WatsonJohnny

Johnny Watson, right, sits with his wife, Susan Watson, and defense attorney Kyle J. Humphrey. Humphrey represented Watson on a misdemeanor charge of annoying or molesting a minor. A jury found Watson not guilty in March. 

Reader: How can The Bakersfield Californian post the (March 19) headline, "Jury acquits Kern High teacher who allegedly sexted with student"? They said (Kern High School District teacher Johnny Gray Watson) wasn't guilty of that (charge) and the girl (who had accused him) admitted it wasn't true. Fake news! You post pictures with false statements and this poor family is already going through enough trauma from the lies that put them in this mess.

— Mary Newton

Reader: "(H)is accuser admitted to plotting with another minor to obtain evidence to frame him" (said Watson's attorney, Kyle J. Humphrey, according to the article). So why is the headline saying he asked her for sex when the jury decided he had done no such thing?

— Alycia Chambers

Price: Where to start? The high school student made an allegation that Watson asked her for sex, and the District Attorney's Office, after looking at the evidence, decided that his actions might in fact have constituted a crime. That's the meaning of that little word "alleged," which appears in both the headline and the article. A dozen shimmering archangels could appear over the jury box and pronounce Watson not guilty and it would not change the fact that Watson was alleged to have propositioned the student, and that the county prosecutor's office found the allegation sufficiently credible to proceed.

Watson's female accuser did not say "it wasn't true" he had sexted her. She admitted having tried to frame Watson. Big difference. And the jury didn't decide that "he didn't do" the text messages; the jury decided that the prosecution had failed to prove that Watson's text messaging rose to the level of "annoying or molesting a minor." Another big difference.

The content of Watson's text messages was quoted in court. Does his acquittal mean that evidence didn’t exist?

Some readers want to know why The Californian's story on this very public trial was a story at all, given the fact Watson was acquitted. I want to know more about this world they envision, in which police make arrests and judges convene trials without any sort of public scrutiny — scrutiny best facilitated by the news media. That's a world they shouldn't want any part of. It just so happens that in this case, Watson is their friend. I get that.


Reader: Thank you for your response to the woman who wrote about Trevor Horn's article on the Foothill High School basketball team ("Sound Off: Passion, determination, joy: A good sports story delivers it all," March 16). You wrote: “But in the end, a good sports story is about human qualities and emotions-passion, focus, cohesiveness and, in the end, dejection or triumph.” I cut out the piece and put it on refrigerator for the benefit of my wife and mother-in-law.

I hope the next time they notice me watching NBA games back to back to back they will appreciate the wisdom of my decision.

Currently watching the Player Championship. Sandra is outside doing yard work. This golf tournament is too important to miss!

— Robert Tafoya

Price: Not only does good sportswriting tend to be simply good writing, period, sports-watching can be emotionally and psychologically satisfying. So little in life has a beginning and clear-cut end; we're forever somewhere in the middle, sorting through the relentless uncertainty of the real world.

We know exactly where things stand when we watch a game. Sports sweeps us away from life's ambiguities and places us in an environment with a literal finish line. There's satisfaction in the finite parameters of an actual scoreboard.

Then there's the sense of belonging that comes with identifying with a specific team: Fan-hood satisfies the primordial need for tribal affiliation and mutual protection. We celebrate as a family when we win and console as a family (i.e., look forward to the upcoming college player draft) when we lose.

So there's a little more ammo for your wife and mother-in-law, Your Honor. Next time you're ordered to take out the trash right in the middle of the fourth quarter, inform them of how they're messing with your mental health. If the Court please.


Reader: It is a serious understatement to say that “... some confused Americans blamed Sikhs for the actions of a handful of terrorists professing ties to Islam…" (Sound Off, March 16).

First, innocent Sikhs, Muslims and others weren’t just “blamed”; they were attacked, and some were even murdered. On Sept. 15, 2001, Frank Roque committed the first documented 9/11 "revenge" murder in Mesa, Ariz., when he killed Balbir Singh Sodhi, a Sikh. Roque then shot at a Lebanese American man, and at the house of an Afghan family. On that same date, after days of trying to run “Arab-looking” drivers off the road as revenge for 9/11, Mark Stroman killed a Pakistani Muslim in Dallas. He subsequently killed a Hindu Indian and wounded a Bangladeshi Muslim. The number and variety of victims targeted for revenge since 9/11 is too exhaustive to list here. Attributing those hate crimes to mere befuddlement ignores the vile stereotypes and beliefs underlying those acts.

Second, your statement ignores the primary issue of collective guilt for 9/11 being imputed to innocent Muslims by some Islamophobic Americans. Blaming other, equally innocent, groups because of confusion about their identity is a secondary problem. Confusion, without the added element of collective guilt, generally results in awkward conversations, not violence.

— Mona Sidhu

Price: Last week's column "ignores" a lot. A single article cannot possibly explore every facet of every situation, let alone my 81-word response to a reader's very specific comment in the column you're referencing. Your letter used 202 words to correct me — and it, too, "ignores" a lot, as you yourself acknowledge.

The fact is, many Americans are confused about the people and faiths of South Asia. Yes, some have taken that confusion to violent extremes, as I noted just a couple of weeks ago ("Devastated Sikhs, stunned by baby's killing, demand answers of themselves," March 10). If I were historically oblivious to that fact, I could better see your point. But I've written about this very issue. Forgive me for not referencing it every time I write about Sikhs in U.S. society.


Reader: "Unanimous animus." I like that (coinage from "CSUB's Zelezny a welcome ally for project's would-be neighbors," March 17). Too bad Dr. Seuss isn't here to write the rest of the book.

— Larry Dunn

Price: That was my cute little way of saying "neighborhoodwide opposition" in reference to the proposed private dormitory. I Googled "unanimous animus" to see if it was truly original and, of course, it was not.


Reader: In your Feb. 24 column ("Where We Live: Old Stockdale, proud of its island independence, contemplates the mainland"), you wrote, "They've got a couple of good reasons." They have got? Bad English, and in the paper for all to read.

— Unsigned

Price: You've got to be kidding me. Oops — I did it again. You've got to stop judging people anonymously like this.

The Californian’s Robert Price answers your questions and takes your complaints about our news coverage in this weekly feedback forum. Questions may be edited for space and clarity. To offer your input by phone, call 661-395-7649 and leave your comments in a voicemail message or email us at soundoff@bakersfield.com. Include your name and phone number; they won’t be published.

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