This is the United States of America. We are a nation of laws made of the people, for the people, and by the people. We are a representative democratic republic, a unique experiment in world history that has been tested repeatedly as to who is or who isn't above the laws that we, by consensus, agree to adhere to for the good of the nation. And yet, within the boundaries of the great state of Ohio, it appears that the laws written for everyone are enforced only for the powerless, the nameless, and the moneyless.
Senate Bill 2, Ohio's acclaimed prescription for lax enforcement of sentencing laws, has a very interesting chapter designed to assure the general public that its duly elected and appointed public servants shall be held to a higher ethical, professional, and legal standard than the rest of us. There is good reason that this chapter exists. Not too distant in the past, legislators of some high standing and influence were fined and granted the pleasure of serving the community for free after they were caught failing to report as personal income fees they had acquired through personal appearances. This is a big NO-NO! within the legislative circles in which they dance. According to SB 2 legislation, which these selfsame representatives and senators helped to pass into law, such violations of public trust are serious enough to warrant criminal charges and incarceration at the local and/or state level.
Therefore, it is somewhat mystifying that one of Ohio's most vocal and committed supporters of SB 2, Rep. Michael Fox, recently was publicly disgraced by an overwhelming majority vote to deprive him of his highly influential seat as Chairman of the House Education Committee because of ethical violations, Specifically, he failed to report in timely fashion, the purchase of a $406 plane ticket and the very personal and discreet accommodations of a two-night stay in Arizona, provided by a very important Ohio lobbyist. Ohio law clearly states that such accepting of "gifts" from lobbyists is forbidden to state legislators. And SB 2 provides stiff punishment to those who think so little of their constituents' trust that they simply refuse to follow the very laws that they pass. Fox, a prolific sponsorer of anti-inmate legislation, could have, and should have, received a taste of his own medicine. His criminal activity could have seen him doing 30 days in the county lockup, and paying a $250 fine. Instead, his fellow lawmakers voted to punish him in the usual political fashion, ie. a large fine, a public apology to his fellow congressmen, and (this brought tears to his eyes) a loss of his chairmanship. So, the question is -- why has Rep. Fox been given political punishment when his actions are clearly criminal in nature?
International diplomats, for the most part, are given "diplomatic immunity" for any
criminal offenses they commit while in the US. It appears that some Ohio legislators
enjoy the same treatment. A curiosity since they are American citizens bound by American
laws. But note...
Recently, Ohio state Rep. Michael A. Fox, was censured by his fellow legislators for ethics violations. These violations, committed against the peace and dignity of every Ohio citizen, also violated Ohio's Revised Criminal Code statutes. But, we are a forgiving lot, and first time offenders deserve less harsh sanctions and punishment.
However, this is not Rep. Fox's first collision with Ohio Criminal Statutes. In 1991, he "bounced" personal checks in the state treasurer's office. In Kentucky, Chris Perkins, a former representative, was convicted of a similar charge, and sentenced to serve time in a federal penitentiary -- and he did. But, the sly Fox escaped the hounds in 1991. Huh -- just let you or I commit the same actions and see what our financial institutions will do! We'll be taken to a court to explain our actions, and led away to a cheerless prison cell wearing stainless steel Smith & Wesson "bracelets." I wonder if Fox would want to exchange his golden wedding band for this cold steel jewelry.
During his legislative tenure Fox has prepared many anti-inmate bills. I am probably not taking a "long-shot" in stating he ran a "tough-on-crime" campaign. And yet...he literally sobs in front of his fellow legislators, and shudders to think about doing 30 days in jail. How would he like to be sentenced to 30 days, have to fight to protect himself and get an assault charge added on, and end up doing 5, 10, 15 years in a prison, waiting for a parole type body (such as those inmates under pre-SB 2 sentences must see) to give him yet more time to "max out" his sentence? For true justice to be done, Fox should have to experience his own "prescription" for his criminal activities, Time, even 30 days, in an over-crowded, unsanitary jail cell is what he orders for the average citizen caught breaking the law, especially repeat offenders, a class of lawbreaker that the representative surely fits! Let him take his own medicine!
Senate Bill 2, Ohio's new "truth-in-sentencing" law, clearly states that professional people, like Fox, are to be punished when their position as public servant is used to violate the law! Fox helped to pass this bill, which created a bi-level sentencing structure that is unfair, and unnecessary to ensure the safety of Ohio citizens. Yet, he and his fellow legislators, must believe that he is above the law, and political disgrace is punishment enough. Now, wouldn't it be great if you or I could break the law, cry some tears, talk about how our family is suffering, and say "I'm Sorry," and be forgiven instead of going to jail or prison? But, that is not the way the law is supposed to work. It is supposed to be written for everyone. Funny, how the lawmakers forget that when they become lawbreakers.
I do not feel sorry for Fox. Let the legislators live by the laws that they dictate onto their constituents! I do feel sorry for voters and non-voters who do not participate in citizens' groups that work to preserve our Constitutional Rights of Due Process and Equal Protection. Non=participation allows the "Foxes" to openly control our legal "hen-houses," raiding and feasting as they please under what we might term "state legislator immunity."