What could the judge have been thinking?
Judge R. Scott Krichbaum of the Mahoning County Common Pleas Court believes that drug dealers are the "scum of the earth." We share the judge's belief. He also says that, "People who sell drugs should go to the penitentiary -- that's the bottom line in my book." We couldn't agree more.
Yet, when Scot Semer of Poland went before Judge Krichbaum last week for sentencing -- he had pleaded guilty in June to three felony counts of drug trafficking -- he got a slap on the wrist. In this case, the judge's actions did not match his words.
Semer was placed on probation and assigned to the Community Corrections Association facility. Assistant Prosecutor Robert Duffrin, who works with the Mahoning County Drug Task Force, had requested time behind bars for Semer, with the prospect of early release on shock probation.
Just how big a dealer was this 22-year-old? Here's how Police Chief Russell Beatty of Poland Village described him: "I have no doubt that [Semer] was a major contributor to the drug problem here. I think this will definitely help us." Semer sold Ecstasy and other illegal drugs in the Poland area in March and April.
What could Judge Krichbaum have been thinking when he let this criminal off the hook? Why did he decide not to send him to prison? What information did he have before him when he chose to ignore the assistant prosecutor's recommendation?
Explanation needed: Krichbaum is on vacation and could not be reached for comment, but we hope that when he returns he will provide a detailed explanation for his actions. Was the judge aware that Semer had been convicted in 1999 in a drug paraphernalia case?
Krichbaum could argue that the Ohio Adult Parole Authority recommended probation and assignment to CCA, as did Semer's lawyer, Lou D'Apolito.
But the judge needs to know that no one involved in the pre-sentence investigation talked to Police Chief Beatty about Semer's drug dealing business.
We did -- and in response to the following question, "Does this [individual] deserve jail time?" got a one word answer from Chief Beatty: "Yes."
"Semer has quite a bit to do with Ecstasy," the police chief said.
Health hazard: While Ecstasy earned its reputation as the drug of choice for young people in dance clubs, raves and college scenes, its use has become so widespread that the National Institute on Drug Abuse, National Institutes of Health, considers it a health hazard. According to the NIDA, in high doses Ecstasy can cause sharp increases in body temperature (malignant hypothermia) leading to muscle breakdown and kidney and cardiovascular system failure. Research links Ecstasy use to long-term damage to those parts of the brain critical to thought and memory, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
Yet, when a major Ecstasy dealer in Poland gets nabbed, a probation report recommends and a judge agrees that prison is too harsh a punishment. The dealer ends up in a half-way house.
This is not how the war on drugs will be won.
We would simply remind Judge Krichbaum of his public pronouncement about drug dealers: "Scum of the earth."