Two cases. Two defendants. Two judges.
Two cases. Both sex cases. One involved a student, a woman who had been raped. She had been drunk during the incident. The defendant pled guilty to what he had done. When the case was over, the woman was angry and responded with a lengthy and impassioned letter to the judge. The letter went viral, and even caused the Vice-President of the United States to respond favorably.
The other case was also a sex case. Hundreds of women had been sexually abused when they were children. They were gifted athletes, many former Olympians. Many were unaware at the time that what was occurring to them was abusive. After all, the adults all seemed to approve. There was a multitude. While women now—lawyers, teachers, accomplished professionals–most were remembering events from a time when they were children, when they were placed on a pedestal and on tv and they were cared for by parents and coaches and…a doctor. When the case was over, the girls turned women were allowed to speak in anger and disgust before television cameras. They were called heroes.
Two defendants. One was a student, an athlete from the Midwest, on scholarship to a prestigious university. He aspired to be an Olympian. He too was drunk when it occurred. He remembered little. He too pled guilty. When it was over, he was sentenced to a few months in jail, probation, and registration as a sex offender.
The other defendant was a doctor. For decades, he had been caring for little girls who were the top athletes in the country. He knew well what he was doing. He took trust and defiled it with his secretive actions, many of them in front of their parents. He was trusted and he used that trust to feed something inside that was ugly. When it was over, he was sentenced to spend the rest of his life in prison, where he will undoubtedly suffer.
Two judges. The first was a former prosecutor, well thought of, quiet, a person who avoided the limelight. He was not on tv. He received a recommendation as to the sentence, he followed the law in imposing sentence, and he was pilloried by many in his state, in the nation, and by the Vice-President. Recall efforts were initiated. A few, mostly public defenders and law professors, defended what he had done. Most condemned him as insensitive, an enabler, a pig, someone who treated an elite athlete from a wealthy family at a prestigious university with kid gloves.
The other judge was from an immigrant family. She seemed to thrive in the spotlight. She gave an unheard-of amount of time to a sentencing proceeding. She took a letter from the defendant and threw it down dismissively. She told him that she was constrained by the prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment and pondered wistfully what might happen to the defendant in prison. She praised the victims in front of her and seemed to bask in their celebrity. She was in turn praised herself, called a fierce advocate. Only a few, mostly public defenders and law professors, thought she had abandoned her role as a judge, as an impartial arbiter, as a dispassionate and wise sentencer.