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Editorials

Crime & punishment: Apropos sentences

| Monday, March 16, 2015, 9:00 p.m.

Once wrote Cicero, the great Roman political and social philosopher: “The greatest incitement to crime is the hope of escaping punishment.” Two recent cases highlight the fine line two judges navigated in hopes of negating such incitement and to punish criminals appropriately.

• Allegheny County Common Pleas Judge Jill Rangos, whom we've criticized previously for wet-noodle sentences, threw the book at convicted police dog killer John Rush of Stowe last week. Judge Rangos used every legal avenue available to her to send Mr. Rush to prison for 17¾ to 44 years. That time includes aggravated assaults against other police officers, including an attempt to disarm one. A manifest and recidivist threat to society received his due.

• Also last week, U.S. District Judge Arthur Schwab sentenced former Millvale police officer Nicole Murphy of Shaler to three years' probation (the first year with home confinement) and 300 hours of community service for thrice using a Taser on a handcuffed prisoner. The community service will involve lecturing law enforcement groups about such abuses. Federal prosecutors called that sentence a wet noodle. But it's a more productive punishment than locking up Ms. Murphy, Judge Schwab said. An eminently rehabilitatable criminal has been given a second chance.

Neither Rush nor Murphy escaped punishment. The “incitement” for each has been stricken. What could be more appropriate?

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