In 1980, William Spengler grabbed a hammer and smashed his 92 year old grandmother's head in.
Rose Spengler was found at the bottom of her basement stairs.
William Spengler was convicted of first-degree murder.
He was sentenced to 8 1/3 to 25 years in prison.
Despite Spengler being unremorseful, even telling a parole board that his appearance at a hearing was "a waste of time", Spengler was released in 1998, after just 17 years.
Only 17 years for a vicious crime against a 92 year old woman.
A woman, who as one parole board hearing officer described, had 'not much left' of her head, which medical reports said was struck by the hammer as many as 13 times.
On Christmas Eve, 2012, William Spengler armed himself on top of a berm, on the shores of Lake Ontario, across from the Lake Rd. home where he killed his grandmother.
Spengler then ambushed West Webster, NY firefighters Tomasz Kaczowka, Mike Chiapperini, Joseph Hofstetter and Theodore Scardino as they responded to a call for a fire.
A fire which Spengler had intentionally set.
Tomasz Kaczowka and Mike Chiapperini died at the scene.
Hofstetter and Scardino suffered serious injuries.
A very sensitive issue.
One which many people would rather not discuss or even go near.
I'm not one of those persons.
Those who know me and follow my work as an activist and writer, know that I ask the questions which many don't ask, and which many more don't want to address.
If William Spengler had been Black or Latino, would he have served only 17 years for viciously beating his grandmother to death with a hammer?
I think not.
In fact I would bet that not only would he have served the full 25 years in prison, but most importantly, I believe if William Spengler had been a Black or Latino man, he would have been charged with murder.
Not manslaughter, like Spengler was.
Despite all those who refuse to admit that race absolutely plays a part in how defendants are dealt with in the criminal justice system, from defendants to inmates, it does.
In a 2005 report by the Sentencing Project, a non-profit organization engaged in research and advocacy on criminal justice policy issues, a study into the disparities in the way that Blacks and Latinos are treated by the criminal justice system, when compared to whites, found the following:
• There is evidence of direct racial discrimination (against minority defendants in sentencing outcomes);
• Evidence of direct discrimination at the federal level is more prominent than at the state level;
• Blacks are more likely to be disadvantaged in terms of sentence length at the federal level, whereas Latinos are more likely to be disadvantaged in terms of the decision to incarcerate;
• At the state level, both Latinos and blacks are far more likely to be disadvantaged in the decision to incarcerate or not, as opposed to the decision regarding sentence length.
• Young black and Latino males tend to be sentenced more severely than comparably situated white males;
• Unemployed black males tend to be sentenced more severely than comparably situated white males.
• Blacks pay a higher “trial penalty” than comparably situated whites;
• Whites receive a larger reduction in sentence time than blacks and Latinos for
providing “substantial assistance” to the prosecution;
• Blacks and Latinos with a more serious criminal record tend to be sentenced more
severely than comparably situated whites;
• Blacks are more likely to be jailed pending trial, and therefore tend to receive
• Whites are more likely to hire a private attorney than Latinos or blacks, and therefore receive a less severe sentence.
• Black defendants who victimize whites tend to receive more severe sentences than both blacks who victimize other blacks (especially acquaintances), and whites who victimize whites.
• Latinos and blacks tend to be sentenced more harshly than whites for lower-level crimes such as drug crimes and property crimes;
• However, Latinos and blacks convicted of high-level drug offenses also tend to be more harshly sentenced than similarly situated whites.
And if you have any doubt whatsoever just how much race matters... consider this:
Dawn Nguyen, the Greece, NY woman who was arrested and charged in connection with purchasing the firearms for William Spengler, including the Bushmaster AR-15 Spengler used in the Christmas Eve ambush, was released WITHOUT HAVING TO POST ANY BAIL.
How can a woman charged with providing firearms to a convicted felon who in turn shot four firefighters and killed two, walk out of court without any bail, less than a half hour after being arraigned?
She's NOT Black or Latina.
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