Christina Moore, the Bristow mother who joined her husband in barricading their little ones inside a bedroom, got a nine-year sentence Thursday, but most of that was suspended by Prince William County Circuit Judge Richard Potter, meaning Moore is likely to spend less than six months in prison.
Harry Thomas Jr., who resigned as D.C. Council member for Ward 5 after he admitted stealing more than $350,000 in city funds intended for youth sports programs, was sentenced to 38 months in the clink, less than federal guidelines call for. U.S. District Court Judge John D. Bates said he diverged from guidelines because of Thomas’s “true remorse” and “full life’s work.”
Does Thomas deserve a longer sentence than Moore because his misdeeds affect more people, or because he held a position of public trust?
“To me, the drywall case is the most egregious,” says Michele Roberts, a longtime defense lawyer in the District. “But sentencing is the most difficult part of a judge’s job: No matter what, someone will think each of today’s sentences is too harsh or too lenient.”
By popular consensus, violent crimes receive harsher punishment than white-collar offenses. “When you shoot, kill or rape someone, that’s very serious conduct and different from corruption,” Roberts says. “But there’s a class element involved in a lot of these distinctions. Murder is still murder; it doesn’t matter what your class is if you’re convicted of it. But the robber of a convenience store is likely to get a lot more time than someone who committed accounting fraud, even if it involved a million dollars.”
On Thursday, both Leslie Waffen — a longtime National Archives librarian who admitted stealing 955 items from his workplace, including original recordings of radio reports on the 1937 Hindenburg zeppelin disaster and the 1948 World Series — and Mirza Baig, the Laurel internist and developer who was caught on tape handing former County Executive Jack Johnson $15,000 in cash, got 18-month sentences.
In essence, both stole something from the taxpayers, whether it was rare bits of history or trust in a high public official. But is the damage they caused worth incarcerating them three times longer than the sentence Moore will likely serve for what she inflicted on her girls — ages 3, 4, and 18 months — when she screwed drywall to the doorjamb and sealed them inside because, the parents said, the children had been misbehaving and mom and dad needed a break?