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Call me '$Cash$'

The making of a Charlotte gangster

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Right now, all the right people are holding their hands to their heads, wondering how we failed Demeatrius Antonio Montgomery, the guy accused of killing two police officers last week.

It's a bit late for Montgomery and for the officers. But it's not too late to do something about Holly "$Cash$" Mitchell. Mitchell's mug was plastered all over the local news for days in September after he distinguished himself from other wannabe gangsters by bringing an M-16 assault rifle and ammo to a football game at West Mecklenburg High School, where he was a student.

At the time, Mitchell, then 17, already had a felony auto theft conviction -- for which he got a suspended sentence and probation -- and a slew of dismissed charges to his credit. That's not unusual in Mecklenburg, where half of all charges are dismissed by overwhelmed district attorneys. And that's after DAs screen out roughly a third of the cases brought to them. These statistics make Mecklenburg one of the half dozen highest felony dismissal counties North Carolina, which happens to be the highest felony dismissal state in the nation among the 21 states tracked by the National Center for State Courts.

In Richmond, Va., and other Project Exile states, where they fast-track all cases of gun possession by a felon, Mitchell would likely already be serving an automatic five-year prison sentence for bringing that gun to school -- or having it at all. Exile is basically just an organized enforcement of existing laws that target violent felons, and it cut the murder rate by 36 percent a year after it was introduced and slashed gun crime by 40 percent.

Instead, Mitchell was recently featured on the Web site Crimeincharlotte.com after he posted a photo of himself with another semi-automatic gun on his MySpace page. No fear there.

The gun in the school parking lot could have triggered a five-month prison sentence because it violated Mitchell's probation. But Mecklenburg Superior Court Judge Linwood O. Foust took pity on him, despite the fact that Mitchell hadn't bothered to meet any of the conditions of his probation, including 72 hours of community service and payment of $120 in court fees. Foust ordered Mitchell to do a few weekends in jail.

Since then, Mitchell has racked up another assault charge, which the district attorney dismissed, and a breaking and entering charge.

"Call me $Cash$," Mitchell's Web page brags. "Broke MuthafucKaz Luv 2 Hate Cuz They Ain't Got ... TeLL eM liKe iT iZ. GEt likE mE."

Ironically, Mitchell is still something of a baby gangster. If he follows the typical pattern around here, by 19, if he hasn't killed someone or been killed himself, he'll likely have a record like 19-year-old Donte Heard's. In the last six months alone, Heard has been charged with assault and two armed robberies, yet we keep bonding him out to terrorize the community.

In Charlotte thugdom, Heard hasn't hit the big time yet, either. That honor goes to achievers like Carlos White, 30, who was featured on just about every local news channel in Charlotte in February as he led police on a harrowing chase in a stolen pickup truck, injuring two people and swapping paint with multiple other drivers. He's racked up over 70 charges in 34 incidents, including 12 auto theft charges (nine of them dismissed) and multiple robbery and assault charges. Heard has served a mere three and a half years in prison, the longest sentence, 17 months, for leaving the scene of an auto accident.

So really, the public gnashing of the teeth by pundits and politicians, like Charlotte City Council member Susan Burgess, who asked where we "lost" Montgomery, was nothing more than bad amateur theater. They know exactly what the problem is, and it's not the lack of government subsidized mixed-income housing located in all the right places, as the Charlotte Observer suggested.

If these people gave a rip about people like Montgomery, Mitchell, Heard, White or their victims, they'd have joined Mayor Pat McCrory on his trip to the state legislature in February to lobby for more criminal justice system money, rather than working behind McCrory's back with their Democratic colleagues in the state general assembly to undermine the trip as a way to keep McCrory from getting positive publicity ahead of this year's mayor's race.

And McCrory, who has been in office over a decade, would have started screaming about this years ago, not just when changing voter demographics made him vulnerable to losing his seat.

So far, Mitchell's take on this whole thing is the one that makes the most sense to me. If there are almost no consequences of any kind, why bother with honest work at a menial job and wait years for a payoff? On his Web page, Mitchell claims he lives in "New Money," North Carolina. How Mitchell intends to obtain the new money is abundantly clear from the photo on the Web page.

I can only hope some innocent person doesn't get in his way.

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