Himes, Sutherland family respond to Chris Christie

The family of Kevin Sutherland and Congressman Jim Himes (CT-04) each issued statements Friday regarding comments made Thursday from New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie about reforming the criminal justice system.

 "The fact that Gov. Chris Christie would invoke my son’s name in a politically motivated speech just three days after our family laid him to rest shows that he cares little about the grief my family is feeling," the statement read. "He obviously spent little time finding out who my son was and what he stood for. If he had, he would have discovered someone who was kind and compassionate – someone who could feel the pain of others.

"He would have found someone who would never exploit someone else’s tragedy to further his own ambitions," the family said. "He would have found someone very different from himself.

The statement concluded that the family respectfully requests its privacy as it continues to mourn the loss of Kevin.

The family's remarks came a day after the 2016 Republican presidential candidate spoke in Camden, New Jersey.

In the part of his speech titled "Focusing on the right challenges," Christie said to keep America's streets safe its residents need to focus on keeping dangerous and violent offenders behind bars.

"Now this is something I saw the importance of in the six years I served as US Attorney," the governor said. "My office went after some of the most dangerous gangs and criminals in New Jersey. We went after the Perez Organization that was flooding our streets with heroin and crack cocaine. We took down Raymond Morales, a kingpin and murderer who was working to destroy this city for more than 10 years. And in Camden, by working with the ATF, DEA, FBI and US Marshals, we went after a bunch of dangerous fugitives and actually ended up arresting more than 300 individuals.

"Every time we got one of these criminals off the streets, we saw what that could mean for the community," he said. You don’t just save lives, you create the space in which people can reclaim their lives. And lately we’ve seen what happens instead when you don’t have that focus.

"On July 4, Kevin Sutherland got on to a subway train in Washington, D.C. Kevin was a bright young man with a promising future, a former Congressional intern," Christie said. "And now all his parents can do is mourn. Because Kevin was stabbed to death on that train – right in front of people – by a man who had been arrested just two days earlier for violent robbery.

"The reason that killer was on the train? His charge got reduced to a misdemeanor – and he was released the day after being arrested."

Himes' remarks 

Himes retaliated against Christie Friday, calling the governor's comments "hate-filled nonsense" and noting that Kevin Sutherland was "a friend of mine."

"Yesterday, New Jersey governor Chris Christie gave a speech on criminal justice reform and took the opportunity to attack the policies of his political enemies in a despicable way: politicizing the deaths of two young people, Kevin Sutherland and Kathryn Steinle, saying the policies of the cities they lived in failed them," Himes said

"Kevin Sutherland was a friend of mine," the congressman continued. "He was an intern on my campaign and in my Congressional office. I am friends with his parents. By speaking about Kevin Sutherland and his family in this way, Christie has once again shown himself nothing more than a pure opportunist with no sense of decency and a severely distorted idea of right and wrong.

"To use Kevin’s death to score political points is vile," he said. "Kevin was empathetic, kind, and wanted to create a better America and world by lifting up those around him. The fearmongering and thinly veiled racism evident in Christie’s speech reveal that he knew nothing about Kevin and his family or what they believed in, and he should be ashamed. Although, at this point, I find myself doubting if shame is something he’s capable of.

"This is made more terrible by the ridiculous hypocrisy of Christie criticizing San Francisco and Washington, DC for their violence, when he has slashed state aid to cities, cut funding for neighborhood revitalization, called for the elimination of Urban Enterprise Zones, and led a budget that has caused police layoffs. And what’s the result? Crime went up under his watch in New Jersey’s 6 largest cities, including Camden, where he was giving the speech.

If Christie wants to spout his particular brand of hate-filled nonsense to whomever is unfortunate enough to be in earshot, that’s his right. But when he uses the memory of a beloved friend and son in such a grossly disrespectful way, it’s our duty to stop listening, move on to more serious topics and people, and continue the work that Kevin believed in."