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Real Talk with Judge Dawson
The Ignorance of Arrogance

I am completely fed up with the arrogance displayed in this world. On every level we witness people making moves and taking action that lead to an end result of nothing more than the fulfillment of person objectives. It has become obvious that too many people are only concerned with their own personal interests. I have discovered that much of this desire to fulfill person interest comes from a spirit of arrogance.

My years as an elected official have revealed to me that many of our leaders are arrogant. When I say leaders I am speaking local, statewide and even nationwide. I can give you several examples of leaders being arrogant but let me mention one close to home. I started a movement called “Adopt-a-Block in 2013 which has my staff, community service workers and myself volunteering our time to clean up the City of East Cleveland. Out of all the business people, community organizations, organizers etc… no one has offered to help the clean up effort. In fact, this past weekend many people stopped in amazement when they were driving down the street and saw Judge Dawson walking with a team picking up bottles and debris. If more leaders actually lead by example the entire community in Cleveland, East Cleveland and the world would be transformed.

Even beyond helping with community clean up efforts, another place where arrogance must disappear is in the attitudes of our leaders. Today’s leaders are too arrogant to talk to the “opposition,” too arrogant to seek knowledge of successful people, too arrogant to ask for help in time of need and too arrogant to look at their current situation and identify if the house is burning down. Leaders and people who are arrogant are not aware that arrogance can be a form of ignorance.

Arrogance is defined as an insulting way of thinking or behaving that comes from believing that you are better, smarter or more important than other people.

Ignorance is defined as a lack of knowledge or information.

Unfortunately, most don’t understand that if you are arrogant, (thinking or behaving as if you are better, smarter or more important than other people) you are ignorance (having a lack of knowledge).

All of my training, workshops and articles come from the stand point of being a “Cycle Breaker” meaning, I want us to all perform and live out the best version of ourselves. However, when you combine those two definitions, finding yourself so arrogant to be ignorant, you are far from being a “Cycle Breaker.”

When a person acts in a manner suggesting that they are smarter or more important than other people they are ignorant to the fact that no one is more important than anyone. Though you may have a title, and I wrote about the respect that is due to a person with a title, that title does not make you better than anyone. Instead, with a title, you are trusted to take on very specific responsibilities that “entitle” you to support and respect. It’s not that you are better than anyone. The problem is that when people have titles they get to the point where no one can tell them anything. When no one can tell you anything you are approaching destruction.

When I was elected to the position of Judge of the East Cleveland Municipal Court I reached out to many people to get their wisdom, advise and assistance. It was not beneath me to seek support. However, today most elected officials, businessmen and leaders are so caught up on being “the man” that they never seek the wisdom of other people. In the greater Cleveland area, which includes the surrounding suburbs, there are cities in trouble, not just the City of East Cleveland. If, instead of being caught up on being “the man,” we all decided to work together, this entire region could be transformed. Working together doesn’t mean criticizing others, speaking out on issues just to get a rise from your constituents or bullying others. Instead, real leaders try to seek the greatest good for all people concerned and that means being able to work without arrogance.

When it’s all said and done and we reach the end of our road, arrogant people wont’ have much to look back on. They may have a legacy of being shrewd and hard core but you can’t bully your way into heaven. Instead of being arrogant and ignorant, seek cooperation and seek to do what’s best and what’s right. When we work together with knowledge and a spirit of cooperation we can make this world a better place.

For more discussion on this subject or others, join Judge Dawson’s Cycle Breaker/Finish First program on Monday nights at 5:30pm at the East Cleveland Municipal Court. ALSO, on April 21, 2014 at 5:30 pm, join us for a forum on “HEROIN IN THE SUBURBS” with Judge Michael Astrab of the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas! East Cleveland Municipal Court’s Judge William L. Dawson is on a mission to help people to Finish First, live their best lives and be Cycle Breakers!
Social Media @JudgeDawson



In my years as Judge I have come across some of the most amazing situations.  Some are joyous, like when a person completes my Cycle Breaker / Finish First System comes to Court and publicly thanks me for the program and I can actually see the change in them.  Some are sad, like times when the same people are in and out of my Court for the same offenses.  One thing that remains constant for both of those situations is that the “Truth Shall Set You Free.”  Being truthful with yourself and others will set you free from discouragement, failure and further legal problems.  

