News Flash (November 5th)
Charlie Gardner has won the Malone Justice position! Mark Gonyea ran a spirited campaign, and we hope to see him run again in a year, when Judge Lamitie regrettably retires. In the meantime, we encourage Mark to keep attending court sessions to hone his formidable skills even further.
All the letters to the editor in the Telegram were absolutely true in what they said about Mark Gonyea: He’s an outstanding public servant and a gift to the community. He should not interpret this (very close) vote as a rejection of him; it’s more a case of some people (me included) acknowledging that Charlie Gardner’s experience makes him the preferred candidate at the moment. Mark has been heavily involved in local government for decades, and I have always admired and in fact supported his position on issues.
“Mark, please run again a year from now!” — CLM
Look closely at this map of NYS.
You’re looking at the drug war being waged against us by drug cartels south of the border (Mexico, Central America, South America), Afghanistan (the so-called Golden Crescent), and SE Asia’s Golden Triangle of Myanmar, Laos, and Thailand. A global narcotics super-economy with annual revenues in the $500 billion stratosphere. Staggering as it is, experts concede that $500 billion is almost certainly a lowball figure.
You’re looking at a $500-billion-reason why Charles Gardner (Rep.) should be Malone’s next municipal judge.
New York has 17 counties officially designated as High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas (HIDTA) by the NY/NJ HIDTA Drug Trends Group (DTG) in a report funded by the US Office of National Drug Control Policy, operating out of the White House. The report is titled “Threat Assessment 2015.”
“High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area.” Roll the phrase around on your tongue for awhile. (Go ahead, let yourself get angry.) Nowadays wars are fought with more than just bullets and bombs. This one is a shadow war fought chiefly with small plastic bags with white powder inside. A war of white powder and hypodermic needles.
NYS has one of the highest number of HIDTA counties in the nation, neck and neck with W. Virginia (Appalachia — coal country — crushingly poor), New Mexico (at the receiving end of a torrent of drugs from our friends south of the border), yet trailing Kentucky & Tennessee (Appalachia — coal — crushingly poor). Texas, land of superlatives, eclipses the nation. Texas is the Niagara Falls of drug importing.
Back to our Map of Death. Notice the distribution of the 17 counties. A cluster down around NYC and Long Island spilling over into NJ. Then a cluster in the North Country, in fact the entire North Country, in a wide sweep from L. Ontario to L. Champlain. Our porous border with Canada. Not just porous, but liquid. The St. Lawrence, a cinch for freighters to offload illicit cargo on dark nights. A cinch for speedboats from Ontario & Quebec to NYS.
The “Threat Assessment 2015” focuses on heroin, Controlled Prescription Drugs (CPD’s), crack/cocaine, marijuana, methamphetamines, and assorted others, including what are hilariously called bath salts (whose effects are anything but hilarious). It covers drug overdose deaths, money laundering, gangs and cartels, drug-inspired crime, and finishes off with an educated prognosis for what lies ahead.
What lies ahead is not encouraging. To give you a flavor of what I mean by “not encouraging,” let me list several recent articles in the NY Times — articles addressing more or less our “neck of the woods,” as the saying goes.
“Heroin in New England: More Abundant and Deadly” (July 2013)
“Heroin Scourge Overtakes a Quaint Vermont Town [Bennington]” (March 2014)
“A Call to Arms on a Vermont Heroin Epidemic” (February 2014)
“The Heroin Epidemic, in Vermont and Beyond” (March 2014)
“Heroin’s New Hometown [Staten Island]” (May 2014)
Heroin eclipses the rest. It’s cheap, abundantly available, deadly, and appallingly addictive. (Satan himself could not have dreamed up a more perfect economic model: cheap, abundant, hyper-addictive.) Overdoses are common — and unforgiving, as the deaths described in the above articles confirm. (Bear in mind, heroin is rarely pure. Often adulterated by dealers. But, adulterated with what? Remember, the narcotics industry is not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration; we’re not talking “granola bars.”)
