A renowned geneticist who was Time magazine's runner-up for "Man of the Year" in 1995 for his pioneering work in gene therapy was convicted by a Southern California jury yesterday of sexually molesting the young daughter of a colleague from 1997 to 2001 and could face a maximum sentence of 22 years in prison. His attorney argues that the 69-year-old scientist should be placed on probation so that he can continue his vitally important work. Prosecutors, on the other hand, argue that he should go to prison because of the harm he inflicted on his victim, and the judge in the case has expressed concerns about allowing the scientist to remain free in light of an e-mail threat he made to the victim in 2004 that he might kill himself if she told on him.
Should the judge send him to prison, or should he allow the scientist to continue his research? There are apparently no indications that the scientist molested any other children, and so he could probably be placed under restrictions that would make it difficult if not impossible for him to molest anyone else. But if he isn't sent to prison, how fair is this to all the people who have been or will be incarcerated for similar offenses? Yet, if he goes to prison, what might the world potentially lose from his being unable to continue his research?
Some might find it easy enough to decide what should be done with this man one way or the other. But I see both sides of the issue and feel unsure of what sentence the judge should impose. The victim herself, now 19, is not on record for what she thinks his sentence should be.
What do you think it should be?
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