New book by Lawrence resident and national TV show co-host features local crimes, preaches personal responsibility
Brian Russell analyzes some of the most headline-dominating crimes across the country on national news networks like Fox News and HLN, but in his recently released book, the Lawrence resident says society can learn a lot about personal responsibility — and the lack thereof — from Douglas County cases.
Russell, a licensed psychologist and attorney with a host of credentials including lecturer at Kansas University and co-host of Investigation Discovery’s “Fatal Vows,” last month added a new title: author. In his first book, “Stop Moaning, Start Owning,” Russell describes “how entitlement is ruining America and how personal responsibility can fix it.”
The book is getting some national publicity — it was featured on Fox News’ “The O’Reilly Factor” — and a few Douglas County cases are highlighted in the book as examples of where the justice system has gone wrong.
Much of the book depicts how Russell believes “narcissistic entitlement” is the root of many problems, including crime. Russell said narcissistic entitlement is an “excessive focus on the self and an inflated view of what one deserves in life,” and he said he sees it in the Lawrence community.
“That translates to entitlement when one is owed something without obligation or reciprocity,” Russell said. “Narcissistic entitlement is at the core of any crimes covered (in the Journal-World).”
Russell analyzes two recent Lawrence crimes in “Stop Moaning, Start Owning.” In each, he criticized Douglas County District Court officials for doling out what he believes are “soft” responses to crime.
Russell writes in his book about his “Silver Rule,” which says “you don’t get people to do more of the right thing by making it easier for them to do the wrong thing.” Russell said if more leaders followed the Silver Rule and strengthened punishments, crime rates would drop.
“Culture now does a lot to foster entitlement,” Russell said. “Catch-and-release justice is not compassionate to victims … When it comes to deterring and preventing crime, we have to try something old: personal responsibility.”
For example, Russell tells the story in his book of Suwamet Hanratanagorn, who was found guilty last year of aggravated burglary after crawling into the ceiling of the Dillons at 1015 W. 23rd St., dropping down into the store’s pharmacy and attempting to steal prescription medication. Douglas County District Judge Peggy Kittel sentenced Hanratanagorn to three years of probation because she said it was “apparent this crime occurred because of (his) addiction” and “treatment is available in the community” — something Russell said he would not do.
“The burglary’s not as bad if the burglar’s addicted to whatever he stole?” Russell wrote in his book. “No, Judge, this crime did not happen because of the defendant’s ‘addiction.'”
Russell wrote that he would have sentenced Hanratanagorn to “at least 36 months in prison,” because he said “nobody, no matter how badly they want something to make them feel good, is forced to commit a crime to get it.”
“(Otherwise,) we’d have to let people who say they’re addicted to sex get by with rape,” Russell argued in the book. “The judge seems to have been more concerned about the defendant than about the rest of us in the community whom the defendant might harm next time…”
Judicial ethics generally do not allow judges to publicly respond to criticisms related to how they have presided over cases or sentences that they have issued.
Incidentally, Hanratanagorn has not committed another offense since his probation, according to Douglas County District Court records. According to the Kansas Department of Corrections, he is under “intensive supervision.”
Russell wrote in “Stop Moaning, Start Owning” that the idea of narcissistic entitlement also came into play with the case of Isaac Taylor, a transient man accused of stabbing a 17-year-old Lawrence boy in the back of the neck outside Pickleman’s Gourmet Cafe, 818 Massachusetts St. Taylor allegedly did so after the victim gave money to one transient man, but not to Taylor.
“It is narcissistic entitlement when a person knows what they’re doing is against the law and does it anyway,” Russell said. “It’s when a person felt entitled to have that thing that didn’t belong to them or hurt another person and didn’t give a darn.”
Douglas County prosecutors charged Taylor, who has at least four previous battery convictions, with aggravated battery, and Douglas County Judge Pro Tem James George set Taylor’s bond at $15,000. Russell said he thinks prosecutors should have charged Taylor with attempted first- or second-degree murder, and criticized George for setting what Russell believes to be a low bond.
“How much are these people caring about the innocent rest of us?” Russell said. “It’s always concerning when you see any community not doing enough to protect people from criminals.”
Taylor has not posted bail since his arrest in June, and his jury trial is set to begin in January.
To correct the “moaning,” Russell said, individuals must start “owning” by accepting responsibility for their actions, apologizing and making amends. Then, they must “accept obligation to behave constructively,” temper down the narcissism and “become part of something larger than one’s self.”
For the individual, Russell said “owning” makes a person “far more likely” to have successful relationships, prosper financially and be happy. Then, when you have a group of people owning, communities will be “more likely to follow the law.”
Russell has spent the past few weeks promoting his book on HLN’s “Dr. Drew On Call” and on Fox News. “Stop Moaning, Start Owning” is available online and in bookstores, including at Lawrence’s The Raven Book Store, Hastings, Signs of Life and the KU Bookstore.