Disclaimer: Today’s post is peppered with my opinion. It’s my personal account of what I believe to be Gale Vantrease’s statement to the Parole Board. It’s my perception.
Gail Vantrease began by spending several minutes trying to discount a few of the things I said in the Victim Impact Statement. It was a bad tactic on her part, for sure (as you see, I’m already invoking my opinion). For example, she tells the Parole Board that her son was never involved in a fight while in Ocean City, MD. (which I asserted), but offers nothing more on the other fights he was in. Wow! Really? He was in fights… just not that one. Fine, she can believe what she wants (and I will do likewise), but thank you very much for that. Thank you, indeed.
Then Gale Vantrease spoke of this website, ryansrally.org, only giving one-side of the story. There’s another side? She makes the statement, “we can’t compete, nor do we want to”. She is both correct and incorrect. Yes, they can’t compete. No, they do (or did) want to. Do any of you remember the ill-conceived and poorly-executed website and Facebook Fan page? It was (or perhaps still is) titled “The Truth About Austin Vantrease”. These social sites crashed and burned in a matter of weeks after the public went on these and began commenting. People were outraged! The sites went from a public format to an invite-only quite quickly, thereby losing all relevance and significance. Funny, violent felons just don’t get the support the family thought.
Let’s not stop there. I already have plenty showing that the Vantrease family (and family of others) is visiting this website. Gale Vantrease confirmed it, saying every time they try to give their point of view through commenting that I call them out (e.g., providing the IP address and e-mail of the commenter). Yep, I thought, I certainly do that. What’s the point? It seemed pointless as she went on to say that the website’s readers unfairly rip their comments to shreds. Apparently, some must have felt this website’s disclaimer doesn’t apply to them. If you haven’t, take a bit to read it. I tried to make the otherwise boring legal mumbo-jumbo more entertaining.
Hey, if they want to give their “side of the story” then they should see if any media is interested or start their own website. Stop using my success and get the hell off my coattails. Oh. Wait. They already tried that. But how dare they use our highly-popular website as their platform! Truth is, their participation sky-rockets readership and I love it when this happens. But I’m steadfast in there being no way I’ll let them springboard off of this fan and support base.
Really, why is Gale Vantrease bringing this up in her son’s parole hearing anyhow. Again… wrong platform. I guess the best way to summarize her presentation, to this point, had a lot to do with the restraining order motion they filed against this website a few months back. A federal judge already dismissed the attempt to put a gag order on this website. It didn’t work then, and I believe it didn’t work now. I chalk it up as being a poor loser.
Then she turns on my wife, Sue. Gail Vantrease claims that Ryan’s story has garnered so much media attention because of Sue’s job with a major cable news company. Bull Patties! In fact, it’s EXACTLY the opposite. It makes it much more difficult. Her company has never been a factor in influencing or obtaining media attention. But, I tell you right now, if I could use this… I would. The Washington Post reached out to us, learning of the story from another website follower. The Today Show did the same and actually was competing with Good Morning America for exclusive airing rights. Gail even takes it further by claiming we have the power to influence what stories the Associated Press prints! I can tell you this, I had a good laugh about this with the media after the parole hearing. As one reporter simply stated, “That’s not how it works”. That’s correct… it doesn’t work that way at all. The AP is a news gathering service and follow journalistic ethics. They alone decide, from the existing news stories for the day, what they will put on the wire. In this case I don’t feel Gale Vantrease was deceiving, but I will assert she is ignorant on the process.
Gale Vantrease then tries to manipulate a statement I made, quoting me verbatim but not in complete context, in the May sentencing were I attributed brain injury to Jonathan May. I do believe I said this, that Jonathan May is responsible for the brain stem injury from Ryan hitting the back of his head against a raised grate and it rebounding, injuring the frontal lobes. Hell, I made that claim in my victim impact statement earlier in the parole hearing. She leaves out what I said just a few minutes before. That Austin is accountable for the balance of the damage; in the temporal lobes, occipital lobes, parietal lobes, cerebellum, and so on. Her argument is faulty because her logic is. It’s incomplete. Jonathan May’s results do not prevent or lessen Austin Vantrease’s. They both caused permanent damage. I suppose, by her way of thinking, if I come upon a person who is bleeding from another’s actions then I am okay to slit their neck because the bleeding was already happening.
It was at this point when my daughter, Kari, leaned into my ear and whispered, “She’s lying about everything.” I nodded and squeezed her hand.
We are well into her statement to the Parole Board and she has yet to speak to Austin’s release! She seemingly is more than put off by this website, its readers, media attention, and me. She is using her own son’s parole hearing to get these off her chest. I wonder to myself what she thinks her purpose is for being here today? So far, I’m confident she’s failing. By all means, carry on!
After all this, Gail Vantrease finally begins to fall in line with the purpose of the hearing. She talks of how Austin has a support system already in place. She says her family members take turns driving, up to 15 hours to visit him over seventy-some weekends, to visit him since he was convicted.
You know what I call a fifteen-hour day? Knocking off a few hours early. Poor baby has to give up some of her weekends to visit her felon son in prison. Boo-frickin’-hoo. It was insulting because she clearly didn’t recognize that we, the Diviney’s, make her periodic fifteen-hour weekends look pathetic. For us, it’s around the clock. Every single day. We make no distinction between a weekday and the weekend. They’re all the same to us. Please! She should pull thirty-six hour shifts. She should go three years without a day off. Like Sue, she should feel the exhaustion of working twelve-hour days and return home to care for her son throughout the night and all weekend. Please!
Then Gale Vantrease speaks to her son’s character. How he is humble. How is is not violent. What? Did I just hear that correctly? I have a son who is in a coma because of his violence that says otherwise. She uses an example of how the guard at the entrance to the North Central Regional Jail (where he spent some time) thinks Austin is a peach of an inmate. I can’t state this as fact, but I’m guessing it’s not any of the guards that have written-up Austin for violations recently.
Then she makes a statement about Ryan. My stomach rolls and tightens. “I feel sorry for Ryan. I’m heartbroken for Ryan,” she said. “He was a beautiful, perfect young man injured at 20 years old. It can’t be any worse than that.” Way to state the obvious! Okay, if she feels sorry for him, why has she done nothing to help him? What is preventing this family from helping him now? Believe me, this is not contingent upon her felon son being released. Gail Vantrease said Austin intends to pay his restitution to Ryan, but can’t do that in prison. Wrong! Do some homework on this before showing ignorance before the Parole Board. He can get a prison job. In fact, he has been advised to do so, but hasn’t even applied. Maybe it only pays $16 – $81 per month (of which up to 40% can go to restitution), but it’s a start. He doesn’t even need to do anything, I’ll see to it that it is taken from him!
She said she hoped something positive could come out of the tragedy, but conflicts between the two families have made that impossible. You know what, having your son beaten into a coma and being threatened outside a courthouse and in parking garages on multiple ocassions by another family can put a damper on that ever happening. Did she have hear fingers in her ears when I spoke of this earlier?
She begins wrapping up. “This will be with Austin the rest of his life and it will be with us.”
Yep. Ryan, too.