Judge Takes Off Belt, Tells Grandmother To Give Teen a Whipping
CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP) _ Instead of sending a drug offender to prison, a judge took off his belt and had the 18-year-old’s grandmother give him a whipping.
``I think he’ll kind of remember what to do on probation,″ Circuit Judge Frank Eppes said Friday, a day after he imposed the sentence.
Youth advocates chastised the 72-year-old judge for teaching that violence is the answer, but some who are fighting for tougher punishment for criminals supported his decision.
``I think the country is open to any innovative approach to resolving the juvenile crime problem,″ said Jim Grego, a founder of Citizens Against Violent Crime.
Before Jamel Washington pleaded guilty Thursday to possession of crack cocaine, he said he would fail a drug test because he had smoked marijuana.
``I said, `Grandmama, don’t you think he needs a whipping?‴ Eppes recalled. ``She said he needed one and ought to have a whipping.″
Eppes supplied the belt and went into his office with a courtroom deputy, Washington and 63-year-old Victoria Washington Ellis.
Ten to 12 loud smacks could be heard, said Bruce Durant, a prosecutor in the courtroom. Eppes and Mrs. Ellis said there were no more than five or six strokes on Washington’s bare buttocks.
When they returned, Washington appeared sheepish and his grandmother looked pleased, Durant said. Washington could not be located for comment Friday.
``You need discipline, in the home and in the schools,″ said Eppes, a retired judge from Greenville on special assignment in Charleston. Beatings ``did me some good when I was growing up. ... I got several when I needed them.″
Mrs. Ellis, who has raised Washington since his mother died in 1987, said she didn’t want to whip her grandson but felt the judge told her to do it. Now, she thinks it was a good idea.
``It learned him a lesson,″ she said. ``He said he ain’t fooling with that no more.″
Corporal punishment is more likely to teach violence rather than right from wrong, said Arlene Andrews, a board member of the South Carolina Alliance for Children.
``If you whip the child, the child may whip you, or whip someone else,″ said Andrews, who also teaches social work at the University of South Carolina. ``It can cause resentment, anger, sullen behavior and lead to the very negative things you’re trying to prevent.″
State Sen. Larry Richter, a former judge who has sought tougher penalties for juvenile criminals, said judges should wait until corporal punishment becomes law before administering it in their courtrooms.
``Some kids deserve a beating,″ said Richter, a Republican. But, he said, ``you can’t do it off the cuff.″
South Carolina Chief Justice Ernest Finney said he expected Eppes’ action would be reviewed by the court’s judicial standards board. He never heard of a judge suggesting a whipping in the courtroom before, he said.
In 1992, Eppes spared a first-time drug offender a prison sentence but required he run 10 extra laps during football practice, along with probation and house arrest. In 1989, he hauled James Brown into his court to get the singer’s autograph and discuss drugs in prison while Brown was doing time for assault.
Eppes said this may be the first time he’s done it, but he’s thought of it before.
``I’ve seen a lot of people that needed a whipping,″ he said.