Rascal Deserves His Day in Court
By Bob Ray Sanders
Star-Telegram [Fort Worth TX]
August 13, 2006
As a rule, three messages out of dozens critical of my columns usually don't cause me undue concern -- unless they are extremely threatening.
Even then, I generally dismiss them without much thought, although I generally offer a courtesy response to the readers, assuming they leave their names.
But after a recent column about the trial of Terry Hornbuckle, an Arlington minister accused of raping three women, three letters did stand out, demanding my careful consideration.
All three were presumably from women -- although one had a first name that could be male -- who addressed the same issue. Each was upset with one word I had used to describe this preacher of a megachurch who admittedly has committed mega-sins.
Based on his attorneys' stipulations, inside and outside the courtroom, I wrote that it was clear Hornbuckle "is a flamboyant, hip-talking, 'cool' minister who likes gospel music as well as rap."
I noted his obsession with power and his "unquenchable urge to seduce women," a man who undoubtedly had been completely out of control at times.
I surmised, "Based on what little I know about this preacher, from both the prosecution and his defense team, Hornbuckle is a rascal."
It was my use of the word rascal that had upset the three who wrote suggesting that I had offended all women.
One respondent to the piece, whose first name is Lou, sums up the concerns this way:
"I am greatly insulted for the women who read the article on Terry Hornbuckle. If 'rascal' is the word you would use to describe this man, then the 'boys will be boys' attitude will continue to prevail in regard to the treatment of women. If these women were in fact drugged [as alleged by the prosecution and the accusers], then, yes, I do believe a crime has been committed. You did point out that he has admitted to many of these charges, but then referring to him as a rascal is definitely downplaying his actions. I believe you owe an apology to women everywhere for treating this matter so lightly."
At first I wondered how anyone who had read the entire column could get the idea that I was being soft on Hornbuckle and that I somehow was dismissing any of his actions.
It was obvious that the complaining readers had considered only one definition of rascal, that being a "mischievous child" as in those cute little characters in the old Our Gang comedy shows.
I explained in my response that the first definition of the word, from at least two dictionaries I consulted, was: "a scoundrel; rogue; scamp ... low, dishonest, base."
Frankly, I told them, I didn't know how to be much more critical than that considering the man is still on trial and must be given the presumption of innocence until -- and unless -- 12 members of this community declare him guilty.
It will be up to those jurors to decide whether what happened between Hornbuckle and his accusers rises to the level of criminality -- or only sins against God and family that did not break state law.
Hornbuckle's defense is that any sex was consensual and that his accusers are out for money.
As I noted in the first column, many of the characters in this sordid drama, including the accusers, admit to flaws. And, just as I predicted, we've learned more about them than I ever wanted to know about any individual.
Regardless of misjudgments or indiscretions, no one deserves to be raped. Let me make that clear if it was not already. And anyone who sexually assaults a person should be harshly punished, make no mistake about that.
At this point, however, in spite of what you may already believe about Hornbuckle -- a dirty dog or beguiling dawg -- the truth is still being sorted out by a jury in Judge Scott Wisch's 372nd District Court in Fort Worth.
It's not over, and there's only thing I know for sure. As my mama used to say when two people told different stories: "All I know is, somebody is lying."
Despite attempts to explain my reasons for the words I chose to describe the defendant in this case, reader Lou still wasn't buying it.
"I hardly think that scoundrel, rogue, or scamp are any harsher or more appropriate to describe the reverend," the response said. "However, we will both have to wait and see how it plays out."
That is my advice to all of us.
Before making any hard and fast judgments, let's just wait and see how it plays out.
Bob Ray Sanders' column appears Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays. 817-390-7775 firstname.lastname@example.org
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