The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

May 1, 2013

Justice wasn’t served

— Justice wasn’t served Monday in a federal courtroom in Bluefield.

Senior Judge David A. Faber, saying himself he was going “out on a limb,” sentenced former Beckley Police Department evidence technician Gabriella Brown to four years of probation after she pleaded guilty late last year to stealing Oxycodone from the evidence room she was employed to oversee.

The daughter of Raleigh County Circuit Court Judge John Hutchison, who delivered a lengthy speech on her behalf before Judge Faber issued the sentence, Brown’s conduct begged for a tougher disposition.

Hundreds of thousands of taxpayers dollars were wasted and dozens of criminals, many associated with drug crimes, were turned loose as a result of Brown’s actions and the compromising of evidence.

Those who are police or are employees of police agencies are entrusted with the public’s faith that they will protect and serve, whether in uniform or not. They are held to a higher level.

When one of them betrays the trust of fellow employees and the citizenry — and jeopardizes the safety of the public as in this case — more than a slap on the wrist or being humiliated publicly is called for.

We understand Brown was a drug addict; this case just shows how far-reaching the addiction problem has gone. It’s reached a pinnacle when drug evidence is stolen from police custody, by one of its own, to support a habit. We truly feel sorry for her.

We also understand she is a mother and a wife, that she has and is being treated by professionals for her problem, and according to testimony, offered before her sentencing that she is in recovery. That’s the good news.

The bad news is we don’t believe, as we suspect the overwhelming majority of the public does, that the punishment of probation was strong enough for the severity of the crimes that were committed. Far too lenient, in fact.

Judge Faber’s decision is troubling at best. The message he delivered is one of favoritism and tolerance and doesn’t sit well in our eyes.