BY RICHARD L. FRICKER
For everything that goes wrong and gets noticed, there are times when the system works. When the system works it is because people such as Federal District Court Judge for the Northern District of Oklahoma, Hon. Claire Eagan, make it work.
Judge Eagan recently sentenced 20-year-old Joseph Paul Beeson III to 18 months at the federal medical facility in Springfield, MO. Young Beeson had been charged with robbing the Arvest Bank of about $4,000 on Aug. 2, 2011. The crime would normally carry a sentence of 9½ years.
What makes Judge Eagan’s action a showcase for judicial common sense and justice is that Beeson is retarded.
As if taken from Charles Dickens’ Oliver Twist, two older men, Calvin Lee Shobe, 28, and Chantz Peterson, 35, had induced Beeson to rob the bank.
According to Judge Eagan they took advantage of his “trust and mental retardation.”
This was not the first time the pair has assumed the roles of “Artful Dodger” and “Fagin.”
A month earlier they induced a juvenile to rob the City National Bank. They were charged appropriately for their crimes. The fate of the younger man is not a matter of public record because he is a juvenile.
Federal sentencing is a rather elongated process, lots of forms and recommendations. Beeson’s attorney most certainly had input into the judge’s decision, as well as various federal authorities making their recommendations.
The bottom line is that Judge Eagan had the final decision on sentencing. In recent years federal judges have had their power to use good judgment removed for the sake of sentencing guidelines and the national mindset to be “tough on crime.”
“Toughness” by remote control, using others to be tough for you, has become the norm in too many cases. Judge Eagan found a way to rise above “tough” and be humane.
Not only did she recognize that Beeson had been a dupe of two career criminals, but that he was in need of help. While the Springfield facility may not be Silver Dollar City, it is a place where mental health professionals can ensure Beeson is free from further abuse and can get needed help. He will also be close enough to home for whatever support his community can offer.
Judge Eagan’s solution is refreshing to say the least; it would be nice if it became a trend.
– Richard L. Fricker lives in Tulsa, OK and is a regular contributor to The Oklahoma Observer. His latest book, The Last Day of the War, is available at https://www.createspace.com/3804081.