State attorney has law on side in Couey case

Letters to the Editor
Published May 3, 2005

We all now know the gruesome facts regarding the abduction, abuse and murder of Jessica Lunsford. We know Jessica was still alive when the police were looking for her. We know that if the police hadn't been obstructed in their search, that if they had not been misled, that Jessica might still be with us. This gut-wrenching tragedy has galvanized our community to fight for change.

I recently hosted Mark Lunsford in Washington, D.C., as he made the case for funding the Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) and sought support for my bill, the Jessica Lunsford Act. We would tighten the noose around those sexual predators who stalk children in our communities. Others in Congress are seeking to toughen standards in other areas of the law. We will not rest until we get results.

In the same way I am fighting in Washington, I will fight at home to bring swift justice to all those who had a hand in this tragedy. John Couey is in jail, but those who allegedly aided him, hid him, and lied to the police are still free. This is an injustice that must be corrected. Florida law directs prosecution. Section 843.20, F.S. reads as follows: "Whoever shall resist, obstruct, or oppose any officer ... in execution of any legal duty, without offering or doing violence to the person of the officer, shall be guilty of a misdemeanor of the first degree."

The law is clear. It does not read "may," "might" or "perhaps" bring charges if the state attorney feels like it, but rather it says if someone obstructs the law, then they shall be guilty. I am not an attorney, but I am a legislator and there is no more direct language for a legislator to use when writing law. Anyone who aided Mr. Couey and obstructed the police should be charged and brought to justice.

I believe strongly that prosecutors are our first responders in the administration of justice. I believe it is the job of the state attorney to seek where the law can apply to criminals, not to find excuses as to why it cannot. I believe in all efforts we ought to err on the side of the victim, of the child and of justice.

State Attorney King is hiding behind footnotes, inconclusive case law and activist judges. You do not need a college degree to know a crime is committed when the police are lied to. You do not need to bury yourself in the jots and tittles of law clerks to know our community is crying out for justice. You do not need to be a lawyer to know that Mr. King, should he choose, has the law on his side to prosecute this case.

We have declared war on those who would abuse, torture and kill our children. I am going to make certain that our laws are tougher and the scum who prey on our children receive no mercy. However, I am not a lawyer; I cannot prosecute these cases. I am not a judge; I cannot lock these people up and throw away the key. I am a legislator, and my job is to give the other branches of government the tools they need to administer justice.

I have read the Florida statutes, and I strongly believe the law gives Mr. King what he needs to get the job done. I cannot make him do his job, but public pressure can give him the courage to err on the side of the victim, rather than those who aided Couey.

-- Rep. Ginny Brown-Waite, R-Crystal River, 5th Congressional District

Brown-Waite fights for veterans

I've heard of "Bush bashers," "Granny bashers" and lately "Ginny bashers." Congresswoman Ginny Brown-Waite represents the largest veterans population of any congressional district in the nation, with more than 106,783 veterans. Duly elected by a good majority, Ginny has the extraordinary charge to advocate for policies that best care and provide for 5th District veterans.

Our newly elected Veterans Affairs director is congressional budget-stupid and penny-pinching wise, it appears. He'll balance the VA 2006 budget on the backs of thousands of Hernando and Citrus county veterans by charging them 110 percent more for prescriptions and a financially back-breaking $250 "enrollment fee" per annum.

Ginny, I feel, is battling this VA budget abomination as a member of the House Committee on Veterans Affairs. She has been joined by Sen. Larry Craig, R-Idaho, and Rep. Adam Putnam, R-Fla., in this fight against cuts in veterans care, and that's what this VA director's proposals are.

If only 10 percent of the 106,000 5th District veterans got "off the stick" and sent a 23-cent postcard to anyone who votes in this Congress, we veterans might well scuttle the fees proposed as a monetary barrier and unnecessary burden to quality health care for those of us who earned the right to use the VA system.

-- John Fallon, Spring Hill