Just Another Guy with Opinions

Cruel and Unusual Punishment?

Posted by shadmia on February 28, 2008


In 1994 Oregon passed a voter-approved ballot initiative setting mandatory minimum sentences. It is called Measure 11. In 2005 Veronica Rodriquez, 23, was convicted by a jury of first-degree sexual assault. Under Measure 11 the minimum sentence for this crime is 6 years and 3 months in prison. But what exactly did Veronica do??

Veronica Rodriquez was found guilty of running her hands through a 13-year-old boy’s hair and pulling the back of his head against her covered chest in the middle of a crowded game room at the Boys and Girls Club in Hillsboro.

Circuit Judge Nancy Campbell gave her 16 months instead, saying the Measure 11 sentence would violate the state constitution as cruel and unusual punishment. One ex-cop calls the case the worst travesty of justice he’s seen in 20 years as an investigator.

“I feel like a fountain overflowing on this. I feel as strongly about Veronica’s innocence as anything I have ever investigated in my life, and I am a very seasoned investigator,” says Michael Hintz, a former Tigard police detective who worked for Rodriguez’s defense team.

Rodriguez served one year at the Coffee Creek Correctional Facility in Wilsonville, earning time off for good behavior.

Kevin Mannix, the original Measure 11 backer, calls Judge Campbell’s move to override the minimum sentence “absolutely unacceptable,” saying the correct path would be to ask the governor for clemency.

In the meantime, prosecutors appealed her sentence, and in December a three-judge panel at the state Court of Appeals ruled unanimously that Rodriguez should serve out the remaining five years of her Measure 11 sentence. Read the entire ruling from the Court of Appeals in: The State of Oregon v Veronica Rodriquez.

Rodriguez’s appeal of that ruling landed at the Supreme Court on Feb. 13.

If the Supreme Court either refuses to hear the case or rules against Veronica, then she will have to go back to prison to serve the remaining 5 years of her sentence. The conviction destroyed her career as a social worker. She is now a registered sex offender, living in Spokane with her parents and working as a barista. She says returning to prison would scuttle her plans to go back to school and marry her boyfriend, Kevin Hagen, who stood by her throughout her arrest and trial.

“Trying to rebuild my life, and then going back and having it taken away from me again—it’s a hard thought to deal with,” says Rodriguez, who has no other criminal record. “All I can do is keep fighting my case and have faith that down the road, it will all get straightened out somehow.”

Peter Gartlan, Veronica Rodriguez’s public defender, wants the Supreme Court to reconsider, saying Rodriguez’s case doesn’t fit with other sexual assaults that merit a stiff sentence. As Gartlan wrote in his request to the Supreme Court, citing a hypothetical case:

“Causing the back of a boy’s head to be placed against the clothed chest of a 23-year-old counselor is qualitatively different from causing a 12-year-old boy to place his tongue or his penis in the family dog’s anus…. The conduct in this case must be one of the mildest, most technical forms of ‘sexual abuse’ that one could contemplate.”

For a full, detailed description of the Veronica Rodriquez case and her relationship with the 13-year-old boy that got her into so much trouble click here:


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