November 05, 2008

"Too short for jail" judge Cecava removed from bench

Richard Thompson - Too Short for Jail
Voters in Cheyenne County, Nebraska, removed judge Kristine Cecava from the bench in yesterday's election. Nebraska judges must stand for retention by local voters every two years. 63% of voters in her jurisdiction voted not to retain judge Cecava. The Plains Feeder noted the public's displeasure with her decision to sentence convicted child molester Richard Thompson to probation because she thought he was too short to survive in prison. The story received embarrassing national attention.

Thompson was found guilty of two counts of molesting a 12 year old girl. He is 5' 1" tall, as the mug shot above indicates. He was sentenced by judge Cecava in May of 2006. The Nebraska State Patrol evaluated him as a Class III sex offender, the highest risk for becoming a repeat offender. He could have received up to 10 years in prison under Nebraska's relatively weak child molestation laws.

The probation sentence was appealed by the state, but was upheld by the Nebraska Court of Appeals because the sentence wasn't "clearly" too lenient. Local folks got 900 signatures on a petition to have her fired, but the Nebraska Judicial Qualifications Commission decided that they lacked the authority to remove her from the bench for bad judgment. Go figure.

No doubt her poor judgment in the Thompson case was a major factor in yesterday's "Do Not Retain" vote. It might seem a high price to pay for one unpopular decision, but Nebraskans feel strongly about seeing child molesters taken off the streets. Nebraska law is notoriously hit or miss when it comes to jailing child rapists and molesters, many of whom are likely to be repeat offenders.

Some Nebraska prosecutors have resorted to getting federal prosecutors involved where appropriate. This usually ensures prison time for the perpetrator. Molestation cases that 'went federal' include internet predator John Monetti who traveled from New York to molest an underage Nebraska girl, and teacher Kelsey Peterson, who began a sexual relationship with a student when he was 12, then fled Nebraska to Mexico with him when she was found out.

Former judge Cecava can now find work as a criminal defense attorney if she wants. Perhaps that is a more appropriate venue for her to work at keeping little criminals out of jail.
Previously in the Plains Feeder:
May 26, 2006 - Nebraska Judge: Child Molester too short for prison
July 15, 2006 - 'Too Short for Jail' Molester Gets Class III Sex Offender Rating
August 22, 2006 - 'Too Short for Jail' Child Rapist's Sentence Appealed
July 18, 2007 - Nebraska child molester still too short for prison

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