In the past 24 hours I have seen some positively unbridled fury from supporters of Popcorn Sutton, including on sites like Facebook (home to no less than three groups for people who believe the government should have left him alone to ply his trade in peace). The general consensus is that Popcorn wasn't harming anyone, and that the federal government has set out to "make an example" out of him, lest anyone else think that they should assert some liberty on their own. There are even some individuals who are publicly suggesting that perhaps a "storming the Bastille" is in order. I'm not gonna endorse or condemn such thoughts... but I am gonna pass along something that is no doubt going to make a lot of people even madder than they already are!
Neal Hutcheson is a well-known name not just across North Carolina, but throughout the southeastern United States and the rest of the country. He's a documentary filmmaker based out of the Raleigh area. Among his many credits are Mountain Talk and Voices of North Carolina, which have both featured appearances by Popcorn Sutton. More recently Hutcheson dedicated an entire film to Sutton and his art in The Last One. I've come to know him lately ever since he sent over a DVD of The Last One (and I just got it back last week, 'cuz everyone that I know practically has been wanting to borrow and see it for themselves!). Hutcheson has built up a solid reputation among the folks in this region and if he reports on something, I'm more than inclined to say that his word will be held as bond.
Well, Neal Hutcheson was in the courtroom yesterday when Popcorn Sutton had his sentence handed down. And earlier today Neal sent along the following report. I asked him if I could share it here for this blog's readers and Neal said "please do". So here it is, in his own words...
"You should know that the prosecution used a video clip made twenty years ago (of him capping a still) to make the case that Popcorn was strong enough to continue making liquor. The judge made it explicitly clear that the idea that he would resume operations if he was let out on probation was behind the rationale that he needed a prison term to stop him. The prosecution knew of course that the clip wasn't made last week, and that his health plus house-arrest & monitoring would be more than enough to prevent him from doing anything prohibited, as the past ten months of house arrest has proved. So, if you leave aside the debate about whether moonshining is a serious offense or not, and take the government's case at face value, the public would have been 'protected' & served without putting a sick man in prison. What the prosecution did was petty and vindictive: The sick and broken man they saw in that trial wasn't putting on an act; I had been with him for three days and that was the best he had looked in all that time.So... apparently the prosecutors used "evidence" that didn't pertain at all to this particular case in order to malign Sutton, and they convinced the judge to deliver a harsh sentence even knowing that Sutton is not currently in the best of health.
"I just think people should know what happened there. The litmus test here is for people to substitute moonshining for something else they don't sympathize with, you know just lay all that aside, and ask if it was necessary, as the prosecution insisted, to lay prison time on him. Obviously it wasn't. He's been under house arrest and monitoring for ten months and, along with his health, its kept him from doing anything prohibited.
"The judge did question the age of the video, so that thought came up. But the prosecution was directly implying that the video demonstrated he was capable and because of that could not be deterred from making moonshine without a prison term. And that was disingenuous. And they knew it. The fact is that Popcorn had embarrassed them for a long time."
Does anybody else think that there is something horribly out of kilter with the "justice" of this situation?