Point/Counterpoint: Was the sentence too lenient?

Evening Sun reporters love to argue. In this feature, sides of the argument were chosen arbitrarily and do not necessarily reflect the author’s true viewpoints. This week, Nicholas Simonds pleaded guilty to tampering with evidence and was sentenced to six months in the local jail beginning in January. Simonds helped his neighbor and close friend Robert R. Reynolds move the body of Joshua D. Richheimer, whom Reynolds killed in self defense. Some felt that this was a weak sentence for such a crime while others felt it was in the best interest of justice. Here is our debate on the subject.

It’s hard to understand the crime without knowing the specifics. You can try and making sweeping generalities about law all you want, but they will be fundamentally flawed because each situation is different. Being able to account for those differences is how one develops a fair legal system. Thankfully our system has such mechanisms built into it and adjusted itself properly when determining Simonds’ punishment. The crime on the surface sounds bad: helping your neighbor “hide a body.” That sound is probably the strongest part of your argument, not logic, not circumstance and certainly not justice – but simply the virgin shock of the crime. Like the flash of a camera, the light blinds you at first, but after a few moments that original burst wears off. One’s eyes and mind adjust as the finer details of the situation come into clearer focus. As we look deeper, past the blinding surface, we see this was not a homicide, but self-defense. Mr. Richheimer was not a victim, but a violent predator. Simonds is not a monster, but a close friend who made a single mistake. – TDM

Well, this one should be over fast. He buried a body! Moved it, hid it, buried it ... the details don’t particularly interest me. Here is a man who knew that his good buddy killed someone, and he helped him cover it up and dispose of the body. The body ... a human being ... Joshua D. Richheimer. I don’t care what Mr. Richheimer’s alleged crimes were, or what he had done in the past or on the night he was killed. All I know is that he was a human being. Someone’s son, brother, father, uncle, friend, whatever ... and he deserved, at the very least, a decent burial -- something which the defendant helped deprive him of. Six months in jail for that? “Lenient” is too lenient of a word to describe that sentence. I’d pick “despicable.” – JMG

He only helped move the body of a man who entered his disabled neighbor’s house at 10 p.m. after this “human being” as you called him, adorned himself with a mask, nylon surgical gloves, duct tape, a lengthy criminal record and a sawed-off 12-gauge shotgun that he promptly fired after literally kicking down the door. Not to mention that his accused get-a-way man and co-conspirator is also ranked on the same caliber of criminality. You didn’t see him reporting his friend’s death to the police, now did you? In New York State, our gun laws and self-defense laws are among the most conservative in the entire country. Richheimer’s killing was legal because he would have killed. There is not a sympathy argument to be made here. Simonds certainly made a mistake and he will be punished for it. He tampered with evidence – the remains of a man who brought his death upon himself; maybe Richheimer should have thought of his family before trying to kill someone else’s. –TDM

I just got through saying that the circumstances of Richheimer’s death were irrelevant, and your sole argument is in regurgitating them. I wouldn’t invite any of these people to a dinner party; that’s not the point. Even the most heinous of our criminals are human beings and deserve to be treated as such. On more than one occasion I’ve heard you bandy about the terms of the Geneva Convention when discussing the horrors of Guantanamo and our current administration’s stance on the treatment of prisoners -- any idea what the Geneva Convention says about the burial of bodies, Tyler? Even war time criminals? Joshua Richheimer deserved better than to be treated like road kill. If it wasn’t for the work of local law enforcement, his body could still be rotting in an unmarked grave in Sherburne. I think Simonds, and more importantly Reynolds, deserve a harsher punishment for their roles in his death. – JMG

There you go again with a sweeping general punishment to fit all crimes. There are exceptions and under these unusual circumstances, I believe they merit scrutiny. If not in self-defense, when is leniency granted? Richheimer was not tortured or held prisoner; in the eyes of New York State he effectively killed himself. He put himself in that situation. Imagine it’s the middle of the night and your close friend comes begging to you. He just nearly had himself murdered and was forced to save his own life by taking another. Reynolds had a past in prison and didn’t want to go back. He looked his friend in the eye and begged for help and silence. A desperate and emotional man who just went through a traumatic experience. He was a hippie pot dealer who was surviving on drug money and government disability, not a killer. Simonds got caught in the moment, after years of companionship, decided to help his friend. A mistake, but an understandable one. His reasons were not cruel or for personal gain, or even to protect himself, but out of some misguided sense of noble intention. Those factors should absolutely be taken into account just as their opposites would have most certainly been. –TDM

For the third time, I’m not interested in the circumstances surrounding Richheimer’s death, nor am I defending them. All I’m saying is that he deserved a decent burial, and two men conspired to deprive him of that – obviously to cover up something they thought they had done wrong, no matter what New York law might say. Here’s the real gem of your argument: “Misguided sense of noble intention” -- I can scarcely believe anyone would assign any sort of “nobility” to the hiding, moving or burying of a dead body. God knows I’ve helped my friends keep some secrets buried – but none of them ever involved a corpse. Any “friend” who asks you to do something that heinous is no friend at all; and anyone who goes along with it is sufficiently lacking in “nobility” enough that six months in prison probably won’t change a thing. As far as your plea for leniency, I’d say Mr. Simonds got his share – after all this entanglement with drugs, guns and dead bodies, they decide to let him spend the holidays with friends and family and start his meager sentence in January. Merry Christmas to you and yours – except if you happen to be a member of the Richheimer family, apparently. Bah, humbug. – JMG

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