10-year term is ludicrously punitive
When unlicensed contractor Henry Leo Kaiser was sentenced recently to 10 years in prison for not finishing some home repairs, I imagined Gene Wilder in the movie "Stir Crazy" after the judge sentenced his character to life for a bungled bank robbery: "Wha! Wha! Wha! You sure you got the right case, your honor?!"
Ten years for a repair fraud in which the victim lost $42,000? I thought, man, there're people who killed guys in Hawaii and got less than 10 years.
Kaiser's main offense, it turns out, was missing his original sentencing date, where he was expected to get probation. That apparently ticked off Circuit Judge Steven Alm, who banished the hapless handyman to a decade in the slammer.
Am I crazy or have a lot of other people committed a lot worse crimes and gotten off a hell of a lot easier? Let's check the record:
» Former United Public Workers union leader convicted of 101 counts of fraud, embezzlement and money laundering. Sentence: five years.
» Pearl Harbor shipyard worker stole and sold $200,000 in submarine parts as scrap metal. Sentence: 3 years.
» Former Honolulu Liquor Commission investigator guilty of racketeering and extortion for taking bribes from bar owners. Sentence: 22 months.
» Deborah Pudiquet, guilty of defrauding state of $160,000 in welfare assistance. Sentence: One year.
» Famous skateboarder Christian Hosoi guilty of importing 1.5 pounds of crystal meth into Hawaii. Sentence: Five years, 10 months.
GRANTED, SOME of those are federal sentences, not state. But come on. The head of a huge union embezzles hundreds of thousands of dollars and gets five years while a handyman who didn't finish a $42,000 job gets 10 years?
Here are a couple of people who also got sentenced to 10 years in prison:
» Martin Finer of Kauai: Possession and trafficking of thousands of child pornography images.
» Fidel Eviota of Waianae: First degree theft and money laundering for stealing $750,000 from state construction projects.
Child pornography and massive construction fraud ... now THOSE crimes rate 10 years in prison.
I'm all for tough sentencing, especially against predators who rape, kill and rob innocent victims. I just don't think Henry Leo Kaiser is that kind of a threat to society. I suggest he clip out this column, get a new lawyer and plead on his knees with the judge to reconsider his sentence.
Charles Memminger, the National Society of Newspaper Columnists' 2004 First Place Award winner for humor writing, appears Sundays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org