Watertown, NY – A judge in upstate New York is facing an irate public because he didn’t give jail time to a school bus driver who pleaded guilty to the rape of a 14-year-old girl.
Jefferson County Supreme Court Judge James P. McClusky sentenced 26-year-old Shane M. Piche to 10 years of probation after he pleaded guilty to third-degree rape, according to the Watertown Daily Times.
Piche will also have to register as a Level 1 sex offender, meaning he is considered at low risk for re-offending and that his name will not be included in online sex offender databases.
He was working as a school bus driver in the Watertown City School District when he met the student he would eventually have sex with, the Watertown Daily Times reported.
However, the incident occurred at Piche’s home on Ridge Road, not on a school bus.
Numerous people expressed outrage at the fact that the former school bus driver would not have to serve any jail time.
"I wish Shane Piche would have received time in jail for the harm he caused to my child," the victim’s mother told WWNY. "He took something from my daughter she will never get back and has caused her to struggle with depression and anxiety."
It wasn’t clear what led the judge to impose such a lenient sentence but prosecutors were quick to point out that the crime committed by Piche did not involve a use of force.
He was charged because the girl he had sex with was under the age of consent, not because she did not consent, CBS News reported.
Jefferson County Chief Assistant District Attorney Patricia Dziuba defended a lack of severe punishment for having sex with children and said people may have a "preconceived notion that his was a violent, physical act.”
“I’m not saying this wasn't terribly traumatic for the victim, but the charges were based on the lack of ability to consent based on age,” Dziuba explained.
She said she thought people were outraged because they thought there was an automatic jail sentence for rape, and there isn’t.
"Certainly I understand the notion that well, for rape you go to prison — in a perfect world that would be the case," Dziuba said. "But that's not always the case. There's certain levels, just like every other crime."
The prosecutor also pointed out that letting Piche plead guilty to a lesser charge that had similar sentencing guidelines saved the victim from having to testify before a grand jury and then later in court, CBS News reported.
"It's a tough spot — our job is to do justice, and you have to take a lot of things into consideration to do that," Dziuba said.
She pointed out that out that the state’s sex offender program has stringent monitoring and treatment requirements that would ban Piche from working with children in any capacity, CBS News reported.
Any violation of the sex offender program would mean jail time for Piche, the prosecutor said.
Also, the former school bus driver was initially charged with giving alcohol to two other girls at his home in addition to the rape charges, CBS News reported.
The number of victims of a crime is a factor in deciding what level sex offender status should be given to an offender.
In his sentencing of Piche, McClusky noted that there was only one victim and therefore he should be considered the lowest tier of offender, CBS News reported.
There are more than 50,000 signatures on an online petition calling for McClusky's removal.