- The Washington Times - Friday, May 26, 2006

From combined dispatches

LINCOLN, Neb. — Nebraska will appeal a judge’s decision not to send a convicted child molester to prison because his slight, 5-foot-1 stature might subject him to abuse behind bars, the state attorney general said yesterday.

Attorney General Jon Bruning called the man’s sentence “excessively lenient.”

Richard W. Thompson’s felony conviction Tuesday for repeatedly sexually assaulting a 12-year-old girl brought up to 10 years in prison. Cheyenne County District Judge Kristine Cecava sentenced Thompson to 10 years probation, citing concern for his safety.

“I don’t care if he’s 3 feet tall,” Mr. Bruning said. “In the state of Nebraska, if you abuse a child, you deserve time behind bars. A sentence of probation is not enough.”

Marla Sohl with the Nebraska Domestic Violence Sexual Assault Coalition said the judge’s decision shows more concern for the criminal than the victim.

Judge Cecava could not be reached for comment. During the sentencing, the judge said the crimes deserved a long prison sentence but that Thompson was too small to survive in a state prison.

Thompson, 50, had sexual contact over a couple of months last year with the 12-year-old girl, said Sidney Police Chief Larry Cox. He was sentenced on two felony sexual assault charges.

As part of the probation, he will be electronically monitored for the first four months and was told never to be alone with someone under age 18 or date or live with a woman whose children were under 18. He was also ordered to get rid of his pornography.

Thompson’s attorney, Donald Miller, had no comment on the ruling. Cheyenne County Attorney Paul Schaub, who prosecuted the case, did not return a call seeking comment.

Joe Mangano, secretary of the National Organization of Short Statured Adults, agreed with the judge’s assessment that Thompson would face peril while in prison because of his height.

“I’m assuming a short inmate would have a much more difficult time than a large inmate,” said Mr. Mangano, who is 5 feet 4 inches tall. “It’s good to see somebody looking out for someone who is a short person.”

The judge’s reasoning confounded Amy Miller, legal director for the Nebraska chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union.

“I have never heard of anything like this before,” she said.

Using Thompson’s height as a reason to avoid sending him to prison is surprising, because neither the U.S. nor state constitution provides protections based on physical stature, she said.

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