Cathlyn Wilkerson was a member of the Weatherman Underground Organization–a radical left-wing group founded at the University of Michigan. The group’s main goal was to create a revolution as a result of their disdain with the Vietnam war and the injustice geared towards black society. The group declared war on the United States government by going on a 3 day campaign in Chicago, commonly referred to the Days of Rage, bombing government buildings and banks.
Wilkerson and other “Weathermen” were charged with assault from the Days of Rage riots, but were freed on bail. Subsequently, she and another Weatherman member, Kathy Boudin, were nearly killed in an inadvertent bomb explosion at Wilkerson’s father’s Greenwich Village Townhouses apartment.
Apparently, two Weathermen, Diana Oughton and Terry Robbins, were manufacturing the bomb when it accidentally exploded, killing them instantly and sending the four-story building tumbling completely to the ground. It is alleged that the group was intending to use the bomb to set them off that evening at a dance for noncommissioned officers and their dates at the Fort Dix, New Jersey Army base, to “bring the [Vietnam] war home.” A total of three Weathermen were killed by the explosion.
Boudin and Wilkerson escaped, went into hiding before they could be questioned by cops, and was ultimately placed on the FBI’s 10 most wanted list. However, Wilkerson surrendered in 1980 and pleaded guilty to unlawful possession of dynamite. She was sentenced to three years in prison, but her privilege allowed her to only serve 11 months. The judge noted that “her conduct while in jail has been exemplary.”
Wilkerson went on in life to become a high school math teacher and taught in adult education programs. She eventually wrote a book titled Flying Close to the Sun: My Life and Times As a Weatherman.
Although Wilkerson’s activism was for a great cause and quite courageous–I might add, you simply can’t ignore the fact that if her illegal activities had been perpetrated by a poor woman of color, she’d still be in prison today, serving the natural life sentence that she would have received.
Kathy Boudin was a leader of the Weatherman Underground Organization who had also participated in the Days of Rage riots, aiming to overthrow the U.S government, and was involved in the accidental bombing of the Greenwich Village Townhouses.
After evading death by explosion, Boudin went on to evade police for over 10 years. She was finally captured during the Brink’s robbery of 1981–a robbery carried out by Black Liberation Army members. They stole $1.6 million from a Brink’s armored car at the Nanuet Mall, in Nanuet, New York, killing two police officers, Edward O’Grady and Waverly Brown (the first African American member of the Nyack, New York police department) and a Brink’s guard, Peter Paige.
After committing terrorism against the U.S. government, getting involved in an apartment building bombing where 3 were killed, and perpetrating armed robbery where two officers were murdered, Boudin’s privilege allowed for her release in 2003 and she is now “an adjunct professor at Columbia University.”
One interesting fact about Boudin’s case and a clear exemplification of her privilege is that the other accomplices, some African-American, that were captured during the robbery are still in prison today.
Heiress Susan Cummings
Daughter of billionaire guns dealer Samuel Cummings, Susan Cummings became infamous for killing her scanty, Argentine polo player boyfriend, Roberto Villegas and was sentenced to 60 days in jail. While living on her million dollar Warrenton, Virginia estate purchased by her father, Cummings claimed that Villegas was abusive towards her, and therefore, she killed him in self-defense. However, the crime scene didn’t display any signs of an attack of any sort, especially against her.
Cummings was known to be a recluse, basic, timid, and very eccentric woman that preferred the company of animals over people. Before meeting Villegas, Cummings was accused of stalking another man to the point that he unsuccessfully attempted to file a restraining order against her.
Though quiet, she was known for being extremely jealous and territorial. On the other hand, Villegas was a popular flirt and cheat, and therefore, it is rumored that Cummings became enraged by his behavior.
Weeks prior to the murder, Cummings went to the police station to make unproven claims of abuse. It is believed that this was done in a poor attempt to set the “self-defense” stage for her ultimate murder. Officers instructed Cummings to file a restraining order, which she refused to do, leaving them to scrutinize her claims of abuse.
After Villegas was phone dead on Cummings’ kitchen floor, the evidence revealed that she waited over 30 minutes before calling police after shooting him, and that the superficial scratches that existed on her arm looked fresher than Villegas blood that had coagulated on the floor.
Cummings was arrested and charged with homicide, but ended up being found guilty of voluntary manslaughter. Her privilege and class allowed her to receive a sentence of 60 days in jail and a $2,500 fine. But after serving only 57 days, Susan was released. She and her fraternal twin sister, Diana, eventually sold the mansion for $4.9 million, and moved into the LeBaron Farm in Culpeper County, Virginia.
Instead of being ostracized by the community for murdering someone, Susan’s privilege allowed her a recognition for her beautiful home in the 2006 Washingtonian Residential Design awards.
Ethan Couch a.k.a The Affluenza Kid
Rich and privileged Ethan Couch was sixteen-years-old when he murdered 4 people while driving drunk. His story became infamous because he was only sentenced to 10 years of probation for his crimes. The courts accepted his lawyer’s argument that Couch was the real victim in this case because he suffered from “affluenza”–a made up condition where race and class supersedes responsibility and accountability.
The day of the murders, Couch was captured on a Walmart store’s surveillance stealing 2 cases of beer. Later on, he and his seven inebriated teenage passengers were traveling 70mph in a 40mph zone on the same 2-way lane where victim Breanna Mitchell’s sport utility vehicle had broken down. Victims Hollie and Shelby Boyles, and youth minister Brian Jennings were all attempting to help her before Couch lost control of the Ford F-350 pickup truck that he was driving. He slammed dead on into Jennings’ car, which ended up hitting an oncoming Volkswagen Beetle. All three passengers were instantly killed, while Couch, his passengers, and the passengers in the Beetle all survived.
After the accident, it was determined that Couch had a blood alcohol content of 0.24, three times the legal limit for adult drivers in Texas, and tested positive for Valium. He was eventually charged with four counts of intoxication manslaughter and two counts of intoxication assault and faced a possible 20 year prison sentence. However, his attorneys argued that he shouldn’t be imprisoned for his crimes because he was a product of “affluenza” and was unable to link his bad behavior with consequences because of his parents teaching him that wealth buys privilege. He was then sentenced to 10 years of probation, which included prohibition of alcohol consumption. However, because of Couch’s “affluenza” and the fact that the judge’s ruling only further sent the message that he is above the law, could do whatever he wants, and not be held accountable, Couch violated his probation after being captured on video playing beer pong with his friends at a party.
He and his mother became fugitives after running off to Mexico to evade police, but were eventually captured. The mother was charged with a felony of hindering apprehension of a felon. Her bond went from a whopping $1 million to $75,000. And if this isn’t atrocious enough, the courts had another chance to teach Couch a lesson, but failed to do so once again. Instead of him finally getting the warranted prison sentence that he deserves, the judge sentenced him to completing his 10 year probation sentence.
This case is significant because it clearly exemplifies the roles that both classism and racism plays in American society. If Ethan Couch was poor, he’d had been sent to prison. There’s no way in American society that a poor drunk driver, of any race, can murder multiple innocent people and walk free. However, if he were poor and a person of color, he’d be spending the rest of his natural life in prison with no possibility of parole.
It is a fact that wealthy whites have a different level of privilege than all other middle class and poor people. The Ethan Couch killings, violation of probation, evasion of police, and then getting yet another slap on the wrist all the while being in the national spotlight only proves this.
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