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Free Cain Velasquez? Former UFC champ a sympathetic figure — but certainly no hero

“We all say we’d do it if it ever happened to us,” UFC President Dana White told Barstool Sports. “Cain did it.”

Cain Velasquez court appearance Photo by Aric Crabb/MediaNews Group/East Bay Times via Getty Images

It’s the kind of story Hollywood revenge flicks are made of.

Combat sports icon Cain Velasquez trusted the care and safety of his “close relative” — who has not been identified by police but is confirmed to be younger than 10 years old — to a daycare facility run by Patricia Goularte in Santa Clara, California.

Goularte’s son, Harry Goularte, was recently arrested and charged with molesting that unidentified relative and later released on bail, despite the opposition of the district attorney. As a result, Velasquez allegedly chased him down, crashed into the vehicle driven by Goularte’s step father, Paul Bender, and opened fire.

Bender was shot in the arm but is expected to make a full recovery.

In the days that followed last Monday’s shocking incident, friends, family, and MMA fans swarmed the local courthouse to show their support for the former UFC heavyweight champion, charged with first-degree attempted murder, assault with a deadly weapon, and shooting an occupied motor vehicle.

T-shirts reading “Free Cain Velasquez” were visible en masse.

I can’t speak to the operation of the mind and I don’t know what Velasquez was thinking or feeling, but according to the district attorney, it was enough to compel Velasquez to load his 40-caliber handgun, ambush Goularte on the streets of Morgan Hill, Calif., and pull the trigger, regardless of who or what was in the line of fire.

Can I say would have done differently? Maybe ... maybe not.

I have a wife, a daughter, a sister, and a niece. The thought of one or all of them being molested or abused makes my stomach turn. Unhealthy fantasies of what I might do to the offender are not unlike what Marcellus Wallace did to Zed in Pulp Fiction.

So yeah, I get it.

I also understand that I can’t raise my daughter if I’m in jail. No birthday parties, no recitals, no vacations to Disney I can’t afford (but take anyway). No income to support my family, no health insurance in times of crisis, no retirement funds. What would I tell my little girl from behind bars?

“Sorry baby, daddy’s not coming home, but at least I taught that bastard a lesson.”

Velasquez is looking at hard time, if convicted, but there’s no telling how the circumstances surrounding his case will play out for (or against) him. Aside from the fact that Velasquez allegedly embarked on a high speed chase, putting other drivers and pedestrians at risk, he is accused of discharging a firearm in public — which didn’t even hit his intended target.

That, folks, is the high cost of vigilante justice.

In our fantasies we all shoot like Blondie from The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly. In reality, most of us would have the accuracy of an intoxicated Stormtrooper, because a live shootout carries something the local gun range typically does not.

Fear, anger, and adrenaline.

Probably not the best combination in a situation calling for precision and accuracy and likely a contributing factor to the injury sustained by Bender. Compounding the problem is the fact that Goularte has yet to be convicted of any crime, despite evidence that demonstrates a recurring (and monstrous) pattern of abuse.

Like it or not, even the most egregious offenders are entitled to due process.

A colleague of mine spent more than 20 years in prison, wrongfully convicted of the rape and murder of a 12 year-old girl. At the time of his sentencing, the community was prepared to lynch him in the streets to “send a message” to other rapists. They would have executed an innocent man.

Oh, so you’re taking the pedos side?!?

No. The issue here is that I can’t (and shouldn’t) say beyond a reasonable doubt if Goularte is innocent or guilty. No one else can either, including Velasquez, because Goularte has yet to see his day in court, where information is presented, arguments are heard, and if everything goes the way it’s supposed to, justice is served.

That’s not always the case — and it sucks.

The criminal justice system is flawed and the United States Constitution, as it was written and amended in the late 1700s, is problematic in 2022. But until something better comes along we have to play by the rules we created — and also protect those people who are betrayed by the process.

Fans want to “Free Cain Velasquez.” To do what? Try again and hopefully not miss?

Through his attorney, Velasquez denied the allegations and could enter a plea of not guilty at next week’s arraignment, where the judge is expected to set bail. Like Goularte, we must also afford Velasquez the benefit of the doubt. Perhaps his intention was intimidation, not murder, an attempt to damage the vehicle to make an aggressive statement.

That is for the court to decide, not us.

For those of you not in or around the San Jose area, Velasquez is a bona fide celebrity. He has a voice, he has influence, he has connections with UFC and some of the biggest names in sports and entertainment. Utilizing those resources could make the part-time pro wrestler a formidable force in the fight against child sexual abuse. In the big house, however, he’s nothing more than a cautionary tale.

So how do you explain that to someone drowning in their own pain?

I’m not sure you can, but that doesn’t grant Velasquez — clearly compromised by the gravity of the situation — the power of judge, jury, and executioner. Even if he gunned down Goularte and scored the payback he so desperately wanted, what do you think the victim would have preferred? A dead child molester or a life with Velasquez by their side?

Vengeance is a poor substitute for closure.

There are few crimes as heinous as child molestation. Not just because of the act itself, but also because of the damage it does to the victim. Lives are often irrevocably changed and killing the abuser won’t fix that. Convicted parties should be punished accordingly and when they’re not, we have a responsibility to channel our anger and disappointment into positive change.

If we don’t, if we satiate our own rage and poison ourselves with hate, we put our own pain before the recovery of the victim. Justice was not served last Monday and there was no revenge. There was only another life altered forever because of our collective belief that bad guys should get what they deserve, no matter the cost.

To the victim and to ourselves.

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