Jul 29, 2013

Branford Mant Recieves only Ten Years for Crippling Baseball Bat Assault

Credit: Patch File Photo
When  read this Article in The New Haven Register I was angry, but sadly not surprised.

This sad outcome is the result of simply another  inappropriate" Plea deal" where the perpetrator winds up with far less prison time than the law allows and indeed dictates, for the violent crime (s) he committed.

In this case, a terribly brutal assault  has rendered a man handicapped for life.  The victim is and/was at the time of the assault, an former New Haven Police officer.

The man responsible has served two years since the crime occurred and thus this leaves him with 8 more years to serve in theory;

 However, being more than somewhat familiar with this States " Early release programs" and   time off for ' good behavior" the norm often winds up with an inmates released into halfway houses at about the halfway mark of their actual sentences. This time in the halfway house is technically considered part of their prison sentence despite the fact that the inmate is typically free to come and go to work etc while living in these state paid halfway houses..

When one read about the savagery of the attack and the injuries that this assailant inflicted upon this victim, it is a miracle that this victim survived. In fact this easily could have warranted an attempted murder charge considering half of this poor man's skull was missing as a result of this baseball bat beating.

This makes the fact that the assault one charge was ultimately dropped to a lower charge with a lower corresponding sentence - even more infuriating and unacceptable.  The physical emotional and financial cost to the victim and his family have been  monumental.

Adding insult to injury to the victim and his family is the inordinate amount of time that it has taken to adjudicate this case.

The assault occurred over two years ago in 2011.

Its not as if the case went to trial thus necessitating the infamously time consuming States Individual  Voire dire Jury selection process-  -  This case was "Plea Dealed" which means it's simply been dragging on in the court with continuances i.e. requests for more time by the lawyer and/ or prosecutor which occur at so called " hearings" that typically are rescheduled  4 - 8 weeks apart.

Plea deals for those not familiar are where the charges are dropped to less serious charges in exchange for the defendant's guilty plea albeit to charges crimes that are watered down versions of what they actually committed. Ie This assault one which carried a 20 year possible sentence wound up and assault 2 more than likely.  This is standard operating procedure for Connecticut courts with approximately 97 percent of all crimes thus adjudicated.

The original concept of the plea bargain was that the defendant pleads guilty to what he or she has done and only by doing so takes accountability and is rewarded with a somewhat more lenient sentence.

It has been used and abused by lawyers and even prosecutors as an easy way to insure some kind of conviction ( for the prosecutors record) However the cost of this conviction" is the automatic dropping of charges down in severity, such as this case, which is standard protocol in Connecticut courts with some courts much worse than others.

An assault one becomes and assault two as a result of todays plea deals and if there are other charges against the defendant some of them will simply disappear not because the defendant didn't commit the crime but simply for no other reason than its part of " the deal"

The State of Connecticut winds up with a violent criminal that has a record that doesn't reflect the crimes that he has actually committed, thus the danger he poses to the public at large, is watered down. This is essential when police look at his criminal record if and when he re-offends .

This is a cycle that often leads to more victims in the future,  and the whole plea process begins again. Generally speaking a criminal has to commit a felony at least a gaggle of times before he might actually wind up with a felony conviction. And for each of those freebies, there is a victim.  

Such is the Criminal Justice System in the State of Connecticut; A revolving door of administrative deal making.

Jul 28, 2013

Connecticut Crime Victim Privacy Panel Taking Shape

The task force charged with making recommendations to the General Assembly to balance victim privacy under Connecticut's Freedom of Information Act with the public's right to know is taking shape.

Gov. Daniel P. Malloy named two appointees on Friday. They include New Haven police officer Jillian Knox, who is assigned to her department's Victim Services Unit, and Andrew Woods, executive director of Hartford Communities that Care. His organization is a nonprofit group that promotes a nonviolent, drug-free environment.

House Speaker Brendan Sharkey, meanwhile, has appointed Hartford Rep. Angel Arce to the panel. Arce's father, Angel Arce Torres, was struck by a hit-and-run driver in 2008. The 78-year-old was paralyzed and later died.

The 17-member crime victim privacy task force was created in legislation that blocked release of crime scene photos and video evidence from the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, which took the lives of 20 first graders and six educators. The new law, which applies to other cases as well, prevents the release of photographs, film, video and other images depicting a homicide victim if those records "could reasonably be expected to constitute an unwarranted invasion of the personal privacy of the victim or the victim's surviving family members."

