Rioting Penn State Cadet Shocked to Be Kicked Out of ROTC Program
Justin Strine spent part of the summer in jail for violent mayhem but doesn't understand why he's unfit to be an Army officer.
Justin Strine spent part of the summer in jail for violent mayhem but doesn’t understand why he’s unfit to be an Army officer.
AP (“Penn State riot ends aspiring Army officer’s dream“):
Stints in jail. Hefty fines and restitution. Clouded futures. The consequences of their bad behavior have been steep for the Penn State students who took to the streets and rioted in the chaotic aftermath of Hall of Fame coach Joe Paterno’s firing last November.
Perhaps none have learned a harder lesson than Justin Strine, a young man from central Pennsylvania whose planned career as an Army officer is over before it began — the casualty of his own split-second decision to put his hands on a news van, and a judicial system that considered him as guilty as classmates who did far worse that dark night in State College.
As he resumes his studies, nothing’s the same for the 21-year-old from Hummelstown. He spent part of his summer in jail. Far worse: He’s been kicked out of ROTC, his dream of carrying on his family’s proud military tradition now out of reach.
“I’m losing everything I worked my entire life for,” Strine said.
Strine’s father, a career soldier, questions whether that’s a just result.
“I had to stand by and watch my son plead guilty to something he didn’t do,” said Jim Strine.
Strine had driven himself and a couple friends to the State College commercial district, where they joined thousands of other protesters. At one point Strine and his friend, Christina Assainte, found themselves in a large crowd moving toward a WTAJ-TV news van, where vandals were pelting it with rocks.
To the rippling chants of “Flip it! Flip it!” two young man approached the side of the van, motioning others to join them, a video recording shows. That set off a frenzied rush toward the van, and within seconds a large group started to push.
A second wave of spectators then pressed toward the front of the van, perhaps to get a better view. Strine and Assainte were in the front of that group.
With the vehicle already on two wheels and going over, Strine placed his palms on the hood. Four seconds later, the van was on its side. But that’s all it took for police and prosecutors to charge him with felony counts of riot and criminal mischief — the same charges filed against students who did the actual pushing.
“I always felt I was on a good path, and all the sudden I’m being made into a criminal. It was shocking to me they wouldn’t even hear me out and let me explain that yes, I was there and shouldn’t have been, but I wasn’t this person they are making me out to be,” Strine said. “No one ever looked at me as an individual. They looked at me as 5,000 Penn State rioters.”
Terrified of being branded a felon, Strine agreed to plead guilty to reduced misdemeanor charges of disorderly conduct and criminal mischief. He served 30 days in jail — getting out Aug. 4 — and will either be on parole or probation until 2015.
While I sympathize that mobs take on a life of their own and that people in them make bad decisions that they wouldn’t make as individuals, the fact of the matter is that Army officers are expected to make good decisions under much more stressful conditions than the firing of a football coach. And, frankly, if he and his father believed in his innocence, he should have stood up and fought—something else Army officers are expected to do in the course of their duties. It’s a little late to be whining about it after you’ve pleaded guilty to a crime and served a month in jail.
But at least this was a good cause: standing up for the honor of a man who aided and abetted child molestation for more than a decade.
Hat tip: Jeff Quinton