Let me be clear; Antwuan Ball, the man at the center of this controversial judge sentencing decision featured in countless articles today, including this one from ABC News, is no angel to be sure. But the devil here is not either.
I was so touched by Antwuan, and later on his wife after I met her, and his and their life journey to get life back on a forward track, that I told his story in some detail in my Inc. Magazine/CEO READ bestselling business book LOVE LEADERSHIP: The New Way to Lead in a Fear-Based World (Jossey-Bass). In other words, I have personal experience with this man, and initially it wasn't of the most positive kind. Furthermore, I am the first one to say "if you are going to do the crime, you must do the time." But redemption and transformation (and empowerment) is ultimately what I am after. Antwuan, the man I met in the Anacostia area of Washington, D.C. several years ago, was a man in my opinion on that particular road called recovery, and I applauded it. I did then, and I do now.
Let me begin by stating the obvious; I do not know the facts of the case, and I am also sure that Mr. Ball did at least "some" of what he has been accused of. The area he grew up in, and the culture he grew up with, almost assured that his record would be stained with what I call "the thug culture," present in many of America's toughest inner-cities. That said, the man I met was clearly focused on straightening up his act and turning his life around. That should not only "count for something," but isn't that what we want from individuals who have made mistakes in our society? Don't we want them to get off of the wrong path, and find a new right one? I felt so strongly about Antwuan Ball and my experience with him that I would have gladly volunteered to give testimony at his trial. I encourage everyone, including the assigned judge and prosecutors, to read what I have to say about Mr. Ball, and what I said about my experience with him, in the pages of Love Leadership. I did not write these words lightly, nor in anyway unaware of how one-day I might be called to re-affirm them. I did, and I do.
In closing, I think what frustrates me most about this case, and cases like it, is how the judicial system appears to simply override the wishes of an empowered Jury. A jury I might add, made up of well intentioned, sober minded American citizens, and not advocates for Mr. Antwuan Ball. We cannot simply side-step the law because we find its conclusion inconvenient to us. if we are to do this, what is the meaning of "the Law of the Land" to begin with? Who is anyone, and respectfully this judge and prosecutor included, to say "I know better than you what is right and wrong?" The man was given judgement by a jury of his and our peers, and that should have been the end of it.
We must be careful how we play God. It is a dangerous sport, and a slippery slope.
Onward with HOPE
John Hope Bryant