Define That Term #189
Crimes and Misdemeanors

Prosecutorial Indiscretion

It must have been a slow year for the DA's office in Stafford, Virginia.  At least, that's the only explanation I can come up with for the DA's absolute failure to exercise anything that even resembles discretion in the case of Jessica Hall, a mother of three whose husband is currently serving his third tour of duty in Iraq. 

As reported in this AP article, yesterday Ms. Hall was sentenced to 5 years probation after being convicted of the felony of maliciously throwing a missile into an occupied vehicle. 

In support of his contention that a 2 year prison sentence was an appropriate punishment, the prosecutor stated:

"It is important to remember that it is not what is thrown but the danger created by that act that Virginia law seeks to protect against."

The "victim" of this crime had this to say about the prosecution (from this AP article):

"I think that this is way too much of a punishment for her actions. This is just to me absolutely ridiculous," Fowle said. Community service would have made more sense, she said.

I suppose that by now you're wondering what sort of "missile" that Ms. Hall threw at the "victim".  Good question.  It was a cup of ice.  Yep.  A cup of ice.  From the second article above:

On a hot day in July, Hall was driving north on Interstate 95 with her children and her sister, who was six months pregnant and having early contractions. Traffic had slowed to a crawl, when, she said, another car cut her off twice. Angered, she flung the cup into the other car, where it flew across the driver and landed all over his girlfriend...

Hall, who was driving from North Carolina to New York for a family party, said she was trying to keep up with her father's truck when Ballin cut in front of her the second time, causing her to swerve.

The decision to throw ice into the other vehicle?  Not too smart.  The decision to pursue any criminal conviction--let alone a felony conviction--for her actions?  Absolutely ridiculous.  The value of a prosecutor who, unlike the ADA in this case, actually understands the meaning of "prosecutorial discretion"?  Priceless.


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