Monday, May 23, 2016

50 years for a "first-time offender"? Here is the Rest of the story.

Mississippi's conscience, Clarion-Ledger star reporter Jerry Mitchell, focused his attention on problems in the criminal justice system in Mississippi in a series of articles called Blinded Justice. Mr. Mitchell opened the series with an "expose" on the case of 24 year-old Rankin County criminal (Gregory) Tyler Moore.  The story reported Moore is serving a fifty-year sentence for several counts of auto burglaries and house burglaries.  However, Mr. Mitchell reports that Moore is serving fifty years as a "first-time felon".

Mr. Mitchell paints a picture of a troubled 20 year-old  man plagued by the demons of drug addiction and bipolar disorder.  The young man had a talent for singing and performing on stage but his teen years were filled with turmoil and strife. He had problems in school but earned a GED.  His mother said he started using drugs when he started attending community college.  Moore's life imploded as he fell behind in school and stopped attending classes.

Moore got on the ladder of crime and begin climbing the rungs.  The first arrest took place in 2010 for misdemeanor possession of marijuana paraphernalia. He was arrested for more misdemeanors - contributing to the delinquency of a minor and shoplifting a pair of sunglasses.  He and his family moved to Missouri and his life improved as he became more productive.  Unfortunately for Moore and his family, he started using spice (which also allowed him to pass his drug tests).  Moore decided to move back to Rankin County before Christmas of 2011.  That decision changed his life forever.

A  man has a drug problem and mental disorder but having no money and no job is a powerful temptation to start a life of crime.  Lucky for Moore, there were plenty of vehicles in the Reservoir neighborhoods that were left unlocked as he prowled the streets of the Ross Barnett Reservoir area at night with his flashlight.  He hit the jackpot as he stole money,  ipads, electronics, and other items.  All good things must come to an end as Rankin County deputies arrested him for six counts of auto burglary in February 2012.  He entered into a drug treatment center for thirty days.

Moore left the treatment center after completing the program and then faced another charge, that of statutory rape from the mother of a 15 year-old girl. (Part of the case file is posted below.)  He also faced an ass-whupping, as the girl's mother confronted him in the street and an altercation took place.  Mr. Mitchell reports he went back to rehab for another thirty days.  Mommy told the award-winning reporter that her son joined "the wrong crowd".  

Moore apparently did not learn anything after going to jail and rehab.  Rankin County deputies arrested him again for a series of house burglaries. However, Moore and his family found out about the charges during a weekend and did something really dumb. The family spirited him away to Louisiana where they claimed he would stay until a court appearance scheduled to take place a few days later.  The deputies arrested his family for helping him evade the police.  His grandmother returned him to Rankin County but he fled before he was taken into custody.

The Rankin County Sheriff charged him with five counts of house burglary in January 2013.  He confessed while in jail.  His videotaped confession is posted below and was obtained through a public records request (as were the documents posted below).

Here is a timeline of his criminal career:
February 2012: Arrested for 6 counts of auto burglary (indicted in October)
April 2012: Charged with statutory rape (Indicted in June)
March 2013: Indicted for 5 counts of house burglary (October to December 2012).

Moore flunked a polygraph test for the statutory rape charge as well, but such is not conclusive proof that a crime was committed. 

That is the background of the case, now it's time to dissect Mr. Mitchell's story.  This correspondent interviewed Mr. Guest and reviewed the case files.  The relevant portions of the files as well as videos of Moore's confession are posted below.  

Mr. Mitchell reported that the prosecution offered two different plea bargains to Moore. To hear Mr. Mitchell tell it,  mean ole Michael Guest and Rankin County Circuit Judge John Emfinger were both persecuting instead of prosecuting Moore. 

Mr. Guest told JJ that Moore was a one-man crime spree and committed more crimes and worse crimes each time he was released from jail.  Mr. Guest said he was facing combined maximum prison sentences of 200 years if he was convicted on all of the charges.  Mr. Mitchell didn't report that fact.  He did report that the victim in the statutory rape case made a similar accusation against another man some time later.  The District Attorney offered two different plea bargains to Moore:

Option one allowed Moore to plead guilty to three counts of house burglary and three counts of auto burglary while the remaining counts in those indictments were dropped.  The indictment for statutory rape would be dropped as well.  This option imposed upon him a 75-year prison sentence but suspended 25 years for the house burglaries.  A 21-year prison sentence would also be imposed upon him for the three counts of auto burglary.  Here is the rub that drew Mr. Mitchell's ire: this sentence would run concurrently to the house burglary sentence.

