Friday, January 20, 2012

Our Screwed Up Justice System:The Fackelman Deal

Say you're a fifty something red blooded American male driving your car all by yourself on a two lane blacktop up in Michigan.  It's the night season and you're minding your own business.  A car full of teenagers approaches you from the opposite direction and one of the little choir boys nails your windshield with a bottle of water.  What do you do?  I mean ultimately, what do you do after the startled exclamation and the inevitable thoughts about retribution?
On June 15, 2006 the chase was on, and this is what happened as pieced together from various newspaper articles.

As I understand this, a 1998 Pontiac was driven by 17 year old Austin Oberle, and had passengers Charlie Fackelman (junior), Ashley Roth, Carl Ziegler and Stevie L. Beale, all teenagers.  Charlie Fackelman threw a plastic water bottle full of liquid at Randy Krell's car, striking the car's windshield.  Randy Krell turned his car around and gave chase.  Austin Oberle tried to get away from Randy Krell and crashed at high speed.  As a result of the crash, Charlie Fackelman was killed and Stevie Beale, an attractive teenage girl and honor student, is paralyzed from the waist down.

Austin Oberle was charged with vehicular manslaughter and felonious driving, which carries a possible prison sentence of 15 years.  Oberle pled guilty to felonious driving and negligent homicide, was sentenced and served six months in jail.

Randy Krell was arrested at the crash site, where he was identified by the teenagers as the pursuer.  Randy Krell maintained he was not the driver of the car that chased Oberle, that he just happened to be near the crash site and stopped to see if he could help.  Randy Krell was convicted in a jury trial of negligent homicide. He served about five months of a nine month jail sentence.

The Monroe County Sheriff said that alcohol was not involved in the accident, but excessive speed did play a factor.

The sentence didn't please father Charlie Fackelman senior, who went after Charlie Krell with a gun.  A confrontation occurred but no shots were fired.  Fackelman chased Krell around the yard and through neighbor Tom Williams' home, kicking down the front door to get into the home.  Williams called the police and Fackelman escaped out the back door and hid.  As a result Charlie Fackelman senior was convicted after a jury trial on two counts of felonious assault, one count of home invasion, and one count of gun possession. Charlie is sentenced to serve about six years.

Although Krell entered a plea of not guilty and has continued to maintain his innocence, I think his story of being in the wrong place at the wrong time is a little thin.  I think that it's much more likely that Fackelman hit Krell's car with a bottle of water, whereupon Krell pulled a screaming U-turn and headed after Fackelman and company with the intent of getting some payback.  I'm thinking a broken nose and some injured pride would have been the worst of it.  Things didn't turn out that way, obviously.

I wouldn't have convicted Randy Krell of anything more than, say, aggravated menacing and a few moving violations.  Randy Krell wasn't driving the car Fackelman rode in, and Krell didn't strike that car with his own.  Krell didn't run Oberle off the road.  Austin Oberle was the driver of that car and to him falls responsibility for what he did.  The jury didn't see it that way, and Krell was found guilty and served his time.

Charlie Fackelman senior decided he'd like a little vengeance.  Perhaps the man is mentally ill as he claims, perhaps not.  Either way, Charlie Fackelman had no right to threaten anyone with a gun, nor had he any right to kick down the Williams family's front door and invade their home.  If Charlie Fackelman did that to me, I'd have shot him.  Fackelman was tried by a jury, and the jury could have found Fackelman not guilty by reason of insanity.  The jury didn't.  The judge concurred.

I think that commercial media gave Austin Oberle a pass he didn't deserve. It was his driving and poor judgment that killed Charlie Fackelman and paralyzed Stevie Beale.  Instead of Oberle, Krell got vilified here.  But all that's history.

Today the local bird cage liner screams that Fackelman Avoids Trial on Invasion and Assault
From The Blade: Fackelman had served nearly 3 1/2 years of a 5 3/4 to 20-year prison sentence before the state's highest court ruled in July that repeated references during trial to a psychological evaluation but never entered into evidence violated Fackelman's constitutional rights to confront witnesses.
So the persecutor bitched the trial, Fackelman's ambulance chaser didn't catch the mistake back then, so now the whole business gets appealed up to the Michigan State Supreme Court who drops the ball back in Judge Joseph Costello court.  Why couldn't the legal system have settled this the first time around?  Now the whole thing has to be tried again, except...
Mr. Simon [Wayne County Assistant Prosecutor Kenneth Simon - MJ] said in court the decision to reach a plea deal with Fackelman instead of taking the case to trial was made, in part, because of the difficulty in reconstructing the 2008 trial as well as the cost and time for preparation and litigation.
What are we paying taxes for?  So that both attorneys can screw up and this lunatic gets a walk?

Armchair quarterbacking is easy, and I'm aware of that.  In this case Stevie Beale said that she was pleading with Austin Oberle to slow down.  He should have listened and gotten into a slow speed chase to the police station, if nothing else.  If anyone had a cell phone, and most teens do, they could have called 9-1-1 and had the police meet them on the road somewhere.  I can just see Older School or Beat and Release sorting this one out.


Momma Fargo said...

Interesting tangle of events for sure. Sad a simple teenage harassment turned to that.

Mad Jack said...

Ain't that the truth. I think there are very few teenagers capable of rational thought and considered, decisive action under pressure; the driver was no exception. I just do not understand the rationale behind holding Randy Krell responsible for Austin Oberle's decision to flee and high speed driving.

Then there's the entire fiasco about having to retry Fackelman senior several years later and not being able to because it's too much trouble. I mean, WTF?!

Unknown said...

God this was painful. Research what aggravated menacing is, and proof read this garbage. This was utter say the very least.