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Betrayal of public trust should bring stiff sentence



Published: Thu, August 16, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



The cause of justice in Mahoning County made a little progress Tuesday when a purveyor of the drug ecstasy got 90 days in jail -- but only a little progress, given the circumstances.

In this space yesterday, we took issue with a Mahoning County judge giving probation and a term in a halfway house to a Poland man who pleaded guilty to selling ecstasy. We characterized that as a slap on the wrist.

Tuesday another ecstasy peddler appeared before a different judge and got, as we said, 90 days in the Mahoning County Jail. But given the circumstances, that wasn't nearly enough. Just as some defendants might be given leniency when there are extenuating circumstances, other defendants should have the book thrown at them when there are aggravating circumstances.

Betrayal: Joseph Maderitz, 32, of Youngstown, who was sentenced by Judge Maureen A. Cronin of common pleas court to 90 days in jail and three years of probation, got off far too easy. Maderitz not only broke the law, he betrayed the public trust. Maderitz had been a probation officer at the Martin P. Joyce Juvenile Justice Center.

This is a man who, by his employment, had every reason to know exactly what damage drugs can do to young men and women. How many times did he look across a desk at a young person who would not have been there had it not been for drug abuse? And yet, one day last summer, Maderitz walked out into the parking lot of the Juvenile Justice Center and sold ecstasy to an undercover agent.

His lawyer stresses that Maderitz never sold drugs inside the JJC, as if that is a badge of honor.

Society has every right to hold certain people to higher standards of behavior based on the trust society has invested in that person. Maderitz was entrusted with the job of saving troubled youth, and chose instead to betray them. That the youth he betrayed didn't happen to be the same ones he was paid to work with is of little importance.

For whatever reason, the prosecutor's office endorsed what would seem to be the lightest possible sentence Maderitz could have expected, and Judge Cronin took that recommendation.

Temptation: She could have sentenced him to more than six years in prison, and said she had been tempted to do so. Maderitz chose to yield to his temptations, and she should have acted in kind.

Ecstasy is a drug that has been around for almost 50 years, but little was heard of it until recently. You'll be hearing more about it, as it ruins or takes more young lives.

According to the National Drug Intelligence Center, police confiscated fewer than 12,000 ecstasy pills in 1996. By 1999, that number had jumped to nearly a million. An 80-fold increase in the availability of this drug in just a few years should set off alarm bells.

Some places it has, but not, apparently, in our courts as yet.




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