Silver Rights

News, thoughts and comments on civil rights and related issues.

Thursday, November 10, 2005  

News: Panty thief is a dangerous man

The blogger at Editor at Large has been reading my mind. The Portland, Oregon, area has been the host of one of those news of the weird scenarios for a couple years now. A man has been in custody for months as a result of his theft of thousands of pairs of soiled women's underwear from college dorms and apartment buildings. Funny, huh? Not really, when you learn more. Sung Koo Kim is not some kind of sartorial Robin Hood. He stole the panties for the sexual thrills he derives from handling them. He also appears to have stalked young women and was a suspect in the murder of Brooke Wilberger for a time. I agree with EAL, who has written an entry saying the man's escapades are no laughing matter.

Panty thief says religion made him sick

Sung Koo Kim, the Tigard man who was sentenced yesterday to four years in prison and 18 months in jail for stealing more than 3,000 bras and panties, said "I lived all my life in isolation, in a lonely religious prison, deprived of friends, love, intimacy, and happiness."

Religion may have played a role in Kim's sickness, but there's a lot more to the story than that. In addition to the bras and panties, investigators found in Kim's home seven assault rifles and computers containing 40,000 images of women being mutilated, raped, and dismembered.

Seven assault rifles? Forty-thousand images of women being horribly abused? These are evidence not only of Kim's sickness, but of the sickness of society as a whole. Where did he get those rifles and those images? Why do those rifles and images even exist? We know one person who was sick enough to want to own them, but what about the people who created them? Aren't they just as sick, if not sicker?

KATU-TV covered the sentencing.

McMINNVILLE, Ore. - A Tigard man who was sentenced to nearly six years in prison in a Yamhill County court on Monday apologized for stealing women's underwear from college dormitories.

. . .In court on Monday, Kim asked the community for forgiveness and said his actions arose partly out of mental illness and that he never meant to hurt anyone.

"I would like to sincerely apologize with all my heart to all the girls affected by my short-sighted, selfish, abnormal actions," he said. "It was never my intention to scare or instill a sense of insecurity in them. I want to reassure them that I pose absolutely no threat or danger to them or the community."

The judge in the case sentenced Kim to 68 months in prison, nearly six years.

Kim is accused of stealing women's underwear from several college campuses and still faces criminal charges in Multnomah, Washington and Benton counties. His pleas in those counties remain 'not guilty.'

While jailed, Kim urged his father to use his little arsenal to break him out, saying his guns were better than anything authorities had. Though he appears to have learned not to antagonize the criminal justice system now, I'm not sure how deep his sudden change of character goes. If a road to normalcy is possible for Kim, it will likely take years of therapy and behavior modification.

The religious sect at issue is the Jehovah's Witnesses, which is popular with the Korean immigrant community Kim is part of. He claims that the strictures of the religion prevented him from developing normally socially and sexually. I'm not qualified to render psychiatric opinions, but agree with EAL that there must be more to the story. That brings us to the issue of civil commitments for sex offenders after they complete their sentences for their convictions. The problem, of course, is that such laws assume that the parolees remain a threat to society without absolute proof that they do. I'm ambivalent. I prefer that the accused be incarcerated only after they have been found to be guilty of specific crimes. However, the prospect of waiting until more people are victimized by someone likely to reoffend is problemmatic, too.

posted by J. | 8:15 PM

Tuesday, November 08, 2005  

Politics: Washington GOP threatens voters

The Republican Party of Washington seems determined to continue making itself look silly whenever it can create an opportunity to do so. Still sucking sour grapes after losing last year's gubernatorial race narrowly, the party faithful have decided to foment trouble for today's elections. The King County GOP sent out letters meant to frighten some voters and prevent them from voting. The Republicans claim that 1,774 voters in largely Democratic King County do not live at valid addresses. The maneuver appears to be payback for the Washington GOP's failed fights in both the electoral and legal arenas. (The Supreme Court of Washington rejected its challenge to Democratic Gov. Christine Gregoire's paper thin victory over Republican Dino Rossi hands down.) If Democrats can be intimidated in this election, perhaps those grapes will taste better.

The Seattle Post-Intelligencer has the story.

The spark for the political firestorm was the delivery of certified letters Thursday from the county elections department to voters on the GOP hit list, which totaled 1,774 names after duplicates were eliminated. The letters informed the voters of the challenge and cited the state law requiring voters to register at a valid residence address.

"I'm extremely disappointed and angry at the audacity of this woman and the party she represents," said Demene Hall, who got one of the letters. Hall has lived for 16 years at the Watermarke apartment building at 320 Cedar St. in Seattle, her registration address.

Hall, who said she is "too African American" not to be a regular voter, said Friday she came of age in the civil rights era and watched her parents hand out political fliers outside polling places they were not allowed to enter.

Vance acknowledged that the inclusion of the Watermarke on the list was a mistake. Elections officials late Friday said Sotelo had rescinded 140 of the challenges.

But, [State GOP Chairman Chris] Vance said, "The overwhelming majority of our challenges are valid.

That the challenges are valid is, of course, unproven. GOP operatives skulked around buildings taking photographs of people coming and going, but, apparently, did not identify some of the buildings as residential or mixed use. If someone really wanted to know, he could obtain that information easily -- by asking. However, doing so would take the skullduggery out of the situation. Less fun? This behavior may have been amusing for Republicans playing cloak and dagger, but it wasn't for the victims. When one receives a certified letter in the mail, it often means legal trouble of some sort. So, the goal of intimidating some of the people on the hit list likely succeeded. Rather than vote under the threat of legal action if they did so, some validly registered voters probably will not submit their ballots.

The blogger at Ridenbaugh Press wonders if the bad publicity the Republican Party brought on itself might effect the atmosphere of today's election.

Mood is an important indicator of voting behavoir as election day approaches, and unfolds. What do people feel about what’s going on? Who do they feel sympathetic for, and who not?

King County’s Republicans should have borne that in mind when they launched their bad-registration effort last week. An effort aimed at pointing out hard-to-visualize flaws in the election system has resulted in scores of quite innocent and highly visible people talking about how they have been intimidated and harassed by the county’s Republican Party.

. . .What happened to her and a bunch of other people are not likely to play well around King County, as voters prepare to cast their ballots. One lesson here: If you’re going to base a good chunk of your attack on mistakes committed by the other side, you’d better be free of them yourself.

It is unclear whether the ugly situation in King County mirrors the national reputation the GOP has for sometimes seeking to suppress minority voting. Though most of nonwhite population of the area lives in King County, more analysis of the addresses targeted would be necessary to determine if race was a factor in the King County GOP's actions.

Reasonably related

The Republican candidate for governor lost his court challenges because he could not prove that the outcome of the race was the result of fraud. Some of us with cool heads and legal expertise foresaw that result even before the lawsuits were filed.

posted by J. | 2:00 PM