There was a man in my Court charged with having an open container, crack stem and being disorderly.  He was well spoken and very forthright with all that he did, taking full responsibility for his arrest.  While discussing his situation he mentioned that there was a time when the Veterans Association offered to help him with his drinking problem.  I inquired further so that I could determine if this case should be transferred to the special docket handled by a neighboring court or if I could offer him help for his addiction.  This man looked directly at me and told me that the VA tried to help him but he walked away from it.  He said, “to be honest Judge, I don’t want any help.  I am an alcoholic and I want to die an alcoholic.”  

I’ve witness resistance to change before.  I’ve experienced people who struggle with staying in the programs aimed to help effect change, but this was a different situation.  I came face to face with a person I wanted to help but simply did not want to help himself.  We looked at each other for a few seconds with silence, and that time of silence felt like several minutes, until I said, “O.K. you are surely grown enough to make your own decisions.”  I advised him that this type of behavior, if repeated, will cause him to spend time in jail.  He told me that he understood, thanked me for understanding his position and went on his way.

What did I learn from this candid yet sad situation?  I learned that “the truth will set you free.”  Meaning, it is better to face your truth and deal with it so that you are free from the burden of carrying a lie.  Had this man accepted my attempt to find him treatment, he would have been forced to act out a lie and it would have been difficult for him to avoid jail time when his compliance with my terms would determine his fate.  Instead, the truth set him free.  

Being a Cycle Breaker requires that you know when to hold them, when to fold them and when to walk away.  Not everyone can be saved.  Not every one can benefit from the compassion that I have for my people. There are groups of us who will continue to spiral out of control.  There are groups of youth who will fail to understand the value of education based on their generational experiences.  Their are young people who will make the adult choice to have a child regardless of the number of times they are advised to wait.  

My mission as a Cycle Breaker, with over 13 years of experience in studying human behavior and predictable patterns of action, is to give people the tools to live an extraordinary life.  However, once I pass the blessing, it’s up to the receiver to utilize the information.  If you and I both act in this manner, giving people the tools, advise and resources to make better decisions, and they still act in opposition to their best self, we have spoken our truth and performed like Cycle Breakers because we know that Cycle Breakers Finish First.

East Cleveland Municipal Court’s Judge William L. Dawson is on a mission is to use every ounce of his body to help people to Finish First, live their best lives and be Cycle Breakers!  To receive a copy of his newsletter reach out by:


When I first received the news of the closing of Huron Road I was hit with a series of emotions.

FIRST, I felt sad that my effort and the effort of all the others who rallied, protested, marched and attended countless hours of meetings had lost the battle.

SECOND, I felt betrayed by the fact that when I was at the last meeting given by Huron Road to address the trauma center. I SPECIFICALLY asked the question about the intentions of closing the entire hospital. The answer I got was “All I can say is that its’ open now.” I said “What!!!!”

THIRD, I feel sad that there is going to be another large abandoned building in the city where I live, raise my child and LOVE!!!!

FOURTH, I was worried about the Juvenile Diversion program I Magistrate being kicked out of the hospital, just like the current Judge kicked it out of the East Cleveland Court.

But, I will go on, the Juvenile Diversion program will go on and EAST CLEVELAND will go on.

A start is electing me as Judge of the East Cleveland Court this November.. Let’s do it!!!!!!!!

Felony Record Dilemma

Felony Record Dilemma

One of the major complaints I hear from my clients is the inability to gain any type of employment because of a past felony conviction. There are even people who were convicted five plus years ago, did their time, paid their fines but can not get back on track. Adding to the general frustration that this may cause is that many times these same individuals are forced to address child support debt. And, in case you didn’t know it, child support debt can lead to jail time. See more information on Child Support at the Family Law Seminar on July 23, 2011 MLK Center in East Cleveland.

So are there any solutions? Well come July, job seekers in Philadelphia have one less box to check on employment applications.

The city recently banned the criminal history box—or related inquires—on job applications at private and public institutions, joining a growing number of cities and states including Massachusetts, Hawaii, Seattle and Chicago, the National Law Review reports.

The “Fair Criminal Record Screening Standards,” law prevents nonexempt employers (basically those hiring people on an hourly basis) from asking job applicants about prior arrests and convictions during the application process or first interview. The legislation also prohibits inquiries into non-pending arrests or criminal accusations that didn’t result in a conviction. The ordinance does provide exemptions for some institutions under additional laws, such as banks and child care service providers.

New Mexico, California, Minnesota, and Connecticut have also passed similar legislation for public enterprises. Maybe Ohio should consider jumping on board. Putting deserving people back to work is great for the economy.

Either way – always “Begin with the End in Mind” or Finish First!!!!

Finish First How to Avoid Derailment?

