Sentencing of attorneys who plead guilty to baby selling. Is it Enough?

January 27, 2012 | By:

I have been following the cases against my former colleagues Theresa Erickson and Hilary Neiman for some time.  I had known for awhile about the investigation but was still stunned when the plea agreements became available to the public and I began discussing the details with colleagues and officials in the Justice Department.  I know stuff like this probably happens more often than any of us care to admit.  It always has and it always will.  What is that expression about there always being thieves and crooks among us??

But my blog today — which is very different than that which I typically post — has more to do with whether the penalty fit the crime than whether what transpired under the direction of TE and with the assistance of HN was right or wrong, or for that matter my level of shock and horror at all of it.  I had at one point read something on the internet that suggested that HN had been sentenced, or was going to be sentenced to 13 years in prison.  I remember discussing the article I read with the women in my office.  I asked them whether they thought 13 years were too few or too many.  It turns out there was no factual basis to the article I was reading, as HN will be serving less than a year in a federal penitentiary and additional time under house arrest.  That is quite a difference from 13 years wouldn’t you say?

I had never made a decision myself about whether 13 years was “just” punishment for the crimes alleged and to which she plead guilty.  Some part of me felt that it wasn’t enough time and some part of me felt it was too much time.  So I let it go, as I was more intrigued by the fact that there were still matters under investigation.

But I have no doubt when I say that less than a year in “Club Fed” is not enough time.  As the Judge Battaglia pointed out (for more see an article in the ), HN doesn’t even appear to understand that what she has done was wrong.  Under the circumstances, then doesn’t it make sense to give someone slightly harsher a penalty to help them internalize that which they have done?  Club Fed is rumored not to be such a bad place.  If I recall, Martha Stewart enjoyed learning how to knit while she served her time.  Given that we are talking about the intentional creation and sale of human life, do we really want to send a message to society that less than a year in jail is sufficient punishment for such atrocious conduct?  I recognize that Judge Battaglia was restricted by sentencing guidelines, but even so, he still had the ability to provide for a more severe consequence for this crime.  House arrest is pretty much of a joke isn’t it?  There are days that actually sounds like a pretty sweet deal if you ask me.  I suppose taking the option out of it may make it different.  It is one thing to imagine what its like and another thing to actually live with an ankle bracelet every day.  Query, if you have a pool in your backyard, are you allowed to sunbathe next to it?  Or is that a violation of house arrest? Let’s be clear, however, we can make brownies, watch TV, read books, surf Face Book, and shop on the internet while under house arrest, things we cannot do at Club Fed.

I am not sure, and will most certainly be giving this more thought, but my gut reaction is that I really think this punishment didn’t fit the crime.  As we await the sentencing of the co-conspirators, I am really curious to see if this notion of minimum and maximum sentences, house arrest, and the reality that people like me (albeit me 11 years ago) — desperate to have a child, unknowing (even as an attorney) of the true bounds of the law with respect to things like surrogacy and egg donation — were intentionally preyed upon.  Babies were intentionally created to be sold to people like me.  It’s gross and inhuman.  And I object to the fact that the people who perpetrated these acts get to make brownies in the comfort of their own home, surf Face Book, and shop on Amazon, and perhaps even luxuriate by the pool in their backyard (seriously, is that okay with the ankle bracelet?  Martha was allowed to garden wasn’t she??).  Isn’t house arrest pretty much the same thing as sending your child to their room for a “time out”?

So I am going to make a pledge to devote more of my time to educating people so they don’t fall prey to schemes like these.  And while I do so, I hope that somewhere a fair justice system will prevail in what remains of these cases.


These are the personal thoughts and opinions of this author.

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