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Harvey case proves Cali is tougher on crime 

Lindsay Lohan got robbed.

The actress faces another 30 days in prison for violating her probation after failing a drug test. She has already been to prison once this year for probation violations, that time for failing to show up to court and to alcohol rehab classes.

Perhaps she should consider moving here. Unlike Lohan, Michael Neal Harvey has never seen the inside of a North Carolina prison. That's pretty remarkable when you consider how many times he violated his probations. Lohan originally got her probation for driving under the influence. Harvey's first probation came after he failed to register as a sex offender in Mecklenburg County, a mid-level felony. (He served four years in a New York prison after rape charges resulted in a conviction for sexual abuse. Harvey convinced a woman he met at a bar to give him a ride home, then assaulted her.)

He served 90 days in the county jail on weekends, but virtually ignored his probation. He didn't bother to show up to meetings with his parole officer, blew off his community service and the fines and fees he was ordered to pay. Then he was caught shoplifting from Lowes. Judge Robert Johnson could have put him away for 23 months, but instead did the unthinkable — he terminated Harvey's probation. The probation was ended in 2009 with less than a week left despite the fact that Harvey hadn't bothered to comply with the majority of the terms during the three years and didn't get around to paying his fees until he was before the judge facing a prison term.

All of this begs the question: If you can ignore all or nearly all of the terms of your probation without going to prison in Mecklenburg County, are you really on probation? Harvey's case is not unique. I've pulled several hundred criminal records in the past few years. It's extremely rare to find an offender who is complying with most of the requirements of his probation.

Months later, Harvey was convicted of felony breaking and entering charges that date from 2008. Now if you're a judge, you've got to ask yourself this: Should I be concerned about a registered sex offender who has started breaking into homes? That would send a chill down most people's spines. Incredibly, the district attorney's office declined to send Harvey to prison and cut him a sweetheart plea deal in 2009 in which he got probation on the felony breaking and entering charges. If he violated the terms of his probation, a judge could send him to prison for nine to 11 months. Yes, a judge actually went along with this.

Harvey blew off all the terms of that probation. He didn't bother paying restitution to his victims or court fees. He didn't get substance abuse treatment. And like Lohan, Harvey tested positive for cocaine. Things were so bad that according to Harvey's court file, his probation officer, the only person with any sense in this case, actually recommended the judge activate the prison sentence for the violations — a radical concept in Mecklenburg County.

Judge James Morgan declined to do that. That's astounding considering that Harvey's entire criminal history was laid out in Harvey's case file folder. Did Morgan read it? The case file specified that Harvey had struggled with drug addiction since his early teens. Could he not see that Harvey had a drug problem and was spiraling out of control? Or did Morgan think it made sense to foist a drug-abusing sex offender with a propensity for breaking into occupied residences back on the community in hopes that Harvey would ... what? Change?

Morgan told The Charlotte Observer last week that he didn't remember the case and declined to comment further. That's because there is no explanation. Morgan is either off his rocker or he didn't read the case file.

Harvey made national news last week after leaving a bar with Valerie Hamilton, who subsequently turned up dead. It doesn't appear that he murdered her, at least not in any of the traditional ways.

What's remarkable about Harvey is that his criminal history isn't particularly remarkable in our county court system. Even more remarkable is that California's justice system, is, apparently, much tougher than ours.

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