Because of NYS’s year-old I-Stop law, the abuse and diversion of Controlled Prescription Drugs (CPD’s) has dropped dramatically. This is the good news. The bad news is that CPD addicts have switched from Rx pills to heroin — again cheap, easy to get, and immediately transfixing with a sensational (though fleeting) high.
Then follows the craving. Every single cell in your body — screaming for another hit. Screaming day and night. Once hooked, users have no choice but to feed the addiction. Sooner or later this translates into theft. To get cash. “If it’s not nailed down, steal it,” becomes the mantra. Preferably from family and other loved ones.
The Dragon of Addiction. My daughter from a former marriage is in her early forties. A nurse with an RN degree. Lives in Albuquerque NM. (Remember, NM ranks with NYS on the HIDTA hit list.) My daughter is a cocaine addict — or was. I believe she is also a heroin addict — or was. She has been in and out of hugely expensive treatment centers. Even so, the Dragon continues to devour her. I have lost contact with her — at several levels. Somewhere, at some level of her consciousness and mine, I have a daughter and she has a dad.
Last week I paid a visit to Malone’s police chief, Chris Premo. It was a grim conversation. “My officers now carry Sharps containers in their police cruisers,” he told me as I snapped his picture. (What are Sharps containers, you ask? Plastic containers that used to be found only in hospitals and doctors’ offices, for safely disposing of used hypodermic needles.)
“We find needles all over the place,” he went on. “The other day we got a call from a man raking leaves, who accidentally stabbed himself with a used needle someone had casually tossed onto his lawn.”
My wife and I moved to Malone 17 years ago. We didn’t lock our doors. That was in the late 1990’s. We moved here from Santa Fe NM. We now lock our doors. All of them. We now have a sophisticated burglar alarm system installed, because someone, a year ago, tried to break into our home.
“High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area.” Locked doors. An alarm system. No, no gun. Not yet. This is crazy. I don’t like living like this. Nor do you.
I want a judge who is engaged with, and angry about, all the above. I want a judge who is going to come down like a ton of bricks on dealers — in the war of small plastic bags and hypodermic needles. And pills. And “meth labs” that burn down houses.
Two men are running for Malone judge. Mark Gonyea is one of them. A fellow Democrat and man I’ve known and admired for years. (I know Mark from the “wind turbine” campaign, years ago. He’s a fine and honest man.)
But he’s not the man for this position — not yet. The stakes are too high at the moment to elect merely a good man.
Charles Gardner is the Republican candidate. I didn’t know the man till several weeks ago, when he knocked on my front door and handed me two pencils with his name on them. I asked him to come back in the morning and tell me why he should be our next judge.
Mark Gonyea had done the same thing, earlier in the summer — stopped by and chatted. When I asked Mark why he should be judge — a fair question, after all — he replied, “Why not?” I told him his answer was not satisfactory.
The morning Charlie Gardner came by, I posed the same question. “Two reasons,” he replied, looking very judicial. (If you don’t know him, Charlie weighs in at 335 lbs. I’m not guessing; I asked him. Not fat. Just a large man.) He narrowed his eyes beneath bushy eyebrows. “Two reasons,” he said. Then held out his hand at waist height. “My two grandchildren! Malone is in the grip of a nationwide drug epidemic. When users and dealers (the two being interchangeable) come before my court, I want them to know that Judge Gardner advises them to bring a toothbrush, ‘cause they are not going home for awhile. They’re going to the county jail.”
This is a war where the bad guys are hammering us at an annual profit of $500 billion. A war we’re losing in NYS, especially in the “High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area” we affectionately call the North Country. (What do the drug cartels call us? “The Suckers in Upstate NY”?)
It’s a war that impinges on my daughter (who lost the battle) and Charlie Gardner’s grandkids who, so far, are happily oblivious to it — till they get to middle school or high school or beyond. Then, they’re targets.
