Tuesday, November 29, 2005

You've Got Mail

That is, unless you were a victim of Shawn Gementera, who was convicted of stealing mail from mailboxes in San Francisco in 2001. Mr. Gementera's punishment was two months in jail, and to stand in the local post office with a double sided sign stating that he was a mail thief and this was his punishment.

Mr. Gementera appealed the ruling as cruel and unusual punishment. While this may be unusual in today's legal system, I don't think it is cruel by any means. Public humiliation has been used for years to punish criminals. And, this punishment serves as a double edge. Not only does it punish the thief, it is a deterrent to others who might consider committing such a crime.

Mr. Gementera's attorney has appealed this to the Supreme Court. I doubt it will be heard.

'I stole mail'
By James Vicini
Mon Nov 28,11:40 AM ET

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday allowed a California man to be sentenced to spend a day outside a San Francisco post office wearing a signboard stating, "I stole mail. This is my punishment."

The justices rejected an appeal by Shawn Gementera, who argued that this was designed to publicly shame and humiliate him. He said it violated the Sentencing Reform Act and the constitutional ban on cruel and unusual punishment.

Gementera pleaded guilty to mail theft after the police arrested him and an accomplice in 2001 for stealing letters from several mailboxes in San Francisco.

U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker in 2003 sentenced Walker to two months in prison, to be followed by three years of supervised release.

The conditions for his release required Gementera to spend four days at a post office observing patrons inquire about lost or stolen mail, to write letters of apology to the victims of his crime, to give three lectures at high schools about his crime and to wear the two-sided sign for one eight-hour day.

Gementera appealed the legality of the signboard requirement, but a U.S. appeals court panel, by a 2-1 vote, ruled against him in August.

The appeals court said the record in the case showed that the judge imposed the condition for the legitimate purpose of rehabilitation.

It said the judge could have imposed a lengthier prison term instead of the signboard condition, and added that crimes and the resulting penalties nearly always cause shame and embarrassment.

(Full Story)

H/T Linnet

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