The legislation marked an eleventh-hour compromise during the final hours of this year's session. Malloy's office originally worked privately with legislative leaders and the state's top prosecutor to draft a bill that would address the concerns of families who lost relatives at Sandy Hook.

The new law also creates a one-year moratorium on the release of certain portions of audiotape or other recordings in which the condition of a homicide victim is described. The exemption did not include 911 emergency calls, however.

Other members of the task force are expected to include law enforcement personnel, victim advocates, representatives of the Connecticut Society of Professional Journalists, academics, Freedom of Information advocates and others. The group must submit its recommendations to the legislature by Jan. 1.

The Litchfield County Times

Jul 15, 2013

Fifth Annual GE /Petit Family Foundation Road Race Draws Thousands

Photo: Such a great community of volunteers and participants at the GE 5K benefitting #PFF, thanks everyone!
NBC Connecticut is " Partners in a Caring Community" with the Petit Family Foundation and they held the event in Plainville Connecticut for the fifth year in a row.

The Petit Family Foundation started back in 2008, and the participation and enthusiasm for the event just continues to grow.

"I think most people are inherently good, and I think most people want to help others. And this gives people a chance to help," said Dr. William Petit.

After the 2007 murder of his wife, Jennifer, and their two daughters, Hayley and Michaela, Dr. Petit created the Petit Family Foundation to help others in their memory.

"Amazing. Amazing that he's found love and life and has been able to move on. And he's shown us all that we can do something," said runner Amy Brini.

But Dr. Petit says helping others helps him heal.

"He's gone through this, and he has a great attitude about it. And he's also our strength in getting through this also," said Co-director of the GE 5K Road Race Bob Heslin.

Heslin and his brother, both high school friends of Dr. Petit, started the GE 5K Road Race six years ago. So far the even has raised nearly one million dollars.

"We're just very thankful for the support from the local community, from the people of the state of Connecticut, from the region, in fact, from the entire country. In fact, we still get contributions and emails and phone calls throughout the United States, and we're thankful to all the folks who do what because without you, we wouldn't be able to do the good work that we're doing," said Dr. Petit.

And the support continues to grow every year because every year at the finish line runners and spectators know they're helping to make the world a better place.

The Petit Family Foundation helps with the education of young people, particularly women in the sciences, as well as supporting those with chronic illness and protecting those affected by violence.

C/O NBC News Blog

Jul 14, 2013

James Gandolfini, More than an Actor

I  lost a Twitter follower yesterday after tweeting a link to this article:

Still Remembering James Gandolfini

Actually I made two tweets; a quick follow up tweet elaborating a bit (a "tiny bit" to be exact) regarding my personal feelings of loss over actor,/producer, humanitarian James Gandolfini who died last month at age 51.

The trouble with tweeting is that it is very difficult to convey anything of substance using 140 characters or less.

In this case, an article that I'd found about someone else's lingering sense of sadness and loss over Gandolfini's death, was at the core of my message sent out to the world in a bottle/tweet. Once I tweeted the link to the article, naturally I'd used up all of my characters and thus,necessitating the second tweet.

It seems that a great many people are still grieving the loss of James Gandolfini in the way that we typically grieve over someone that we knew,  not simply a great actor, even one that played a so called iconic role.

This particular writer captured so well that her mourning period was far exceeding what our society deems appropriate or necessary, and she dove into those feelings, exploring them; who the man behind the actor was, and what her and so many other people's attraction and affection for the man was all about.

Before reading the article I'd already noted a prolonged and profound en masse sense of loss over Mr Gandolfini, this man that was far more than an actor. For all kinds of reasons, he resonated with a lot of people - mostly"'everyday" people' like me.

If losing this twitter follower wasn't merely a strangely timed coincidence, my best guess is that the follower didn't like the sometimes misogynistic and/ or violent characters that James Gandolfini inhabited so well (such as Tony Soprano and Virgil in True Romance), and thus my pronounced admiration for him, turned them off.

Perhaps, this person like so many other people, were confusing the real man with his work particularly his best known character, Tony Soprano,( albeit reflexively)

Maybe they didn't like that he inhabited the role so well, or at all for that matter. I'll never know and it doesn't really matter.

Unfortunately, Tony Soprano was the larger than life quintessential  role that most people identify and even confuse James Gandolfini with. But there was so much more to this man's body of work as far as an actor, and producer.

