“Judges’ Quandary: Truth and Sentencing”
On Dec. 2, 2008, a Manhattan Family Court juvenile counselor named Tony Simmons was charged with sexually assaulting three girls under his supervision. The case was assigned to a New York Supreme Court justice who offered Mr. Simmons what was viewed as a “sweetheart deal” to plead guilty: no jail and 10 years probation. After an outcry from victims’ advocates, an unusually harsh statement from the district attorney and outraged newspaper editorials, the judge had a change of heart, offering Mr. Simmons a 3-year prison sentence or the opportunity to face trial. Whatever the judge’s motivation for changing her mind (she indicated that it was his lack of remorse during his interviews with the Probation Department) the plea offer was withdrawn and the defendant went to trial, resulting in a conviction on Jan. 21, 2011. On Feb. 1, 2011, Mr. Simmons was sentenced to the maximum penalty—4 years in prison. This article is not about or motivated by that case, but it is a worthwhile starting point.