The line between “good” people and “bad” people might be thinner than you think.

Recent cases passing through the Whitley Circuit courtroom have shown just that — nice, kind, caring people are capable of making terrible choices.

The mechanization of punishment for the public by the means of trial, verdict and sentencing does not preclude guilty persons from contributing to society to some extent, or from maintaining friendships within the community, though it undoubtedly changes the lives of every person in the social sphere of the convicted.

 

It’s difficult to be confronted by opinions contrary to one’s own perceptions, especially when the new ideas contradict significant or deeply held beliefs like those related to family, security, or religion. For example, in the sentencing of Jordin Shoda this week, many family members came forward to share stories about him — examples of good deeds he has done for others. Even Judge Matthew Rentschler noted the fact that he has had steady employment and is current with child support payments as mitigating factors for his sentencing.

In the case of Dr. James Hanus, who recently pleaded guilty to dealing a controlled substance by a practitioner, many have commented on social media about their experience with him as a kind, caring doctor — which he very well may have been.

But whether or not someone is guilty of a crime is not based on kindness. It is based on the prosecution’s ability to convince the jury and/or judge of the defendant’s guiltiness, hopefully evidenced by a series of indisputable facts. One’s guiltiness is based on admission of guilt or a decision made in a jury trial, not perception of one’s moral character in the abstract.

Some may be surprised by what happens behind closed doors. Children are exploited by close relatives. Corporations profiteer from substance addictions that are spread by immoral actors.

You may be surprised by the facts of a case, especially if the individual has always been nice to you. But they’re clearly not acting that way around someone else.

You must ask yourself, how nice is a person, really, if they’re leaving victims with something they have to deal with for the rest of their lives?

Individuals who have been sexually assaulted carry that trauma, in some form for the remainder of their lives. Many patients who struggle for years with drug addiction, start to when caretakers manage prescriptions recklessly.

Both child molestation and criminal cases involving drugs are continuing to increase in Whitley County.

In the end, everyone loses.

Even people who are kind or have the best of intentions may not have your or your child’s best interests in mind.

We must ask ourselves, what can we do to prevent ourselves from becoming victims? How can we protect our children?

Educate yourself.

Do you need that prescription for a controlled substance, or can you manage with over-the-counter medications? Does that friend or family member who is befriending your child have good intentions?

It was best said by Prosecutor D.J. Sigler, who quoted Shakespeare at Monday’s sentencing hearing:

“One may smile and be a villain.”