Mara Leveritt's story “A Long Way to Fall” in the Times Feb. 21 was a gripping and disturbing narrative. Funny how the bare facts of the case, as related in an article published afterward in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, failed to elicit a comparable emotional response in me.
Not being a lawyer, I don't know whether Prosecuting Attorney Larry Jegley's conclusion that “the law does not provide criminal sanctions which address the allegations here” would have been reached by other experts in Arkansas law or not. But, if so, it's quite clear that the Arkansas Criminal Code is deficient and should be revisited by the General Assembly at its earliest opportunity.
The facts of the case do not seem to be disputed. Perhaps another special prosecutor would have decided to take the case to trial so that a jury could determine whether a crime had been committed.
Given the victim's certification by the Social Security Administration as a disabled person, common sense leads to the inescapable conclusion that she was taken advantage of and that the law should have protected her from such exploitation. If Arkansas law fails to protect people like her, it fails us all.
Tough man deaths
On Feb. 14, 2008, Brandon Twitchell, 23, a Toughman participant, lost his life in a two-day event that took place at the Four States Fairgrounds in Texarkana. Brandon was not the only injured person that night, nor is this the first time this has happened. According to Toughman, the fighters are to be separated into several weight classes, by experience, provide a medical review, and have a doctor monitor the fighter, but this is not always the case. Brandon was asked to wear jeans and steel-toe boots to make weight. His physical consisted of taking his blood pressure and asking him if he was on drugs. He was asked to sign a waiver that shows no difference in danger than does riding in a car to your local gas station.
I am writing you to ask yet again to make changes to the statutes and ask for immediate administrative code changes involving boxing and combative sports. Toughman Boxing in the state of Arkansas is licensed but still has minimal oversight and is run by an ex-commissioner, Lydia Robertson.
Toughman uses only one-minute rounds to encourage each participant to intensely throw only head shots. This is highly dangerous because the participants are not trained. They do not necessarily have any conditioning, neck strength, or boxing skill. Then again, they do allow trained professionals to enter into the ring to compete against participants who may have no skill whatsoever.
While all major markets for boxing have placed bans on elimination-style boxing and have brought all combative sports under their athletic commissions, Arkansas chooses to say it's OK.
The Toughman organization constructs the conditions for dramatic knockouts for the purpose of entertainment and it is these conditions that can lead to serious brain injury and death. Brandon's death occurred after fighting more minutes than even USA boxing allows for experienced amateur boxers. I urge you to bring legislation that bans Toughman and these types of elimination style events.
Has anyone noticed that all the while gas prices were going higher, our president and vice president didn't say yea or nay about it? Now that the House is pushing a bill to rescind the tax breaks for Big Oil, our grand president states he will automatically veto it. He will continue to screw things up until the last day he is in office.
For the record, I am a diehard, tree-hugging, blue dog Arkansas Democrat. I worked on, for or supported every Bill Clinton campaign. I donated to Sen. Hillary Clinton's senatorial campaign!
Furthermore, I was the executive director of the Little Rock Technology Center, a not-for-profit business adventure for economic development in the late 1980s. Our initiative was to create and nurture high-tech, small businesses in order to create jobs and infuse our economy with a globally competitive technical work force and infrastructure.
I believed we could make a difference! I traveled the country and sold this idea to folks in Louisiana, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Arkansas because I believed what Bill told us. He said we could. In three years we created 30 new stable small businesses that employed 150 new high technology workers.
Come forward to 2008 — oh my, how things have changed. Again, I know not what to say. However, I still believe in this place called Hope. Do you, Bill, or you Hillary?
Personally, I see Barack Obama as your legacy, our legacy. He is carrying the torch quite nobly. My children believe so as well. Ages 19, 26 and 27; they are our future. If you can no longer believe in hope, pass the torch!
Liz Roberts Abernathy