Images left to right: Judge John R. LePage, McDonald County Prosecutor Jonathan Pierce, and Troy Robins of Pineville, Missouri
Following Troy Robin’s not guilty plea on December 1st, I’ve agonized over whether or not to change the statement I’d prepared to read before the court. It represented my one and only chance to say, in this young man’s hearing, anything I wanted him to know. Ultimately I decided that I really don’t have anything to say to him personally. Not one word. There’s a verse in Proverbs I think, that says something along the lines of not wasting your words on those who will simply not receive them. Sorry I don’t have the reference, and my paraphrase is rather pitiful, but I think it applies to this situation. However, since I knew the judge had already read the first statement I wrote, which focus almost solely on sentencing considerations, decided I might as well take advantage of the opportunity to reinforce my case. So this morning – nothing like waiting until the last minute right? – I rewrote most of my statement. I simply felt as if we have nothing to lose.
Nothing about today’s court proceedings had anything to do with justice for Bethany and Katie. All that was left to fight for was the safety of the community in which Troy Robins resides. A Missouri State Highway Patrol Officer, a Pineville Marshal, the McDonald County Prosecutor, and the Crime Victim’s Advocate, all individuals with far more court knowledge and experience than we have, told us that the judge will not sentence anyone to jail time for a misdemeanor. The law enforcement officials blamed the overcrowded jail situation. So I thought I might as well quit tap dancing around that issue and frankly, albeit respectfully, address it. I seriously doubt anything I did or didn’t say today would have made any difference whatsoever.
The judge, John R. LePage, sentenced Troy Robins to a suspended six month jail term (meaning that he will not go to jail unless he fails to comply with the rest of the sentence) and a $500 fine plus court costs which I think amounted to about $60. He has a month to pay his fine. The judge stated the reason he was not sentencing the defendant to jail time was because the the other driver involved in the collision that day was speeding. In other words, the accident would not have happened had the other driver not been speeding.
Having turned that explanation over in my mind all afternoon, I find myself at a loss. Maybe I just don’t understand the law – no big surprise there. I thought the purpose before the court today was to sentence the defendant for his reckless driving, not to determine who was and wasn’t at fault for the collision. It was my understanding that fault had been determined before charges had ever been filed.
From my perspective, the second driver’s speed should have been just as irrelevant before the court as we were told our daughters’ deaths were. They were “just” tragic collateral damage completely extraneous to the reckless driving charge before the court. The fact that the second driver was speeding has absolutely nothing to do with the fact that Troy Robins has been found guilty and fined for ten separate traffic and criminal offenses over the last 20 months. The second driver’s speed has nothing to do with the fact that three of those ten citations were for driving without a license – the third of which is a felony offense – for which he escaped punishment due to careless misspelling of his last name. The second driver’s speed has nothing to do with the fact that Troy Robins has four separate citations for drug related offenses, two of which were earned after the “accident” that killed my daughters. The second driver’s speed doesn’t in any way make Troy Robins record any less reflective of a total and complete lack of respect for the authority of the laws of McDonald County and the state of Missouri.
The point I was trying to communicate with my statement today was not just that Troy Robins was an unlicensed driver, but rather the fact that he was unlicensed and unrepentant about it which reflects a much bigger problem. It reflects a problem with authority. Particularly a problem submitting to the authority of the law that citizens within a community must respect if we are to avoid anarchy. We have laws to protect the rights of all citizens. When one person feels as if they don’t have to follow the same rules as everyone else, and when prosecutors and judges fail to punish that attitude and the resulting behavior and uphold the law, those prosecutors and judges undermine the law they swore to uphold and soon you have more and more people openly flaunting the fact that they don’t have to follow societies rules.
I have struggled mightily with the fact that God not only allowed Troy Robins to kill two of my daughters and critically injure the third, leaving her struggling to regain the mobility she enjoyed prior to the crash an entire year later, but also that He has allowed this individual to walk away without any real consequences, while we have been impacted spiritually, emotionally, and financially.
Yet today, is not really an emotionally devastating day for us. We came to terms with the disappointment today’s sentence represents over the course of the last nine to ten months as it became plain to us that the legal system would not provide justice for us.
I’ve always been confident that God would get justice for Bethany, Katie and Gracen even if the courts failed us. I simply stubbornly clung to the desire to see it play out in court. I may not be happy that David and I were denied that satisfaction and resignation may be the best word to describe how we feel about that, but I remain confident that God will not only get justice for my girls but will also hold accountable anyone who failed to do justly in a position that God Himself appointed them to here on earth.
So all I have to say in response to the judge’s sentence and explanation for it is, “Whatever . . .”, as in, Whatever allows you to sleep at night. . . Anyway, it’s over and done with and we can move on to the next hurdle.
As I said earlier, the fight David and I took on today was not about justice for our girls but about public safety. Therefore, in the interest of protecting the citizens of McDonald County, I want to pass on a little information that I uncovered regarding Missouri law. Feel free to verify it with your local Constable! If I understood the law correctly, an individual convicted of Careless & Imprudent Driving looses his driver’s license for a year. So, I assume that means Troy Robins can no longer legally drive with the driver’s permit he acquired in March of this year. My suggestion to the good people of McDonald County is to keep your eyes peeled and notify the highway patrol if you see him driving.
Sadly, it’s in your best interest not to contact your local Marshal (who are awesome and dedicated law enforcement officers) because Missouri passed a strangely flaky law a few years back that requires that all three driving without a license citations be issued by the state in order for them to constitute a felony charge. Two issued by the state and one issued by a municipality will result in yet another misdemeanor and a dangerous driver will remain free to get behind the wheel again and again and will pay no more than a $100 fine to the court ($80.50 to be exact). Maybe your local Marshal will be willing to call in a highway patrolman to issue the ticket in the interest of making your community safer! Best wishes to the citizens of McDonald County!