2008-10-10 18:11:18 UTC
Posted: 5:00 PM Oct 8, 2008
Last Updated: 11:17 PM Oct 8, 2008
A judge gives a man a choice: Spend time in jail or hold a sign saying
"I was stupid."
Wednesday, he made that choice. He decided he'll hold the sign.
We talked to the judge known for his strange sentences. Judge Paul
Lenz says over the years, he's handed out 20 or so similar sentences.
But, he says for the most part, the criminals pass and choose to sit
out their sentences rather than face public humiliation.
They read "I was stupid," "I’m a thief," and "I stole from the
families of the dead."
They're all options to reduce jail time.
"It's something for them to think about," Lenz says. "Even if they
don't choose to do it, they have to think about it because they have
to think about whether they'll select the option. That means they'll
think more about the consequences."
Consequences for cases like Shane McQuillan's. He was found guilty of
criminal damage to property after he rammed his car into the closed
gate at Eau Claire's Waste Water Treatment Plant in March.
McQuillan told an officer he had been drinking and was quote "just
being stupid." Now, the 22 year old will hold a sign telling everyone
"I was stupid".
"It's an option for the person. It's not something that's forced on
them," Lenz says.
The judge says he's also thinking about money when he assigns a sign.
In tough budget times, he says keeping non-violent people out of jail
makes sense. Then there's the humiliation.
“It's a difficult thing to do if you think about it for yourself. It's
basically a public acknowledgment that what you did was wrong and
that's difficult for people to do," Judge Lenz says. "It’s also for
others who might think about doing that type of behavior to think
The judge says there are some guidelines to follow when it comes to a
sentence. He says it has to relate to the offense. But, he says his
sign options are voluntary and have never been appealed.
We did leave several messages for Shane McQuillan, but did not hear
back from him.