Option two imposed a 50-year prison sentence for two counts of house burglary but twenty years would be suspended.  An additional 21-year prison sentence would be imposed upon him for three counts of auto burglary.  This sentence would run concurrently to the house burglary sentence as well.  This deal also included a five year prison sentence for the statutory rape charge. This charge would have to be served day for day. 

It didn't help Moore's case that he told police he had committed over 70 burglaries. (See p.43 below).  He even rode around the neighborhoods with deputies and pointed out the scenes of his crimes.  The story reports that Moore is not eligible for parole until 2025 and his release date is 2061.

Here are some facts that were not included in the published story:

*One police report  (p.4) states that "he broke into so many that he could not remember all of them."
*He would steal property and then "drive to Jackson and would sell and trade the property out for narcotics."
*One Moore cohort told (p.17) the police they once broke into seven cars in one night.  He said they would break into cars in Reservoir East, Cliffview, Waterwood, Forest Point, Pelahatchie Woods, Reservoir East, and Farmington Station.
*The same witness said they took six guns.
 *Moore provided a written confession (p.18).  He admitted to committing the burglaries and using a "Jimmy" in West Jackson to cash out his stolen goods.
*Moore took pictures of drivers licenses.
*Moore would burglarize a house or car at the same address more than once.
*Moore's brother testified he started burglarizing cars in "2010/2011".   (p.44)
*Moore also enticed his younger brother to commit several burglaries with him (p.34. A witness testified on p.37 that Moore would take his younger brother on burglary field trips until sunrise.)

Jerry the Just failed to report that Moore faced up to 200 years in prison for all charges.  Keep in mind Moore was facing six counts of auto burglary, five counts of house burglary, and one count of statutory rape, twelve felonies in all. Moore might have been a first-time convict, but he was far from being a first-time offender as he committed quite a few felonies.

The prison sentence might be 50 years, but Moore will be approved for parole if he behaves himself while in prison. However, Jerry the Just didn't mention anything in his story about mandatory minimums and what might actually happen to Moore while in the custody of MDOC.  MDOC can release him on the auto burglary charges after he serves 25% of his sentence.  The crime of house burglary falls under the 85% rule, but MDOC has been releasing house burglary convicts when they serve 50% of their sentence.  It will be surprising if Moore is still incarcerated for these crimes in 2030 unless he does something dumb while in prison. 

Mr. Mitchell also did not include any statements from Moore's victims in his story even though the files and indictments state their names and addresses.   Jerry the Just spent a great deal of time reporting on Moore's singing career, his troubled youth, and the unfairness of his sentence.  Moore's mother even got to make her son's case in a Clarion-Ledger video.  However, Jerry the Just failed to include any statements from Moore's victims.  One wonders if he even spoke to them about Moore.  Needless to say, none of Moore's victims received such treatment.  They didn't get to make any videos for the newspaper.   The only reference to the victims is a claim by the mother that the victims got back their stolen property. It's as if they didn't even exist. 

What is troubling is Mr. Mitchell posts two stories attacking the criminal justice system in Rankin County while ignoring the catch & release program that takes place in Hinds County. JJ and other news media in the Jackson area have repeatedly reported examples of criminals who are arrested and put back on the streets to commit more crimes.  There is no newspaper expose on the low bonds given to accused killers such as Antwain Dukes.  The only catch & release reporting that occurs at the Clarion-Ledger is found in the hunting & fishing section published on Sundays.

It was easier for Mr. Mitchell to instead attack a district attorney who actually does his job.  Woe to the criminal who commits a crime in Rankin or Madison County and is on probation or has a suspended sentence.  Mr. Guest will do his best to send him back to prison. It is not for nothing that a black Flowood police officer told a Jackson hoodlum upon arrest that he picked the wrong county in which to commit a crime. Chiefs and Sheriffs in his district aren't complaining about repeat offenders as they are in Jackson.  Cases quickly go to trial and justice is efficiently meted out to criminals. 

