, Salem, MA

July 9, 2013

Our view: Not the time for a second chance

The Salem News

---- — Many Americans believe in second chances.

Just ask Mark Sanford, the former South Carolina governor who disappeared during a six-day tryst with his mistress after claiming he was hiking the Appalachian Trail. His wife left him, but voters have since made him a congressman.

But if Sanford had beaten up an 86-year-old man? Few, we think, would be so sympathetic.

Yet the Beverly City Council is being asked to give a second chance to a hot dog vendor whose peddler’s license was suspended after he was arrested for attacking an elderly man outside a bar. His lawyer says John Doyle, 57, has addressed “the core issue that has brought about this problem” — his drinking. After his June 1 arrest, Doyle checked into a detox program, attended a day treatment program and is going to Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, his lawyer said.

All that is commendable, but hardly seems to be the “core issue.” Lots of people get drunk, but they don’t punch elderly people in the head, pursue them when they try to get away, knock them down, kick them — and then threaten a witness. Alcohol may be a contributing factor, but the real concern here is violence.

It’s important to note that Doyle has not yet had his day in court; he has not been convicted, and he pleaded not guilty at his arraignment.

Given the charges, however, police Chief Mark Ray promptly asked the council to suspend the peddler’s license, and the council promptly agreed. Now Doyle’s lawyer is asking them to give his client another chance, since his hot dog stand is his sole source of income, he’s trying to solve his alcohol problem, and the charges against him did not stem from any incident on the job.

Councilors, while leery, agreed to consider the request and will not vote until July 15.

It shouldn’t be a difficult decision.

While all of us can forgive bad behavior and wish someone well when he seeks to make amends, the issue here, as Councilor Scott Houseman pointed out, is the safety of the public. If Doyle can fly off the handle and become violent when angry, the city has no business giving him a license to interact with mothers and children at Dane Street Beach or commuters at the train depot.

And if anything should happen after councilors returned his license, knowing about the previous incident, the city could well be liable.

It’s also important to note that only five weeks elapsed between the date of Doyle’s arrest and the effort to reinstate his license. That’s not enough time to know whether he will be successful in addressing his problems.

The police chief has already said there is no way he could sign off on Doyle’s “certificate of character,” a step in the licensing process. We expect councilors will come to the same conclusion, and advise Doyle to find another line of work.