Here’s a story about our legal system that leaves me speechless. It has to do with a Nebraska man convicted of several incidents of sexual abuse of a 12-year-old girl. He’s 5’1″ in height, so here’s what happened to him:

“Cheyenne County District Judge Kristine Cecava issued the sentence….She told Richard W. Thompson that his crimes deserved a long prison sentence but that he was too small to survive in a state prison.

“Though he could have been sentenced to 10 years behind bars, he ended up with 10 years of probation instead.”

Too short to go to prison? Yes, you read that right. Here’s more:

“As part of the probation, he will be electronically monitored for the first four months and was told never to be alone with someone under age 18 or date or live with a woman whose children were under 18. He was also ordered to get rid of his pornography.”

And, uh, so what’s the penalty if Thompson violates probation? Another 10 years of probation?

Even the the local ACLU was reportedly surprised. But not Joe Mangano, then secretary of the National Organization of Short Statured Adults, who hailed Cecava’s ruling as a landmark victory in the battle against height discrimination:

“‘I’m assuming a short inmate would have a much more difficult time than a large inmate,’ said Mangano, who is 5 feet 4 inches tall. ‘It’s good to see somebody looking out for someone who is a short person.'”

Fortunately, saner heads prevailed at the organization–and Mangano has been swiftly dumped as secretary. The best commentary so far on Cecava’s ruling comes from Carlin Romano at the Chronicle of Higher Education. He writes:

“It’s the kind of inspired reasoning that gets judges their fair share of Marc Galanter’s brilliant study and compendium, Lowering the Bar: Lawyer Jokes and Legal Culture (University of Wisconsin Press, 2005):

    Defendant (in a loud voice): ‘Justice! Justice! I demand justice!’

    Judge: ‘Silence! The defendant will please remember that he is in a courtroom.'”