Ill. man married by judge who imprisoned his dad
EAST ST. LOUIS (AP) — A southern Illinois man not only didn't hold a grudge against the judge who sent his father to prison, he asked the judge to officiate his wedding.
U.S. District Judge William Stiehl presided over the marriage of 21-year-old Donald Brown Jr. and his sweetheart last month in the same East St. Louis courtroom where he sentenced Brown's father, Donald Brown Sr., to 12 years in prison on a drug dealing conviction in 2000, the Belleville News-Democrat reported Sunday (http://bit.ly/HLekPY ).
Brown Jr., who joined the Air Force and who plans to graduate college in the fall, was just 9 when his father was sent to prison. He became interested in law and in high school began observing and taking notes at federal court proceedings. He said he was repeatedly drawn to Stiehl's courtroom, unaware of the judge's link to his father's case until he told his father one day how much he was learning by watching Stiehl's cases.
"Then, my father told me Stiehl was the one who sentenced him," the younger Brown said. "I was stunned."
That didn't stop the younger Brown from asking Stiehl to do his wedding, in advance of that man's heading off to the Air Force later this month and ultimately to law school.
Stiehl said he doesn't recall Donald Brown Sr. or the punishment the judge handed him, given that the judge has sentenced so many over the years. But when it comes to Donald Jr., the judge said that "if he stays on the course he's laid out for himself, he should do well."
As for the elder Brown, he attends church faithfully, has embraced God and is grateful he has a second chance.
"Jail is one result. The other is a grave," he said. "An honest living, including paying my taxes, beats that life any day. No police, no running scared looking over my shoulders. There is no wondering whether other guys in the street are looking for me."
His son said his father's incarceration steered him away from early dreams of being a police officer or ambulance driver.
Information from: Belleville News-Democrat, http://www.bnd.com