The Nation's Pulse

Felons on the Loose

Courts need to put a stop to their revolving door policy.

By 12.2.08

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I intended to write about why workers making $18 an hour (the median wage of the nation's 107 million full-time wage and salary workers in the third quarter of 2008, according the latest report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics) should not be expected to give a blank check to automobile companies that drove themselves into a ditch by producing fuel-inefficient vehicles with uncompetitive wage/benefit costs that averaged $73 per hour.

But then the news broke that a young FBI agent has been shot and killed during a 6:00 a.m. drug raid in the outskirts of Pittsburgh. The agent, Samuel Hicks, 33, was part of a task force executing search warrants associated with a drug operation that allegedly distributed powder cocaine and crack cocaine throughout the greater Pittsburgh area.

Hicks, a graduate of the University of Pittsburgh, was a former school teacher in Maryland and an officer until February 2007 in the Organized Crime Division of the Baltimore City Police Department. He joined the FBI in March 2007 and was assigned to the Pittsburgh office in August 2007. He leaves behind his wife and a 2-year-old son.

The killing of agent Hicks happened at the residence of Robert and Christina Korbe.

Robert Korbe, 39, a convicted felon, was back on the streets after going through the revolving doors at local courthouses for nearly two decades.

Court records show that Korbe was arrested in September 1991 by Pittsburgh police on drug and weapons charges. After pleading guilty, he was given two years probation.

Arrested again in September 1995 on multiple drug charges, Korbe pleaded guilty and was given three years of probation and five years of probation for the offenses.

In May of this year, police in the Sharpsburg section of Pittsburgh reported that Korbe fought with officers when he was stopped after leaving a fight at Pod's Landing Bar. Police reported that Korbe was carrying 130 grams of powder cocaine and pills including Cialis, Viagra and Vicodin. Federal sentencing laws require a five-year mandatory minimum jail sentence for possessing or dealing 500 grams of powder cocaine or 5 grams of crack cocaine.

Three months later, on August 6, 2008, Korbe waived a hearing on charges of possession of a controlled substance, possession with intent to deliver, resisting arrest, disorderly conduct, criminal mischief, recklessly endangering another person, and aggravated assault.

Korbe was free on $25,000 bond on the morning when FBI agent Samuel Hicks was killed. He was scheduled for arraignment the next morning.

The local TV news is reporting that Korbe's mother said that her son had been involved with drugs for years and that she hadn't seen him in three years because he and his wife got a protection-from-abuse order against her. 

Imagine that. A guy is allegedly pushing a poison that's killing our kids and he calls the cops to protect him from his mother.   

The aforementioned poisoning of our kids refers to the fact that deaths from overdoses of illegal drugs outnumber drug-related murders by more than 10-to-1. 

In other legal news as a I write, J. J. Gumberg Company, the operator of the upscale Waterworks Mall in the Pittsburgh suburb of Fox Chapel, has agreed to a monetary settlement with a rape victim and her husband who had sued the company because of allegedly inadequate security.

The rape victim and her 16-month-old daughter were kidnapped at knifepoint from the mall's parking lot by Jimmy Lee Tayse, 29, at 10:30 on the morning of April 7, 2007. The victim testified that Tayse jumped into her back seat after she had loaded groceries into her vehicle and placed her child in a car seat.

"Drive or I'll cut her," demanded Tayse, holding a knife to the child's neck, according to court testimony.Tayse then forced the woman to drive to Ohio, where he robbed and repeatedly raped her.

Tayse had prior convictions for sexually assaulting a 12-year-old and raping an 11-year-old multiple times. At the time of the Waterworks kidnapping, Tayse was also a wanted fugitive in nearby Cambria County for not showing up for a June 2006 trial.

William Pietragallo, the lawyer for the rape victim and her husband, maintained that Gumberg was Tayse's "enabler," citing the lack of security cameras and guards in the parking lot.

Down at the courthouse, unsurprisingly, they'll blame the parking lots rather than their own revolving door. Similarly, true to form regarding the killing of agent Hicks, no one at the courthouse will be sued for being the "enabler" who repeatedly put Korbe back on the streets.

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About the Author
Ralph R. Reiland is the B. Kenneth Simon professor of free enterprise and an associate professor of economics at Robert Morris University in Pittsburgh.