Criminal Justice

The Cruel, Petty Sentencing Practices of Judge Dennis Wiley

The guidelines were always too lenient.

|

Judge
Dreamstime

Dennis Wiley is a district judge in Berrien County, Michigan. As you may have seen here, here, and even here, Wiley recently sentenced 19-year-old Zach Anderson to 90 days in jail and 25 years on the Sex Offender Registry. Anderson, a computer science student, was also banned from internet and smartphone. Wiley imposed this punishment even after Anderson's victim—a 14-year-old who claimed to be 17 during a sexual encounter—and her mother asked the prosecutor's office to drop the charges entirely.

During Anderson's sentencing hearing, Wiley told him: "You went online…trolling for women to meet and have sex with. That seems to be part of our culture now: meet, hook up, have sex, sayonara. Totally inappropriate behavior. There is no excuse for this, whatsoever."

The Anderson case was not Wiley's first foray into scolding online daters. Wiley recently put another Indiana 19-year-old, Darian Yoder, on the sex offender registry for having consensual sex with a 13-year-old who also claimed to be of age. They met via the same "Hot or Not" app that Anderson used.

Yes, these teenagers went online to meet women. People do that in 2015. Wiley chose to make an example out of Anderson and Yoder because of his own moral qualms with modernity.

Unfortunately, these are just the most recent examples in a long line of cases where Wiley exercised his discretion in a manner that was especially harsh toward low-level offenders.

In April 2014, Wiley was censured for misconduct after he had LaRue Ford charged with contempt. Ford spent 10 nights in jail—including Christmas—after not paying $5,000 in bond. Her crime? Muttering "fuck this shit" while in the courthouse dealing with a traffic ticket. The courthouse staff that overheard Ford mentioned it to Wiley, who then took matters into his own hands.

Curtis Pedzinski, a 21-year-old native of St. Joseph, Michiga, was sentenced by Wiley to between 14 months and 2 years in prison for "unlawful use of a motor vehicle," or joyriding. Years earlier, Pedzinski had been convicted of breaking and entering. Wiley's sentence was significantly more severe than what state guidelines called; Wiley justified it by claiming that proper weight had not been given to Pedzinski's past.

There was also the case of Reverend Edward Pinkney, a high-profile black leader from Benton Harbor. Benton Harbor, along with St. Joseph, are Berrien County's twin cities. Benton Harbor is about 90 percent black, while St. Joseph, the county seat, is about 85 percent white. The area has experienced a lot of racial tension over a long period of time, and Pinkney has been deeply involved for years, rubbing a lot of powerful people the wrong way. Alfred Butzbaugh, a Berrien County judge who had presided over an election fraud case involving Pinkney was the target of Pinkney's fondness for bombastic language in an article written for a Chicago paper. In addition to calling Butzbaugh "corrupt," "dumb," and a racist, Pinkney wrote:

"Judge Butzbaugh, it shall come to pass…..that all these Curses shall come upon you and your family, curses shalt be in the City of St. Joseph and Cursed shalt thou be in the field, cursed shall come upon you and your family and overtake thee…..The Lord shall smite thee with consumption and with a fever and with an inflammation and with extreme burning. They the demons shall Pursue thee until thou persist."

This threat, according to Wiley, was a violation of Pinkney's probation, saying that Pinkney's title of Reverend gave him a "direct line to the Lord" and that a reasonable person would find this to be a serious threat. Wiley sentenced him to 3-10 years in prison because of the threat's supposed severity. Pinkney went to prison in June 2008 and remained there until his sentence was thrown out on appeal.

Another defendant, Arthur Grice, was also a victim of Wiley's overboard sentencing practices. In 2010, the Michigan Court of Appeals ruled that the sentencing guideline variables were wrongly scored by Wiley in Grice's trial for resisting arrest. The Court of Appeals found that every variable in the case against Grice was scored significantly higher than it should have been, leading to a more harsh sentence of between 46 months and 15 years in prison.

