It was Willie Lyles-Bey’s big day.
Mr. Lyles-Bey was 19 years old when he participated in a crime that went sour and people were killed. He’s 62 now, and he’s still in prison. But this week there was hope. A Public Hearing was scheduled, which could lead to a parole. He was excited. This is a rare occasion for lifers, as the Michigan Attorney General’s Office likes to point out. It can lead to freedom!
The hearing, conducted in a specially-designated room in one of the Ionia prisons, was led by Michigan Parole Board member Ed Heap. His soft-spoken manner obviously put the inmate at ease, and the hearing was one of the better ones that I have witnessed.
Then it was my turn to speak.
Upon completing my short presentation of support, Assistant Attorney General Scott Rothermel---who leads the bulk of the questioning regarding the inmate’s criminal past---asked if I would remain seated.
From that point on, Mr. Lyles-Bey’s big day suddenly turned south.
Mr. Rothermel chose that moment, while I was under oath and while a court reporter was still recording, to launch into a personal discussion regarding previous comments I had made in a blog regarding Public Hearings. It was an embarrassment. While I tried, briefly, to present my side of the discussion, it was very apparent this was not the appropriate venue for such a debate. The chairman tried to bring a stop to it, for that very reason, but Mr. Rothermel refused, insisting that he had a couple more points to make.
Call it a tirade, a tantrum, a personal attack on me. That’s not what is important.
What is important is that a Public Hearing for a deserving prisoner in the Michigan prison system got derailed, in front of two Parole Board members, a court reporter, two Corrections Officers, and six guests.
Do I deserve an apology? I think so, but again, that’s not what is important.
What is important here is that two apologies from Assistant Attorney General Scott Rothermel are in order: the first to inmate Willie Lyles-Bey; and the second to the Michigan Parole Board.
How will the state respond? We’ll wait and see.