminal charges reach a mutually agreeable solution to avoiding a trial. In Bill Talley’s case, that meant pleading guilty to one of four drug possession with intent and two of five sexual exploitation of a minor charges. Plea bargains save the courts time and money and allow a criminal the opportunity to plead guilty to lesser or partial charges for a shorter sentence.
Generally a judge will authorize a plea bargain if the defendant makes a knowing and voluntary waiver of his or her right to a trial, understands the possible maximum sentence that might be handed down after pleading guilty, and makes a voluntary confession, in court, to the alleged crime.
This is the fact Mr. Shook ignores: Mr. Talley obtained a plea bargain by pleading guilty to three out of nine charges and making a voluntary confession in court. He was not victimized by the prosecutor with whom he forged “a mutual agreement,” nor was he demanding a trial in which to establish his innocence.
Regardless of what Talley and Shook say on Twitter, Tally admitted guilt to sexual exploitation of a minor:
A person commits sexual exploitation of a minor by knowingly recording, filming, photographing, developing or duplicating any visual depiction in which a minor is engaged in exploitive exhibition or other sexual conduct; or by distributing, transporting, exhibiting, receiving, selling, purchasing, electronically transmitting, possessing or exchanging any visual depiction in which a minor is engaged in exploitive exhibition or other sexual conduct.
If any visual depiction of sexual exploitation of a minor is admitted into evidence, the court seals that evidence at the conclusion of the hearing or trial—so we will, none of us, learn details of that evidence now.
Shook concludes his article by shrugging off the plea with an absolutely absurd speculation, even for his blithely arrogant style of blogging: “One reason he probably pled guilty was because of the emotion surrounding the issue.”
So are we to imagine that prisons are full of gentle souls who copped pleas because of the emotion surrounding an issue rather than culpability and the wish to evade punishment for all of their crimes? Is it really only “a lynch mob” that would look at guilty pleas as an indication of, well, guilt? Should thousands of pedophiles and rapists spare themselves all the inconvenience of a lengthy prison term and all that personal shame and humiliation by just agreeing to a plea bargain and then try to say “There, you see! I’m innocent!“?
We hope someone or some group is reimbursing Mr. Shook for his fervent support. Shook would do well to learn how to research something before penning a blog that asks others to “Please cut the crap.“