The last three are inexorably linked, as Gandolfini produced several projects that were apparently very close to his heart, and  each one was unbelievably well done, eye opening and heart wrenching.

In the years following the Sopranos he seemed to relax and become more of who he really was or wanted to be, He churned out two documentaries about United States War Veterans One centered on Vets from Iraq and Afghanistan,telling their poignant very real stories  life and death experiences
that ended with more struggle upon their return home acclimating to civilian life after living through hellish ordeals that left many of them with severe life changing injuries, such as lost limbs,  Traumatic Brain Injury and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, to nam a few.

Your second documentary focused upon PTSD and veterans of war all the way from WW2 through Korean War Vietnam Desert storm and present day Iraq and Afghanistan.

PTSD  is a  condition that many victims of crime experience and it was much less understood until the IRAQ war, although the military and our government have a long way to go.

It is a serious physical and psychological disorder that is still not given the attention and investment that is necessary by the Government or our Military.

It is  a veritable epidemic with American Vets returning frm Iraq and Afghanistan.

PTSD causes emotional and physical pain and suffering that can lead to addictions, homelessness and suicide if it is not treated vigorously and with compassion and care. The Vietnam war produced the largest amount of veterans suffering from PTSD.

Sadly at that time so much less was understood about what was formerly called "soldiers disease" this resulted in most Vietnam Vets receiving little to no treatment for some of the most severe Post Trauma experienced in any American war. The nature of the jungle warfare, Vietcong tactics of booby traps

Gandofini's other documentary centered around interviews with veterans from world war two to Vietnam and Korea through present day Iraq and Afghanistan. He was merely an observer or interviewer at times in the docu-dramas seemingly taking care to keep the attention on the soldiers not himself.

I read that Gandolfini's father, an Italian immigrant served in world war two and won a purple heart while in action. Perhaps this was part of his motivation for these projects, however it was his compassion, admiration and respect for these young soldiers and their experiences that seemed to propel him..

Jim Gandolfini played a succession of flawed characters, and clearly brought his own flaws into the fray. And despite his increasing fame largely brought about by the iconic Soprano role, this man retained a genuine humility about himself that was yet another thing that made you want to know him, or somebody just like him.

Its clear that this was a very special man; He was kind, compassionate, intelligent and inquisitive  about people,  everyday people. oo many people are quick to talk about his "demons" and/ or excesses; translated, he was human. He had his own inner broken-ness and we sensed it, it fact it was that quality that infused many of his characters and  was evident in almost every role he chose, and even his choice of  good works.

In conclusion I would like to say thank you James Gandolfini;

Thank you for making me care about a mobster who was elated by a family of ducks that came to live and breed near his swimming pool in New Jersey. .Thank you for reminding me the inherent dangers of  caring about such a man.

Thank you for breaking out of the tough guy roles you were seemingly made for and typecast as on the first leg of your acting career.

Thank you especially for undertaking such difficult but important work sharing our American Veterans experiences with the masses, Thank you for bringing attention to PTSD, Wounded warriors and doing so with such reverence and respect for these heroes; Like all survivor's their struggle, pain and resilience is a lesson to all of us.

Thank you for your humility your intelligence your humor and even your sadness that was ever present in your doleful eyes; It made us feel that we are not alone with our own.

Below is a copy of David Chase's Eulogy to James Gandolfini which he read at his service at St Johns Cathedral in  Manhatten NYC. It is beautiful and it is perfect and it made me realize that my instinctual feelings about this man were spot on.

Dear Jimmy,
Your family asked me to speak at your service, and I am so honored and touched. I'm also really scared, and I say that because you of all people will understand this. I'd like to run away and call in four days from now from the beauty parlor. I want to do a good job, because I love you, and because you always did a good job.

I think the deal is I'm supposed to speak about the actor/artist's work part of your life. Others will have spoken beautifully and magnificently about the other beautiful and magnificent parts of you: father, brother, friend. I guess what I was told is I'm also supposed to speak for your castmates whom you loved, for your crew that you loved so much, for the people at HBO, and Journey. I hope I can speak for all of them today and for you.

