Former bishop Heather Cook sentenced to 7 years

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The Baltimore Sun reports:

Former Episcopal Bishop Heather Cook was sentenced Tuesday to seven years in prison for killing a cyclist in a drunken crash days after Christmas.

Cook, 59, pleaded guilty last month to automobile manslaughter in the death of 41-year-old Thomas Palermo, a married father of two young children. She was taken into custody at the conclusion of the sentencing hearing Wednesday.

From

Here’s what Cook said in court:

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News video here.

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31 Responses to "Former bishop Heather Cook sentenced to 7 years"
  1. Ms. Cook references herself nine times in this short statement. I don't know what, if any, significance that has. It just strikes me as strange.

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      • Would you stop with the sarcasm already? I am done with Episcopal Cafe! If a church website cannot be a refuge from sarcasm, no place can.

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  2. Well, it is rather hard to accept personal responsibility without referencing oneself.

    Nonetheless, mentioning Mr. Palermo's name makes what was done all the more real. It could be too hard for her to say his name. It might be too hard for the family to hear his name on her lips, or it might not.

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  3. WBAL-TV (NBC affiliate in Baltimore) states that she must serve seven full years and that "financial agreements with the client and the diocese" were reached so there will be no civil suits.

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  4. Hopefully the vetting process will find out when people have several DUIs and not be hired.

    [Lena - please sign your first & last names when commenting. Editor]

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    • I'm sure that you meant to say having several DUIs and not addressing the problem. DUIs in one's past is not de facto grounds for not being hired.

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    • Now that the legal proceedings are over, what will the Diocese of Maryland do to assist Tom Palermo's widow, who has lost their health insurance with his death? She has small children so employment is limited, and she should not be forced to work to survive. If the Diocese doesn't step up and do the right thing, she is victimized a second time. Where is full disclosure on the "financial agreements with the client and the diocese?"

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      • I can't see where that is really any of your business regarding the financial agreements. You know what you need to know, that they are on board with the punishment phase and arrangements for their future wellbeing have been provided. Anything beyond that is prurient curiosity.

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      • If the Diocese does not provide for this woman and her children, then that is a second, grave injustice. The diocesan officials would do well to God's Word in Exodus where it discusses those who mistreat widows and the fatherless.

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      • Margaret, since this terrible tragedy took place, the Diocese has done everything in their power to whitewash this, and escape any collective or individual accountability. That is a matter of established fact. No other conclusion can be drawn from their behavior.

        Like you, I think it would be in everyone's best interest to know the terms of the financial settlement. We are all part of the church. To trust leadership that has so thoroughly failed us regarding any aspect of this is foolhardy.

        The Palermo family also made it very clear that they are disappointed in the sentence. "Lukewarm" is not the result they wanted, desired, or expected.

        More than anything else, I'd like to express my feeling that I don't see anything at all "prurient" in your curiosity. That word is despicable in the context of this. You are owed an apology. I hope you get it.

        http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/prurient

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      • How was the diocese responsible? Do you think that Heather Cook was forced to drive a car, whilst drunk, by the Diocese? Do you honestly think the Diocese could have known about this & prevented it?

        I have yet to see a single thing that suggests that is true, except statements like "They must have known!" As someone who lived with an alcoholic, first in my family and later in a relationship, I would say it's nowhere near as clear as it seems after the fact.

        There is a real danger in looking at something post facto and making conclusions about what others knew and when. What is clear to us at this point was undoubtedly less clear before it happened; none of us can see the future, but it's tempting to imagine we can when we look at something from a distance after it has happened.

        The death of Tom Palermo was a terrible tragedy that weighs heavily on all of us; I'm a committed cyclist who rode about 2000 miles this summer alone. I saw that death as something that could easily happen to me, and which has happened to people I used to bike with. I was (and am) outraged by it.

        Despite that, I take several issues with the 'critics':
        1. The claim that the Diocese is responsible seems ill-considered, unproven, and distracting. HEATHER COOK DID THIS. No one else made her do it. No one else put her in that car. That was hers, and hers alone. If she robbed a gas station & shot the clerk, would we blame the Diocese? It seems a huge logical leap.
        2. After making the first claim, one can easily see the Diocese as being 'shifty' or 'avoiding' blame. Of course! Because you are blaming them for something they didn't do; of course they aren't going to take the blame. Which individual is at fault? One of the how many people who reviewed her eligibility before she was hired? An employee at the background check office who failed to find the original DUI? The judge who gave her such a lenient sentence at her hearing?

        I think people should be careful with their rage & venting, especially those of us who were not close to Mr. Palermo. Cooler heads sometimes need to prevail. What is the logical conclusion of these demands? Firing the Bishop in Maryland? Firing the outgoing Presiding Bishop?

        The sheer lack of logic and real end goals in this type of 'critique' makes me question the motives, or at best, honestly hope that people could stand down when they are overcome by emotion and stop pushing for an uncertain and possibly undesirable end goal.

