A judge has received ‘numerous vitriolic’ phone calls after he let a child rapist go free.
Judge James McClusky sentenced school bus driver Shane Piche, 26, to 10 years of probation, sparking anger at the lenient sentence.
Piche raped a girl, 14, at his home in Watertown, New York, last summer and he admitted the crime in February. He had met her while working and plied her with alcohol.
The victim’s mother said: ‘I wish Shane Piche would have received time in jail for the harm he caused to my child. He took something from my daughter she will never get back and has caused her to struggle with depression and anxiety.’
Chelsea Miller, of the New York State Coalition Against Sexual Assault, said based on the mother’s statement, it’s possible that the judge and court officials didn’t understand the harm the survivor experienced.
She said: ‘Unfortunately, this can discourage survivors who see jail or prison time as a form of accountability.’
Piche was also told to register as a level one sex offender – the lowest of three categories based on the risk of re-offending.
Following that light sentencing, Judge McClusky’s telephone number and his chambers’ address were posted online.
State court spokesman Lucian Chalfen said: ‘The Judge’s chambers have received numerous vitriolic calls regarding the case, the vast majority from out of State, by individuals who know nothing about the facts and circumstances of the case, thanks to social media.
They added that he was ‘well within’ the sentencing range for the type of plea that was negotiated.
The maximum sentence that could have been handed down would have been one to four years in prison.
Piche’s attorney, Eric Swartz said: ‘He’ll be a felon for the rest of his life. He’s on the sex offender registry for a long time.’
Other judges also have faced public pressure over sex-crime sentences in recent years.
In a prominent example, California voters recalled Santa Clara County Judge Aaron Persky last year after he sentenced college swimmer Brock Turner to six months in jail on a sexual assault conviction. Turner denied the accusation.
Persky cited a probation department recommendation, Turner’s youth and his clean criminal record in departing from a minimum sentence of two years in prison. California’s Commission on Judicial Performance ruled that the sentencing was done correctly, but critics said the punishment was too light.