JUDGE GARY SHARPE pauses for 20 seconds before sharing his thinking behind the sentence the gave Samantha Marco that included no time behind bars. 	            Hannah Tetzlaff photo
JUDGE GARY SHARPE pauses for 20 seconds before sharing his thinking behind the sentence the gave Samantha Marco that included no time behind bars. Hannah Tetzlaff photo

     When he first ran in 2010 to serve as a judge for Fond du Lac County Circuit Court, Gary Sharpe wrote that “a judge must act to protect the citizens of Fond du Lac County and victims of crime by imposing penalties firmly and not tolerating criminal behavior” (italics added).

     Last week, Judge Sharpe sentenced former Ripon High School teacher Samantha Marco (formerly Fitzpatrick) to three years probation for having a sexual relationship with one of her students.

     Before imposing his non-punishment, the 1973 Ripon College alumnus offered a rationale that was as intellectually vapid as it was permissive, a fact made all the more acute by the fact that Sharpe should know better; he formerly served four terms on the Fond du Lac District Board of Education.

     Overseers of school systems understand that their first responsibility, ahead even of educating students, is to assure their welfare. That means protecting children from being manipulated, abused or assaulted by the people in whose care they have been entrusted.

     So it’s all the more peculiar that Sharpe believes that Marco’s crime merits no time in prison because

     * she displayed a “pro-social life and accomplishments and strong character;”

     * she didn’t manipulate her victim;

     * the student believes she did not hurt him nor does he want her penalized.

     Hard to judge which contention is most ludicrous. ...

     By looking the other way after a teacher sexually assaulted a minor on numerous occasions, Sharpe’s careless precedent has revictimized this community; it now takes a more jaundiced view of its criminal justice system and is less trustful of authority.  

     Of the victim, the judge has remarked: “He has no belief that he has any adverse impacts ...”

     Well, your honor, we believe this. Your casual wrist slap has adversely affected this community in profound and permanent ways. So here’s your sentence:   

     Shame on you.
                                    — Tim Lyke


To read the entire column, see the Feb. 21, 2018 edition of The Ripon Commonwealth Press.