Thursday, October 16, 2014

A Bad Man, and a Very Bad Wizard: Tom Owens Goes To Decatur

Imagine Sacha Baron Cohen made a movie and set it in the DeKalb County Courthouse.

That's what it was like at the hearing to clear the temporary restraining order against George.  It was like a comedy, only one of those terrible, cringy comedies where people publicly embarrass and hurt themselves which I don't actually like.

Let me be clear:  Tom Owens and his crew manifestly deserved it and absolutely did it to themselves. But it was still painful to watch. There were points at which I actually couldn't look at the people talking, because it was that awful. And I don't mean "they are saying mean things about my boo" awful. I mean, "holy crap, I don't like you but you absolutely do not see the abyss you are digging yourself into. Please, for your own sake stop" awful.

Tom Owens represented himself.  I don't know whether this is because the three of them (him, Wayne Witter, and Joe Newton) between them couldn't pay a lawyer, or because no lawyer they approached with this would go for it, or they didn't think they needed one. Any of these are plausible but the latter seems likely.  Because, as I was explaining to someone who was present at the hearing and who asked the very reasonable question, "what were they thinking?"....These are the same people who took out the TPO in the first place. Any attempt to parse their behavior and choices or try to make them fit into some kind of logical sense should refer back to that point.  In related news, the answer to the question, "Who thinks it's a good idea to take out a restraining order against a reporter for asking them questions?" is:  These guys.

Tom Owens in particular is a stupid man. I mean genuinely stupid. I don't generally mock people for their lack of intellectual skills. As someone who was labeled "gifted" as a child, I've always felt that making fun of people for lacking those qualities with which I have been unusually blessed is unseemly, as well as mean-spirited. But, having chosen to represent himself, Mr. Owens not only did not grasp the concept of questioning a witness, he was unable to follow the judge's very clear and simple directions.  He called three witnesses and in each case the judge had to take over questioning for him in order for the hearing to proceed. I actually appreciate the amount of patience and forbearance that Judge Cynthia Becker displayed.  No one reasonable can say that Mr. Owens was not treated fairly, and given every possible opportunity to not screw up. 

The centerpiece of the evidence he brought was a video which purported to show George behaving in a "threatening, out of control" (Mr. Owens' words) manner.  What it actually showed, among other things including George explaining why it's important for a reporter to ask questions, was Joe Newton getting up in George's face and yelling various insults at him, while George responded with admirable restraint, if a bit of snark:  "I know you! You're Joe Newton! Goodness gracious me, you're worse than he is. You are a genuinely terrible human being."  This is the sum and total of the meanest thing George did. Truly, a dangerous man.

Tom Owens' compatriots, Wayne Witter and Joe Newton, as well as Mr. Owens himself, then proceeded to take the stand and testify in ways that contradicted both themselves, each other, and the video.  Which they  had brought, and presumably watched. Evidently none of them had thought to make sure what they said matched their big piece of evidence, or else were actually unable to do so. It was a festival of incompetence.

In the ongoing circus of the last week and a half, I kept hearing that many people have found Tom Owens unpleasant to deal with, and some were genuinely afraid of him.  I confess that I have been concerned about George's safety, since "I was in fear for my life" with no corroborating evidence has been known to be accepted as a murder defense. I wish all of those people had been in the court room yesterday.  It was like the moment when Toto pulls the curtain back to reveal the Wizard of Oz huffing and frantically pulling at levers, or the moment in Hook when Wendy says, "He's just a mean old man without a Mommy."

I think Tom Owens and his friends are malicious.  They have the will to do harm. What they lack is the ability to carry out any plan for harm that is at all complex in a way that doesn't hurt their own cause in the process. This is a kind of blessing...on them, though they may not appreciate it. Certainly on the rest of us.

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