When it comes to matters of law and polity, there are big things and there are small things. From the Argus Leader:
Anthony Noel Weber, 42, of Sioux Falls was a manager at Hurley’s Religious Goods form 2000 through April of 2009.
He allegedly wrote fraudulent checks to himself with Hurley’s money from 2005 through last year.
He faces two charges of grand theft and one charge of aggravated grand theft. If convicted on all counts, he faces up to 35 years in prison.
Does this strike anyone else as entirely wrong? No, not the alleged crime. I’m talking about the possible 35 years in prison. He is not alleged to have killed someone, or destroyed someone’s innocence, or kidnapped and traumatized anyone–he is alleged to have embezzled money. That is something which can be largely put right again (unlike the other crimes mentioned).
He does not need to be put into prison for 35 years (if the allegations are proven); no, he needs to repay the money. He’s 42 years old and the article says the amount was $161,000. He’s got enough time to work that off that in the next 23 years or so. In fact, the only thing the judge/jury should be deciding (if guilty) is whether he will pay the amount he stole with interest, or some multiple thereof.
If he were to be convicted, not only will the store not get its money (unless there is something more to the story), but you and I will be on the hook for somewhere in the neighborhood of $20,000 a year for the length of his incarceration. While his sentence could be as much as 35 years, it is more likely that he would get a 10-year sentence with parole in 5 years or so. That means the taxpayers of the State of South Dakota would spend another $100,000 to $200,000.
That would mean that innocent people (in reference to the alleged crime) would be punished for a total of more than $250,000 to $350,000 while the guilty (if proven so) does his time and is branded as a felon.
Better than all of this would be for him (if guilty) to repent of the crime he committed, repay all that he stole and by doing both of these things return to a position near where he was in the minds and lives of his family, friends and acquaintances.
A person who embezzles does not need to pay a nebulous debt to a nebulous society–he or she needs to pay a concrete debt to certain wronged persons. It doesn’t get much simpler than this.