In This Episode: We talk about two stories: the new “DUIE” law in Washington state, that was the subject of last week’s “Story of the Week” (right: click to see larger), and this fairly amazing story also from last week, about a minor slap on the hand for an apparently long-term sexual predator.
Blame the Victim
Tara Yvonne Stumph, 36, a teacher at Arroyo Grande (Calif.) High School, was charged with multiple felony and misdemeanor counts of unlawful sex and child molestation after she engaged in a year-long sexual affair with a 16-year-old student. She pleaded guilty to one felony in a plea bargain that resulted in the other charges being dropped. In exchange, she’ll serve just 90 days in jail, and not have to register as a sex offender. Her teacher’s license has been revoked, and the judge in the case ordered Stumph to not go near any middle- or high schools for the four years of probation after her jail term. The boy’s family was apparently disappointed in the slap on the hand: they have sued Stumph, the school district, and several school officials, alleging that Stumph had victimized another boy previously, and that case was swept under the rug, allowing her to victimize their child. In response, Stumph has sued her victim, claiming he “defamed” her, which damaged her reputation and career. (RC/San Luis Obispo Tribune) …She has a reputation that can be tarnished?
- I didn’t explicitly mention it during the episode, but most readers know I volunteer as a medic. I’ve written up a number of my EMS Stories here on my blog.
- Colorado’s “Drive High, Get a DUI” public outreach program — after a post-legalization of marijuana survey that found 55 percent of marijuana users said they believed it was safe to drive while under the influence — has resulted in a major reduction in marijuana-related DUIs, the Denver Post reported in April: a one-third drop in the first quarter of 2017. The Colorado Dept. of Transportation notes on their FAQs: Cannabis and Driving page that “Colorado law specifies that drivers with five nanograms of active tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) in their whole blood can be prosecuted for driving under the influence (DUI). However, no matter the level of THC, law enforcement officers base arrests on observed impairment.” — and that standard applies whether the marijuana is used recreationally or for a medical condition.
- Washington’s law appears similar, but not as clearly worded. A driver is presumed to be DUI if the “person has, within two hours after driving, a THC concentration of 5.00 or higher as shown by analysis of the person’s blood made under RCW 46.61.506,” it says, but doesn’t specify 5.00 what! (Though similarly, it says that the standard for alcohol concentration is “0.08 or higher” without specifying units, and similarly, drivers are guilty of DUI if “under the influence of or affected by intoxicating liquor, marijuana, or any drug” without specifying any particular measurement of an intoxicant.)
What is Stumph (pictured) asking for in her lawsuit? “Stumph is suing for indemnity for any judgments rendered against her, a judicial determination that any injuries to the plaintiff were caused by the school district, [and] civil damages and attorneys fees and costs,” one of my source stories says. In other words, no dollar amount is specified, but she is asking for money (costs and “civil damages”). You know, because she was caught doing something grossly illegal and only got a slap on the hand for it, rather than be imprisoned for years.
- Compare that story with a previous (2005) True story from Florida, involving only four sexual encounters between teacher Debra Lafave and a student who was just ten years younger: Like These Tactics Would Work With a Man — again, as the story slug suggests, would such a light sentence be offered to a male teacher?!
How to Subscribe
Search for Uncommon Sense in your podcast app or on iTunes, or manually enter this feed URL into your app: https://thisistrue.com/feed/podcast
Comments and Questions?
Randy: Welcome to Uncommon Sense, the podcast where we get a little deeper into the stories from the ThisisTrue.com email newsletter. I’m Randy Cassingham.
Clare: And I’m Clare Angelica.
Randy: And this is Episode 007 …License to Kill!
Actually I wanted to get a little more in depth on a couple of stories from last week’s newsletter — that would be issue 1208. I wanted to talk about two different stories this week, and the first one will be the story of the week and that’ll be on the show page at ThisisTrue.com/podcast7, and that’s about the new DUI law in the state of Washington. They’re tired of people driving under the influence of… no not drugs, no not alcohol, no not rock music …but electronics. So, basically they’re talking about phones, but also handheld games, things like that. You cannot drive if you have any electronic device in your hand. Period.
Clare: I like that. I think they need that here.
