Justice Conflicts

Friday, January 17, 2020

Though there are two articles in today's issue that I am referencing, there is one in particular that deeply disturbs me.  This is the Tshombe High/Amanda Henley one for abuse of an autistic child.  They were originally charged with aggravated child abuse which carries punishment of 8-12 years.The prosecutor said "he beat the child (9 years old and autistic) with switches, an extension cord, and wire hangers and also burned him with the end of a cigarette”.  The judge said the mother allowed the abuse to go on.

The prosecutor said the treatment “went beyond the realm of exceptional cruelty”.  The prosecutor  said “the scars from the latter punishment and the trauma from the experience “will stay with him for a lifetime.”  The pair were allowed to plead guilty to attempted aggravated child abuse with a lesser punishment of three to six years. He got five years and she got 42 months (3.5 years).  They were pled out as “range one standard offenders" who are eligible for parole consideration after serving 30 percent of the terms. Ms. Henley has 19 misdemeanors and he had four felonies by the time he was 20.  He is 23 years old and she is 32 years old.

Now those are the facts.  Following is the part that deeply disturbs me:

1) When you are looking at the physical evidence of the violent and horrific abuse, how do you accept/allow a plea of “attempted aggravated child abuse"?

2) How are they range 1 standard offenders when according to TN law:
Mitigated = 0 prior offenses
Range I = 0 to 1 (prior) offenses
Range II = (prior) multiple offenses 2-4
Range III (persistent) = more than 5 (prior) offenses
Range IV (career) = multiple prior felonies of varying offenses

The other article is about the Shelbyville man, age 37, who "was sentenced to 50 years followed by 15 years supervised release" for sexual exploitation of a child (his biological child). The  U.S. attorney, in this case, stated that the sentencing “demonstrates the Department of Justice’s dedication to protecting these vulnerable children and punishing those that seek to cause them harm”.  Now he got what he deserved.  This article states that "the case was brought as part of Project Safe Childhood which was launched in 2006 to combat the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse."

I don’t need a law degree (and though I have a BS, no degree is needed) to see that Mr. High nor Ms. Henley met the criteria to be pled out as Range 1 standard offenders.  There was nothing standard about what that 9 year old suffered.  Then Mr. High and Ms. Henley want consideration of the 18 months they already served. Obviously they didn’t learn any positive lessons.

As a mother and grandmother, I am deeply disturbed and as an intelligent human being, I am perplexed.  Both children will suffer life-long from their abuse and yet the sentencing is so different. Makes absolutely no sense.

Jacquelyn J. Atkerson


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