The Waco Independent School District board of trustees is no doubt as conflicted over the arrest and brief incarceration of Superintendent A. Marcus Nelson as our community is. After hearing public comments from individuals on both sides of the debate — some pleading for punitive measures but not expulsion, a couple insisting that no other option exists beyond firing the superintendent — trustees deliberated more than four hours Tuesday before breaking to continue later.

Every week mail stacks up at my desk from prisoners seeking help in addressing their sentences or petitioning for clemency. Their stories are not told (except by the students in my clinic at St. Thomas Law School for those few we can represent). Instead, when we read about sentencing it’s usually related to the rich and famous. One of those cases is in the news now, as former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort was sentenced twice in the course of one week. On March 7, Judge T.S. Ellis III of the Eastern District of Virginia sentenced him to 47 months imprisonment; then on March 13 Judge Amy Berman Jackson of the D.C. District Court added an additional 43 months for separate (but related) charges filed there. There is a lot to learn from the Manafort case, both about him and about the people who write to me from humbler positions.

Flashback

What were we talking about one year ago? Take a look back.

When Vladimir Putin falls asleep, I can imagine what he dreams: He sees himself basking in the glory of another landslide victory in a sham election as Washington offers congratulations, not criticism. The White House press secretary tells the world that it is no longer America’s place to push for democracy. NATO splinters as the United States abandons its European allies. And the president of the United States snubs longtime friends while publicly praising Russia as a new friend that America should court — regardless of what Moscow does.

Despite a propaganda blitz meant to shift the blame for the poisoning of former double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in the United Kingdom this month, Russia looks set to face bruising consequences. The newfound unity among European Union leaders on the matter and the appointment of fierce Russia hawk John Bolton as President Trump’s national security adviser are potential precursors of collective Western action against Russia.

March saw plenty of commentary on gun violence, including protests of lax gun laws, the influence of the NRA on politicians and, most notably, outrage over the McLennan County Republican Club’s decision to book controversial, right-wing rocker Ted Nugent for another address on gun rights, including a rant against gun-free zones. A sampling of Trib Facebook comments:

Just as the city of Parkland and the nation try to recover after one of the most horrific school shootings in history last month — one that left 17 people dead, 14 of them children — more disturbing news comes from Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School this week. Two students were arrested for bringing weapons onto the campus. A third student was arrested for making a threat on social media. This comes on the same day in which two students at a high school in Maryland were injured in a school shooting and the gunman, also a student, was killed by a school resource officer.