Thursday, August 17, 2006

The Children of Belial

This is the twelfth in a series of posts inspired by a federal drug conspiracy case targeting a middle aged housewife and three of her children.

Jezebel is the quintessential witchy-woman. Though her sins were many, her fate was sealed by an innocuous affair in Jezreel, the site of the royal palace. Jezebel may have been the power behind the throne but her husband Ahab was the titular king. And Ahab was moaning and bitching about his neighbor Naboth, the man who wouldn’t sell him his vineyard. Ahab wanted that vineyard. He wanted it bad. It was all he could think about. After a long night watching her idiot husband pacing the floor Jezebel decided to restore tranquility to her household.

The following day the elders and nobles of Jezreel received a letter bearing Ahab’s seal and signature. They were ordered to find two “children of Belial” willing to accuse Naboth the Jezreelite of blaspheming against God and the king. (“Children of Belial” is one of those odd expressions one finds in the King James Version. In more recent translations it is rendered as “scoundrels” or “worthless fellows”.) The children of Belial were needed because the law of Israel declared that no one could be condemned except on the testimony of two credible witnesses. So the search was on for two compromised individuals who would rat out their grandmothers for thirty pieces of silver.

Jezebel’s plot unfolded without a hitch and Naboth was dragged outside the city gates and stoned to death. Jezebel informed her clueless husband that he could take possession of his blessed vineyard.

Enter Elijah, the prophet of Jehovah. He appeared as Ahab was gleefully checking out his new digs. Dispensing with pleasantries, Elijah proclaimed the word of the Lord: because Ahab had profited from dirty-deeds-done-dirt-cheap all his male heirs (literally those “that pisseth against a wall”) would meet a violent end.

Ahab could have stolen a page from his ancestor Adam by blaming the evil business on his wife; but the Bible says the king humbled himself and took the blame like a man. True, he hadn’t known the details of Jezebel’s plan, nor had he directly accused Naboth or tossed a pebble in his direction. But Ahab knew what lay at the root of the evil: his insatiable appetite for acquisition.

I have talked a lot in this series of posts about Dexter Harmon and the other “children of Belial” the government used to convict the Colomb-Davis family. But Dexter isn’t the chief villain here. Jerry Stutes and Brett Grayson made Dexter an offer he couldn’t refuse. The context of their conversation made the following conversation redundant: “Look Dexter, we’re going to ask you a question, and before you answer you should know that a positive answer wins you a get-out-of-jail-free card and a negative answer leaves you languishing in hell?”

Brett Grayson looks and talks like a cross between Don Rickles and Dick Cheney. Like his former boss, John Ashcroft, Grayson is a fervent Pentecostal. Unfortunately, in the Colomb-Davis story the assistant U.S. attorney plays the role of Jezebel. Jezebel didn’t bear any personal animus toward Naboth nor was she irrationally prejudiced against Jezreelites. But Jezebel was losing sleep because of Ahab and his damned vineyard and killing Naboth was the best way to restore peace to her household.

Brother Brett Grayson has nothing personal against Ann Colomb and her family. But he is occupationally married to the United States government, a partner with an insatiable appetite for incarceration. Mr. Grayson incarcerates drug dealers because it’s easy. Every conviction creates another child of Belial; the more draconian the sentence the more pliable the children become.

But Elijah wasn’t sent to Jezebel and my complaint isn’t with a solitary assistant U.S. attorney. The problem in Israel was that Jezebel had the power to make offers nobody could refuse.

I am firmly convinced that the vast majority of assistant U.S. attorneys wouldn’t have touched the Colomb-Davis case even if they thought it was a slam dunk. Prosecutions based entirely on the uncorroborated testimony of children of Belial are inherently dangerous.

But the core problem isn’t Brother Brett per se; the problem is the unfettered power to coerce that Brother Brett has been given.

This boils down to Danny and Dexter. Danny Davis isn’t any more innocent than his mother and his brothers; but his innocence is singularly obvious. Danny has never been convicted of a felony; he moved away from Church Point four years before his parent’s home was raided; for years he slaved as a garbage-man while carrying a full academic load at a business college; and he wasn’t added to the federal indictment until Dexter Harmon dropped his name in February of 2002.

In the Colomb-Davis case, Dexter Harmon is the fountainhead of uncorroborated snitch testimony: the only inmate witness who actually knew Edward and Danny when they were old enough to drive. By their own admission, the original cadre of inmate witnesses was part of Dexter’s crack ring in Rayne, Louisiana and their testimony was shaped by Dexter’s coaching.

Once again it’s Naboth the Jezreelite against a child of Belial and the only question is who we are going to believe? Twenty-eight hundred years after Naboth was stoned twelve jurors in Lafayette, Louisiana were persuaded by a child of Belial.

But I repeat: the problem is the coercive power a frightened nation has handed its prosecutors.


Anonymous said...

Investigative Reporters!

Why is a small town preacher having to do the reporting that you should have been investigating and reporting?

Anonymous said...

Is anybody else sick of this series of stories?

You're killing this blog.

Anonymous said...

anonymous, No. He's not killing this just don't want to hear about injustice or do anything about it.

Maybe you're part of the injustice...therefore you really don't want to hear about it. We're all part of the injustice if we just go along with it and let it sweep people away.

I want to hear about it. I want to know if there's a poisonous snake slithering around the pantry...and there is! I want to know that someone's trying to expose the monster and get rid of it.

Why can't you care? Why can't you despise injustice?

AlanBean said...

Anonymous has little appetite for an extended discussion of a single case and I suspect he is not alone. I undertook this series with the expectation that they would be interspersed with more conventional news-based offerings--the stuff that Scott usually covers. That said, this story deserves the attention I have given it.

Anonymous said...


Some just can't care or believe reality. If this person doesn't care or just doesn't like the subject, THEN DON"T READ IT OR RESPOND! There are many who do care, and are interested in this subject, don't be side tracked by others agendas or lack of caring! To put ones self above and before the feelings of others and their concerns, shows LITTLE compassion for others, therefore they deserve none as well! CARRY ON!!!

Rusty White

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