I asked around, and experts told me to start with a joke and a funny anecdote. "Ha ha ha." But as you yourself so often said, I'm not feelin' it. I'm too sad and full of despair. I'm writing to you partly because I would like to have had your advice. Because I remember how you did speeches. I saw you do a lot of them at awards shows and stuff, and invariably you would scratch two or three thoughts on a sheet of paper and put it in your pocket, and then not really refer to it. And consequently, a lot of your speeches didn't make sense. I think that could happen in here, except in your case, it didn't matter that it didn't make sense, because the feeling was real. The feeling was real. The feeling was real. I can't say that enough.

I tried to write a traditional eulogy, but it came out like bad TV. So I'm writing you this letter, and now I'm reading that letter in front of you. But it is being done to and for an audience, so I'll give the funny opening a try. I hope that it's funny; it is to me and it is to you.

And that is, one day toward the end of the show — maybe season 4 or season 5 — we were on the set shooting a scene with Stevie Van Zandt, and I think the set-up was that Tony had received news of the death of someone, and it was inconvenient for him. And it said, "Tony opens the refrigerator door, closes it and he starts to speak." And the cameras rolled, and you opened the refrigerator door, and you slammed it really hard — you slammed it hard enough that it came open again. And so then you slammed it again, then it came open again. You kept slamming it and slamming it and slamming it and slamming it and went apeshit on that refrigerator.

And the funny part for me is I remember Steven Van Zandt — because the cameras are going, we have to play this whole scene with a refrigerator door opening — I remember Steven Van Zandt standing there with his lip out, trying to figure out, "Well, what should I do? First, as Silvio, because he just ruined my refrigerator. And also as Steven the actor, because we're now going to play a scene with the refrigerator door open; people don't do that." And I remember him going over there and trying to tinker with the door and fix it, and it didn't work. And so we finally had to call cut, and we had to fix the refrigerator door, and it never really worked, because the gaffer tape showed on the refrigerator, and it was a problem all day long. And I remember you saying, "Ah, this role, this role, the places it takes me to, the things I have to do, it's so dark." And I remember telling you, "Did I tell you to destroy the refrigerator? Did it say anywhere in the script, 'Tony destroys a refrigerator'? It says 'Tony angrily shuts the refrigerator door.' That's what it says. You destroyed the fridge."

Another memory of you that comes to mind is from very early on — might have been the pilot, I don't know. We were shooting in that really hot and humid summer New Jersey heat. And I looked over, and you were sitting in an aluminum beach chair, with your slacks rolled up to your knees, in black socks and black shoes, and a wet handkerchief on your head. And I remember looking over there and going, "Well, that's really not a cool look." But I was filled with love, and I knew then that I was in the right place. I said, "Wow, I haven't seen that done since my father used to do it, and my Italian uncles use to do it, and my Italian grandfather used to do it." And they were laborers in the same hot sun in New Jersey. They were stone masons, and your father worked with concrete. I don't know what it is with Italians and cement. And I was so proud of our heritage — it made me so proud of our heritage to see you do that.

When I said before that you were my brother, this has a lot to do with that: Italian-American, Italian worker, builder, that Jersey thing — whatever that means — the same social class. I really feel that, though I'm older than you, and always felt, that we are brothers. And it was really based on that day. I was filled with so much love for everything we were doing and about to embark on.

I also feel you're my brother in that we have different tastes, but there are things we both love, which was family, work, people in all their imperfection, food, alcohol, talking, rage, and a desire to bring the whole structure crashing down. We amused each other.

The image of my uncles and father reminded me of something that happened between us one time. Because these guys were such men — your father and these men from Italy. And you were going through a crisis of faith about yourself and acting, a lot of things, were very upset. I went to meet you on the banks of the Hudson River, and you told me, you said, "You know what I want to be? I want to be a man. That's all. I want to be a man." Now, this is so odd, because you are such a man. You're a man in many ways many males, including myself, wish they could be a man.

The paradox about you as a man is that I always felt personally, that with you, I was seeing a young boy. A boy about Michael's age right now. 'Cause you were very boyish. And about the age when humankind, and life on the planet are really opening up and putting on a show, really revealing themselves in all their beautiful and horrible glory. And I saw you as a boy — as a sad boy, amazed and confused and loving and amazed by all that. And that was all in your eyes. And that was why, I think, you were a great actor: because of that boy who was inside. He was a child reacting. Of course you were intelligent, but it was a child reacting, and your reactions were often childish. And by that, I mean they were pre-school, they were pre-manners, they were pre-intellect. They were just simple emotions, straight and pure. And I think your talent is that you can take in the immensity of humankind and the universe, and shine it out to the rest of us like a huge bright light. And I believe that only a pure soul, like a child, can do that really well. And that was you.

