This just in: Regular folks have more sense than judges.
Jerry Jackson Lee got the nickname "The Teflon Doc" because he twice avoided conviction on serious charges in Columbia County trials. The Teflon finally wore off the ex-doctor last week when he was convicted of sexually assaulting a 9-year-old girl.
The difference in the three trials? The first two were bench trials, in which Lee's innocence was decided by judges. The third time Lee's guilt was decided by a jury of his peers.
And those peers clearly didn't like what they saw.
There is little doubt that Lee was also judged as a professional "peer" in those first two trials. He was a doctor, protected by lawyers from the consequences of his actions.
It started in 2001, when Columbia County investigators say Lee beat the daylights out of his wife - sexually assaulting her, dragging her by the hair and beating her with a wooden paddle.
Under Lee's control, she later recanted - and said she'd beaten herself up. Judge Carlisle Overstreet either bought the story, or doubted he could justify a conviction without help from the victim. Lee got off all but a misdemeanor battery charge.
Before her recantation of the beating, Lee's wife helpfully pointed investigators to Lee's cache of weapons, where they found a fully-automatic rifle.
Back to court Lee went. Judge Bernard Mulherin, who has since retired, acquitted Lee after mulling the damage a conviction could do to Lee's professional status.
We never were able to figure out why, if Lee was innocent, Mulherin didn't give back his machine gun.
Lee moved away, attempting to continue his gynecological practice and getting in all sorts of trouble ill-reflecting the regard in which his professional peers held him.
What kind of trouble? Well, among other things, he had to give up his medical license because he injected a cancer patient with Demerol, and then helped himself to a shot right there in front of her.
That was in 2004. Lee returned to the only place that seemed to tolerate his behavior: here. It wasn't long before Columbia County deputies got the call to the Lee residence again.
This time, Lee's wife said her soon-to-be ex-husband had sexually assaulted a 9-year-old girl, whose identity we in the media attempt to protect even though we know everyone reads between the lines.
The hero is Lee's son, who protected his mom by decking the sorry excuse for a father, whom the cops then hauled to jail.
Legal maneuvering delayed justice for nearly two years. During that time, Lee was in the company of a new set of peers at the Columbia County Detention Center, while his shattered family, at last shed of his dominating influence, tried to pick up the pieces.
Finally, this past week, Lee faced a jury. His Teflon coating protected him from conviction on three counts of child molestation.
But one charge stuck: aggravated sexual battery. The single-count conviction has a mandatory minimum 10-year prison term, with up to 20 years possible.
Sentencing will be up to Judge Overstreet, who presided over Lee's trial. Lee's lawyer likely will seek the minimum, which would be 10 years minus time served. That would set Lee free around 2015, when he'll be a spry 55 years old; his victim barely will be 19.
Here's a better idea, judge: Take a lesson from jurors who saw through the legal fog and the old-boy privilege to recognize the vile human before them, the beast who grinned and nodded at his lawyer after being found guilty of sexually assaulting a little girl.
The book, Judge Overstreet, says you can lock Lee up for 20 years. Do it. Give the Teflon Doc all the time he needs to bond with his brand-new peer group - the one that, finally, includes none of us.
Barry L. Paschal is publisher of The Columbia County News-Times. E-mail comments to barry.paschal at newstimesonline.com.
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