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Latarski: Indifference to the rules
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Here we go again.

Rep. Tyrone Brooks, longtime stalwart in the Civil Rights movement, has been indicted by the federal government for multiple criminal counts involving misuse of money he collected in support of his nonprofit organizations.

Indictment is, of course, not guilt but when the feds come after you for misappropriating money, you have some serious explaining to do.

Just ask Billie Sol Estes, the professional scoundrel and flim-flam man from Texas who recently passed away. Billie Sol went to jail a couple of times for wheeling and dealing with other folks' money.

Brooks has claimed this is some sort of retaliation for his on-going civil rights work, which is in many ways more disgusting than any perceived crime. The two have nothing to do with each other and Brooks will no doubt shamelessly use race as his trump card in hopes of deflecting any wrongdoing.

This is the lowest kind of defense and is an insult to those cases where real racism shows its ugly face.

If Brooks is found not guilty, then more power to him and then he can rant about some perceived plot against him.

But if he is found guilty of essentially stealing money donated by good people in good faith for good cause then he should be bludgeoned by the law in the fullest measure. His civil rights work, while admirable, is not a lifetime get-out-of-jail free card for criminal conduct.

What Brooks is accused of doing has become epidemic in our society.

Far too often, we see people in leadership roles who somehow come to believe because they have a nice title and a position of responsibility, a position they have become accustomed to holding, the rules no longer apply to them.

And how many times have we seen these people claiming from the top of their lungs throughout the legal process that they have done no wrong only to be proven guilty and end up in jail.

There seems to be a growing myopia as to what is appropriate and what is not when it comes to money someone controls but that does not belong to them.

They believe because they have access to funds, be they donations, grants or even legitimate reimbursements, the money actually belongs to them.

There is an attitude that it is somehow legitimate to use grant money to buy a car for personal use; that you can be reimbursed for travel expense even when they are not justified simply because the company has funds available; that donations to your cause gives you free reign to use those funds to pay for a vacation.

In many cases, these people even delude themselves into believing what they are doing is justified and they have done no wrong.

But these acts are seldom simply oversights or mistakes in bookkeeping or financial management.

At best, this conduct displays an arrogant indifference to the rules and at worse premeditated criminal conduct.

No doubt Brooks will attempt to deflect the attention of his case away from the law and evidence, especially if he knows he is in the wrong. Brooks deserves his day in court and it will be up to the government to prove his misdeeds. He is either guilty or innocent, a thief or not, and the case will lie with the facts.

But do not be deceived or fall victim to some nonsense that this is a plot to thwart an investigation of a horrible act from decades ago or be misdirected by bombast and hyperbole.

Tyrone Brooks has done much good in his day, but that is no excuse to look the other way at possible wrongdoing. He should keep his mouth shut and allow his defense attorneys to do their job.

He will have his day in court and ample opportunity to deflect the government's case if he can. If he cannot, then he should go to jail.

And this is as it should be.

Ric Latarski is a freelance writer who writes on a variety of topics and can be reached at