David Wise was convicted of six felony counts for drugging his wife, raping her in her sleep, and videotaping the rapes. But he won’t spend a day in jail.
Wise was sentenced by an Indiana county judge to eight years of home confinement, and the remaining 12 years of his 20-year sentence suspended. Prosecutors asked for 40 years in prison. His former wife, Mandy Boardman, called the sentence “unfathomable.” “I never thought that he would be at home, being able to have the same rights and privileges as I do,” she told the Los Angeles Times.
Boardman recalled years in which there would be powder residue in her drink. She would wake up with a half-dissolved pill in her mouth. After she found videos of sexual encounters on Wise’s cell phone and confronted him, he wrote in an email to her, “I was taking advantage of you in your sleep and you kept coming to me and telling me it was NOT ok. I needed to stop.” The rapes went on for more than three years unbeknownst to Boardman.
Marion Superior Court Judge Kurt Eisgruber declined to explain his reasoning, particularly because Boardman is appealing the sentence. But he did ask Boardman to forgive Eisgruber during the sentencing hearing, saying, “I hope that you can forgive him one day, because he’s obviously struggled with this and struggled to this day, and I hope that she could forgive him.” He is running for re-election unopposed this November.
Wise was convicted on one count of rape and five counts of criminal deviate conduct. These are each Class B offenses carrying sentences of six to 20 years in Indiana. The recommended sentence is ten years. But a judge may sentence an individual concurrently for multiple offenses, and he may choose to suspend parts of that sentence in many circumstances.
During Wise’s eight years of home detention, he will be monitored by a GPS device and permitted to leave home for work, or other limited travel allowances. Particularly as prison populations explode and questions emerge about the conditions of prisons, home detention is viewed as a useful alternative for those who can be monitored remotely without threatening public safety.
But Wise’s sentence is one of a number of recent cases involving rape or sexual assault in which defendants have been given sentences far less stringent than recommended for the crime, and not proportional to sentences for other offenses. In a recent Texas case, a judge sentenced a defendant who pleaded guilty to sexually assaulting a 14-year-old girl to just 45 days in prison, followed by mandatory volunteer service at a rape crisis center. In a Delaware case, the wealthy heir of a chemical magnate was sentenced to only probation and no jail time for sexually abusing his 3-year-old daughter. In Montana, teacher got 30 days in jail for raping one of his students. And another man in Alabama received only probation for raping a teen.
These sentences stand in contrast to mandatory minimum sentences that start at five or ten years in jail for even low-level drug offenses, and ratchet up from there. Home detention is not an option for these offenses, nor is probation, suspension, or volunteer alternatives. But even in the context of sex offenses, many others are drastically over-sentenced. After Hayes County, Texas, prosecutors seized on a 2011 law intended to curb sex trafficking, a man who slept with a 14-year-old he met on eHarmony was sentenced this week to life in prison without the option for parole. The girl initially lied about her age on the online dating site, although Robert Ritz, a prison guard, continued to see her even after he learned she was a minor. Even the law’s author said the sex trafficking statute was improperly applied to this case, and intended to target commercial exploitation. Life without parole is the harshest U.S. sentence short of execution, and the number of U.S. prisoners serving that sentence has increased 22 percent since 2008.
Many more U.S. prisoners are sentenced to a life behind bars with the possibility of parole. While David Wise is likely to never again see the inside of a jail cell (he spent some time in jail while awaiting trial), one in nine U.S. prisoners are serving life sentences.