LIONEL PODCAST: Behold! The Most Insane Judge On This Planet

I still cannot believe this story. As an ex-prosecutor, criminal trial warrior I can say this with no hesitation whatsoever: This has to be the stupidest judge ever to walk this planet. Granting an unsecured and de minimis bail of $100K for a serial child rapist hit with a 40-count indictment alleging life felonies?! An unsecured, cross your heart and hope to die bond? Are you out of your mind?! Especially when the prosecutor wanted $500K and an ankle bracelet. And you never tell anyone that you’ve volunteered for the feeder organization that provided at-risk young men to this child rapist?!

There are two criteria determining whether bail should be granted: (a) the protection of the public and the danger a defendant poses; and (b) the defendant’s likelihood to answer charges and not flee. If for no other reason than to prevent him from offing himself or having some Dexter dude beat him to the punch, this judge should have made the bond $10M. And with a maximum sentence of 460 years looming over him — not life, mind you — I hope they’ve secured his passport because Maldives and other non-extradition countries would be looking real good to me if I were Ol’ Jerry.

Most politically astute judges would give anything to have a reason to be nowhere near this case and this judge had the perfect excuse for recusal. But no! Amazing. Don’t be surprised if bail is later revoked and Sandusky’s tossed into the hoosegow. Segregated, I would imagine. This feller’s a dead man. He should be in custody for his own protection if anything. You know the stories about prisoners not caring too much for short eyes? They’re all true. And these folks know a little something about how to make communal showering real uncomfortable.

Recusal is defined as follows: “To disqualify or remove oneself as a judge over a particular proceeding because of one’s conflict of interest. Recusal, or the judge’s act of disqualifying himself or herself from presiding over a proceeding, is based on the Maxim that judges are charged with a duty of impartiality in administering justice.” Law students will remember this juridical chestnut — Judges must avoid the mere appearance of impropriety.

Judge Who Set Unsecured Bail For Jerry Sandusky Is A Second Mile Volunteer

When Jerry Sandusky was initially arraigned, as previously reported by Sara Ganim, prosecutors requested $500,000.00 bail and that Sandusky be required to wear a leg monitor. District Judge Leslie Dutchcot, however, ordered that Sandusky be freed on $100,000 unsecured bail. She ordered that Sandusky be freed and pay nothing unless he failed to show up for a court hearing.

Judge Dutchcot has quite the professional resume. In addition to her duties as district judge, she is of counsel to the firm Goodall & Yurchak. It speaks to the small-town nature of the county, I suppose, that the firm’s URL is “centrelaw.com.” According to her profile, Judge Dutchcot has been named the State College Lawyer of the Year, completed a “Leadership” program and has served as a counselor at Centre County Law Enforcement Camp Cadet, Inc.

Of course, also according to her profile, Judge Dutchcot is a volunteer for Sandusky’s group, The Second Mile. Sandusky turned himself in the morning of Nov. 5, a Saturday, at Judge Dutchot’s Centre County office. He was released, under the aforementioned terms, shortly thereafter.

Attorneys often serve charitable foundations in their pro bono capacities, or just volunteer in their spare time, so there is nothing weird about that. It just seems that, given the nature of the charges, the small-town atmosphere, and her relationship to Second Mile, Judge Dutchcot should have recused herself from being involved with this process. Or that could be precisely why she did not. [E.S.]

The ABA has provided this nifty model rule as to recusal.

Standard  6-1.9. Obligation to perform and circumstances requiring recusal

(a) The trial judge should recuse himself or herself whenever the judge has any doubt as to his or her ability to preside impartially or whenever his or her impartiality reasonably might be questioned.

ABA Standards for Criminal Justice: Special Functions of the Trial Judge, 3d ed., © 2000 American Bar Association.

And finally, I received the following email from someone, shall I say, “in the know.” He writes eloquently on the problems addressed herein.

How many of the kids abused were kids whose cases had been reported but CPS was stretched too thin to adequately investigate? How many were cases in which some underpaid college grad knocked on a door and left after getting no response (or wrote on a sheet that they visited but didn’t) because they had 20 other houses to visit that day? Reporting does not equal salvation. Will the increase in reporting (and an increase in false reports) when the budget for the agency is not increasing really protect those kids who are actually at risk? By calling for a law mandating that everyone report suspected child abuse, you are reducing the attention that  actual abuse victims can receive.

From a legal perspective, what does it mean to witness or know about child abuse? The Penn State case of walking in on a rape in progress is exceptionally rare, so what will be the common experience? A child yelling? Kids yell when they are angry at parents who haven’t touched them. And who decides what constitutes witnessing or knowing?

Hindsight is 20/20.

Needless to say, nothing makes sense. Nothing.

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