Spartansburg, PA — The tiny town of Spartanburg (pop. 300) became the focal point of the nation’s ire this week as the town elected a convicted pedophile as their fire chief. It didn’t seem to matter that Chief Roger Gilbert Jr. is listed in the state’s Megan’s Law database for raping a 4-yr-old girl, a crime for which he was convicted in 2001, the town incredulously elected him as their top fireman.
The move caught national attention and backlash from citizens all across the country who were outraged at the thought someone who so cruelly abused an innocent soul was chosen to help citizens in their most distressing times. They don’t just fight fires. Firemen are first-responders, often arriving on scene before police even in cases where sexual abuse may have occurred.
More dumbfounding to some is the fact the mayor voiced her support for Gilbert’s appointment. Appearing to take a hands-off approach to her position as the small town’s leader, Mayor Ann Louise Wagner reportedly said:
I support the fire department and their decision to have him as chief…The firemen have always elected their own officers and that’s how it’s always been done. We don’t question their decisions.
Following up her support for the convicted child rapist, the mayor said of the victim’s mother, “I don’t know why she won’t drop this.”
In all fairness to the town, it was fellow firemen who actually elected Gilbert, not the townspeople. But strangely enough, it was Gilbert’s second term, not his first, which drew national attention. The fire chief served a 5-10 year prison sentence and worked for 10 years as a volunteer fireman before being elected chief. And while the town took the position he was fit for the job, others were not convinced, including his young victim’s mother.
She reportedly remains convinced Gilbert should be in no position to interact with children, whatsoever. Apparently believing he’s served his debt to society, Gilbert commented on his appointment as chief.
That was 20 years ago…You know, the story you are telling kids is once you make mistake, you will be punished for the rest of your life. I’ve changed my life for the better. Every day I get up and try to do good.
In the middle of the firestorm of controversy, Gilbert made the decision on Monday to resign his position as chief. It’s unclear whether he will continue with the fire department as a volunteer or find some other preferable employment. The town’s Facebook page has been temporarily deactivated, apparently resulting from the national outcry.
Justice hardly ever takes place for child rape, molestation, and abuse victims. Statistics reveal that rarely do the rapes get reported, even rarer are convictions of child rapists. The prison industrial system seems far more interested in imprisoning citizens for drug crimes than ones where an innocent child is harmed.
Take for instance the case of Monroe Gordon Piland III. Piland, 70, a Wake Forest University Medical School Graduate (Bowman Gray) was given an 18-year sentence because detectives found two bottles of prescription medicines in his parents’ belongings.
He was being investigated for being a cannabis advocate and having used THC to treat his autistic son. Since weed use has been largely decriminalized in North Carolina, investigators did not have much to charge him with above misdemeanor possession. But detectives were undaunted in their quest to convict Piland. In a storage room of belongings he inherited when his parents passed away were two bottles of old prescriptions Piland reportedly knew nothing about. One was morphine and the other was OxyContin. They were decades old. One was unused and the other was half-filled.
Prosecutors charged him with trafficking heroin and his conviction basically amounted to a death sentence. Piland had been treating members of the community with cannabis for decades, and would have been convicted on misdemeanors for his marijuana possession but prosecutors chose to use his parents’ pills against him in court.
In at least 29 states in the United States, Piland would be treated as a cannabis guru, a medical-school trained doctor who was an expert in marijuana. But not in North Carolina. There he’s treated as a common street criminal, made to look like a culprit in the national opiate crisis. The state’s Draconian drug laws have allowed a man to be convicted of felonies for not disposing of his parents’ medicine cabinet.
Piland is still behind bars, and Gilbert walks among us, even though he was convicted for having, “involuntary deviate sexual intercourse” with a toddler.
When will we ever see a CEO of a pharmaceutical company behind bars, a business leader responsible for the nearly 65,000 Americans who died of overdoses last year from opiates, opioids, and heroin in 2017? You’ll never see that happen, but you will see a town which has no problem electing a convicted, admitted pedophile as their town’s fire chief. What is the world coming to?