Killer or Hero? How ‘Bout “Victim?”

Tuesday, February 26th, 2008

Virginian-Pilot columnist Kerry Dougherty completely misses the point in an acerbic rant against the mounting support for Ryan Frederick.

Blogger TheHim offers a point-by-point refutation. I’ll just add a few things.

Then there’s her predictable “if you don’t like the drug laws, change them–but don’t blame cops for enforcing the law” line. Even if you agree with drug prohibition, I think many reasonable people still find the idea of using home invasions to enforce it discomforting. And even if you agree with that, there remains the problem that the police were breaking into this man’s house based only a tip from an informant, with no corroborating investigation. The major grow operation the informant said police would find in Frederick’s house wasn’t there. The only drug charge against Frederick is a misdemeanor.

Maybe Frederick shouldn’t have fired as soon as he did. But if he hadn’t, if he had met Shivers and his partner with a gun when they broke into the house, he’d likely be dead. So I guess the third option here is that Frederick should never have had a gun in his home at all. But then, it isn’t surprising that Dougherty wouldn’t be much on the Second Amendment. She doesn’t particularly like the Sixth, either:

When was the last time you heard a defense lawyer, in a highly publicized murder case, no less, say that he does not want a change of venue?

“No, no, he has too much support here,” said Frederick’s attorney, James Broccoletti, when asked if he’d like the trial moved.

If it’s unfair to have a jury pool skewed toward conviction, it should also be unfair to have one awash in sympathizers.

Dougherty’s admonition to “wait for the facts” is also off the mark. It isn’t a journalist’s job to sit around and wait for the police, the prosecutor, or other members of the government to tell us what the facts are. Our job is to go out and gather the facts on our own. As we saw in Atlanta a little over a year ago, the authorities’ account of “the facts” is often quite different than what actually happened. There are patterns that emerge in these botched raids. It’s important to hold the police and prosecutors accountable early, and to get to important information before they can find ways to bury it.

Yes, it’s tragic that a cop is dead, a woman widowed, and two kids are now fatherless. It’s also tragic that a man’s life has been ruined because of poor police work. What’s most troubling about Dougherty’s column is that when faced with the troubling facts about this case (Frederick’s lack of prior record, evidence of a sloppy police investigation, problems with the informant, the absence of any marijuana growing operation, neighbors who contradict police reports), the first reaction from Dougherty, a journalist, is to blame the people asking questions.

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18 Responses to “Killer or Hero? How ‘Bout “Victim?””

  1. #1 |  Michael Pack | 

    It seems guilty till proven other wise is the theme with these folks.With most cases ending in a plea for reduced time they may be right.It’s difficult for the average person to afford to defend themselves.Of course with the expansion of law, many people face the justice system who previously never would .

  2. #2 |  Marc | 

    I think she makes an inadvertent good point at the end, don’t blame the cops for enforcing the law and I would add doing what they are allowed to do, where are the politicians?

  3. #3 |  Edmund Dantes | 

    If they had enforced the law competently, we wouldn’t be having this discussion. She also wouldn’t have had to write an article discussing the latest SWAT team raid gone wrong. The problem with her point and yours is that it ignores the incompetency of the Cops in enforcing the law.

  4. #4 |  Matt Moore | 

    It doesn’t actually matter that the cops broke down the door in the enforcement of a bad law. First, the man targeted was basically innocent. Second, the info they had came from an informant they should have known couldn’t be trusted. And finally, they used very poor tactics, since the guy they were after wasn’t known to be a violent danger.

    I don’t care if they restrict raids like this to arrest only known child rapists, it’s still intensely stupid to break down someone’s door to arrest them.

  5. #5 |  claude | 

    If its true that Kerry Dougherty (the writer of the VP opine piece) is married to a local judge, that is very telling.

  6. #6 |  Nick T | 

    That editorial is completely aimless. What point is she trying make about the defense attorney not wanting to change venues? It seem that, if anything, that undermines her point. She just says these vague things like “it’s weird a man accused of fisrt degree murder fo killing a cop has a fan-base.” But then she never discusses why some people might think that really or what their points are. It’s like saying “wow it sure is weird that some people seem to like a guy who’s a sex offender!” And then leaving out how he’s a sex offender for being 16 and having consensual sex with his 15yo girlfriend at the time and people like him now because he just saved a bus-load of school children.

