Editorial: A teacher, a student, a violent prison gang
Concord is such a small community that it’s easy to think, naively, that we know everything about everything going on in town. The recent arrest of Peggy Sinclair certainly put that ridiculous notion to rest.
Sinclair is the former Concord elementary school teacher arrested last week on charges of mailing drugs to gang members in the state prison. Nearly every detail of the remarkable news report about her case (and several reports preceding it) was eye-opening:
According to the police, a teacher who served Concord children for the past quarter century now counts as her boyfriend one of her former fifth-grade students, Matthew Peters.
Peters, who as a young boy appeared in the pages of the Monitor as a hero for his role in alerting neighbors to an apartment fire, now has a criminal history involving drugs and violence.
He is also part of a white-supremacist gang operating at the Concord prison, authorities say.
Officials believe that the gang – the Brotherhood of White Warriors – has aspirations of making big money outside the prison walls. Last winter, for instance, Peters and another gang member were accused of a violent attack in Concord in which they attempted to steal a large amount of heroin.
Just recently, earlier charges against Sinclair were dropped when her attorney produced a prescription for the drugs found in her purse. But the accusations she now faces make that previous headline-grabbing arrest seem like small potatoes indeed.
The police believe Sinclair conspired with Peters to mail envelopes containing a prescription drug to the prison. They believe she also placed money on the phone cards of gang members inside the prison and gave them credit card numbers that allowed them to access cash. And they believe her involvement with the gang – an organization that employs Nazi symbolism – goes back more than a year.
This is not the end of the story, for sure. And there are questions galore that officials from the school district and the state Department of Corrections will eventually need to answer.
Did Sinclair’s life veer so dramatically off the rails just recently or was this a long time coming? Did her colleagues at Broken Ground School suspect trouble? Did her behavior affect her work in the classroom? Were students ever in danger?
Presumably Sinclair’s latest troubles will affect a still pending negotiation with the school district regarding her resignation. Does the district owe her anything at this point – and what?
If, indeed, the BOWW gang has been operating at the prison for several years, what has that meant from a practical standpoint? What prompted its creation? How much other crime or violence has it been involved with? What is the state of race relations behind the walls on North State Street? How easy is it to smuggle drugs into the prison? What are corrections officials doing to squelch gang activity?
We had a visit from Sinclair a few months back. She and Peters had just been pulled over by the cops and arrested on drug charges. She was worried about her job with the school district and pleaded with us to keep her name out of the Monitor police log. The arrest, she insisted, was all a big misunderstanding. According to the police, “understatement” might have been a more accurate description.