I have spent a considerable amount of time handling criminal cases, training youth and adults. I’ve been developing the “Finish First” philosophy for several years. One major conclusion of my research is that a very effective deterrent to derailment, or falling off the path to your best, is the lack of PURPOSE. I write while acknowledging that all of us have some level of control over the circumstances that arise in our lives. I say some because the reality is that there are times when we are truly blind sided or caught in something we didn’t see coming, however most of the time we followed some steps that lead in a certain direction.

Recently — Four Rice University football players were arrested by their campus police in separate cases. Online records show that defensive end Cody Bauer and offensive lineman Cade Shaw were arrested and charged with a felony for having possession if firearms in a prohibited place – their on-campus apartments. Both are free on $5,000 bond.

The other two, cornerbacks Kevin Gaddis and Phillip Gaines were arrested on misdemeanor marijuana possession charges. Gaddis is also charged with misdemeanor theft. He’s free on $1,000 bond, while Gaines posted $500 bond for his release.

As an attorney I obviously believe that all these young men are innocent until proven guilty but, for our enlightenment, I’ll suggest two ways that we can learn to avoid these types of derailments.

FIRST – Develop expectations for your life. When we are serious about what we expect we will make better immediate/short term decisions. For example, if you expect to have a good meal, that expectation will determine where you eat. If you expect to date and then marry a person who will provide for you, that expectation will determine who you spend your time dating. Too many of us “live” beneath our own expectations. Understand you will get what you expect.

SECOND – Determine your purpose. I specifically use the word purpose as opposed to goals because purpose has a lasting effect. Everyone should put their purpose in writing and keep it in your wallet. Even if your don’t know your purpose at this time start brainstorming. Start with writing down the answers to these four questions. 1. What brings you the greatest joy in your life? 2. When do you feel at your best? 3. When do you feel like you’re in your zone? 4. Then consider what can you do in your future to maintain that feeling. This exercise will bring you close to determining your purpose. Keep in mind your purpose will normally be larger than an individual person or thing so think community instead of person or thing (people and things come and go but purpose lasts). Once you identify your purpose, Consider your purpose as a compass. Whenever you get lost or confused about your direction you can just look at your purpose statement and get back on track. You can even vision your purpose as a lighthouse sitting off in the distance. A constant reminder to you of what’s important.

Once you determine your purpose you will be more likely to act that out. For example, the young men at Rice University, knowing that they are on the football team, possibly with a scholarship and even bigger prospects, the goal of winning a game is not enough to keep them from derailment. However, if they identify the purpose to graduate from college or even play in the NFL, those purposes could/should guide their daily actions.

Finish First!

Avoid a Facebook Tragedy


Looking around, it’s evident that we are becoming less and less engaged in the real world (as opposed to our virtual reality).  We are less likely to vote, less likely to speak or encourage people whom we encounter and, among other things, less likely to do the HARD THINGS that are necessary for us to live our best lives.

Here is an example of that “disconnect” from reality.

A northern Colorado woman who was playing a game on Facebook while her 13-month-old baby drowned in a full bathtub was sentenced on April 15 2011 to 10 years in prison.

Shannon Johnson, 34, of Fort Lupton, cried as District Judge Thomas Quammen told her he didn’t think she was a bad person or that she killed her son on purpose, But he said, that doesn’t mean her action wasn’t criminal.

“You left this little boy in a bathtub so you could entertain yourself on the computer by playing games,” Quammen said. “And you left that 13-month-old human being, little Joseph, incredibly, for those reasons.”

Johnson pleaded guilty in March to negligently causing the death of her child. The charge carried a sentencing range of four to 12 years, but it also left open the possibility she could receive community corrections or probation. Authorities rejected both of those options, saying they didn’t want to play down the seriousness of her crime.

According to court documents, Johnson put her son in the tub for his bath a little after 8:30 a.m. on Sept. 20. She then left him unsupervised in a   full of water as she went to another room to share videos, check status updates and play Cafe World on Facebook. Johnson told deputies that Joseph had grown independent and wanted to be left alone in the tub.

When she returned to the bathroom, said she found Joseph sideways and face-down in the tub.

There is a time and place for socializing, Facebook and going out, but in order to live our best lives and take care of the people most important to us, we have to put first things first.

Finish First!!!!

Apparently irritated at a deputy public defender representing him on a marijuana citation that could, at most, have resulted in a $100 fine, a California man punched her in the face last year at the West Justice Center in Warminster, knocking her head against the wall and breaking her glasses.