While sentencing guidelines aren't set in stone, Michigan law says that departures are allowed "if the court has a substantial and compelling reason for that departure and states on the record the reasons for departure." Judges can't go outside the guidelines based on race, gender, nationality, appearance, etc.

But it seems like Wiley thinks he knows better than the sentencing guidelines—which he believes are almost always too lenient, no matter the severity of the crime.

Advertisement

NEXT: How Human Are Monkeys?

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. I can hear the subpoenas already

    1. Funny, I thought I heard a woodchipper firing up…

    2. This is a pissant local judge, not one that can summon a compliant AUSA with a snap of the fingers.

  2. “Direct line to the lord”

    We now have precedent for Rhywun’s treatment

    1. Depends on whether or not Rhywun is a reverend.

      1. Reverend’s don’t have a direct line to Satan. Only the Irish have that.

  3. This threat, according to Wiley, was a violation of Pinkney’s probation, saying that Pinkney’s title of Reverend gave him a “direct line to the Lord” and that a reasonable person would find this to be a serious threat.

    Sentencing people for engaging in necromancy is the commonality that binds the U.S. and Saudi Arabia together as allies.

    1. Necromancy seems romantic to outsiders but actually it’s mostly digging.

      1. I wonder if there’s a school of magic that enables a “direct line to” automated landscaping equipment.

        1. Chippomancy

          1. I saw those guys in Vegas

            1. HAWT

    2. It’s not necromancy, it’s applied computational demonology. Read your Charles Stross.

  4. The Lord shall smite thee with consumption and with a fever and with an inflammation and with extreme burning.

    Well, that’s not a line from Fargo.

    1. Duh, obviously it’s from Barton Fink.

      1. I’ll show you the life of the mind!

        1. I gotta tell you, the life of the mind…there’s no roadmap for that territory…and exploring it can be painful.

  5. Wiley imposed this punishment even after Anderson’s victim?a 14-year-old who claimed to be 17 during a sexual encounter?and her mother asked the prosecutor’s office to drop the charges entirely.

    So who brought this to the police?

    1. Crime against the state

      1. The state owns that girl’s vagina. They’re just letting her borrow it for a little while

    2. The girl was an epileptic. She didn’t come home from school at the right time, so she called the police worried her daughter was in a seizure somewhere.

      Meanwhile…at the boy’s apartment he thought she was just having lots of orgasms.

      1. that is ‘the mother called the police, worried….’

    3. That’s the thing. Parents feel they have to report, or they have let someone down (not sure who). But once they do, they realize this unstoppable process has been started. And they don’t want to be a part of it anymore.

  6. I feel like a woodchipper might be too lenient.

  7. gorgor ? a month ago

    Dennis Wiley has a pedophile moustache.

    Top comment on the article about his censure. Speaking of that, how do you think you get to cite someone for contempt who wasn’t even in your courtroom? And the whole court clerk’s office is designed to get people to mutter “fuck this shit” after every encounter.

    1. And what court worker ran and tattled to the judge about it?

      1. Someone who knew he would over-react. It was done on purpose.

    2. That’s it, I’m citing you for contempt. I bet you didn’t know I was a judge on The People’s Court. I studied under Wapner. If you know what I mean (wink wink).

      1. I hope I don’t know what you mean.

  8. “Judge Butzbaugh, it shall come to pass?..that all these Curses shall come upon you and your family, curses shalt be in the City of St. Joseph and Cursed shalt thou be in the field, cursed shall come upon you and your family and overtake thee?..The Lord shall smite thee with consumption and with a fever and with an inflammation and with extreme burning. They the demons shall Pursue thee until thou persist.”

    Thou shalt feel the wrath of thine woodchipper?

