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How easy is it to veer off course?

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By Susan Sharp

   How do seemingly good people cross the line into criminal behavior?  That question crossed my mind on Monday as I sat in criminal court.

Watching as one by one the defendants made their way to the bench, they appeared to be the standard batch of offenders with the exception of two- former LaFollette Police Officer Tony Rucker and former director of schools Dr. Michael Martin.

They were among the people in court. Karen Bundren, the one time director of federal programs and Martin’s co-defendant, opted to waive her appearance allowing her attorney to speak for her.

Martin and Rucker seemed a little defeated as they filled out the paperwork declaring themselves indigent so they could request a court appointed attorney.

People commit crimes everyday.

That is an unpleasant fact. However, in these two cases the only question that crossed my mind was “Why?”

Rucker was a man, an officer, who took an oath to uphold the very laws he allegedly broke. On many occasions, I have spoken with him. He genuinely seemed to be a nice guy. This just adds another piece to the puzzle.

In his case was it a “desperate times, desperate measures” scenario?  Did he allegedly break the law in an adrenaline-filled moment? Or did he do it just because he could?

Martin and Bundren share a similar story.

While they didn’t take an oath they still held positions of public trust.

Why would two educated, well- paid individuals allegedly forge academic records?

I find it hard to believe it was solely so Bundren could earn an extra $4,000 a year. The risks in this scenario far outweighed the rewards- or did they?

Many people are still asking if there is more to the escapade than has been revealed. There have been allegations Martin and Bundren were romantically involved. So did they allegedly do this for love?

Were they so blinded by hearts and flowers they were willing to risk it all for $4,000 a year?

At the root of both of these stories is money.

Did good old-fashioned greed prompt these three seemingly upstanding citizens to allegedly break the law? However, even that motive lacks credibility when the amount of money allegedly involved is examined.  In both cases, the sums were relatively small.

These weren’t grand heists. In fact had the people been involved not been in positions of public trust, the monetary crimes for which they are charged would have only been blips on the legal radar.

There are still as many questions as there are answers in both matters. But what did drive these three decent people to allegedly cross the invisible line between legal and illegal?

Do we all have that dark part in us and theirs just found its way to the surface?

Or did forces outside themselves compel them to allegedly cross the line?

Before their actions became known all three were well thought of by the majority of people. They had also enjoyed some measure of success in their chosen professions.

Now their mug shots replace any image the public might have previously held of them.

At this stage, the crimes have been alleged and that is where the story picks up. Thus far, Martin, Bundren and Rucker had control of their situations.

Not anymore, the line they crossed has tripped them leaving them at the feet of Lady Justice.