US

After Judge Gives No Jail Time to Bus Driver Who Raped Girl, Thousands Sign Petiton to Have Him Removed

By Zachary Stieber

Thousands of outraged people want a judge fired because he gave a bus driver guilty of raping a 14-year-old girl no jail time.

Judge James McClusky decided that Shane Piche, 26, a bus driver in Watertown, New York, should get no jail time despite pleading guilty to the third-degree rape of a 14-year-old girl who was on his route.

“Tell the New York Commission of Judicial Conduct: ‘Judge James McClusky just let a child rapist off with a slap on the wrist. Remove him from his position immediately for his blatant disregard for survivors of sexual assault,'” wrote Shauna Thomas, who started the petition.

“One victim is one too many, and Judge McClusky had a responsibility to hold Piche accountable. Judge McClusky is failing as a justice, and he should be removed from his position immediately.”

The petition on MoveOn has over 61,000 signatures with a goal of 75,000.

Judge James McClusky. (Jefferson County Supreme Court)

The mother of the 14-year-old girl said that Piche bought her daughter gifts and invited her and other minors to his house, reported WWNY.

Piche then gave them alcohol and raped the girl.

Piche was sentenced on April 25 to 10 years of probation and will have to register as a Level 1 sex offender, the lowest possible registration.

The district attorney’s office wanted Piche to be a Level 2 sex offender but Judge McClusky said because Piche had no prior arrests and there was only one victim in this plea, Level 1 was more appropriate, reported the Watertown Daily News.

Piche’s attorney said after the sentencing that Piche was pained by what happened.

“He’ll be a felon for the rest of his life. He’s on the sex offender registry for a long time. Maybe not the rest of his life because of the level but this isn’t something that didn’t cause him pain and this isn’t something that didn’t have consequences,” said Eric Swartz, according to WWNY.

The victim’s mother disagreed with the judge’s decision.

“I wish Shane Piche would have received time in jail for the harm he caused to my child,” the victim’s mother wrote in a statement. “He took something from my daughter she will never get back and has caused her to struggle with depression and anxiety.”

She told WWNY that the family agreed to the plea deal but only because they were made to believe that there would be no jail time either way. “Why would I put my daughter through [a trial]?” she added.

She said that she supports the petition.

“If it’s totally on the judge to make that choice, (to not jail Piche) he should be taken off the bench, but if the system needs to be corrected, then they need to figure out a way to correct it because this is not okay,” she said. “This is a family’s worst nightmare.”

The judge has not commented publicly on the sentence. A court spokesman said that he has been receiving numerous phone calls after letting off the rapist.

“The judge’s chambers have received numerous vitriolic calls regarding the case, the vast majority from out of state, by individuals who know nothing about the facts and circumstances of the case, thanks to social media,” state court spokesman Lucian Chalfen wrote in an email to The Associated Press.

Chalfen said the judge was “well within” the sentencing range for this type of negotiated plea conviction and that the maximum state prison time he could have received would have been from 1 1/3 to 4 years.

Jefferson County chief assistant district attorney Patricia Dziuba declined to criticize the sentence. She said the prosecutor sought up to six months of jail time along with probation, supervision, and treatment; the sentence included no treatment requirements.

The New York State Coalition Against Sexual Assault said in a statement about the case: “As it currently stands, the criminal legal system does not offer adequate paths to healing for survivors and victims of sexual violence, nor does it offer adequate paths to accountability for people who have caused harm.”

“People facing charges specifically related to sexual violence often plead guilty to a lesser charge (e.g. pleading guilty to third-degree rape instead of second-degree rape) instead of taking the risk of fighting the charge in court and potentially facing prison/jail time,” it added.

“While the judge in this case was certainly well within the sentencing range for this type of plea deal, the sentence (and the judge’s rationale) does not reflect the impact of the harm experienced by the survivor. This case is just one example of many across the nation of lenient sentencing for young, white men who have either pleaded guilty to or have been convicted of acts of sexual violence.”