Imagine this: A woman's prison sentence is suspended because "maggots" couldn't testify against her. Then the judge tells her, "If you refuse to scrape one dead animal off the side of the road, I'll send you to jail for five years."
Unusual to say the least, but it's the brand of justice Circuit Judge Jack Early dealt out to 38-year-old Barbara J. Rogers in an Aiken County courtroom earlier this month.
Rogers had been accused of conspiring with several young men in a number of home burglaries two years ago and in killing a 14-month-old bull. The problem, according to Deputy Solicitor Bill Weeks, was that her male friends, who were already in prison after pleading out to the crimes and were willing to testify against her, couldn't be believed because they were "just short of maggots" and "maggots don't give the most credible testimony."
Rogers did, however, plead guilty to receiving stolen goods and engaging in a criminal conspiracy. This prompted the judge to sentence her to five years in prison, but then credited her for having already spent more than 100 days in lockup, and suspended the rest of her time to probation.
But to stay out of jail, she had to stick to a number of tough conditions, including paying full restitution of $2,449 to the bull's owner, and to serve much of her more than 200 hours of community service with an animal welfare agency. She allegedly contributed to torturing the bull - which had been beaten and dragged to death behind a truck - because she told the young men she wanted "some beef" to eat.
Judge Early said he expected that, in the course of her community service, she would be called upon to clean up animal carcasses from highways, and that she better do it.
The bull's owner thought she got off too easily - that the cruel way his bull was killed should have earned her more time in prison. But even he wasn't as tough as some animal lovers who believed that Rogers and her male "maggots" deserved the same treatment the bull got.