- The Washington Times - Monday, February 19, 2007

Give me a Big Gulp. Or supersize me. Well, I do declare, ladies, better watch where you throw an ice-filled cup from now on.

In my best Southern belle accent, I ask you, whoever thought that showering a hot body hopping all over the highway, using a chilly drink to cool that body down on a sizzling summer day, would land a Sistagirl in the steamy slammer for two long years?

Jessica Hall, a 25-year-old mother of three from Jacksonville, N.C., finds herself facing a sticky situation tomorrow when a Stafford County, Va., judge formally sentences her for “maliciously throwing a McDonald’s cup of ice into a car that cut her off on the highway.”

And the aggressive D.C. driver at whom Hall aimed the cup? No repercussions.

We’ve all driven in Hall’s hot tire tracks a time or two, and I bet the vision of throwing more than regretful gestures has crossed our minds. Hey, I can think of a long list of folks I’d like to lob a McMissile at, including the gridlocked legislators in the Virginia General Assembly who can’t seem to get a transportation bill out of the regular session for yet another year.

After all, traffic congestion played a part in the McMissile case.

Initially groggy, I mistook the McMissile case as part of the WTOP radio morning commuter report or a candidate for Monday’s “Knuckleheads in the News.” But I was awake enough to ask aloud, who is the real knucklehead in this case: the defendant or the jury? Those icy McMissiles can pack more punch than a mint julep. Hall was wrong, but to what criminal standard should she be held? I’d submit a misdemeanor rather than a felony, since no one was seriously injured.

“We didn’t think it would go this far. Two years! What did I do?” Hall said in an interview in the Other Paper.

Justice cannot be served by having the mother of three children sit in a prison cell for two years after suffering a fit of temporary insanity on the highway. Her absence at their vulnerable ages of 4, 6 and 8 could create even bigger consequences for society.

Clearly, as Hall stated from the Rappahannock Regional Jail, “I must have been wrong … but seriously, God, lesson learned.”

Not the best example for the young ones, true. But it’s understandable that this harried housewife, whose husband is on his third tour of duty in Iraq, might have been a little on edge when the bobbing and weaving driver from the District cut her off, not once but twice.

Ironically, the impatient driver told the OP that he was maneuvering in slow traffic and didn’t even notice Hall.

The tossing trouble got started when they were traveling along the congested Interstate 95 corridor on July 2. Hall was attempting to follow her father’s truck on the unfamiliar route to a family gathering in New York.

She was driving with a carload of children and her pregnant sister, who was forced against the dashboard when Hall swerved to avoid the target of her impending McMissile.

Admittedly angry, she lost it and flung the cup over her car and into the other car, where it flew across the driver and landed on his girlfriend. Her showered victims — Pete Ballin, 36, and Eliza Fowle, 28, — called police. Surely, in hindsight, Hall wishes she had done that herself.

But even Mr. Ballin and Ms. Fowle think the two-year sentence for Hall is too harsh.

“I think this is way too much of a conviction for her actions. This is just to me absolutely ridiculous,” Ms. Fowle said, the Associated Press reported. She added that community service seems more appropriate.

However, the Stafford judge instructed the jury that any physical object can be considered a missile if propelled by any force, including throwing. Thus the infamous “McMissile” case at hand.

(Let those jury instructions serve as a warning to all lazy adults who refuse to clear their cars of ice glaciers in the winter and sneaky children who pitch snowballs and water balloons.)

The Stafford prosecutor argued that Hall could have caused more damage or injuries by throwing the big cup. So could the other driver by changing lanes. Neither did. Unfortunately, we have witnessed a lot of folks get off with much more lenient punishment for more egregious crimes.

Still, the Stafford jurors took their duties seriously. They convicted Hall, who has an otherwise clean record, of the felony charge of maliciously throwing a missile into an occupied vehicle. They also recommended the minimum of two years in prison (she could have gotten 10). The judge can only reduce the sentence, which he should.

As it is, this unemployed mother, now with a felony record, will have a hard time getting a job and earning a living to help care for her children. They are currently separated from her, being cared for by relatives.

As it is, Hall reportedly is receiving food stamp assistance based on her husband’s $30,000 annual salary. So much for supporting our troops, but that’s a different column for a different day.

Awaiting sentencing in jail for a month, Hall already has served more than enough time. Fine her. Give her community service. Give her probation. But send her home.

This Sistagirl doesn’t deserve such a supersize sentence.

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