by Emily Engle
Texas State District Judge Jeanine Howard has generated public backlash with a recent decision: she sentenced a self-confessed rapist to only a 45 day prison term with a five-year probation. Twenty-year-old Sir Young, 18 at the time of his crime, pled guilty to charges that he raped a then-14-year-old girl at Booker T. Washington High School in Dallas, Texas.
Though Young faced a sentence of up to 20 years in prison, the judge’s sentence was extremely light; in addition to the brief prison term and five year probation, Young was assigned to 250 hours of community service, labelled a sex offender, and required to spend 24 hours in jail every year on the anniversary of the rape, October 4, for the duration of his probation. However, Howard assigned the community service to be served at the Dallas Area Rape Crisis Center, which only sparked further controversy when the center’s executive director spoke out, announcing she would not welcome Young there. She stated, “It’s just not an appropriate place for him to do his community supervision.” She added that it was an insult to survivors of attacks, and that it was synonymous with assigning a pedophile to serve community service at an elementary school.
Also, though Young is technically labelled a sex offender, by Howard’s decision, he will not be forced to face most of the consequences that come with the name; he will not have to stay away from children, will not have to attend sex offender treatment, nor undergo evaluation, nor refrain from pornography. Finally, if Young completes his probation, Howard extended to him the opportunity to have his criminal record wiped.
Over the course of the trial, the details of the crime were revealed: the victim testified that she kissed Young willingly but had not wanted to go further and that she repeatedly told him “no” and “stop,” but he continued. Young confessed to the rape, and gave identical testimony.
However, despite his admission of guilt, in her sentencing, the Judge justified the light punishment by stating that the victim was not who “she claimed to be” and Young was “not your typical sex offender.” Howard called the victim “promiscuous,” and pointed to medical records claiming that the victim had previously had 3 other sexual partners and had given birth. However, the victim denies all of this. She stated to a local station, WFAA, “I have never been pregnant ever…and three partners? I don’t even know where she got this. I feel like this was her way of trying to make herself feel better.” The victim’s mother concurred that her daughter had never given birth. But Howard did not stop there. Throughout the trial, she repeatedly asked the victim if she had cried during the attack, and when the victim said she cried only later, Howard again used that as justification for a lenient sentence.
The victim has made public her feelings about the sentence. She stated, “It was a slap in the face…I thought I was going to get help. I thought that it would be taken care of, and I wouldn’t have to worry about it anymore.” She then added that she regrets coming forward with the story because the sentence is so light that she went through the ordeal “for nothing.”
Recent public backlash against Howard’s decision was so strong that she recused herself from the case, but not before again attempting to explain by saying that every rape case is different: some deserve life, some deserve 20 years, but this one “deserve[d] probation. This is one of those and I stand by it.”
State District Judge Carter Thompson has now taken over the case, and he has already imposed standard probation terms for Young: he must not have contact with children, must be evaluated for sex offender treatment, and must stay away from pornography. Thompson told Young, “Your previous court gave you a second chance, don’t expect a third chance from this court.”
Finally, legal feelings are conflicted about Thompson’s new probation rules. The Dallas County district attorney, Craig Watkins, wants Thompson to tighten even further the conditions, but Young’s attorney, Scottie Allen, is disappointed because he says the new conditions will “create an undue burden on [Young].”
The victim’s mother plans to file a complaint against Howard with the state commission on judicial conduct because the victim stated that she felt like Howard was “attacking her.”