Now to talk about a third guy between us, there was you and me and this third guy. People always say, "Tony Soprano. Why did we love him so much when he was such a prick?" And my theory was, they saw the little boy. They felt and they loved the little boy, and they sensed his love and hurt. And you brought all of that to it. You were a good boy. Your work with the
Wounded Warriors was just one example of this. And I'm going to say something because I know that you'd want me to say it in public: that no one should forget Tony Sirico's efforts with you in this. He was there with you all the way, and in fact you said to me just recently, "It's more Tony than me." And I know you, and I know you would want me to turn the spotlight on him, or you wouldn't be satisfied. So I've done that.

So Tony Soprano never changed, people say. He got darker. I don't know how they can misunderstand that. He tried and he tried and he tried. And you tried and you tried, more than most of us, and harder than most of us, and sometimes you tried too hard. That refrigerator is one example. Sometimes, your efforts were at cost to you and others, but you tried. And I'm thinking about the fact of how nice you were to strangers on the street, fans, photographers. You would be patient, loving and personal, and then finally you would just do too much, and then you would snap. And that's of course what everybody read about, was the snapping.

I was asked to talk about the work part, and so I'll talk about the show we used to do and how we used to do it. You know, everybody knows that we always ended an episode with a song. That was kind of like me and the writers letting the real geniuses do the heavy lifting: Bruce, and Mick and Keith, and Howling Wolf and a bunch of them. So if this was an episode, it would end with a song. And the song, as far as I'm concerned, would be Joan Osborne's "(What If God Was) One Of Us?" And the set-up for this — we never did this, and you never even heard this — is that Tony was somehow lost in the Meadowlands. He didn't have his car, and his wallet, and his car keys. I forget how he got there — there was some kind of a scrape — but he had nothing in his pocket but some change. He didn't have his guys with him, he didn't have his gun. And so mob boss Tony Soprano had to be one of the working stiffs, getting in line for the bus. And the way we were going to film it, he was going to get on the bus, and the lyric that would've one over that would've been — and we don't have Joan Osborne to sing it:

    If God had a face
    what would it look like?
    And would you want to see
    if seeing meant you had to believe?
    And yeah, yeah, God is great.
    Yeah, yeah, God is good.
    Yeah, yeah, yeah.

So Tony would get on the bus, and he would sit there, and the bus would pull out in this big billow of diesel smoke. And then the key lyric would come on, and it was

    What if God was one of us?
    Just a slob like one of us?
    Just a stranger on the bus
    trying to make his way home.

And that would've been playing over your face, Jimmy. But then — and this is where it gets kind of strange — now I would have to update, because of the events of the last week. And I would let the song play further, and the lyrics would be

    Just trying to make his way home
    Like a holy rollin' stone
    Back up to Heaven all alone
    Nobody callin' on the phone
    'Cept for the Pope, maybe, in Rome.


Read more at http://www.hitfix.com/whats-alan-watching/james-gandolfini-eulogized-by-sopranos-creator-david-chase-and-friends-and-family#tQDkxVyXpIeXze1d.99

Gandolfini's Eulogy

Jul 12, 2013

Remains of missing Boy found: Half brother arrested as suspect

Missing autistic boy: Terry Dewayne Smith Jr., 11
This is extremely sad news. After days and days of extensive searching Terry Dwayne Smith's remains have been found on his own property in a shallow grave.

When I first read about the circumstances surrounding this little boys disappearance I immediately feared and suspected foul play by a family member.

When I viewed a clip of the boys mother blithely saying to television cameras that he was" probably wandering around somewhere" in the area right at that moment, this within the first days following his initial disappearance, my inner antenna flew right up.

My suspicions were already alighted by the simple fact that the elder half brother claimed the boy had watched video games and then went to sleep, only to "disappear" sometime thereafter.

After hearing and watching the mother of this beautiful boy who at best scenario could be dead from heat exposure and dehydration, her reaction was not proportionate to the circumstances and indeed I seriously considered her as a suspect due to that media snap.

While her elder son has been arrested for  murder caused by blunt force trauma to the head, I have a gut feeling that perhaps the boys mother suspected that this 16 year old half brother, the last person to see the boy alive, might have hurt the boy and perhaps killed him.