Randy: Or in maybe every state. So, what happens if you get an important phone call? You can do it hands-free. So you can touch the phone one time to answer a call, or hang up on a call, but other than that … Or you can touch the little button on your headset, but, you know, most phones these days you can say “answer” out loud, especially if you’re using a headset, and it will answer it for you. You don’t even have to touch the button to answer.
Clare: Well, unless you’ve got an older car. Mine’s got hands free, which I love. Bluetooth.
Clare: But older cars, unfortunately, don’t have that.
Randy: So you have the speaker phone built into your car, right? You’re looking confused.
Clare: The speaker phone. You threw me off. … Yes.
Randy: So the person’s voice comes out your stereo speakers.
Randy: And there’s a microphone somewhere, maybe up in the headliner or in the rear view mirror or the visor.
Clare: Yeah, I love it. I love it.
Randy: But, even if you don’t have that, if you have an older car — like your boss — I have a little headset that I can put on my ear.
Clare: Oh, yeah. Old school.
Clare: Just kidding.
Randy: Well, you know, I don’t get the big bucks like you do. So, yeah, my car is from 2008, and unfortunately, it was the 2009 model that had the built-in WiFi– or the Bluetooth, so.
Clare: Oh, bummer. Missed it by a year.
Randy: But anyway, the DUIE Act went into effect in Washington state July 23rd, and it increases the penalties for driving under the influence of electronics, i.e., cell phones, but also Game Boys and things like that. They said in 2015, 171 people died in crashes connected to distracted driving in the state of Washington, which was up 30% from 2014. That’s quite a few people dying from distraction. But, you know, there’s other distractions and that’s what the story kind of spun around, that they increased the driving under the influence of electronics to $136 fine, ramping up quickly for subsequent offenses. It’s a primary offense, which means the police can pull you over just because they see a cell phone in your hand. It used to be that if they pulled you over for speeding or something like that, and you were talking on the phone, then it could be a secondary offense, but they couldn’t pull you over just for having a phone in your hand. Now they can. Also, they made it a little tougher in that if you get a ticket for this, they’re reporting it to your insurance company so your insurance rates are gonna go up.
Clare: Oh, ouch.
Randy: Yeah. So it’s not just the 136 bucks, which, you know, frankly, doesn’t sound like a whole lot if you’re really not paying attention talking on the phone–
Clare: But that could add up.
Randy: –but your insurance could go up, and you could paying more for several years until it drops off your driving record.
Clare: I like the other distractions they upped for tickets as well.
Randy: Like what?
Clare: Grooming, personal grooming while driving.
Randy: Which I referred to in the story as putting on your makeup because I’ve had a couple of stories of that. Looking in the rear view mirror while you’re putting on mascara or eyeshadow or something — while driving!
Clare: I see people do it in town. It makes me nervous. I mean, they have more skill than I do, I can’t do that.
Randy: Well, you don’t wear much makeup.
Clare: No, I don’t. And smoking, I like that one.
Clare: Maybe there’ll be less smokers in the world, who knows?
Randy: Yeah. And I guess this is Washington, and marijuana’s legal up there….
Clare: That’s a good one. I can’t wait till they regulate that.
Randy: Although it’s probably illegal already to smoke marijuana while you’re driving in Washington.
Randy: I don’t know Washington’s laws, but I’m pretty darn sure it is here. So they’re working on various tests to try to figure out … It’s pretty easy if you’re drinking alcohol. There’s breathalyzers, you blow into the thing, it gives you a pretty accurate reading of what your blood alcohol is. I’m not sure that there’s a test like that for marijuana — or THC intoxication.
Clare: I know they’ve been working on it. I can’t wait till they figure out a field test for that one because it distracts you, it impairs you.
Randy: It definitely an impairment. And it is illegal in Colorado. I don’t know what the standard is. For alcohol, it’s .08%, everybody knows that, that’s kind of a national standard. Marijuana’s kind of new and untested as far as what level of THC in your blood constitutes impairment? And I know Colorado has a standard. I don’t know what it is and I think it’s pretty darn low. The thing that strikes me about that is that if you stop drinking alcohol — you’re done for the evening — your blood alcohol level starts going down at a pretty predictable rate, and you can calculate based on your weight and all that, how long will it take before you’re legal. And I’m not sure you can do that with marijuana.
Clare: I have no idea. I don’t think so. One, it stays in your system so long afterwards.
