On Friday, Marissa Alexander, a Floridian mother of three, was sentenced to 20 years in prison for firing a gun into a wall that hurt no one. She claimed it was a warning shot in self defense against a husband with a history of documented domestic abuse toward her and others. Prosecutor Angela Corey (also the prosecutor in the Trayvon Martin case) claims, however, that it was a shot out of anger that could have (but didn't) hurt two children that were in the house at the time. Last week, a few days before sentencing, I asked Angela Corey on our show if she thought justice would be served by Marissa Alexander serving a twenty year term behind bars for an incident in which no one was hurt:
"When you look at the photos...listen to the 911 tape...talk to the children and look in their eyes, like I did, you understand what happened in this case, and then you know that yes, justice was done..."
This made us want to do some quick research to see if anyone else in Florida or anywhere else is doing 20 years in prison for not hurting anyone. What we found instead are a few folks doing less time for hurting more people (sometimes physically, other times financially).
1. Steven N. Lippman, 5 years. Because who do Ponzi schemes really hurt?
|(Amy Beth Bennett, Sun Sentinel / May 11, 2012)|
On the very same day that Marissa Alexander learned that she was going to be sentenced to 20 years in prison, Steven N. Lippman plead guilty to his involvement in a Ponzi scheme with the disgraced Rothstein Law Firm and conspiring to break federal election laws in order to become the largest donor to John McCain’s presidential campaign back in 2008. What sort of time does a high powered lawyer who cheated investors and lent illegitimate influence to a presidential election face? In this case, Lippman will be sentenced this September and is facing a maximum of five years in prison.
2. John Goodman, 16 years. Because letting someone die while you are under the influence is only worse than shooting a wall when you aren't a billionaire and don't adopt your 48 year-old girlfriend to protect your assets.
|Lannis Waters / Palm Beach Post|
In 2010, Goodman was driving drunk when his Bentley ran a stop sign and slammed into 23 year old Scott Wilson's car, killing him. On the same day that Marissa Alexander was given a 20 year bid for her deadly asssault on drywall and a ceiling, the Billionaire heard that his DUI manlaughter case would net him four years less that Alexander. That sentence came just after he adopted his 48 year-old girlfriend as his daughter in what some see as an attempt to protect his assets from a wrongful death civil suit.
3. Robert Cope, 15 years. Because is DECAPITATING someone really worse that hurting no one?
In 2009, Robert Cope decapitated an elderly person. No, he really did. Although no one believes he is really sane, the judge felt he was competent enough to stand trial. But unlike Marissa Alexander, he only committed manslaughter (vs. Aggravated Assault with no intent to kill). He will spend 15 years in prison.
4. Wilfredo Vazquez. 7 years, what you can get for sexually assaulting an immigrant when you are an ICE agent.
Wilfredo Vazquez was an ICE agent in September 2007 when he was transporting a detained Jamaican women between detention centers. While in transport, he stopped by his home and allegedly sexually assaulted her. In 2008, he plead down to a lesser charge of "knowingly causing another person to engage in a sexual act by threatening" and "engaging in a sexual act with another person under his custody." That euphemism for "rape" helped him "win" a sentence of 87 months in prison.
and finally for some perspective...
5. Donald Rattanavong, 18 months. What warning shots can get you in Illinois...when someone dies.
Illinois is one of those states that sort of does/sort of doesn't have one of those "Stand your ground" statutes. With or without a Florida-style "Stand Your Ground," on July 4, 2011, Donald Rattanavong (a former buddhist monk)was at his home in Elgin, Illinois when he saw a group of teenagers approaching. Fearing that they were attempting to burglarize his home, he came out with his pistol and fired three warning shots. One of the teenagers was struck in the head and subsequently died. Rattanavong was sentenced to 18 months in jail this past Friday, the same day Marissa received a sentence nearly 20 times greater. Don't get us wrong, the case is pretty messed up.
If you read this and aren't happy, visit Marissa Alexander's blog.