Heed judge’s warning

There was everything to like about the way Blair County Judge Jackie Bernard handled a 19-year-old’s burglary case on July 6. Hopefully, the young man learned enough from the experience to ensure that he’ll never again come before Bernard or any other judge as a defendant.

We hope many other young people had the opportunity to read about the court proceeding and gained understanding of what getting on the wrong side of the law can entail.

The July 6 defendant’s plight was a potential mechanism for steering others from temptations to engage in criminal wrongdoing or falling victim to peer pressures built upon such an intent.

Of course, parents have many opportunities to convey messages capable of the same impact as Bernard’s. While many do, unfortunately some don’t.

Bernard made clear that a sentencing hearing can be more than just meting out punishment and can be a foundation for returning a person’s life to the right track.

Regarding the defendant in question, Bernard sentenced the teen to seven years’ probation, although she said the probationary period could be cut in half if he complies with all terms of his punishment that include making restitution, participating in a job-search program, learning job skills and obtaining employment.

But it was what the judge said beyond delivering those specifics that should provide the incentive for the young man to walk away from all temptations for recidivism.

“I don’t want to ever, ever, ever meet you (in the courtroom) again,” Bernard said.

Presumably, that was meant to imply that the sentence handed down would be considered mild, if it had to be stacked up against punishment emanating from a second offense.

The July 6 defendant made the mistake before the judge of not seeming to be genuinely repentant regarding the burglary that he carried out in early April at a home in Tyrone. If he was truly repentant, he didn’t prove that to the judge.

The judge sought to make him understand the possible negative long-term impacts that might be forthcoming as a result of the burglary, including that he might have ruined his stated goal of possibly joining the U.S. Air Force.

If the July 6 hearing has the right impact, the defendant someday will realize that standing before Bernard, listening to her stern message, was an experience more valuable than he had considered possible.


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