Judge Finds Jail Not Appropriate for Voyeur Who Spied on Child

Dutchess County, NY - A 50-year old former Catholic high school teacher has been found guilty of spying on a 13-year old girl for his own sexual gratification. The man had placed a hidden camera in the bedroom of the young teen, who was the daughter of his live-in girlfriend. The woman contacted police when she discovered the pen-camera, and the man was arrested in November of 2011.

The Poughkeepsie Journal reports...
"Judge Stephen L. Greller found that jail was inappropriate because McCoy failed to grasp the impact his actions had on the victim."
Wait, what? Is that a typo, or are they really telling us that a judge believes a criminal does not belong in jail because that person doesn't understand the impact of their crime on the victim? Or maybe just doesn't even care?

To be intellectually honest here, there is the principal of mens rea, which basically tells us that a person cannot be guilty of a crime unless they understand that their actions were indeed criminal. This is how we sometimes see that a person is not guilty be reason of mental default, the old "insanity defense" so to speak. I don't dispute the validity of this measure of criminal liability. This principal is also how we distinguish, in cases of a homicide, between murder and manslaughter, as another example. Between a person who intentionally kills another person, as opposed to a person that didn't know they were going to kill someone, but should have known that their actions might get someone killed unintentionally.

But we are not talking about guilt or not here. This deviant's mind is clearly aware that what he was doing was both wrong, and a crime, hence the conviction. I ask, what relevance is it then that this man does not recognize the gravity of his crime? Either he is not guilty at all, under the principal of mens rea, or he should be sentenced according to the standard measures by which this crime would be sentenced. Things like his history, character, remorsefulness, whatever judges normally use to sentence a convict, including the impact the crime has had on the victim. The actual impact, often clarified at sentencing through victim impact statements, not by what the perpetrator believes the impact was.

To look at this another way, let us suppose that a man rapes a prostitute. Should he get off with no prison time, simply because he believes raping a hooker is no big deal? Or what about a murderer? Let's say one gang-banger who kills another? Is the crime any less serious because the killer believes it is not serious? Or what about a full-blown child molester pedophile, who believes that his victim actually "wanted it" and doesn't see the true impact of their crime?

The standard applied in this case is completely absurd, and frankly, it sounds like cronyism to me. Favoritism shown to this man because he spent years as a schoolteacher rather than as a cab driver, or some-such. It seems that a bias of some sort is the real justification for the light sentence applied.

And truth be told, that is the only issue I am really addressing here. The absurdity of the court's statement, not even the actual sentence itself, which I do find reasonable actually. The man was found guilty of Unlawful Surveillance in the Second Degree, which is a Class E felony violation of NYS Penal Code 250.45
He was sentenced to 4 months in jail, ten years of probation, and fined $1,425. Again, the sentence itself does not sound unreasonable to me if this is a first offense. On the other hand, the lack of remorse does seem to allude to the likelihood of recidivism too. It is also very alarming that the victim was a minor. Finally, why wasn't he charged with a felony count for each and every instance he observed the girl, rather than just for one count of deploying the device and watching the girl? Still, it was a non-violent offense and I hate to be a knee-jerk reactionary when it comes to certain crimes where many people would shout "off with his balls!" He didn't actually touch the girl, though it certainly seems that some mental health evaluations might be in order here too.

At the end of the day though, for a first-offense class-E felony the sentence does not seem out of line, only the reasoning by which the judge explains why he didn't throw the book at the offender. It's almost as if the judge was being apologetic to the public for not putting a sex offender on the stake, and at a loss to explain why. A political liablity for him of course. I would have much more respected he simply said just because the man was a sex offender, that doesn't warrant an unduly harsh sentence based on a social bias against sex offenders.

In this day and age it must be difficult for a judge to push back against the tide of public opinion, and follow his conscience, to even follow the law itself, when the public is so easily swayed by rhetoric. So we wind up now with jutice wrapped in untruths and obfuscation rather than people willing to stand up and tell it like it is.

We have become a nation of people who lack the courage of their own convictions.

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