JULY 24, 2008
A south Florida judge who sentenced a child-molesting middle school teacher to four decades in prison turned around and granted him a rare post-conviction bond that has allowed the felon to avoid jail and instead live freely, travel and work while he appeals his case.
The Broward County judge (Marc Gold) evidently recognized the seriousness of the crimes by sentencing the child-molesting teacher (Aaron Mohanlal) to 43 years in prison after a jury convicted him of 13 counts of child abuse, molestation and lewd battery. For the jurist to help this proven felon avoid prison seems bizarre and has caused outrage and furor among investigators who worked on the case and call it the most disturbing they have ever seen.
For nearly two years the middle school art teacher forced a 12-year-old boy in his classroom to have sex in a classroom supply closet. When the boy got too old, the teacher started grooming other boys for future encounters. When police finally arrested the teacher, he was caught on hidden video trying to destroy letters threatening his victim if he ever told anyone about the abuse.
Incredibly, in the post-conviction bond hearing Judge Gold did not order this sick criminal to stay away from children, only that he not contact the boy he abused for years or his family. The news organization that broke this horrific story has posted the entire bond hearing as well as the child molester’s sex offender registration with the Florida Department of Corrections.
Post-conviction bonds are rarely given in criminal trials but judges can use their discretion to grant them to defendants without prior felonies, unless they have been found guilty of committing first-degree murder. Legal experts around the country are baffled that this judge granted the bond to someone convicted of a serious crime like sexual molestation of a child.
The police sergeant who investigated the case said he was “astonished” and “flabbergasted” to learn that Mohanlal was free because he is undoubtedly a dangerous person. The investigator believes the convicted child molester will inevitably strike again.
Perhaps voters can send Judge Gold a message when he comes up for reelection. Broward Circuit judges are elected to six-year terms and receive an annual salary of $145,080. Broward is the second largest jurisdiction in Florida and the circuit has 88 full-time judges.
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