Randy: It could be 24 hours before you’re not impaired by marijuana. I don’t know. That’s an interesting thought.
So another detail that I did not include in the story was that this is part of “Target Zero, a Washington State Strategic Highway Safety Plan, whose goal is to reduce to zero the number of traffic fatalities and serious injuries on Washington’s roadways by the year 2030.” I’m not sure that’s a realistic goal to get all fatalities and serious injuries down to zero. I just don’t think it’s gonna happen. Stuff happens, a car will break down, maybe pop a tire, and skid out and crash. You can’t really say that that’s somebody’s fault necessarily, but I think it’s a good goal to get fatalities and serious injuries due to distracted driving down. That’s pretty ridiculous.
Clare: Yeah, I like that goal.
Randy: So the regional director of Target Zero, who’s a retired police officer, implored teens to use common sense. Yeah, righhht.
Clare: Remember who your audience is.
Randy: Oh, yes. No, we spend a lot of time talking about how we really need to use more common sense and what a great goal, I just don’t think it’s realistic to get everything down to zero, but hey, what a worthy goal. So he said in his 29 years in law enforcement, “I’ve picked up a lot of dead bodies and it’s really tough. I’ve delivered death notifications to children’s parents, knocked on their door and said, ‘I’m sorry ma’am, but your son is dead’.” And that’s one thing that I really appreciate about my job is I pretty much never — I shouldn’t say never, I have done it. I rarely have to tell the family that their loved one is dead. And that’s a tough, tough, …tough job.
My wife, Kit, is actually a deputy coroner in this county and that’s part of their job is to go and find the wife or husband or parent and give them the bad news, and you know, I salute people who can do that. I’m not one of them. I actually did have to do that last year where I got to a call and a guy was doing CPR on his wife. I assessed her very quickly as we do, put the heart monitor on her, it was clear that it was too late, and I had to tell him to stop doing CPR on his wife because it was too late. I was affected by that for a good week, thinking about that and having to tell that guy. I think he knew, basically, but he needed somebody to tell him, and that’s basically the rule of CPR: “Don’t stop unless you’re exhausted or somebody tells you to.” Well, I was the guy that had to tell him to.
That’s kind of a side jaunt. Back to the Washington story. You’ve talked about some of the other things that are legal, like smoking, if it distracts your driving. So, smoking and eating was another one of them. But the one that I kind of clued in on for this story was reading.
Clare: I had a friend recently tell me that they were reading my e-book while they were driving, and I wanted to tell them to put their phone down because it’s not OK.
Randy: Well yeah. But the funny thing to me was that these extra activities, like putting on makeup while you’re driving, or reading, are a secondary offense. So you could actually be a cop in Washington and see somebody drive by reading the newspaper, holding it in front of their steering wheel, and technically, according to this law, that’s not a primary offense, that’s not something they can pull the guy over for. And I think reading a newspaper while you’re driving is a lot more distracting, a lot more dangerous than just simply holding a cell phone in your hand away from your face, which is a primary offense with $136 fine, but having the newspaper in front of you while you’re driving is a $99 fine and a secondary offense. So, that’s what I kind of spun my tagline around on that story. I just thought that was kind of amusing that they would go that direction.
Clare: I can see how the phone would be a big deal, mostly texting while driving is kind of a big bane of what’s going on.
Randy: So the second story I wanted to talk about, was in the same issue, about Tara Yvonne Stumph, 36, a teacher in California at a high school who’s been convicted of having sex with a 16-year-old student over a period of over a year. This was a plea bargain, so she didn’t actually go to trial. They had multiple felony and misdemeanor charges against her, but they plea-bargained it down to one felony, and for a felony which, supposedly, has a prison term of a year or more — in California at least, and probably most other states, a misdemeanor is punishable by up to a year in the county jail, and a felony is punishable by a year or more in the state prison system. She pled no contest to one felony count in exchange for a mere 180 days in jail, which, with good behavior, will reduce to 90 days in jail. So she’s going to jail for three months for having this affair with this teenage student.
And you know, a lot of readers make a joke about, “Oh, it’s a teen boy’s dream to be seduced by a 36-year-old woman.” And you know what? I was a teen boy and I thought people that old were really icky!
Clare: Well, and they probably seemed really old. I don’t know about this case, but being that age–
Randy: Yeah, 20 years older when you’re a teenager is a lot of years.
