Judge Michael Cicconetti's Unorthodox Sentences Include Walking 30 Miles, Getting 'Pepper Sprayed'

06/01/2015 05:04 pm ET | Updated Jun 02, 2015

An Ohio judge known for his unusual sentencing methods ordered a woman to walk 30 miles -- the same distance a taxi took her before she skipped out on the fare.

On Thursday, Judge Michael Cicconetti gave Fairport Harbor resident Victoria Bascom the choice to either spend 60 days in the local slammer, or walk 30 miles in the next 48 hours. She chose to walk, according to WOIO.

It was the 18-year-old's punishment for refusing to pay the $100 cab fare from Cleveland to Painesville, according to the News-Herald. She'll also have to pay the cabbie $100 and will be on probation for four months over the misdemeanor theft count.

The same day, Cicconetti gave 19-year-old Diamond Gaston a similarly unusual option after Gaston assaulted a man with pepper spray. Gaston could see jail time, or could allow the victim to spray her with pepper spray to see how it felt. Gaston chose pepper spray, not knowing that she'd really be sprayed with a saline solution. The plan was to teach her a lesson.

Cicconetti has been known to hand down eye-for-an-eye sentences to misdemeanor offenders for years. He's been a polarizing figure over the practice, but he told The Huffington Post on Monday that it works.

"I would put my recidivism rate up against anybody's," the judge told HuffPost Crime. "You can send someone to jail and make it the sheriff's problem; they get out and nobody follows up. With these sentences, they're on probation, and in most cases, I'll end up taking it off their record."

He said traditional sentencing, especially for first-time offenders, doesn't do much to show defendants the impact of their actions. Instead, he once ordered a suspect caught speeding in a school zone to be a crossing guard for a shift. He made a man who called cops "pigs" stand on a street corner with a real pig and a sign that states, "This is not a police officer." He says he even ordered a man who sped past a school bus' flashing red lights to ride a school bus for a day.

Critics reportedly say Cicconetti is just trying to grab headlines. The judge told HuffPost he'd be happy if that were the case, and would like to see more courts adopt this type of sentencing for first-timers.

"These people aren't coming back [into the court system]," he said. "It really works. I started with baby steps, but as I got braver or dumber or crazier, I started handing these sentences down more."

You can't sentence everyone like Bascom or Gaston, he said. He says only "1 percent" of his cases get that type of treatment, and he has criteria for his style of justice: Suspects need to be first-time offenders, generally young and impressionable, and "remorseful for what they did."

"We all do stupid things," he said. "The ones that get caught for small offenses are the unfortunate ones, and there’s no reason for them to have a criminal record forever."

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