Last July 6, when videographer Mitchell Crooks was recording the thumping of a handcuffed 16-year-old by Inglewood, California police, Allen Iverson had already made very quiet news in Philadelphia. He'd gone looking for his fleeing wife armed with a gun. 'Tis a far better thing being Allen Iverson than being Donovan Jackson, the 16-year-old in the Crooks video taping.
The Inglewood story goes that sheriff's deputies had approached Jackson's father's car to cite the father for driving with expired tags. Roll tape. The next thing we know for sure, young Jackson is in handcuffs, being bodily lifted from the pavement, slammed head-down onto a patrol car hood, punched by an Inglewood officer identified as Jeremy Morse, hustled back upright and moved toward the back seat of a patrol car for arrest and transport. Stop tape.
It gets blurry from here on in. The videographer Crooks, 27, makes many TV interviews, expresses fear of police retribution, hangs up on an L.A. District Attorney who commands him to tell officers where he is so he can authenticate the taping for a grand jury. Turns out Crooks has had experience with the law, has some outstanding warrants for his arrest up near Sacramento, is in fact arrested in front of a TV News Bureau in L. A., taken screaming from the scene, subsequently hospitalized while in police custody. Crooks later is transported to Placer County to serve time for driving under the influence and petty theft. The Inglewood mayor calls for the firing of Officer Morse. The police chief says "not so fast." Both are black, as is some 47 percent of the Inglewood citizenry, and Al Sharpton is on his way west to straighten all this out. Young Jackson has a lawyer, two in fact, and maybe more by this reading.
There are those who insist on knowing what all led to the body-slam and right cross on the patrol car's hood. There are those who say that makes no difference: Jackson was in 'cuffs, under officer control and no danger to them when Crooks captured the sequence. Prior events, if actionable, are to be handled in court, not on the arrest site.
Contrast this swirling scene with the utter calm surrounding the Iverson case in Philadelphia. It is alleged that back on July 3 Allen Iverson of the NBA 76ers went looking for his wife who had fled their domicile during a dispute and that he barged into his cousin's apartment with a pistol in his waist and threatened the occupants, one of whom called 911. Police searched the Iverson limo, mansion and curtilage, towed away two vehicles and now, some ten days after the event, the District Attorney indicates the roundball star may be charged with four felonies and about ten misdemeanors. The D-A says part of the reason for the delay is that she was attending a law enforcement convention when this unpleasantness came up. Delay continues, however, while the Iverson attorney finishes a visit out of the country. Iverson has been requested to appear at a Philadelphia police station on Tuesday, a fortnight after the unpleasantness. In Philadelphia we can all get along.
Since the venue is Pennsylvania, it is doubtful that the Virginia Governor's pardon issued Iverson back when he was a junior in high school can be applied here. But don't be too sure. Sixers' coach Larry Brown laughingly excused him from practice on Thursday. A vice president of Reebok, who has a high stake in Iverson's continued mobility, says: "We firmly believe that Allen will be vindicated, and Reebok, along with his millions of fans, will still be standing by him when he is." A wiry fellow who can thread his way among giants, get knocked off balance, and still make the shot should have little trouble with four felonies and ten misdemeanors.
The Iverson case should be instructive to those in Inglewood who would charge racism is a rampant problem in the nation. No. It is a selective problem.