I was working on my Mommy & Family blogroll post for Blogher.org, reviewing other blogs, and talking to a friend of mine on the phone. She lives in New Mexico and asked, "Girl, did you hear about that mom who got two years for tossing a McDonald's cup of ice at another car? You know, road rage. They convicted her and she got two effin' years!" (Pictured is Jessica Hall, 25, convicted mom.)
I'm listening now, asking my friend where she heard this story and already thinking I'll have to post my blogroll tomorrow or Thursday because this story intrigues me. I'm sure there are mothers who'll read about it, mull over their own stress levels, their reactions, and some will ask themselves, "What kind of sentence would I get if I were reported for losing my temper in the wrong state? (Read that as wrong state of mind and wrong state in America.) If no one was injured, would I still deserve two years?"
My friend went on, "She's got three kids. Her husband's away on his third tour in Iraq. The kids were in the car acting crazy. These people cut her off twice, almost made her have an accident. Her sister is pregnant and was in the car too seeming like she was having the baby. Really bad traffic, a cup of ice. Two effin' years jail! Her kids have been farmed out to relatives. It's insane!"
I looked the story up, and it's true. Folks are calling it "the McMissile case" according to The Washington Post, and the press calls the convicted mom a soccer mom. I remember when I was a soccer mom. I don't do the soccer thing anymore and no longer have young children who squirm and squabble in the back seat, but I still do lots of mom stuff in my car. My teenager and twenty-something still argue sometimes in my car, and I have crazy days sometimes, days when my ex creates problems, days when I have no one to turn to, days where I blow smoke from my nostrils.
This story scares me. I've lost it in traffic before, started cussin' up a storm in the privacy of my car because some driver's darted in front of me. I don't roll down the window and scream directly at the person, however, because I usually recognize that I must be under stress to react so angrily and catch myself. I've learned over the years to manage my anger, but three years ago, while going through divorce, the wrong day and I may have blown every gasket. And that mom is 25 with a husband away at war. Hmm, there were times in my twenties when I may not have thought things through so clearly.
I'd probably never throw anything at another driver, however, because I know that's a clear sign of aggression. If I considered tossing a cup of ice at someone else, even someone encased in a car, I'd be more likely to fear the driver retaliating with screaming and yelling or by tossing something at me, maybe following me to threaten me or to report me. Plus, I know what it feels like to have a driver get aggressive. Some people followed me once on a dark road all the way to my destination and flashed their lights at me to scare me. I think it's because they didn't want me to pass them on the highway. If I could've I would've reported them, but I don't think I'd expect them to get jail time.
Prior to this incident with Mrs. Hall, it wouldn't occur to me that a cup of ice could be considered a missile, an assault worthy of jail time, especially two years time. If I did something like this, and it was my first offense and no one was injured, would I deserve two years in jail? Would I deserve to be branded a felon, to have my children "farmed out" to relatives or maybe foster care while my husband was in Iraq or away on business? Is this what it means to be tough on crime?
Yes, the mother of three is guilty of road rage. She was wrong to toss a cup of ice at another driver. She could've startled the other driver, causing him to crash, but he didn't crash. The other driver was outraged and reported it, and he should've reported it ... I guess. Yet even the passenger in the other car, the other driver's girlfriend, had this to say.
"I think that this is way too much of a punishment for her actions. This is just to me absolutely ridiculous," Fowle said. Community service would have made more sense, she said. "It's something that's going to make someone realize I did screw up, and I'm going to remember this, and I'm not going to do something like this again."
Here's more information about case. After being instructed that "any physical object can be considered a missile. A missile can be propelled by any force, including throwing," a Virginia jury convicted Mrs. Hall. The crime is classified as a felony in that state.
The jury sentenced her to 2 years in prison, the minimum, and a judge will formally impose a sentence Wednesday. Under state law, the judge can only decrease the jury's sentence.
Those quotes come from the full story at this Washington Post link, also the source of Mrs. Hall's photo.
Other information information gleaned from the story:
"I must have been wrong . . . but seriously, God," Hall said. "Lesson learned. Lesson learned is one hour in this place."
I suppose the jury understood the judge's instructions: "... any physical object can be considered a missile. A missile can be propelled by any force, including throwing.â€ I guess they felt they had to follow the letter of the law and sentencing her to anger management wasn't an option. I guess the prosecutor, who's not returning calls to the press, felt Mrs. Hall should be charged with a felony. Maybe the prosecutor and the State of Virginia want to make an example of Mrs. Hall to anyone else who indulges road rage.
Still, I'm sure readers can think of cases in which repeat criminals have gotten less time. Perhaps the judge will bring some wisdom to this case when he hands down the final sentence. He/she could reduce it. But, you never know. Virginia has some tough judges. Apparently its juries are pretty mean too.Nordette Adams is a published poet, fiction writer, and journalist. You can find more of her work at her personal website or at her blog.
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