Of course, one shouldn't be too surprised at the  slanted reporting.  This is the same star reporter who published a big scoop on alleged misspending at Downtown Jackson Partners but somehow neglected to report DJP sued the whistleblower for embezzlement.  Make no mistake, Mrs. Moore went through hell as many parents of troubled teens have.  She had an out of control son who was on drugs and thought of  committing crimes as akin to playing a video game.  She was probably at her wit's end.  He was 20 years old and traveling fast on a path leading to jail or possibly death.

However, it would have helped if Mr. Mitchell had spent some lines on what will actually happen to him in the sentence instead of a "tentative release date" that won't be realized. 2061 does make for a pretty headline.  Despite what Mr. Mitchell reports, it is Ryan Moore who put himself in prison. Perhaps the newspaper should change the title of the series from Blinded Justice to Blinded Reporting.

Kingfish note: Watch the videos below.  Does Moore seem intimidated or scared to you?

P.1: Plea offers
P. 4: 2012 Auto burglary case
P. 26: 2013 House burglary case
P.46: Statutory rape case
(Relevant portions are highlighted in yellow.)


Anonymous said...

The article also wrongly threw his attorneys under the bus. Poor reporting, but what's new from the C-L.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this. I was very confident when I read the story in the CL that there was way more to it than what "Jerry the Just" (love that btw!)told us.

Anonymous said...

The court system should be computerized.
Enter the name of the person arrested for a crime. Let the computer do the search for other crimes committed by the person.
Enter the evidence in the computer. Let the computer do the work.
Crimes committed by all people will receive the same penalty.
No excuses, no lawyers, no bribes, no inside deals.

Anonymous said...

Great work by the Clarion Liar!!!!! As always.

Anonymous said...

there are no 85% cases. non-violent cases are eligible for release after serving 25%; violent crimes eligible for release become eligible after serving 50%. house burglary is classified as a violent crime. screw that defendant, he put himself where he is and should stay there.

Anonymous said...

Amen Kingfish!!!!

Wow said...

There's a lot of things to consider here:

1. Lack of quality education in MS

2. Lack of economic opportunities compared to the number available of working class, middle class people

3. Lack of our prison system actually working to rehabilitate those criminals that can be rehabilitated due to the few State resources we have as one of the poorest states in the Union.

4. We have such few State resources and tax revenue due to a large portion of our population not paying taxes + there not being enough companies, industries paying taxes / reinvesting in the community

5. Chicken or the egg? Why can we not recruit major players here to provide those economic opportunities to our available workers? Complex, but I am of the opinion that factors include: most of these available workers can be comparatively badly educated (due to our bad education system), comparatively bad infrastructure, etc. So do we increase economic opportunity by better educating our Mississippians or by giving big tax breaks and providing huge incentives for companies to relocate here? A mix of both, I say.

6. The prison system mentioned in #3 can at best typically merely house criminals, holding them for a time until they are released. Few are rehabilitated by chance.

7. Upon release, because the economic opportunities are few in this State, a potential employer can usually fill his position without having to risk hiring a felon / criminal.
***How do we address this? Should we look at a bipartisan approach via policy where a convicted felon can after X amount of time or effort post release have his felony expunged? It seems such an economic waste to mark people as unproductive for the rest of their lives. Surely we can work to figure out a way to make this work.
***Not to mention, our current system MAYBE rehabilitates a criminal, who is probably badly educated, while locked up. Upon release this person still is probably not educated, and now, can definitely not find employment. What do we expect to happen with this status quo? Sounds like a ticking time bomb to me.

Do we make things work the best we can here? Yea, we absolutely, we are trying.

Is the 50 year sentence with chance for parole after 12.5 years arguably Just given what the kid did? Yea absolutely.

However, this is Third World justice. If we actually had the resources and functioning institutions in place (that had resources AND good workers) in education, mental / physical health, rehabilitate prison programs, etc. who knows if it would have gotten to this point.

