More than 50,000 people have signed on to an online petition calling for the removal of a New York judge who sentenced a bus driver to no jail time, despite the man admitting to raping a 14-year-old.
Jefferson County Supreme Court Judge James McClusky last week sentenced Shane Piche to 10 years of probation, sparking an online wave of condemnation from people arguing that the punishment was too lenient.
The 26-year-old was accused of raping the teenager at his residence in Watertown, New York, last summer. Piche, who was a bus driver in the victim's school district, pleaded guilty to third-degree rape in February. He will also have to register as a Level 1 sex offender.
The MoveOn.org petition argues that "Judge McClusky cannot be trusted to protect survivors of sexual assault, and he needs to be removed from the bench."
State court spokesman Lucian Chalfen told the Associated Press in an email that the judge was "well within" the sentencing range for this type of negotiated plea conviction. He explained that the maximum prison time he could have received would have been between a little more than a year to 4 years.
"The Judge's chambers have received numerous vitriolic calls regarding the case, the vast majority from out of State, by individuals who know nothing about the facts and circumstances of the case, thanks to social media," Chalfen wrote to the AP.
In a statement given to television station WWNY, the victim's mother said she wished that "Shane Piche would have received time in jail for the harm he caused to my child. He took something from my daughter she will never get back and has caused her to struggle with depression and anxiety."
The victim's mother later told the station she is "thrilled" by the global outrage the story has provoked, including the petition to have Judge McClusky removed.
Piche's attorney told the TV station that Piche will "be a felon for the rest of his life" and "this isn't something that didn't cause him pain and this isn't something that didn't have consequences."
Jefferson County chief assistant district attorney Patricia Dziuba said all parties acted within the parameters set by law and that the prosecutor handling the case sought up to six months of jail time along with probation, supervision and treatment. She declined to criticize the judge's sentence.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.