Judge James P. McClusky is the judge who handed down a controversial ruling for admitted rapist Shane Piche last Thursday. Piche is a former school bus driver who pled guilty in February to raping a 14-year-old girl last June; he met the girl on the job, he confirmed, then later raped her at his house.
Piche, 26, was given 10 years probation. He was also required to register as a Level 1 sex offender, and given no jail time for the crime.
In a victim’s impact statement submitted by the victim’s mother, the mother wrote in part, “I wish Shane Piche would have received time in jail for the harm he caused to my child. He took something from my daughter she will never get back and has caused her to struggle with depression and anxiety.”
McClusky is married to a woman named Joanne, according to Oswego County Today. He also has five children, and lives in Watertown. Here’s what you need to know:
1. McClusky Was Elected to the Supreme Court 5th Judicial District in Jefferson County, NY, in 2011
In 2011, McClusky, then a judge in Watertown, New York, announced his intention to run for the Supreme Court of the 5th District in New York. He’s been on the bench ever since, serving at the Jefferson County Supreme Court in Watertown, New York. McClusky is a registered Republican; he was elected to a 14-year term which will end on December 31, 2025.
When he announced his decision to run, an apparent endorsement of him in Oswego County Today read in part,
As a sitting Judge, Jim McClusky has exhibited the temperament necessary to insure that those that appear in the court are heard and treated fairly. Over the last 22 years Jim has practiced in each of the six counties encompassing the Fifth Judicial District and currently has offices in three of the counties. As a resident of Jefferson County, Judge McClusky is the only candidate that would ensure the long tradition of having a resident Judge serve in each of the Counties in the Fifth Judicial District.
2. Prior to Becoming a Judge, McClusky Was a Practicing Attorney For Over Two Decades
According to Oswego County Today, McClusky began his legal career in the 1980s, working for his father and alongside his twin brother. Per the publication, he worked on over 25 cases that went to jury trial, as well as 250 non-jury trials and hearings, prior to becoming a judge.
McClusky became the Town Judge of Watertown in 2002, and was reelected twice over, in 2006 and 2010.
3. McClusky Has Handed Down a Number of Significant Rulings
In January, McClusky denied a transgender woman’s attempt to request that New York’s Division of Human Rights, a state agency, investigate her claims of abuse. Specifically, the woman (who goes by Ms. LeTray but was arrested under her birth name, Anthony Campanaro) claimed that police officers harassed her and made derogatory comments during a 2017 arrest.
LeTray filed a complaint with the Division of Human Rights, but the organization dismissed her complaint because it doesn’t have jurisdiction to investigate police agencies. When LeTray sued to allow the agency to investigate the matter, McClusky determined that the court was bound to hold the original determination made by the Division of Human Rights, The Watertown Daily Times reports.
Per the publication, McClusky wrote in part, “Investigating crimes and arresting citizens are services for the betterment of society but are not services open to the public. Certainly we expect police to treat all citizens with respect, however where there are allegations of abuse the complaining individuals do not have the right to have the (Division of Human Rights) investigate those complaints.”
At another point, McClusky wrote in his decision, per WWNYTV, “Complaining individuals do not have the right to have the DHR investigate those complaints.”
4. Piche Received No Jail Time, 10 Years Probation, & a Level 1 Sex Offender Status
Though the district attorney’s office requested that Piche be designated as a Level 2 sex offender, McClusky decided that Piche would be designated a Level 1 sex offender, which classifies a person who is at low risk of committing a sex crime again. This also means that Piche will be required to register as a sex offender, but will not be included in sex offender databases.
Piche’s lawyer, Eric Swartz, has since argued that the sentencing is more than fair. In a statement acquired by WWNY-TV, Swartz said, “He’ll be a felon for the rest of his life. He’s on the sex offender registry for a long time. Maybe not the rest of his life because of the level but this isn’t something that didn’t cause him pain and this isn’t something that didn’t have consequences.”
McClusky’s decision to sentence Piche to 10 years of probation but no jail time whatsoever has inspired a wave of anger from activists, citizens, and politicians across the country.
Many are simply proclaiming their surprise at the ruling, while others are displaying more direct outrage at the apparent injustice, for a number of reasons.
Kristen Clarke, the President & Executive Director for the National Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, tweeted of the situation, “Shane Piche, white, admitted to raping a 14 yr old girl. He will do NO jail time. 16 yr old Kaleif Browder, African American, spent 3 yrs on Rikers Island awaiting trial on an accusation that he stole a backpack. Much of the time was spent in solitary confinement.”
Similarly, Andi Zeisler, the cofounder of Bitch Media, tweeted, “I don’t know who needs to hear this but YOUNG WHITE GUYS GET ONE FREE RAPE is an indefensible judicial stance.”
5. People on Twitter Are Encouraging Others to ‘Take Action,’ & Are Sharing McClusky’s Information on Twitter
As the result of McClusky’s sentencing decision, many people are sharing McClusky’s phone number and the address of the federal courthouse where he works, encouraging others to call and complain about the ruling.
One Twitter user wrote, “I called and left a message for the judge who allowed Shane Piche to rape a 14 year girl without punishment. You should, too.”
Additionally, a petition to recall McClusky has been started; after surpassing its initial goal of 750 signatures, the new goal for the petition is 5,000 signatures.