Thousands sign petition seeking removal of judge who gave bus driver probation for rape of 14-year-old

Shane Piche, a former school bus driver who pleaded guilty to raping a 14-year-old girl, was sentenced to 10 years' probation by New York State Supreme Court judge. (Courtesy: CNN)

WATERTOWN, N.Y. — An upstate New York judge is facing outrage for sentencing a former school bus driver to probation in the rape of a 14-year-old.

Jefferson County Supreme Court Judge James McClusky last week sentenced Shane Piche to 10 years of probation, sparking an online wave of condemnation from people arguing that the punishment was too lenient. Judge McClusky also received “numerous vitriolic” phone calls, court officials said Tuesday.

26-year-old Piche was accused of raping the teenager at his residence in Watertown, New York, last summer. Piche, who was a bus driver in the victim’s school district, pleaded guilty to third-degree rape in February.

Piche also was required to register as a Level 1 sex offender, the lowest of three categories based on the risk of another offense. Three orders of protection were issued and Piche was ordered not to be left alone with anyone under the age of 17.

The sentencing drew national media attention and harsh criticism. Twitter users posted the phone number and address of McClusky’s chambers in Watertown.

Now, more than 52,000 people have signed a petition calling for Judge McClusky to be removed.

The petition reads, in part:

“Tell the New York Commission of Judicial Conduct: ‘Judge James McClusky just let a child rapist off with a slap on the wrist. Remove him from his position immediately for his blatant disregard for survivors of sexual assault.'”

The petition also asserts that Judge McClusky “cannot be trusted to protect survivors of sexual assault.”

The petition has received signatures from citizens all across the country.  Its creators are looking to get 75,000 digital signatures.

However, prosecutors and Piche’s lawyer say the punishment given by Judge McClusty was appropriate.

State Court Spokesman Lucian Chalfen said the judge was “well within” the sentencing range for this type of negotiated plea conviction. The maximum state prison time he could have received would have been from 1 1/3 to 4 years, he said.

Jefferson County Chief Assistant District Attorney Patricia Dziuba said all parties acted within the parameters set by law and that the prosecutor handling the case sought up to six months of jail time along with probation, supervision and treatment. She declined to criticize the judge’s sentence.

“He’ll be a felon for the rest of his life. He’s on the sex offender registry for a long time,” Piche’s attorney, Eric Swartz, told television station WWNY of Watertown.

The station said a victim impact statement given to them by the victim’s mother read, “I wish Shane Piche would have received time in jail for the harm he caused to my child. He took something from my daughter she will never get back and has caused her to struggle with depression and anxiety.”

Chelsea Miller, of the New York State Coalition Against Sexual Assault, said based on the mother’s statement, it’s possible that the judge and court officials didn’t understand the harm the survivor experienced.

“Unfortunately, this can discourage survivors who see jail or prison time as a form of accountability,” Miller said.

To read the full petition, CLICK HERE.

Continuing coverage, here.

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