Week of February 7, 2001

No Consequences
Looking for one witness with a conscience: I live on the South Side, only about 2 miles from where my brother, Jason, was killed [Wm. Stage, "Death Trip," RFT, Jan. 31]. I have been checking with police once a week since this has happened, and still no leads. This has been very frustrating for my family and me. Hopefully your article will open some eyes and mouths. I know that someone who was there that night wants to come forward but that they are probably scared. From what I understand, when Matt and Jason got out of the car and ran after the kid with the money, they came to an alley where there were about 12 guys with beer bottles. No one can tell me that out of all 12 guys, there is not one person who doesn't have a conscience.

It's a shame that the world that we live in is so cruel. My son was very close to his Uncle Jason. Jordan is 8. Now he doesn't have an uncle anymore, and I will never know what it feels like to be an aunt. I have lost the only sibling that I had. Hopefully your article will bring some justice to the one who decided that he could take Jason away from us with no consequences.
Sherry LaBoube
St. Louis

His Dishonor
The judge gave the victim a harsher sentence than the criminal: As a survivor of rape, I read your article [Jeannette Batz, "Getting Off Easy," RFT, Jan. 24] in utter disgust. It not only demonstrates but confirms why so many women opt not to report such a crime. The rapist inevitably gets a light reprimand, while the victim receives a lifetime sentence, having to live her life with the memory of this man violating her in the most intimate fashion possible.

Truly the judge's remark -- "If anybody is listening, this is why you don't go to bars" -- is enraging. This "she-asked-for-it" mentality is exactly what perpetuates the increasing incidence of rape.
Cami Jeliti
St. Louis

If justice can't be found in a court, then it should be found elsewhere: I just finished reading your cover story, and I'm sick to my stomach. How can any man resort to drugging a woman in order to conquer her sexually? And how can any judge let such a man off without punishing him with incarceration? I have sisters, a mother, friends who are women -- and this makes me afraid for them. Can't I trust that society will help to protect my family and loved ones?

Judge Schaeperkoetter is sorely mistaken when he says this is what happens when you go to bars. I go to bars often. I meet women. I flirt with them. Sometimes I try to get them to go home with me. However, I would never -- not for a second -- consider using a drug to assure my success. This is criminal. Schaeperkoetter implies in his comment that Anne got what she deserved. She was violated against her will -- kidnapped, in my opinion -- and forced to engage in acts that she would not have otherwise participated in. How is this "what you get"?

I don't know if I am more disturbed by Wasiak's behavior or the judge's attitude toward it. If this is what happens to sexual predators in St. Louis, then it is not safe to be a woman there. And if justice can't be found in a court, then it should be found elsewhere.
Name withheld by request
via the Internet

Schaeperkoetter is a disgrace: I have three things to say. The first is to the victim: Anne, you have been badly victimized -- not once but twice. You should, and have the total right, to pursue this to the highest possible body. Nobody should be allowed to get away with such cowardly and reprehensible behavior, and I am not talking about the perpetrator, I am talking about [Franklin County Presiding Judge Jeff] Schaeperkoetter.

To the judge, you are a total disgrace to your profession. Judges are put on the bench to dispense justice and punishment in accordance with the law -- not in accordance to their backwoods, simple, "I-know-everything," jury-ignoring mentality.

To the perpetrator, I have nothing more to say than has been said over and over in the media. Taking advantage of people who become defenseless when subjected to drugs is way below even common standards of human life.
Mark Lawrence

Words fail me: I read "Getting Off Easy," and I must say that it made sick. I cannot believe the decision and the remarks that were made by that judge. After reading that article, I realize that my decision not to report what happened to me was right. I'm so angry I can't put my feeling into words.
Nicole Johnson
Madison, Ill.

So many men think it's OK to take advantage of women: When I read your article, it struck me as strange. Recently I was with someone I have known for a year. He was going to move to Texas three days later. We talked and drank for a few hours. We went to Denny's to eat. I only had a few drinks, but I felt like I was very drunk. I ate a full meal, and it almost made me feel worse. I was very lightheaded; I felt sick and dizzy, and I was very off-balance. He brought me home. One of my neighbors came by my house when we got there. We talked for a while; then my neighbor left and this man went to the bathroom. I was dizzy and sick, so I laid my head on the couch. That's all I remember. I woke up in my bedroom and knew this man I trusted had raped me. I waited too long to go to the hospital and then had no proof he did anything. He has now left the state, and I can't do anything.

So many men think it's OK to take advantage of women. No matter if a woman is drunk, it's a crime, and judges like [Schaeperkoetter] make women afraid to stand up for their rights. I was afraid and ashamed, and I waited too long. I now know you can buy the ingredients to the date-rape drug off the Internet. All the sites that offer that should be shut down. Maybe one day men won't think it's all right to take advantage of women, even if they are drunk, and won't stoop to drugging women to have sex with them. What has happened to me will affect me for the rest of my life. It's sad to think that in this day and age, men still can't use their brains to think with. There is no excuse for that, and there is no suitable punishment.
Name withheld by request
via the Internet

Going to a bar is not an invitation to a rape: To say I am shocked by Judge Schaeperkoetter's callous way of handling a rape case is a vast understatement. If this is his idea of caring for a victim, I can only pray that he does not have a child or wife or mother.

