By M.D. Kittle | Wisconsin Reporter
MADISON, Wis. – The case of the stolen 300-year-old Stradivarius violin has become Milwaukee’s crime of the century.
Police this week hunted down three suspects in the armed robbery, and Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm is expected to file charges — against two men and a woman, according to news stories.
It’s clear the story of the bold theft of the $5 million “Lipinski Strad” has captured the imagination of the public and the obsessed attention of law enforcement.
OUT OF TUNE? While the case of Milwaukee’s stolen Stradivarius violin has garnered intense police and prosecutor attention, some community members wonder why the same prosecutorial zeal could not be mustered in the death of 16-year-old Corey Stingley.
“The brazen Jan. 27 crime set off a frantic search,” noted an Associated Press story.
But some are left asking why the Milwaukee County DA’s office appears so zealous in its prosecution of violin robbers while failing to charge three men responsible for the death of 16-year-old Corey Stingley.
“What you have here is misplaced priories, and it has to do with color,” said Thomas Mitchell, editor of the Milwaukee Community Journal, a 38-year old African-American newspaper.
“The black community is angry. All of this media attention and police attention for violin worth millions of dollars that leads the news at 6 o’clock news, but something like Corey Stingley is viewed as just another black person that did something wrong and got what he deserved,” Mitchell said.
Stingley died after being wrestled to the ground and restrained in a West Allis store in December 2012. Stingley, according to the police report and video surveillance, tried to steal bottles of liquor before a clerk confronted him. A struggle ensued with Stingley and the three men.
On Jan. 10, the Milwaukee County DA’s office ended its investigation into Stingley’s death. Chisholm said he would not press charges. The DA said he would not be able to legally prove who is responsible for the teen’s death, and that there was no intent to kill Stingley.
“Their goal was to intervene and hold him until police arrived. They were restraining him after what was initially a violent encounter,” Chisholm said, as quoted by Fox 6 News. “I can’t make charges based on popular sentiment. It’s got to be based on the facts … If I apply any other standard, I’m not doing my job.”
There is a growing number of Milwaukee community members who assert Chisholm failed to do his job when he opted not to press charges in the case.
The NAACP in a statement said it would seem a “chargeable” offense occurred.
“If the District Attorney has determined that the traditional charge of manslaughter is not warranted under the circumstances, we believe that some other charge, under the facts as we understand them might nonetheless be appropriate. The family (and community) deserves to be satisfied that the investigation gave full consideration not only to the question of intent, but also to issues of criminal negligence and reckless disregard for life,” the organization said.
Meanwhile, conservatives charge that Chisholm, a Democrat, did anything but base a secret John Doe investigation into conservative groups on facts. The probe, launched out of the DA’s office in August 2012, is targeting dozens of conservative organizations on allegations of illegal campaign coordination during Wisconsin’s recent recalls. The presiding judge in the investigation quashed several subpoenas in the multi-county John Doe, saying prosecutors failed to “show probable cause” that “any violations of the campaign finance laws” by the individuals and organizations subject to the subpoenas.
As reported this week by Wisconsin Reporter, Milwaukee County liberals and conservatives are mulling over a campaign to recall Chisholm.
Mitchell, who supports the recall campaign, said he believes such an initiative could be successful if community members work together. He said the matter of the missing Stradivarius will only serve to fuel the commitment for action by the African-American community.
“They laugh and they get angry. And the laugh is an angry laugh, one of disgust, that a black boy’s life means less than a violin,” Mitchell said. “The three who stole the violin will have the book thrown at them, and the three that killed Corey Stingley are still walking the streets.”
Contact M.D. Kittle at firstname.lastname@example.org
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