Alan Riquelmy: Mike Craig was one of the good guys
Once the door with the key code snapped shut, you were in.
Every district attorney’s office I’ve ever visited on the job has one. A door past the public lobby that leads to where the prosecutors have their offices.
Covering courts in Columbus, Georgia, I often walked through the key code door. A prosecutor always had to punch in the code, shielding it with a hand in case some unscrupulous person, I guess myself in this example, was sneaking a peek.
Then, the door wide open, I walked through, in tow of some assistant district attorney who led me to his or her office, where I’d get their side of the story I was hunting that day.
All of them were good people, but Michael Craig, or just Mike, was one of the best. Attorneys, just like the rest of us, can suffer from inflated egos, too little time to fool with a reporter or just an underlying dislike of the media.
Mike didn’t have any of those traits. Instead he was helpful, friendly, easy to talk to and ready to help a reporter with little knowledge about Georgia law.
In fact, around a month after starting my job there he shared a tip he’d heard: something big was going on in Harris County, just to the north of us. He said he didn’t know for sure what it was, but I should keep my ear to the ground.
Sure enough, weeks later news broke that the Dateline NBC show “To Catch a Predator” filmed in Harris County, leading to the arrest of 20 men. Over many months the stories played out in the newspaper. Most pleaded to their charges, though three went to trial. I got to cover one in person, and logged the shortest time I’ve ever seen a jury take to convict — under 30 minutes.
Mike was a good prosecutor. Passionate. He’d tear up at times when talking to the jury. When he prosecuted somebody, he believed in their guilt.
“I had to clench my mouth shut when the defense attorney was speaking,” he’d tell jurors after waiting for his opponent’s closing statement to end. He wanted to jump up, say something was wrong, correct the record. But he waited his turn, then go through the evidence, argue his side.
Mike was one of the good guys.
I hadn’t seen him in almost 10 years when I learned of his suicide last month. Reports state he was in his office in the city’s Government Center when he fatally shot himself. Authorities locked down the building, at first thinking they might have an active shooter situation.
But no, that wasn’t the case.
Most newspapers have strong policies about when the report on suicides. Typically, they would refrain from it when the person is in a private home. That would never make print.
But if it’s someone of note, like an elected official, or it happens in a public place, it’s different. Add the authorities locking down the city’s one-stop shop for government services, and the death will be reported.
Newspapers struggle with issues like this. People deserve their privacy when tragic events occur. It’s why you’ll rarely see a suicide reported. But questions arise when it’s done in public. Traffic could be impeded, buildings closed, a large police presence leaving people wondering what happened.
Then you’ll see a story.
A cursory online search shows the local TV stations did basic reporting on the incident. The newspaper did a deeper dive into Mike — what his peers thought about him, a look into his character.
Then it’s done. I doubt any media is going to delve further into this, and why should they? Maybe some gossip is floating around a Facebook page. I haven’t looked for it.
With stories like these, when they must be written, this is how it’s done. Show the man people knew, let those who knew him talk about his good qualities, then leave it be.
I’m sure someone has an inkling of what went on behind the curtain. That’s not my business. I remember the man who often helped me with court stories, the guy who’d pick up the phone when I called.
All the rest, that’s behind a locked door.
And I don’t know the code.
Contact Acting Editor Alan Riquelmy at email@example.com or 530-477-4239.
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