How dare he say that just because a person is in a bar, she is a willing participant in any act a criminal wishes to perform!
Gayl Brice
St. Louis

We just can't trust anyone: When guys go out, they are looking for one thing -- poontang. I don't care what they do or what they say, when a straight guy goes to a club or a bar, he's looking for booty. He may not be looking for it that night, or the next night, but that's the ultimate goal. And before I get hate mail from a bunch of men, let me tell you something: That's the way women have to think when we go out, because we just can't trust anyone. We can't tell who is a wack job and who isn't.

A bit of advice for ladies: If someone offers to buy you a drink, you walk him to the bar, you watch the bartender pour the drink and you do not leave it for a minute. If you're standing there talking to someone, your hand should be over your glass or bottle or whatever the whole time. If someone walks up and says, "Hey, this is for you," you say, "Hey, that's really nice, but the only person I accept drinks from is the bartender." It may seem like a hassle, or not cool or sexy or whatever, but how sexy are you going to be if you wake up under an overpass with your T-shirt and nothing else? If he's worth it, he'll wait.
Beth Buschard
St. Louis

For the Record
She has a fertile imagination: I noticed that in the recent article concerning my trials and tribulations with Laurie Chirco [Laura Higgins, "Now You See It, Now You Don't," RFT, Jan. 24], she claims that the reason that she refused to testify and to comply with court orders was my constant efforts to secure her address, the location of where her child was living and other personal details about her life. This is not true.

A review of the court transcripts and her depositions will reflect that I never asked her any questions about where she or her family lived and on many occasions told her, point-blank, I didn't want to know. Ms. Chirco is oftentimes a victim of her fertile imagination.
Richard H. Sindel

Rocks in the Head
Cutting to the chase: Allowing Holnam Inc. to continue [construction of the cement kiln] [C.D. Stelzer, "Cementing a Deal," RFT, Jan. 17] is like giving Jeffrey Dahmer a set of Ginsu knives and a Julia Child cookbook.
Ed Kiernan
via the Internet

It happened in the movies: Dear "Name Withheld" in Ste. Genevieve ["Letters," RFT, Jan. 24], are you telling me that the almighty dollar from the proposed cement plant is more important to you than the beauty and health of your own people? Jobs are important, no doubt. But what good are they if you or your kids become ill from that plant's poison? Just think about the movie Erin Brockovich. It could happen to you. It's your life and your choice.
Jonathan Duncan

D.J. Spin
Run the ads in other cities: D.J. Wilson's article must have struck a chord of truth among the natives to have ruffled so many feathers and engendered such defensive and virulent responses. I have also lived in a number of cities, the last 10 years in St. Louis, and thought Mr. Wilson's analysis of the RCGA's marketing strategy to retain the population of St. Louis was quite funny and perceptive. How ironic that the agency that's enlightening us to how good it is in St. Louis went to LA, one of the big, miserable cities it denigrates in their ad campaign, to film the commercials! Are these folks so thick as to not realize a lack of opportunity is what drives some to leave St. Louis and that not using local talent only encourages the kind of behavior the RCGA is trying to stop?

I think running the campaign only in St. Louis is a mistake. After all, most of the 70 percent who have always lived here aren't going anywhere, and of those who are inclined to move, they are unlikely to be conned by the RCGA's propaganda to stay. As for the 30 percent not from St. Louis, they are either here because they are from places that are less desirable than St. Louis or were transferred by corporations that love Missouri's low wages and pro-business labor laws. This latter group is out of here as soon as retirement or a better deal comes along.

It would be far more effective to run the ads in big cities and convince people to come to St. Louis. If life in big cities is so rough and St. Louis offers so much, it should be an easy sell. Then the only thing the RCGA needs to do is to get the natives to be less cliquish, insular and narrow-minded and more welcoming of newcomers and those who didn't go to the same high school. Good luck.
Name withheld by request
St. Louis

If you're good, keep quiet: D.J. Wilson deserves to be called neither a nihilist nor an asshole for poking fun at the "ain't-St.-Louis-great?" media campaign ["Letters," RFT, Jan. 17]. It's like my mother told me: If you're good, you don't have to tell anybody. Public-service-announcement media time should be devoted to something more substantive.
Steve Olafson
Lake Jackson, Texas

Pick on Tulsa or Memphis instead: After reading the criticisms of D.J. Wilson's column on the new St. Louis promotional campaign [Wilson, "Short Cuts," RFT, Jan. 10], I have to wonder about the naïveté of some readers. From what I see and hear from the commercials already aired, I must agree with Wilson. The commercials are pathetic and juvenile. I mean, what is their point? That people are forced to parachute to work in LA or limit hygiene in Chicago in order to afford living there? If the writers were going for humor, they missed by a country mile.

If the producers of the commercials wanted to make a point about St. Louis being better than some other place, they should have picked on Tulsa or maybe Memphis. Boston's sports teams may suck, but the city is a hub of colonial history. And they're smart enough there not to tear down historic buildings to make room for another office building.
Brad Walker
Edwardsville, Ill.

Guilt by Nomination
Bush must be a bigot, too: The article outlining reasons to reject the nomination of John Ashcroft [Ray Hartmann, "Hartmann," RFT, Jan. 17] was right on target and very informative. Thank you for printing it.

Something not mentioned in the article is the implications his nomination has concerning President Bush. Can any American with good sense believe that the president would appoint someone with such demonstrable prejudices and biases if he himself did not agree with them? It simply stands to reason that if Bush appoints this bigot, he shares in the bigotry. The same can be said for those senators who supported and ultimately approved the nomination.
Richard Cottingham
West Point, Va.

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