Last week, March 2011, Gaylord Tootsie Daney, 46, pleaded guilty in Orange County Superior Court to charges that resulted from the March 24, 2010 incident—felony assault on a government official, aggravated assault and battery with serious bodily injury, with sentencing enhancements for personally inflicting great bodily injury—and was sentenced to a two-year prison term, reports the Orange County Register.

This incident hits home with me because I was a part-time public defender in the East Cleveland court for many years while, at the same time, having my own private Practice. I started as a public defender under Judge Keenon for the sole purpose giving back to my community. There were a few occasions when I was verbally disrespected by an unintelligent client who thought public defenders have less ability then private lawyers. Little did they know, while I was give back by servicing them, if I was hired for those same cases they would have been charged a pretty penny.

The lesson to learn from the guy now serving 2 years- control your emotions or the legal system will control you!



For those unfamiliar with me, I’m a criminal defense attorney with 10 plus years of experience. Through my practice I have represented clients from all walks of life for all types of crime. One common thread that I see in many clients is the lack of “consciousness” about the law and its consequences. So my passion has turned from being the best defense attorney to being a vehicle for edification and development. I write, speak and train on my science of “Finish First” beginning with the end in mind.

While conducting a training for high school students, I was amazed when 9th graders revealed that they often witness parents smoking weed in the home. In fact, many have witnessed this so much that they have absolutely “no feeling” about the activity. People, these children, even your children, have become so over exposed to illegal activity that they are not even moved by it. The children have come to think of smoking weed and other criminal activity as normal.

I’m not writing to debate the use of marijuana. What I will say is that in the United States possession of marijuana is illegal (though some states allow medical use). So when people want to talk about the moral ground of marijuana use I only respond from a “Finish First” mindset – if you smoke or possess marijuana in the states where it is illegal you are on the wrong side of the law. Additionally, if the prosecutors wanted to be really strict, in Ohio, you could be charged under the revised code 2925.02 Corrupting another with drugs. The code says:

2925.02 Corrupting another with drugs.
(A) No person shall knowingly do any of the following:
(4) By any means, do any of the following:
(b) Induce or cause a juvenile who is at least two years the offender’s junior to use a controlled substance, when the offender knows the age of the juvenile or is reckless in that regard

Like it or not there is an argument that by smoking in front of a juvenile you may be the cause of that juvenile experimenting and then becoming a user.

Knowing that it is illegal to possess marijuana, If adults decide to risk their freedom and criminal record by smoking marijuana, these same adults should respect the youth enough not to expose or cause them to become users. It’s just like a conversation I had with a friend. As he was walking in a neighborhood store a under aged young man asked my friend to buy a black and mild for him. My friend told the young man that he would not do it because he doesn’t want to help him do the wrong thing. However, while in the store, my friend noticed a woman walking in, and while being approached by that same young man, she decided to buy the black and mild for him. The only problem was that she was ten cent short. She asked my friend for the ten cent and he told her he does not condone what she was trying to do. So what happened? The store clerk, aware of what was going on, gave the black and mild to the woman anyway and she gave it to the boy.

FF Principle – If we care about our future then we must be careful of what we expose our youth to.

LESSON #1 – Don’t take the authorities for granted.  Do whatever is necessary for you to survive an encounter with the Legal Matrix! Comply, swallow your pride and hopefully that will be enough.

Example: 1

Oscar Grant, 22, was shot in the back and killed by Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) officer Johannes Mehserle in Oakland, California.

According to Officer Mehserle, a call about a fight on a crowded transit car came through in the early morning hours of New Year’s Day 2009. BART police officers detained Oscar Grant and several other passengers on the platform at the Fruitvale BART Station.  Grant and another man ran back onto the train after being detained, but Grant voluntarily returned to the platform when Officer Tony Pirone grabbed the other man and dragged him from the train.  Pirone handcuffed Grant’s friend, angering other riders who were yelling adding to an already chaotic situation. Pirone then lined up Grant and two other men against the wall.

Grant, upon hearing that he was under arrest, attempted to stand up to his feet. He was forced back to the ground face first. Both Officer Mehserle and Officer Pirone attempted to restrain Mr. Grant and to seek his compliance by ordering him to put his hands behind his back to be handcuffed, but Mr. Grant resisted and refused to submit to handcuffing. Officer Mehserle was pulling at Mr. Grant’s right hand and arm, which remained under his torso near his waistband. Mr. Grant had not been searched by any officer for weapons, either prior to his initial detention or after being seated near the wall. Again this is Officer Mehserle’s account of the events.

