In my morning read of the Orange County Register, I came across the story entitled, "Ex-teacher apologizes before sentencing." Sara Suzanne Bench-Solario, 29, was sentenced to 6 years in prision after her conviction for molesting two of her students in middle school and one of their friends. One of the students she molested when he was only 11.
"I am a good person. I made some horrible mistakes . . . I will beg and pray for the forgiveness of the families and all of those that I hurt," she said at her sentencing.
But, as a lawyer, what I found incredible was the defense offered by her attorney, Al Stokke. Now, I have met Al before and I know he enjoys a good reputation locally. But I think his Manalo Blahniks were firmly rooted in his mouth when I read this:
Defense attorney Al Stokke asked Tuesday for a three-year sentence, claiming there is a difference between a woman having sexual contact with male children and a man committing the same kind of crime against female children.
"There is a distinction," he said. "It's not right. It's still a crime. But it should make for a distinction."
Uh-huh, nice one - good luck trying to convince a judge to make a ruling based on gender differences. District Court of Appeal a-slapped that down in a second. "C'mon, Judge (and the judge in this case is a male, the very respected and Honorable Richard Toohey), you were once a boy. We all had that dream about the cute, young teacher keeping us after class for 'extracirrucular" activities. These boys had the time of their lives!"
What makes his argument even more inane is that his client was a predator, "grooming students through dinners, e-mails and phone calls." So, she exhibited all of the behavior that popular culture typically associates with the lecherous, male "perv" (and of which holds up a Catholic priest as an example, often) but should get a lighter sentence because we all know these little boys had their wet dreams come true. I don't buy it and I'm glad Judge Toohey did not either.