Right up front, the La Mesa Police Department and the San Diego County District Attorney's Office must be commended for vigorously investigating and preparing for prosecution the wayward young men responsible for producing those “Bumfights” videotapes we've been reading about. Can they make any of the charges stick? Or will defense attorneys successfully argue that this was simply a business deal between producers of entertainment and “talent.” We're anxious to find out.
The videos show, among other things, down-on-their-luck men kicking the crap out of each other. Authorities say that while in La Mesa, the producers, Las Vegas men in their early 20s, gave the sudden video stars cash, booze, food and hotel room time to appear on camera. Reportedly, more than 300,000 of the tapes have been sold via the Internet at $20 apiece, presumably to dimwitted young men to satisfy some bizarre fetish for violence and mayhem.
At first glance, people with some amount of compassion and respect for human dignity react with anger and indignation. That's certainly our initial take on it, and we'd like to see the producers held accountable.
But the best news came Monday when it was announced that Rufus Hannah and Donald Brennan, two of the homeless men allegedly hired to fight and perform all manner of dangerous stunts for the video, will sue the producers in civil court. True justice would come if Hannah and Brennan were able to squeeze these young predators for a pile of money equivalent to what they'd get if they were unionized actors starring in a legitimate video. And it would be nice if they were able to use their winnings to get whatever help they need-whether it's drug and alcohol abuse treatment or mental heath care or both. Short of that, we'd like to see them take the money and get absolutely shitfaced drunk every day until the alcohol kills them and sends them on to an afterlife that will treat them better than this one apparently has.
What's sad is that it takes such extreme circumstances to investigate and prosecute crimes perpetrated against people on the street who are, quite literally, defenseless. Too often, it's the homeless man, drug-addicted and mentally ill, who ends up on the wrong end of the law for committing minor crimes that wouldn't occur if we'd just figure out how connect them to the services they need to function in society. Especially a society that considers homelessness, at best, a nuisance and, at worst, a crime.
To defense attorney Jan Ronis, who told a reporter that his client, 19-year-old Ryan McPherson, hasn't broken any laws, we say this: We understand, your job is to say your client hasn't committed a crime. But you lose credibility when you say he is a documentary filmmaker. Please.
To those who think the homeless men featured in the video took part voluntarily and shouldn't be considered victims, we say this: Get to know some of the root causes of homelessness and then tell us that these men were equipped to make a high-quality decision when promised money for liquor and food. And isn't paying someone to assault another person a crime? And, yes, prosecutors should target boxing promoters next.
And to those who are filled with righteousness and sympathy for the plight of the homeless, we say this: We hope you still feel that way the next time a homeless man, dirty and toothless, asks you for money on the street. Instead of getting all uncomfortable, diverting your eyes and ignoring him, buy him a sandwich or, at the very least, make eye contact and wish him a good day.