The sex scandal involving a former assistant football coach at Penn State University has generated public outrage and debate across the country. Outrage over the nature of the charges against Jerry Sandusky have sparked a moral debate over whether head coach Joe Paterno and other school officials, two of whom have been indicted, did enough once they learned of the alleged abuse.
Paterno, who has run the Penn State program since 1966 and won more games than any other major college coach in history, announced his retirement Wednesday after it became evident he didn't do enough to see his former protege brought to justice. The president of the university also is reported to be out.
Sandusky allegedly sexually abused eight boys – preteens and young teenagers – over a 15-year period, according to an article on espn.com. He faces charges of multiple counts of involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, corruption of minors, endangering the welfare of a child, indecent assault and unlawful contact with a minor, as well as single counts of aggravated indecent assault and attempted indecent assault. Prosecutors say they are still looking for other alleged victims.
I get the outrage over the Penn State case. What Sandusky is accused of doing is appalling and it sickens me.
But where is the outrage over cases like that of David Schrumpf, which happened right in our backyard?
Schrumpf is the former child psychologist who was recently sentenced to only 18 months in jail, one year, of home detention and five years probation for abusing three young girls.
How does this man not deserve to serve significant jail time for his crimes?
This man was in a position of trust, a man to whom parents sent their children thinking they would get counseling, not molested. He practiced in Fallston for 20-plus years and worked closely with the Harford school system.
When he was indicted, Schrumpf was facing eight counts each of sex abuse, third-degree sex offense and second-degree assault in the case involving the sisters, and sex abuse of a minor as a continuing course of conduct and 10 counts of sex abuse of a minor.
In August, he entered an Alford plea to one count of child sex abuse and two counts of second-degree assault. The plea was a guilty finding, but was not an admission on Schrumpf's part, rather an acknowledgment that the state could convict him if the case went to trial.
As part of the plea, Schrumpf agreed to a sentence in which he would serve six years in jail.
But at Schrumpf's sentencing Oct. 31, his lawyer cited his client's heart problem that needs to be carefully monitored and asked for a much lighter sentence.
Ask and ye shall receive, at least among some judges. Retired Harford County Circuit Court Judge Maurice Baldwin, who still hears cases regularly, let Schrumpf off easy.
Eighteen months at Harford County Detention Center followed by home detention is hardly a just punishment for what Schrumpf did to three young, vulnerable and innocent young girls.
What's even more outrageous was Schrumpf's attitude at his sentencing. He played the martyr, implying he was sacrificing himself and his reputation by entering a plea to protect his victims who wouldn't have to go through a trial and be subjected to the media coverage.
His reputation is ruined, he had to surrender his license and can't pay his child's college tuition. He'll be on the sex offender registry.
"I dread going out in public as does my family," he told the judge. "My family and I will continue to suffer for years to come."
So what if he has to suffer? He brought it on himself. He should suffer. His family doesn't deserve it, but certainly he deserves anything he gets.
And what about Schrumpf's three victims? They will have to deal with his abuse for the rest of their lives, emotionally, psychologically and physically. They've been traumatized through no fault of their own, yet they have to live with it.
I sat in that courtroom listening to the girls tell the judge how Schrumpf had hurt them. I heard their parents talk about how their lives have changed, how their daughters have changed. I heard the fear, the disgust, the anger in their voices.
They begged Judge Baldwin to go even harsher on the man who abused their girls. Baldwin obviously didn't hear them. Instead he went easy on Schrumpf.
Where is the outrage over that? Why is no one demanding Judge Baldwin explain why Schrumpf can't get the "careful monitoring" he needs in the Department of Corrections? Why can he only get it at the detention center? And why, if he can serve 18 months, can't he serve longer at the detention center? I know 18 months is the max someone can serve at a detention center, but judges make exceptions all the time – why can't there be one in this case and have Schrumpf serve all his time – all six years – in Harford County? Or if, after 18 months, he no longer needs to be monitored so closely, couldn't he be sent to the DOC to finish out his sentence?
All of a sudden six years becomes two and a half, and one of those years will be on home detention, which Baldwin himself even asked if that was really a punishment? Jail, behind bars, sleeping on a cot and sharing a cell? Or confined to my house, with a comfy bed, a hot shower, a telephone, television, computer and room to move? So you can't come and go as you please, I know which one I'd pick.
I'd like some answers from Judge Baldwin. I'd like to know why a man who ruined the lives of three girls gets off relatively easy in the criminal justice system. I'm sure the families of Schrumpf's victims would like some answer, too.
But I'm not holding my breath.