In imposing a lenient sentence on a former Blue Grass Airport executive who pleaded guilty to felony theft, Fayette Circuit Judge Pamela Goodwine cited his Christianity and her own.
This was a jarringly inappropriate remark. Judges are supposed to view all who come before them as equals under the law.
Perhaps Goodwine was trying to convey her belief that his remorse was sincere or that no purpose would be served by expending public resources on punishing him.
If so, the way she expressed herself only raised doubts about the fairness of her decision. One wonders, had the corruption been committed by a Hindu, Jew or non-believer, would the sentence have been as light or would the defendant be headed for probation or prison?
John S. Rhodes, the airport's former director of administration and finance, was the first to be sentenced of four airport officials indicted for spending abuses, including misusing airport credit cards for their personal gain.
Rhodes had pleaded guilty to one count of felony theft by deception, in exchange for the dismissal of five other felony theft charges. The offense carries a sentence of one to five years.
Those sentenced to five years would be eligible for parole in about nine months. The commonwealth's attorney recommended five years.
Goodwine instead released Rhodes on a conditional discharge, meaning he won't be subject to a parole officer's supervision and is free unless he commits another crime within the next five years.
In explaining the decision, Goodwine also cited the "total" humiliation and embarrassment suffered by Rhodes and the loss of his career in aviation.
Such considerations often arise when white collar criminals are sentenced. The sympathy that ex-execs elicit from judges is one of the reasons so many people believe there are two systems of justice: one for the affluent and connected, and one for the poor.
Rhodes not only stole from his employer he violated the trust that had been placed in him. As the director of finance, he was supposed to police spending abuses, not commit them.
Second chances are wonderful things. So is accountability for one's actions.
Rhodes has paid $21,000 in restitution. The sentence he received is not unreasonable under Kentucky law.
In explaining it, though, Goodwine went overboard on the forgiveness and shortchanged the accountability.