Honolulu Lite

by Charles Memminger

Monday, March 8, 1999

No one said Feary
is a hero

QUIT glorifying Mackey Feary, I've been told rather repeatedly since writing a column last week questioning the pattern of punishment dished out by our legal system.

I wasn't glorifying Mackey, who, for the two or three people who still haven't heard, killed himself in prison after getting a 10-year sentence.

Mackey was a guy with a self-control problem. He couldn't shake the ice monkey off his back. He attacked his wife's car with a hammer and violated a restraining order that was supposed to keep him away from his wife. He had been given repeated chances to straighten his life out, but didn't. In short, he was no walk in the park.

But here's what he wasn't:

He wasn't a sexual predator who preyed on defenseless children.

He wasn't a career criminal with a history of violent crimes against random citizens.

He never killed or raped anyone.

He wasn't a major drug dealer.

He wasn't an armed robber.

He wasn't a gang member.

So, the point of last week's column was not to glorify Mackey, but simply to ask if there is something wrong with a court system that orders him locked up for 10 years but gives participants in all the above-mentioned crimes not only third, fourth and fifth chances, but 20th, 30th and 40th chances.

My point wasn't that Mackey didn't deserve punishment. My point was there are a lot of other people who deserve as much or more punishment than he got. People who are a danger to the community. People who are predators, who affect the general welfare.

I'm sorry that Mackey was a threat to his family. But it behooves a civil society to come down harder on predators who are a threat to society in general, people who have a proven record of violence and mayhem against random victims. That's why criminal cases are entitled "The People of the State of Hawaii" vs. whoever is charged with a crime. It is "the people" who need protecting.

Now, my column apparently riled some folks over in the Judiciary. I got a call from the courts spokesperson who apparently had been asked by a judge or two to get a copy of the column and prepare a rebuttal. They will point out specifics of a few of the individual cases I mentioned to show that, for instance, a guy who took part in a vicious robbery of a man on the North Shore wasn't actually convicted of assault. And that Mackey wasn't just a drug addict, but had been violent to his wife.

So obviously, they will be missing the larger point, that the system seems to have been set on its head regarding sentencing. Predators, at least in the highly-publicized cases, seem to get lighter sentences than non-violent offenders.

I chose only five examples, but I could have chosen 50. There was a gang member who got a year in prison for taking part in the baseball bat killing of a man. There was a woman who murdered her husband and boyfriend who was in prison for less than four years. There was a guy who had a long criminal record, more than 30 arrests, culminating with a conviction for rape, who was let out of prison and killed a woman. In fact, we repeatedly see cases where a person arrested for murder turns out to have 30 or 40 prior arrests for violent crimes.

And there are just as many examples of non-violent offenders getting slam-dunked with long sentences.

Mackey shouldn't be glorified. He broke the law and deserved to be punished. There are violent predators, however, who need to kept off the streets but aren't. That's the point.

Charles Memminger, winner of
National Society of Newspaper Columnists
awards in 1994 and 1992, writes "Honolulu Lite"
Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
Write to him at the Honolulu Star-Bulletin,
P.O. Box 3080, Honolulu, 96802

or send E-mail to or

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