David French hits a foul ball on Jordan Neely and 'rule of law' in New York

David French, the newest NeverTrump columnist at The New York Times, cites relevant statistics about the late Jordan Neely — and the problems homeless (and mentally challenged) people pose to the general population — to conclude, "New York City failed Jordan Neely.  And it also failed the passengers on that [subway] train."  It does not take a cynic to wonder how soon we shall be reading of a civil suit against the City of New York, the subway system, the NYPD, and (focusing on his legal defense fund) Daniel Perry.

Of no importance will be the information that French put in his May 15 column, titled, in the print edition, "A Preventable Tragedy on New York's Subway," and, on-line, "When the Rule of Law Fails Us."  One can be excused if the moral from the French column is, "If you see something, do nothing."

Before pointing out, in the third paragraph of the column, that subway crime has sharply increased in the past year — but not noting that the Manhattan D.A. likely will not prosecute most of the offenses —French opines, "The rule of law is failing on New York's subways."  This assertion, perhaps offensive to the Times' base, was followed, immediately, by this woke-ist statement: "In this case, Neely was obviously the principal victim of this failure."  Victim — or example of the failure of the rule of law in New York City?

After all, French himself told his readers that Neely "had been arrested more than three dozen times" with "four cases" of striking people, including seriously injuring a 67-year old woman, an offense that, French wrote, should result in "meaningful consequences."  Yet French again contended that Neely was failed by "the law."

French acknowledged that Mr. Neely was in jail for 15 months for causing serious injury to the elderly woman but was not sentenced to prison time, instead ordered to a treatment facility for 15 months, but leaving — how French does not tell us — "after 13 days."  More likely than not, he drew a probation sentence with the condition that he go to a treatment facility, and his violation of the condition of probation resulted in an arrest warrant (French does not call it an arrest warrant).  Although Mr. Neely was apparently well known as a top-ranked homeless person, French writes that he was not taken into custody.  (Translation — and as former NYC probation assistant general counsel, I write from experience — the arrest warrant was never served despite Mr. Neely's high visibility as a homeless person — and, reportedly, Michael Jackson impersonator [on the subways?]).

French gets to the salient point in his seventh paragraph: "In short, Neely should not have been in that subway car.  He should have still been in the treatment facility or in jail."  And three paragraphs from column's end, French asks, "How passive should we be when unstable men act out in public, especially when the police are nowhere to be found?"  (If you see something, who is there to say something to?)  And so, Jordan Neely was on the loose, untreated for his mental problems, getting along day-by-day, how? — there not having been even a public defender to guide him onto the right path.

Beyond all doubt, the Neely Incident is now in the public arena, not yet in a courtroom.  If and when the incident is brought into a courtroom — criminal or civil — will outside clamoring for justice or no peace be permitted to tilt the scales of justice?

Columnist French is, arguably, premature in declaring the Neely Incident as evidence of the failure of the rule of law in the City of New York.  The strength of the rule of law in New York City is still to be tested in the aftermath.

Image: Billie Grace Ward via Wikimedia Commons, CC BY 2.0.

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