The Star-News

The punishment fits

Sat, May 03 2014 12:00 PM Posted By: Carlos R. Davalos

Anyone not happy with the absence of jail or prison time for guilty defendants in the corruption case of the South Bay century should spend a few hours in a courtroom on other cases.

Listen to a judge weigh the factors in determining the length of a sentence for a man guilty of beating a pregnant woman.

Take into consideration that right now in a courtroom someone has been found guilty of murder — the ending of another person’s life. Someone’s mother. Or son.

Jail and prison is where you want to warehouse those people — the individuals who have physically accosted or are a threat to fathers and sisters and boyfriends and wives. To you. To me.

But to put people guilty of failing to properly complete paperwork or who accepted dinners and drinks in exchange for preferential consideration and valuable contracts behind bars? That’s not heavy-handed. It’s vituperatively iron-fisted.

The guilty pleas have come about not through a jury trial but through negotiations between defense and prosecuting attorneys. Thus the avalanche of charges facing defendants two years ago ended up being a couple of pebble-packed snowballs by the time they were set to go to trial in April. 

In former Sweetwater Union High School District board member Arlie Ricasa’s case, for example, where she initially faced a combined 28 felony and misdemeanor corruption charges, she ultimately pleaded guilty to one misdemeanor. And it’s for that one wrongdoing she was reprimanded with a fine and probation. 

To a degree the same could be said of Pearl Quiñones though so far she is the only one to have her freedom restricted, having been sentenced to 90-day house arrest.

Initially Quiñones faced numerous corruption charges but in the end she admitted to only one felony and one misdemeanor. It’s those two misdeeds for which she is being punished. 

So in the absence of a trial what the public is left with is a case that appears to be California Fair Political Practices Commission violations on steroids. Nothing was proven to the people. Instead deals and admissions of guilt were made.

Had there been a trial and the prosecution placed the hundreds of charges in context and proven them beyond reasonable doubt, perhaps then time behind bars for betraying the public’s trust would be warranted.

But as it stands at this moment, Judge Ana Espana and lead prosecutor Leon Schorr appear to be reasonable in asking for what the defendants have coming to them: fines, probation and adult-version time out.

Nevertheless, after all this time, energy and money spent prosecuting various board members and contractors I can’t help but hear Peggy Lee singing “Is That All There Is?”

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