Mark and Charlie are both good men. Charlie, however, has a credential I consider essential. He has hard-earned, on-the-ground, hands-on experience with this $500 billion/year global drug war — a war that has Malone in its cross-hairs.
» From 2011 to 2013 — I closely paraphrase his resumé — he was a Regional Training Lieutenant appointed by the Director of Training for the NYS Dept of Corrections and Community Supervision, as a liaison between the Albany Training Academy and twelve northern correctional facilities. “I was,” he continues, “responsible for overseeing the training of 6,000 civilian and security staff members. I instituted the first trainings to be held in northern New York on methamphetamine labs, suboxone, heroin and ‘bath salts.’ I also became a General Topics Instructor for the Department of Corrections and Community Supervision.”
» He has been a Corrections Officer in, what looks to me, nearly every state prison in the State of NY. Yes, I’m exaggerating, but the list is long and impressive — beginning with Sing Sing. He rose through the ranks to sergeant and finally lieutenant. His duties were diverse and comprehensive. He was, in short, a boss both to junior officers and, perhaps more importantly, to thousands of malefactors. (A point I return to in a moment.)
» He has been a Malone police officer. From 1980 to 1981. His father’s injury from a tragic accident forced him to quit the force (he loved being an officer) and return to run the family business, the Gardner Ice Co. Municipal judges must work closely with the police, whose referrals (if we may call them this) account for approximately 70% of the court load. The judge also must work closely with the county sheriff, in this case Kevin Mulverhill. Charlie tells me that when he questioned Sheriff Mulverhill about having enough room in the county jail for malefactors he (Charlie) might send his (Kevin’s) way, that Sheriff Mulverhill assured him: “If I don’t have enough room, I’ll find room.” I liked that answer.
A moment ago I said that Charlie was in charge of, cumulatively, thousands of malefactors. Serial killers, various other psychopaths and criminal deviants, all manner of drug dealers, child molestors, run-of-the-mill murderers, and every other screwball and angry, self-righteous, grandiose, impulsive man or woman. The whole 9 yards. He handled them all.
What intrigues me in talking to Charlie is how he became a role model for these people. My wife, a physician who does, among things, adult psychiatry, listened as he described in fascinating detail how he would “get into the mindset” of these people — and begin walking them out of their insanity (which it is, frankly). Instead of emotionally pulverizing them for their delusional state, he enters it with a kind of “tough affection,” and calms them down and begins their healing.
» Frank was nasty, big, and floridly psychotic. And dangerous. His anger and screamed invectives were the nightmare of every block commander in the prison. But Charlie noticed that Frank had a gentle side. Sort of a charming weakness. Everyone in the cellblock and the guards ridiculed him for it. Frank had a “dog.” An invisible dog. Frank loved his make-believe pooch, and kept a small dish of water and food just outside his cell. There was nothing in the dishes, of course — except in Frank’s mind, they were lovingly filled with water and dog chow. When Charlie would come on duty, he’d throw open the door to the cellblock and bellow, “Dammit Frank! Your dog bit me again! Listen, pal! If that dog gets loose one more time and bites me again, you’re in deep trouble!” “Oh, I’m sorry Lieutenant,” whimpered Frank, from way down the block. “I’ll see that it never happens again!” (Yes, the men howled and cat-called with laughter, but the lieutenant & Frank remained impervious to the ridicule.) Charlie was beginning to heal his man. When Lieutenant Gardner was on duty, Frank was a pussycat. Calm. Courteous. Happy. Go figure.
