Published 10:00 pm Tuesday, December 11, 2012
Law-and-order types in Suffolk often complain, especially in online chat rooms and comment boards, where their anonymity is assured, that convicted criminals in Suffolk are not punished harshly enough for their crimes. They claim that judges here go easy on those who are convicted of crimes, instead of taking the opportunity to send a message to the larger community about Suffolk’s dedication to fighting crime.
Joe Louis Staton, 43, should have no illusion about that dedication, and the sentence handed down by a Suffolk judge this week in Staton’s case should help lay the issue to rest among the crowd calling for send-them-a-message prison sentences.
In May, Staton beat Suffolk Police Officer James Winslow nearly to death following a traffic stop on Nansemond Parkway. In court on Monday, Winslow described the awful sounds and pain of the bones in his face breaking as Staton repeatedly punched him, even after Winslow had been knocked to the ground. He also described falling back on long hours of training to keep Staton from taking his service weapon, even in the midst of the agonizing pain.
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Only when it was clear that Winslow would not release the weapon did Staton then run into the woods, leading police on a daylong manhunt that finally ended peacefully as he surrendered in a nearby backyard. Winslow, found unconscious by other police officers who responded when a dispatcher was unable to raise him on the radio, had been flown to the hospital, where he survived, family members say, only by divine intervention. He is in the midst of a series of surgeries intended to physically restore him, but his emotional restoration will take much longer.
During his sentencing hearing on Monday, Staton sobbed on the witness stand, begged Winslow and his family for forgiveness and told the judge he had “wholeheartedly repented through my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” Perhaps Staton’s actions on the witness stand revealed the heart of a man who truly realizes the awful wickedness of his actions on that day in May. Only God knows Staton’s heart, and God will deal with him in His eternal time.
Meanwhile, Winslow and the city of Suffolk expected and deserved temporal justice. Both the officer and the city can be satisfied man’s justice was, indeed, served in this case. Staton was sentenced to life in prison plus 40 years for the assault and related charges. Prosecutors say that means he’ll likely die behind bars. There should be no question in the matter.