November 7, 1997




Image of today's outrage

On July 5, 1986, Juan Gonzalez was released from Columbia-Presbyterian Hospital, after assuring his doctors that he would seek psychiatric help for his schizophrenia.

Two days later, Juan Gonzalez carried a two-foot-long sword onto the Staten Island Ferry and went into a slashing frenzy. He killed two people and wounded nine others. It seems that Gonzalez had NOT sought psychiatric help.

Now, Gonzalez is once more about to be free to walk the streets, or ride the ferry. Doctors at the Bronx Psychiatric Center have recommended that Gonzalez be allowed to travel by himself to counseling sessions or to attend vocational training.

The New York State Health Commissioner does not want Gonzalez released, citing public safety concerns. The prosecutors who originally prosecuted the case don’t want Gonzalez released, saying he will become violent again if he doesn’t take anti-psychotic drugs.

So who wants Gonzalez released? His attorney, of course. Michael Genkin of the Mental Hygiene Legal Service says the slasher has been “a model patient” and “extremely well-mannered.”

Genkin also says Gonzalez “has great sympathy for those (he) hurt and killed.” We’re so glad that, after years of taxpayer financed “care,” Gonzalez says he’s sorry that he savagely hacked eleven people, killing two of his victims, and ruining the lives of their families.

Apparently none of attorney Genkin’s relatives were among those maimed or killed.

How can things like this happen? The answer lies in the type of people who are in charge of the legal system across America. People like Judge James Ware.

Judge Ware was a well-respected federal judge in San Jose. A graduate of Stanford Law School, Ware was appointed by President Clinton to become the only Black judge on the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, and his confirmation process was going smoothly. Ware was even mentioned as a possible Supreme Court nominee.

Judge Ware had been a registered Republican when he was appointed to the bench by President Bush, but he switched to the Democratic party shortly before his appointment by President Clinton.

Judge Ware often told the story of the murder of his brother, Virgil Ware, as a tale of the trauma of discrimination. And not just once or twice — Judge Ware told the story so often that it became part of his public image: the successful black judge whose brother fell to the violence of racial hatred.

In fact, Ware often told of holding his dying brother in his arms. He called the death of his brother “a defining experience, a turning point in my life.” The story helped him posture as someone who had seen the worst of discrimination, and who had overcome hatred. He told the story so effectively that he even managed to move his fellow lawyers emotionally — no small feat. The story gave Ware the aura of a saint.

The story itself is true. Virgil Ware really was shot dead while riding a bicycle in a suburb of racially torn Birmingham, Alabama. The tragic incident occurred as part of racial violence in Birmingham in September, 1963. And Virgil Ware really had a brother named James Ware. James Ware is still alive — but that James Ware is NOT JUDGE WARE.

Judge Ware admitted he was not related to Virgil Ware only after the Birmingham News recently interviewed the James Ware who really is the brother of the dead boy. “Statements made by me in speeches and interviews that I am the James Ware whose brother Virgil was killed in Alabama were not the truth,” Ware admitted after the paper broke the story on Wednesday.

This has been a tough year for the San Jose federal bench. Former U.S. District Court Judge Robert Aguilar was forced to resign last year as part of a deal to end his long-running criminal case. His appointed successor, U.S. Attorney Michael Yamaguchi, had to withdraw from consideration because he was also under investigation by the Justice Department.

People like Judge Ware, Robert Aguilar, and Michael Yamaguchi are the powers-that-be that decide whether you’ll be riding the ferry with Juan Gonzalez.

(Source: New York Daily News)




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