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VALLEY PERSPECTIVE

Use of Plea Bargains

February 11, 2001

* "Man Pleads Guilty to Lewd Acts With Girl," Feb. 1.

The story told of a man allegedly performing sexual acts on three little girls. Prosecutors dropped 21 counts against the man, which would probably have guaranteed a lifetime in prison for a 50-year-old. He can be eligible for parole in only eight years, young enough to practice these probably compulsive acts again.

Plea bargains have their place when it is a truly tough case with very little evidence and is about all that prosecutors can hope for. It's even the responsible thing to do in some few cases to get testimony from criminals.

But the system is being abused. It has been from former district attorneys Ira Reiner, to Gil Garcetti, and now Dist. Atty. Steve Cooley. The purpose of making these numbers vis-a-vis the conviction rate look good [is] for their reelection. In this case, the alleged perpetrator had video tapes purportedly showing himself in sexual acts with the children. That's pretty hefty evidence and a really strong prosecutorial case.

Misapplication and abuse of the plea bargain does injury to all of us and perverts justice. It's time for all of us to call a halt.

ARLINE MATHEWS

Chatsworth

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