Two Separate Judges Just Revealed a Disturbing Problem With the Justice System
Last week, a judge rationalized a grown man sodomizing a 3-year-old.
Judge M. Marc Kelly sentenced Kevin Jonas Rojano to 10 years in prison for sodomizing a 3-year-old girl in Orange County, California. Rojano will serve 15 years less than the mandatory minimum sentence for the crime, according to the New York Daily News.
While Kelly called Rojano's actions "serious and despicable" he said he did not glean "violence or callous disregard for (the victim's) well-being" and didn't view the case as a "situation where a pedophilic child predator preys on an innocent child."
Kelly went further, stating Rojano "did not seek out or stalk" the 3-year-old, but was "playing video games and [the victim] wandered into the garage." This adult man, the judge said, "inexplicably became sexually aroused" by the child. Though the child suffered tissue injuries as a result of the assault, the judge said Rojano "did not appear to consciously intend to harm (the victim) when he sexually assaulted her."
Kelly was not the only judge who failed to meet their basic duty of impartiality last week as some rulings have taken a disturbingly sexist tone.
Last Friday, two convictions came down demonstrating this troubling pattern. One judge in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, convicted high school teacher Erica Ginnetti for the statutory rape of her 17-year-old male student, Raw Story reported. But Ginnetti was only sentenced to 30 days in jail and 60 days of house arrest because Montgomery County Court Judge Garrett D. Page said the teacher's actions — including sharing suggestive photos and videos and having sex with the teen — were "like dangling candy" in front of him. "What young man would not jump on that candy?" Page asked.
In doing so, Page invoked two gender stereotypes at once: He described the boy as a slave to hyper-masculine sexuality while also framing Ginetti as a sexual object, in effect ignoring the power dynamics that actually shaped this case.
It seems that these cases aren't horrifying exceptions, either, but perhaps evidence of an unfortunate trend. In 2013, for example, Montana Judge Todd Baugh issued a 30-day jail sentence to a 47-year-old teacher who pled guilty to assaulting a 14-year-old who later committed suicide, USA Today reported. Baugh attributed the light sentence to his perception of the survivor being "older than her chronological age" and the nature of the assault, which he didn't view as "forcible, beat-up rape."
In a 2012 case, Judge Jacqueline Hatch told a woman who was sexually abused by an Arizona police officer, "if you wouldn't have been there that night, none of this would have happened to you," according to ThinkProgress. Additionally, the police officer sentenced to probation and 100 hours of community service instead of the maximum sentence of two years.
While these individual judges should be held accountable for their horrifying sentences — as well as their despicable comments made to the victims of crimes — the ultimate problem is much deeper. Pervasive cultural attitudes allow judges to blatantly blame victims of sexual assault, even those who are incredibly young, like the 3-year-old in California. And these attitudes need to be checked — we may never have true justice until we do.