Few things piss me off more in the world than the abuse and neglect of animals, children and the elderly. It says a great deal about a society how these relatively defenseless beings are protected and watched out for by their fellow citizens. It was with great revulsion, therefore, that I read about a 74 year old woman who resides near me that was jailed over a $ 200.00 sewage bill on her property. The Washington Observer Reporter article about the incident explains how Darlene Pennline, the very definition of a penniless widow, was taken from a distict justice's offices in handcuffs and put in the Washington County jail overnight.
A brief of the case is pretty straightforward. Ms. Pennline and her neighbors have disputed and opposed a change in her town's sewage system that resulted in a quarterly $ 45.00 assessment (i.e. tax) on their properties. After not paying the tax, Ms. Pennline found out the hard way that this assessment, because it was based on the sewage system and therefore a building code issue, resulted in her being dragged in front of a local magistrate. (Side note- for those of you that have followed this blog for some time you know that I hope a special place in hell is reserved for these idiots that are essentially political hacks dressed in judge's garb.) The magistrate, instead of allowing Ms. Pennline time to appeal the sentence or collect the necessary funds, was hauled off to the county Big House.
There are a couple of points to make about this incident. For one, when you read the article you can see that Ms. Pennline's $ 200.00 assessment has magically mushroomed into more that $ 1,300 in fines, fees and "court costs." This once again exposes the magistrate system for what it is- the organized extortion of Pennsylvania's citizenry at the barrel of a gun. That extra $ 1,100 is the money that supports the bloated bureaucracy of the state and pays the magistrate's wages. It is essentially one giant feedback loop that preys upon the weak and defenseless and is built to assure a speedy guilty plea and cash on the barrelhead.
Second, if this is how we treat our elderly citizens, God help us all. Ms. Pennline, again a 74 year old woman, was handcuffed and taken to jail without her medicines. Why was she made to suffer the intense humiliation of being handcuffed ? This is an elderly woman that probably tried to do the right thing her entire life, is scraping by day to day and is now treated like a common criminal. Were the constables (another class of unprofessional mercenaries living off the public dole) afraid she was going to beat their asses ? Or was it because it was just standard operating procedure. Yes, standard procedure which requires unthinking bureaucrats to fulfill their duties for the machine to grind along. How very German. And what happened to this woman in jail ? Was she forced to undergo the "standard procedures" that all prisoners need to endure ? I can only hope that some jailer had the decency and common sense to make this poor woman's stay as painless as possible.
Finally, what really upsets me is that this is Western Pennyslvania. Home of the Whisky Rebellion, of generations of frontiersmen and women that scorned the power of the state and took matters into their own hands. Where is the outcry over this case ? If this had happened 200 or even 100 years ago, I can guarantee that Ms. Pennline's fellow citizens would not be rolling over in pre-Christmas shopping induced apathy. They would have marched on the damn jail and demanded her release.
The liberal application of tar and feathers may sound like a lot of fun but would be frowned on in this day and age. Helping Ms. Pennline with her legal fees, however, is a great way to show some Christmas mercy while simultaneously showing these fascist bastards that all power resides in the people. Ms. Pennline's attorney can be reached at-
Matthew Keranko, Esq.
30 South Main Street Suite 102
Washington, PA 15301 Phone: (724) 225-6780
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