Posted by: Lisa Pampuch | June 19, 2007

Puh-lease: Let’s have justice for Rod Kelley, mosque

Reading about convicted felon Lori McVicar made me roll my eyes, shake my head, and utter a dramatic, two-syllable puh-lease.

Specifically, McVicar’s reaction to a district attorney’s attempt to jail her for her failure to repay the Rod Kelley Parents Club the full amount she embezzled from them had that effect.

First, a bit of history: In May 2002, McVicar was convicted of grand theft and forgery and ordered to repay $54,533.39 that she embezzled from the volunteer fundraising group that had trusted her to be its treasurer. She made a good start, paying $24,000 at her first sentencing hearing.

Amazing what the threat of jail can do.

McVicar was ordered to repay the remainder to the club during her probation that was originally scheduled to end on March 4.

In the intervening years, prosecutors say she repaid an eye-roll compelling $245 in 2004, a head-shake inducing $95 in 2005, and a downright insulting $25 in 2006.

Prosecutors suggested that McVicar sell her jewelry to fund her repayments and asked Superior Court Judge Edward Lee to sentence McVicar to as much as six years, eight months in jail due to what they rightfully termed her “dismal” payment history.

But, in a scene reminiscent of a certain socialite heiress (“Mom, Mom, it’s not right!”) who finally felt the sting of enforced consequences, McVicar balked at those just outcomes.

“I’m not selling my wedding set … and if I go to prison, they’ll get no money. That makes no sense,” McVicar said at Friday’s hearing.

Puh-lease. Why shouldn’t McVicar sell her wedding jewelry? Dispatch staff writer Emily Alpert reported that McVicar stole funds intended to purchase ”library books, crayons and playground equipment.” Selling her wedding jewelry should be just the beginning.

McVicar disputes prosecutors’ repayment figures (she claims she repaid $3,000 that the Department of Revenue hasn’t credited her with remitting). Whether McVicar repaid $365 or $3,365 since her sentencing hearing, either figure represents a small fraction of her outstanding balance.

Alpert also reported that McVicar complained that her felony conviction stymies her efforts to get a higher-paying job.

Talk about eye-rolling chutzpah: Whose fault is that?

Puh-lease. McVicar made her bed, but doesn’t want to lie in it now that she very well might be sleeping in it behind bars.

McVicar’s probation has been revoked, but a final decision on her fate was delayed until she has a public defender.

I feel badly for McVicar’s kids, but I also feel badly for the Rod Kelley School community from whom McVicar stole $54,533.39 and incalculable trust.

McVicar has had five years to repay the parent club and hasn’t come close to full restitution.

It’s time for McVicar to put up and shut up, or pack up for the lock up.

***

I shake my head when I consider the people who think the proposed mosque in San Martin deserves extra scrutiny or ought to be rejected out-of-hand because of its association with Islam.

Aren’t we a nation of laws? Our government is supposed to show no bias on the basis of religion. The religious affiliation of the backers of any project should have no bearing whatsoever on its journey through the Santa Clara County planning process.

That includes the San Martin mosque: If the mosque proposal meets the requirements that would be imposed on any project on that site, it must be approved.

I’m confident that’s how county officials who review the project will handle it.

But I roll my eyes when I read letters and columns trying to make a case for more stringent handling of this project based on the Muslim faith of its backers.

I shook my head when I noticed that at one point, a Dispatch web poll asking, “Should plans for an Islamic mosque and community center in San Martin be rejected based on Muslim affiliation?” reported that 67.78 percent of respondents said “Yes.”

Puh-lease. Is it any wonder that a San Jose Mercury News columnist referred to the “yahoos” in South County when writing about local reactions to the mosque plans?

If the majority of Americans favor government discrimination based on religious beliefs, then, tragically, the Sept. 11 terrorists succeeded in profoundly changing our society for the worse.

Let’s not give them that triumph. Instead, let’s honor the Constitution crafted by our founding fathers, reassert the freedoms that putatively cause terrorists to hate us, keep church and state separate, and treat everyone equally under the law.

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