This right here explains why you people are so angry.

In a few days the good people over at Excessivebail are going to post a little thing I wrote about plea bargains (Edit: It’s now up here).  It’s not really so much about plea bargains as it is about how the public and victims (you people) react when somebody you “know” is guilty gets “too good” of a deal.  It was inspired by Billy Curl recently getting a “good” deal for murdering that NIU student.

I won’t spoil it for you. Rather, I’ll allow it to underwhelm and disappoint you when it’s posted.

In light of that, though, I came across something I had to mention.  This case in the Northwest Herald is one you have to keep your eye on: “Former Private School Principal Arrested in Johnsburg.”  Why do you have to keep your eye on it?  It’s exactly the kind of case that the public (you people) is going to react to when it’s resolved in the Woodstock Courthouse.

To save you actually having to click over, here’s the main gist of the article:

JOHNSBURG – A former private school principal in Johnsburg has been arrested after she sent “offensive” letters to parents of students, according to the Johnsburg Police Department.

Pamela Dvonch, 63, was charged with misdemeanor disorderly conduct on Sunday in connection with at least 16 letters recently sent to parents of students at St. John the Baptist Catholic School.

The letters — a sheet of paper in an envelope with a few words on it — forced authorities to post officers at the school April 2 as a precautionary measure.

The cards were sent to parents on the school’s parent advisory board and fundraising committee, as well as the pastor at the church and a separate parishioner, Johnsburg police Chief Keith Von Allmen said. The cards were homemade.

An investigation later linked Dvonch to the letters, and she turned herself into police on Sunday. She previously worked at the school for more than 20 years.

“Inside the cards, there were offensive statements directed at the parent,” Von Allmen previously told the Northwest Herald. “I want to make it clear that it was not a threatening comment.”

Dvonch was charged with misdemeanor disorderly conduct due to the disruption the letters caused at the school, Von Allmen said Monday.

“Disorderly conduct is a breach of the peace,” he said. “The disruption that occurred at the school was caused by these letters.”

Folks, this is a bad case.  How do I know?  First clue is the description of what she wrote.  Look how vague it is.  Were the letters threatening? No.  They were offensive? Yeah?  How so?  Would you have been offended by those words?  Would I have? Offensive to whom?

Go ahead and Tell me what the words were. I’m a big boy. I can handle it.  What were they?

Oh.  You‘re not going to do that?

And when I say “you” I mean the cops who charged the case (and who are the source of the report).  There’s a reason they’re not telling us.  That reason probably isn’t because it makes it look like this is an awesome case for them.

How else do you know it’s a bad case?  Well, those same cops who charged the case and gave this information to the newspaper don’t know what they’re talking about.  Disorderly conduct isn’t a breach of the peace.  A breach of the peace can be disorderly conduct.  It can be only if several other elements of the offense were met (like the defendant’s actions must be unreasonable).

Oh and, by the way, even if all those other elements are met and there was a breach of the peace, it’s still not disorderly conduct if it’s based on words and those words are what is called “protected speech.”  Were they?  Maybe that’s why they aren’t telling us what the words were.

Did the cop know all this?  Maybe he just didn’t have time to go into that much detail with the reporter. Or, maybe he doesn’t really know all those other pesky details. I guess we’ll find out.

Either way, this article is one of those things that looks scary.  I’m sure members of the public are alarmed.  Keep an eye on the reaction when this case gets resolved.  If you’re angry when it gets resolved, don’t be mad at the prosecutor.  Don’t be mad at the defense attorney. Be mad at the guys who charged the case and left out all of the minor details when they told you about it.

Author: matthaiduk

Matt Haiduk is a criminal defense lawyer in Illinois. He loves his dog. And pizza.

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