The ‘wheels of justice’ could use a lube jobThis week, a defendant made an appearance in Carlton County Court for what was to have been a sentencing hearing on charges of criminal sexual contact.
This week, a defendant made an appearance in Carlton County Court for what was to have been a sentencing hearing on charges of criminal sexual contact.
According to court records, he followed his ex-girlfriend home in his car, ramming into the back bumper of her car while her 19-month-old daughter was inside. After the victim got home, he confronted her, refused to leave and then sexually assaulted her in the presence of her young daughter.
The defendant appeared for the sentencing in handcuffs and the orange jumpsuit of the Carlton County jail after being taken into custody earlier this year for the latest in a long string of violations of court orders related to his case. Twice before, he’d failed to appear at a hearing, and twice warrants had been issued for his apprehension.
The victim of the sexual assault was on hand in the courtroom on Monday to deliver a victim impact statement, as is her legal right at the time of sentencing.
She delivered a soft-spoken but impassioned account of how dramatically her life has changed since the assault. She said she is nervous and easily upset, and she’s seeing a counselor and taking medication to try to control panic attacks. She said she is frightened to be around men in general, and she can no longer watch television programs that depict violence against women. She said she was reluctant to testify in a jury trial against her assailant because she found she froze up whenever she was asked to speak of the assault, and she was afraid of having the same thing happen on the witness stand. She said that she hopes someday the true story will come out, however, regarding just what he did to her that night. She added that she lives in fear of the day that the man who assaulted her gets out of jail.
Judge Dale Wolf, who heard the case, attested to the fact that the defendant has proven to be “a person who has demonstrated nothing but assaultive behavior” over a long period of time (with additional matters pending against him in Pine County as well) and added that he “can’t find one redeeming thing in all of this.”
And yet, there was to be no sentence pronounced against the defendant in court that day.
Because the earlier plea agreement was reached prior to the time the defendant failed to cooperate on his latest evaluation as part of the court-ordered pre-sentence investigation, his case will be prolonged still further and is now reset once again for settlement or trial. For the defendant, the victim, and the stewards of the court who are already overburdened with an ever-growing load of criminal offenses, the case will drag out still further.
And while due process is the cornerstone of America’s legal system, perhaps it’s time for the state to consider legal reform in cases such as these, where defendants repeatedly exhibit blatant disregard for the judicial system.
After all, it’s been in the court system since November 2008.