Pope Francis has apparently been running a hedge fund with the faithful’s donations

I’ve never been one to follow Vatican intrigue, but I do love forensic accounting and outing clever financial frauds. Pope Francis’ Vatican has been a “rich” source of material on both accounts lately.

When Pope Francis was inaugurated in 2013, he was widely celebrated for maintaining a modest lifestyle – like his namesake, my patron saint, St. Francis of Assisi – even behind the walls of the glitzy Vatican. He emphasizes helping the poor and has made the plight of refugees worldwide a special mission of the Church.

As Catholics have grown weary of personally bankrolling settlements for the victims of predatory priests – I wrote about the staggering cost of the abuse scandal and the dozens of US dioceses that have filed for bankruptcy – the Vatican seems to be in a state of financial free fall. This is partly because of the collapse in donations. But it is mostly because the socialist pope has been running a hedge fund.

We are learning many new details about how the Vatican invested $200 million in swanky London real estate in recent years. Money that parishioners globally sent to the Vatican for the purpose of helping the poor instead was funneled into a 183,000-square-foot luxury apartment building in Chelsea. And this isn’t even close to the only posh “cause” Francis’ Vatican has backed with the assistance of networks of investors and sleazy middlemen who are under investigation by financial regulators.

Of course, the faithful are only learning about these investments because they bombed financially as the property values for luxury flats sank after the Brexit vote and that has caused both strife and leaks at the highest levels of the Church.

The Vatican under Pope Francis’ leadership has not published a budget since 2015 and has been without an auditor for more than two years now.

Much of the information that has surfaced about how Francis & Co. have been looting the faithful has been the result of unauthorized leaks of thousands of confidential documents – a sort of Panama Papers for the Vatican, if you will.

These leaks come from two well-known Italian journalists, Emiliano Fittipaldi and Gianluigi Nuzzi. Francis tried to silence the journalists back in 2015 by pressing charges against them for leaking the information. They were eventually absolved for lack of jurisdiction and the Vatican decided to handle its finances completely in the dark.

This week, Fittipaldi and Nuzzi resumed blowing up Francis’ black budget, with a vengeance. The two leaks, taken together, present a very damning picture of the Church at present.

Fittipaldi explained the following scheme in the Italian magazine L’Espresso (summary by the Catholic newspaper Crux Now):

The Secretariat of State, the Vatican’s ultra-powerful coordinating department, controls roughly $725 million in funds off the books related to the annual “Peter’s Pence” collection, which is designed to allow individual Catholics to contribute to the pope’s charitable activities.

In fact, according to Fittipaldi’s report, most of those funds are instead diverted into “reckless speculative operations,” with 77 percent of the Peter’s Pence collections entrusted to Credit Suisse, the multinational financial services and investment company founded in Switzerland.

L’Espresso cites Vatican investigators charging that the use of those funds, roughly $560 million, has been marked by “garish irregularities” and “worrying scenarios.”

In addition, Fittipaldi’s report also suggests that an ongoing internal investigation of those irregularities may be motivated less by an honest desire to get to the truth and impose transparency, and more by a desire to settle accounts and alter the balance of power within the Vatican, especially with regard to the Financial Information Authority, an anti-money laundering watchdog unit created under Pope emeritus Benedict XVI. [For the uninitiated, this is the pope that was driven out of the Vatican, with no explanation, which brought us Francis.]

The director of the Financial Information Authority, Italian layman Tommaso di Ruzza, was one of five Vatican employees recently suspended amid the unfolding investigation that also led to the resignation of the powerful commander of the Vatican gendarmes, Domenico Giani, following a leak of a memorandum on the probe prepared by Giani to the Italian media.

Sunday’s report details the affair involving the London apartment building, which has its origins in 2012 when an Italian financier named Raffaele Mincione was approached about investing $200 million on behalf of the Vatican in an oil company in Angola. According to Fittipaldi’s account, the operation was the idea of then-Monsignor Angelo Becciu, at the time the number two official in the Secretariat of State and a former papal ambassador in Angola.

Becciu is today a cardinal and the prefect of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Causes of Saints.

