A post by John Perry Barlow, a founding member of the Internet-activism group Electronic Frontier Foundation and former Grateful Dead lyricist — drew more than 100 retweets and 7,000 reactions on Tumblr today, drawing ire from netizens with a comparison of the 15-year sentence a homeless man received for stealing $100 to the 40-month term handed down to former Taylor Bean & Whitaker CEO Paul R. Allen.
Allen was sentenced on June 11th for what investigators termed “one of the biggest corporate frauds in U.S. history”, a scheme that cost lenders more than three-billion dollars.
Perry sarcastically quipped, “Think bigger.”
The homeless man pictured is Roy Brown, who walked into a Capital One bank in Shreveport, Louisiana in 2007, demanded money from a bank teller and, upon being handed three stacks of bills, took $100, and returned the rest. The next day, Brown turned himself in. According to media reports, he told the police his mother didn’t raise him to steal.
Tumblr users were unrestrained in their criticism of the disparity. Joneybear seemed to sum up the situation for many Tumblr users, “Murderers are running free while a poor man who has a conscience gets 15 years. GOD BLESS AMERICA!”
Meanwhile, displaying the reflexive skepticism of today’s Web, Violenthippie7 called the veracity of the story into question. We questioned the story, too—a widely circulated link to the original source proved broken—but found an authentic report on the website of KTBS, a Shreveport television station.
Wakku pointed out a slightly different and less popular angle: “You should see the good side… if that homeless gets into a ‘normal’ prison, he will have a place to sleep and eat.”