Just or unjust?
Joe weighs in on recent Watertown case of bus driver who raped 14-year old girl
As you might know by now if you’ve seen any of our commercials or read other articles on our blog, we are big believers in consumer advocacy, educating the public about their rights.Recently on a radio talk show I do up in Watertown (we have offices there), I was asked to offer my opinion about the case involving the school bus driver who admittedly raped a young girl.
Here are the major points of our discussion:
A judge in upstate New York, that’s Judge McClusky, has sparked national outrage with a probation only sentence for a school bus driver who admitted to raping a 14-year-old girl, but a state court spokesman said the judge was well within the sentencing range for a negotiated plea conviction of third degree rape, which in New York means the victim can’t consent to sex because they are under the age of 17.
Radio show host: Joe can you explain that to me because there’s a lot of people out there who say rape is rape regardless. Especially someone under 17-years-old.
Joe Stanley: It’s within the guidelines. You have to understand that provision encompasses a lot of people that if you’re over 19, this type of law, it covers a lot. That’s statutory rape. New York, if you’re 19 and 17 it has some age guidelines. But if you’re over 19 you can’t have consensual sex with anyone under 17 period, even though it is. The guidelines are in place because given the situation it could be 16, almost 17, or whatever, the law was put in place because the facts can be very different depending on what kind of punishment do you want to give to somebody. My opinion, this one, we’re talking about a school bus driver and someone in authority. This is not … In other words, the guidelines are there and the courts are right. The guidelines are there and they’re put there because there is a wide range of facts for these statutory rape situations.
Host: When it comes right down to it, despite the fact she is 14, and bear in mind, he is being convicted of third degree rape. Which in this case is 10 years of sex offender probation. It’s going to be listed as an offender. Boy, there must be a huge difference between third, second, and first. Right, Joe? It’s got to be.
Joe Stanley: There is, yes. There is. Yeah, there is a quite a bit.
Host: When you look at this, I’m reading into, and perhaps I shouldn’t, but a lot of people are confused by this. I hate to even ask you this.
Joe Stanley: I don’t know what he was originally charged with, Glenn. The question is the plea bargain was third degree, so what you plead to is what you can be sentenced for. Now what he could have been charged for and what he could have been convicted of, it may have been second. I don’t know. Plea bargains happen all the time. I’m sure the sentence was plea bargain, too.
Host: Without looking too much into this because a lot of people asking questions, including myself, are we suggesting here that the girl was at fault here for being … Allan, I don’t even want to say this, she was 14, aggressive, Joe? Promiscuous?
Joe Stanley: Well, you’re not competent to consent.
Host: Right, right. That’s what I thought. Exactly.
Joe Stanley: She’s under 17. Period. That’s not an issue. An issue, it may be taken into consideration in sentencing. Again, those kind of things could be taken at a consideration in sentencing. Usually for close age and long term relationships-
Host: 18/17, 18/16.
Joe Stanley: Right. 18/16. 19/16.
Host: High school sweethearts.
Joe Stanley: 19/16. Why it happened in this case … Do I agree with it? I don’t agree with it, but I’m not the judge and I don’t know. Maybe I don’t know all of the things that are involved.
Host: Right. But you raise a very good point, Joe. A school bus driver. This is not just another guy in the street. But he’s associated with children each and every day. Now obviously that career is over. But there was other speculation or other things written about the actual driver where his competence level, and I don’t mean to say this in a wrong way, his aptitude or his IQ isn’t very high. My question is this. I know we’re desperate for bus drivers, but is that a concern, too, to you, Joe? Because it sounds like it should be.
Joe Stanley: Obviously it’s a concern for a lot of reasons. You’re entrusting your children for maybe a considerable time period in a bus. Sometimes kids ride for up to an hour and obviously you’re entrusting the well-being of your small children and older children to people. Hopefully they’re doing a good job vetting who bus drivers are.
Host: Oh, without a doubt. I tell you what. It’s a tough job. Congratulations to anyone who does that. Getting up in the morning and doing all of that. Especially if you’re driving those big trucks up and down the hills, the bad weather.
Host: Okay, Joe, the article goes on the lack of jail time for Piche was harshly criticized on social media as being too lenient with critics blasting McClusky the judge for imposing a sentence they said didn’t fit the severity of the crime. An online petition calling for McClusky’s removal has amassed more than 50,000 signatures. Well, look, I don’t want McClusky to lose his job. Obviously, you got to put yourself in McClusky’s place here, Joe. After the fact, if he had to do it all over again, would he do it this way, Joe, in your opinion?
Joe Stanley: Yeah, again. I don’t know what the facts are. I don’t know what was negotiated. I certainly would be sensitive to what consequences of making this kind of decision are. If I was going to do it, I would have given a long detailed explanation at my sentencing as to the reasons why I did it. But again, I don’t know. I don’t know what the facts were. I don’t know why the DA … The DA agreed to this. The DA gets as much credit-
Joe Stanley: -or scrutiny.
Host: Exactly. That’s a very good point. Allan, let me ask you, has Mills or anyone in the department, has anyone gotten any criticism for this?
Additional Host: Well, yeah, they have, but I tell you what troubles me the most about this whole situation is the threats against the officers of the court. I’m speaking of the threats against McClusky, the prosecutors and the defense attorneys.
Host: What threats are those?
Additional Host: Well, they’ve been getting all kinds of written in threats.
Host: Death threats, right. Right. In this-
Joe Stanley: The system is and it works the way it’s supposed to be. If you’re not happy with the decision you can vote and you can do petitions. But clearly, threats … And again, you’re making threats without a full amount of the knowledge.
Host: Well, yeah.
Joe Stanley: That’s kind of a hard-
Host: It’s an emotional issue.
Joe Stanley: Well, if you’re going to these kind of determinations, I think the DA should give a statement and say, “Okay. The facts of this case and the circumstances, we believe that this was a fair outcome. That we would have had a hard time at trial.” There’s all sorts of reasons, which people, they have an emotional reaction because it sounds bad. Okay. So when something sounds bad… We’re lawyers, but we also deal with people all the time. I think we should be transparent and say what we’re doing and why we’re doing it.
Host: I totally agree. Joe, once again, this is why we love talking to Joe. We don’t have enough time. That’s the problem. Joe, when people need to get in contact with you, how can one do that, sir?
Joe Stanley: Sure. You can go to StanleyLawOffices.com. The phone number’s 1-800-608-3333. My email is Joe@StanleyLawOffices.com.
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