"I deeply regret the attention and distraction my personal situation has caused,'' the mayor said in a prepared statement.
Back in December of 2004, Jean Eaton, the mayor of Albert Lea was busted for theft. She has a thing for clothes, so she would go to Marshall Field's stores (3 different ones) and buy stuff. Then when she got home, she'd put the price tags on old stuff, and return that old stuff to the stores. When the police came to her house, there was ample evidence to arrest her and refer the case to prosecutors.
From the beginning, she contested the evidence, the legality of the search of her home, and her lawyer began to lay the groundwork for the public relations game she would play:
"Mayor Eaton has dedicated her life to improving her community," (Faison) Sessoms said. "The allegations and rumors have tarnished her stellar reputation. She is innocent of these charges, and she looks forward to being vindicated in court."When Eaton got to court herself, the indignation machine was already cranked up:
"I'm standing up because it's my right," Eaton said Monday after her first court appearance. "A good leader doesn't back down. I have a right to stand up for what my rights are. In that way, I'm acting as a role model. I'm not guilty. We just have to prove that out."No, you're standing up because you are accused of felony theft, you hack. And while we're at it, it's a bit early to claim role model status. Back at city hall, Eaton had nothing to say about the whole thing, preferring to pretend it wasn't happening, and in no way abdicating the throne:
"I am extremely disgusted with the fact that you haven't talked to any of your councilors about this item," (Jeff) Fjelstad said. "We're fending off people asking about you and we're trying to defend you, and we don't know what's going on. It's very hard to defend you." When Eaton asked for public comments, resident James Brossard asked her if she was guilty. "If you are, you should step down," he said. Eaton did not respond to Brossard's remarks.
Well, the whip came down the other day. Eaton side-stepped the approaching storm, and ducked into what's called a diversionary program, which is primarily a counseling program, typically offered to first-time offenders. If she completes the program, the felony charges will be dismissed.
From the beginning, it seems the prosecution has been fair, and Eaton's wiggling into the inevitable outcome-avoiding program is no reason to hate her further. She's playing within the system that's been established, and prison should be reserved for those who pose an actual physical threat to the public. The reason to really despise Eaton is for her self-preservation at all costs conduct at every step of this process. What she did was deliberate and calculated. There was a conscious and systematic method to her crimes, as opposed to simply forgetting to return a library book.
She griped about the search warrant, which was never leagally challenged. She called herself a role model, although that's not for her to decide. She complained about the trauma and stress of the ordeal, although she brought it on herself. She claimed innocence to the end, then opted for the diversion program which is a de facto guilty plea. After all, who enters this kind of program who is not seeking to get out of something? If she completes the program, she will be able to, in a stricly legal context, deny the crime ever existed.
As mayor, I wonder if Eaton gets to appoint a police chief. She's certainly the one who courts business and investment for her city. Eaton is also the public face of all the citizens of Albert Lea. How'd you like her representing you?
Eaton's use of blame-deflecting doublespeak and legal tap-dancing adds another link to a growing chain: No one accepts or understands the life-balancing benefits of shame. Eaton is a coward and a fraud who continues to hide from the public on this matter, yet still pretends she has the city's best interests in mind by refusing to resign. Not once has she expressed anything that even suggests she's personally sorry, ashamed, or humbled. For that reason alone she is wholly unfit to be mayor of Albert Lea or anyplace else. If she can serve as a mayor of a legitimate city, who can not?
I can't wait to see her campaign literature come 2006.