CHENANGO COUNTY – Judge Frank B. Revoir, Jr. discussed the sentencing process for sex offender cases.
“Regardless of the public sentiment about how sex offenders should be treated and sentenced,” said Revoir, “as a judge, by law, I am obligated to treat sex offense crimes just like other crimes.”
Revoir said he does not have full say or total freedom to decide the sentence of a defendant unless the defendant goes to trial and is found guilty by jury, or the defendant is on probation, violates the conditions of probation and must be re-sentenced.
“[In those cases] it is my decision and my decision alone. It's under very limited circumstances that the court or the judge has the discretion to sentence the defendant,” said Revoir. “Typically plea bargains are negotiated by the District Attorney's Office and the defendant and his attorney, and in the context of negotiating a disposition, the attorneys will typically discuss the strengths and weaknesses of their cases.”
“With the aid of comprehensive reports about the defendant ... his family background, criminal background, social background, educational background and the particular details of the defense, they attempt to negotiate a disposition that fits the appropriate circumstances,” he added.
Revoir said as judge he helps facilitate those discussions or “conferences,” and as the lawyers “banter back and forth” with their legal arguments about what an appropriate plea deal or “disposition” would be. He said he can provide input on how he perceives the facts of the case or how he thinks the case would turn out if it went to trial.
“The reality is, in our criminal justice system, the prosecutor determines whether or not there is a plea bargain. If the prosecution and defense cannot agree or the prosecution decides not to make an offer, there is no plea bargain and the case goes to trial. There is no constitutional right to a plea bargain,” said Revoir.
According to Revoir, if the prosecutor did not offer plea bargains, he said the system would collapse and implode, and there would be “nothing but jury trials 24/7, 365 days a year.”
“It would be impossible to keep up with the case load. No DA office would take such an unreasonable position across the board,” said Revoir.
When it comes sentencing sex offense cases, like all cases, Revoir said he must be fair and impartial like he promised when he was sworn in. He said he does that by reviewing each defendant's entire history and considering each aspect of their background.
“I consider each part of a defendant's background, because it all matters. I look at the gravity of the offense, age of the defendant, attitude, whether he or she is accepting responsibility,” said Revoir.
Revoir said he also considers the community and the victim when weighing in on plea deals or imposing a sentence. He said he determines what is an appropriate punishment and whether or not the sentence will deter the defendant from repeating future criminal behavior.
“The community and the victim are entitled to retribution for the illegal conduct the defendant engaged in and that's the punishment aspect, but another part is that we hope the sentence adds some sort of deterrent effect,” said Revoir. “Sentencing isn't just punishment for the particular conduct being addressed. If punishment was the only purpose of sentencing, then what's the point? They are just going to take their punishment and repeat the same behavior.”
“When you sentence someone to jail, you hope they will never want to go to jail again or that in working with all the terms and conditions of probation, they are deterred from engaging in the same or similar conduct. It's a delicate balancing act, and all of that is factored into what's an appropriate sentence or disposition,” he added.
Regarding sex offenses specifically, Revoir said in the State of New York, a “tremendous number” of offenses fall under the definition of a sex crime. He said the term sex offense or sex crime covers a broad spectrum of conduct and behaviors.