In a nightmare befitting Homer Simpson, doughnut thief Scott A. Masters, 41, was facing 30 years in jail for stealing a doughnut and shoving a store employee. The case produced a national outcry and the court recently sentenced him to a five-year suspended sentence, five years of probation and 90 days in the county jail, including time he has served since Sept. 19. He was released this month.
The prosecutors still do not regret charging him with strong arm robbery. “I know it sounds kind of silly, but to us, it was a serious case,” said St. Francois County Prosecuting Attorney Wendy Wexler Horn, who seems to have taken her recent scrutiny in stride. “I realize people have strong opinions on either side of this. But it was the correct charge.”
Horn’s defense of this over-charing is amazing. It was a 52 cent doughtnut and Masters shoved a store worker out of the way to flee. Yet, Farmington Police Chief Rick Baker insists that it should have been treated as an assault case.
Horn and Baker reflect the dangers of discretion when given to people who appear to lack any sense of proportion or propriety. There is no doubt that Masters has a long criminal history and is a drain on the community. However, converting a shove into a strong arm robbery over a doughnut reveals a complete lack of judgment by both the prosecutors and the police chief. It undermines the entire legal system to have such over-charging. The result in the case — after national criticism and pressure — is a fair one. However, there still remains the question of what the outcome would have been without such public outcry and how many such cases go without scrutiny or correction.
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