Aiesha Steward-Baker's Criminal History Is Fair Game

Aiesha Steward-Baker is the story now.
SeattleCrime's Jonah Spangenthal-Lee is right about a lot of things. But when it comes to the treatment given tunnel beating victim Aiesha Steward-Baker, he's wrong.

This morning, Spangenthal-Lee called a Seattle Times article on Steward-Baker's criminal history "a bit of a character assassination piece." So what offense did The Times commit to earn such a rebuke?

It took a look at Steward-Baker's past and found she'd been on the other end of two similar assaults in the past year. In one, the 15-year-old punched and robbed Tamie Cox, a 50-year-old accountant from Shoreline. In another, she punched a security guard in the head after he'd caught her friend shoplifting.

Spangenthal-Lee says Steward-Baker's criminal history is "irrelevant." Here's why he's wrong.

The initial story was about what security guards and cops in the tunnel did and didn't do to prevent Steward-Baker from getting beat. The system had holes. Those holes are now being patched, best they can.

The story now, however, is as much about Steward-Baker as it is what happened to her. In fact, the two are intertwined.

Demands for restitution necessitate a certain amount of unwanted snooping in your past lives.
That's what happens when you make yourself a public figure. As the young teen did when she, her mother and her lawyer appeared on "Good Morning America."

It's also what happens when you imply that you're going to sue the police department. And makes your criminal history fair game.

Spangenthal-Lee's headline said The Times was "putting the victim on trial." Which is all kinds of ridiculous considering it's the victim, and her lawyer, who's now asking for a trial. (Or, if you prefer, hoping it never gets that far and bailing with a settlement.)

The bar for gaining the public's sympathy is low when you're caught on camera being kicked, punched and stomped while grown men watch and do nothing. The bar for getting civil damages is necessarily higher.

It's the trade-off for wanting a little cash for your troubles. Take it from someone who's gone through the ringer of a civil suit himself; the light slap of media scrutiny is nothing compared to the roundhouse delivered during depositions.

Steward-Baker says she went to Westlake cops three times asking for their help. She wanted protection from the mob of kids that would eventually rob her and leave her unconscious and bleeding on a bus platform.

But how much of what happened that January night was the responsibility of the officers involved and how much was a result of Steward-Baker's behavior before the cameras started rolling?

She's already plead guilty to hitting the security guard. And her lawyer says she'll plead guilty to robbing Cox on Monday.

Do these criminal acts mean Steward-Baker in any way had the beating "coming to her" or "deserved" to get hit? Of course not. But are they relevant. Absolutely.

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