Debra Harrell—who has been humiliated, imprisoned, had her daughter snatched from her, and is facing possibly a decade in prison if convicted—is now suing a television station for part of what is being done to her. You might remember that Harrell was arrested for letting her nine-year-old daughter play at a public park by herself. Between nosy bystanders and police, this was manufactured into a crime. (After three weeks apart the daughter is now back with her mother for the time being.) WJBF’s Deon Guillory used open records laws to gain her police interrogation video footage (though it mostly consisted in police not questioning her but acting as prosecutor, interrupting her, and telling her how bad she was, as if she was a student and he was the school principle). Here is the news story (also here).
WJBF-TV ABC 6 Augusta-Aiken What you will notice at the end is that the intrepid reporter promises you can view the thirteen-minute full “interrogation” online. But the video is only a little over ten minutes. “Why the discrepancy?” you ask. Here’s the Washington Post to answer your question:
But that video, obtained with a Freedom of Information Act request, included Harrell giving the spelling of her name, her address — and her Social Security number. There it was on the Internet for at least an hour, while people left comments wondering why her information was being made public, until that portion of the tape was edited
Robert Phillips, Harrell’s attorney, confirmed Thursday that he is filing a lawsuit on behalf of Harrell against the reporter, Deon Guillory, and the station
The station declined comment.
People were quick to comment on the station’s Facebook page, asking questions like, “Is it okay for u guys or anyone to make her ss# public?”
I consider a blessing from God that those arrogant lumps of middle-class trash were so blind to Debra Harrell as a human being that they have given her leverage to sue! They didn’t remember the most basic security and privacy considerations that anyone should have considered. While they pompously tell us that she “confessed” to allegedly leaving her daughter unsafe, they publicized the personal information of a woman who has already dealt with robbers at her home. Yeah, they care so much about her daughter’s safety! Just like putting her mother in jail and getting her fired from her job and putting her daughter in the “child protection” system was so great for her. Do you think the scum at WJBF ever “forgot” to leave out private information from successful area businessmen or politicians? The content of the interview that I watched shows that the cops are of the same self-worshiping, self-righteous, pretend-superior mindset as the news crew. The Washington Post description is on target:
The now-edited tape, which is down to 10 minutes, 21 seconds from the “13 minutes” cited by the news anchor, resembles a lecture more than an interrogation. Granted, what I know about police procedure comes from hours of watching “Blue Bloods” and “Law & Order,” but it bothers me that the police officer interrupts her explanation that she didn’t think she had to watch her daughter every minute she’s at the park to ask, “You’re her mother, right?”
“Yes, sir,” Harrell answers.
“You understand that you’re in charge of that child’s well-being?”
Again, Harrell replies, “Yes, sir.”
And he tells her, “That’s not other people’s job to do so.”
Harrell said, “Yes, sir.”
She’s warned not to lie as the officer says, “I’ve made phone calls … this isn’t the first time. … I know a lot more about this than you think I do.” He claims workers at the “feed-a-kid program” at the park have reported seeing Harrell’s daughter unattended several times.
Harrell explains she has not left her daughter “every day” as she doesn’t work every day, to which the officer responds, “Don’t give me that one-day-only crap.” She tells him it’s occurred “two or three times.”
Then the officer talks about the risk of sexual offenders. “You should have that concern,” he says. She explains that she leaves her cellphone with her daughter, but he counters with, “Cellphones don’t save people.”
That tone is in keeping with the television station that seems ready to convict Harrell without a trial. In its first coverage of her arrest, the anchor emphasized how Harrell had “confessed” to leaving her child in a busy park.
Amid all the racial posturing being manufactured at Ferguson, Missouri, I am glad that the lead tormentor at the news station is an African American. It points to the obvious: it is not about race; it is about economic class.
It’s certainly possible that a genuine race prejudice might slip into this situation sometimes, but the bottom line is that most often people are victims because they are poor. Talk to any working class white guy who works a late night shift so that he drives home at the wee hours in a vehicle that might hint to others that he can’t afford a lawyer. Ask him or her how often they are pulled over by patrol cars on the fictitious pretext that they were “weaving” on the road.
Anyone who is obviously unable to afford a real lawyer is on the menu of these people. (Not always, of course. There are still careful and respectful people in every field, including law enforcement. And there are still times when it is entirely appropriate to “throw the book” at someone, including someone who is poor—because they have committed real crimes.)
Notice that Harrell’s wonderful non-confrontational attitude is used to manipulate her. She should have demanded a lawyer from the beginning and never sat through that lecture/prosecution. But she wanted to cooperate with the authorities. None of this excuses the criminal behavior and the arrogance we see elsewhere in society, but you can see why people might learn the wrong lesson about good behavior from what happened to this woman.
The counter example is that the McDonald’s restaurant—part of the franchise universally cursed for exploiting the poor and not caring for their needs—came through for her. They promoted her from shift manager to department manager. Why would McDonald’s care more about a poor mother than a newsroom? It is probably because they know her. They spend time with her and actually think of her as a person rather than as a “law enforcement success story” or a news story.
Other people are helping her out as well. The Washington Post helps restore a tiny bit of faith in humanity by documenting the woman raising funds for her as well as the lawyer who is working on her case pro bono.
I pray Debra Harrell and her daughter are given victory over their enemies.