Man sentenced for resisting officer
A deaf man who was found guilty of obstructing a public officer and resisting a public officer, both misdemeanors, was sentenced to 10 days in jail Monday.
Harry Robert Whitney, 43, who cannot hear or speak, was arrested Nov. 23, after a juvenile probation officer came to his house to arrest a juvenile who had a warrant out for his arrest. JPO officer John Enos said Whitney was angry and pushed him, so when deputies came to the scene, they pushed Whitney away and sprayed him with pepper spray.
Whitney was convicted after an day-long trial in East Fork Justice Court May 18. The trial and the sentencing hearing required that at least two American Sign Language interpreters be in the courtroom at all times.
Justice Jim EnEarl gave Whitney a suspended sentence of six months in jail. He will only have to serve 10 days of that if he is not arrested again in the next year.
Whitney will serve his time on five consecutive weekends in order to continue working. Fines of $605 per count were also suspended.
“Unless you are back in here, having been convicted of another crime, it is not my intention to take money from someone who is struggling and trying to make it on their own,” EnEarl said.
Before he was sentenced, Whitney apologized to Judge EnEarl for an outburst in the court after he was convicted.
“When I heard the phrase ‘going to jail,’ I blew my lid and said things I didn’t mean,” Whitney said through an interpreter. “I have a tendency to lose control. I appeal to you – I do not want to lose this job. I really need to get on with my life and I will accept the judgment you have.”
Whitney’s attorney, Mark Jackson, told the judge that if he was going to sentence Whitney to attend anger management classes, federal law requires he be allowed a sign language interpreter without cost.
However, the judge said he didn’t think anger management was required.
EnEarl said he felt this case was about Whitney feeling betrayed because of his misconception of the law.
“His misconception wasn’t that different from the hearing world. If you go downstairs (to the Douglas County jail) and ask a simple question regarding constitutional rights when you are being arrested, I bet 80 percent would say it is illegal if you are not told your rights. We are educated by television and people’s concepts of the law are in error,” EnEarl said. “It’s clear to me he felt betrayed by the criminal justice system and by the court. I think this was exacerbated by this misconception of the law.”
Whitney agreed with EnEarl when he said he would have to learn to take stock of a situation, ask questions first, and take action second.
“No one is here to exploit your disability. But you can’t conduct yourself in the manner you did some months back. You risk injury to yourself, your family and those who have sworn to uphold the law,” EnEarl said. “I thought a lot of anger and emotion and betrayal in these last three weeks. If you were to give the same amount of thought on a weekly basis, I don’t think you’ll be back here.”