Last week John Sexton looked at the tragic story of Johnny Bobbitt, a marine veteran who is now homeless and living on the streets of Philadelphia while dealing with a serious drug addiction problem. After Bobbitt performed an act of kindness for motorist Katie McClure, she and her boyfriend set up a crowdfunding website which raised more than $400,000 for the homeless man. You can read the original details at the link if you missed the story, but suffice it to say that the tale took an ugly turn, with accusations that the couple has been spending Bobbitt’s money on themselves. For their part, the couple denies those allegations and say that Bobbitt was using the money in acts of self-destruction and they’re simply trying to save him from himself.
On Thursday a judge did just what John Sexton suggested and ordered the couple to turn over the remaining money to their attorney to be placed in escrow and account for where the rest of it has gone. (NY Post)
A New Jersey couple must hand over what remains of the $400,000 they raised for a homeless Philadelphia man, a report said.
Katie McClure and her boyfriend, Mark D’Amico, had to give all the funds to their lawyer — after they had raised the dough through a GoFundMe campaign for Johnny Bobbit, according to Philadelphia’s NBC10.
The lawyer was directed to place the funds into an escrow account as the case continues, the report said The judge also has ordered McClure and D’Amico to provide a full accounting of the money they raised.
Bobbit had gained worldwide attention after he spent his last $20 to help a McClure buy gas last fall.
For his part, Bobbitt is calling Mclure and her boyfriend hypocrites and he has a pro-bono attorney who is pursuing his money for him. As a short-term solution, this seems like the only viable option, but it’s not a permanent fix. If McClure and D’Amico have been spending Johnny’s money on lavish vacations and a new car as Bobbitt alleges, it’s a despicable act and they should be held accountable. If, on the other hand, they’ve been acting in good faith then their names can be cleared and they will likely need to separate themselves from this increasingly ugly situation despite their good intentions.
But none of this addresses what the final chapter of the story should be. Assuming all the money is recovered, should it be handed over to Bobbitt in some fashion where he can have direct access to it? (He doesn’t have a bank account and is apparently unable to open one, but perhaps a lawyer could set up some sort of debit card account for him?) Or does he need to be “protected from himself” and have the money managed by a responsible third party? The latter may sound like a tempting solution since Bobbitt admits that he’s burned through tens of thousands on drugs already and stands a very real chance of killing himself.
When John wrote about this tragedy in the making, he concluded that while Ms. Mclure and her boyfriend needed to account for all the money and turn it over to someone to manage it, the cash shouldn’t be given to Bobbitt. This is what he wrote on Wednesday.
The sad part of this story is that I think Bobbitt is going to end up back on the street no matter how much money he is given. He is not in a fit state of mind to handle the money he has until he decides to deal with his real problem, which is drug addiction. And that really is a shame because it seems there’s a pretty decent man under there somewhere.
I do think the couple that helped Bobbitt needs to account for all of the money and should relinquish control of it to a 3rd party ASAP. But giving it to a drug addict who is still refusing to go to rehab is a truly terrible idea, one likely to result in Bobbitt’s death. Again, I don’t think any of the donors to his fund wanted that to happen.
I’m going to respectfully disagree with John here. It’s true that this veteran finds himself in horrible circumstances and he clearly has an addiction problem. I also agree that it’s possible (but not definite) that Bobbit may wind up losing his life from a drug overdose. Sadly, this is the case for a huge number of homeless people in this country and far, far too many of our veterans. But in the end, it comes down to a question of personal responsibility. Is Johnny Bobbit actually mentally ill to the point where a court would find him unable to handle his own affairs, representing a danger to himself an others? If so, then he shouldn’t be living under a bridge. He should be in a medical facility where he can be cared for and in that case, the money could remain in some account awaiting his improved mental health.
But if Johnny Bobbitt is capable of identifying reality and making cognitive decisions for himself (however bad those decisions might be), then who is Katie McClure to decide how much of his money he gets and when? Who are any of us to make that decision, really? (Outside of a court relying on the results of professional medical evaluations of course.) It’s been said many times that some addicts simply have to hit rock bottom before they see the light and begin turning their lives around. Perhaps Johnny Bobbitt just isn’t there yet. It’s possible that this stroke of good fortune will eventually be the spark that brings him back from the brink. Maybe he’ll exhaust all of the money by next year and that realization is what will turn his life around.
Or just maybe, as John speculated, he’ll wind up overdosing because of all the drugs he will be able to afford. This is going to sound like a coldblooded statement to make, but that’s a story which plays out hundreds, if not thousands of times every week in America. It will be a tragedy, particularly for a man who volunteered to serve his nation in the military, but I simply don’t see how this is a choice we can make for Johnny Bobbitt, assuming he’s mentally capable of making a choice. Only he can control his future and help is awaiting him if he asks for it. But no matter how the story of Johnny Bobbitt ends, he needs to write it himself.
Give Johnny Bobbitt his money as soon as the court accounts for it all. From there, the next move should be his.