Today's Letters: Punishment should be tempered with forgiveness

Published September 13, 2007

Student faces prison despite loss, remorse Sept. 7, story

The issue here is whether both the Gormans as a family, and we as a society place any value on the idea of forgiveness. I am a strong advocate of a compassionate system of criminal justice. The entirely punitive mentality of our present system is in desperate need of rethinking.

That said, I quite agree that in the case of Jessica Rasdall serving no prison time would be unacceptable. Simple justice for all victims of drunken drivers demands a penalty other than probation; perhaps a year or two of incarceration would be sufficient. However, the 15 years being demanded by the family of Laura Gorman, or the 101/2 years being asked for by the state, is excessive and unreasonable.

Rasdall has no prior criminal record, and has demonstrated profound remorse for her actions, which resulted in the death of her best friend. Moreover, her crime was committed in the context of a youthful stupidity tragically all too common among the "party" culture of college students.

Rasdall has accepted responsibility for the error of her ways and while she certainly does not deserve a pass, she has earned at least a minimum of mercy. After this hard life-lesson Rasdall is unlikely to ever again run afoul of the law, and a spirit of forgiveness from all concerned is not too much to ask. Something tells me that Laura Gorman would concur.

John Feeney, St. Petersburg

Student faces prison despite loss, remorse Sept. 7, story

What good would prison do?

It is unbelievable that Assistant State Attorney Rohom Khonsari would be demanding 101/2 years in prison for Jessica Rasdall. Two underage girls were drinking together. No one forced anyone into the car. It wasn't an innocent bystander who died. It was someone who engaged in the same illegal behavior as the person he wants to put in jail.

Tragic as it may be for all involved, what purpose would prison serve? It won't bring anyone back. It won't rehabilitate anyone, and what other form of remorse could this girl possibly show? All a jail sentence will accomplish is putting an end to the good that Jessica has been doing for the teenagers in our area.

Cheryl Carver,St. Petersburg

FHP: Bollea got no special breaks and Student faces prison despite loss, remorse Sept. 7

Two kinds of justice

There were two stories in the Times the other day that reflect how our court system treats people. The first was about Nick Bollea and how he can joke about his excessive driving speed. If I was stopped on the interstate for driving at those kinds of speeds, I don't think I'd have gotten just a warning. It appears this young man of privilege is just going to walk away from seriously injuring John Graziano without any charges being brought against him.

The second story was about a young woman who killed her friend while driving intoxicated. It appears the judge wants to punish to the full extent of the law. I find nothing wrong with that except it seems only to apply to those who can't afford high-dollar lawyers.

It's time for the court system to start setting guidelines and following them for all, and not having a separate set of rules for the rich and famous.

Jim Farr, Clearwater

Coverage of John Bryan

Give the family peace

The situation of John Bryan being investigated for possible sexual abuse of his daughters is incredibly sad. For the most part, people who knew him were shocked, angry and saddened by the allegations. His subsequent suicide just compounded the community's angst.

As we struggled to reconcile the child advocate with the man accused of abuse, our heads and hearts developed a deep pain. Nobody is truly one-dimensional, and we need to understand that even the people whom we respect and think we really know may well have other totally different attributes and behaviors from those they let us see. A person can be a loving family man while at the same time have uncontrollable urges. We are not in a position to make a judgment on this matter, and I suspect that a significant amount of pertinent information was forever lost upon Bryan's death.

In the meantime, it is imperative that we as a community support the family in their attempts to cope and that we give them some peace in which they can heal.

Patsy Buker, St. Petersburg

Help for the suicidal

My heart goes out to the family of St. Petersburg City Council member John Bryan. Any sudden loss is traumatic and painful, but loss by suicide can leave loved ones with more intense feelings including increased shock and sadness.

I am also concerned that the nature of the coverage in the Times may have a negative impact on some in our community. Media coverage of suicide can sometimes cause those who are vulnerable to have increased thoughts of ending their own lives by suicide.

If you are thinking of suicide, please call one of the national suicide hotlines at 1-800-SUICIDE (1 800 784-2433) or1-800-273-TALK (1 800 273-8255). At either of these numbers, you will reach professional counselors available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Please reach out for hope.

Donna Cacciatore, Tampa

Huge rise in suicide rate for girls 10-14 Sept. 7, story

What about drugs?

The report on this sad statistic left out the most obvious question: How many of these children and teens were on antipsychotic drugs? A link might be found in your report of July 29 about the thousands of children being prescribed antipsychotic drugs, which were developed to treat adults and where there is "almost no research on the long-term effects of such powerful medications on the developing brains of children".

The CDC urges more preventive programs for all young people. Taking children off these dangerous drugs would be a good start.

Barbara Cabrera,Beverly Hills