Wednesday, April 26, 2006

"Guilty" and "not guilty"

Observing that the Jude defendants were acquitted and the tire slashing defendants were sentenced to jail terms ranging from four to six months, Gene Kane asks:

But again, what does this say about the value of a man's life compared to a bunch of tires?

Putting aside the fact that Jude didn't lose his life, it says nothing. If the tire slashing defendants had been found not guilty, they would have walked as well. When you are acquitted, you don't get punished. When you are found - or plead - guilty, you do.

Had the Jude defendants been found guilty (or if they are in a federal prosecution), we will not be talking 4 to 6 months. They'd be lucky to see only 4 to 6 years.

Finally, what was at stake in the tire slashing case was not merely a bunch of tires, but an attempt, however misguided and ineffectual, to interfere with the electoral process. That makes it a more serious case than one involving mere property damage. Judge Brennan did the right thing. (I think he'd look good at the Wisconsin Supreme Court.)


Seth Zlotocha said...

The young men were tried for property damage and sentenced for voter suppression.

You don't find anything wrong with that?

Anonymous said...

Kane’s logic is intellectually wanting.

Rick Esenberg said...


They weren't sentenced for any crime other than what they were convicted of. The sentences that the Judge handed down are within the range of sentences provided for that crime. That the crime was undertaken in furtherance of voter suppression bears on where in the permissable range that sentence should fall.

Seth Zlotocha said...

Brennan's entire explanation for sentencing dealt with the situation surrounding the property damage, not the property damage itself.

In justifying why he ignored the plea bargain, Brennan said: "This case has to be an example of what happens if you interfere in voters’ rights."

But the trial did not assess the effect of the incident on anyone's voting rights. Brennan made a leap to assume that it did.

Rick Esenberg said...

What? Do you think they slashed the tires because they like the sound of leaking air? Whether or not they actually kept anyone from the polls, that was their intent.

The judge is perfectly free to take that into account when deciding what sentence to impose within the range permitted for the crime they were convicted of. A judge is always going to look at the situation surrounding a crime in deciding what sentence to impose.

Seth Zlotocha said...

This isn't just a case of looking at the broader situation surrounding a crime.

We have laws for voter tampering and suppression. If Brennan was convinced these laws were violated by the tire slashing, then he should implore the DA to charge them with those crimes.

Brennan chose to act more like a politician than a judge in this case. He was fearful of the reaction he would get from the likes of Belling and Sykes if he accepted the plea bargain (although Belling will still probably hit him for allowing work-release). Brennan even mentioned letting random letters from the public sway his decision-making at sentencing.

And his decision seems to have paid off with you, too. Would you be recommending him for the Wisconsin Supreme Court if he accepted the plea bargain?