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But Kelly converted Deck’s soiled badge into a get-out-of-prison ticket and granted the defendant’s request for probation.
Deck, now a worn-looking 55, exhaled deeply and closed his watery eyes. Several feet away, Mestman sat silently with his chin near his chest. He stared at the law books on a table in front of him.
“Yes, Jesus!” a retired CHP officer said almost under his breath in the public section of the courtroom. “Thank you, Jesus!”
The reaction from Susan Kang Schroeder, media-affairs counsel to District Attorney Tony Rackauckas, wasn’t so appreciative. It “sends the wrong message” to the public when “a child-predator police officer” gets “coddled by the criminal-justice system,” she said.
The punishment? Deck will have to attend sex-addiction classes, serve five years of probation, pay a $200 fine, stay in OC Jail for about another three months on top of the 88 days he has already served, and register as a sex offender for the rest of his life. He must also have supervision in the presence of children or when he’s on the Internet.
“I feel that . . .” the judge paused for about 10 seconds before continuing, “the lifetime registration is a very strong safety net for the public.”
As if sensing that those words fell flat, Kelly added forcefully, “I’m not for a minute minimizing your conduct, Mr. Deck.”
The now-red-faced judge announced that his sentence “protects society” and “deters others from committing future offenses.” He shuffled papers and looked around the courtroom, where three reporters stared back at him. Inside Orange County’s Central Courthouse, it’s exceptionally rare to see a crafty would-be molester, especially one so reluctant to come clean, win such gentle treatment.
“Only time will tell if the court has made the right decision,” Kelly said. “If you violate the terms of your probation and prove me wrong, you are going to state prison. Good luck to you, sir.”
Deck’s cocky post-arrest prediction to detectives that a jury in notoriously pro-cop Orange County would never convict a police officer like him had been technically wrong. But his instincts on the point proved correct. It was a judge, not a jury, who ultimately came to his rescue.