Wednesday, March 21 , 2018, 4:01 pm | Light Rain Fog/Mist 57º


Diane Dimond: Robert Stackowitz, Brock Turner and Criminal Injustice

The state of Georgia wants Robert Stackowitz back. Now, it is up to the governor of Connecticut whether to extradite the 71-year-old convicted felon so he can serve the remainder of a 17-year prison sentence.

Fifty years ago Stackowitz was a brash 21-year-old who, along with two buddies, committed a robbery by force. The trio burst into the home of Jimmy Moseley, held him at gunpoint, tied him up with the cord from a vacuum cleaner and robbed him of $9 and the keys to his truck.

“After they tied me up,” Moseley told a reporter, “they intended to kill me because they said they never leave witnesses.”

The now 91-year-old says he still has nightmares and is still waiting for justice.

Stackowitz was sentenced to 17 years in prison for that crime, but he escaped after serving only two. An unattended prison vehicle offered a means to flee.

“One morning I just got in the truck and drove myself away,” Stackowitz told the Hartford Courant. “I got on a plane and I was back in Connecticut before they even knew I was gone.”

For the last 48 years Stackowitz laid low in his home state. He survived through his talents as a “boat savant,” servicing engines, cleaning out bilge pumps and restoring fuel lines for the locals, most recently in Sherman, Conn., adjacent to Candlewood Lake, the state’s largest freshwater lake.

Folks around the small hamlet knew Stackowitz by his alias, Bob Gordon, and he never told anyone about his past. Neighbors say he is a great guy and a credit to the community — a homeowner, a taxpayer, a man with a longtime girlfriend who employed others in his business. He lived a law-abiding life for almost five decades.

Then Stackowitz got sick with diabetes, heart and kidney diseases and bladder cancer. To help pay for his medications he applied for Social Security benefits using his real name. That triggered a signal to law enforcement officers in Georgia who had never closed his case.

Early one morning last month, Stackowitz was arrested at his home by federal marshals. Friends arranged for his bond, and he has been awaiting extradition back to Georgia ever since.

So, what does society do with a man like Stackowitz? He does not deny his role in the crime. He willingly surrendered when the authorities came for him.

He now attends court hearings in a wheelchair, wearing Bermuda shorts and black compression socks, his feet and legs obviously swollen from the effects of his various illnesses.

Through his attorney, Stackowitz has asked the justice system for compassion, saying if he is sent back to prison it will certainly kill him.

Then again, it was Stackowitz who threatened to kill Moseley and terrorized him in his own home all those years ago. Society certainly should not turn a blind eye to a victim’s suffering simply because a convict was wily enough to escape and hide undetected for nearly 50 years.

Application of justice is a fluid thing. In Palo Alto, a jury recently found a young man guilty of three felony counts of sexual assault in a now-notorious case.

The unnamed victim wrote a statement to the court with such a powerful impact that it has been viewed online more than 15 million times.

The man, former Stanford University swimmer Brock Turner, 20, faced 14 years in prison, but Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Aaron Persky sentenced him to just six months because “a prison sentence would have a severe impact” on the former student athlete’s life.

“I think he will not be a danger to others,” Persky said.

So, is that the criteria other judges should follow? If a stint behind bars might have a “severe impact” on the criminal, if the judge’s gut feeling is the convict won’t hurt anyone else, then the criminal gets a leniency?

This is a dangerous precedent set by a judge who seems to have been swayed by the plight of a privileged kid who attended his prestigious alma mater on a swimming scholarship and dreamed of going to the Olympics.

Robert Stackowitz enjoyed no such privilege in his life. Six months for Brock Turner versus the potential for 15 years for Robert Stackowitz. Neither sentence sits well with me.

Diane Dimond is the author of Be Careful Who You Love: Inside the Michael Jackson Case. Contact her at [email protected], follow her on Twitter: @DiDimond, or click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are her own.

  • Ask
  • Vote
  • Investigate
  • Answer

Noozhawk Asks: What’s Your Question?

Welcome to Noozhawk Asks, a new feature in which you ask the questions, you help decide what Noozhawk investigates, and you work with us to find the answers.

Here’s how it works: You share your questions with us in the nearby box. In some cases, we may work with you to find the answers. In others, we may ask you to vote on your top choices to help us narrow the scope. And we’ll be regularly asking you for your feedback on a specific issue or topic.

We also expect to work together with the reader who asked the winning questions to find the answer together. Noozhawk’s objective is to come at questions from a place of curiosity and openness, and we believe a transparent collaboration is the key to achieve it.

The results of our investigation will be published here in this Noozhawk Asks section. Once or twice a month, we plan to do a review of what was asked and answered.

Thanks for asking!

Click here to get started >

Support Noozhawk Today

You are an important ally in our mission to deliver clear, objective, high-quality professional news reporting for Santa Barbara, Goleta and the rest of Santa Barbara County. Join the Hawks Club today to help keep Noozhawk soaring.

We offer four membership levels: $5 a month, $10 a month, $25 a month or $1 a week. Payments can be made through PayPal below, or click here for information on recurring credit-card payments.

Thank you for your vital support.

Reader Comments

Noozhawk is no longer accepting reader comments on our articles. Click here for the announcement. Readers are instead invited to submit letters to the editor by emailing them to [email protected]. Please provide your full name and community, as well as contact information for verification purposes only.

Daily Noozhawk

Subscribe to Noozhawk's A.M. Report, our free e-Bulletin sent out every day at 4:15 a.m. with Noozhawk's top stories, hand-picked by the editors.

Sign Up Now >