The following is an EDITORIAL authored by Steve Stewart of KJAS News:

“Respect for the law”. That was a statement made at least a dozen times by U.S. District Judge Ron Clark on Tuesday as he weighed numerous factors in arriving at a decision on prison sentences for Walter, Rosie, and Anita Diggles. It was as if Judge Clark was trying to speak in code, desperately trying to convey a message to the trio of convicted criminals, but they just-didn’t-get-it.

The three stole some $1.3 million of your hard earned tax dollars that was intended to go to hurricane victims, and they were all convicted on 30 felony counts in August.

On Tuesday, Judge Clark sentenced Walter Diggles to 9 years in federal prison, and he sentenced Rosie and Anita Diggles to 4 years and 6 months,

However, before the sentences were handed out, Judge Clark gave each of them an opportunity to speak, an opportunity to apologize, an opportunity to show just some semblance, just an inkling of remorse, and to demonstrate what Judge Clark repeated over and over and over - respect for the law.

When the three had the opportunity to admit their wrongdoing, or to show remorse even if it wasn’t even genuine, even if they had to fake it and say “I’m sorry” like a 2-year-old kid being forced by their mother to say it after hitting another kid on a playground… they said nothing.

Their silence was screaming. It was an in your face disrespect for the law.

Judge Clark had done everything that he could possibly do without just standing up and yelling “THIS IS YOUR CHANCE, YOU IDIOTS!”

Although Judge Clark gave each of them prison sentences that were just slightly less than the suggested minimum sentences under federal guidelines, the sentences still surprised veteran attorneys in this region who had predicted that they would receive little to no time at all behind bars, based upon Judge Clark’s reputation.

Judge Clark, being the senior judge in the Eastern District of Texas, has a reputation of being the most lenient judge in the district. One has to wonder if the three would have received less time, or even no time at all had they just simply taken Judge Clark’s cue and apologized, or shown any sign of remorse, any sign of respect for the law.

It was, to say the least, appalling.

Now, Walter Diggles, instead of showing respect for the law, is instead showing outward defiance for the law. Keep in mind, this a man who was and continues to be the pastor of a church.

In a statement written on his Facebook page and posted on Tuesday evening, Diggles called the criminal justice system “oppressive”, and he called the jury verdict “biased”.

That’s right, he went there, Diggles pulled out the race card.

Oppressive and biased; awfully strong words to come from a black man in Jasper, Texas who, through his honest work and honest dealings, has enjoyed more success than most white men in in this entire region. The truth is Walter Diggles’ bias and oppression claim is as fake as those "Sorry, DETCOG has no money for you" letters that were sent out to real storm victims – black storm victims.

Since Walter Diggles played the race card, let’s take a closer look at all of this, including race.

The federal agents that raided DETCOG, along with Diggles’ church and home, were a mixture of white, black, and Hispanic officers, and considering that they were, at the time, operating under Eric Holder’s Justice Department, there had to be a lotta there, there, for the feds to go after the Diggles like they did – especially under the Holder and Obama administration.

The Diggles were then indicted by a Federal Grand Jury which a reasonable person would have to imagine was made up of white, black, and Hispanic jury members.

At trial, the jury that listened to all testimony, saw all evidence, and ultimately convicted the Diggles family on all counts, was a mixture of white, black, and Hispanic jurors.

Because this was a criminal trial, and the entire jury has to be in complete agreement, all it would have taken was one - just one - black juror to hold out for acquittal and it would have caused the entire case to fall on the government’s lap.

The black jurors, however, saw and heard the mountain of evidence against the Diggles family. The black jurors also heard Walter Diggles’ testimony, including a black female juror about the same age as Diggles and sitting on the front row just a few feet away from him. She watched him the entire time with an expression on her face that seemed to say “Do you really think we’re stupid?”

Not one single black jury member held out for an acquittal, and they returned with a verdict faster than Anita Diggles could say “I was entitled”.

The black jurors were smart enough to realize that out of the thousands of victims in this crime, the majority of whom, and definitely the hardest hit, were actually the black people.

Black residents of Deep East Texas, on average, were not and still are not economically equal with white people. The average black homeowner or renter can’t afford home or renters insurance, and certainly can’t afford to pay for a new roof on a damaged home, or to replace their only vehicle flattened under a tree.

Black people were harder hit than anyone else by the hurricanes and they needed that money more than anyone else, and yet they were screwed over by Walter, Rosie, and Anita Diggles more than anyone else.

Call it karma, call it irony, call it whatever you want. It was black people who were hurt the most by the Diggles, and it was black people who convicted the Diggles.

Quite possibly the smartest thing that the Diggles ever did was to request for sentencing to come from the judge, because it appeared that the black jury members were poised to put them away for life.

However, the Diggles couldn’t even do that without screwing it up. Their arrogance, ignorance, and sense of entitlement wouldn’t waiver for just one second for them to just humble themselves and to simply say “I’m sorry”.

Now that it has all collapsed on top of them, the three are going away for a few years and they’ll have time to think about their terrible crime. Hopefully, they’ll come out of prison with some newfound honesty and humility. Hopefully, they’ll be willing to work to try to repay the $1.3 million that they stole from us all.

Hopefully, they’ll find respect for the law.

Broadcast journalist & on-air personality - Rayburn Broadcasting Company - KJAS 107.3 FM in Jasper, TX and KFAH 99.1 FM in Pineland, TX