Now we are being told from the boys father that he was not Autistic, this begs a few new questions such as did mom claim the autism to lend credence to the notion that her missing son was more likely to have wandered off than a child who did not have a brain disorder.  O the other hand the natural father could be like many fathers - and less often mothers= in denial that there was something " wrong" with his son.

 I have personally borne witness to this sad type of denial  by parents over the years, even with children who have something as simple as epilepsy, whereupon the( often male) parent refuses to accept their childs condition, sometimes refusing to speak the condition aloud even becoming angry at other family members who have accepted that either a newborn or an older child has what they deem an abnormality.

This is not exclusive to uneducated or working class parents either, I have seen fathers from middle class to highly educated upper middle class backgrounds react in this denial -based angry fashion regarding what they perceive as either a possible  "weakness" in their genes which is ridiculous and/ or anything "different" or "wrong" with their child.

As of this moment al of this is speculative, I would like to think that police did not merely accept the mothers word that this then missing child was autistic and would have confirmed this somehow by speaking to his mental health professionals and teachers etc., but at this point we don't have that information.

The father's claim that sometimes the boy could push your buttons" after he left here - but he was just being a kid" leads me to wonder if the child might have suffered from attention deficit  or any number of other conditions that are much more commonplace than most people are aware of. In addition the " after he left here" also leads me to wonder if the half brother was abusing him and this child began acting out as a direct result of that.

The father who had past involvement with the teenage suspect his ex step son, had lived with terry alone for a tine after the parents separated.

The statement regarding pushing buttons was a loaded one in more than one way, as it lends a possible motive/scenario regarding the half brother - not to lend any excuse to the 16 year old suspect, especially when considering the boy was found buried in a shallow grave on the property ie, meaning that if a simple accidental manslaughter one doesn't see a normal sixteen year old then have the wherewithal to dispose of his half brothers body and lie to police and perhaps, perhaps his mother.

  I have a suspicion that that this mother knew and might have been involved somehow in a cover up, albeit it simply a guess not to be mistaken for fact.  Either way a young boy was murdered by his brother stuck in a hole and covered with dirt. The authorities were lied to convincingly enough to iniate a huge search for this murdered child. This indicates a great deal of successful lying under what should have been extremely emotionally daunting circumstances.

It can be safely assumed that this 16 year old brother whose name is protected due to his underage status,  has a burgeoning personality disorder; At age 16 he is technically not allowed to be deemed a sociopath by simple fact that he isn't old enough by DSM dictates.... but as stated, his cover up behavior says it all; a normal teen/ would be horrified if they accidentally killed their brother or in a fit of rage hit him in the head and he died as a result.

They would tell a parent or call police if the parent wasn't home which purportedly she was not - but again we don't know yet if this boy did tell mom and/or mom questioned him and then proceeded to cover up for her surviving son.  Even in the best scenario I fee strongly that this mother had at the very least a base awareness of her elder sons guilt and she covered up perhaps misleading police about an likely alternate scenario of Terry wandering off"

This makes her a criminal as well.

Either way there is personality disorder galore in this tragedy built of violence deception and manipulation, qualities that are all hallmarks of Anti- social Personality disorder, Oppositional defiant disorder (the teenage version of the former) Narcissistic PD and Borderline PD.

These disorders have red flags and I have said it thousands of times our society our schools our family's all need to be taught in depth about the signs and symptoms of such persons thereby preventing many of these crimes before they happen.

Lets honor this endless succession of victims by becoming proactive about instilling awareness in every single child of a proper age teenagers and adults regarding the mental illnesses and character disorders that often are tied to chaos crime and violence.


Jul 3, 2013

Great Piece On James Gandolfin, Tony Soprano and Criminality

 David Chase

We describe films as philosophical if they hit a few discordant notes, provoking the audience to ask itself a question or two. In contrast, the writers and actors of HBO series The Sopranos managed to argue a complex, controversial, challengeable thesis on corrupt human nature. (David Chase is silent on the degree to which we all have traits like the criminals on his show. The therapist’s character was consistently unlike the other’s.) Due to its scope and serialization, the didacticism of The Sopranos is unprecedented. And the candidates for precedent ought to include Seneca and Plato, since they also tried to convince their audience that vicious behavior destroys character and that when power is given to such a character, tragedy ensues.

