Welcome to Painesville: Ohio Judge Orders Woman To Either Accept Jail Or Being Sprayed In Eyes With Pepper Spray

judge-01Welcome to Painesville. In this aptly named Ohio town, Painesville Municipal Court Judge Michael Cicconetti ordered Diamond Gaston, an assault suspect who pepper-sprayed someone in the face at a fast-food restaurant, that she could choose between 30 days in jail or be pepper-sprayed by her victim. Cicconetti then had the pepper-spray replaced with harmless saline spray without telling Gaston.

Cicconetti seems to think that his substitution of the water somehow moves this order into the realm of an appropriate action by a judge. It does not. Cicconetti is one of a growing number of judges who are converting our courts into theaters of the absurd for the enjoyment of the public and the vainglory of themselves. I am not even sure what this theatrics proved. Gaston pepper-sprayed someone. A spray with water does not actually cover the experience or constitute justice for the victim.

In another case that week, Cicconetti found another source of playful enjoyment: sentencing a woman who failed to pay a cab driver was given a choice between jail time or paying $100 restitution and walking 30 miles. She chose the walk with a GPS devise. He has sentenced people to look at dead bodies or play music like a judicial Caesar.

The fault is not simply in Cicconetti, who should not be on the bench of any court of any kind. It rests with the Ohio bar which continues to fail to take action against such abusive jurists.

I have previously written about the rise of shaming punishments in the United States in both blogs (here and here and here and here and here) and columns (here and here and here).

If these allegations are true (and he does have prior convictions), the proper response is increased jail time, injunctive relief, and the possible escalation to a felony offense. These shaming punishments degrade our legal system and turn judges into little Caesars meting out their own justice to the thrill of the public. We have seen judges force people to cut their hair in their courtroom or clean their court bench with a toothbrush. These sentences make justice a form of public entertainment and allow judges to turn their courtrooms into their own macabre productions. While judges talk a good game about their effort to be creative, they clearly enjoy this role and the publicity that comes from making people demean themselves. It appeals to the lowest common denominator of our society and unfortunately there are many who enjoy to see others degraded. Indeed, some appear to be working through their own serious issues or yielding to their own emotional impulses in punishments like forcing people to cut their hair in their courtroom or wearing signs that the judge herself creates over the weekend (as discussing in prior stories). I believe this trend is a direct result of faux court programs like Judge Judy and Judge Brown (who was recently arrested himself) where people are yelled at or taunted by the court. We are losing the distinction between entertainment and the law. The result is a loss of professionalism and consistency in sentencing. I have long advocated for bar associations to move against judges like Williams-Byer and consider removal over such abusive sentencing. Little has been done. Judges bask in national coverage and develop a taste for the attention and accolades. Absent an effort by the bar, this trend will grow and our court system will increasingly add these circus like scenes for public enjoyment.

Cicconetti stated to the media: “I wouldn’t do anything illegal. Will there be maybe some public feedback or whatever? I don’t care. I do whatever I think is right.” That much is clear, the question is whether the Ohio bar and court system will do what is right and remove “Judge” Cicconetti.

Source: CBS

26 thoughts on “Welcome to Painesville: Ohio Judge Orders Woman To Either Accept Jail Or Being Sprayed In Eyes With Pepper Spray”

  1. Sauce for the goose, sauce for the gander.
    I am more inclined to the Mosaic Code the older I get.

  2. If a job applicant’s record includes a sentence of a 30-mile hike instead of jail time, it strongly implies the judge did not consider the convict to be enough of a danger to society to be jailed. The other sentences are similar in that light, except for the pepper spray option. An employer might feel more inclined to consider the job application if no jail time had been served.

    Still, I too have strong reservations about turning judges loose to exercise their creativity and egos, and we can count on some judges to be abusive. So maybe it is a bad idea period.

    Community service seems like a better alternative, but I say this from the perspective of knowing nothing about its effectiveness or whether it displaces the unemployed who need jobs doing what the convicts have to do for free.

  3. So this judge enjoys to entertain himself with psychological TORTURE…

  4. A kid used to get the choice of joining the Army or going to jail for minor crimes. I think the judge is on the right track. The menu needs to be better developed perhaps but creative thinking is what evolves mankind. JT has a nerve here he would be advised to address. It’s not all done through theory, the law or life.

  5. Since when do judges have available an optional menu for sentencing: That is, if you don’t like the common and expected sentencing possibilities of column A or B, how about C just for kicks and a display of the power of the bench aided by a party hat. I realize that even without column C, whether absurd or not, being available that judges have a lot of latitude but this seems to add another layer of potential discrimination, sadism, and over-reaching. Color me Opposed to this creative, fun-and-games approach to the so-called meting out of “justice.”

    1. DrSigne – usually the options are 1) pay a fine 2) do jail time 3) do community service 4) some combination of 1-3. I do not see a problem.

