There's no real justice in Iowa politics

Chicago Tribune

The assault on the people of Iowa by national politicians telling them what they want to hear is now over and done.

The caucuses are finished. Iowans are safe once again.Our presidential candidates now will fly over Iowa on the way to the coasts, perhaps right over the prison where Mike Mette is kept, and look down, and consider giving a speech on "social justice" with much flowing emotion and good hair and not even think once of Mette.

A Chicago cop on the West Side named Brian called me, wondering if the Iowa political talk was real or just made for TV.

"I mean, with all the media and politicians focusing on Iowa, has anyone asked or answered why Michael Mette is still in prison in Iowa for defending himself?" Brian asked.

No, Brian, they didn't ask. The presidential candidates didn't want to hear about the travesty that happened to Mette -- the young former Chicago police officer in prison for the crime of defending himself against a drunk who attacked him.

During the caucuses, with national media crawling through their state, the Iowa establishment ignored Mette. Gov. Chet Culver, a Democrat who no doubt has heard the words "social justice" and perhaps even used the slogan, informed Mette's family there was nothing he could do. He's only the governor.

The presidential candidates of both parties weren't interested in angering the Iowa establishment. The candidates make fine speeches about the common man until he needs their help. Then they ignore him.

Mette's family sought help from President George W. Bush, who commuted the sentence of a convicted Republican perjurer who lied about the outing of a CIA officer. But they have yet to hear from the president.

The Mette family also wrote letters to Illinois politicians, and the captains of clout turned away. Illinois Atty. Gen. Lisa Madigan (D-Daddy will make her governor) and U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-the powerful one) told Mette's family they couldn't get involved.

Meanwhile, the drunk who attacked Mette is fine, an excellent golfer and apparently still partying it up, although the drunk did get a DUI after Mike's hometown conviction in Dubuque.

And Mike? He began serving his sentence in the fall and spent Christmas and New Year's behind bars, sentenced to 5 years for throwing that one punch, according to the sentencing judge's ruling.

Brian the cop also asked if I'd seen the video about Mike Mette on YouTube called "Silent Knight."

The video is full of photographs of Mike and his family, from his childhood and through young adulthood. The music of "Silent Night" runs through it and yes, it's sentimental, and yes, it's tough to watch.

But it also compelled me to call his dad, Bob, for an update.

"We just went to see him over the weekend. Myself, my wife, our daughter, and Mike's girlfriend. We visited Mike in prison," Bob told me Thursday.

He's an investigator with the Cook County state's attorney's office, so he knows a little bit about the criminal justice system.

"Other than being frustrated and bored, he's doing OK," Bob said. "He's working around the grounds. The guards aren't bad to him. He's not being bothered."

What about the appeals?

"We haven't heard anything. We're waiting for a second continuance on Jan. 8, but [Iowa prosecutors] will probably ask for another continuance."

They're going to drag this out as long as they can, I said.

"Probably," Bob Mette said.

Bob mentioned that Mike receives letters from people who've read about his plight and that Mike wouldn't mind getting a few more, if you want to write to him. So here's how you can do it. Bob asked me not to publish the address of the prison -- most of the prisoners don't know his son is a former cop and inmates get newspapers -- but they don't have Internet privileges. So if you wish to write to Mike Mette, you can find his address at

"It would cheer him up to get some more letters," Bob said. "Make sure you fill it out with his inmate number. That's on the Web site. You have to put your name and return address, otherwise [Iowa prison officials] won't deliver it."

And don't send books, magazines or newspapers; Mike can't receive them from casual pen pals.

"He gets a lot of letters and keeps them in a lockbox," Bob said. "He responds, but he only gets so many envelopes a week."

I asked Bob whether he followed the politicians in Iowa, since the presidential candidates insisted they care about the little guy, the taxpayer, the fellow without clout. Mike isn't some Senator's son, and proves it every day, by waking up behind bars.

"No, I don't follow what the politicians say," Bob told me. "I don't expect them to stick their neck out. They're politicians. If they don't have to stick their neck out, they won't. That's politics. They'll tell you what they want you to hear until they get elected, then it's over."

Like Iowa.


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