legal system run amuck, phone edition

A complex case in the legal sense, but really not that hard to follow. A 20-year old man has consensual sex with a 16-year old (legal in California; it’s worth noting that she claimed she was 18 though). He records his sexual acts on his cell phone. Nothing illegal so far. He later calls in a bomb threat so help his girlfriend play hooky from school (illegal, and incredibly dumb). The police track him down, search his phone, and discover his private videos. Illegal, and now he’s a “sex offender” for the rest of his life.

The judge goes easy on him. He could have basically faced prison for the remainder of his life, or close to it, not to mention a multi-million dollar fine (and failure to pay such fines might involve additional incarceration). Instead, the judge sentenced him to 18 months (multiple sentences, but served concurrently); the article doesn’t mention a fine; some other particulars of the sentencing were also relatively lax.

The judge did all he could to go easy on him and I applaud that. This clearly isn’t a case of a predatory sex offender, or anything close to it. The bomb hoax was a foolish move to put it mildly, but indicative of young stupidity and not a predilection toward societal harm.

He got off “easy” only in comparison with the decades of incarceration that the prosecutor was hoping for and that US law allowed. In the end, a lighter sentence (for the bomb hoax) would have sufficed, whether that entails a short stint in jail, community service, a modest fine, or some mixture of the aforementioned. But private photos of legal and consensual sex on his phone/camera was a non-crime, and yet he is facing life-long stigma (as a sex offender) for it.

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