It's not every day my neck of the prairie registers on the national sonar, but one and a half hours from where I write this a district court judge issued a sentence that's still pinging loudly and clearly.
A dot of population in a sea of pasture and wheat fields, Sidney, Nebraska, promotes its "Small Town Values ... Big Time Opportunities." I think a change may be in order. Perhaps: "Small Perverts ... Big Time Opportunities." Or maybe: "Big Time Opportunities for Small Perverts."
You must understand this county seat off of Interstate 80, population 6,282, is no trendy liberal enclave in Red State America. No, it's the sort of place where the Democrats could hold their county convention at the Holiday Inn Express breakfast nook and still have room for the pot-bellied guy with the graying ponytail and his "Hemp's Hope, Not Dope" booth.
And yet, last week, Judge Kristine Cecava put Sidney on the map for something besides its claim to fame as the world headquarters of outdoor outfitting giant Cabela's, when she decided a 5-foot-1 child molester was too short for prison. Richard Thompson, 50, had been found guilty of sexually assaulting a 12-year-old girl over a couple of months. The judge called his actions "inexcusable," but the black-robed oracle went on to proclaim, "That doesn't make you a hunter. You do not fit that category. I'm going to try to put together some kind of order to keep you out of prison."
For soiling the innocence of a child, Cecava sentenced the diminutive degenerate to 10 years probation, the first four months of which he has to be electronically monitored. She disallowed him from palling around by himself with anyone under 18, forbade him to date or shack up with a woman whose children are under 18, and ordered him to dump his porn. As for the latter, how will she know? Will a Cheyenne County deputy tail him so as to interrupt any late-night jaunts to convenience stores? "Mr. Thompson, please step away from that copy of Jugs."
Probation, cutting down on time with youths, no girlie magazines...this is the kind of punishment to bring a smile to Ramsey Clark. I was surprised she didn't have him write 150 times, "I will not sexually assault little girls." Or perhaps the judge considered that punishment too harsh. You know, maybe the pint-sized pervert can't reach the blackboard. He could stand on her law books; it's not like she's using them.
Thompson seemed plenty tall enough to reach the privates of a 12-year-old girl, and for his disgusting acts, he could have spent 10 years behind bars, but Cecava would have none of this. In handing down a sentence that should earn her lifetime membership in the Society for the Preservation of Stereotypes (Wacky, Bed-wetting, Bleeding-heart Judge Division), she said she feared he'd end up on the short end of the stick. The big house is just too big for this short sicko.
Some people, Flannery O'Connor said, are so open-minded their brains plop out. I think the judge's common sense has long since floated down the Platte River. If anyone is curious, a spokesman for the Nebraska prison system said Thompson wouldn't be the shortest guy sporting orange. "We've got some short guys that are as tough nails," the spokesman said, according to the AP. "We've got people from all ages, physical stature of all sizes, in general population."
To think Cecava served on the Nebraska Commission for the Protection of Children. That must be a misprint; it had to be the Nebraska Commission for the Protection of Children (Except Those Assaulted by People Judges Deem Too Short).
The real midget isn't Thompson. It's the moral midget on the bench.
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