The sentencing of the South Side Rapist early this year was big news, so an interview with Dennis Rabbitt, the serial rapist who pleaded guilty to sexual assaults on 14 women and received several consecutive life terms, was seen as a major media coup. Letters were sent by TV stations KMOV and KSDK requesting interviews, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch inquired and CBS's 48 Hours wanted to talk to Rabbitt. So did KSDK's Deanne Lane, who penned a handwritten letter and included a postcard-size photo of herself.
Rabbitt's attorney, Terri Johnson -- who at the time was with the public defender's office but is now with Cordell & Cordell -- thought it strange that the photogenic Lane would include a picture, because any local viewer, including the South Side Rapist, would recognize her from her years on the 10 o'clock news and her face in incessant station promos.
"Think about it. Sending a picture of yourself to a sex offender -- what do you think he's gonna do with it? It was just gross," says Johnson. "Dennis thought it was ridiculous. Dennis gave it to me. He said, 'This is what I got. You keep it.' He thought it was silly. He was unimpressed."
Asked about the handwritten letter and the photo, Lane is foggy on details. "I don't recall that," she says when asked whether she included a photo with her letter to Rabbitt. "I remember calling him," Lane says, but she adds that Rabbitt is wrong if he thinks she interviewed his daughter. Johnson says that was one of the reasons Rabbitt gave for granting an interview to KMOV instead of KSDK. According to Lane, the interview with Rabbitt's daughter was done by KSDK's Leisa Zigman. "I think she's confusing me with somebody else," Lane says.
But Rabbitt's attorney is certain about the letter and the enclosed photo. She read the letter, held the photo in her hand. "Even Dennis thought it was a little extreme," says Johnson. "Why would you send a picture of yourself?"
As for Rabbitt, the 43-year-old graduate of Bishop DuBourg High School will be ineligible for parole for at least 76 years, when he will be 119 years old and unable to cause anyone trouble. For his protection, Missouri wants to ship him to another state. He gets to pick three states, from which the state can select one, a process that hasn't been completed yet. Viewed from afar, Johnson thinks the media treated Rabbitt well, considering. "Dennis is not a normal guy," Johnson says. "It was as good as I could have expected. They were kinder to him than what would have been expected."
EVERY VOTE COUNTS, EVENTUALLY: Voters with enough gumption to write in a candidate on the presidential ballot are often told they're wasting their votes, that to make their votes count they should stick with a Republican or a Democrat or at least a candidate on the ballot. For city voters in the 1996 presidential election, that admonition turned out to be true.
Ralph Nader was a write-in candidate for president four years ago, representing the Green Party. Official state election returns show that 534 voters in Missouri wrote in his name for president. In St. Louis County, 193 people bothered to write his name on the ballot. In the city, state election results show, nobody did. Nobody?
Well, on further questioning, Debbie Cheshire, Missouri's director of elections, learned that 48 people in the city voted for Nader in '96; those votes just didn't show up in the election results certified by the secretary of state's office. On Friday, Cheshire gave the first count, which included no votes in the city. On Monday, after she made a telephone call to the city's Board of Election Commissioners, the 48 votes were discovered. Those 48 votes either were not listed on the results sent to Jefferson City by the city's Board of Election Commissioners or were overlooked by the state office. "I'll have to personally go over and look in the archives to see if either we missed it or if the write-in votes weren't certified to us," says Cheshire.
Either way, adding the votes of those 48 citizens gives Nader 582 votes from Missouri, hardly enough to trigger a recount jeopardizing Bill Clinton's hold on the Show-Me State's 11 electoral votes. This year, signatures are being collected to put Nader on the ballot in November so that no write-in will be needed. That prospect has the Gore and Bush supporters of the world a bit concerned: If Nader pulls close to what he's polling in California now, 10 percent, he could steal votes from Gore, leading to Bush's winning California. Of concern to Bush is that some people who might only trudge to the polls to cast an anti-Clinton vote could go for Nader instead of Bush. In this equation, Gore seems to have more to worry about than Bush, but either one should have sweaty palms if he must debate Nader or in any way be forced to respond to his principled and detailed critique of the current paper-tiger, rising-tide-lifts-all-yachts economic boom.
Nader makes a swing through town Thursday night and Friday morning, speaking at 9 a.m. Friday at Webster University's Winifred Moore Auditorium, 470 E. Lockwood Ave. Required to get 10,000 signatures by the end of July to ensure Nader a spot on the ballot, the Greens are about 2,000 short but are aiming at 15,000 signatures so they'll have a cushion. With a name on the ballot, chances are, the votes will be counted. We think.
IT MUST BE ST. PATRICK'S DAY -- WE'RE ALL IRISH: Bringing up the topic of race during a meeting of the St. Louis Board of Aldermen is like throwing a flaming torch into a basement full of oil-soaked rags: Something's bound to go up in flames.
So when Ald. Terry Kennedy (D-18th) rose to speak on behalf of an aldermanic resolution supporting a congressional proposal to institute a commission to study the effects of slavery, with reparations being one of the possible recommendations, it was just a matter of time before the games began.
As it turned out, Kennedy's resolution passed easily, 21-2, with only Ald. Fred Wessels (D-13th) and Stephen Conway (D-8th) voting against it. Ald. Fred Heitert (R-12th), Jim Shrewsbury (D-16th), Marge Vining (D-15th) and Tom Bauer (D-24th), all of the Caucasian persuasion, were not present when the vote was taken, as the meeting drifted into its third hour. Several white aldermen co-sponsored the bill, and Aldermanic President Francis Slay voted for it. In opposing the bill, Conway spoke at length, sleeves rolled up and history book in hand, of how the Irish were wronged by the English, both on this continent and back on the island, going back to the first conquest in 1167 A.D. And in this age of inclusion, the Shaw-neighborhood alderman asked, why exclude the Irish from reparations? He stressed that "collective guilt" should not be assigned to all whites because "white people are not all the same."
As Conway spoke, one sideline observer moaned that the alderman, like any white man, had benefited from "white privilege," whatever his heritage: "It's not like he's got a shamrock tattooed on his forehead to show he's Irish." In other words, no matter what their ethnic background, white folks have gotten all manner of preference in employment, education, housing and the meting out of criminal justice as a result of their lack of melanin, and to reap that benefit, they -- or their ancestors -- need not have owned slaves.
In what could have been a more vociferous comeback, Ald. Sharon Tyus (D-20th) declared that if Conway wanted a resolution about the Irish, he should go ahead and introduce one. "I'm part Irish," Tyus said, suggesting she'd support such a resolution if it were introduced. McTyus? Then Ald. Freeman Bosley Sr. (D-3rd) spoke in support of the resolution, adding that he, too, is part Irish, having had a "great-great-great" grandfather die in Ireland fighting the British. O'Bosley? He also spoke of ancestors that included a Mandingo medicine man and a Cherokee Indian.
There you have it. In the same session during which no fewer than 18 board bills were perfected that included the phrase "a blighted area exists in the City known as," the board spent more than an hour discussing the historical ramifications of slavery. And it was a lot more civil than it might have been. Maybe we all can just get along.
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