Two Wrights, two wrongs

This is a tale of two crimes.

One was committed in September 2007 by an emotionally distraught 17-year-old boy named Gregory Wright, who had with no record of violence. He took a gun into a classroom at Las Plumas High School, fired it twice into the ceiling, held a group of students hostage, then put down the gun and surrendered. It was scary, but nobody was hurt.

Charged as an adult and offered a plea bargain, Wright feared he’d end up in prison for the rest of his life if he accepted a seven-years-to-life deal, so he opted for a time-certain offer. His judge, who had discretion to lighten his term, sentenced him to 22 years in prison.

The other crime was committed in August 2007 by a 31-year-old man also named Wright—Lawrence Keith Wright. At a party in Chico, he gave a 20-year-old woman a drink that contained a drug that rendered her unable to move. He then carried her into a bedroom and raped her twice. She was fully aware of the assault but could do nothing to stop it.

Although both his probation officer and the prosecutor recommended imprisonment, his judge last month gave Wright a nine-year suspended sentence. He won’t spend a day in prison.

In both cases, the judge was Sandra McLean.

The disparity between the two sentences is mind boggling, as several people have noted in letters to newspapers. Yes, what Greg Wright did was terribly wrong. He deserved severe punishment. But he also surrendered without hurting anyone, and he was only 17 years old. Lawrence Wright is a grown man who drugged and raped a young woman. She will have to live with the memory of that horrible assault for the rest of her life.

McLean reportedly said she set the rapist free because it was his first criminal conviction and he will be required to undergo sexual-offender treatment. As one letter writer subsequently said, “I wonder if McLean would have given the same sentence if the victim was her daughter. I’d bet not.”

We tried to contact Judge McLean this week, but she was on vacation. When she returns, she owes the community an explanation.