  9. “Judge Butzbaugh, it shall come to pass?..that all these Curses shall come upon you and your family, curses shalt be in the City of St. Joseph and Cursed shalt thou be in the field, cursed shall come upon you and your family and overtake thee?..The Lord shall smite thee with consumption and with a fever and with an inflammation and with extreme burning. They the demons shall Pursue thee until thou persist.”

    Deuteronomy 28

    The traditional curses are usually the best.

  10. Oh, by the way, Andy?

    I DIDN’T DONATE $5 LAST WEBATHON SO THAT REASON MAGAZINE COULD ENGAGE IN NEPOTISTIC HIRING PRACTICES.

    1. He’s a good kid. Matt thought this would be a way to get him straightened out.

    2. …aaaaaaaaand

      BOOM!

      goes the dynamite!

      #busted #GoddamnedWelchers

    3. He’s only an intern! I assume Reason treats their interns like we treat our orphan slaves.

    4. Best part?

      “Andy Welch is a MATTERN Intern at Reason.”

      It’s like they’re rubbing our noses in the cronyism!

    5. He’s not related to Matt.

      1. Pshhh! Yeah, OK Rico!

        *winks*

        HAHAHAHA! You guys….

  11. Saying “Sayonara” is racist.

  12. Feet first through a woodchipper is too kind for this guy. He truly does deserve to burn for an eternity in Hell’s hottest fires.

    – The Rev. Rabbi Father Imam Juvenile Bluster

    1. Shouldn’t that be

      “The Rev. Warlock Rabbi Father Imam Swami Juvenile Bluster”?

      1. Not warlock (the term is derogatory amongst magick practioners), if anything a he’s a Mother Fucking Sorcerer

  13. So – sex with little boys, or dead little boy(s), or sex with dead little boy(s) in the judge’s past?

    1. Sex with underage animals. Dead ones.

  14. Direct line to the lord.
    Direct line to the prison system.

    Which one do you think has more power?

    Your answer is the opposite answer Wiley would give.

  15. Prediction: Before his life is over, Judge Wiley will reap the wildwind he is sowing in a very direct manner. There is just something about people in positions of authoritah that have a fascination with this type of behavior in others.

    1. Awww, look. Someone innocent in the ways of the world.

      1. We’ll see.

        1. I’m with Chipster…what goes around, comes around. The longer it takes, the worse it is.

          Meanwhile, I would not be unhappy at all if some enterprising hacker got into the judge’s computer, partioned part of his hard drive and downloaded a bunch of kiddie porn onto it. Then reported him.

    2. Nope. Like Joe Arpaio and Robert Byrd, he will stay in power until his last cursed breath.

      1. Maybe sometime, far in the future, someone will dig up his grave and desecrate his corpse.

        1. I have a feeling that would be kind of like opening the Mummy’s tomb. Or Dracula’s.

  16. So wait, why can’t they appeal or try to get this judge disbarred?

    Oh I’m sorry you don’t like people hooking up online, well that’s too fucking bad. It’s not illegal so shut the fuck up about your own twisted sense of morality. What if he went to a traditional bar to get hooked up?

    “You went TO A BAR?trolling for women to meet and have sex with. That seems to be part of our culture now: meet, hook up, have sex, sayonara. Totally inappropriate behavior. There is no excuse for this, whatsoever.”

    “There is no excuse for this?” It’s perfectly legal but icky to you. Seriously fuck you and everything you stand for.

    1. If the boys had gone to the bar, then they wouldn’t have accidentally hooked up with underage girls because no one has ever manufactured a fake ID to get into a bar….

      1. I used to own a bar. A group of hot young women were playing pool, whooping it up. We had ID’ed them and they checked out. They were 14. They looked 23, and they had ID saying they were of legal age. The local RCMP went up to them, asked for their ID, disputed it, they agreed it was fake, and he took them away.

        I asked what was going on and the constable told me what had happened. I was a bit freaked out as that can get me fined. I said, ‘Wow, sorry. We ID’ed them and it seemed legit to us.’

