No one would have faulted Steve and Penny Stout had they insisted the man who struck them with his pickup truck while they were bicycling near Benjamin Logan schools and then fled the scene be punished to the fullest extent of the law.
Nathaniel Gregg, the motorist who spilled his bowl of cereal moments before hitting the couple, will serve only modest jail time and will not be convicted of a felony as a result of the case.
This light sentence comes not as the result of sloppy prosecution or an inattentive arbiter, but because of an awesome show of grace from Mr. and Mrs. Stout, who’ve long forgiven Mr. Gregg.
Despite their call that Mr. Gregg receive no jail time whatsoever, Logan County prosecutors recommended he receive 60 days in Logan County Jail.
Explaining to Logan County Common Pleas Court Judge Mark S. O’Connor why the state still recommended for Mr. Gregg a period of incarceration, Chief Assistant Prosecutor Eric Stewart said that’s the public’s expectation.
“If I crashed into somebody with my vehicle and then didn’t stop after the accident, I would expect to go to jail,” Mr. Stewart said during Monday’s hearing. “I think that’s what the public expects and that’s why we’re asking for 60 days’ local jail in this case.”
But that’s what makes the Stouts’ gesture so beautiful.
Trying to eat cereal while operating a vehicle is wildly stupid, and failing to stop after the collision is equally irresponsible.
Despite his behavior immediately after the crash, and against conventional wisdom, Mr. and Mrs. Stout chose to forgive Mr. Gregg, and in so doing, demonstrated a level of decency rarely extended between people.
It should be noted, his actions in the immediate aftermath not withstanding, Mr. Gregg appeared legitimately contrite for what he did. He sincerely apologized to the couple during a face-to-face meeting following the incident.
Monday, he appeared visibly shaken and entirely remorseful.
And as laughable as it is to try and eat cereal while driving, and as deplorable as it is to strike another human with a motor vehicle and then not stop immediately and phone for help, Mr. and Mrs. Stout recognized that separating two small children from their father and a wife from her husband would not heal their wounds any faster.
The injuries Mr. and Mrs. Stout suffered as a result of the crash were not insignificant. Both were hospitalized. Mr. Stout sustained a fractured skull. Mrs. Stout had bruising all over her body.
Ours is an eye-for-eye society.
Schadenfreude is a German word that means taking pleasure out of the misfortune of others, according to Merriam-Webster dictionary, and it’s on display nearly every week in common pleas court.
Interested parties in a given case will attend sentencing hearings, and if they were in any way wronged by the defendant, most hope for a maximum sentence.
Some even address the court, personally petitioning for the harshest sentence it can levy.
Mr. Stout spoke to the judge. His was a message not of revenge, but of redemption.
“We believe this was an accident,” Mr. Stout said. “(Mr. Gregg) apologized to us and we have accepted that.”
The Stouts accepted Mr. Gregg’s apology and rather than just pay lip service to the concept of forgiveness, they took a stand for the man’s reputation.
This piece began by asserting that no one would have blamed Mr. and Mrs. Stout for requesting a maximum sentence for Mr. Gregg. Similarly, they could’ve “forgiven” the defendant and remained mute as the court meted out its sentence and still be commended for having been so gracious.
Instead, they went further still, asking the court for leniency.
Christians might consider this kind of undeserved gift of grace as the linchpin for their entire faith.
Non-religious persons may consider what the Stouts did for Mr. Gregg as a serious favor.
We often wonder aloud why bad things always happen to good people.
Sometimes the answer is because good people are the ones likeliest to behave in such a way as to reinforce our faith in people.
Nate Smith is an 'Examiner' staff writer taken aback by such a rare display of forgiveness. He can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter, @n8smithExaminer.