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A Salute to Shame Sentencing and the Judge Who Popularized It

By William Peacock, Esq. | Last updated on

Shame has long been a part of criminal justice, from sentences in the pillory and stocks to the modern mug shot. But our modern system has mostly lost its creativity, with jail, prison, probation, and occasionally drug treatment as the default choices.

Some judges dare to be different, however. Some judges take things back to the good old days and use public shaming as a corrective tool and alternative to incarceration. Though these sentences are rare, they are always good for a laugh. Unless, of course, you are the defendant.

Recent Hits

Last month, Judge Gayle Williams-Byers, of Euclid, Ohio, ordered Edmond Aviv, 62, to sit on a street corner for five hours, holding a sign that said,

"I AM A BULLY! I pick on children that are disabled, and I am intolerant of those that are different from myself. My actions do not reflect an appreciation for the diverse South Euclid community that I live in."

The Associated Press has a picture of the public humiliation, which was ordered after Aviv pled no contest to a disorderly conduct charge related to bullying of his neighbor and her disabled family members. She claimed that over the past fifteen years, Aviv had, among other things: spit on her, directed racial slurs at her (while she held her disabled adopted African American children), and placed feces on her son's car and on a handicap ramp.

Aviv was unhappy with his punishment, stating, "The judge destroyed me. This isn't fair at all."

Another interesting sentence, from earlier this year, was imposed by the king of Shame Sentencing: Judge Michael Cicconetti.

Cicconetti gave a defendant in a drunk driving case two choices: five days in jail, or view the bodies of two victims of fatal accidents and take an alcohol treatment course. Jonathan Tarase, 27, received the punishment after pleading no contest to a drunken driving charge, filed in response to an accident where Tarase's car went through a stop sign and hit another vehicle, injuring a husband and wife, reports the Cleveland Plain Dealer. 

Cicconetti's Greatest Hits

The creative DUI sentence was only the latest in a long string of sentences that Cicconetti is known for. Our personal favorites include:

  • In January, Judge Cicconetti gave Jeffrey Gregg a choice: 170 days in jail or 400 hours of community service in a Santa hat, after he posed as a Salvation Army bell ringer and stole the pot of cash;
  • In 2003, two teens who vandalized a nativity scene were ordered to lead a donkey through town, carrying a sign that said, "Sorry for the jackass offense."
  • He offered to cut the sentence of a man who shot his dog down to ten days if he would dress up like a "Safety Pup" and visit local schools;
  • An 18-year-old who stole  from a porn shop was blindfolded and told to sit outside with a sign reading, "see no evil."
  • Three men who solicited sex from an undercover officer were ordered to dress like chickens while carrying a sign that read "No Chicken Ranch in Painesville," (a reference, apparently, to the Nevada's famous "Chicken Ranch").

Cicconetti's "creative justice" philosophy has made him enough of a celebrity to get his own Wikipedia page (where even more creative punishments are listed) and his actions have inspired other judges to follow suit.

Public shaming sentences: nonsense or an effective alternative to incarceration? Sound out on Facebook.

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