Tuesday, September 22, 2015

A different perspective on tragic case

ED KOCH KNEW he wasn't coming back for a long, long time. He was in the store Saturday, two days before his sentencing in Nebraska. "I'm going away," he said. "It's going to be for a while."

On Monday, a Nebraska judge sentenced him to 15 years in prison for involuntary manslaughter. Exactly a year ago, Ed was driving a vehicle on a Nebraska highway when he hit the back of another car, and the two people inside were killed. The victims were 22 and 24.

Local media reported Ed was driving about 90 miles an hour. He had alcohol in his system. He told the judge Monday he was "self-medicating" and that he suffered from severe mental illness. He apologized to the families during the sentencing.

I don't know the victims, or their families. But everything else fails to compare to their pain and loss. This is not an attempt to minimize anything. Friends and families of the deceased have to live with this forever. So does Ed, though he got a chance to say goodbye to friends and family last weekend. The victims never had that chance.

I don't claim to know Ed that well, but he's been a good store customer. He's a very good guitar player and musician, playing in bands like Them Damn Stingrays. I hired Ed to play with Justin Haubrich at our noon blues concerts in July. They rocked Washington Park that day.

So that changes things. When I covered crime and courts for The Whig, 90 percent of the criminal cases involved a bad guy, a dirtball, a person you could loathe. It wasn't easy, shutting it off when entering the courthouse to report on a murderer, a thief, a sexual predator. But there was little sympathy and the focus was on the case, and the victims.

But what if the bad guy isn't really bad? What if he just made a serious error in judgement? What if he's just a regular dude like the rest of us?

What if he's Ed Koch? You know, Ed, the guy who plays guitar at the open mic nights. The great guy with a big heart in little old Quincy, Illinois?

He's not a bad guy. He's not this evil, twisted monster we root against and hope rots in prison. He's the guy we know. And it's all too close to home.

If anything, take this away from the case of Ed Koch - there but for the grace of God go you and I. And the next time you have a few beers, and you get behind the wheel, and your wife or your friend says, "You shouldn't be driving," listen to him or her. And give them the keys.

Ed won't be coming back to Quincy for awhile. But the two people killed in the crash will never come home. And we know the guy who was sent to prison because of it.


  1. Thank you for this i needed to see something that doesnt make the man i love look like a monster.

  2. This is a sad and tragic tale all around. Ed has written some really great songs since the accident that, if you know the circumstances, make your heart bleed. When I talked to Ed..I never knew quite what to say..but you said it very well Rodney.. and thank you for saying it.

  3. Thank you so much for writing this. All that you said is the absolute truth. Eddie is not a monster, not a bad guy at all. He is a good person who made one horrible decision that he will have to live with for the rest of his life. He has a huge heart and is also hurting. He is one of the best people I know. I am so lucky to call him my brother and I will always remember all the good times we had until I get to see him again. I am so very sorry for what happened and my thoughts and prayers go out to the families of the victims.

  4. Very well said. I did not know Ed as well as some, I met him through my friends, but from what I knew of him he is a beautiful soul. I hate to see this happen because for me it is very close to home, and I see my dear friends in pain of losing their dear friend to a decision that changed his life. I wish things like this did not happen at all, but that would not be reality. I cannot imagine the pain of the families who lost their loved ones, as well as the pain Ed must be going through having to have that on his heart. Sending prayers and positive vibes for healing for all involved.

  5. I love Eddie as one of my own...and my heart is breaking with the latest news....Ed is so special to me....and i know in my heart he is true blue...he would never intentially hurt another...this i know....his heart is pure....and i wait for the day i can see him again....since this happened not a day has gone by that he is not in my thoughts....and always he will b loved...and always will have his "other mother" to come home to.....as will you....please let me know how i can help....in any way.....kimsie177@yahoo.com
    602-705-5366.....i cry too....but for ed i would do anything....he family to me

  6. Ed is my cousin and my heart is so sick. It is a tragedy all the way around. My thoughts and prayers are with the family of the victims. It's super hard to understand why this is happening to someone who is so good. But, in reality, there's only a small portion of people who can say they've never put themselves in this situation.... Truthfully this could be any one of us, but somehow we had "luck" on our side. I understand mental illnesses.... So I hope as well that everyone takes away a valuable lesson here and don't drink and drive. If you have a mental illness don't be embarrassed. Get help as if you were having a heart attack. Let's break the silence on mental illness.