Well, at Least He Wasn’t Texting

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Here's your headline of the [insert appropriate time frame]:

Witnesses: Man drove 90 mph with genitals hanging out the window

It looks as though an alleged reign of terror may be coming to an end, after three of what police said were "dozens" of victims testified against William Blakely last week in a preliminary hearing in Kingsport, Tennessee. According to WJHL-TV, the three women all told a very similar story, one that detectives said many others may be willing to tell now that these three have come forward.

Blakely—who was once nearby Mount Carmel's vice-mayor, a title that now seems to take on new meaning—reportedly has a history of driving alongside women, exposing himself, and pleading for them to do the same, all while traveling at high speed. One of the women testified that the pursuit reached speeds of 90 mph as she tried to escape, to no avail. All testified, understandably, that they were "fearful Blakely's [one-handed] driving would cause an accident."

A detective was quoted as saying that the department had received "dozens" of reports of similar behavior over the course of "three or four years," from women ranging in age from 16 to 65. "Every victim would tell the same story," she said, "but I knew all the victims did not know each other." The report suggests that this continued for so long because the earlier victims were afraid or embarrassed to come forward, but eventually the alleged Mayor of Vice pulled up next to the wrong person.

In a short video (one of three available on WJHL's website), one of the victims gave what seemed to me to be pretty credible (and specific) testimony as to what exactly she had seen. The real break in the case, though, happened because she had the presence of mind to write down his license plate number. "Which I believe he noticed," she said, "and he [then] exited very quickly." He might be exiting civilian life for a while, depending on what the grand jury. The detective said "several more cases" would also be presented to the grand jury.

Some of the comments to the story on WJHL's website were predictable, such as references to "cruise control" and "objects in mirror may appear larger than they are" (which is kind of funny even though the actual warning is "Objects in Mirror are Closer Than They Appear," see 49 C.F.R. § 571.111). Some were not sure the activity described in the headline would actually be physically possible. One man in fact appeared to be furious about the headline, saying he had been at the hearing and that in fact "there was no mention of anyone's genitals hanging out the window." He said she should be "ashamed and guilty" about this misrepresentation, which in his view had destroyed her "journalistic integrity."

Really? Okay, let's agree that the headline was almost certainly an exaggeration, since, taken literally, that really does seem impossible. But the commenter seemed to have no clue that whether or not the business broke the plane of the window is not going to be a material issue in the State's case, so I would not call the exaggeration material, either.

Blakely is charged (so far) with criminal attempt to commit aggravated assault, a charge that seems a little questionable, and also with indecent exposure and reckless endangerment, which don't.