Slap-On-The-Wrist Sentence Belittles Police Officer's Life

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It's not often one can point to a court ruling, and call it a true travesty of justice.

Such a decision was made Monday in Phoenix, however, during the sentencing of 39-year-old David Ballentine, the man who caused the death of Phoenix Police Officer Geolet Beuf.

Beuf stopped Ballentine and his girlfriend in November 1999 to ask them about the suspicious pickup truck they were driving. Ballentine took off running. Beuf tackled Ballentine and they rolled into the street, where a 41-ton semi ran over them. Beuf was killed instantly.

After 18 months of legal wrangling, Balletine's attorneys were able to swing a deal, where their defendant would plead guilty to negligent homicide for a lighter sentence. Ballentine was sentenced to 3 years 9 months in prison, but with credit for time served, he'll only serve two years in jail for recklessly causing Beuf's death.

Turns out, even though Beuf had only been on the Phoenix police force for about a year and a half, his instincts were right on target: Ballentine was running because he was wanted on drug charges out of Missouri.

We have to hand it to the defense attorney for negotiating this plea. Had the case gone to a jury trial, with Beuf's wife and four children in attendance, sympathy would surely have favored the prosecution.

Two years for causing the death of anyone seems a miscarriage of justice. When that death is of a man who has sworn to protect and serve the public, the sentence seems ridiculous.

On the brighter side, when Ballentine finishes his remaining two years in the Arizona prison, he'll immediately be shipped back to Missouri, where he'll face sentencing on the original drug charges. We can only hope the Missouri court system deals its justice with a stronger hand.

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