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Our view: Judge learns a lesson, but teen paid the price




Monday morning, Judge Lee Coleman presided over the probation revocation hearing of Alan Redden of Columbus at the Lowndes County Courthouse. 


The hearing, which included testimony from three witnesses and Redden, took about an hour, but it was clear from the get-go that Coleman could hardly wait to make his ruling. 


In fact, Coleman interrupted prosecutor Lindsay Clemons' closing statement by saying he had made up his mind to revoke Redden's probation. 


It's easy to see why. 


From the moment Coleman suspended Redden's five-year sentence for the aggravated assault/domestic violence and placed him on unsupervised probation on Feb. 5, the whole matter has been a headache for the judge. The laughably lenient sentence came after Redden was found guilty for beating at his wife with a belt, jabbing her with a golf club and kicking her after she had fallen to the floor. Naturally, Coleman's handling of the case created an immediate firestorm of criticism. Of course, Coleman is not the first judge to make an unpopular decision. In most cases, the criticism eventually subsides. But not so with the Redden case. Less than five months after Coleman basically wagged a disapproving finger in Redden's face and told him "just don't let it happen again or you'll be in big trouble," Redden was arrested again, this time for the physical assault of a 13-year-old girl, the daughter of the girlfriend he had broken up with earlier that day. 


While Redden has yet to face that charge, the arrest was enough to bring him back to court for Monday's revocation hearing. 


Rod Ray, Redden's attorney, didn't put up much of a fight after listening to the testimony of the young teen, another child who was at this latest incident and the estranged girlfriend. Redden didn't try to make a case for himself, either, when allowed to address the court. He told Coleman everything the witnesses said "was right on the money" and apologized to Coleman "for all the stuff you've been going through because of me." 


Ray rather sheepishly asked Coleman "to be as lenient as you can be." 


Of course, we know just how lenient Coleman can be, which was the how all of this started in the first place. 


Clemons reminded the judge that Redden had been given an "incredible" (definition: "impossible to believe") opportunity and "he didn't make it six months." She seemed to be just clearing her throat when Coleman abruptly ended the proceedings by ruling that Redden had violated his probation and that the original five-year sentence would be imposed. 


You might be tempted to say all's well that ends well. Yet there is a 13-year-old girl who would not have been bullied and traumatized by Redden had Coleman not taken all the teeth out of the original sentence back in February. 


Chances are, both Coleman and Redden have learned a valuable, if painful, lesson. 


Redden, who smashed the teen's cellphone in his fit of temper, texted the girl's mom the day after the incident, asking her if she really wanted him to be sent to prison over a broken phone. 


At that point, he didn't realize that it wasn't a broken cellphone that was sending him to prison, but his lack of self-control.  


Chances are good that he will learn to curb his temper in his new environment. At age 51, he'll be vulnerable in the prison population. He'll learn to manage his impulses, to mind his own business, to control his emotions. How he chooses to learn is up to him, of course, in a place where violence is often the first option rather than the last resort. 


As for Coleman, we suspect this is the last time he will be eager to dismiss a crime as merely an "abnormality." He will not likely put much stock in the guilty party's stature as "business owner" and a "volunteer in the community." 


It is a sad fact that justice is not always blind. 


But it should never be stupid.



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