News from the Tennessee Valley Opinion


Federal judge too easy on refuge indecency

The testimony in the Wednesday court appearances of seven men charged with indecency at Wheeler Wildlife Refuge in June was graphic.

Five of the men pleaded guilty to gross conduct in a public place, and U.S. Magistrate Harwell G. Davis III popped them with fines, probation and an order to stay away from the refuge while serving their sentences.

He should have been harder on the men, not for being homosexuals, but for their total disregard and disrespect for society and decency.

He fined three of the males $525 each, gave them 10 days in jail and one year of probation, during which time they are to stay away from the refuge.

Two other men received the same fine, 60 days in jail and two years on probation, during which time they, too, are banished from the refuge.

Two other men have trials set for October.

As a Class A misdemeanor, the penalty could have been up to a year in jail and a $100,000 fine. The judged suggested that, next time, they consider getting a hotel room. It would be a lot cheaper, he said.

Fines and jail time won't stop this type of conduct, but if they are harsh enough, they may stop public displays like that described in court in Huntsville.

This refuge area, off Interstate 565, or Alabama 20, was once a splendid boardwalk deep into the refuge. Other areas on the refuge also were popular for families, groups and for Sunday afternoon walks. They are not any longer because of this type of disgusting behavior.

U.S. Attorney Alice Martin called the sentences tough and said they should send a message that such behavior will not be tolerated.

But two of the men didn't worry too much about being arrested. They had previously been taken in for the same offenses.

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