Under the Hat: Fair and Just - WICU12 HD WSEE Erie, PA News, Sports, Weather, Events

Under the Hat: Fair and Just

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Two cases in federal court this week highlight both our need to protect our children and the inherent dangers that can arise when emotion holds too much sway.

Both cases involve someone using the Internet in an attempt to lure a young girl.

In one, the victim's mother intervened and the man was arrested trying to arrange a meet.

In the other the man started a relationship online when the girl was only twelve; after two years of communicating the two decided to run off together, finally caught four days later in Arkansas.

Both the case of Michael Begin and Donald Cates resulted in long prison sentences; Begin got 17 and a half years minimum and Cates got nearly 22 years, a sentence so harsh that it even surprised the victim's mother.

The length of time was due to a number of factors, first a federal court system that has much heavier punishments and second, the federal courts really frown on using the Internet or even cell phones to facilitate a crime.

 The federal public defender, Tom Patton, argued in both cases that it shouldn't matter if the Internet is used or if the person lives down the street.

Why should that make the punishment more severe if the crime is the same?

He also argued that the exact same crime, if tried across the street in Common Pleas court, would each garner sentences of less than 10 years, most particularly in the Cates situation where the victim left willingly but was underage.

Trust me, if one of my daughters was involved I would be the first one screaming to throw away the key.

That said, these cases also highlight the need for the court system to be fair and just across the board.

That's why it seems that convicted killers get chance after chance after chance.

We need to protect our children.

We need to send a message that using technology to get at our kids in our own homes will not be tolerated.

But that need must also be tempered with the desire to create uniform penalties that sends a consistent message.

The system only makes sense if it makes sense; from the smallest of crimes to the worst.


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