Thursday, October 05, 2006

Bird By Bird

The sentencing saga of convicted ex-teacher Janelle Bird ended in an exhausted whimper, yesterday, rather than a rapturous bang. Imposing common sense and judicial impartiality on a proceeding that could have spun out of control after the sensationalist publicity of a few days ago, circuit court trial judge Nick Geeker ordered the former school teacher to serve two 2-year stretches in prison, one on each count of illegal sexual activity with the under-aged school student with whom she had a lengthy sexual affair.

The sentences will be served concurrently, allowing Bird's likely release in about 20 months. Her lawyer is seeking to have her released on bail while pursuing an appeal.

Derek Pivnick has the details in today's Pensacola News Journal. Sensibly, Bird herself admitted in court "The only person to blame in this situation is me." The judge agreed, adding that "he wasn't convinced that Bird was as naive as the defense contended," Pivnick reports.

All in all, it strikes us as both a fair and merciful sentence. While we wouldn't wish prison on anyone, news reports should give confidence that the judge based his decision on a reasoned analysis of the law, the facts, and the indivdualized circumstances of the defendant, unimpeded by earlier media hoopla. The system worked.

Despite the appeal plan," Pivnick writes, "no one on the defense side complained about the two-year prison sentence. She could have been sentenced to a maximum 30 years in prison."

For those who can't get enough of the story -- and shame on you -- WEAR-TV aired portions of a lengthy interview with Janelle Bird last night. A transcript is available on line here. The television station also is threatening to broadcast the entire interview on Sunday, October 9.

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