Barry Stokes has departed this world, his legacy a $19 million fraud that cost many of its victims their life savings. He died in a federal prison last week, racked by cancer and other ailments for which he had complained he was receiving inadequate treatment.
“A fitting end for a terrible criminal,” one Facebook commenter remarked when the news broke. Others may have shared but not voiced such sentiments, instinctively reluctant to speak ill of the dead.
It’s hard not to feel some pity for anyone who dies in infamy — even the likes of Stokes, who engineered his scam under the guise of managing retirement plan assets through his Dickson-based company, 1Point Solutions.
A person who has done terrible things, as Stokes acknowledged doing, goes to his grave knowing his victims have good reason to hate him. Or, alternatively, a person accused of doing terrible things dies without achieving a long-sought vindication. Stokes’ passing brings to mind other such demises over the years:
• Just a few months ago, Christ Koulis, the Nashville plastic surgeon accused of killing his girlfriend, died as his conviction was on appeal.
• Former Gov. Ray Blanton died in 1996, after being ousted from office and doing prison time. He was never able to win an appeal of his extortion conviction, which arose from a scheme to sell liquor licenses.
• Z. Tommy Osborn was widely regarded as the most talented lawyer of his generation in Nashville. In 1960, he took on the defense of labor boss Jimmy Hoffa in a celebrated trial — and somehow came loose from his moorings. Osborn got caught trying to tamper with a juror.
After prison, when his last appeal failed,
he shot himself.
• Then there was Nashville Mayor Hilary E. Howse, thrown out of office in 1915 amid a financial scandal. He came back, won the office once more, engaged in further chicanery, and was so unpopular when he died in 1938 that the city soon afterward changed the name of its new high school on West End Avenue from Hilary Howse High to West End High.