Clare: Oh, it’s a huge difference.
Randy: Now, the thing that struck me about this story is that 30-day jail term. Excuse me, three-month jail term, 90 days. So a spokesman for the district attorney’s office said “the facts in the case seemed to require some jail time, but because Stumph had no prior criminal history” and, this is the quote, “It was felt like she was a good candidate for formal probation.” So they plea bargained this down to, essentially, 90 days in jail because it appeared to be an “isolated incident.” I would immediately think, if this was a man pushing himself on a 16-year-old girl, do you think they would get 90 days in jail?
Clare: Heck no! Absolutely not.
Randy: So the district attorney’s office argues with that. “Both in terms of the crime that she pled to, and in terms of the sentence, if it were a male with no criminal history and it appeared to be an isolated incident, the sentence would be very similar if not identical,” the spokesman said. “I think it’s an appropriate sentence. It was a very difficult situation.”
“Isolated incident”! This is a woman who was — according to the lawsuit — preying on this kid for over a year. You’ve got some other facts there in front of you. I saw you pick up the paper. So you probably have it in front of you. What else did she do?
Clare: She sent nude pictures and videos.
Randy: And videos!
Clare: An isolated incident, to me, is once.
Randy: Like a heat of passion thing.
Clare: Right. A year is not an isolated incident in my definition.
Randy: She even had other teachers pull the kid out of class and send him over to her for sex at school during school hours. And that’s an isolated incident?
Randy: So I’m really blown away by this whole thing, and I just don’t think that if a male teacher was doing that to a teenage girl that he would get 90 days in jail.
Clare: I’d want to see the case where that happened. I don’t think it would have been that way, either.
Randy: The thing that actually brought this story to my attention wasn’t that. But that when the kid’s family sued the school, and included some of the administrators who supposedly looked the other way when the teacher was doing this to this boy, and apparently, to a previous kid. So they were saying, hey, you should have stopped her, so they sued. And, of course, they named the teacher in the suit also. So the teacher is countersuing the boy — she’s suing her victim by claiming he “defamed her, damaging her reputation and career.” She’s in jail. She pleaded no contest, which is tantamount to a guilty plea, but you can’t use that in civil court. That’s why it’s no contest instead of guilty so that she couldn’t be sued as easily. She’s not admitting to civil culpability, but she’s in jail for doing this. She has been found guilty on a plea bargain, and she’s suing her victim for “ruining her career” because, guess what? Her license was revoked.
Clare: I don’t think she needed any help on defaming her character!
Randy: I think you’re right. So there’s one other thing about this teacher thing that really gets me in that not only is she only spending 90 days in prison, but she doesn’t even have to register as a sex offender.
Clare: That is astounding to me.
Randy: It is mind blowing to me when sometimes a kid will moon somebody, which is not a sexual act, it’s an act of contempt, and they will often have to register as a sex offender because they pulled down their pants.
Clare: And that’s with them for the rest of their life.
Randy: Yeah. It’s not a sexual act. And this teacher, clearly, was doing sexual acts in a period over a year, and she’s not gonna have to be a registered sex offender? Excuse me?
Clare: Well, and her sentence. I mean, it’s a slap on the wrist. It’s incredible.
Randy: It truly is.
Clare: And the other thing, people who pee in public. They’ll sometimes have to be a registered sex offender.
Clare: And there’s nobody around, it was just–
Randy: Like a homeless person that a cop happened to see peeing in the bushes and they get charged with indecent exposure and having to register as a sex offender. And I’ll bet in 99 cases out of 100 the cop never actually saw anything “indecent.”
Clare: I bet you’re right. It was just the wrong time, I guess.
Randy: And you know what? I bet that 16-year-old student saw plenty of indecent things.
Clare: Yeah. And took part in them, unfortunately.
Randy: And she doesn’t have to register as a sex offender. I don’t get it.
Well, that’s it for this episode. The This is True newsletter and its companion, the Uncommon Sense Podcast are supported by your subscriptions, which you can get by signing up at ThisisTrue.com.
The show notes for this episode with the details and links discussed this week are at ThisisTrue.com/podcast7. That’s the digit 7. I’m Randy Cassingham and Clare and I thank you very much for joining us this week on Uncommon Sense. … We’ll talk at you later.