The facts of the case are undisputed, according to The New York Times:
Nineteen year-old Zachary Anderson, living near the Michigan state line, cyber-chats with a young Michigan woman. They agree to meet in a playground for sex (Swings? Sandbox? Maybe the teeter-totter? I must be getting old – anything that has less than four inches of foam has no interest for me – I *am* referring to mattresses, not augmented body parts). Her parents become concerned by her disappearance. Police are called.
Flash forward a few months, and young Zachary pleads guilty to fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct. The young woman, in fact, was 14, having misrepresented herself as a 17-year old.
No mens rea here. The girl’s parents, the girl herself, the young man’s parents all said it’s been a horrible mistake; lets all just go home. The defence attorney expected that Zachary would receive leniency under a Michigan programme for young offenders. No such luck, or no such justice. Zachary has just finished 90 days in jail. And, now, as a registered sex offender, has a myriad of restrictions levelled against him as if he were a real perv, including not going close to schools and no Internet access. I didn’t mention that he *was* in college studying computers.
But here’s where it gets interesting: Way down in the Times story, there is a quote attributed to the sentencing judge, Dennis Wiley, explaining why Zachary did not deserve leniency as a young offender:
“You went online, to use a fisherman’s expression, trolling for women, to meet and have sex with,” he said. “That seems to be part of our culture now. Meet, hook up, have sex, sayonara. Totally inappropriate behavior. There is no excuse for this whatsoever.”
The judge’s chagrin was directed at internet-sex practices, not the under age part. That just sounds like moralizing, and hardly a legally-based argument.
So, then I wondered, “Who *is* this judge?” “Under which rock did Michigan find this man?” I dug a little deeper into the Web:
First, I found this:
“On March 26th, 2014, the Michigan Supreme Court ordered a public censure of Berrien County District Court Judge Dennis Wiley for ordering jail for a woman who cursed in the courthouse in the presence of court staff.”
Oooo. That’s a pretty searing slap. Turns out that Judge Wiley broke numerous legal rules. From the Michigan Supreme Court itself:
“Respondent [Judge Wiley] violated the Michigan Code of Judicial Conduct, Canon 3A(1), in that he did not faithfully execute the law and maintain his professional competence when he commenced indirect contempt proceedings based only on unsworn conversations with his staff.”
Yup. He got smacked down pretty hard. But you cannot keep a man convinced of his own goodness down.
Like all Michigan judges, Judge Wiley is elected, and therefore can be considered to be representing community standards.
God bless the Internet. You can find so much, even more spurious info: According to the Reverend Eddie Pinkney, Judge Wiley stands charged with “Crimes against Humanity.”
“Over 85% of the people who work for Berrien County courthouse know about this judge who is a drunk and a racist.
“Judge Dennis Wiley on October 18, 2011 denied a young Mexican the right to have his criminal record expunged. The only reason he was denied he was a Mexican. Reverend Pinkney spoke with the young man [sic] attorney afterward. He advised him that if his client were anything but a minority, he would have been successful.”
So, poor Zachary, our young man at the top of this post, did not stand a chance against such a beacon of community morality.
The question is, how much should judges bring their own – or a community’s – morality into *criminal* cases?
And how many other judges could be charged with the same abuses?
I am reminded of the US Justice Department’s investigation into the Ferguson Police. (Ferguson is the suburb of St Louis Mo where a white police officer fatally shot a black man, although it’s hard to keep all these incidents straight now). The report noted that the local courts operated in cahoots with the police to shakedown citizens for their money, through unreasonable police charges combined with rough “justice” metted out by judges.
Where else have such abuses not (yet) been reported?
August 9 Update: That question is now partially answered in this new post: A visit to Mayberry and Black