Forgive me for breaking character, but today, serious things need to be said in a serious way.
It’s fashionable for the rich – who, by definition, control the vast majority of opinion-shaping institutions on this planet – to raise the cry of “class warfare” when anyone points out the disparity between rich and poor. Wringing their hands, these “victims” point to the American Dream, which they themselves have defrauded for millions: that is, if everyone worked harder (and, not coincidentally, stopped complaining) they would benefit, and eventually have nothing to complain about.
What the blameless, bleating lambs of the upper class fail to recognize is that the difference between an affluent business owner and, say, the average student, is not merely a difference in degree, but a difference in type. The American Revolution was not undertaken to make the world safe for free market capitalism; blood and sweat were spent so this continent could enjoy a government “of laws, not men.”
One in which the moneyed aristocracy would have no power to subvert justice.
But now the very underpinnings of the rule of law are constantly under attack by the children of privilege, and we need only go as far as our own University of Tampa to see the brutal consequences that affectations of pomp and self-importance can sometimes conceal until it’s too late.
More sordid details have emerged about Matthew Dieterle, the man who now stands accused of slaying UT sophomore Samantha MacQuilliam. Whether or not you believe Dieterle was the murderer, his life story conceals, in my humble opinion, more than his fair share of long shadows and dark places.
It is a story of a young person without self-control. A story that could have been very different but for the cheap grace of the accused’s well-to-do father. Matthew Dieterle could have been, and I say, should have been in jail on the day the murder of Samantha MacQuilliam took place.
Instead, he – a man who The St. Petersburg Times claims had threatened Ms. MacQuilliam before – was free, with no evidence he was pursuing anything in life other than being the dire albatross around this young woman’s neck.
Let’s begin at the beginning.
On Friday, Nov. 16, 2001, Dieterle threatened two men in his hometown of Gambrills, Maryland with a gun. After pulling the trigger repeatedly, he decided to leave his vehicle with a baseball bat in hand and punch one of the men, police said.
Two days later, Dieterle – who for reasons unknown was not welcome in his parents’ home even then – apparently broke into that home. Police said he was in possession of marijuana, drug paraphernalia, and perhaps most telling of all, a 9mm hand gun.
Dieterle was sentenced to four years in prison and five years supervised probation by Circuit Court Judge Joseph P. Manck, who soon commuted all but 18 months of this sentence, allowing the felon to be among law-abiding citizens for work release. During this time, Dieterle’s conduct inspired one young woman to obtain the equivalent of a restraining order against him.
Still on probation in May 06, the prodigal son got help from the most likely source: his daddy.
In a letter obtained by The Minaret, Robert S. Dieterle, then apparently president of an accounting firm, submitted before the court proof of his son’s maturity, honesty, and upstanding moral character.
How did he do this?
Mainly by reciting a litany of piddling clerical duties his son had as an employee of his firm.
Apparently, engaging in computer data entry, bank deposits, and “organization of files” was meant to provide a wellspring of moral strength that the younger Dieterle was missing when he aggressively confronted two men, striking one.
If you ask me, light office work is no replacement for isolated reflection on one’s past misdeeds, but Judge Manck must have bought it, because Matthew Dieterle’s probation was terminated. He was allowed to go to Tampa, ostensibly to attend classes.
According to Robert Dieterle’s letter, he wanted to help his son “achieve some independence.” He succeeded: a convicted felon walked away with virtual independence from the U.S. legal system. How many people sit in prison today, wrongly accused, and wish for the same opportunity!
Only a year after leaving Maryland, the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Department tells us, Matthew Dieterle ran afoul of the law again. He attracted officers’ attention by blasting his music at a Largo convenience store. After failing to comply with their requests, he zoomed away. When the officers caught him, he responded with shouts.
Finally, he was dragged out of his car when an officer spotted a gun beneath his seat.
It’s worth reflecting on what may have happened if Dieterle had darker skin. Would officers have struggled with a belligerent youth in possession of a gun if he appeared to be of African or Arabic descent? Would the sense of invincibility that made Dieterle scoff at civilized society have protected him if one of those officers fired in self-defense? When seized, he was reaching under the seat, supposedly for his cell phone, a reckless gesture in a tense situation.
After his arrest, the gun was discovered to be a toy, its red tip painted black. Maybe Dieterle thought he was a hard man after a whopping fourteen months in prison and wanted to act the part. Maybe it was, as he claimed, a Halloween prop. Was it left over from the last year or was he really early for the upcoming one? Dieterle’s hearing for this incident had not yet taken place at the time of Ms. MacQuilliam’s murder.
Who among us, who isn’t the child of a white collar capitalist, who isn’t ensconced in the morally insuperable world of finance, could expect the constant coddling from institutions of law Matthew Dieterle received? Who among us could expect to walk away with barely a scratch from four charges of assault, five firearm offenses, and three drug offenses, among others? Who among us would dare to even suggest such a shameful travesty against justice?
Reports indicate that, after the murder was committed, Matthew Dieterle returned to Maryland. He flew back to Florida with his mother and uncle, intending to retain an attorney. Even in these last moments of freedom, Dieterle showed his character by fleeing to his parents, seeking to use his family’s clout to hide behind whatever legalisms could shield him from police.
Thankfully, he could not elude the law any further, and he now sits in jail.
Murderer or not, prison is where Matthew Dieterle belongs. Two men who today walk free under the sky – now-retired Judge Joseph P. Manck and Robert S. Dieterle himself – deserve the chance to reflect for a lifetime upon the reign of terror their shortsightedness and poor judgment helped to bring about.
When affluence does battle against justice, only the innocent suffer.
That is true class war, against which democracy, transparency, and truth are the only bulwarks.
Let’s hope, for all our sakes, that those bulwarks can stand against the rising tide of entitlement.
3 thoughts on “Dieterle Warning Signs Concealed by Dollar Signs”
Yes: When a belligerent person constantly gets involved in violent confrontations and threatens innocents and the police, it takes 20/20 hindsight to tell they should not be shielded from the consequences of those actions by some crown prince of finance until they commit murder — as a court has since found.
Good point, Pete.
Good point, Pete.
Everything this author asserts about the judge and Matthew’s father has the good fortune of 20 20 hindsight.