A difficult decision must have careful consideration

Saturday, December 7, 2019

When Presiding Circuit Judge Michael Pritchett announced his sentence Tuesday in the case of John Franklin Mullins, it was only after what he described as careful consideration.

Pritchett said he could only sentence Mullins on the charge he pleaded guilty to, not the remaining counts that were dismissed by the state as part of the plea agreement or the evidence of his propensity to commit sexual-related crimes against children.

There was still a lot for the judge to consider.

There was the guilty plea entered by Mullins, a former Naylor science teacher/assistant principal, in October. He admitted to sexually assaulting a then 16-year-old female student on campus in 2015.

There was the victim-impact testimony from the young woman, as well as two other former students, each asking that Mullins receive the maximum sentence.

The victim spoke of how Mullins’ actions had impacted her life, while the state witnesses spoke of the impact to them and the community.

“Even after you were arrested, I was afraid you would come after me again; I couldn’t sleep,” she said.

There was the testimony of witnesses who spoke regarding Mullins’ character and conduct in recent years, followed by a statement from Mullins himself in which he said it was “my responsibility” and that the “whole community” has a been “effected by my bad decisions.”

There was the sentencing assessment report completed by Probation and Parole, in which officials considered Mullins to be “low risk.” Mullins’ lack of criminal history was cited.

There was the appeal from Mullins’ attorney for a sentence on the lower end of the five- to 30-year punishment range, as well as an argument from the state seeking the max as Mullins’ actions were a series of behavior over about a decade involving students 16 and under.

“This was not a short term, one-time thing,” but was “perpetrated over years with multiple victims in a small community,” the prosecutor said. “ … This is a crime that has effected the entire community and school district.”

Pritchett told all parties he would give careful consideration to all he heard and make an informed decision, a decision he wanted a week to consider.

We’re sure it wasn’t an easy decision for Pritchett to make, but we knew he would do his due diligence and also would follow the law.

And, that is the way justice is supposed to work.

It’s the way any of us would want our cases disposed of … only after careful consideration.

— Daily American Republic

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