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Nolan's Pop Culture Review
Established A.D. 2000, March 19. Now in our seventh calendar year!
Number 323  (Vol. 7, No. 22). This edition is for the week of May 29--June 4, 2006.

You Must Be This Many Inches Tall...

By Nolan B. Canova

I thought I'd heard it all when a few months back school teacher Debra LaFave was told she was "too pretty" to go to prison over charges she had sex with one of her students, then a minor.

The judge felt LaFave's life might be imperiled of she were forced to join the general prison population. The judge at a later hearing was not quite so sympathetic, but when the dust settled, LaFave saw no jail time.

Now enter the case of Richard W. Thompson, 50, convicted of sexually assaulting a child. When District Judge Kristine Cecava saw the 5-foot-1-inch Mr. Thompson before her, she worried he might be imperiled by being forced to join the prison population (sound familiar?).

Facing up to 10 years in prison for his crimes (two felony sexual assault charges involving a 12-year-old girl), instead he was handed an incredibly lenient 10-year probation.

Addressing Thompson directly, the judge said, "You are a sex offender, and you did it to a child," she said, "but that doesn't make you a hunter. You do not fit in that category."

Thompson will be electronically monitored the first four months of his probation, and he was told to never be alone with someone under age 18 or date or live with a woman whose children were under 18. Cecava also ordered Thompson to get rid of his pornography.

He faces 30 days of jail each year of his probation unless he follows its conditions closely.

"I want control of you until I know you have integrated change into your life," the judge told Thompson. "I truly hope that my bet on you being OK out in society is not misplaced."

"...my bet on you being OK out in society"????? Already, legal pundits are analyzing what seems like a miscarriage of justice, and the Nebraska State Attorney's office is looking at how it can bring the case back for re-sentencing.

But here's what I want to know: Is it me or is there now a minimum-ugliness standard any potential prisoner must meet in order to, you know, actually go to prison? Too pretty? Too short?? What's next, too GQ??

OK, I'm not entirely unsympathetic here, I realize pretty young things, male or female, entering the corrections system have special challenges to avoid becoming a sex slave or what have you. But the part that seems to be missing in the current equation is there were FELONY CRIMES COMMITED where there was NO REGARD for the VICTIM'S FEELINGS, so how much should we care how imperiled they are?

Besides, is Thompson the first inmate that short? Several interviews with corrections officials suggest Thompson's case is not unique, and that the shorter inmates are often the toughest. Of course, it's worth noting child molesters face an expecially difficult time in lock-up as many of the prisoners were themselves abused as chldren.

A spokesman for the State's Attorney's office in Nebraska attempted to rationalize the judge's leniency by pointing out the court's location in a rural, out-of-the-way place in Nebraska, and that hard sex cases don't come their way very often.

All contents of Nolan's Pop Culture Review are ©2006 by Nolan B. Canova.

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