Loyalty to family and friends is a great thing, but the story we ran on Wednesday about a friend, Al Fredette, and an employer, Global Fitness, coming to the defense of Denny Wilhelm gave me pause.
Wilhelm, 28, was an athlete at Glens Falls High School who played on the basketball team with Fredette’s famous son, Jimmer. In recent years, Wilhelm has worked at a Glens Falls gym, where he was known for training local high school athletes.
In 2012, Wilhelm pleaded guilty to a felony charge for possessing heroin with intent to distribute it. He went through the Warren County drug court program and spent several years on probation.
On Saturday, according to police, he was arrested with more than a pound of cocaine in his possession and charged with the state’s most serious drug offense, first-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance.
Once again, he intended to sell the drug, according to police.
This was the wrong time to make public statements, as Wilhelm’s supporters did, about good people making bad choices. It was the wrong time to say that people make mistakes.
Does a good person sell drugs?
Would the parents of someone who bought drugs call the dealer a “good person?”
Trying heroin or cocaine for the first time might be a mistake.
But selling drugs is an intentional act, motivated by money, that results in drawing other people into the hell of addiction. It should not be easily forgiven.
Global Fitness is owned by AJDP Holding Corp., which put out a statement through a consultant that said, among other things, “Our thoughts, prayers, and support are with Denny and his family at this difficult time.”
Many people have sympathy for addicts, although I don’t regard them as victims of anything except their own weakness. Very few of us have any love to spare for dealers.
Something troubles me about the way the principals in this business that caters to young people have reacted to this arrest.
Where is the alarm about Wilhelm’s close contact with the teenagers of our community?
If the teens looked up to him, are some of them in danger of following his bad example?
If he was selling drugs, could some of them have been among his customers?
These are uncomfortable questions to ask. Some people will call them cruel. But if my child had been training at that gym, I would want the answers.
Stories are told in different ways. The people who love and care for Denny Wilhelm have presented his story in the way they see it, of a good person who struggled before and is now struggling again with a terrible problem.
When young men from the New York City area are arrested here with large quantities of narcotics and charged as dealers, the narrative is very different. People talk of a corrupting influence coming into our community.
In Denny Wilhelm’s case, we also have the effect of his past as a high school athlete, which, in this community, can cast a golden glow that lingers for years, inclining us to grant him the benefit of the doubt.
It’s time for us to grow up. People are dying from overdoses. Denny Wilhelm is not the hero of this story.