On Jan. 19, Superior Court Judge Francis Devany rejected jail time for Dr. Leon Fajerman, 75, who pleaded guilty to a felony charge of having sexual contact with patients at his offices – one of which was in El Cajon – and a misdemeanor sexual battery charge. Devany said that, because Fajerman ‘s attorney presented documents showing that the defendent has early-onset Alzheimer’s disease and osteoarthritis.
The decision calls into question the need to restructure our prison system for aging convicts, the application of the concepts of crime and punishment and, perhaps, also the severity we give to crimes against women.
The past few years have shown us that the sexual abuse of women runs rampant in our culture – why?
Although the answer to that question is complex, the sentencing of Fajerman gives us a clear look at a formative reason behind it: men are not being held to account.
The decision to allow Fajerman to stay out of prison because of his age and his health feels like a slap in the face to the women whom he preyed upon.
Prison, apparently, was ruled out when Fajerman pleaded guilty to felony sexual contact with seven patients – eight counts of sexual battery were dismissed.
The attorney representing three of Fajerman’s former patients, Jessica Pride, said the sentence was too lenient, that Fajerman should have received jail time.
Fajerman, a phsyciatrist, intentionally, maliciously preyed upon women who had given him their trust. Several said they had been molested earlier in their lives and Fajerman was aware of that information.
One patient said her life would be better if she had never met Fajerman. Another said, “Life has been a living hell.”
Even given the context of the pragmatic issues facing placing the elderly in prison, this sentence seems to cater to the needs of the criminal and not to metting out justice for the victims involved.
It is a very obvious statement that, in America, crimes against women are not important enough to inconvenience men.
Recently, we’ve seen some atrocious sentencing in cases of rape and sexual assault.
Standford University sex offender Brock Turner was given only a six-month jail sentence because jail-time would “severaly impact” the college swimmer with Olympic potential.
In December, former Baylor Univeristy fraternity president accused of rape, Jacob Anderson, was let off on a plea deal. Four counts of sexual assualt were exchanged for a lesser charge of unlawful restraint, according to reports, and Anderson was allowed to go to counseling instead of prison.
Two devastating impacts will be created from lightened sentences in cases like these.
Firstly, these otherwise promising young men – except, of course, that they are sexual predators – will most likely shoot up through the world and become successful movers and shapers. Men like Turner and Anderson will be the same men making laws about sexual assault and handing down sentences to the next generation of college boys who think the assualt and rape of women can ever be explained or justified.
What these young men are learning through light sentences is that their crime really was not so bad – at least not bad enough to merit a punishment that might be harmful to their own futures.
And that leads me to our second point.
Society is watching.
The world is watching.
America used to be a city on a hill, a light to the rest of the world, the first into the fray in the battle for human rights.
Why are we so slow to take up arms against men who take up arms against women?
I do believe there is room for mercy and forgiveness in society and in our courts.
In May of 2018, Forbes published an article entitled: “Should Older Prisoners Get a Pass Just ‘Cause They’re Old?” What sounds like it might be a bitter diatribe actually quickly evolves into a serious question about the feasibility of taking care of inmates whose age is creating an economic burden on the taxpayer and placing undue strain on prison infrastructure.
According to Forbes, in 2013, only 31 percent of inmates over the age of 65 were not on life sentences. And when you look at the number of convicts serving life sentence – men who are likely very different people than they were when they were charged and sentenced as youths – it makes sense to consider compassionate policy changes that might let them out early.
Fajerman is not one of those men. His crimes were committed throughout his adult life and he has not paid for them with any kind of substantial jail time.
He will get one year of house arrest. He was ordered to pay $300 per month in restitution to victims, and an additional fine of approximately $1,500. He must register as a sex offender for life.
The house arrest will actually increase the burden on taxpayers. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) published a study in 2012 about the costs of detaining prisoners in residential or nursing homes – they are significantly higher than costs accrued by time in the federal Bureau of Prisons, according to their numbers.
The decision to keep Fajerman out of prison was not done with the broader community in mind.
How much longer can we make excuses for the men in our communities who attack our mothers, sisters, daughters and friends? And who are we if we remain silent while they do?
Of course prison is not easy, of course it might have a “severe impact.” It is a measure of recompense meant to rebalance the weights of justice that have been thrown askew.
Fajerman’s sentence will be reviewed on April 3, 2019. It is my hope that Judge Devaney will reconsider his position.
Whatever Fajerman faces behind concrete walls cannot be as bad as what he has put his patients through, and they are the priority.