[2015/12/21: Comments will no longer be accepted here, the post being too old… though I do not know how to turn off the comment submission tool. If any want to remark on this, do so on the new post: https://agkcrbs.wordpress.com/2015/12/21/20151221-m-stetson-hallam-2/ ]
It’s always harder to assume people’s good intentions once those intentions fall against you. Strangely, the Deseret News just rejected an on-line comment of mine for having transgressed none of their rules, which annoys me enough to finally bring me back to write something here. I may be wrong, or they may be suffering the same addiction to power common to on-line moderators. In an instant, the criticisms of that paper’s narrow administrative views that I once rejected have become more valid to me.
My comment was about my former friend, Stetson Hallam, who became the subject of unjust derision and social cruelty in this state (and even abroad) because of a certain universal mental flaw that affected him a bit worsely than it has affected most of us. The article was several months old: the parole officer, Kent Jones, a gruff-looking man whose brother has raced dogs in Alaska, and who almost seems delighted as he otherwise objectively prolongs the prison terms of violent criminals, had denied Stetson’s early release, refusing to consider him as anything more than a brief series of bad feelings and choices that led him askance of the law — not exactly in violence, but in contemplated violence; in an “attempt” of violence so momentary that its startled victim immediately excused it before later reconsidering its potential gravity (apparently on the advice of her more alarmed acquaintances) and lodging the police report that would radically alter Stetson’s life.
Other comments had focused on his inadequacy for study at BYU — an excellent school, generally well managed and covered with a happy veneer, but still, in its muted fashion, a breeding ground for radicalism in diverging ways. Some commenters had tried to sympathise with Stetson. My remarks were:
Obviously, some here have more insight into the human condition than others. Stetson’s sincerity and good deeds will not be forgotten by his friends over a single disturbed weekend that knocked his troubled but courageous life off track, and that got him thrown into a pit to decay, with both judge and parole officer, having winked at much more deranged people whose crimes left much worse marks, expressing confusion and dismay as to “what was going on inside the brain” of young Stetson, who practically turned himself in after recognising his own stupidity and need for support.
If this intervention was a necessary wake-up call, so be it. But he doesn’t need to rot for the 15 maximum years of his sentence, nor even 5 years. May he rather be back with his aching family next summer — and may this penal experience not have further ruined him, or made him into a real criminal, as it has done for so many thousands of other basically good people, ensnared for a tragic moment by our common enemy.
He didn’t stay, but I remain convinced of one thing: he was easily good enough to get to BYU.
As I said, it was inexplicably denied by the site.
I don’t remember what prompted my search for news on Stetson yesterday… Maybe it was my job application process that I’ll mention later. On Google, I turned up Stetson’s old Vittana account, which I had badgered him to create two springs ago when I first joined (though his chips fell awry before we could get him paid in). I scrolled past a high-school profile; he doubtless had no imaginations of a future in prison at that time. I remember seeing a record of his wedding registry before, a girl he’d once been engaged to marry. They broke it off; I forget exactly how that story went…
He was unable to serve a mission, for reasons disclosed in that article; but his desire to serve persisted, and he became a part-time missionary with a department of the school. I don’t quite remember what he was studying at BYU. Stage design, or something. He was in drama classes, though I never really thought he had the temperament to act — he was far too normal and gentle, not self-absorbed enough.
Was he really gentle? Well, his female victim no more than chomped on his restraining finger, and he instantaneously returned to reality and saw his degraded situation, confessing to the girl who once had been, and who for the moment still was, a friend; then withdrawing from the scene in shame; to run away, to confide in his apartment-mates, to return to face his mistake, to begin to make amends. His frightened alibi of it being a “prank” was more than that: it mirrored the duplicity of his own mind. It showed how that his plan, since its sudden hatching in the gloom of his depression, had always had two outcomes: its purported, harmful, even gruesome outward lash to call attention to his own aloneness and sense of unimportance; and its deeper impossibility, its abortiveness, its “prankishness”, since somewhere beneath his sadness, he could not accept his own capability of such a result as kidnapping, abuse, and self-destruction.
Yes, he was gentle. And so, while another well-publicised Provo victim had her virtue insulted and her face bashed in with a brick, Stetson’s victim walked away with a broken trust and a bruised arm. That was not the doing of a violent or deranged man.
I haven’t seen his victim at school lately; maybe she has graduated and gone on with her life, as he is unable to do.
I don’t know what prison is making of him… I know he can rise above it, if he chooses, but I also wonder if any plant can fully avoid the contaminants of its soil. If the world’s many mockers are content to scorn Stetson (and to call down their own scorn at their own judgment), I wish to heaven that his holy Friend will stand beside him in all hazards. I’m sure any honest person, looking at their own life, or those of their friends, can see how tragic it is for an intelligent young man, suffering moral instability, beginning to make his way in life, to have all his plans and hopes shattered because the depression catches up with him one day.
I was depressed too, once. I have felt rejected and alone before, and I have been frustrated by it. I have imagined ill deeds before, in my times of extremity. Occasional psychopathy, indeed, is the shared lot of most of humanity — and grace alone carries some of us through our storms, and away from our cliffs… while others are left to stumble, and stand again.
Did Stetson fall, or remain standing?
Again, both he and his victim walked away from his crime, when it could have been otherwise. I will say that he was saved from his fall, as I and most of us were. But his mercy comes with a very heavy hand…
His next parole hearing was set for four years later; but five years is too long. He doesn’t need to reach his full adulthood in prison. That’s no way to help society.
I just don’t want him to start feeling at home there. The parole code seems to allow for reconsideration of its decisions at any time. I’m wondering if I can make a request for it…