      1. The problem is that the legislature should decide the penalties for the crimes they enact, not the judge. Corruption is bad enough with a room full of representatives deciding fate, let alone the fellow who got up on the wrong side of the bed that morning deciding someone’s fate on his own terms.

        The four alternative sentences you’ve described are likely within the actual sentencing guidelines and not created by the criminal court itself. I don’t want monarchs on the bench creating their own sentencing parameters.

  6. I find the judge’s sentence to be bizarre at the least. Seems like an inappropriate imposition of fear rather than any substantive deterrence. Fits “cruel & unusual” prohibitions for me. Perhaps he needs to find other work. Are we not long past “an eye for an eye?” Even if contrived and not actual? What is next, revival of the use of stocks in the town square? 30 days in jail was far more appropriate, no comical (?) alternative was necessary.

    I’ve cited the fact elsewhere here that I concealed carry most of the time. One of the most restraining things on my mind is the potential changes to my life, including imprisonment, should I have use such lethal force. No firing at me with blanks would change that. I’ve been shot at for real and I find nothing instructive in that.

    This guy just needs to excuse himself and go away. Or his “constituency” needs to remove him.

  7. This is an interesting story.

    It is not cruel nor unusual to offer corporal punishments to offenders by choice. I think that incarceration for decades for having a handful of cocaine is what is cruel and unusual or some of the other amazing sentences I have seen.

    I would take a flogging over a decade in prison for sure.

    Robert A. Heinlein made a persuasive case for corporal punishment in “Starship Troopers.”

    Before we judge to strongly other nations that use corporal punishment, remember the USA is one of the top worldwide users of capital punishment. It is odd that some Americans are so judgmental about things like canings for vandalism in Indonesia, considering our lethal injections. Or consider execution by beheading. I wonder why we hear often about the horrible “ISIS” entity beheadings, but we rarely hear about the frequent beheadings but US ally Saudi Arabia. Is our so-called free media so easily lead by the nose?

    While we are at it, why don’t we get realistic and admit that lethal injection is neither as swift nor certain a method of dispatching the death penalty as firing squads, and quit fooling ourselves into thinking the executions are more just because they are less scary.

  8. Everything in moderation. Including moderation. Someone censored my previous comment.

  9. guiness

    “Just think, how long it is going to take the next President, (if we are lucky enough to have one elected, who actually is conscious of the damage that has been inflicted on the Country during this past reign..) to try to undo, even some of it.!”

    The reality does not have to include viewing what the ‘next President’ will have to do. Just refer to the mess Obama inherited from the idiot W and his handlers. He has done a yeoman’s job dealing with it but it will endure for more than his or the next Presidency. The three stooges put this country back a generation.

  10. Paul

    “Personally, I would like to see a fine structure that goes with your income”

    This is interesting as it is how most more advanced nations structure their social ‘payouts’. In France if you get a ticket for speeding, the court investigates your driving history and your income or ability to pay. Those that earn millions pay vastly more than their secretaries. In most more advanced nations health care insurance is pegged to income so the monthly premium will be higher as the salary increases.

    This seems ideologically at odds with how a lot of Americans feel the costs of fines and other social payments should be structured. Yes we are all supposed to be equal and income should not differentiate but a $100 speeding ticket to a millionaire means nothing and is worthless as a deterrent where a sum that might make a point to the millionaire, say $10,000 would ruin the secretary.

    The US as well as other Western Nations struggle with what works in reality and what is supposed to work ideologically. JT may have a point with this judge and the circus that has been the result of the TV nonsense but there are times when the punishment should be designed to fit the crime. Is JT railing against the concept or the inventiveness of the judge?

  11. I don’t know.
    I am a bit torn on this, and could probably be convinced either way depending on the circumstances.
    However I lean toward Judge Cicconetti’s methods.
    The defendants are always given an option for the traditional punishments that JT here suggests, so they are not forced into the humiliation or tribulations, they can take the traditional punishment instead if the humiliation or whatever is unbearable for them.
    As Paul stated here, such humiliation works equally well on the rich and the poor, as a fine does not.
    Call me medieval on this if you want, but I don’t see a problem with it.

  12. I see no problem with any of the possible punishments doled out. What is the difference between what the judges did and community service. Personally, I would like to see a fine structure that goes with your income, so that $150 speeding ticket is the same if you make 10k a year or 1 million a year.

  13. as sir william s. gilbert wrote 130 years ago:

    My object all sublime
    I shall achieve in time—
    To let the punishment fit the crime,
    The punishment fit the crime;
    And make each prisoner pent
    Unwillingly represent
    A source of innocent merriment,
    Of innocent merriment!

  14. These entire United States …….are changing…..but by bit…….one day at a time………and the changes are not positive………..sadly. Just think, how long it is going to take the next President, (if we are lucky enough to have one elected, who actually is conscious of the damage that has been inflicted on the Country during this past reign..) to try to undo, even some of it.!

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