Thursday, November 19, 2009

Court rules against the deputy who stole document from attorney

A few days ago, I posted and commented on a video of a deputy stealing a document from a defense attorney in the middle of a court proceeding in Arizona. (See here). Yesterday it was reported that the deputy has been found guilty of contempt for his actions. Some have criticized the penalty as too lenient, while the County Sheriff (who is referred to in one of the stories as "the most controversial sheriff in the country" who "is routinely accused of abusive practices") openly challenged it and accused the judge of pursuing a political agenda against the County Sheriff's office.

What I find more interesting here is the penalty imposed. The judge sentenced the officer to either apologize to the defendant's attorney at a press conference or report to jail. In addition, the order states that even if the deputy apologizes, if the attorney does not find that the apology "was sufficient," the officer would have to report to jail. For a copy of the decision, go here.

It is very strange that the judge essentially leaves it to the defense attorney to decide if the deputy should serve jail time. Essentially, the judge is telling the attorney that the attorney can decide what the appropriate sentence should be.

The requirement of the apology itself also raises the question of whether it is proper to use "shaming" as a punishment, which has been the subject of some discussion in the past few days.

Here are a few links on the story:

News accounts of the sentencing and the response by the Sheriff: here and here (including a video of the Sheriff accusing the judge of bias against his office).

Commentary on the sentence: here and here (on why the officer should have been charged with a crime for stealing property).

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