Image courtesy www.patch.com
81 year-old Thomas Holliday of Lower Makefield, Bucks County was sentenced recently to 935 to 1,870 years in prison by The Honorable Albert J. Cepparulo. In January, Holliday was convicted of 234 counts related to possession of child pornography and sexually abusing a girl for four years and filming the abuse, beginning when the girl was 14 years old. This is believed to be the longest sentence ever imposed in Bucks County. Judge Cepparulo stated that the lengthy sentence will hopefully deter other child predators from committing similar crimes.
This case demonstrates the inflexibility of the judicial options for punishment. Judge Cepparulo is a fair Judge, with a background in criminal defense, and a former Penn law professor. He clearly thought that Mr. Holliday’s crimes deserved a special sentence, as evidenced by the record-breaking nature of the sentence imposed. Yet the criminal justice system restrains his creativity and limits him almost exclusively to imposing a punishment consisting of a term of years. The absurdity of sentencing an 81 year old man to 935 to 1870 years is obvious, but when you think about it, it really wouldn’t be any less absurd if the defendant was 40 years old. Why does the system only impose jail?
Look to the situation of a white collar defendant who has never been incarcerated and would tremble in fear if locked in a cell with street level drug dealers, gang members, or assorted other tough guys in a prison setting. Compare that to rank and file gang members who have been to jail before, maybe live on the street, and are used to being in rough situations. For some, returning to prison is like coming home. Are they serving the same time? Are the sentences proportional? Our system treats both cases the same, and sentencing guidelines would be identical in both situations. There are many, many other such situations in our system. It would be great if legislators gave the judiciary the flexibility to deal with disparate situations by imposing creative sanctions that make sense, rather than terms of years that are impossible for an 81 year-old man to serve.
What do you think of this prison sentence? In this situation, would a punishment other than a term of incarceration make sense? Let us know your thoughts in the comment section.