A blogger from California who helped police link a suspect to a viral video of a downtown Baltimore beating says he thinks the story got out of hand and the suspect shouldn't do prison time.
"I actually take no pleasure in his arrest," Mandich said. "... I genuinly feel some empathy for his situation and I certainly hope he learns from this. He doesn't seem to be 'beyond help.'"
Anthony Mandich told The Sun two weeks ago that he had been outraged by the video and watched one night as users of the popular 4chan message board worked for hours one night to pinpoint Parsons' as a suspect. On Mandich's personal blog, he then posted some of the images, along with a rant about his frustration over what he saw. The site, which he said gets a couple hundred hits on a good day, received tens of thousands as the video spread.
When police did make an arrest, chief spokesman Anthony Guglielmi singled out Mandich by name for helping provide information.
"I think the fact that people from as far away as California chimed in to help out the Baltimore Police Department underscores how heinous this attack was, on a truly unsuspecting victim," Guglielmi said.
It was an example of how the Internet, where shock videos thrive, could also be used for some good. But racial rhetoric ratcheted up - the attackers were black, and the victim white - prompting Police Commissioner Frederick H. Bealefeld III to urge against "fear-mongering," while Parsons began receiving death threats, according to his attorney.
Mandich said his initial outrage gave way to a more measured look at the crime and the circumstances around it. He thinks Parsons, who was being held on $500,000 bail after a hearing Monday, shouldn't do prison time but instead receive a punishment of community service.
"People calling for life in prison and all that type of punishment are way out of control," Mandich wrote to me. "I feel kinda bad for Parsons in a way .. dead mother, raised by a sibling, graduated from parochial school (as did I)."
Here's Mandich's full email to me:
I actually take no pleasure in his arrest. The thing is, I don't really think it was a hate crime. Aaron Parsons is a young man who by all accounts has been a good kid for the most part and honestly the more times I have seen the video it has really lost its initial shock value.
People calling for life in prison and all that type of punishment are way out of control. I feel kinda bad for Parsons in a way...dead mother, raised by a sibling, graduated from parochial school (as did I).
He is just in WAY over his head on this one and I am sure he is feeling a bit overwhelmed at the moment. I genuinely feel some empathy for his situation and I certainly hope he learns from this. He doesn't seem to be "beyond help" and I would be in favor of a sentence without a prison term but heavy in community service of a meaningful nature such as public service announcements in support of racial tolerance etc.
Regardless of what happens, I hope he comes out of this chapter of his life a better, more evolved human being, and I wish him the best.