Updated: July 15, 2011 12:10AM
Let’s be clear: Prison is for poor people. Prison is not for rich people. Prison is for people who cannot buy their way out.
We can only assume that this is what a judge in Broward County, Fla., Barbara McCarthy, learned back at St. Thomas University Law School in northwest Miami — justice is blind, unless you’ve got money, in which case justice is a cash register.
Maybe you caught the news story over the weekend. An overgrown brat from suburban Barrington Hills, Ryan LeVin, 36, who had run over and killed two men while drag racing his Porsche in South Florida, was sentenced by Judge McCarthy to a mere two years of house arrest — in one of his wealthy parents’ luxury oceanfront condos — after agreeing to write big checks to the victims’ widows.
LeVin could have been sentenced to up to 45 years in prison for killing the two British businessmen and fleeing the police, and in fact nobody in Broward County can recall another time when a person found guilty of such a crime did not serve time in prison.
But LeVin was grounded.
Before imposing this gift of a sentence, McCarthy said something remarkably stupid: “The need for restitution does outweigh the need for prison.”
No, it doesn’t.
We understand that the widows, with six children between them, were left in bad financial shape by the loss of their husbands. And we understand that the widows asked the judge to cut this deal, in which LeVin would avoid prison time in return for immediately writing checks — for sizable but undisclosed sums — to settle a civil wrongful death suit.
But as much as we feel sympathy for the widows, this deal is an outrage, sanctioning two standards of justice — one for the very rich and one for the rest of us.
You should know this: At the time of his arrest, LeVin already had more than 50 moving traffic violations to his name, and he was on probation in Illinois for a high-speed chase in 2006 that injured a police officer and two motorists.
And you should know this: When McCarthy ordered LeVin at his sentencing hearing to take the gum out of his mouth and make a statement, he turned red and blubbery and said he felt shame, but he never actually apologized.
Illinois officials are working to have LeVin returned here, his home state, to face charges of violating his terms of parole when he took one of his trips to Florida. Running over two men at more than 100 miles an hour in a $120,000 Porsche 911 Turbo, we suspect, might also qualify as a parole violation.
Our hope is that LeVin is returned to Illinois promptly and thrown in prison to serve out the last few months of his sentence.
As for Judge McCarthy, let’s hope she stays in Florida.