At the end of the day it comes down to personal responsibility. But that does not absolve our responsibility of trying to create the best system of stop gaps to influence a person to correct their course along the way.

So, I do not look at this and nod my head in pride that Jerry Mitchell was wrong in his article. I think about what we can all do to contribute to make Mississippi better.

Anonymous said...

50% of the story + 100% innuendo = Award Winning Journalist Jerry Mitchell

Anonymous said...

Jerry the just is sticking up for white trash now?

Didn't see that coming ;-)

troll at 12:08: you getting paid by the word now?

Anonymous said...

Should have stuck to musical theater...i'm sure he's a singin' fool in the slammer--which is where he belongs thanks to his career in crime. Thug!

Anonymous said...

8. The anonymous doesn't nod their head with pride.



Anonymous said...

12:08, it is not the other people that make a criminal commit crimes. Instead of the victims trying to help the criminal why not have the criminal help themselves? If they are scum who would rather prey on other people they do not deserve help from their victims.
How about we move them in your house and let you take care of them?

Patricia Martello said...

He should never again see the light of day - repeat offenders such as this should have the keys thrown away!

Anonymous said...

Dear 12:08.
Lack of education opportunity. Are not individuals educated in the same program becoming Doctors, Lawyers, Enginerrs, sales persons, educators, on and on?

Granted we have some ridiculous laws re possession of small amounts of Mary Jane but otherwise if you do the crime do the time.

Criminals as a whole choose to be criminals this dude didn't make a mistake, he made a decision to commit multiple crimes. He choose his "career" path of which prison is usually the ultimate end.

robert redd said...

I for one appreciate the encompassing view KF expressed. It's the better side of journalism, even guarded judgment of Jerry the Just. Disclosure, I haven't been a victim but KF has done a marvelous job

Anonymous said...

12:08 Your argument doesn't apply to this case. The argument here should be one that points out that our resources for children , teens and adults with serious behavioral problems are practically non-existent, even for people with independent means.
Your argument applies to the child who is raised on the streets and for all intents and purposes , grows up feral.
There was a time when we dealt more effectively with prevention and intervention. But, involuntary commitment for mental illness and substance abuse as well as children's homes to protect neglected and abandoned children are all but a thing of the past. These institutional systems were imperfect but far more effective in protecting society and damage humans than the carnage we see now.
I feel very sorry for the mother who had no resources available to her to help her troubled child. The system may as well have ordered her to build a house and asked her to do so without a hammer , saw or lumber.

Anonymous said...

You have to put your foot on their neck early. Train a child the way you want them to go!

Anonymous said...

Pulitzer bait.

The C-L is feebly trying to win awards with this one. A number of years ago, around this time of year, Mitchell wrote a series titled, "The Preacher and the Klansman" about a white former KKK member and a black minister who overcame the animus of the Civil Rights era and we now great friends. It was nothing but an attempt to appeal to the sensibilities and prejudices of journalism award committees.

This is not about uncovering injustice. It's about impressing the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

I am a retired assistant district attorney with over 30 years in the criminal justice system. Through the years these are lines used by criminal defense attorneys, followed by my usual replies:

Its the first time he's been in trouble / well he should have started with shoplifting instead of armed robbery; or, no, its the first time he's been caught.

He's got small kids at home / well, I'll tack on some extra time to let them get older without being around the scumbag.

12:08, what color is the sun in your world???

Anonymous said...

You hit the nail, 8:17. Same thing is going on with their obsessive and slanted coverage of HB 1523. Problem is, they don't have the talent to win. In that regard, the proverbial fish rots from the head.

Kingfish said...

I call it the "Swarm Coverage".

I happened to like that series by Mr. Mitchell.

Anonymous said...

"We jumped schools probably 15 times"

What the heck Jerry Mitchell? I didn't see where it stated Moore was an army brat or something of the sort. Moore is obviously trouble if he changed schools 15 times not because of his folks occupations.

Kingfish said...

and.............JM rips off this website.

crosshairview said...

Scab Mitchell investigative reporting is closely akin to watching a monkey sling his crap from a zoo cage!

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