Plenty of Blame to go Around in White Saga

Let's start with a hearty round of applause for City Attorney Susan Segal (Senator Amy Klobuchar's former deputy) for changing a young man's life because he, like millions of other students every year on every college campus around the country, entered another student's dorm room. You see, apparently Royce White is not guilty for what he's been punished for the past months. He didn't steal anyone's laptop. But he was room-hopping at the University of Minnesota and since he's a student-athlete of some prominence, Susan Segal and her publicity-seeking cronies have to charge White with something, even if it's a trumped up charge that if applied equally would mean half of the U's student body would be facing misdemeanor charges.

The overzealous prosecution being put forward by Susan Segal is a travesty. It's a joke. Your tax dollars are going to work to have a young man judged because he went room to room looking to see where the party was. Can't have that in a college dormitory!

But Segal isn't the only villain in this story. She's just the one that is currently using the high profile of White to make a name for herself.There's plenty of blame to go around.

I, for one, am not pointing fingers at Royce White. Here we have a teenager who seems to have made one mistake, albeit a large one in his theft and assault episode at the Mall of America. But that is now in White's past. He's admitted his mistake and he's since went on to excel in the classroom at the U, something many of us thought he might not be able to do and Al Nolen has failed to do. I refuse to blame a teenager for making one mistake.

But throughout this entire saga, White has seemed to lack the type of support one would expect from University officials. Coach Tubby Smith has developed a reputation over the years that he's a coach that cares about his kids. He's a fatherly figure that will groom young men for adulthood. The attributes of Smith's skill-set that have led to such praise have been absent during this melodrama. When White was justifiably charged and eventually pled guilty to the assault charges, I can understand Smith's reluctance to get involved. Smith did the right thing by indefintely suspending White. But since that's been cleared and this bogus charge comes from Susan Segal and company, Smith's continued silence has been disheartening.

Put yourself in White's shoes. He screwed up. He paid his dues and then some in a very public ordeal. And then he's accused of something he didn't do--steal a laptop--and then when Susan Segal trumps up a trespassing charge to grab some headlines, White could justifiably feel targeted. It would have been nice for White, in this most recent dust-up with the legal system, had the fatherly-figure Smith risen to stand by his side. But Smith has been silent and apparently refused to let White play. Just recently it's been reported that Smith never intended for White to play this season. I'm actually fine with that decision, but the problem is Smith never thought it was necessary to share his sage decision with White. When you have a kid who's heart is breaking because he can't play and you give him a glimmer of hope that he will soon, I think it is Smith's responsibility to be open and honest with White as to where he stands.

That never seems to have happened, but it's status quo for everyone involved in this fiasco to drag their feet.

And the award for the worst investigation ever goes to the University Police Department for taking far too long to decide if White should be charged with theft in the laptop ordeal. He either stole the laptop or he didn't. After weeks (months?) go by with just speculation while White's name is turned into mud, Susan Segal's cabal levels the trespassing charge because, well, at that point you have to charge the kid with something to justify the University Police decision to toss around accusations at him that were untrue.

And a special bit of blame goes to University Police Chief Greg Hestness. His department's inability to allow White to clear his name in a timely manner is a travesty. If Hestness' job wasn't already in jeopardy, it should be after the quote he just gave the Star Tribune. In White's announcement yesterday, White suggested he was fearful of a "irresponsible" police department. From the article, this is Hestness responding to White's statements:

University Police Chief Greg Hestness said White's claims strike him as "incredible." Police have had two conversations with him, one of which included his lawyer, Hestness said.

"I'm not sure how he forms that opinion," he said. "Secondly, he doesn't strike me as a fearful person."

Hestness added: "I hope he finds his way."

First of all, I hope Hestness' department finds a way to investigate on-campus thefts in even a sort-of timely manner in the future. All that is riding on such things is a student's life, no big deal.

Worse, Hestness' comments about White not striking him as a fearful person are borderline racist. He's met with the kid twice and he's jumping to conclusions. Why does he not strike Hestness as fearful? Is it because he's tall and black and can apparently string sentences together to defend himself against a trumped of charge? Could it be that White feels targeted? Could it be that he feels he was thrown into the limelight by Greg Hestness and company because he's a basketball player?

Since it doesn't look like Hestness or his comrades have any evidence to back-up their allegation that White stole someone's laptop, will there be repercussions for Hestness and his colleagues for dragging their feet on an investigation that sullied the reputation and dramatically changed the life of a college student?

Somehow I doubt it, because the Royce White meme goes something like this: He's a troubled kid who had issues in high school and got himself into trouble at the Mall of America. Anything that happens after that, it must be the kid's fault because the adults in the ordeal--Susan Segal, Greg Hestness, Tubby Smith and Joel Maturi--surely handled this situation with class, honesty and integrity. Or something.

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