Iowa Judge Orders Criminal to Church in Another Abuse of “Creative Sentencing”

tn_6-12-07_07c.jpg   I have often written about judges who seem to relish the imposition of “creative sentences” that often involve shaming or degrading acts to be perform by defendants. Scott County Associate Judge Christine Dalton in Davenport came now be added to this ignoble list. ith a lengthy and violent criminal record to his name, Pachino Hill is going to church. Dalton has ordered a criminal defendant Pachino Hill to attend church in a wildly inappropriate sentence.

Hill, 29, of Davenport was ordered by Dalton to not only attend the counseling program at the Third Missionary Baptist Church, but to attend church there on at least eight consecutive Sundays. If Dalton’s government imposed church-going program is not fulfilled, Hill could be sentenced to two year in prison for eluding police and driving while impaired.

The idea appears to have originated with Prosecutor Marc Gellerman, but it was the judge who decided that she had the authority to order church attendance. Gellerman’s proposal should be a matter for serious review concerning his own judgment and training. However, the responsibility must ultimately fall on Dalton.
Hill in no angel. At 14 years, he was charged with first-degree murder pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter and terrorism. (I will ignore the use of “terrorism” charges in such cases). Hill was sentenced to 15 years in prison.

For a prior column discussing this trend, click here

For the full story, click here

15 thoughts on “Iowa Judge Orders Criminal to Church in Another Abuse of “Creative Sentencing””

  1. “The writing is on the wall for convicted drug dealer Terry Bennett: He’ll be going into jail next week if he doesn’t finish a 5,000-word essay on the dangers of marijuana.

    Bennett, 32, from Gloucestershire, UK, was caught with more 2 pounds of cannabis and admitted possession with intent to supply.

    Bennett, who lives with his mom, was sentenced to 240 hours of unpaid work, but claimed a snowboarding injury made that impossible, according to the Metro.

    Judge Julian Lambert came back with an alternative sentence: A 5,000 word essay on the dangers of drugs and their effect on society.

    Bennett was shocked by the pot-related punishment because it’s been years since he last wrote a report of this scale.

    “I asked the judge if I could write a balanced argument for and against cannabis, but he said that since it’s illegal, I should only write about the bad things,” he told the Mirror. “I’m just going to write about certain dangers caused by cannabis that people might not necessarily know.”

    Bennett has until April 4 to weed out information on the web and finish the essay. If he doesn’t, he will go to jail for 12 months.” (not full article.

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  5. matt:

    If this is true, and I do not doubt it, you are correct and this is not an appropriate sentence. All of the information you provided should have been considered since the standard at sentencing is not proof beyond a reasonable doubt. These types of creative sentences are what compels the public to call for sentencing guidelines. Obviously, the Judge let her religion get in the way of her reason and that benefits no one.

  6. I am from Davenport, Iowa where this happened. This sentence is a joke. This man killed someone when he was 14, murder charges were reduced to manslaughter. Then he shot at a cop, the bullet missed his head by 6 inches, those charges were dropped due to lack of evidence. Then he helped his friend flee the area and hide a gun after he murdered someone. Then he beat his girlfriend at a liquor store, hitting her with a liquor bottle and slashing her tires so she couldnt get away. How many chances does this guy deserve?? If you are as outraged by this sham of a sentence as I am, the judge who passed it is named Christine Dalton. 7th Judicial District Davenport, Iowa. 400 West Fourth Street Davenport, Iowa 52801-1104
    (563) 326-8611

    Let her know the next innocent person this violent felon kills or hurts, the blood is on her hands.

  7. I think the Judge violated the 8th Amendment. It is cruel and unusual to force a convicted felon, with presumably a rational mind, to sit for an hour a week and listen to iron age babble.

  8. Jill and DW, I couldn’t agree more; this judge had NO business ordering anyone to attend church services as part of their sentence. To me, it sounds like judicial blackmail; “attend these services or we’ll make your sentence even longer.” I am very glad that JT is still writing about these judges and what I think is clear misuse and even abuse of judicial power.

  9. This “creative sentence” is clearly violative of the first amendment prohibition against government establishment of religion, and it also epitomizes the depths to which our nation has sunk by allowing religion to invade and permeate our government at all levels. “Faith-based” programs and funding are just as offensive, and “faith-based” rehab or prisons are a misguided attempt to circumvent various constitutional prohibitions. The government should be doing things with government employees, not laying the jobs off on select groups, organizations, religions or contract companies. That applies to schooling, penal systems, the military and government operations. The Bush Administration has proved beyond a doubt that spending all our tax dollars and then some on corporations to act as a para-military force in the USA or abroad, contracting out government work in the State Dept. and other agencies just does not work. It has cost us more and created a flawed, profit-driven approach to delivery of government services. Judao-Christian beliefs and the founding principles of our nation were in sync to the extent that our social contract called on America to help the poor, ill, elderly, veterans and the down-trodden. Now, those same groups are the ones that are overlooked by government. We are not properly caring for our returning war veterans, our elderly, our sick and infirm, or our poverty stricken citizens. Nowadays, the so-called “entitlement” programs are being whittled down to nothing while Bush exhausts the treasury for generations to come on this illegal War in Iraq. Bush has allowed the economy to teeter on the verge of collapse, all to feed corporate profits and corruption. These things have been done in the name of security, economy and Christianity, but nothing could be further from the truth. We are now less secure, and our economy is shrinking; jobs and the middle class are disappearing, and devotion to right-wing, extremist evangelical religion has driven qualified employees from the government and replaced them with ignorant, unqualified, inexperienced idealogues. It is time to restore our nation to its rightful place and resume a position of moral authority, but first, we must rid ourselves of the Bush Administration and everything that gave rise to and profited from it. It is time for us to stop forcing religion of any kind on anyone. That goes for America just as much as Muslim extremists! Separation of church and state was an ideal, a goal, and it worked for over 200 years; it is time to return to that way of life.

  10. Here we go again, Jill.

    The judges never stop trying. But such sentences are clearly violative of free exercise. And dual sentence options of the type Judge Michael Caperton favored, set up a facially inequitable two-tier system that is tilted toward believers.

    In Michigan, not so long ago, Joseph Hanas, a practicing Catholic, was sentenced to a pentecostal rehab program that confiscated his rosary and forced him to attend pentecostal services. The district court upheld his claim that the sentence infringed on his first amendment rights.

  11. This sentence should be overturned. It is a breech of separation of church and state. It clearly favors one religion, christianity, and even one branch thereof.

    Creative sentencing should have nothing to do with the imposition of religious beliefs or indoctrination on another person. There is a store near me where atheist and jewish employees are required to pray christian prayers or be fired. This is an act of violence against people’s conscience. I cannot understand this as a ethical act.

    I am guessing the judge believes christianity will turn the criminal into a moral person. Most of our criminal population is already christian so I think this idea is discredited right off the bat. One look at religion today (and in the past) lets us know that religiosity is absolutely not a guarantee of goodness. We should stop pretending that it is.

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