Eventually, however, the Angola project fell apart, leading Mincione to propose investing the $200 million in a London real estate deal instead, involving the purchase of a former warehouse for Harrod’s and converting it into luxury apartments. Mincione, based on Italian media reports, is a well-known corporate raider whose 12-meter private sailboat is named Bottadiculo, which is idiomatic for “lucky break” but literally means “slap on the butt.”

The deal went ahead, with the Vatican purchasing 45 percent of the property. A Brexit-induced downturn in the London real estate market, however, resulted in returns being less than projected, and in 2018, under the Secretariat of State’s new number two, Venezuelan Monsignor Edgar Peña Parra, the Vatican decided to pull out of the Athena Capital Global fund administered by Mincione and based in Luxembourg.

The exit strategy, however, involved the Vatican purchasing the remaining 55 percent of the property, in a deal signed in November 2018 by Monsignor Alberto Perlasca, at the time a key official in the Secretariat of State who was appointed in July by Pope Francis as the Promoter of Justice, or prosecutor, in the Vatican’s highest court, the Apostolic Signatura.

Fittipaldi asserts that between the original 2012 investment and the 2018 purchase, Mincione cleared almost $170 million in income. According to Fittipaldi, he still defends the investment: “I didn’t want to pull out, they asked me to,” he said. “It’s still an optimal operation: All that has to be done is to get going on the renovations and sell the apartments,” Mincione said.

According to the report, it was the director general of the Institute for the Works of Religion, the so-called “Vatican bank,” Italian layman Gian Franco Mammì, who objected to the 2018 transaction and triggered an investigation. While that may seem to make Mammì a whistleblower, Fittipaldi quotes unnamed Vatican insiders claiming that his actual motive was to wrest control of the Peter’s Pence funds away from the Secretariat of State for the Vatican bank.

In any event, a formal complaint was lodged with the Vatican’s Promoter of Justice on July 2, leading to the suspension of the five employees and Giani’s ouster.

In the meantime, according to Fittipaldi, the Vatican gave control over its London investment to another Italian financier named Gianluigi Torzi, who is himself under investigation by Italian authorities for an incident in which he allegedly changed the locks on a property near his seaside villa without authorization.

In effect, the Vatican did not directly acquire the remaining share of the London property through the Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See (APSA), the Vatican’s central financial clearinghouse that generally administers its real estate holdings, but worked through another Luxembourg financial company run by Torzi.

Also involved in the deal as an “absolute protagonist,” according to Fittipaldi, was Italian Monsignor Mauro Carlino, a longtime aide to Becciu who was promoted by Francis to become the head of information and documentation at the Secretariat of State over the summer.

Despite Di Ruzza’s suspension, Fittipaldi quotes unnamed sources suggesting that the Financial Information Authority actually signaled the London deal as a suspicious transaction to authorities both in the UK and Luxembourg and tried to block the transaction.

That background, according to Fittipaldi, has generated suspicions that the raid on Di Ruzza and his suspension is actually an attempt to neutralize the Financial Information Authority with regard to the Secretariat of State.

“Judicial papers risk being used to settle accounts within the sacred walls,” Fittipaldi wrote.

And that brings us to Nuzzi’s bombshell:

Worldwide donations to the Catholic Church have plunged in the wake of sex abuse scandals that have eroded faith in the Vatican, a new book claims.

The Church’s finances are in such a dire state – a result of a toxic mix of incompetence, internal wrangling and corruption – that the Vatican risks a default by 2023, according to the expose.

The amount of money donated by ordinary Catholics to the Church, known as Peter’s Pence, has plummeted from €101 million [$112 million] in 2006 to €70 million [$77 million] in 2016 and may now be less than €60 million [$67 million].

Only a fifth of the total goes to helping the poor and needy, with the rest held in bank accounts or used to plug gaps in the finances of the Curia, the Vatican’s governing body.

The revelations are based on scrutiny of 3,000 confidential documents obtained by an Italian investigative journalist, Gianluigi Nuzzi.

In his book, Universal Judgment, which was published on Monday, he portrays the Vatican as a viper’s nest of jealous cardinals, warring departments and avaricious officials who are adept at parallel book-keeping.

