Indiana judge assailed for light sentence in husband-wife rape case
An Indiana judge came under heavy criticism Tuesday after he ordered no prison time for a man convicted of charges related to repeatedly drugging and sexually assaulting his wife.
On Monday, the Los Angeles Times wrote about the April conviction of David Wise, 52, of Indianapolis, on six felony charges of rape and deviate conduct that normally carry prison terms of six to 20 years apiece.
His former wife, Mandy Boardman, told the Los Angeles Times she thought the assaults may have been going on for three years; she said she discovered what was happening when she found video of the incidents on Wise’s phone.
Prosecutors had asked for Wise to spend 40 years in prison. Instead, on Friday, Marion County Superior Court Judge Kurt Eisgruber sentenced Wise eight years of GPS-monitored home confinement, with the ability to leave for work and no required therapy. An additional 12-year sentence was suspended provided Wise successfully completed the home detention, plus two years of probation.
Boardman said the judge told her at the sentencing that she “needed to forgive her attacker.”
After The Times published its interview with Boardman online on Monday evening, readers began reposting it and other stories related to the case to Eisgruber’s election campaign Facebook page, with many condemning the judge for telling Boardman to forgive her rapist.
“You should be ashamed of yourself for your ridiculous ‘sentence’ of David Wise. He DRUGGED and RAPED his wife repeatedly, and you gave him a slap on the wrist and victim-shamed her,” one commenter wrote. “You are a disgrace to your profession.”
“I’m curious: do you tell robbery victims that they need to forgive their assailants?” another commenter wrote. “Do you tell victims of fraud that they need to forgive the criminals who swindled them? Why must someone who is repeatedly sexually assaulted by someone she trusted and loved supposed to forgive him?”
“Judge Eisgruber I will do everything in my power to make sure you are NOT re-elected in November,” wrote another.
Eisgruber, who was handling a jury trial Tuesday and couldn’t be reached for comment, has previously told The Times he is not allowed to comment on the sentence because Wise has appealed his conviction.
Eisgruber did say that his remarks to Boardman were intended to help her heal, adding, “When people are really struggling, I just offer that out. ... I just hope that they find peace.”
But for those wondering whether the controversy will affect the judge’s prospects for reelection in November, the answer is: not likely.
Eisgruber is among 16 judicial candidates on the ballot for 16 Superior Court slots, said Erin Kelley, spokeswoman for the Marion County clerk’s office, and therefor he is assured of a win.
Kelley added, “And in case you are wondering if Indiana holds recall elections ... No.”
Prosecutors are also not able to appeal a convict’s sentence, according to Marion County prosecutor’s office spokeswoman Peg McLeish.
Joel Schumm, a law professor at the Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law, said that the judge’s sentence was unusual, given the crime, but was still well within the state’s sentencing guidelines.
“People are generally surprised [if] a crime like rape … does not include prison time, even a first-time offense,” Schumm said, noting that the “normal starting point” for B-felony rape was a 10-year prison sentence. (Indiana has four categories of felonies -- A, B, C and D felonies, with A felonies being the worst -- that carry different levels of punishment.)
However, Schumm added, under sentencing requirements for the B felonies for which Wise was convicted, “There’s not a requirement that any of that time is in prison -- there’s not even a requirement to be on home detention.”
Judges can be reported to a state judicial commission for ethics violations in handling cases, but Schumm said that if Boardman filed a complaint about Eisgruber for the sentence, “I’m sure it would be dismissed out of hand.”
“It’s a sentence that people disagree with, but as long as judges are following the statute, there’s no grounds for an ethics complaint,” Schumm said.
As of Tuesday, Boardman -- who has coordinated her media appearances with the prosecutor’s office -- did not appear to have plans for legal action, said McLeish, the spokeswoman for the prosecutor’s office.
Boardman, in an earlier interview with The Times, had called her ex-husband’s sentence and the judge’s comments “a punch to the gut from the justice system -- or from one judge.”
The Times normally does not print the names of sexual-assault victims, but Boardman said she wanted her name and her story to be publicized in the hope that she might give confidence to other victims.
The leader of central Indiana’s largest support group for battered spouses and sexual assault victims said that she had “a lot of admiration” for Boardman’s decision to go public with her grievances about the case.
“When these crimes don’t appear to be taken seriously, then we’ll be worried that victims will be worried to come forward to report these crimes,” said Catherine O’Connor, president and chief executive of the Julian Center. “It’s tough enough to begin with to report these crimes, and then to follow up with the legal process.”
Jody Madeira, a professor at the Indiana University Maurer School of Law who has studied other rape sentencing controversies, agreed that the light sentence could have a deterrent effect on other victims thinking about pressing charges.
“Many people don’t even report sexual assaults and rape because they’re afraid of the stigma, because they’re afraid of being locked into a legal proceeding with a person they’re scared of,” Madeira told The Times. “But if he’s going to get sentenced to house arrest, basically, what’s the incentive?”
Both Madeira and O’Connor agreed that Wise’s no-prison sentence seemed to be an “outlier” for Indiana.
“For the last seven years I’ve been in Indiana, I haven’t seen stories [like] this,” Madeira said.
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