BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Judges have a lot of discretion when it comes to handing out sentences to criminal defendants, but some experts say a recent Idaho case where a woman was ordered to wear a charm bracelet is particularly unusual.
Jennifer Fanopoulos was sentenced in Boise's U.S. District Court earlier this month for using fraud to obtain illegal drugs from the hospital where she worked. U.S. District Judge Edward Lodge sentenced her to three years of probation and added an extra requirement: He ordered her to wear a charm bracelet bearing pictures of her children to deter her from using drugs or alcohol.
Neither the judge nor Fanopoulos' defense attorney responded to requests for comment.
But Assistant Criminal Justice Professor Jacqueline Lee with Boise State University said creative probation terms like this one are so rare that there's not much research available to see if they work to reduce future crime.
"I've never seen anything like this, but certainly judges do depart from the normal conditions sometimes," Lee said. "There are some cases where they describe some of these terms as a 'scarlet letter,' where they've made people who have a DUI put a sign up, or get a special license plate designating the conviction. But this (the charm bracelet) doesn't seem like it has the same intent behind it, in terms of shaming a defendant."
University of Idaho College of Law Professor Shaakirrah Sanders said judges have a few rules they have to abide by when going outside the box on sentencing terms, including making sure the requirement is proportionate to the crime and that it doesn't amount to cruel or unusual punishment.
Ideally it should also somehow related to the crime itself and be likely to help, not harm, the defendant and society, Sanders said. Without access to Fanopoulis' pre-sentence investigation report, which is always sealed in Idaho, or other information that the judge may have had, it's hard to know why he decided to require the charm bracelet, she said.
"I'd be very curious about the basis of why the court thinks that would be helpful," Sanders said. "I'm also curious as to whether this judge has made these types of terms of probation for other defendants: Is this a one-time occurrence? Is this used for every parent that struggles with addiction, or only for defendants who are mothers who find themselves in court?"
Sanders said the charm bracelet requirement is the second-strangest sentencing term she's seen in Idaho, second only to a state judge who ordered a 19-year-old defendant to abstain from sex before marriage. Cody Duane Scott Herrera pleaded guilty in 2017 to raping a 14-year-old girl when he was 18.
Judge Randy Stoker sent him to a therapeutic prison treatment program and, upon learning that Herrera claimed to have dozens of previous sexual partners, ordered him to remain celibate until marriage.
Enforcing unusual probation requirements can be tough, but they typically aren't challenged, Lee said. "People don't often appeal probation conditions in the same way they would a prison sentence," she said.