“If the pontificate of Frances fails, it won’t be because of the attacks of conservative Catholics or the crisis in vocations or because of the declining number of faithful,” Mr Nuzzi writes. “It will be because of the financial collapse that is coming ever closer.”

The Vatican deficit is “like a voracious and insatiable parasite, attacking wealth that was accumulated over the centuries from the pious offerings of the faithful.”

The precipitous decline in contributions has coincided with a crisis of faith for millions of Catholics, who have been appalled at the multiple sex scandals involving priests and cardinals.

Thousands of prelates have been accused of raping or molesting children and the Vatican’s former finance chief, Australian cardinal George Pell, is in prison after being convicted of sexually abusing teenage boys in the state of Victoria.

So not only are dioceses across America filing for bankruptcy, the Vatican itself appears to be a default risk.

Vatican officials quickly pushed back against these reports, but naturally they did not push back with any numbers on the financial health of the Church or by denying that they were buying up luxury real estate with charity funds. Instead they characterize the journalists’ work as part of some shadowy effort to discredit Francis.

I think one thing is clear about Francis at this point: Far from being a reformer, he is helping keep the worst actors in positions of authority in the Church. Some of his most trusted allies have been outed as rapists as he feigns ignorance. Altar boys were even getting assaulted at St Peter’s only two years ago. He had a cardinal who said global warming is more important than child abuse organizing his summit on abuse. And now all this. The decline of the Church under this one individual is beyond insane.

Seattle Public Schools thinks math is racist and oppressive

When I first heard about Seattle Public Schools’ proposed “K-12 Math Ethnic Studies Framework” this afternoon, I was curious if the actual document lived up to the freak-out among conservative observers. Seattle, after all, is where many STEM-based corporations are headquartered. (For now, anyway – several tech companies already have their foot out the door, and not simply over taxes.) How did a city where math is responsible for substantially all of governments’ tax receipts end up with school districts that want to destroy math education? It makes no sense whatsoever. But then again, New York City is talking about scrapping gifted and talented education because it is racist, so it’s not like Seattle is the first blue municipality to consider cranking out ignorant children a political priority. (Heck, New York City put it into law that schools cannot reject a student for a diploma on the basis of having never attended class. No kidding. You no longer need to attend school to get a diploma from a public high school in NYC. The schools literally have no academic standards.)

From what I can tell, most observers have only read the article in Reason magazine, which simply paraphrases an article in Education Week. Both of these articles understate the extreme positions in Seattle’s proposal. I think most people – regardless of political persuasion – would lose their minds if they saw the proposal documents for how Seattle Public Schools might transform math education.

Here they are.

The proposal divides math instruction into four categories that math instructors need to address in the classroom: (1) origins, identity, and agency; (2) power and oppression; (3) history of resistance and liberation; and (4) reflection and action. Yes, this is their framework for teaching math.

Under the “origins, identity, and agency” category, the authors suggest that instructors address “the ways in which we view ourselves as mathematicians” and emphasize that mathematical theory is “rooted in the ancient histories of people and empires of color.”

The authors urge math teachers to “create counter narratives about the origins of mathematical knowledge” and to “see the value in making mistakes both as individuals and as a community.” Got that? It’s no longer enough that schools pass students who cannot demonstrate a proficiency in subject-matter through the system. The schools need to praise students for failing.

The document elaborates: “How important is it to be Right? What is Right? Says Who?”

I don’t know about you, but when I was in school, I was not taught to talk about my feelings about math or to see the answers according to some political rubric of authority. I was taught *gasp* proofs. Ditto for symbolic logic.

Under the “power and oppression” category, the authors … well… I’ll just let them speak for themselves:

Power and oppression, as defined by ethnic studies, are the ways in which individuals and groups define mathematical knowledge so as to see “Western” mathematics as the only legitimate expression of mathematical identity and intelligence. This definition of legitimacy is then used to disenfranchise people and communities of color. This erases the historical contributions of people and communities of color.

Thus, math instructors need to work into their curriculum a discussion of “the ways in which ancient mathematical knowledge has been appropriated by Western culture” and “identify how math has been and continues to be used to oppress and marginalize people and communities of color.” As an auxiliary, they recommend teaching about how technology and standardized testing are connected to mathematics as a tool of oppression.

