Barry Paschal's recent criticism and praise of Judge Duncan Wheale confuses me. Complimenting Judge Wheale for relegating the sexual crime cases of Greenbrier High School students to juvenile court, and then condemning his sentencing of William Stulb, convicted of a lesser charge than the Greenbrier students, does not make sense. ...
Paschal told me he had never read the transcript from Stulb's trial nor sentencing. Passing judgment on an honorable judge, dragging the respective families in this trial back into the spotlight, without taking the time to investigate the facts is, to say the least, disappointing.
I attended sentencing for Stulb on Dec. 19. Judge displayed a masterful command of Godly discernment and wisdom. He delayed the sentencing date, allowing him to assemble in his courtroom as many of the people involved in the events that occurred the night of the incident. This included parents and current college students, many of whom were in high school, and were in attendance that night.
Five young people stood before Wheale as he questioned them individually concerning their participation and responsibility in events that night. Although none were formally charged with any wrongdoing, Wheale made each acutely aware of the impact of the sentence being imposed upon Stulb.
In addition, Wheale questioned the judgment of parents who left a 16- and 14-year-old home alone, overnight, thus giving them the opportunity to have a spend-the-night, mixed-gender sleep-over. Parents of the victim had to also take responsibility for letting a 14-year-old spend the night in a house where no parent was home. Parents of the defendant listened to Wheale's judgments on their parenting skills, discipline that could or should have been passed out over the years. Everyone felt the pain of the moment.
I believe the facts of this case have been misrepresented by The News-Times. Court testimony shows, despite what The News-Times incorrectly reported, that there was no forcible entry, and the fact is there was no intercourse. Despite this, what Stulb did that night as an 18-year-old was wrong, and he knows it.
Wheale asked many of the people who stood before him, including me, what type of sentence should be imposed. I had tears in my eyes while listening to the victim's father. I applaud both his courage and maturity in his response: "I don't want this young man to go to prison, I do want him to be incarcerated for some time period. Is there somewhere in Columbia County that could happen?" He at no time said he wanted Stulb to go to prison, contrary to the misleading inferences of The Times.
The criticism of Stulb's sentencing is without foundation. A judge has broad latitude in applying sentencing based on the merits of each individual case. The charges applied to the Greenbrier incident are equal to or more serious than Stulb's, and yet they will be tried in juvenile court. I agree with this ruling, and perhaps Stulb's case should have been sent to juvenile court.
After reading Paschal's Dec. 21 column, I viewed page 13 of The News-Times to see pictures of convicted sex offenders. Three of those offenders had charges similar to or worse than Stulb, yet all of their sentences were less than his...
For those who sat in his courtroom during the trial and sentencing, Wheale acted within the confines of his responsibility. Furthermore, if anyone had been in that courtroom, they would have seen one of our wisest judges.
Stulb did apologize to the victim, her family, his family and friends for all the pain and suffering he had inflicted on them. Both families have been traumatized and scarred. Mr. Paschal, please consider all the hurtful implications to these two families, and other similar families in the future and the impact of your carelessly worded reporting.
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