    What more facts does this woman think we need anyway? We know they were invading his home, we know the police were worng in what they thought was going on in his home. We know he has no record and we’ve heard his account of why he did what he did. Why can’t we merely choose to believe him on his statement and the other facts. Just cuz a jury reaches a decision doesn’t make it the abolsute factual and legal truth of the situation.

    Funny too how she encourages us to wait for the facts but is happy to say that Mr. Frederick *belongs* in jail.

    What an idiot.

  7. #7 |  MikeT | 


    It’s a matter of how the law was enforced that lead to this situation. If they had been smart, they would have waited till he went to work, and executed the search warrant while he wasn’t at home. There was a day and age where the police were expected to not disturb the peace by being so aggressive unless absolutely necessary.

    The fact is that this case is a big black mark on that department’s professionalism. You don’t have to be a cop to know that a smart cop would have done a search of the garage while Frederick was away, before doing a full-on assault of his house in the middle of the night. Whatever happened to the idea of waiting down the street for him to show up, then walking down to him as he’s going inside and calmly saying “Mr. Frederick, you are under arrest for the crime of growing marijuana?”

  8. #8 |  MikeT | 

    I think it’s pretty clear that the Virginia Pilot is rooting for the government on this one to fry Frederick.

  9. #9 |  FP | 

    Wow, such another great member of the vaunted fourth estate blabbing her mouth off, whining and crying like a little school girl. Journalist, more like PR mouthpiece.

  10. #10 |  Marty | 

    Kerry Dougherty IS very opinionated and it is her op-ed piece- I don’t think she’s the editorial mouthpiece for the paper. I think if she dropped the ‘hero’ sarcasm, she would’ve at least had a respectable opinion. She did point out that the policies of the police department are ‘troubling’. I read another article at the paper that I felt was pretty balanced, though. I don’t think I found it on this site.

  11. #11 |  MikeT | 


    That’s all well and good, but the paper has unleashed two terribly one-sided reports/editorials on it. I have a breakdown here of one (or the?) first report on the case. It’s pretty wild how far out of their way they went in the first case, then you have this.

    I agree that this one has a much more conciliatory tone to it, but so far that’s about 2/3, not a good ratio. I think that is more of an indication of one person having common sense to ask questions, than a culture of doing that.

  12. #12 |  TC | 

    Submitted by falconski on Tue, 02/26/2008 at 8:35 am.

    “What do you say we all hold our fire until the defendant goes on trial?” This quote comes after you saying he’s in jail right where he belongs. This is typical Kerry, ***** a judge’s wife by the way, ***** reacting way after the fact in taking an easy topic to write about and then getting paid to write an essentially meaningless column. Yes Kerry, there are those who thinks he’s innocent, there’s always blogs about every side of everything, yes Kerry, he should be in jail awaiting trial, yes Kerry, there will be a trial and a vedict. No Kerry, you do not come across as a journalist. Do some actual work to earn your paycheck and please go back to New Jersey to do that work.


    I wonder why she did not disclose she is married to a judge?

  13. #13 |  JohnA | 

    After living in Norfolk for 4 years and following the Pilot columnists consistently, I can vouch that Dougherty “misses the point” far more often than she finds it…

  14. #14 |  jared | 

    You made a mistake Radley, she’s not a journalist and she doesnt deserve the credit of being called one. She’s a pundit who gets payed to spew diarrhea out of her mouth.

  15. #15 |  Killer or Hero? How ‘Bout “Victim?” — Law and DWI | 

    […] still find the idea of using home invasions to enforce it discomforting. And even i source: Killer or Hero? How Bout Victim?, The […]

  16. #16 |  chris | 

    FACTS?!? You mean like all the other FACTS we hear about from the police and govt? I heard about some kids at duke that factually raped a woman, at least that’s what the cops and DA said. Govt told me there were WMD in iraq.

    Hmm, I want the press out there getting their facts. Seems like they get it right a bit more often.

  17. #17 |  The Agitator » Blog Archive » Ryan Frederick Update: Virginian-Pilot Columnist Gets Her Facts Wrong | 

    […] you might remember, wrote a column last February in which she excoriated bloggers, activists, and other journalists […]

  18. #18 |  The Agitator » Blog Archive » Kerry Dougherty Makes Fat Jokes | 

    […] columnist Kerry Dougherty (who has thus far proven to be a reliable (if not always accurate) defender of the Chesapeake Police Department) today outdoes herself, cracking jokes fat jokes because Ryan Frederick has gained 60 pounds while […]