But they don’t stop there. They also recommend that math teachers “explain how math has been used to exploit natural resources” (as if forests have been wronged by algebra) and “explain how math dictates economic oppression.” (For example, the fact that you do not understand how your mortgage works because you attended Seattle Public Schools puts you at an unfair intellectual disadvantage to the people at the bank who attended real schools.)

The authors then ask (I’m not even halfway through the document, hang in there) “who holds power in a mathematical classroom? Is there a place for power and authority in the math classroom? Who gets to say if an answer is right? What is the process for verifying the truth? Who is Smart? Who is not Smart?”

They recommend math teachers ask their students to name oppressive mathematical practices in their experience, “how data-driven processes prevent liberation,” and “how math can help us understand the impact of economic conditions and systems that contribute to poverty and slave labor.”

Students should be asked what is legitimate as math and what fears they have about math. Then they should ponder who in society has worked to make them fearful of math and what ulterior motives someone might have in doing so.

Next up is the “history of resistance and liberation” category, which suggests teachers cover “individuals and organizations that have reclaimed mathematical identity and agency” and how we can “change mathematics from individualistic to collectivist thinking.”

The last category, “reflection and action,” suggests that teachers encourage their students to take the gospel of the math ethnic studies framework to their communities so they can understand how math is fundamentally racist and how it has been used to oppress them all along.

The sick thing about all of this is that people who push for this kind of content in classrooms are hurting minority children themselves. Every minute of every day that is spent on nonsense like this is instructional time and instructional resources that are not teaching the kids useful skills that they absolutely must have to compete in a modern economy. Not to mention the fact that the teachers are giving kids the impression that talking this way will do them any service in the real world. Crikey.

Is Christianity collapsing in the United States?

The Pew Research Center just released their latest survey of religion in America: In the US, Decline of Christianity Continues at a Rapid Pace. If you take the survey at face value, it paints a picture of the United States experiencing the first majority godless generation in the nation’s history, with large urban areas becoming mostly secular within the course of a mere decade.

As a person with a quantitative background, I have been trained to look for what I call “sanity tests” in reported data. If your data suggest something that is powerfully contradicted by your experience on a large scale, then … don’t publish your data. Run more tests. Try asking your questions differently and see if you get different results.

I often offer the popularity of Trump as an example of this principle. In fact, Trump regularly uses sanity tests to undermine his critics with great success. Fox News publishes a survey suggesting that a majority of people in the US support his impeachment. (It’s the first time liberals have loved a survey from a conservative organization.) Trump then holds two rallies in the course of a week, one in a historically blue state and one in a historically red state, both packing to capacity professional basketball arenas with sometimes tens of thousands of viewers outside the arena watching him speak on big-screen televisions. He books over half a million new small donors in a matter of weeks. If you weren’t an innumerate idiot, you’d have some questions about your polling methodology and predictive prowess.

Let’s ask some “sanity test” questions about Pew’s data, shall we?

From Pew:

Both Protestantism and Catholicism are experiencing losses of population share. Currently, 43% of U.S. adults identify with Protestantism, down from 51% in 2009. And one-in-five adults (20%) are Catholic, down from 23% in 2009. Meanwhile, all subsets of the religiously unaffiliated population – a group also known as religious “nones” – have seen their numbers swell. Self-described atheists now account for 4% of U.S. adults, up modestly but significantly from 2% in 2009; agnostics make up 5% of U.S. adults, up from 3% a decade ago; and 17% of Americans now describe their religion as “nothing in particular,” up from 12% in 2009. Members of non-Christian religions also have grown modestly as a share of the adult population.

Our first problem here is that their question is phrased this way: “What is your present religion, if any? Are you Protestant, Roman Catholic, Mormon, Orthodox such as Greek or Russian Orthodox, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, atheist, agnostic, something else, or nothing in particular?”

