You should care about the tragedy of Ronald Stahlman because Ronald Stahlman could be any one of us.
Stahlman (pictured above) is trying to crawl out of a pit called the Lorain Correctional Institution. Lorain is at 243 percent of its intended capacity. The state of Ohio, which like the rest of America is strapped for cash, is spending about $70 a day to keep Stahlman in prison. And, uncontrovertibly Stahlman is not a danger to anybody.
The demon laughing and dancing at the edge of Stahlman’s pit is a small time prosecutor named Chris Becker. And, you should know about Chris Becker because he could be any one of them.
Stahlman is a former patch holder with the American Outlaws Association who ran away after he and a couple of friends got drunk one night and another man died.
On April 29th, 1979, Stahlman and a friend named Roger Collins were drunk in Collins’ pickup truck. Collins, who was driving, accidently rear-ended a car operated by 18-year-old Bernard Williamson. It was 3:30 in the morning in Warren, Ohio.
Williamson jumped out of his car to start a fight. Thirty years later witnesses remembered seeing Williamson beat Collins to the ground and seeing Stahlman get out of the truck to help his friend. A short time later, police found Williamson dying in the street with seven stab wounds.
By the time this case was tried last Spring absolutely no physical evidence remained. All the blood evidence and other tangible evidence disappeared when a Cleveland forensics lab went out of business in 1979. The local police lost the crime scene photos.
Collins eventually turned himself in, confessed that Stahlman had stabbed Williamson, and paid his debt to society with a six months sentence in county jail. Stahlman took his wife and daughters and fled to Arizona to start a new life.
That new life lasted thirty years. But this now is Most Wanted America. The police now have virtually unlimited, highly technological resources and time. Our new leading product seems to be prisoners. And, every cop is a “hero.” So Stahlman was tracked down and very publically “captured” and sent back to Ohio to stand trial for murder.
It was absolutely impossible to prove that Stahlman, who is now a 56-year-old grandfather, ever murdered anybody, of course. The apprehension made for really swell television in two states but the government had no case at all.
The assistant prosecutor who tried the case is a clever, amoral opportunist named Chris Becker. The Ohio Supreme Court publically reprimanded Becker for impropriety in a death penalty case last January. And, after making Stahlman watch as Becker beat up most of his family on the witness stand; when Stahlman still refused to cave and Becker’s case appeared to be clearly lost; Becker simply changed the charge against Stahlman in mid-trial.
A confidential source describes what happened:
“By the end of the first day Becker knew he couldn’t prove to a jury that Stahlman committed this crime (of murder.) So Becker asked the judge to add complicity to the charge. Complicity under Ohio law means ‘to aide, abed, or assist.’ And, since no was disputing the fact that Ronald Stahlman was there he was (automatically) guilty of complicity. Becker knew Stahlman would walk out of that courtroom a free man if he didn’t come up with something. So that’s why he came up with the charge of complicity.”
The “complicity to murder” charge carried a mandatory sentence of 15 years to life. Stahlman, who hasn’t had a traffic ticket in 30 years, pled guilty to involuntary manslaughter and was sentenced to one to ten.
What Becker Thinks
This page has a slight history with this prosecutor. Becker contacted this page immediately after the trial and requested to be interviewed. This page declined that opportunity. Possibly the rebuff was rude.
Becker responded, over the course of many days, that the author of this page “seem(s) to be very bitter and to have a clear agenda against law and order.” And, that this is a “little rag of a website.” And, he defended the complicity charge against Stahlman by stating that, “conspiracy law permitted Stahlman to be charged as a complicitor, and in fact the State does not have to convict a principal offender.”
Which, for the record, this page happens to think is a blatantly unjust law. Becker then responded to this page’s sympathy for Stahlman and his family with a dig at the road name of this author. “So now he (Stahlman) can age and rebel in prison for a while.”
What We Think
We have thought it over for awhile and we still think the law is an ass and Chris Becker is a self-righteous psychopath. Just our opinion, of course. Which we are constitutionally entitled to have and express. Not a diagnosis.
But that opinion might have been confirmed last week when Stahlman, requested early release from the overcrowded Ohio prison system. The program for which Stahlman is applying is called “Shock Release.” Essentially, it means that first time offenders who pose no risk to the community can be released after getting a taste of the penitentiary. Stahlman’s attorney wrote the court and asked that her client be permitted to “reintegrate into society to re-establish his life as a productive and law-abiding citizen.”
But Becker, whose cooperation is vital, opposed Stahlman’s early release. He wrote, “‘essentially every day for 30 years the defendant was committing a crime by being a fugitive from justice…. His failure to have contact with law enforcement or the judicial system was done for one reason and one reason only: To save his own skin.”
What Becker neglects to mention is that everyone is guilty of something every single day. It is what America now is. It is how modern law enforcement works.
Stahlman is still entitled to his first parole hearing in about another 60 days but Becker seems intent on keeping this man in a pit. Apparently just to enjoy the look on Ronald Stahlman’s face. And, the Lorain Correctional Institution remains at 243 percent of its intended capacity.