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Man Chooses To Hold "I Was Stupid" Sign Instead of Jail Time

By: Mary Rinzel and Mark Povolny Email
By: Mary Rinzel and Mark Povolny Email

A judge gives a man a choice: Spend time in jail or hold a sign saying "I was stupid."

Wednesday, he made that choice. He decided he'll hold the sign.

We talked to the judge known for his strange sentences. Judge Paul Lenz says over the years, he's handed out 20 or so similar sentences. But, he says for the most part, the criminals pass and choose to sit out their sentences rather than face public humiliation.

They read "I was stupid," "I’m a thief," and "I stole from the families of the dead."

They're all options to reduce jail time.

"It's something for them to think about," Lenz says. "Even if they don't choose to do it, they have to think about it because they have to think about whether they'll select the option. That means they'll think more about the consequences."

Consequences for cases like Shane McQuillan's. He was found guilty of criminal damage to property after he rammed his car into the closed gate at Eau Claire's Waste Water Treatment Plant in March.

McQuillan told an officer he had been drinking and was quote "just being stupid." Now, the 22 year old will hold a sign telling everyone "I was stupid".

"It's an option for the person. It's not something that's forced on them," Lenz says.

The judge says he's also thinking about money when he assigns a sign. In tough budget times, he says keeping non-violent people out of jail makes sense. Then there's the humiliation.

“It's a difficult thing to do if you think about it for yourself. It's basically a public acknowledgment that what you did was wrong and that's difficult for people to do," Judge Lenz says. "It’s also for others who might think about doing that type of behavior to think about."

The judge says there are some guidelines to follow when it comes to a sentence. He says it has to relate to the offense. But, he says his sign options are voluntary and have never been appealed.

We did leave several messages for Shane McQuillan, but did not hear back from him.

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There were a couple other interesting sentences handed down recently in our area:

--In July, a tutor in Amery who had sex with her daughter's classmate was banished from her hometown for the next 15 years. The Polk County district attorney says it's not a common sentence, but can happen when the victim is threatened.

--In August, a St. Croix County woman was sentenced to take care of a victim's gravesite for 15 years. She pleaded guilty to homicide by intoxicated use of a vehicle.


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