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Crime in the City

From the category of Things I Didn't Need the Newspaper to Tell Me:

Do judges in Ohio's rural counties send certain offenders to prison at a higher rate than judges in larger counties?

The answer -- according to three area common pleas court judges -- is yes.

Actually, I didn't find myself disagreeing with the sentiments expressed in the article as much I thought I would; it's hard to argue with the basic notion that a judge's sentencing should reflect the values of the community.  To be sure, the small-county judges who were interviewed admitted they could do this because they weren't swamped with cases like the big counties, and that if the larger counties started meting out similarly stiff sentences, the Ohio prisons would be swamped.  (It's sort of a "we can do this because you can't" argument.)

It reminded me of the time I went out to Ashtabula County for an arraignment a long time ago.  It was my first time there, and while waiting for the arraignments to start, I sat through a plea hearing.  I've never seen a plea hearing like that, before or since:  the whole thing took over a half hour, with the colloquy on the defendant's rights taking up a good twenty minutes.  As I sat there listening to the judge explain the right against self-incrimination in such detail that the defendant could have passed the criminal law question on the bar exam, I thought, "Geez, this must be a really big case." 

Turns out it was a theft prosecution.  The defendant was a truck driver, carrying a load of goods from Cleveland to Boston.  The truck had broken down right outside Ashtabula, he'd called his boss, and the boss told him to fix it and he'd reimburse him later.  Just like he'd told him the last three times the truck had broken down, but he'd never gotten around to reimbursing the guy.  So the driver simply sold enough of the goods to pay for the repairs, then continued on to Boston.  He spent two months in jail before he worked out a plea deal.

To the indictment.

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