 Stated outright, the point seems obvious. Who says crime pays? But, as Seneca and Plato also knew, we weaken our position on the matter when ill-gotten gain is available for display. We often see with our own eyes that short cuts get people someplace quicker. To become convinced otherwise, we have to become convinced of the nature of internal, psychological rewards. But this is not easy to get us to do, as Seneca and Plato also know. We’d have to get inside the head of a bad guy to prove what is needed.

He paces, he grimaces, his eyes dart, he cries, he can’t think back, he has to edit everything he says, he lies to everyone including himself, he trusts no one, he is never satisfied. And in the final season, he has nightmares where he tells his therapist the truth; he has to grab and hide a bloody tooth from the cuff of his suit pants while at a meeting with his son’s therapist. He also buys a watch engraved with “you are my life” for his wife, after leaving town to have yet another affair. But you can go on and on: Chase’s examples are nearly endless, and they are unforgettable. They drive an ancient thesis home. And so effectively.

Plato also warned what would happen to a person who attempts to pursue, at once, the typical goals of a life (family, say) as well as others (say, the gains of crime). This person would be fractured by these incompatible aims, and Plato writes that they would be in a sort of internal “civil war.” He has us imagine that parts of this person “bite each other, fight and try to eat each other.” (Plato, Republic, 589a) Plato explains that, if this person gains power, it exacerbates the already disorganized condition of the person. Despite the public appearance of “having it all,” the potential is for such a person to be less happy than any of us. They have, in addition to more common tensions, worries about enemies and usurpers. Plato writes that such a person is like “an exhausted body” which “is compelled to compete and fight with other bodies all its life.” The situation renders one friendless and terrified. (Plato, Republic, 579c-d)

It is easy enough to read Plato, nod and agree, but, again, we put up all sorts of resistance to this claim. We don’t really want to believe bad behavior has these consequences. We hope for exceptions, case by case and in general. And it is Chase who really puts our hankerings to the test. Because Tony is shown to suffer so vividly, we want to exonerate him. Because he is so charming, we want to believe him — to take Tony at his word. He voices things for the gullible, like “I don’t know about morality, but I do got rules.” “I do everything for my family.” “I’m a good guy, for the most part.” He likens himself to “a soldier” (just one in a different sort of war). And how we wish that the bad guys might be on our side: T-shirts were printed up after 9-11 depicting a menacing Sopranos cast ready to take on the terrorists for us.

It is because The Sopranos has had so much time with viewers, so many characters, so many plots, that he has been able to school us as he has. Forget about merely being “provoked” to think — this series required that we theorize about ethics, happiness, rage, parenting, therapy, materialism, and ego. Chase set us up to like Tony, and he set us up to believe that his therapy would get to the bottom of things. And Chase, never revealing his hand more than in this final season, is showing that no proposal other than his own (the classic one) can explain the behavior the characters display. Tony’s a good guy at heart?

 The murders of the final season (in particular, the unprovoked one of his nephew) put that to rest even if other decisions he rendered cold have not. Even the most thoughtful viewers, like philosophers Ron Green and Scott Wilson, are likely to want to revise the views they stated in Philosophy and The Sopranos (Open Court Press) where they opined that “in this world of criminality, Tony reveals a degree of moral integrity that makes his character appealing” and that Tony “cares about the principles of family, loyalty to Italians, loyalty to his crew.” Chase allowed us to think as much, for a time.

But viewers have learned the lesson in the only way lessons are learned — through getting emotionally and intellectually involved, and then corrected.

The success of The Sopranos will have put an end to the easy use of the expression “thick as thieves,” any fawning over any “omerta/code of silence,” and the notion that thieves have any honor and that scammers are glamorous. In philosophical ethics, among even those who have read Plato’s description, a common counter-example to normative claims about character has been the “principled Mafioso” — the guy who rejects society’s code, but lives by his own internally consistent code of family protection. Contemporary philosophers have taken this possibility so seriously as to use it to reject classic accounts of character.

We can’t really claim that integrity is conventionally ethical, since even a Mafioso can have integrity. How to argue against this fantasy of the goodish-bad guy, which was being treated as a kind of trump against ethical accounts of character?
The Sopranos has ended that fantasy. No philosopher will have the gumption to posit some “principled Mafioso” now that we have Tony. He is our era’s contribution to the characters that have shaped philosophical thought. They focus our attention like no dry description. They show us the content and limits of our humanity. Achilles, Medea, Tony Soprano.