PAINESVILLE, Ohio — Painesville Municipal Judge Michael Cicconetti, who is known for his creative punishments, will be hanging up his robe later this year. But before he goes, he met with FOX 8 at his community garden, which he is overseeing one last time, to reflect on his memorable career.
Judge Cicconetti said the community garden has been one of his favorite projects. Non-violent offenders plant crops there to help feed the less fortunate. He said it also helps to build self esteem.
“Many of the people that come before me lack that, but to come out here and do something on the order of productiveness, I think that really helps them,” he said.
For more than a quarter century, Judge Cicconetti has been giving lawbreakers the option of alternative sentences to avoid jail time.
In one case, three men chose to wear chicken suits instead of serving 20 days in jail for soliciting prostitution. In another, a couple of young vandals agreed to fire paintballs at their own car. Last year, a young man who thought it was funny to tip over a porta potty took the offer to shovel manure from stalls at the Lake County Fairgrounds.
The judge said in each case, he was trying to teach a lesson that would last a life time.
“Look, you did something stupid and you’re going to pay for it by doing something stupid and hopefully it clicks,” he said.
He said his creativity started as a kid watching comedies like ‘The Three Stooges’ and being the eldest of nine.
“So in order to get a little more food or in order to get out of one of the household chores, you had to be a little creative somehow,” he recalled.
As the old gardener looked over a career of planting seeds and pulling weeds, he hopes that all of the defendants who chose his creative punishment remember that he was just trying to turn their lives around.
“This isn’t the worst thing in life and stupidity can often be remedied. I like to be the instrument that remedies that. See you once, I don’t want to see you again,” he said.
The judge’s staff convinced him to remain on the bench until September. Once he retires, he plans to do “absolutely nothing” for the first year and then eventually teach a couple of college courses.