Scott Tibbs
Hoosier Review, 3-31-2003

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Are partisan motivations the worst of all sins?

The Herald-Times staff editorial of March 14 scolded local residents Bud and Amy Bernitt for calling state police officer J.D. Maxwell when they observed Scott Wells walking and driving in what they believed to be an intoxicated state. Maxwell then called the state police post, which dispatched an officer to deal with the situation. The H-T wrote: "Both our legal or political systems are hurt when people try to use one to bring down the other. The Republican Party should denounce the actions of the Bernitts and make a public commitment against such conduct in the future."

The H-T’s theory is that the Bernitts had political motivations for involving law enforcement when they believed Wells to be driving in an impaired state. Even if this were true, does this make the Bernitts’ actions wrong? No, it does not. The Bernitts made the right choice by involving law enforcement. If Wells was truly intoxicated, he could have killed himself or someone else in that impaired state. The Bernitts may have saved Wells’ life that night. Does the H-T editorial board think it would have been better had the phone call never been made, and Wells had been seriously injured or killed, or had seriously injured or killed someone else?

I urge the Herald-Times editorial staff to visit, a Web site dealing with the story of a bright young lady named Jacqueline Saburido, who was severely disfigured when a drunk driver collided with the car she was riding in. The site contains pictures of what Saburido looked like before the crash and heart-rending pictures of what she looks like now. It is not for weak stomachs or young children. Her Web site details what happened after the crash:

"Within minutes, the car caught fire. Jacqui was pinned in the front seat on the passenger side. She was burned over 60% of her body; no one thought she could survive. But Jacqui lived. Her hands were so badly burned that she no longer can use them. She lost her hair, her ears, her nose, her left eyelid and much of her vision. She has had more than 40 operations since the crash and has many more to go."

If the Bernitts prevented a similar tragedy from happening in Bloomington, the Herald-Times should honor them, not demonize them. Whether or not Wells was truly impaired will be determined at his trial, but the Bernitts clearly believed he was. They took the only action that a responsible citizen could have taken. The H-T may disapprove of their motivations, but the action they took was right. The only mistake the Bernitts made was that they should have called the state police directly instead of calling Maxwell. For the H-T to try to spin this situation into a partisan game and to smear the Bernitts and the Republican Party with the shadow of a political witch-hunt is the worst form of yellow journalism. Lumping so-called "political shenanigans" in with murderer and child molestation, which the H-T did in its March 16 editorial, is utterly despicable.

It is interesting that the H-T has not noticed an article by Steve Higgs at, which stated "One reason (Wells) goes to the Crazy Horse is that local Republicans, including County Council candidate Trent Jones, drink there. Wells says he likes to keep an eye on them and see what he can pick up."

It is important to note that nothing has been proven regarding this case. The trial has not yet begun, and Wells must be assumed to be "innocent until proven guilty." Until the evidence has been presented in a court of law and a jury of Wells’ peers makes a judgment on his guilt or innocence, we should not pass judgment on him in a public arena. By the same token, we should not pass judgment on the Bernitts for doing their duty as citizens.