Tuesday, October 5, 2010

A Tale of Two Bergen County High School Graduates

This post has weighed on me since last Thursday morning.  Originally I was going to post this on my regular blog, but I decided to do a spin off because I'd like to begin a regular feature weighing in on current events.

On my way to work last week I was listening to a talk radio host out of Philadelphia, Michael Smerconish.  He was talking about Tyler Clementi, the Rutgers student who took his own life in September by jumping off the George Washington Bridge into the Hudson River.  Anyone who watches/reads/listens to any type of news show in the past two weeks knows of Tyler Clementi.  They also know of his tormentors, Dharun Ravi and  Molly Wei.  As a matter of fact we know nearly everything there was to know about Tyler. We also know that most people feel Dharun and Molly are responsible for his death and most people feel they will never be punished enough.

After he discussed that matter, he talked about another death of a college student.  This student was a Senior honors student at Villanova University.  His name was Daniel Giletta.  Daniel and his friend and roommate, Frank "Patrick" DiChiara , who remains in the hopsital, were hit by the driver of a stolen car last Tuesday night.  Daniel it was reported was killed almost instantly.

Daniel and Tyler both grew up in Bergen County.  Daniel graduated from Bergen Catholic High School.  Tyler from Ridgewood High School.  According to Google maps, these two high schools are less than 3 miles from one another.  These two boys died within a week of eachother.  Why is Tyler suddenly a cause celebre and most of you have not heard of Daniel Giletta?

Because Daniel cannot push along any agenda.  Daniel was allegedly killed by an African American man from Bryn Mawr, which is where Villanova is located.  Donald "Donnie" Sayers is 28 or 30 years old (depending on the news article), he has been arrested multiple times previously and admits to being high on PCP and drunk at the time of the crash and he has admitted to causing the crash that took the life of Daniel.  He slammed a stolen Range Rover into Giletta's VW Jetta at more than 100 miles per hour. 

Daniel graduated in 2007 from Bergen Catholic High, in Oradell, N.J., where he was a member of the National Honor Society and was named an Edward J. Bloustein Distinguished Scholar in 2006, the highest academic honor given by New Jersey to high-schoolers. He had plans to follow in his father's footsteps and was studying electrical engineering.

All of the families involved in these tragic incidents are greiving.  My prayers go out to the families of Daniel Giletta, Tyler Clementi, Dharun Ravi, Donnie Sayer and Molly Wei.  I do not believe by any stretch of the imagination Dharun and Molly deserve the same punishment that Donnie deserves.  I do believe that Dharun and Molly will live with the guilt for the rest of their lives.  I don't believe they had any idea this would happen and I don't condone or excuse their behavior.  I do believe that Donnie knew that his actions could result in a death.  I also believe he did not care at the time.

I also believe that everyone around Tyler let him down.  Every adult he came into contact with between September 18 and September 22 is responsible for his death, if his roommate is.  I don't believe anyone is responsible for his death except him.  Tyler chose to jump off a bridge.  One talking head said "They [Molly & Dharun] did not push him off the GW Bridge, but they certainly put him there."  I say no, no they did not.  Tyler put himself there.  Instead of reaching out to his family, his counselors, his professors, anyone, he chose to take his own life.

And as a result, he has left everyone in his life to pick up the pieces.  Everyone is left stratching their heads and perhaps two additional young lives are ruined.  Tyler does not have an obituary that I can find.  I feel, as a mother of two boys not much younger than Tyler, if I was in his parents place, I would accept my son or daughter for whoever and whatever he or she was especially if the only other choice was his death.  Most parent do not wish for their children to be gay, not because we are homophobic, but for the same reason we want them to do well in school and go to college.  We want an easy life for them.  However, I do not know of anyone who would wish their child dead rather than being homosexual.

My only point is that we have two young promising lives cut short.  We also have three additional lives altered forver.    Tyler and Daniel both brought promise and potential to the world.  The world is a darker place without the lights their lives brought to it.  Many of the people asking for a harsher sentence for Molly and Dharun are the ones who have asked for leniency in cases like Donnie's previous convictions. 

Donnie was convicted of a car theft and drug charges in the year 2000 he was sentenced to 3 years and 9 months in jail.  He was then convicted of DUI in 2004 and was sentenced to probation.  Finally he was arrested for stealing clothes and sunglasses in May of this year. 

These are the questions bouncing in my head:
Why wasn't he already on probation when convicted of DUI?
Why was he not in jail instead of driving a stolen Range Rover?  
Why didn't he have had a trial less than six months after committing the crime of shoplifting?
Would he have been in jail if PA had a three strikes law?
Why is nobody talking about this?  
Has death by stolen car become so frequent as to be not newsworthy?  

******************************************************************************* My information was compiled from many sources including the Philadelphia Inquirer, and Philly news.com, nj.com and the new york times.com.  In addition I would not have even known about Daniel Giletta except for Michael Smerconish (http://www.smerconish.com/)

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