COMMENTARY| In a miscarriage of justice, a Michigan judge sentenced Shawn Weimer to two years probation Thursday. Weimer is the drunk man who ordered his 9-year-old to take him on a 45-minute drive in his van on public roadways back in October. For this he deservedly got slapped with second-degree child abuse and allowing an unlicensed minor to operate a motor vehicle charges. He belongs in jail.
This incident alone is reason enough for jailing him. But Weimer got off with this hand-slap despite a history of drunk driving convictions, including one involving a crash, according to the Los Angeles Times. Never mind that Weimer professes to see the error of his ways and now attends Alcoholics Anonymous -- undoubtedly a move advocated by counsel -- or that his attorney calls him a "fine devoted father." What's wrong with this sentence is it's all about the drunk man and his family. His motives. His mistakes. His interests. His professed repentance. What about the public?
Weimer's attorney, David Steingold, blames the felony charge on worldwide attention to the case. That view distorts reality. Weimer isn't a victim of publicity. The public is a victim of Weimer and his dangerous, self-centered judgment. For more than 45 minutes that October night, Weimer put lives at risk. Luckily -- but no thanks to Weimer -- no lives were lost. Once he ordered his scared 9-year-old to play caretaker to her drunk daddy and drive him around, the outcome- death to innocents or not- was out of his hands.
Weimer's lucking out doesn't justify a probation sentence. What he did was equally dangerous whether someone died or not.
Shawn Weimer might be a nice guy when he's not drunk, just like his lawyer says. But he has a history of endangering people when he's drunk and in this instance used a child as his tool. Her response when pulled over, "What did you stop me for? I was driving good" shows how deeply Weimer's dysfunction affected his daughter's thinking. She wasn't relieved the nightmare was over, apparently, but put out that the cops stopped her, according to the Los Angeles Times. Her comment shows how thoroughly Weimer's self-centered thinking process crept into his daughter's own world view. Society can't and shouldn't hold the little girl responsible for what happened that night, but the man who made it happen, Shawn Weimer, should have been held accountable.