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Judge who gave short man probation oustedTell North Platte what you think
Photo by File photo
Photo by File photo

The Cheyenne County District Court Judge who gained nationwide attention after sentencing a convicted child molester to probation because of his size, was voted off the bench Nov. 4.

Cheyenne County voters decided not to retain Cecava by a 52 percent to 48 percent vote.

Judge Kristine Cecava of Sidney is the eighth judge to be removed by voters since Nebraska adopted its judicial selection plan in the early 1960s.

Cecava sparked controversy in 2006 when she sentenced 5-foot-1, 100 pound Richard Thompson to 10 years of intensive supervised probation and commented that she feared for his safety in prison because of his size.

But what was not widely reported was that neither the Cheyenne County Attorney, who prosecuted the case, nor the probation office requested prison time for Thompson. The fact that a prosecutor does not ask that a criminal be sent to prison is often a key element in a judge’s sentencing order.

Thompson, 52, had faced up to 10 years in prison after being convicted of two counts of sexual contact with a 13-year-old girl.

When sentencing the 5' 1" tall Thompson, Cecava said, "So, I'm sitting here thinking this guy has earned his way to prison but then I look at you and I look at your physical size. I look at your basic ability to cope with people and, quite frankly, I shake to think of what might happen to you in prison because I don't think you'll do well in prison."

Cecava went along with the recommendation of the County Attorney and probation’s suggestion of intense supervised probation and said that Thompson was too short to survive in prison.

Attorney General Jon Bruning appealed the sentence to the Nebraska Court of Appeals.

But the appellant court ruled that Cecava had valid reasons sentence Thompson, 52, to probation and that the sentence was not excessively lenient.

A petition calling for her resignation was signed by 900 people and submitted to the Nebraska Judicial Qualifications Commission, but was rejected because the commission doesn't have the power to remove her from office for an error in judgement.

The story was featured on cable news TV shows and has run in more than 500 newspapers throughout the world.

In Nebraska, the governor appoints judges, but voters periodically consider whether they should be retained in office.

Cecava will remain as a district judge in the 12th district until Jan. 1.

Cecava was also the lowest-rated district judge on the Nebraska State Bar Association's most recent performance evaluation.

Cecava received her law degree from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in 1976. During law school, she was a member of the Law Review and received the Order of the Coif. Since that time, she served in a variety of positions, including county attorney. She was later appointed as a county judge in Keith County and was president of the Nebraska County Judges Association in 1996. She was appointed to the district court in 1999.

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The North Platte Bulletin - Published 11/6/2008
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