State owes Gell years, not vice versa

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, November 28, 2007

I’m normally an advocate for harsher punishment of criminals, but sometimes I think there are extenuating circumstances that should be taken into account.

A man was sentenced in Winton on Tuesday to five years in prison for five counts of taking indecent liberties with a child and another count of sexual exploitation of a minor.

Now, normally I’d say five years isn’t nearly enough for those crimes, but here’s the kicker: first of all, the &uot;child&uot; was the perpetrator’s ex-girlfriend, who was two months shy of her 16th birthday at the time she became pregnant by him.

Their relationship was consensual and the &uot;victim&uot; did not want him prosecuted for that reason and also so that he could be out of prison working and providing for his son.

However, the main thing that makes this story so unusual is the &uot;criminal&uot; involved.

The story of Alan Gell captivated the nation nearly four years ago when it came to light that he had been wrongfully sentenced to death after the prosecution allegedly withheld evidence that clearly exonerated him in his murder trial.

He was retried and released a free man in February of 2004… but that’s after already serving nine years in prison for a crime he didn’t commit, including five on death row.

After his release from prison, Gell began speaking out about wrongful convictions and life on death row.

Everything seemed to be falling into place for Gell, until April of 2006. It was then that he was arrested for the statutory rape of his ex-girlfriend (they were together at the time), among numerous other counts stemming from the same thing.

He has been sitting in the Bertie Martin Regional Jail ever since, while his son grew up without him.

I ask you now, how is that justice?

How is it justice when all parties involved, except the prosecution, want the charges against Gell to be dropped?

How is it fair that both his ex-girlfriend and her mother both seemingly didn’t want him to go to prison, and yet he still did?

Now his 16-month-old son will be raised by a single mother on welfare, costing taxpayers untold thousands of dollars, and Gell is behind bars at an additional cost to taxpayers.

Sure, that seems like a great solution to everybody’s problems. (Note the sarcasm here.)

Gell commented on that very thing during his sentencing Tuesday, apologizing to his ex that his son would have to be raised on welfare.

If Gell had committed an act of violence, it would be one thing.

The same goes for if his ex or her mother wanted him prosecuted. But in this situation, neither of those circumstances apply.

So why the charges?

Why the prison time?

Some people are speculating that it’s because of the civil suit Gell brought against prosecutors for wrongfully convicting him of murder.

Is that the truth? Only those involved will ever know the answer, I suppose.

I do know one thing, and it’s that my opinion of the matter is that some credence should have been given to the fact that Gell served nine years in prison for a crime he didn’t commit, yet is now still relegated to spending an additional five years behind bars for a &uot;crime&uot; that was questionable at best.

The way I look at it, the state owes him a few years, not the other way around.