Did this judge go too far or should he be heralded as judge of the year?
An Oklahoma mother of seven convicted of using counterfeited checks–and who allegedly used drugs during her pregnancies–received a reduced sentence after voluntarily following the judge’s suggestion to get sterilized.
Summer Thyme Creel was sentenced on Thursday to a year in federal prison and three years of supervised release for her role in a fraudulent check-cashing ring, The Oklahoman reported.
The maximum possible punishment for Creel’s crimes was 10 years in prison. Under federal guidelines intended to keep sentences uniform across the country, she would have had up to 16 months in a federal facility.
In November, Creel chose to undergo a sterilization procedure after US District Judge Stephen Friot suggested it in a scheduling order.
“She will receive a shorter sentence because she made that decision,” Friot said before sentencing.
Fox News reported the judge as writing in his order:
“Comparing the dates of Ms. Creel’s periods of habitual use of crack cocaine and methamphetamine … with the dates of birth of her seven children, it appears highly likely that some of Ms. Creel’s children were conceived, carried and born while Ms. Creel was a habitual user of these illicit substances.”
Creel’s lawyer acknowledged that her client received the procedure voluntarily, but claimed her client had a “fundamental right to procreate.”
Creel had prior theft and counterfeit check convictions and twice tested positive for methamphetamine use.
Eesha Pandit of the women’s rights group Center for Advancing Innovative Policy blasted Friot’s suggestion of sterilization, the Washington Post reported:
“For decades sterilization was used as a way to control populations considered ‘undesirable’ — immigrants, people of color, poor people, those with mental illnesses and disabilities.
“Tying Ms. Creel’s sentencing to her sterilization formalizes the coercion — the threat of a harsher sentence is manipulative and dangerous, and aligns with a legacy of eugenic practices through the US.”
Friot reminded the court that Creel’s sterilization was not imposed, but voluntary. If she had not undergone the procedure, her situation would have been the same, he said.
“She would have come before the court in the same posture as any other habitual criminal. Her fertility would have been a non-issue.”
He also defended his suggestion, saying the Supreme Court “has yet to recognize a constitutional right to bring crack- or methamphetamine-addicted babies into this world.”
Was Judge Friot right on the money?