Mandatory 15-Year Prison Sentence Would Be More Outrageous Than Crime
WASHINGTON, DC — FAMM President Julie Stewart this morning called on the state attorney’s office in the 12th district of Florida to use its discretion to prevent a 40-year-old man from receiving a 15-year mandatory minimum prison sentence . Jose Benjamin Caballero, was found guilty on Monday of having sex on a public beach in Manatee County. Because Mr. Caballero was convicted of this crime less than three years after he finished serving a prison term for an unrelated drug offense, he is subject to a mandatory 15-year prison sentence.
“As outrageous as Mr. Caballero’s behavior was, it would be even more outrageous for the state to make him spend 15 years in prison,” Ms. Stewart said. “As a parent, I would not want my children to see people having sex on a public beach in the middle of the day. But as a taxpayer, I would be even more offended to waste hundreds of thousands of dollars to punish Mr. Caballero’s irresponsible behavior.”
“This is a case where the punishment required by law is far worse than the crime. Not surprisingly, it is the unintended consequence of a mandatory minimum sentencing law being applied to a situation that lawmakers could not have foreseen when they passed it,” Ms. Stewart said.
Mr. Caballero and his partner, Elissa Alvarez, were charged with one count each of lewd or lascivious exhibition for having sex on a public beach in Manatee County, Florida on July 20, 2014. Ms. Alvarez is likely to receive some jail time and will have to register as a sex offender. Under Florida’s Prisoner Releasee Reoffender (PRR) law, however, Mr. Caballero will be subject to a mandatory 15-year term in state prison and be required to spend the rest of his life on the sex offender registry.
Ms. Stewart said that FAMM would urge Florida lawmakers to take a hard look at Florida’s PRR statute and other state mandatory minimum sentencing laws. In the meantime, she said, she hoped that the prosecutors who tried Mr. Caballero would work with the judge and defense counsel to avoid an obviously unjust outcome in this case. Before going to trial, Mr. Caballero turned down a plea deal that would have required him to serve 2.5 years in prison. Mr. Caballero rejected the deal, but the offer demonstrates that prosecutors know he is not enough of a threat to public safety to deserve 15 years behind bars.
“We have an adversarial criminal justice system and the passions stirred by a zealous prosecution and contested trial sometimes carry over to the punishment phase. That’s only natural. But I hope that the state attorney in this case will take a step back, take a moment to reflect, and then do what is necessary to avoid a massive injustice,” concluded Stewart.
The judge has not set a sentencing date yet.