August 29, 2007
Tom Knott - A Boston judge sentences a man to probation and home confinement after his admission that he abducted and sexually assaulted a 12-year-old boy.
A Nebraska judge sentences a convicted sex offender to probation and electronic monitoring because she fears for the mentally impaired man"s safety in prison.
A Vermont judge sentences a child molester to 60 days in jail in order to facilitate his prompt treatment.
Justice is hardly blind, if only because it is meted out by the colossal imperfection known as the human.
And judges are as human as the person who comes to your home to fix a leaky faucet, which is to say they are products of their experiences and function with the customary assortment of biases colored by their political leanings.
Judges can be creative, ruthless, permissive or out to lunch. They are apt to think in mysterious ways.
The judge before Michael Vick is said to be a law-and-order type, impervious to the mushy thinking that sometimes infects the legal process.
Judge Henry E. Hudson has been known to exceed federal sentencing guidelines and show little mercy to high-profile defendants.
Legal analysts say the judge, on the suggestion of the feds, will sentence Vick to a prison term ranging somewhere from 12 to 18 months, which would be well short of the five-year maximum penalty he could receive.
But that is dismissing the previous pattern of the judge, who could impose a far stricter sentence on Vick to make a point.
And a stricter sentence still would guarantee Vick"s future cooperation with the feds.
Vick, who committed no crime against another human being and already has lost so much, finds himself in the odd position of being punished far more harshly than all too many sexual predators who hardly generate a headline at sentencing.
That prospect is unsettling and certain to garner Vick a growing level of sympathy.
His crime was against dogs. The usual victims of the NFL are those unlucky to have passed in the vicinity of a player full of hubris.
The inconsistencies of the judicial system are easy fodder among the talk-show ilk, although perfectly understandable in the land of states rights.
The question goes like this: How can Pacman be walking around, while Vick is faced with the prospect of prison and perhaps never being allowed to return to the NFL?
That question cuts to the heart of the judicial system, messy and contradictory as it is.
Vick would have been far better off to have housed his dogfighting operation in Idaho or Wyoming, where such activities are considered a misdemeanor.
Not that Vick or anyone else involved in dogfighting ever consider the differences in state laws, other than to make every effort to avoid the law-enforcement community.
Given the millions in income Vick has lost and the scorn that he has received, the judge has an obligation to consider the element of piling on at sentencing.
Many of the animal rights activists probably would not object to Vick receiving the maximum penalty and never being allowed to step on a football field.
But that goes against America"s sense of fair play and the power of redemption.
Vick undoubtedly has an arduous public relations struggle ahead, and to some, he always will be a pariah, even if one day he chooses to become a financial benefactor of an animal shelter.
Yet if it were left to me, I would be inclined to impose a $250,000 fine on Vick, sentence him to maybe 60 days in a county jail, dole out a considerable amount of community service and allow him to return to the NFL next season.
That won"t happen, of course, not with public sentiment being what it is and Vick becoming a poster child for animal abuse.
If only we the people expressed an equal amount of outrage against all the nut jobs who perpetrate their horrors on humans.
Show me a good loser, and I'll show you a loser.
"None are so old as those who have outlived enthusiasm".
Henry David Thoreau
Fail to prepare and you prepare to fail.
"Luck is the residue of design." - Branch Rickey