Today in Syracuse City Court, Delone Carter was offered and accept a plea to the reduced charge of Harassment in the Second Degree, in satisfaction of the originally-charged Assault in the Third Degree. I hate to brag, but when news of his charging came back in April, I predicted a plea to Harassment. Told you so.
As is normally the sentencing for a conviction on Harassment 2nd, Carter received a one-year conditional discharge. Essentially what this means is, instead of receiving jail time (the maximum on Harassment 2nd is 15 days), he is being discharged from the Court under certain conditions. Though I have not seen any official release on what his conditions might be, I can almost certainly surmise that he must obey all laws, and pay a court-mandated surcharge of $120. He may also have received a fine of up to $250, and may have been ordered to pay restitution for any medical bills incurred by the complaining witness (whom I suppose we can officially call a victim now). Carter's failure to comply with any of the terms of his conditional discharge can result in him being violated on his conditional discharge, which would then allow the judge to resentence him to any permissible sentence for Harassment 2nd. In other words, 15 days in jail.
And so ends the long drawn out legal journey for Delone Carter. In pleading guilty, he had to give up his right to remain silent and describe to the judge what actions he took during the night in question that amounts to the legal definition of Harassment 2nd. Legally, Harassment 2nd is a violation level offense (not a crime, on the same level as a traffic ticket), and is defined as "acting with the intent to harass, annoy, or alarm by engaging in physical contact with another." This is a rather catch-all definition that does not look at the extent of the injury. Degrees of injury are relevant in the different degrees of assault charges. Harassment just looks at the physical contact, and the intent of the actor. Carter, in court, admitted to punching the victim without provocation, having no right to do so. In a case like this, the actor's intent can be inferred by his conduct. Having no legitimate purpose to punch someone and walk away, it can be inferred that his intent was to harass, annoy, or alarm the victim.
In the few hours since this story broke this afternoon, much has been made about Onondaga District Attorney William Fitzpatrick's press release about Carter's guilty plea and his defense of the victim in this case. Orange Fizz has some pictures of Fitzpatrick's statement, so be sure to check that out. The release seems as much an informational release as it does campaign fodder. While I understand he feels the need to defend the victim (and you have to feel sorry for a kid who comes into your office asking how to fix his reputation), I think Fitzpatrick was unfairly scathing to media outlets, blogs, etc., who have provided a forum for people to speak out on this case. The victim has gotten a bad rap, and most comments I've seen or heard from people on comments sections or in conversations have been critical of the victim; but let's not forget, this victim thrust himself into the limelight here. He could have chosen to not release those pictures to the newspaper. He could have chosen to not post pictures and messages on facebook. The fact of the matter is, he chose to do so. By choosing to put himself out there, he essentially makes himself a public figure and -- rightly or wrongly -- subjects himself to the whims of the internet message boards where people can hide behind the anonymity of a screen name and say whatever they want.
I guess it's fair to say there are lessons to be learned all around. Carter shouldn't have punched the guy. The guy shouldn't have tried to get sympathy by publicizing his plight. People who sit on message boards all day should get a job, or get fired from the job that allows them to sit on message boards all day. Everyone is at fault.
But in the end, this is a fair (and expected) resolution to the case. In fact, Fitzpatrick stated in his release that this plea offer had the blessing of the victim. The victim could, of course, pursue monetary damages against Carter in a civil court; but I think he'd be best advised to put this all behind him, if he's truly interested in salvaging a reputation. Suing Carter just reopens wounds and makes Joe Public think "Won't he just go away?"
As for me, I'll continue to stay away from the Kimmel area on late, dark, snowy nights.