Scott Stanford: Process worked in Sweet Pea case |

Scott Stanford: Process worked in Sweet Pea case

From the Editor

Giles Charle’s mother called me Wednesday to thank me for helping get her son out of jail.

I didn’t know how to answer. I know that absent the newspaper’s coverage, Charle and David Siller most likely would still be behind bars. But securing the men’s release is not what this newspaper set out to accomplish when it began reporting this story Friday, and I take neither personal nor professional pleasure in their release.

What I do take pride in is the newspaper’s ability to shine a spotlight on a potential community problem and to foster community debate that ultimately led to what seems to be a reasonable resolution. Some – particularly the District Attorney’s Office – would disagree. They would say the newspaper’s coverage was sensational, unfair, biased and factually inaccurate. We made sure to give prosecutors the opportunity – on our Web site, on our opinion pages and in our news stories – to share such criticisms.

Of course, I think that criticism is off target. From the outset, we were simply trying to report what we thought was a good story and an important story. I frequently tell our reporters to “write what you know.” They did that in this case day after day.

Only Charle and Siller know for sure what happened at Sweet Pea Produce the night of June 26. My best guess – after reading everything that was written and after multiple interviews with the men, the owners of Sweet Pea and prosecutors – is that they did commit trespass but that everything they took came from the over-ripe produce set beside the trash at the store.

I also believe Assistant District Attorney Kerry St. James did what he thought was right. The evidence on the night of the incident was that felony burglary had been committed.

St. James has not changed his mind. He did, however, recognize that after store owner Jonathon Hieb publicly supported the men’s version of events, he could not fight public perception that the men’s punishment did not fit the crime.

In the end, it was Hieb who did more to free Charle and Siller than anyone. Hieb acknowledged that on the night of the incident, he told police he wanted to press charges because he thought the men had been inside the store. But he said an inspection the day after the incident showed they never entered the store and that the stolen produce came from the trash area. Hieb repeated that assertion again and again in news stories and in comments posted to our Web site.

So if Shaune McCarthy Charle – Giles’ mother – wants to thank someone, she should thank Hieb. He gave Charle and Siller their get-out-of-jail-free cards.

And after she finishes issuing thanks, maybe Shaune can give her son and Siller a swift kick in the pants. Although the Sweet Pea duo didn’t deserve six months in jail, it was their behavior – not the prosecutor’s, not the store owners’ and not the newspaper’s – that sparked this entire episode.

Next time, guys, give me a call, and I’ll buy the asparagus.

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