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The U.S. Supreme Court has upheld an earlier ruling by the
Nebraska Supreme Court when it ruled the state’s chief justices were
correct in ordering the resentencing of a child molester because a
Sarpy, Nebraska county judge quoted Bible verses during sentencing.

Without comment the U.S. high court refused to reinstate the prison
sentence of Aaron Pattno, 25, who had been sentenced to 20 months to
five years in prison for kissing and touching the genitals of a
13-year-old boy.
According to court records, Pattno pleaded guilty to the charges over
the
single encounter, which lasted less than a minute.

Nebraska Attorney General Don Stenberg had appealed the ruling,
asking the
High Court to reinstate prison time after the state court overturned the
sentence.

Sarpy County District Judge George Thompson, during Pattno’s
sentencing,
initially read from a police report that described an alleged mutual
sexual
attraction between Pattno and the teen, then read a seven-verse passage
from Romans.

Thompson quoted Romans as condemning “men committing shameless acts
with men,” and he described God giving up on unfaithful people, allowing
them to pursue “dishonorable passions.” He then concluded with, “The men
likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with
passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and
receiving in their own persons the due penalty for their error.”

The Nebraska Supreme Court ordered a resentencing because, they said,
Thompson’s quoting of the Bible could cause a “reasonable person to
question the impartiality of the judge.” The state court also concluded
that the biblical verses didn’t apply anyway because Pattno didn’t have
sexual
contact with another man, but a boy instead.

Last September, Nebraska Appeals Judge Ronald Reagan resentenced
Pattno to four years of probation, but because of time already served he
was eligible
for parole under the original sentence.

Stenberg’s appeal argued that Thompson’s sentence should not have
been set aside, citing other states’ court opinions in which “judicial
reference to
the Bible does not violate due process where the evidence in the record
supports the sentence imposed.”

“More importantly,” the appeal continued, “this decision will have
the
effect of allowing criminal defendants [and] state prosecutors … to
investigate and inquire into a judge’s religious beliefs in order to
disqualify the judge or to have a conviction or sentence set aside.”

WorldNetDaily contacted the Nebraska attorney general’s office, but a
spokesman there refused comment.



See Jon E. Dougherty’s daily column. He may be reached through E-mail at jon@usajournal.com.

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