Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Bring Your Toothbrush

Prison or probation?

Even in states with structured sentencing systems, the answer to this fundamental question isn’t always known when someone is convicted of a crime.

Often, however, there are indicators of how the decision will go.

Consider, for example, a sex offense case last fall in Minnesota involving a priest who had sex with a young woman he was counseling. She was dealing with an eating disorder and in a vulnerable state from childhood sexual abuse.

The priest, Rev. Christopher Wenthe, did not deny having sexual contact with the 21-year-old woman. But he claimed the sex was consensual.

The jury did not agree and convicted him of criminal sexual conduct in the third degree on November 15.

The Ramsey County prosecutors, David Hunt and Kevin Kugler, moved to have Wenthe immediately taken into custody. The district judge, the Hon. Margaret Marrinan, denied that motion.

Wenthe’s defense attorney, Paul Engh, indicated he would seek a sentence of probation at the sentencing hearing in December. Though Judge Marrinan did not tip her hand completely, she did give Engh and his client a reality check.

“The court will direct the defendant to bring his toothbrush,” the judge said, for the sentencing hearing on December 14.

At that hearing, as the Star Tribune reported, Judge Marrinan sentenced Rev. Wenthe to a year in the workhouse.

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