An Indiana judge who sentenced a convicted rapist to home detention is in the center of a firestorm of criticism.
Marion County Superior Court Judge Kurt Eisgruber gave David Wise, 52, of Indianapolis, eight years of home detention on May 16. Wise was found guilty in April of six felonies — one count of rape and five counts of deviate conduct — after his now ex-wife, Mandy Boardman, told police she had found sex videos on Wise’s cellphone of her, taken while she was sleeping.
Boardman told police she thought Wise had been drugging her for about three years before their divorce in 2009, when she would often wake up with a partially dissolved pill in her mouth, court documents said.
The sentence by Eisgruber, who is up for re-election this year, was received with shock and scorn, especially because the six felony charges Wise was convicted of typically carry prison terms of six to 20 years each.
The sentence “is a slap in the face to all victims of sexual abuse,” read a letter to the editor in the Indianapolis Star urging readers not to vote to re-elect Eisgruber. Eisgruber is running unopposed, but the letter asked readers to “leave that section of the ballot blank, unless we can find someone who exemplifies what a judge should be.”
And on Eisgruber’s election campaign Facebook page — which has now been deleted — he was skewered by angry commenters.
“Wake up judge, your sentence is a joke,” one wrote, while others called him a “shame” to his profession.
“You should be ashamed of yourself for your ridiculous ‘sentence’ of David Wise. He DRUGGED and RAPED his wife repeatedly, and you gave him a slap on the wrist and victim-shamed her,” wrote another.
The page was also full of comments vowing to do whatever that could be done to unseat Eisgruber.
Boardman, the victim, told NBC affiliate WTHR that not only was she upset with the sentence, but the fact that Eisgruber told her to forgive her husband.
“I feel like I got sucker-punched,” she said. “I heard the judge tell me to forgive my rapist and then I listen to him say he can go home that day.”
“This man was a repeat offender,” Boardman added. “This was not a one-time thing. It happened for three years. He admitted to drugging me in open court.”
Wise was charged in 2011. Under Eisgruber’s sentence, Wise will wear a GPS device to monitor where he is, and will only be allowed to be at home and at work, with limited travel allowances, according to Reuters.
“We argued for jail time. It was the court’s decision to give him the eight years’ home detention,” said A.J. Deer, deputy communications director for the Marion County prosecutor’s office, adding prosecutors cannot appeal.
Eisgruber did not return calls from NBC News requesting comment.
Experts say that Eisgruber’s sentence, while lenient, still falls within Indiana’s sentencing guidelines.
“Home arrest is viewed as the equivalent of incarceration because it is 24-hour monitoring, but it just seems like such a cushy sentence,” said Jody Madeira, professor at the Indiana University Maurer School of Law in Bloomington.
Joel Schumm, clinical professor law at the Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law in Indianapolis, agreed that the sentence was surprising, especially for a judge as highly regarded as Eisgruber.
“Judge Eisgruber is one of the most respected judges in Marion County,” he said, adding that during the last election year, his approval rating was above 95 percent. “Lawyers think he’s fair, ethical, hard-working. This case is certainly unusual.”
Other experts wondered how the sentence would be received by other women who have been raped who want to come forward.
“It sends a terrible message to women about the severity of this crime and the violation of the dignity of a woman. To sentence someone to home detention does not reflect the depravity or the severity of this crime,” said Adam Lamparello, assistant professor of law at Indiana Tech Law School in Fort Wayne. “Considering about 25 percent of rapes are between a husband and wife, it just sends a terrible message.”
Marc Mauer, executive director of The Sentencing Project, a national nonoprofit focusing on criminal justice policy issues, said that while it sounded like Wise “didn’t receive a great deal of punishment,” this type of lenient sentencing is unlikely to have a big impact on deterring or not deterring future criminals.
“It’s the certainty of punishment rather than the severity of punishment that is likely to make a difference. In other words, if we can increase the odds that a person will be apprehended for a crime, then people will think twice about it,” he said. “The severity of the punishment itself doesn’t have much impact if people don’t think there’s much chance of being caught.”