Those are your options in the survey. Now, take the example of a person who was raised Roman Catholic but has become deeply disillusioned by the Church because of the clergy abuse scandal and a pope that blesses plants. (Church finances, a good proxy or sanity test for this scenario, suggest millions of Americans fit into this category.) You try going to an Eastern Orthodox church, but everyone’s talking in Russian. You try to go to other high-church denominations, but you discover Episcopalians and some Lutherans are shouting their abortions, which disgusts you existentially. You go to Evangelical services, but don’t quite grok the praise music with lyrics an overhead projector. Not your style. Suddenly you are keeping your kids at home on Sundays, hoping for a better pope in your lifetime.

Does that mean you have renounced Christ? Absolutely not. Does that make you perhaps describe yourself as “something else” or “nothing in particular”? Um, yeah, probably it does. By Pew’s methodology, this person who is perhaps too faithful a Christ follower for their denomination is lumped in with atheists. That’s not a commentary on American society, it’s a commentary on how surveys reflect bias or ignorance about the topic they are purportedly studying.

Let’s try a different scenario. I have a lot of younger relatives (Millennials and Generation Z) who passionately resent organized religion for many (sometimes very persuasive) reasons. They don’t understand why they need to listen to a boring, hour-long sermon delivered by a stranger when they can get down on their knees at any place and at any time and talk to God directly. Would they consider themselves “nothing in particular”? Um, yeah. Might they also call themselves followers of Christ? Of course. I would submit to you that these folks are almost 100% likely to find themselves in a pew on a regular basis within their lifetime, like when they go through some personal crisis and find they need the support of a community or when they get married or want to have their kids baptized like they were.

Pew also highlights the general godlessness of the Democratic Party versus the Republican Party:

Religious “nones” now make up fully one-third of Democrats. And about six-in-ten people who identify with or lean toward the Democratic Party say they attend religious services no more than a few times a year. The ranks of religious “nones” and infrequent churchgoers also are growing within the Republican Party, though they make up smaller shares of Republicans than Democrats.

On the one hand, all you need to do is look at the policy ideas of the Democratic Party front-runners now to see there’s some truth in this: suddenly there’s much higher and much more vocal support for abortion, and in particular, late-term abortion; the suggestion that churches and religious non-profits should face progressive ideology litmus tests to be able to keep their tax-exempt status; support for public persecution of commercial interests that buck the party on gay marriage or transgender rights, and so on. There is no doubt empirically that an antipathy toward Christianity is driving people out of the Democratic Party.

(As a digression, Democrats eliminating the tax-exemption for churches and hospitals only frees them up to become powerful political bundlers. Right now, the only thing stopping megachurches from becoming Republican community organizers is the tax-exemption. Talk about not understanding the implications of tax policy, geez.)

The situation is a lot murkier among Republicans and Independents. There are certainly more non-believers among Republicans than there used to be, but they are likely wildly different than the non-believers among other groups. George Will makes a case for atheists who are sympathetic with religious folks and demand a society tolerant of religious belief in his new book The Conservative Sensibility. (In fact, he devotes a crazy-long chapter entirely to this topic.) But once again, Pew is likely mis-characterizing people who do not like their options as far as organized religion is concerned in with atheists. This is another area where political fundraising is probably a better proxy for true belief profiles than a poorly-worded survey.

One of the things I have always found somewhat ironic among progressives, particularly atheist progressives, is this notion that history is moving in their favor. To the extent that Millennials hate going to church, they are a blip in the trajectory of the church. The Catholic Church has been around for two thousand years. Many Protestant denominations have been around for several hundred years. The opinions of a 25-year-old do not “cancel out” wisdom traditions that have survived far more tumultuous times and far more violent cultural purges than current higher education institutions being controlled by aging hippies. John Dewey was followed by Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher and George W. Bush. Your cultural biases are not inevitable.

Hillary Clinton outs herself as a total crackpot

I’m not going to pretend to have ever liked, trusted, or respected any member of the Clinton clan. They are corrupt to their core and Bill Clinton is basically a sexually transmitted disease that accidentally became self-aware.

But this is really … something. According to the Washington Post, Hillary has gone full Louise Mensch, claiming that Tulsi Gabbard is a Russian asset whom the Russians will run as an independent just to spoil the 2020 election:

In a conversation on former Obama campaign manager David Plouffe’s podcast, Clinton suggested the Russians are leveraging a number of top U.S. politicians. She suggested Russia had kompromat on Trump. She accused 2016 Green Party nominee Jill Stein of being a “Russian asset.” And she suggested Russia might back Gabbard as a third-party candidate.

