Outside of the parenting context, it’s no secret that women tend to get lighter sentences than men. And outside of all context, it’s no secret a badge does a lot to insulate its wearer from criminal liability and mitigate the sentence when the hammer comes down. So what happens when a cop manages to violate every norm of decency while seeking revenge on her husband?
Saintamen Edwards was an officer with the Miami-Dade Police Department who had a grudge against her husband. It’s not clear what the dispute was—whether she resented his eating crackers in the bed or he’d slept with her entire extended family—but she decided to use her position at a desk job to make his life hell.
Edwards called down to a shoe store where her significant other worked and pretended to be an Officer “Diann Mich.” Officer Mich explained that she was concerned that the target of her vengeance was selling fake shoes to customers and it was adversely affecting the store’s business. Then she fabricated a couple of police reports and e-mailed them to the store’s manager, telling him “not to discuss an open criminal investigation.”
Unfortunately for Edwards, the store’s manager had a son who had gone to law school. The son took a quick look at the reports and figured they weren’t like anything a competent officer would have produced. It’s clear this son wasn’t a criminal lawyer, or his standards would have been lower. In any case, he soon called down to figure out who was in charge of the investigation, which led to an internal affairs detective getting involved.
It wasn’t long before the detective figured out that Edwards had showed up to work in workout clothes at the exact moment that the e-mails were sent, and it was off and away to a swift firing and a criminal investigation.
So far, the story is actually a pretty stirring recommendation for the criminal justice system. Edwards attempted to frame her husband, someone actually investigated her misconduct, and there were nearly immediate consequences, rather than the extended vacation and circling of the wagons that have accompanied some other police misconduct cases.
If this was how things worked in most cases, people would probably have a lot more faith in police as an institution. Or at least, the 24% of people who don’t report having a “great deal” of respect for police in the midst of a sudden public surge of support.
Edwards received a jury trial and was convicted, even though she claimed that she had been at the gynecologist on the day that the fraudulent e-mails were sent. Investigators subpoenaed her medical records shortly afterward and showed that she hadn’t been at the doctor that day.
So imagine, for a moment, the typical sentence for a person who committed these crimes. Someone who not only impersonated a police officer to get someone in trouble and falsified police reports, but then was caught lying under oath about it to get out of trouble. Imagine the number of years that person might get to “send a message.”
Now halve that sentence. Halve it again. Add three. Take a breather, you’ve put in some serious thinking. Maybe grab a snack? Now get a calculator. Multiply by zero. Saintamen Edwards got straight probation. Four years. The potential penalty had been ten years in prison.
And the prosecutor wasn’t even disappointed by much. She’d asked for 60 days in jail. The same penalty that Arnold Abbott faced for feeding the homeless without a permit in Fort Lauderdale. A penalty that many face long before they’ve even had a chance to get to trial, because they haven’t made bond.
It’s not that the sentence was senseless. The crime was likely a one-off and Edwards didn’t seem to have any significant criminal history. And Edwards had a daughter to take care of now that her husband had left the city—a daughter who would likely really suffer in her absence.
So mercy wasn’t a crazy option. It’s just an option that it’s hard to imagine being extended to others. An ordinary person who went to trial with no real defense and then provably lied under oath would probably get the hammer. A person who abused a position of trust would expect to receive an even heftier sentence.
This is always the double bind when pointing out excessively lenient sentences. Defense attorneys don’t long for a world where everyone gets hammered, but it would be nice to see folks getting hammered equally, or mercy in equal measure. Saintamen Edwards will spend the next 60 days caring for her daughter, and it’s hard to be too resentful of that. But would it be too much to hope for a world where everyone got the benefit of that doubt?
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