January 19, 2013 (Original publish date) • By Dennis Beaver
Last week we told you about 21 year-old Sam, in jail on Jan. 2 after a New Year’s party turned horribly violent. A friend — mixing anti-psychotic meds with alcohol — attacked him with a knife.
Trying to get the knife out of the friend’s hand, Sam’s fingers were cut to the bone. He and his girlfriend ran to his car, and like a character from the movie “I am Legend,” the crazed pal tried to smash his way inside.
But instead of simply driving off, Sam — no stranger to inviting fistfights — explained, “I had enough of his crap, got out of my car and hit him a few times with a baton that I kept in the car for self protection.”
Mr. Lunatic wound up with a broken arm and later that night, both were arrested, charged with assault with a deadly weapon, and Sam had the additional charge of having a billy club. His bail was $35,000.
“Ever since high school, our son has had a bad temper, hanging out with the wrong crowd, drinking, cutting classes in high school,” his father told us. But the family kept right on bailing him out of trouble, even buying him a car shortly after he came off of a year’s driver’s license suspension for a DUI when he was 20.
And now Sam was in jail, expecting the family to put up the bail. I told them not to, and they followed my advice.
Sense of entitlement
Enabled children — also known as spoiled brats — often get into real trouble with the law, or as they grow older, financially, which brings them and their families into a lawyer’s office. What rapidly becomes obvious to the attorney — that mom and dad are the problem — is often not seen or is denied by the family.
Preventing children from facing the consequences of their own behavior leads to a sense of entitlement, convincing them that the rules do not apply to them and, as everything is done for them, they are owed everything. Most are highly successful — as manipulators.
“Sam is a great manipulator,” his younger sister told us, “He claims to have a host of ailments, anxiety and panic attacks — all of which hasn’t fooled me, but our parents have been easily conned by him for years.”
Prominent parents often big-time enablers
Well-off families often excel at enabling their children. One dramatic example was a client’s son, whose dad is a well-known local physician. With a nasty and uncontrolled temper, the boy lacked respect for authority, arguing with police officers when frequently stopped for speeding. He would always ask for a trial, and as luck would have it, officers almost never showed up in court! Citations — dismissed.
Once, while test-driving a $50,000 BMW with his girlfriend and a car salesman as passengers, he raced into a curve doing 70. The curve was posted at 25. The car rolled. Dad’s insurance paid the dealer. The salesman got a different job.
But his behavior only worsened. First, he was kicked out of an expensive private college for threatening students — over a simple political discussion — and then thrown in jail for resisting arrest after fighting with officers who stopped him one night for speeding. I told his family and the kid that he needed to spend some time in jail now as he was headed in a dangerous direction. That idea did not go over well at all.
He again avoided real punishment, getting probation, no jail time and not even a fine. But then, one afternoon, he and his brother beat up an elderly neighbor. The man’s sin? He asked the boys not to drive so fast in the neighborhood.
This time, Lady Luck looked the other way. He was sentenced to six months in custody, and he would have been out in two months had he not gotten into a fight with another inmate.
Across the years, his parents found one excuse after another, blaming everyone but their son, or themselves, including their family lawyer of more than 25 years.
It is the duty of the district attorney to seek justice, not merely win cases. Sam was the victim of a knife attack. A jury would likely conclude that his lunatic friend got what was coming to him with little served by prosecuting Sam for his reaction.
In arraignment court, he learned that only one charge was filed: illegal possession of a billy club, a misdemeanor.
“Plead guilty, and you get 90 days work release, no jail and a $400 fine. We will not revoke your DUI probation, but unless you change your ways, your future is down the drain,” warned the probation officer.
He took the deal.
Will anything change? We’re not taking bets.
Dennis Beaver practices law in Bakersfield and enjoys hearing from his readers. Contact Dennis Beaver.