In Indiana, Superior Court Judge Kurt Eisgruber decided that jail time was too harsh for David Wise, who was convicted of drugging his wife, raping her in her sleep, and videotaping the rapes…for three years. He sentenced Wise to eight years of home confinement, with the remaining 12 years of his 20-year sentence suspended. Prosecutors had asked for a forty year sentence.
For some reason, Wise’s victim and former wife Mandy Boardman still holds a grudge. She recounted to the press how she would wake up puzzled, with a half-dissolved pill in her mouth. Finally, all became clear when she found videos of sexual encounters on Wise’s cell phone, and her husband confessed to her that his non-consensual sex with his drugged wife had been going on for more than three years. In trial, he explained that she was a little snippy sometimes, so drugging her and having her unconscious during sex made it a lot more pleasant for him.
Judge Eisgruber has declined to explain why this horrendous crime doesn’t warrant imprisonment, though he is running for re-election unopposed this fall, making a write-in campaign for, well, just about anybody or anything essential, I would think. He did express concern with the victim’s conduct, however, imploring her to forgive her ex-husband for his astounding breach of trust, respect, fairness, dignity, and honesty, not to mention the law, telling Boardman during the sentencing hearing, “I hope that you can forgive him one day, because he’s obviously struggled with this and struggled to this day, and I hope that she could forgive him.” The judge added, helpfully,
“Ultimately, I think that helps a lot of people heal — it helps them to reach that point. Some can, some cannot. I’m not in her shoes, I’m not able to say one way or another … It’s not something that’s limited to her or this case. But when people are really struggling, I just offer that out. … I just hope that they find peace.”
You have to admit, the judge sounds like a compassionate, caring man. He also sounds like an idiot. Judge Eisgruber just doesn’t quite get this rape thing. He’s not alone though. We had this judge, who thought a one month sentence was appropriate for a teacher who raped a 14-year-old student (who later killed herself). There was also this judge, who apparently didn’t feel that a prostitute could be raped; or this one, whom I wrote about this month, who announced that some kinds of rape deserved only probation. A month earlier, this judge decided that a man who raped his three-year-old daughter needed treatment, not jail.
Feminists like to blame these sentences on a so-called “rape culture” that makes the crime seem more acceptable, but allegedly feminist, female judges are handing out these sentences as often as clueless male judges. My growing belief is that this is an unintended side-effect of society’s increasing discomfort with negative consequences of any kind, for any wrongful conduct, criminal or otherwise. Criminals are sick, or abused, poor, or badly educated; they need compassion, and treatment, not jail. Punishment is the old-fashioned, uncivilized, mean way, and besides, mistakes are made sometimes. Better to be merciful to all, just in case.
Once again, this is a misalignment of ethical priorities. Caring is the nice, generous, feel-good category of values. Responsibility is the tough one, the one that includes accountability. In the traditional hierarchy of values, caring trails responsibility, and that is where it belongs, keeping mercy, compassion, kindness and forgiveness in the ethical decision-making process when appropriate, but not taking over. Placing caring first encourages irresponsible conduct.
Sentences like this one are a good example.
Pointer: Think Progress
Facts: LA Times
Graphic: LA Times