Things just got real for many of us in the metal/hardcore music community. To be more accurate, things have actually become dramatically surreal due to the recent arrest of As I Lay Dying founder and frontman, Tim Lambesis, who has been accused of hiring someone to murder his wife.
I’m sure it is no surprise to many who know me, that Tim is a friend of mine. I have countless acquaintances from my years in the music business, but I only have maybe a dozen very close friends that I stay in touch with regularly, make sure to visit when they are in town, confide in, perhaps seek council. Tim is one of those people. I saw him less than two months ago and interviewed him for a forthcoming podcast. I went out of my way to interview him first for the podcast because of the interesting philosophical conversations we have had. I also recorded a guitar solo for the new Austrian Death Machine album, and discussed having him do guest vocals for a possible solo album I may do.
I have yet to say anything publicly about these events because I’ve really had to think about this hard. Emotions didn’t hit me quickly, because it didn’t feel real. It doesn’t feel real. I’ve witnessed two distinct reactions.
1.) The presumption of guilt based on fairly damning accusations, and the visceral backlash and somewhat justifiable judgement that comes with those emotions.
2.) The immediate defense of a guy we know and love. This is the faith in our instincts, that we can judge someone’s character.
For some reason, both of these knee jerk reactions feel wrong. At this moment, I am choosing to let the facts come out before making any moral edicts. Ultimately, I do believe in the “innocent until proven guilty” virtue of our justice system. This pillar is often forgotten in modern media culture. Being accused comes with an often assumption of guilt in the public eye. The court of public opinion is where the accused go to be crucified. I am aware that the US justice system is quite flawed and will sometimes bury the innocent or liberate killers. But that doesn’t mean presumed innocence isn’t the righteous path.
In a world where one’s credibility and reputation is everything, all it takes in just one single accusation to destroy someone’s credibility forever. I am not a proponent of conspiracy theories, but is it just a coincidence that WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange, was accused of rape in the not too distant aftermath of consistently releasing explosive government secrets? Or what about what about ex New York State Governor, Eliot Spitzer, being exposed for a prostitution scandal in the midst of a career in which he was known as being a tough crusader against the abuses and powers that be in Wall Street? I’m not saying these men are innocent or guilty, but all it takes is for them to be accused for their careers to be destroyed overnight. Look at the West Memphis 3. Look at the Central Park 5. In both cases, these people were convicted, and later proven innocent. As a society, we convicted OJ, Michael Jackson, Casey Anthony, Kobe Bryant even if the justice system didn’t. Even if those people were guilty, this is not a good development because it lets conspirators know that people can be destroyed in the public eye by virtue of taking away their credibility and ruining their reputation. All with accusation.
The other side of that coin is even scarier to comprehend though. As someone’s friend, you want to have their back, especially in difficult circumstances. Isn’t that what makes someone a true friend? Sticking it out through the thick and thin. This is where I feel like a coward. Unfortunately, I am not a man of faith. I am not pointing specifically to Tim. I just generally don’t believe in things I can’t back up with evidence. Be it God or ghosts, Bigfoot, whatever. How well can we really know anyone? It seems a wholly selfish exercise to think about how the potential support of a friend in a crisis reflects on your judgement and ability to read people and gauge their intentions. If Tim is found guilty, are all of his supporters bad people by proxy? Are we all accessories to attempted murder, fucking hypocrites?
I have an old buddy from the New Jersey hardcore scene who I choose to not name. I wasn’t close with him, but he would be at every show. He lived and breathed the scene. A lifer. He supported God Forbid from the get go. Going back over a decade, he was convicted twice of statutory rape, and is back in prison for the 2nd time right now. Recently, he got in touch with me through one of his family members and started sending me letters from prison. They are long, handwritten letters. Very much rambled, stuck in the past, lamentations of guilt, self loathing, and regret. There seems to be some type of quasi-psychotic mental break. It’s not the same guy I knew.
I haven’t written him back after 3 letters. I don’t know what to say. I don’t know if it’s even right to accept the letters. But I can’t help but feel bad for the guy even if he admittedly deserves to be where he is at. Again, I feel like a fucking coward. Stuck in the middle. This situation is different because I actually am close with Tim, and he hasn’t been convicted, but there is some moral overlap. What do we do with people that break our code of civility? I know we lock them up, but how should we treat them in our hearts? Do we forgive, forget? Do we punish for a lifetime even after said “debt” has been payed?
Do I support a friend in the face of monstrous actions? I don’t know the answers to these questions. I just pray that Tim is innocent. That it’s giant set up. That it’s just a nightmare that we’ll all wake up from. But I also have to prepare myself for the possibility that it’s all true. I’m confused, and dumbfounded. The only thing that makes sense to me is to wait for the evidence to come out, and figure out how to deal with it all when I know what I’m looking at. I don’t own a “jump to conclusions mat”. Anything else is just getting ahead of ourselves.
I had a similar thing happen in my life when some friends of mine got a divorce, I was close to both the husband and the wife (they’d kind of met through me) and there were allegations of abuse.
I was as neutral as possible. Obviously sometimes marriages and relationships just fall apart and people have a right to be angry, but that doesn’t mean anyone was bad or did something wrong.
Overtime, dude’s behavior made his wife’s allegations very, very credible and her behavior made her more and more trustworthy. That’s when I drew a line in the sand saying I’d seen proof of him doing certain things and that it wasn’t behavior I was going to accept, support or tacitly endorse from anyone in my acquaintance. He could stop doing those things immediately, or he could lose me as a friend (things like writing 2,000 word profanity laced emails that heap verbal abuse on the mother of your child). He chose to not respond to that email and never speak to me again.
The cowards were the ones who had the opportunity to learn the full story and never did because they didn’t want to. Those people were close to his wife and never even attempted to learn her side of the events. I think as long as you commit yourself to learning the whole ugly truth and stand by your convictions, you’ll be fine. I think true heroism is found in situations where the principled stand isn’t obvious. Situations that force you to learn some things you may not want to know and take actions you may be punished for (often by people who choose to remain ignorant).
Thanks for advice. It’s just more to think about.
Hey, Doc. Long time, mate. This was a really eloquent bit of writing. Your approach is exactly what it should be. Hope for the best…prepare for the worst…but either way keep an open mind until you have enough knowledge.
Sucks, dude. I sympathize.
Hey Doc! This is a great piece of writing man. You really hit the nail on the head.
And i too , sympathize with all afflicted. May all, turn out well. Interesting article. I hope Tim will be in good hands
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Hey dude. We met friday night whilst you were guesting at Duff’s.
Not only do you write very well, I am really glad to have found your insite on the matter. Something didnt click when I heard the news concerning Tim’s allegations and esteemed reputation.
I wish him the best. This is heavy shit.
I have to say if I knew for a fact my friend did something monstrous I could not support them any longer. Aa a friend, they deceived ME – my true friends know my beliefs and moral code, if they were hiding their true selves from me, maybe out of fear of losing our friendship, I can understand it, but they would have been hiding their true face from me either way.
I have forgiven people for some pretty messed up stuff, it just depends on what type of people you are willing to accept in your life. You can forgive someone and not be their friend, but excusing bad behavior is totally different.
When someone pays for their crime, a lot of times they have changed and so have you and the feelings/friendship has already been damaged. Sometimes you can go forward and sometimes you cannot. Those I have lost are mere acquaintances now-it still hurts for what you lost but you have to go on. I miss them too, but I cannot have them in my life anymore.
Peace and good luck. A fan from Tennessee.
Totally digging the idea of you doing a solo record!! \m/