Last January, we told you about the case of Sheila Kearns. To recap: the Ohio state substitute Spanish Teacher was fired for showing The ABC’s of Death to several of her high school classes. But Kearns didn’t merely lose her job: She was charged with 5 felony counts of “disseminating matter harmful to juveniles”; on January 15th an Ohio jury found her guilty on four counts, each of which carries a possible 1 year prison term. Kearns also faced up to $10K in fines.
Kearns was back in court on Wednesday where she received a sentence that includes mandatory jail time: 90 days followed by 3 years of probation. During sentencing, Assistant County Prosecutor Kacey Chappelear told the judge that Kearns has yet to grasp the seriousness of her actions and that her attitude about the allegations has been dismissive. Umm… maybe because this whole thing is bullshit?
Obviously, I’m of the opinion that the entire situation is utterly ridiculous. I agree that Kearns made a seriously boneheaded blunder when she showed her students The ABC’s of Death (and she definitely deserved to be fired); but the only thing stupider than her decision that day is the media circus that followed.
Whatever your opinion might be regarding the potential dangers of showing explicitly violent and sexual imagery to minors, there is still no quantifiable evidence that any of Kearns’s students were harmed in any way; no one needed medical assistance or physiological counseling, and no one’s life has taken an irreparably negative turn.
But rather than rehash all of the things I find ludicrous about this case, I decided to present this op-ed as a Top 10 List. Below are 10 criminals, each of whom committed a much more serious offense than Kearns—and each received a sentence that was far less sever. I’m not trying to justify what Kearns did, nor is this an attempt to compare apples to oranges. It is, however, an indictment of the vast inequities in our justice systems, as well as our societal perceptions regarding crime and punishment.
Meet Stuart Kerner, a 44-year-old husband and father who worked as a teacher and principal at Bexleyheath Academy in South East London. This piece of work took the virginity of a 16-year-old female student in a closet at the school. As if this isn’t deplorable enough, Kerner claimed that he was actually a victim, having been aggressively “groomed” by the young girl. Unbelievably, this blatant victim-blaming seems to have persuaded Judge Joanna Greenberg who suspended Kerner’s 18-monh sentence. Disgraceful!
This little shit-head is Ethan Couch; he was convicted of killing 4 people in a Texas drunk driving accident. This case made headlines worldwide for the unique “Affluenza” defense his lawyers levied. Even though his blood alcohol level was 3 times over the legal limit, a psychologist claimed that his cushy upbringing prevented him from connecting bad behavior with its consequences. If you ever needed proof that the rich enjoy a more lenient brand of justice, just look at this case; even though prosecutors sought a 20 year sentence, the judge gave him 10 years of probation and sent him to rehab. Shameful!
An unnamed 33-year-old driver from New York State was going 75 miles an hour in a 50 mph zone when he veered into oncoming traffic, killing a 2-year-old toddler and her grandparents. Even though this ass-hat showed zero remorse (refusing to even extend an apology to the victims’ family) he was given a pittance of a sentence: 60 days in jail followed by 120 hours of community service. Understandably, the toddler’s father was infuriated; the video above shows him hurtling a chair at the judge after her decision was announced. Ironically, this grieving father now faces more jail time than the man who killed his daughter. Disgusting!
This disgraceful waste of DNA is former AFL player Ricky Nixon from Australia. A couple years back, he was tried and convicted of domestic violence for beating the living hell out of his fiancé; not only did he rip out a chunk of her hair while beating her around her arms and face, he violently resisted arrest when the cops came calling. His punishment: 200 hours of community service. If you compare his crime and punishment to that of Sheila Kearns, it seems that showing minors a horror movie is a worse offense than abusing your partner. Infuriating!
Another loser from Down Under is Matthew Newton, who in 2010 repeatedly punched his girlfriend Brooke Satchwell even as she begged him to stop. Even though Newton pleaded guilty, his psychiatrist (Dr. Robert Hampshire) testified that he was suffering from sever depression. He also stated that Newton was unlikely to hit a woman again–as if past behavior isn’t the best indication of future action. While that defense sounds insulting to anyone with half a brain, Judge Joseph Moore called Newton a “Gentleman” with the “utmost respect for women”. His sentence: Nada. Nauseating!
Corrupt politicians are eroding our trust in elected leaders, leaving many disenfranchised people feeling powerless and defeated. Take the case of former Queens County Assemblyman Jim Meng: In 2012 he plead guilty to wire fraud for soliciting $80K in cash from a state court defendant and falsely claiming that he would use the money to bribe prosecutors in the New York County District Attorney’s Office in Manhattan to obtain a reduced sentence. Swindler! Brooklyn Federal Judge Allyne R. Ross sentenced Meng to a measly 30-days, even though prosecutors sough 12 to 18 months. This proves once again that the wealthy and politically connected get preferential treatment when it comes to justice and sentencing. Pathetic!
Shawn Broad is a scumbag from Wyoming; he threatened to kill his ex-wife before grabbing her neck and pummeling her face-in. When two Laramie County Sheriff’s deputies were called to the scene, Board pulled a gun on them. Obviously, this man is white; I don’t have a picture but recent events make it seem unlikely that a minority would have survived such an encounter. His punishment: Probation; no jail, no fine, no community service or anger management—just probation. Travesty!
This human-worm is Douglas Scholten from South Dakota. He and his douchebag buddy Kevin Rice were high as hell when they attempted to steal almost $100K from a local drug dealer. When they were interrupted during the commission of this crime, 19-year old Jordan LeBeau was shot and killed. While Rice received an appropriate 60-year sentence for his role in the crime, Judge Bradley Zell suspended Scholten’s entire 30-year sentence. South Dakota legal observers said they couldn’t recall another case in recent history in which such a serious charge resulted in no prison time. In Ohio, you go to jail for showing kids a horror movie; in South Dakota, however, killers are granted leniency. Atrocious!
Protesters decry District Judge G. Todd Baugh’s leniency
In Montana, extreme low life Stacey Rambold, 54, was sentenced to a shockingly-lenient 30 days in jail for raping a 14-year-old girl. During the trial, Rambold’s 16-year-old daughter committed suicide (draw your own conclusions). District Judge G. Todd Baugh had the audacity to suggest that the girl “was older than her chronological age” and that she instigated and controlled the relationship with Rambold. Appalling!
In Ireland, a 53-year-old asshole (who gets to remain anonymous under Irish law) who raped his wife’s teenage sister was let off the hook completely; despite being found guilty by a jury at the Central Criminal Court, Mr. Justice Garrett Sheehan suspended this criminal’s entire 7-year sentence, claiming that the man’s family needed his support and care. Specifically: “Two of the man’s sons have autism and require 24-hour care”. So, in theory, you can get away with rape in Ireland so long as you have a special-needs dependent. Devistating!
Since this article is purely an opinion piece, I’m not willing to defend my position against those of you who may disagree (hey, that’s the great thing about OPINION pieces). I am, however, interested in hearing your perspectives regarding this complicated issue—so long as they are presented with respect.
What do you think about the case of Sheila Kearns? Does the punishment fit the crime? Sound off in the comments section!
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