OCTOBER 21, 2009
The presidential cabinet member once responsible for securing the nation’s safety has requested leniency for a drug-abusing acquaintance that savagely beat a toddler and fractured her skull, causing permanent neurological damage.
Bush Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge actually wrote the sentencing judge a letter seeking compassion for the 21-year-old monster (Matthew Lazenby) who brutally attacked his girlfriend’s daughter in a drunken rage. Lazenby, a drug abuser determined by psychologists to have intense anger issues, admitted striking the 23-month-old girl in the head and shaking her so intensely that he fractured her skull. The injuries left the child developmentally disabled in speech and motor skills.
Ridge, a former congressman and Pennsylvania governor, has known the Lazenby family for more than a decade and insists the beating was a horrible deviation from Lazenby’s normal conduct, behavior and temperament. Ridge and the Lazenby’s are neighbors in the upscale Pennsylvania community of Millcreek Township and the former Homeland Security chief is just trying to help an old friend.
In his letter to Erie County Judge Shad Connelly, Ridge says that, as reprehensible as Lazenby’s actions were, they were clearly not a reflection of a general pattern of violent or abusive behavior. He notes that Lazenby is a “loving and nurturing father” to his own 2 ½-year-old daughter (not the one he ferociously beat) and is “still welcomed in our home.”
The judge evidently didn’t give much credence to the former Homeland Security Secretary’s plea and sentenced Lazenby to eight years in state prison, pointing out that his victim was one of most helpless and vulnerable members of the community.
Ridge, once a prosecutor in Erie County, currently operates a lucrative security consulting firm in Washington D.C. In a tell-all book he claims that the Bush Administration pressured him to raise security threat level assessments for political reasons. He subsequently recanted the accusations, assuring that he was “never pressured.”
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