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      • Adjective
        prurient ‎(comparative more prurient, superlative most prurient)

        1. Uneasy with desire; itching; especially, having a lascivious anxiety or propensity; lustful.
        2. Arousing or appealing to sexual desire.
        3. Curious, especially inappropriately so.
        https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/prurient

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      • The legal proceedings may not be completely over. In most states a settlement of a minor's claims must be approved by the court, who typically appoints an attorney ad litem to represent the minor's interests. The court can reject the settlement as it applies to the child it determines that it's not in his or her best interest.

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      • Whatever the Diocese may have done with regard to a financial settlement, I doubt it was because they feared being found liable for an actionable tort. The Diocese may have wanted to provide for the family and also avoid a painful and embarrassing suit against a former bishop. It is possible that the terms of the settlement or support include a confidentiality provision, which is a common practice. It should also be remembered that HC's automobile liability and personal injury carrier would be looking to settle, as well.

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    • I sent Resolution DO14 to General convention for that purpose. Now aspirants for ordination must be asked one or more questions abut addiction when they are interviewed and if the response is positive they are to be referred to an alcoholism counselor for evaluation.

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  5. Seven years for a man's life.

    I understand this is our system, but this is not justice.

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      • Life with the possibility of parole (so, in essence, 25 years) would be good. Her consistent recklessness bordered on murderous. I pray she seeks forgiveness for the killing of the cyclist and uses this time for penance, but 7 years is quite cheap for a man's life.

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  6. The Baltimore Brew website has it a bit differently. Five years minimum, plus parole.

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    • Jay:
      From their most recent story, it's also 7 years
      https://www.baltimorebrew.com/2015/10/28/from-cook-an-apology-from-the-family-of-bicyclist-tom-palermo-grief-and-fury/
      "In addition to the seven-year prison sentence that Doory ultimately imposed, he specified also that Cook is to serve five years probation, that she must only drive with an interlock device and that she must participate in any alcohol treatment program specified by her court monitor."

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  7. the best comment that I read about this entire ordeal is the comment someone wrote about being shocked that this (someone being killed by a drunken clergyperson) has not happened sooner. The amount of alcohol abuse in the Episcopal Church among clergy and leadership in general has always been apparent to anyone with the eyes to see. I would like there to be a declaration of the House of Bishops that all Bishops will promise to remain alcohol free during General Convention and all HOB gatherings and that lay delegates will be offered the opportunity to do so as well. That would be responsible leadership.

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  8. The Sheep and the Goats [Matthew 25]

    31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.

    34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. ... 36 ... I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

    37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you ... 39 ...in prison and go to visit you?’

    40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

    41 - 46

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  9. Who is David Allen? ... The auhor of 5 comments on this thread and an official post-er to Episcopal Cafe.

    There's a SSJE brother by that name who posts sermons on the SSJE web site, but it can't be he!

    What does it take to be an Episcopal Cafe post-er?

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    • I am a long time participant here at The Lead and on other Anglican websites. And I was invited earlier this year to be a volunteer editor by the Episcopal Cafe's editor-in-chief, the Revd Jon White. I am responsible for the stories that are published on The Lead on Saturdays. I also help monitor the comments on The Lead and The Lead's Facebook page.

      And no, this is not me. I believe that I am much younger than he is. And I'm from Mexico, I'm a bit more brown that he is!

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  10. As someone who lost multiple family members to a drunk driver in a single accident (the driver suffered no meaningful consequences), I am disappointed at the lenient sentence.

    Going forward, my hope is that we will review our vetting process for clergy. While TEC is not responsible for Heather's actions, we remain caught up in our see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil paradigm. And we need effective internal controls such that misconduct can be addressed promptly and without retribution. Far too many clergy are able to act without what I only half-kiddingly refer to as "adult supervision."

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  11. I am going to apologize first, as I suspect that whatever I say will offend someone. A couple of thoughts:

    1. The denial in persons with substance abuse is real and a part of the disease. Denial means really not realizing and believing that you have a problem. It is not just "lying to get out of it." Asking persons for a history of problems and then referring for evaluation might or might not be effective.

    Secondly, in a larger sense, persons are often these days talking about "getting justice" usually meaning that their own sense of how severely a person is punished is the measure of "justice being served." In our legal system, we often now let the "injured parties" participate in sentencing process. This is not typically compensatory to the "Victim" but punitive towards the convicted person. Seeing someone "get what's coming to them" may be satisfying to some degree if one is harmed and hurting. Is it, however, the attitude that we should _encourage_ as Christian persons? Should we be thinking about "seventy times seven" at least on some occasions? I am here NOT talking about how the family of the victim here should feel, but as a matter of church teaching. I am not talking about compensation for loss but about punitive measures towards the convicted.

    Again, sorry, I am sure that this will have offended someone.

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    • Countries with less punitive and more restorative justice systems have less recidivism and better outcomes.

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