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Free at last: Released from probation, man says he’s moving on

April 9th, 2011 Posted in Opinion

By Rhett Wilkinson

LOGAN — After eight years of juvenile detention, brief adult jail time and an extensive series of fines, Jeremi Todechine was released from both probation and a remaining driving-related fine after a ruling in Logan Municipal Court April 7.

Judge David Marx suspended the remaining $107 of $600 in fines — including an additional $35 per month until the fine was completely paid off — that Todechine incurred last June after he was arrested on a traffic violation. The 23-year-old Utah State University student also served six days in jail for that incident.

The suspension marks the end of a probation history which Todechine said began when he was 15 years old. Todechine said he stopped counting the amount of time he served as a juvenile once he reached 30 days in captivity.

The suspension came as a surprise to him.

“I mean, honestly I came in here thinking I was going to go back to jail because I didn’t have my fine paid off, so I was expecting myself to go off to jail again, but not for just six days,” said Todechine, who appeared in court wearing two rings just beneath his lower lip, a striped, button-down shirt, a gray hoodie and clear-framed glasses that resembled construction goggles. Todechine said he even placed his car keys underneath the floormat of his vehicle so his friend could drive home in case he was taken to jail.

Judge Marx said the ruling was a fruit of Todechine’s upfront manner, as he has paid off the latest fines. “He needs to recognize that you get rewarded for doing the right thing,” the judge said from the bench shortly after the verdict.

However, Marx said it was the probation officer’s determination of Todechine’s latest behavior, not his overall track record, which was cause for the student’s relief from the remaining fine.

“I think Jeremi’s case is kind of one typical of trying to change behaviors—the $107 suspended was rewarded because he did everything required by the court,” Marx said. “But if we were just trying to gauge him off the past, we wouldn’t have looked to the recommendation of the probation officer and suspended it.”

The ruling was a sequel to a previous encounter between Marx and Todechine in the Hyde Park Justice Court in 2003, for a series of misdemeanors which included possession of illegal drugs.

“All I can say is screw my previous years,” Todechine said in an interview after court. “I’m done with all that childish shit, you know, and right now I’m trying to move on. You know, I’m 23, I’ve been on probation almost since I was a teenager, and I am moving on with my life, you know, going to school, going to work.” He currently holds a telemarketing job after having been laid off at a printing factory last year, which had complicated his ability to pay off the fine.

Despite the relief that the probation officer showed towards him, Todechine asserted that it wasn’t his need to subject himself to the law and its system that has helped him recover from the long string of violations.

“F— the system, it’s kinda bullshit,” he said. “In a way, we learn from our mistakes through the court system. If people will be doing the same things (after being penalized) if they’re dumb asses, then yeah, we need the court system.”

Todechine said in hindsight, he could have learned the necessary lessons through far better avenues.

“You know what? I should have listened to my friends and actually, they would have taught me a lot better than the court system, which involved just putting me in jail and giving me a fine,” he said. “That doesn’t teach you a lesson. What teaches you a lesson is if a person sits down and talks to you and explains the whole lesson of what’s good and bad, but the system, I think, doesn’t really show you that or explain the process.

“I don’t know, it seems like probation was just out for money because I had to pay so much money,” he continued. “I don’t know.”

Todechine’s criticisms came did not come as a surprise to Marx.

“It’s not surprising what he said because it’s where he is convicted,” Marx said. “We can’t really execute any other penalty, only in money or time either through community service or jail. I don’t think anyone wants to spend money on the court system, but of course they do. If we don’t apply fines, people wouldn’t change their ways, or at least their behavior enough so they won’t be arrested any longer.”

Marx acknowledged other means may be helpful on the road to better behavior, as Todechine suggested, yet maintains hope that people like Todechine will walk out the court doors eventually striving to take the less-trodden path.

“I wouldn’t be the right one to make a judgment on if people are changing their attitudes, but some do stronger than others,” Marx said. “We have no way of knowing if they’ve changed their lives, but we have to make an assumption at face value when they speak to us and hope they do well.”

That’s exactly why he is in the business, the 14-year Justice Court judge said.

“The reward that you get out of this job is if people change behaviors,” he said. “The mission of the courts is to do just that. If they don’t come back to court, we’re accomplishing that mission.”

Under Marx’s definition, even Todechine would agree that the system is far from down.

“Thank God I’m getting off probation,” Todechine said. “It’s about time, it’s been a while.”


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