Between the Lines

Between the Lines by David Lias �It�s so sad that entire lives have been affected. There is simply no reason for it all.�

That statement, by Circuit Court Judge Arthur Rusch, sums up the incredible damage done by two former USD students April 27.

Mitch Rivard and Scott Beckman � for reasons that will never make sense � beat fellow USD student Jeff Strong so badly that he�ll never completely recover.

Strong suffered severe facial injuries. He has problems with his memory, vision and comprehension.

The former dean�s list student now struggles with his studies. He had to quit the USD football team. He must also deal with a host of other problems, from headaches and nausea, to poor vision and dizziness.

Rivard pleaded guilty to aggravated assault. Beckman was convicted of a similar charge by a Clay County Circuit Court jury. They each were sentenced to 10 years in the state penitentiary with eight years suspended. They remained free on $25,000 bond but surrendered themselves to authorities Jan. 29.

�It�s been tragic on everybody�s side.�

Those words were uttered recently by Jerry Pollard, a defense attorney from Yankton. His client, 18-year-old Laura Brown of Yankton, remains in the Dixon County Jail in Ponca, NE.

Last summer, she attacked Tracy Gilkyson, 21, of Vermillion, and sadly, it appears, her victim will be permanently imprisoned.

Brown took a steak knife and plunged it into Gilkyson�s back at a party near Pleasant Valley, west of Hartington, NE.

The knife severed Gilkyson�s spinal cord. She remains paralyzed from the waist down.

As part of a plea agreement, Brown has pleaded guilty to first degree assault and use of a deadly weapon to commit a felony, both Class III felonies.

A judge has ordered that Brown receive a 90-day evaluation before she is sentenced.

Brown and Rivard and Beckman are all behind bars today. That�s not the only thing they have in common, however.

The three had the same ingredient coursing through their veins when their actions permanently altered two innocent people�s lives.

All three were drunk. Brown�s attorney notes that his client was not only over the legal blood-alcohol limit, but was also taking the painkiller oxycotin.

Judge Rusch blames alcohol and a �culture of arrogance� at the Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity as major factors behind Rivard�s and Beckman�s destructive behavior.

We shouldn�t be surprised that alcohol has taken such a heavy toll in our community.

A report issued approximately a year ago by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) notes that underage drinkers and adults who drink excessively account for more than half of all the alcohol consumed in the United States.

Alcohol abuse takes a huge toll on the nation, CASA added, in car accidents, injuries, high-risk sexual behavior and alcohol poisoning.

It doesn�t have to be this way. We praise local law enforcement and concerned parents and citizens who hope to make a difference through programs such as DARE, MADD and our school resource officer.

Like Rusch, we strongly condemn the actions of the Lambda Chi Alpha house. The judge notes that the fraternity members continue to harass Strong, who lives across the street from them.

They curse at him. They take his license plates. They�re determined to make Strong�s life miserable, all the while forgetting that Rivard and Beckman have, in many ways, already accomplished that.

The culture at Lambda Chi Alpha is reprehensible.

You may contact Plain Talk editor David Lias at david.lias@plaintalk.net

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