Today I accompanied my friend Todd Beckett to the sentencing of the young man that ran him over and dragged Todd one city block. (If you need the back-story, find out what happened here).
In the DC courtroom at 9:30 am, Todd confronted for the first time the convicted hit-and-run driver. A Salvadorian man of 19, who was little more than a high school senior, stood with his head hung. Todd had opted to attend and speak at the sentencing though it was not required. Todd's attorney made a short set of remarks.
When the judge allotted Todd's time to speak, Todd said a few words about his struggles and the tragic changes he has faced, but he largely relied on a written statement prepared by his longtime friend, Jennifer Goldstein, a federal judge. Jen addressed the statement to the court and over a few pages described Todd's character, his many athletic, intellectual, and personal accomplishments, and the type of man he is to his family, friends and community. The impact was huge. The courtroom was more silent than ever, people hung on ever word. The defendant was sobbing. The judge was transfixed and literally fumbled for words to reckon with what was said. Todd returned to his seat and sat down quietly.
Following Todd's statement, the defense attorney ineptly lumbered into his statement of how defendant had suffered and toiled with his actions, which implicitly drew a comparison to Todd whether he meant to or not. The defendant turned around to Todd with a very long face and wet eyes and said that he was sorry and remorseful of his actions.
What happened next amazed me: The judge had prepared a sentence for the convicted man. But it was plain to see that the convict was a little more than a child himself and he had a 11 month old baby. Through a series of short exchanges between Todd and judge across the court room, both agreed that prolonged jail time neither served any valuable lesson to the defendant, nor returned the young man to society in any shape to contribute or make anything of himself. So it appeared they (the judge with Todd's input) suspended the jail time entirely, put the young man in a half way house so he could work, mandated community service, and 3 years probation.
My impression was that that the judge had initially planned on imposing jail time. The result of that change will undoubtedly alter the course of convicted man's life.