“The Family That Does Drive-Bys Together . . .”
By Ken K. Gourdin
You’ve heard the old saying, “The family that [fill-in-the-blank] together, stays together”? (The one that I always heard growing up was, “The family that prays together, stays together” – not to go all “preachy” on you, but I believe that one.) Well, as the title indicates, there’s now a new twist on that old statement. See today’s Deseret News, here: http://www.deseretnews.com/article/865612130/Mother-and-son-charged-in-drive-by-shooting-after-fight-at-school.html. “We were just . . . bonding, Your Honor – just enjoying some quality mother-and-son time together while working proactively to solve a family problem.”
I was a not-infrequent target of bullying during elementary and junior high school. While I have very few bad things to say about very few of the teachers and administrators who worked at the schools I attended, the truth is that this was in an era in which teachers and administrators were much less proactive in dealing with bullying than they are today. Even my parents, with one notable exception, were much more passive about it. As tempted as she might’ve been to intervene, my mother realized that eventually, I was going to have to fight my own battles. Did she take the wrong approach? Should she have followed this mother’s lead? “They won’t get away with this! C’mon, Son, let’s go get ‘em! You bring the gun; I’ll drive!”
Unlike in many other jurisdictions, there are few distinctions between principal liability and accomplice liability in Utah law. Thus, this mother and her son have both been charged with nine second-degree felonies and one third-degree felony. Each second-degree count is punishable by one-to-ten years in prison, and the third-degree count is punishable by zero-to-five years in prison. But wait! It gets “better”! Both mother and son reportedly are gang members. Under Utah’s gang enhancement statute, the second-degree felonies become first-degree felonies and the third-degree felonies become second-degree felonies. Thus, even without the gang enhancement (while this is unlikely to happen) if each were sentenced to the maximum possible aggregate punishment, each of them could serve 95 years in prison. With the gang enhancement, if they were convicted on all counts, they each could serve a minimum of 145 years in prison. “Look on the bright side! We don’t have to pay rent anymore!”
Alas, even living rent-free for life is an awfully high price to pay for not hitting anybody you shoot at; if I were a betting man, I’d be willing to bet (increased potential penalties notwithstanding) that both of them wish he’d had better aim. For both of their sakes, I hope they really are members of a gang: perhaps no type of organization considers “false advertising” to be more of an affront, or is more efficient at separating “contenders” from “pretenders,” than street gangs are, even in prison. When it comes to claiming gang membership, “You can’t just say it, you’ve got to display it.” And if it is true, while they’re unlikely to be back out on the streets anytime soon, at least it will increase their “street cred” in prison.