In an extraordinary sentencing, Montana Judge James Haynes has sentenced Robert Stearns to 225 years for three felony counts of indecent exposure.
It is clear that Stearns deserved a heavy sentence. He was on parole for indecent exposure when he exposed himself to women in December 2006. It is equally clear that he is a sick individual. However, Haynes put his sentence at over three times the average for most murders by having the 75 year sentences run consecutively rather than concurrently. Even 75 years would have been a radical departure from sentencing norms. Most courts would have imposed a 5-10 year sentence for such conduct. An appeal is obviously in order.
In 1978, Stearns was charged with an attempted sexual assault on a 63-year-old woman and was on parole for a 1997 conviction of two counts of indecent exposure and one of sexual intercourse without consent. Obviously, this history should have pushed the sentence dramatically higher. However, he was sentenced on indecent exposure violations. Given his past conduct, this might have pushed the sentence about ten years but 225 years is akin to a serial killer.
However, his best bet may in the state courts. The U.S. Supreme Court has recently gutted the protections under the Eighth Amendment for excessive sentences. This should be such a case for federal review, but the Court has allowed effective life sentences for property offenses under three-strike laws.
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