The Knucklehead of the Day award
Today's winner is Charlotte County(Florida) Circuit Judge Michael McHugh. He gets the award for the following.
PUNTA GORDA -- A man originally accused of raping two girls and facing a possible 12 to 30 years in prison got probation instead Wednesday.Cases like Watt's are just more fodder for people who distrust the US justice system. A man rapes up to three girls and he gets probation. This is a sick joke, but the Knucklehead goes to Judge McHugh for he signed off on this travesty of justice.
Because 31/2 years have passed since the alleged attacks, prosecutors no longer had enough evidence to succeed with the original charges, Assistant State Attorney Stephen Schwarz said. For example, the girls no longer can remember the details.
"Time really turned out to be our enemy," Schwarz said.
Thomas Archie Watt, 28, pleaded no contest to delivery of a controlled substance to a minor. He was sentenced to one year of community control, or house arrest, to be followed by four years of drug offender probation.
Circuit Judge Michael McHugh warned Watt that if he violated his probation, he could face a much harsher sentence.
The mother of one of the girls said she hopes Watt winds up back in court and serves time in prison. "Our legal system is total bull," she said.
The girls have waited too long for closure, said Fredye Cochran, their guardian ad litem. "The perpetrator has the right to an early trial, but the victims don't. It seems unfair."
According to court documents, Watt met with three teenage girls, bought them alcohol and gave them marijuana and unknown pills in June 2003. Then he invited them to his home.
The girls, then 15 and 16 years old, told deputies they took off their shirts for Watt. Collectively, the girls remember Watt performing sex acts on two of them, documents state. All three passed out and only one was clothed when they woke up the next morning.
Watt's brother, then 27, said he saw the girls and Watt fooling around with each other naked, according to the documents. Watt denied giving the girls drugs or alcohol and said any acts were consensual.
"On paper, it's a really good case," Schwarz said. "But when you dig into what the witnesses remember now, it leaves something to be desired."
In addition to the girls' fading memories, prosecutors faced other challenges, Schwarz said. One witness, a nurse, died, and Watt's brother "made himself scarce."
Also, the investigative work was questionable, Schwarz said. Supposedly the girls had hickeys on their necks, but the prosecutor never received pictures of their necks. Only one girl's neck was swabbed, providing the only DNA evidence linking Watt to the girls, Schwarz said.
Schwarz, who only got the case about a year ago, said he doesn't know why it took so long to prosecute.
In the end, prosecutors reduced the charges.
Although Watt was accused of drugging all three girls, prosecutors decided to charge him with only one count. Additional counts would not have increased his sentence, Schwarz said.
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