        He said, “Don’t worry. I got a call about them. I knew who I was looking for.” The ringleader was the daughter of a judge who lived 50 miles away. They had taken her Mom’s car and gone for a joyride and a few drinks. I was off the hook. All the locals were upset as the group of girls was seriously up for some trouble. I told everyone they dodged a bullet.

        1. Nothing happened to the girls, of course. They got a 50 mile ride home courtesy of the province and likely were ‘grounded’ for a week.

          1. Which is the right answer. It is when the state decides to treat teen stupidity as life-altering crimes that our ire is provoked.

            The right answer for teens doing stupid things is to have them apologize and make it right (fix the window, repair the mailbox, mow the guy’s lawn for the summer, etc.) . The problem is that we have evolved a new set of police, prosecutors and judges who think that charging 14 year olds as adults and putting them in jail for 8 years is a good idea. What we really have done at that point is take a kid who is on the wrong path and set that path in stone.

            1. “What we really have done at that point is take a kid who is on the wrong path and set that path in stone.”
              very well put

    2. In my day, being pure of heart, it would have been:
      “You went TO A CHURCH?trolling for women to meet and have sex with. That seems to be part of our culture now: meet, hook up, have sex, sayonara. Totally inappropriate behavior. There is no excuse for this, whatsoever.”

      church girls are fahreeeekey 😀

      1. This is true. I was a church girl. Many, many blowjobs were given on “hallowed” ground.

        1. One of the more mind-blowing sexual experiences I had was in an anteroom to a Bible College’s main chapel. God, I loved that time of my life…

  17. You all seemed to have forgotten that Judge Wiley’s power emanates from his powerful mustache, and the mustache decrees judgement, not Wiley. The mustache is to blame.

    1. So it’s like a Hell Toupee?

  18. Um, you know everyone on this thread is going to get subpoenas now right? That’s how it started last time. Thin skinned narcissistic judges ….

    1. *Considers the effectiveness of a bench warrant from a state court judge North of the US border.*

      *smiles*

      1. Go ahead flaunt your Canuckstani privilege.

        1. We shall, thank you. 8^

          1. Fargin’ lack of edit function.

            8^)

  19. between 14 months and 2 years in prison for “unlawful use of a motor vehicle,” or joyriding

    Or “stealing someone’s car”, as the rest of us might put it.

    Which is something most of us car owners agree ought to be punished pretty damned harshly, especially in a 21 year old who ought to know better.

    Hey, let’s leave it to Reason to minimize the impact of violations of property, right?

    1. Reparations should be made for damages plus mileage at several X above market value.

      Incarceration does little to no good and a world full of bad. Prison should be for violent criminals, slaver.

  20. That judge is actually pretty typical for west michigan, an authoritarian far right wasteland with the exceptions of Justin Amash and Grand Rapids proper (and K-zoo i think too) …

    1. some parts of michigan seem pretty liberal. i dunno what’s up with that state

  21. This is what passes for the Star Chamber in Michigan? Here in CA, we just go after the street scumbags because, you know, the system is rigged for the defendants. Kudos to Wiley. Keepin’ W. Mich safe from 19 year olds who can’t pick up girls the old fashioned way. With clubs and a marriage sack.

  22. These be seven curses on a judge so cruel
    That one doctor can’t not save him
    That two healers cannot heal him
    That three eyes cannot see him

    That four ears cannot hear him,
    That five walls cannot hide him,
    That six diggers cannot bury him
    And that seven deaths shall never kill him

    – R. Zimmerman

  23. This guy needs to be fired immediately for abusing his power. He’s a bully who blurs the lines between right and wrong with his own personal opinions. A judge has to be objective, Justice is supposed to be BLIND. A judge isn’t supposed to be pushing his own private moral standards in the courtroom. This isn’t honorable. A tyrant doesn’t deserve the title or position to judge people’s lives.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.