“They’re also going to do third-party again,” Clinton said. “I’m not making any predictions, but I think they’ve got their eye on someone who’s currently in the Democratic primary and are grooming her to be the third-party candidate. She’s the favorite of the Russians. They have a bunch of sites and bots and other ways of supporting her so far.”

The “again” referred to Stein, whom some Clinton supporters have accused (rather baselessly) of serving as a spoiler for Clinton in 2016. Stein got around 1 percent of the vote in the three decisive states — Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin — but exit polls showed most of her voters wouldn’t have supported either Clinton or Trump if Stein weren’t running.

Clinton then flat-out labeled Stein a “Russian asset.”

“And that’s assuming Jill Stein will give it up, which she might not because she’s also a Russian asset,” Clinton said. “Yeah, she’s a Russian asset — I mean, totally. They know they can’t win without a third-party candidate. So I don’t know who it’s going to be, but I will guarantee you they will have a vigorous third-party challenge in the key states that they most needed.”

Despite being thoroughly debunked by Mueller and a team of lawyers (many of whom either represented Clinton in the past or donated money to her campaign), Clinton thinks Trump is a Russian asset too:

“I don’t know what Putin has on him, whether it’s both personal and financial,” Clinton said. “I assume it is.”

She then switched gears: “But more than that, there is this bizarre adulation Trump has for dictators and authoritarians. He dreams of being able to order people to do things and make them do it. He has no democratic instincts, really.”

The idea that Russia had information on Trump that provided leverage over him was a key, unproven claim in the Steele dossier, a document consisting of allegations involving Trump and Russia that was compiled by former British spy Christopher Steele.

Steele’s research was funded by the Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee. Democrats have often speculated that it’s possible this claim is true, but they have generally shied away from directly endorsing it.

I mean, really, it’s hard to tell if she’s just some bitter old woman or if she needs a pharmaceutical intervention and a padded room. But good grief, what an absolute crank.

North Florida judge allowed a potential school shooter to go free by massaging the definition of “transmission”

When we first started homeschooling our daughter, safety was not the biggest consideration. We were mainly concerned that a traditional school would not be sufficiently challenging for her academically and intellectually. But safety is definitely one of our biggest concerns now.

Just following news stories these days, it is shocking how many school districts and other authorities deliberately conceal security risks from parents and the students themselves or outright enable troubled students.

Yesterday, I read a local article about a child at an elementary school here – the school our daughter would be attending right now if we sent her to public school, in fact – who had been arrested for bringing drugs to school. The article noted that the child already had a criminal record, and was on FELONY probation. Imagine being on felony probation in elementary school. Imagine having your child at a school where kids on the playground already had serious criminal records. And school officials said nothing to parents about it so they could warn their children.

By far the worst story I have read lately is about Baker County Public Schools in the Jacksonville area. A high school student had produced several graphic and highly technical plans to murder police officers, staff, and students at his school. He had calculated the length of time it would take for officers to reach his school and how long it would take them to make it into the school and stop his massacre. He tried to quantify which campus locations would allow him to slaughter the most people.

Another student learned about his plans and did exactly what authorities told them to do: he told a teacher. The school worked with police to charge the student, only to have Circuit Judge Gloria Walker of the 8th circuit (recently elected; she used to work for a legal aid nonprofit for low-income families in North Florida) dismiss the charges against the student and send him home free, with no accountability whatsoever. Her argument was that authorities could not prove that the student “transmitted” his plans. Because he showed his plans to another student in person and did not say, make a random threat on Facebook Live, he could not be considered a legitimate threat under the law.

How can any parent of a child at that school continue to put their kids on a school bus after that? I know I couldn’t.

Here is the full account from local news sources:

The student wrote he wanted to “kill officers and then the gate keeper — then go one by one” and that he would have nine minutes to gun down as many people as possible, considering the distance between the sheriff’s office and the school, according to Maj. Randy Crews of the Baker County Sheriff’s Office.

In a composition notebook, the student also wrote “kill the first responders first,” and “there will most likely be chaos. You kill as much as you can before the other students/teachers notice,” according to documents obtained by the News4Jax I-TEAM.

