Kevin Alfred Strom (pictured) — the Charlottesville man who’s accused of being a racist and who pleaded guilty to possession of child pornography in a politically tinged case in which his main accuser was cop-follower/blogger estranged spouse Elisha Strom (herself now convicted of obstruction of justice) — staunchly maintains his innocence. What should the community’s attitude be to him? — Ed.
by D. Peter Maus
I’M GOING TO BE CAUTIOUS about addressing the politics, here, because I often find Kevin Strom’s politics to be uncomfortable, but he’s made a point that’s not altogether out of line. And raises legitimate questions about what actually happened, here.
Convicted upon the facts, perhaps. Convicted on the evidence, perhaps. And the truth is that only Kevin really knows what actually happened when the authorities came calling.
But, child porn is one of today’s hot button issues. Like heroin in the 50’s and cocaine in the 70’s, child porn is one of those issues that generally gets a pass when questions are raised about procedure in law enforcement. But, like heroin and cocaine, child porn has been made very easy to convict on. In fact, one need not even know one is in possession to be convicted. Hidden in clauses of bills like DMCA, are items making the reception, even if unsolicited or unknown, of child porn an actionable, criminal offense.
In that light, it’s very much like heroin and cocaine: Plant an item, try in the press, convict on the evidence.
Especially easy, when the target is politically hot, as is Kevin Strom.
There are few better ways to destroy someone in this culture than to attach their name to something like child porn. And that, alone, should raise questions when it happens to a politically charged citizen. Who benefits from the diminution of a politically charged citizen, unless it is someone who is politically invested?
Consider also, that we no longer accept the completed sentence as ‘payment in full’ for an offense in this society. No longer does the convict get a clean start, and an opportunity to rebuild their life after it’s been leveled by the legal system. No longer does the past get to be the past. Today, we have websites, we have registries, we have notices that there are convicts living among us. None more reviled than the child molester, or the ‘sex offender.’ And they are tarred for all time with that epithet.
Even if they are not actually guilty.
You think that doesn’t happen?
Just an example: Half of the people on death row in Illinois were proven to have been innocent when the evidence could be more coolly and more accurately examined. Let me repeat. Half of the people on death row in Illinois were proven to have been wrongly convicted.
Does anyone think that can’t happen in any other state?
Anyone think that can’t happen with those accused of sex crimes?
ESPECIALLY when there is a politically charged component to someone’s life?
Then consider this: Even the judge in Kevin’s case said the prosecutors were out of line and dismissed the bulk of actions as flimsy abuses of process. He even acknowledged that Federal agents were prosecuting what was, in fact, a local matter. But, Kevin’s politics stabbed at the heart of the Federal Government. If that’s not a coincidence, it needs to be proven.
And the single count upon which he was convicted was based on a confession extorted against threats of the horrors of a life in a federal prison as a sex crime convict.
Consider also, that he has sole custody of his children. Something a judge would not permit were he actually believed guilty of a sex crime.
And he has ready access to Internet traffic. Something that also would not be permitted, were he believed to be guilty.
These things must be considered when evaluating the conviction against Kevin’s rebuttal. But, as a culture, we don’t. Because ‘child porn’ is attached to the matter.
The entire Constitution of the United States was written by men with an innate distrust of the power of government, and the fear of the abuses of men overwhelmed by power. They specifically prohibited the creation of propaganda organs of government to bamboozle the public with false witness, and guaranteed a free press to protect themselves from such an abomination. (Which we have since voluntarily abrogated, apparently.) They were men who’d experienced first hand the horrors of power. And they created a legal system designed to protect the innocent, and protect the falsely accused, by remaining institutionally skeptical, and questioning everything said about someone, putting in place safeguards to protect the human rights of the accused against legal abuses, and allowing for the true recovery of one’s life after conviction. So that once sentence is served, the prosecution ends. Unless provoked by a next offense.
We’ve gotten away from all of that. We try in the press. The government forms alliances with media (Google has an office in the White House, for Christ’s sake). We empower one class against the other. (In Florida, a man is automatically removed from his home on charges of spousal abuse, even if the accusation is made anonymously by phone from out of state by someone who’s never met either party. Conviction is also nearly automatic. And this is becoming the standard across the States.) We persecute at whim. We prosecute for unpopularity of language. We erase protections from abuse, and presumptions of innocence. We register released offenders. And we persecute in perpetuity.
And we do it without the skepticism that the Founding Fathers specifically codified into the structure of the Nation. The skepticism that ensures the protection of the rights of the accused. The skepticism that ensures the pursuit of the absolute truth.
That, alone, should raise questions that deserve answers about every conviction, every accusation, every interview of a citizen whose politics stand in opposition to the Government.
It is our right to dissent. Guaranteed by the Constitution. It is our right to oppose. It’s how we keep the government honest. To limit the power of what Paine termed ‘a necessary evil.’
Again, Kevin, alone, knows what the truth really is. But in the case of one so politically charged, we should all be skeptical of what is said about him. It may, indeed be true. But in a case where politics figure so prominently in the irregular pursuit of citizen, we must remain skeptical.
We owe that to everyone so accused. We owe that to the intent of the Founding Fathers. We owe it to The Truth.