Why Some Receive Judicial Diversion

By: Rob Pratt
By: Rob Pratt

Knoxville (WVLT) - A former Knoxville Catholic teacher gets judicial diversion on a statutory rape charge, meaning she will avoid jail if she can stay out of trouble for four years.

Thirty-five-year-old Dianne Dieterich admitted she had sex with a 17-year-old student and that he is the father of the baby she's now carrying. So, how and why could a former teacher get such a good deal?

Volunteer TV's Rob Pratt, a former practicing attorney, has the story.

For non-violent crimes, people with clean prior records, like Dieterich, often get diversion, but the factor that makes the most difference in deciding who goes to jail may be the attitudes of victims and their families.

Dianne Dieterich walks away from court with a judicial diversion that keeps her out of jail if she stays out of trouble. Who made that decision? Certainly the judge and the district attorney general, but as even Dieterich's lawyer admits, there was another important player.

"This is an opportunity, the judicial diversion, that was achieved with a lot of hard work with input from the victims, their family," attorney Greg Isaacs said.

"The victim is an important consideration in these cases, and they very often reflect that," said Doug Blaze, the associate dean of the UT College of Law.

Doug Blaze is an associate dean at the U.T. College of Law now, but he spent years practicing law in criminal courts. He learned that the client's fate is heavily shaped by the victim, and there's good reason for that.

"There's obviously societal interest, but the victim is the one we are trying to help overcome whatever occurred and develop and continue to mature in the best way possible," Blaze said.

Is there a difference in victim attitude based on the sex of the victim? Associate professor of law Jennifer Hendricks says there has been in the past, with male victims and their families more reluctant to prosecute, but even that's changing.

"I do think that the reaction, more recently, has been that it's just as victimizing and should be treated the same as if the victims were reversed," Hendricks said.

In this case there is also the matter of the child that Dieterich is carrying. Dieterich's lawyer would not comment on what will happen, saying it is a private matter for the family. If and when the child is born, the teenage father could also ask the court to be recognized as the father and to be a part of the child's life.


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