But after the student was arrested, a judge dismissed the case saying prosecutors did not prove the threat was “transmitted” under state law, Crews told the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission on Tuesday.

Crews told the commission, which was created after last year’s mass shooting that killed 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Broward County, that state law needs to be clarified to allow the prosecution of potentially dangerous juveniles, like the Baker County student.

“I am not a lawyer, but I want to make you aware of this situation,” Crews said. “If these judges make these rulings, we are moving backwards.”

The juvenile was not named during Tuesday’s commission meeting, but commission Chairman Bob Gualtieri later identified the judge as Circuit Judge Gloria Walker of the 8th Judicial Circuit, which is made up of Baker, Alachua, Bradford, Gilchrist, Levy and Union counties.

Under state law, people commit second-degree felonies if they write and send threats to kill or do bodily injury to “the person to whom such letter or communication is sent” or “to any member of the family of the person to whom such letter or communication is sent.”

Crews argued the student’s case shouldn’t have been dismissed because the threats in the notebook were unearthed after the student showed them to a classmate, who then reported it to a teacher.

Crews told News4Jax on Tuesday the sheriff’s office believes the law, Florida statue 836.10, clearly applies to the student when it states that “any person who makes, posts, or transmits a threat in a writing.”

“Prosecution plead with the judge about the case law, about the case, about the interpretation of the law and quite frankly the judge disagreed and dismissed the case,” Crews told the commission. “If it’s got a law that needs to be clarified – I’m not a lawyer. It was clear to me. It was clear to the prosecutor.”

“This is a case where everything was done the way it should have been done,” Crews continued. “A kid saw something and said something, took it to the teachers, school resource officers were involved, we investigated.”

Upon learning about the dismissal of the case, members of the state commission were outraged and worried the student, who is no longer detained, could be a danger to the North Florida community.

“The judge falls outside the scope of reasonableness. I just hope they can live with themselves if something happens,” said Commissioner Ryan Petty, whose daughter Alaina was killed in the Marjory Stoneman Douglas shooting in Parkland.

In a Sept. 9 news release, the Baker County Sheriff’s Office said the juvenile admitted to detectives that he wrote multiple plans to carry out the school shooting with the specific campus locations, dates and times and the specific people he would attack. But the student denied any intention of going through with those plans, the sheriff’s office said.

Gualtieri, who is the sheriff of Pinellas County, said that while he thinks the judge’s ruling is “disturbing,” he doesn’t know what the commission could recommend lawmakers to do.

“The question is, does the statute need to be changed? I don’t see anything in statute that needs to be changed,” Gualtieri said.

Commissioner Max Schachter, father of slain Parkland student Alex Schachter, was frustrated by Gualtieri’s response and suggested the commission scold the judge in a letter for ruling against law enforcement’s actions to “prevent the next Parkland.”

“The commission should write a letter emphasizing … that releasing this person back into society — knowing how they want to kill all these people — is irresponsible and puts the community at risk,” Schachter said.

But no other commissioner agreed with him.

“For us to intervene and chastise a judge and their conduct, I don’t think it is appropriate,” said Commissioner Bruce Bartlett, the chief assistant state attorney for the judicial circuit that includes Pinellas and Pasco counties.

Instead, Bartlett said voters could vote out the judge in the next election.

“This seems to be a situation that happened in one place and a decision made by one court,” the Pinellas sheriff said. “It’s unfortunate and extremely troubling, and all we can do is hope this kid, who is out on the street does not execute his plan.”

The Baker County Sheriff’s Office said they are trying to appeal this case 

Some riding pictures

Elise has another horse show on Saturday, so she spent her riding lesson this week working with her trainer on what to expect. The weather has cooled down in Florida, which makes us want to spend all our time outside. Chewy is getting a winter coat already. Even he was happy with the weather.

Look at this equitation, for a seven-year-old!

Working on getting into the jumping position.

Elise is very strong for a little kid. Her trainer has her riding at a trot and posting without reins, and she has zero problem balancing on the horse. She doesn’t even get worried about falling. She was born to be on the back of a horse. I can’t wait to see how far she goes with riding.