A 22-year-old man can lure a 14-year-old girl to his residence.
He can get her so drunk on rum that the walls seem to be moving up and down.
He can engage in non-consensual sex — in plain language, forcibly rape her — while verbally abusing the youngster in the process.
And then he can avoid spending one hour in prison.
So it goes in Lewiston, anyway.
Last week, 2nd District Court Judge Jay Gaskill looked over that series of facts in the case of Matthew “Cody” Culletto and decided rape warranted a 90-day jail sentence — with the added possibility of a work release program.
There’s a lot of fine print to it. Culletto faces a three- to 15-year prison term if he violates any of the terms of his probation during the next 15 years.
Taking a drink or associating with anyone younger than 18 could do it.
So could committing any offense more serious than a traffic stop.
He’ll fork over some money — including $5,000 in fines and another $1,143.73 in restitution to the Crime Victims Fund.
He’ll also bear the stigma of a registered sexual offender for the rest of his life.
But in three months, Culletto will return to the life he knows — after being convicted of a crime that carries the maximum penalty of life imprisonment.
Meanwhile the victim is left to endure a lifetime of anguish.
Punishing someone for a crime is not a science and it’s not formulaic. If it were, human judges could be replaced by machines.
However, it’s not left to judicial whim. Judges are supposed to weigh and counter-balance a series of questions:
l How can society be safeguarded from future crimes?
l Is the defendant redeemable?
l How can the victim be not just restored, but given the sense that her suffering was recognized and her perpetrator suitably punished?
l Will the sentence handed down deter others from committing similar crimes?
There’s not a lot to go on here. Last week’s court hearing was over and done in about 25 minutes.
Because Culletto pleaded guilty, there was no chance to observe him during the course of a trial. No evidence was presented. No witnesses testified.
Gaskill knows what’s in the pre-sentence investigation. We don’t.
All we know is Culletto had a previously unblemished criminal record and that he professed remorse.
Presumably, that makes him a good candidate for rehabilitation. And although there is a troubling hint of premeditation to his behavior, his release may well pose no further threat to anyone else.
But 90 days in jail is wildly unbalanced in Culletto’s favor. This is hardly punishment worthy of the crime. It does not secure suitable retribution for the victim.
And where is the deterrence? Can anyone look at this sentence and not ask whether we take rape as seriously as drug trafficking, violent assaults or even robbery?
Of course not.
Culletto is no outlier. As former Lewiston Tribune reporter Tom Holm noted about a year ago, most rapists get away with their crime: Out of 1,000 rapes nationally, 770 go unreported.
Of the 230 victims who do go to the police, 187 will not see their perpetrator arrested.
Of the remaining 43, five will be convicted.
What about sentencing?
Holm looked at 16 sex offense cases in Nez Perce County during two years.
Nine got probation.
Four got jail time.
Only three drew a prison sentence.
As of Wednesday, Idaho had 9,791 people in prison. Of those, only 211 were sentenced for rape.
Even against that backdrop, Culletto’s case bears an uncanny resemblance to that of Brock Turner, a Stanford University freshman whose sexual assault of an intoxicated woman drew him a six-month jail sentence and a three-year probation. The California judge in that case eventually got recalled from office.
What’s curious here is why Gaskill’s choice was cast in such stark terms of prison or not? Why was a six-month or nine-month rider not considered in Culletto’s case?
Under that option, Culletto would have been placed within the penitentiary system.
Although he would have been sent to a minimum-security prison, Culletto would have been under observation, fully aware that any misstep could mean spending the next three to 15 years locked up.
Only after that rider ended would the judge consider probation.
That’s still far less than the five-to 25-year sentence Deputy Prosecutor April Smith sought. But nobody would be asking: If raping a young girl won’t get you sent to prison, what will? — M.T.