Bad Ideas, Crime, Law Schools, Legal Ethics, Minority Issues, Police, Racism, Reader Polls, UVA Law

What To Do With The UVA Law Student Who Cried Wolf?

I wonder what Sally Hemings would say to Johnathan Perkins.

UPDATE (4 PM): The dean of UVA Law School, Paul G. Mahoney, has issued a statement about the application of the University of Virginia’s Honor System to the Johnathan Perkins incident. We have reprinted it after the jump.

White law students lie all the time and nobody makes a big deal about it, but now there’s a black law student who lies about something, and people are throwing a fit? That hardly seems right.

Look, whether or not white people want to believe it, racism is an important issue. It’s an issue that they don’t think about nearly enough. While Johnathan Perkins might have fabricated some of the details of his late-night run-in with the law (or at least university police), his goal of bringing attention to on-campus racism was laudable — and should be advanced by any means necessary.

I’m just warming up. Let me tell you what I really think about the Johnathan Perkins controversy at UVA Law School….

Johnathan Perkins

Sorry, Lat — even I can’t spin this one. Johnathan Perkins is a complete jerkhat. It’s fine if UVA doesn’t want to file criminal charges against him, but the kid should be expelled. This is my view, and it’s the view of 80 percent of Above the Law readers, according to our poll.

Let’s talk about the most important thing first. Based on what we know now (perhaps we’ll learn more later), and assuming the university’s account of events is true, what Johnathan Perkins apparently did was dangerous. He put people on campus and in Charlottesville in physical danger.

Maybe this guy is too young or too uninformed to see it that way, but we live in a world where racial tension can devolve into violence. There was a chance that Perkins’s emotionally charged fabrications could have led to violent protests. And now that Perkins has been exposed as a liar, you never know if there might be a counter reaction from the white community in Charlottesville that also ends in violence. I lived through the Tawana Brawley situation here in NYC, and I remember that it was a frightening time for blacks here in the weeks after she was discredited.

Of course, that was a time in New York City where it was apparently okay for whites to shoot black people to death on the subway if they got scared. We can perhaps assume that Perkins was not thinking of the people who could have been hurt from his spurious allegations. Let’s hope that Charlottesville in 2011 is more civilized than New York in 1986.

We’re still left, however, with a student who irresponsibly abused the trust of any entire community, and in so doing made it more difficult for every single black student on campus at UVA. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t buy into the crap being said by many UVA tipsters. If I may paraphrase their argument, it goes something like this: “Whaa, because one black person lied, I’m less likely to believe any other black person ever again because I trust black people only based on what other members of their race have done in the past.” Obviously, I think that argument represents an unfair double standard.

But just because something is “unfair” doesn’t make it less relevant. Black people are constantly in the position of having their actions “reflect” on the whole race. We can complain about it and fight against it, but at the end of the day, this one black person who lied about police racism has just made it more difficult for any other person to bring up police racism. Fair, unfair, it doesn’t much matter.

I don’t think Perkins should be expelled because he might have incited people to violence, and I don’t think he should be expelled because he’s given a few assholes ammunition to maintain a racial divisive double standard. I think Perkins needs to be expelled because he knowingly lied to everybody, and really that should be enough.

If you can’t make it through three years of law school without perpetrating a massive fraud against your peers, classmates, and campus police, then you really have no business graduating from law school. It’s that simple. I don’t care if Perkins lied to everybody by telling them he’d lost his dog when actually he owns a cat, the fact that he couldn’t make it through school without purposely fabricating events should be a deal breaker.

You don’t get a second chance to exhibit basic ethics. Definitely not at a school like UVA, which has a “single sanction” system for Honor Code violations — there’s only one penalty, and that penalty is dismissal.

And don’t tell me that expelling this guy will have a “chilling effect” on others who want to come forward with stories of campus racism. Because it turns out that this is not a story about racism. It is a story about lies and whether or not they’ll be tolerated at UVA.

Screw this liar. Get him out of here. I’m sure the black community at UVA Law is strong enough to stand up for themselves without the fictional stylings of Johnathan Perkins.

UPDATE (4 PM): Here is Dean Paul Mahoney’s statement:

At the end of last week, a student at the Law School admitted that a letter he published in the student newspaper was untrue. My office has received inquiries about the application of the University of Virginia’s Honor System to this incident.

The Honor System is student-run and confidential, and of course includes procedural protections for the accused. There will be no public statement of the existence of an Honor investigation (or any other disciplinary proceeding) unless the subject of the investigation chooses to make one. In the event that an Honor proceeding or other disciplinary action is unresolved at the time of graduation, the subject is typically permitted to participate in the ceremony but does not actually receive a degree pending the outcome of the proceeding.

The University and the Law School are committed to maintaining a community of trust and take violations of that trust with utmost seriousness. We also take seriously the procedural safeguards afforded every student accused of an offense.

Earlier: A Law Student Plays the Race Card — and Gets Busted, Big Time

(hidden for your protection)

comments sponsored by

Show all comments