When an intoxicated Utica College safety director crashed his car into Erin Dugan's SUV last September, two badly broken legs brought the 27-year-old woman's life to a standstill.
The accident happened the night before Dugan planned to move to Florida. Instead, she spent the past year in recovery at her mother's house in Richfield Springs. After months of hospitalization, Dugan walks with a cane and faces additional surgeries.
Now, Gregg Sponburgh, an Army veteran of the Afghanistan and Iraq wars, waits to be sentenced next week. Utica College's president has written a Herkimer County Court judge in support of the college employee.
In the letter sent Aug. 30, Utica College President Todd Hutton asked the presiding judge to "consider the negative consequences that a prison or jail sentence would hold for Mr. Sponburgh, his family and the community."
The real question here isn't why the college is trying to get Sponburgh a light sentence, but why he wasn't fired the day he was convicted. Negative consequences? Take a look at the article's accompanying photograph for some "negative consequences". Ms. Dugan's legs were snapped like twigs in multiple locations, and that network of scars criss-crossing her legs is the result of the surgeries needed to put them back together.
In the letter to Judge Patrick Kirk, Hutton acknowledges the serious nature of the crime. However, after considering whether to terminate Sponburgh after 13 years of service, Hutton wrote the "better decision" would be to engage Sponburgh in efforts to prevent such incidents from happening again.
"If any positive can come out of this tragedy, it is that Mr. Sponburgh can use his own experience to make a powerful impression upon students, both at Utica College and at other schools, as well as upon others in the local community," Hutton wrote.
Perhaps Mr. Hutton would be kind enough to provide us with a list of other felonies he views as teachable moments rather than crimes. Just imagine the educational opportunities of having actual rapists perform rape counseling, or the wonderful potential some convicted pedophiles on staff would represent. Too extreme? How about hiring a couple of convicted embezzlers to handle business matters?
"An educational institution's No. 1 responsibility is to educate first," Brown said. "This letter is certainly the opposite of hypocritical, to educate first and take every step possible to educate the community. By incarcerating this individual, it would only delay that educational process from taking place."
I certainly agree that an "educational process" needs to start pronto, but I don't think it's the community that needs to be educated in this instance.
Update: WKTV has more.