Guest editorial: Banjo CEO has earned redemption and a second chance
In response to the recent article “Banjo CEO Damien Patton under scrutiny after report details past involvement with KKK,” like many underprivileged youths enduring a wretched existence on the streets, several decades ago Damien Patton fell prey to unsavory characters. Some find themselves ensnared by pimps, drug dealers, human traffickers or gangs. In Damien’s case, he was offered “safety” from the streets by white supremacists.
Like Damien, I grew up in a poor, abusive household. I lost my entire family to the opioid epidemic (last fall my dear niece and nephew both overdosed for the last time). I, too, found myself homeless, dealing crack to survive on the streets of L.A. My past is littered with petty crimes, arrests and even jail time. Also, like Damien, I was able to escape and turn my life around, becoming a world-recognized expert in my field.
Damien beat the odds through resilience, grit and fortitude combined with hard work, perseverance and good choices. He has served our country as a first responder and in the military. His geeky talents were discovered in a “Good Will Hunting” moment during a Google hackathon. With no formal training, he won! He now uses his tremendous tech prowess to help those who cannot help themselves — victims of crimes such as human trafficking and child abduction. Banjo’s algorithms can solve a child abduction in a few minutes or even seconds whereas the old gumshoe approach takes an average of 48 hours, often with an unfavorable outcome. Local, state and federal law enforcement should all be collaborating with him.
Damien has experienced human suffering firsthand and understands how susceptible youth succumb to destructive predators. He knows firsthand how with appropriate guidance such youth can contribute to society. He knows firsthand how a second chance for someone with a checkered past can leverage their experiences and talents to do good.
There’s a widespread myth that people can’t change. It isn’t easy — in fact, it takes a miracle. But in the rooms in which I was lucky enough to find clarity, I’ve seen many such miracles — and Damien is one of them. He deserves the same second chance as anyone who is genuinely repentant, left the wreckage of their past behind and has turned their life around.
One wonders whether he would be a target of this same scrutiny were he a former gangbanger or drug dealer who had rehabilitated his life and given back to the community in the same way. Instead of the accolades he deserves, because the label “white supremacy” was attached to his teenaged actions, contracts are being canceled and audits are being conducted. Damien disavowed his reckless views decades ago, and he recently provided an immediate and unqualified apology. Banjo’s technology is an important force in detecting and foiling activities perpetrated by these very hateful groups. If the government agencies need an audit to ensure taxpayers that their funds are being invested in compliance with privacy guidelines and not embroiled with hate groups, let them do their due diligence — but let the audit be fair, not an inquisition or witch hunt.
And let us be consistent. One cannot insist on a second chance for other underprivileged and misguided souls yet demand Damien’s thoughtless actions as a minor destroy not only Damien the man but also the great works he is doing — not when everything in the past 30 years demonstrates that he is the very model of what a “juvenile delinquent” can become. Few among us are contributing to humankind as significantly as Damien. We need entrepreneurs like him now more than ever, risking everything to not only create much-needed good jobs, but who make the world a better place for everyone, regardless of race.
If Damien has not earned redemption, who has?
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Christopher Smart writes in a guest editorial that, until police reform happens in Utah, young men will continue to be ripped away from their families.