A cell-phone video broadcasted on television nationwide showed what appeared to be Pirone rushing towards Grant and punching him in the face several times two minutes before he was shot.  Pirone’s attorney stated that Grant provoked Pirone by trying to “knee the officer in the groin and by hitting Officer Marysol Dominici’s arm when she attempted to handcuff one of Grant’s friends.” Witnesses testified that Pirone was the aggressor during the incident.

Additional cell phone footage showed Pirone standing over the prone Grant before the shooting and yelling: “Bitch-ass nigger.” Pirone and his attorney say he was parroting an epithet that Grant had said to him.

The most damaging video footage showed Mehserle, who is white, firing one round into the back of Oscar J. Grant III, who was black.  Grant was lying face-down on the Fruitvale Station platform when he was shot.  Officer Mehserle stood, drew his gun and shot Grant once in the back. Grant was unarmed.

The shooting immediately triggered rioting and, more recently, more than 150 demonstrators were arrested in Oakland during protests over the TWO-YEAR prison sentence handed down to the former police officer.  Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Robert J. Perry said that the evidence in the racially charged case showed that the shooting was an accident caused when Mehserle mistakenly reached for a firearm instead of an electric Taser weapon he meant to use.

The sentencing followed a tearful apology from Mehserle, who, handcuffed to a waist chain over his orange prison jumpsuit, insisted that the shooting was unintentional.  “I want to say how deeply sorry I am,” said Mehserle, 28.  “Nothing I could ever say or do could heal the wound I created.”

LESSON #2 – The Legal Matrix Has a Mind of Its’ Own.  ONE MAN GETS 2 YEARS FOR KILLING ANOTHER PERSON, ANOTHER MAN GETS 5 YEARS FOR LOOKING AT CHILD PORN.  Instead of spending too much energy fighting the system, PLAY THE GAME – It is what it is!

Example 2: It is what it is!
A former Democratic state assemblyman, who championed legislation to fight child pornography, was sentenced November 4, 2010 to a five-year term for viewing nude images of underage girls.

LESSON #3 – The Legal Matrix Does Not Discriminate.  If You Break the Law You Are Risking your Freedom.

Example 3: Everyone can go to jail!

Neil Cohen, 59, who represented Union County for 17 years, will serve a 5 year term in prison or a mental hospital after he plead guilty in April to endangering the welfare of a child (distribution of child pornography). He could be eligible for release and placed under intense supervision in several months. He resigned from the legislature after his July 2008 arrest.

The five-year term was negotiated as part of the plea. The former lawmaker admitted viewing images of young girls on computers in his legislative and law offices. 34 images of girls in stages of undress were found on the computers. Authorities matched some of the images to photos on the list of Missing and Exploited Children.

Keep these lessons in mind and, until next time, “Begin with the End in Mind” = Finish First!

After years and years of telling my clients that they can’t buy their way out of a conviction, recent  news reports are starting to make me reconsider my position.  For example, in Portland a wealthy sex offender who repeatedly molested a neighborhood boy was able to reduce his prison sentence through plea deal that will have him serving nine years and giving a $1.6 million payoff to victim

The defendant, 56 years old, was a doctor for 18 years and then a flight attendant who had no other criminal history.   The case developed when the victim/boy told his family that he was sexually abused starting at age 9 ending at age 15.

So why does this case shock the conscious?  Well most people can not afford to even pay for a lawyer and definitely not $1.6 million to a victim as a payoff.  This situation sounds similar to the Donte Stallworth DUI homicide case in which the family of the victim seemed more eager for an economic settlement than to see Stallworth serve a long prison term.

Another example comes from across the country in Cleveland, ohio where we see a former Cuyahoga County Sheriff, Gerald McFaul, sentenced to a year of house arrest for two felony theft in office offenses and a misdemeanor ethics violation.  He was also fined $21,000 and given a six-month suspended sentence.  He faced up to 10 years in prison, but could have been  and was placed on probation instead.

In the Cleveland case, McFaul, a 76-year-old Democrat from Strongsville, pleaded guilty to stealing cash from his campaign fund, forcing his employees to sell tickets to his political fundraiser and breaking ethics laws by appointing his son as a special deputy. He agreed to pay $130,000 in restitution as part of a plea deal.

So again the question: Is it fair that some people can use their fame or fortunes to reduce a potential sentence for committing a crime?

Well, after you think about your answer, consider this.  For most people we have to work our buts off everyday to make the strides that we call success.  With that in mind, never take a perceived position for granted.  We are all equally exposed to the Legal Matrix so stay on your game.

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