Gabriela Compton Sentencing: Lawyer Weighs in on the Controversy and Our Prurience

It appears a person with an actual law degree also thinks it's a bit strange that former middle school teacher's aide Gabriela Compton got probation for having sex with a student, groping another, and sending some nudie pictures that the teenaged boys passed around.

Slate posted an online article yesterday sending people to or blog post on the sentencing, and it also directed readers to the sentencing-policy blog from Ohio State University law professor Douglas Berman (He got his law degree from Harvard, so we'll trust him on this one.)

Despite not being an expert on Arizona law, he still appears to think it's a bit strange that someone can get probation for having sex with a middle-school student.

Since we really had the only media story with a detailed account of what happened, he kind of had to use our story to explain it -- offering a disclaimer about the story being "prurient"...twice.

Fair enough, the word "cock" does make an appearance.

Moral of the story is, Berman says Compton's sentencing "reinforces my sense that adult females sexually involved with under-age boys sometimes get much more lenient sentencing treatment than similarly situated males."

Berman points to the Associated Press article about her sentencing, which says Compton initially faced seven charges -- including three counts of sexual abuse -- that could have landed her in prison for at least 39 years.

Instead, she took a plea deal that ended with Compton being sentenced to a lifetime of probation with sex-offender terms.

Berman's take:

I am not a specialist on Arizona sex offender laws and sentencing, but I suspect that absent the plea deal, this sex offender was potentially facing decades of mandatory prison time.  I also suspect that the judge's sentencing decision to give a teacher's aide who preyed on students only probation (albeit a lifetime term) would likely be subject to lots of controversy... if the aide was a man and the victims were girls.  But when a woman molests (willing and eager?) young teenagers, then sentencing outcomes are (justifiably?) seen in a somewhat different light.

Our readers happened to agree that the sentence didn't seem right, as about 73 percent said it wasn't a fair sentence in our highly unscientific poll. The comments on that post reflect a similar sentiment.

Slate also has some good links to studies on this type of thing, as well as other cases, so check that out too.

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Matthew Hendley
Contact: Matthew Hendley