» Geraldo and Victor were in a nasty brawl. Smashing each other in the face and torso with bare knuckle, blind rage. Blood everywhere. The guards break it up. The two pugilists want to kill each other and anyone within reach. Enter Lieutenant Gardner, at 335 lbs. “Men,” he intones, “enough! We’re taking you to the infirmary to get sewn up!” He then leads them outside into the crisp winter night. They sullenly follow, still seething. Suddenly the lieutenant stops. It’s cold. There’s 2 feet of snow on the ground. He slowly turns around. “Men,” he barks, “I want you both to lie down there in the snow and make snow angels!” He’s not laughing. He’s not smiling. He’s sober as a judge. And they did! They glanced sheepishly at the guards and one another, then eased themselves into the snow and — began waving arms and legs, making splendid snow angels. “Okay, men, that’s enough. Well done!” When they stood up, they were smiling. Smiling! Grinning from ear to ear! The brawl, behind them. Forgotten. Happy. Compliant. Problem solved.
This is the kind of man I want sitting on the bench. Creative. Quietly humorous. Absolutely firm yet respectful of his charges — in this case, prisoners. A role model.
Have you ever sat in on a session of the Malone municipal court? I have. You quickly learn at least two lessons:
(1) Most of the people being arraigned are repeaters. Frequent flyers, if you like, of the justice system. In and out of jail. In and out of trouble. The village and state police know them all by name and everything about them. Several dozen people. Even I know a half dozen by name, because they used to terrorize my neighborhood until Judge Lamitie brought the weight of the law down upon them!
(2) Most of these “repeaters” are mentally ill. Suffering from a chronic and intractable personality disorder of one sort or another. Nut cases, in other words. Nut cases who repeatedly break what’s called the “social contract” with the rest of the community. Which is why they’re standing, sneering, before a judge. The question becomes: How do we “get through” to these personality deranged individuals?
If anyone has an answer, it would be Charles Gardner. I see him developing a reputation among “frequent malefactors” for toughness and yet, oddly enough, guidance. For they desperately need parenting. And their parents desperately needed parenting. And so did their grandparents, for that matter.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting Judge Gardner lead them outside and direct them to execute snow angels in snowdrifts. (Hmm, on further thought it may not be a bad idea.) I am suggesting that his decades of experience with personality disordered and volatile malefactors will ensure a good mix of toughness (“Did you bring your toothbrush, young man?”) and parenting (“You wanted to get my attention, didn’t you! Well, young man, you just got it!”) Or, “Young man, tell me what you’re doing to stop being a screw-up in life and making yourself a pain in the butt to this community?” Besides, I can imagine that his judgments will be novel and effective, giving these (heretofore) hopeless riffraff a sense of purpose and redemption in life while at the same time letting them know the judge is no fool — he’s heard all the stories they can concoct.
When I discussed Charlie’s candidacy with Chief Premo, I asked what the village police need in a municipal judge. His answer was prompt and unequivocal. “We need someone who is truly available for arraignments, day or night, and we need someone who does not ‘blow off’ the police, who, after all, represent the community.”
Good points, both of them. I suspect both Charlie and Mark would honor the chief’s request, for, after all, the chief and his officers represent — me and you. “Your Honor, when you blow off the police, you blow off the community. When you insult and discourage the police with frivolous judgments, you insult and discourage the community.”
Malone is in trouble. I’m a born brawler. Irish and Norwegian. (Yes, a bad mix. But it’s too late, now.) Malone’s worth fighting for. It’s also worth being “intelligent” for — as in, mentoring and shadow-parenting the generations of riffraff who wander my neighborhood and easily fall prey to the punk with the pills in the image, above, or to the cool loser proffering the hypodermic needle. This is how I have come to know a half dozen of those habitués before the municipal court: I have mentored them. I have used humor, cash (when they persuaded me it wasn’t for drugs or booze), and gotten in their face at 11 pm at night when they’re screaming obscenities at one another on my street. (They respect me, I’m happy to report. None of them ever reviled me.)
I regard Charlie Gardner as a gruff parent — quick with humor, toughness, and a natural gravitas. “Okay men” — notice the twinkle in the eye — “I want you to step outside and we’re gonna make snow angels. You and me, both.”
Just the man to be sitting on the bench. A 335-lb snow angel.