Montana District Judge G. Todd Baugh is the subject of national criticism (again) in his handling of a criminal case. Baugh previously caused a national uproar over his treatment of a rape of a 14 year old girl who he described as “older than her chronological age” and sentenced her accused rapist to a month in prison. Baugh has now sentenced a man convicted of punching his girlfriend to write “Boys do not hit girls” 5,000 times in addition to jail time.
Pacer Anthony Ferguson, 27, was sentenced to six months in jail and to pay $3,800 in restitution for fracturing the woman’s face in three places during an August 2012 argument. He ordered him to write out the lines and specified that the lines should be numbered, signed and mailed to him by May 23rd.
A jury convicted Ferguson of misdemeanor assault but acquitted him of felony aggravated assault and felony witness tampering. The failure to convict him of felony aggravated assault is a bit surprising given the extent of the injuries, including the need for a surgery to implant a permanent mesh titanium plate in the victim’s face. The six months sentence is the maximum for the offense. However, if anything the writing assignment does not simply belittle the defendant (which may have been the intention) but the crime in my view.
Ferguson is a real winner. He was before another court this week for a hearing on a sentence for a felony attempted robbery in 2003 in which he tried to rob a man at knifepoint. That judge found that Ferguson has violated the conditions of an earlier sentence and was sent to prison for eight years.
This is not the first writing assignment handed out by a judge. It is all part of a worrisome trend toward novel sentencing around the country. I have repeatedly written against the use of shaming and novel sentencing by judges around the country (here and here and here). Judges often thrill the public by imposing their own forms of justices — departing from conventional criminal sentences to force people to clean courtrooms with toothbrushes, wear demeaning placards, or carry out publicly humiliating tasks. These judges often develop a taste for such power and the public acclaim that unfortunately comes from humiliating people.
In this case, the judge was clueless to the obviously insulting sentence of a schoolboy lines assignment for a brutal assault on a woman. He combined that lack of judgment with an inclination toward novel sentencing to produce yet another national controversy.