Saturday, February 04, 2006

Justice? What's justice?

If you want news on the Lance And Sheryl show, go somewhere else. I ain’t gonna write about it!

But I am going to write about something that raised that too-familiar, spiky anger. The first is an account of the sentencing of Elizabeth DeSeelhorst, guilty of running down a cyclist. She was convicted of negligent homicide and sentenced to 180 days of home confinement. One hundred and eighty days. Well, and she has to pay $22,730. That’s what a cyclist’s life is worth in Utah, $22,730, and a hundred and eighty days of sitting on the couch, reading, watching television, and chatting with friends and family.

I was curious about the negligent homicide sentence, so I went cruising on Google News looking for other, similar stories.

The second piece concerns Casey Ottinger, also charged with negligent homicide in the death of a cyclist. Mr. Ottinger was driving under suspension when he ran a stop sign, crossed two lanes of traffic, and killed David M. Larabee. Ottinger, if convicted, faces two to eight years in prison.

Apparently, negligent homicide brings wild disparities in sentencing. That’s OK. I think the sentence really should be tailored to the crime, rather than a one-size-fits-all arrangement.

But it’s this last piece that really hacked me off.

A judge in Georgia sentenced 17 human rights advocates to between one and six months in prison and thirteen of them were fined between $500 and $1,000.

Jail time for protesting when killers get home confinement? Like I said, I can understand some disparity, but this is unbelievable! If this happened in some third world country, we’d blast their treatment of political prisoners. But this is America, dammit! We’re supposed to be better than that.

Saturday, February 04, 2006
Wife of resort owner sentenced for bicycle fatality

The Associated Press

SALT LAKE CITY -- The wife of Solitude Ski Resort's owner was sentenced Friday to home confinement and probation on her conviction of negligent homicide in the SUV death of a bicyclist who was hit while riding in Big Cottonwood Canyon. Elizabeth DeSeelhorst, 67, will spend 180 days confined to her home with an ankle monitor. She was also sentenced to three years' probation, with conditions that include payment of fines, no driving and 320 hours of community service -- performed with bicycle safety and education if possible. Third District Judge Royal Hansen also ordered DeSeelhorst to pay $4,625 in fines and $18,105 to the family of Josie Johnson. On Sept. 18, 2004, Johnson, was wearing a helmet and brightly colored clothing as she rode up the canyon on the side of the road. DeSeelhorst hit Johnson, 25, from behind with her Jeep Cherokee. In an account written at the scene, DeSeelhorst said she was steering around the bicyclist when Johnson swerved in front of her vehicle. But during trial she testified she didn't notice Johnson until the bicyclist was flung onto her windshield. A neurologist testified DeSeelhorst has had a history of strokes and may have suffered a mini-seizure just before accident. The charge of negligent homicide is a class A misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail. DeSeelhorst apologized to the Johnson family in court, state courts spokeswoman Nancy Volmer. The case rallied friends and cyclists to call for more consideration from drivers and a law that requires drivers to keep three feet from bicyclists while passing them on roads. This story appeared in The Daily Herald on page D3.

Plea agreement withdrawn in bicyclist's death

A Monclova Township man, convicted last month of aggravated vehicular homicide for an accident that killed a bicyclist last year, yesterday withdrew from the plea agreement. Casey Ottinger, 27, of 8481 Maumee-Western Rd. was to be sentenced by Lucas County Common Pleas Judge Charles Doneghy for the Sept. 2 accident that resulted in the death of David M. Larabee, who was a popular teacher at Ottawa Hills High School. Instead, Mr. Ottinger told Judge Doneghy he wanted to withdraw the no-contest plea he entered Jan. 4 and let a jury decide whether he was guilty or innocent of the charge. Judge Doneghy agreed to the defendant's request and set a trial date for May 15. Mr. Larabee, 41, was killed when he was hit by the defendant's van at Dorr Street and Crissey Road in Springfield Township. Authorities said Mr. Ottinger was driving north on Dorr about 2:45 p.m. and failed to yield for a stop sign at Crissey, hitting the victim, who was riding west on Dorr. Mr. Larabee was thrown from his bicycle into the windshield of the van. At the time of the accident, Mr. Ottinger didn't have a valid driver's license. An avid bicyclist, Mr. Larabee often rode his bicycle from his home in Monclova Township back and forth to the school, where he taught physics and calculus for 15 years. Later, outside the courtroom, the victim's father and stepmother, Richard and Kathleen Larabee, said they were disappointed and blind-sided with the plea change. "We want him taught a lesson to make sure that he never does this again and to assure that another family will not have to suffer like our family has suffered," Mr. Larabee said. A sentencing hearing had been set last Monday for Mr. Ottinger, and the victim's family and life partner were in the courtroom, expecting him to receive a mandatory sentence of two to eight years in prison. After the hearing was continued, the Larabees and Roy Williamson, the victim's partner, held an emotional meeting with the defendant and his family outside the courtroom. "He expressed his remorse very clearly and very tearfully," Mrs. Larabee said. She said her family decided that they would be satisfied with whatever punishment Judge Doneghy ordered. "The judge has let David down. He has let our family down. This has reopened all the wounds again," she said. Robert Clark, an assistant county prosecutor, said a jury will decide whether Mr. Ottinger's conduct in causing the accident was negligent or reckless. Mr. Clark said he believed the indictment that charged the defendant with recklessness was appropriate, in part, because he ran a stop sign and crossed two lanes of traffic before colliding with the victim. Contact Mark Reiter at: or 419-213-2134.

Burlington activist fined, given jail time for Fort Benning arrest

COLUMUBS, GA — A federal judge Tuesday sentenced Burlington resident Robin Lloyd, to three months in federal prison and a $500 fine after she was found guilty of trespassing onto Fort Benning military base in November.

Lloyd, 67, is among 32 defendants, ranging in age from 19 to 81, who were charged with in protest of the controversial Western Hemisphere Institute of Security Cooperation (WHINSEC), which was once known as the U.S. Army’s School of the Americas (SOA).

“This trial was challenging, but I was glad to have the opportunity to talk on the stand about international law and the necessity defense,” said Lloyd after her conviction. “I only wish the court had lived up to the quote by Jimmy Carter on its wall, that the laws of humanity are upheld in that place.”

Judge G. Mallon Faircloth sentenced 17 human rights advocates, including Robin Lloyd, a member of Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, to between one and six months in prison; 13 of those individuals were also fined between $500 and $1,000. Trials are expected to continue for at least one more day. Each person faces a maximum sentence of six months in prison and a $5,000 fine.

Since protests against the SOA/ WHINSEC began more than a decade ago, 183 people have served a total of over 81 years in prison for engaging in nonviolent resistance in a broad-based campaign to close the school, according to SOA Watch, a non-profit group.

Lloyd and the 40 arrested were among 19,000 who gathered at Ft. Benning to protest U.S. foreign policy and call for the closure of the school.


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