It appears the argument here is, should a sentence for a crime be based on the reason a crime was committed? Think about that with respect to all kinds of crimes, sexual and otherwise.7-21-2011 California:
A San Jose man is facing a maximum of life in prison for something many fathers would be tempted to do -- badly beating a Thanksgiving weekend houseguest who molested his 8-year-old stepdaughter.
Surely the suspected molester, who has confessed to the sexual attack and even apologized to the child, is in worse trouble than the stepfather?
Actually, the stepfather is facing the possibility of spending more time behind bars -- perhaps his entire life.
The stiff penalty the stepfather faces for his allegedly violent reaction to what many would consider extreme provocation has lawyers debating whether he deserves leniency.
Nationwide, penalties for other fathers in high-profile cases who have beaten up -- or even killed -- men they believed molested their children range from 12 years in prison to mere probation.
The controversial Santa Clara County case follows a similar incident on the verge of trial here -- the revenge beating of a priest by a man who says the cleric molested him when he was a child.
Without condoning vigilantism, defense attorneys and some legal scholars contend the girl's stepfather deserves to be treated far more leniently -- especially because if he had killed the houseguest in a rage, the most he could get under California's perplexing sentencing scheme would be 11 years. The attack came after the 8-year-old woke up her mother at about 2 a.m., saying the family's friend had duct-taped her mouth and sexually abused her.
"I have a 10-year-old daughter and I'm not at all sure I'd act differently or regret it if I did," said Scott Altman, a law-school professor at the University of Southern California and expert in jurisprudence.
But Santa Clara County District Attorney Jeff Rosen makes no apologies for throwing the book at stepfather Miguel Cerda and his brother Erik, who is also accused of participating in the Nov. 26 beating.
He has filed the maximum felony charges possible -- torture, mayhem, battery, assault and making criminal threats. According to the police report, Avelino Rodriguez had two black eyes, a broken jaw, missing teeth, several burn marks that could have been made by a cigarette on one of his hips, and bruising from what appeared to be a whipping. Rosen said his office also came down hard on the brothers because they didn't act immediately in the heat of the moment; they drove Rodriguez from San Jose to a Gilroy ranch where the beating took place.
"This is not the way we settle disputes in a civilized society," Rosen said. "Certainly we understand the mitigating circumstances, but we can't give somebody a pass for this."
The charges against the Cerdas carry a sentence of seven years to life in prison. It would be up to the parole board after they served seven years whether to ever let them out -- a risk that defense attorneys in the case say is out of line considering the circumstances.
"There's no guarantee about the parole board," said Ruben Munoz, Miguel Cerda's lawyer. "If we went to trial and lost, it would be a miscarriage of justice."
Rodriguez, on the other hand, pleaded no contest to two felony counts of oral copulation or sexual penetration with a child 14 years old or younger. Under the plea bargain, he will be sentenced to 22 years in prison and could be released after 19 years.
Rosen said prosecutors and defense attorneys could reach a plea deal in the Cerdas' case that would result in reduced charges and less prison time than Rodriguez will get. Sources said prosecutors have offered six to eight years in state prison. The trial is set for next month if the case isn't settled. Erik Cerda doesn't have a criminal record. Miguel Cerda has been convicted of misdemeanor battery for hitting a 10-year-old and slapping and punching his girlfriend. But Rosen said that "his background did not sway me either way."
The proposed plea deal is not good enough for Erik Cerda's lawyers, who are seeking either probation or a short jail sentence, or at most two years in prison.
"Each of us certainly understands that the first reaction of a caring family member to the report of the sexual molest of a loved one would be emotional and impulsive," said Supervising Deputy Public Defender Damon Silver, who oversees all felony cases. "We are optimistic that the District Attorney's Office will recognize these basic human responses as they review the case to determine whether sending someone to prison for six to eight years is consistent with the values of our community or excessive under these circumstances."
In Florida earlier this year, a Broward County father got probation after bashing a man with rocks and concrete blocks hours after his child reported being sexually abused. The molester, who was sentenced to two life terms in prison, was injured so badly he had to be put in a medically induced coma.
Some legal scholars contend that such lenient treatment gives people the sense they can take the law into their own hands -- and thus increases the chances of innocent people being badly hurt.
Indeed, in a 2006 Connecticut case, there are indications that patent lawyer Jonathon Edington, who fatally stabbed a neighbor he believed had molested his daughter, had been misinformed by his wife, who suffered from postpartum depression. Edington pleaded guilty to manslaughter and was sentenced to 12 years in state prison -- less than the potential life term the Cerdas are facing. ..Source.. by Tracey Kaplan