Thursday, October 26, 2006

Let The Punishment Fit The Crime

A few weeks ago I blogged about two teenage boys who were sentenced to six and five years respectively in state prison, for "conspiracy to obtain a handgun" after an alleged terror plot was allegedly broken up.

As I understand it, the two boys who were sentenced earlier this month, and two other (younger) boys, had been talking about shooting up their high school, and trying without success to get their hands on a weapon, when one of the kids told his girlfriend, who told the school, and that was the end of their little terror plot.

Initially charged with "terrorism", they pled guilty to the considerably lesser charge of "conspiracy to obtain a handgun", but they are still going away for a long, long time.

My item on this story was picked up by Start The Revolution dot Org, a very promising European-based site to which I have been contributing a bit lately, and from there it went to where it has attracted nearly two hundred comments (so far)! I haven't read all the comments but it seems to me that most of them support the sentences which were handed out in this case.

I agree that those kids did wrong. And I agree that they should be punished.

But I do have some questions.

For example, if it's right for somebody to spend six years in prison for trying to get a gun and talking about using it, how long should somebody spend in prison if he stole weapons from the government, sold them to foreigners and kept the money?

Would you take into account the number of illegal sales he made? And would you consider the dollar value of those transactions?

What if he sold those weapons into situations where they could possibly be used against American troops? Would you be inclined to go a bit harsher on him?

And what if he worked for the Pentagon at the time? Would that make any difference?

Here's a story for you (from the Boston Globe):

For selling weapons belonging to the federal government, nineteen different times, through a Saudi auctioneer, and for pocketing $350,000 in the process, former Pentagon employee Ronald W. Wiseman has been sentenced to ... wait for it, now ... eighteen months in prison!

He stole hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of military equipment! And sold it illegally on the international black market! He defrauded the Pentagon, of whom he was an employee, in time of war! Eighteen months!

Apparently Wiseman got off easy because he hadn't engaged in any fantasies about shooting up his high school!

Yeah, that must be it...