Rap music fan sentenced to Beethoven, pays fine instead

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Ludwig van Beethoven, a bust taken from his death mask.
Image: Expired photographic copyright held by W.J. Baker, 1898.

When 24-year-old Andrew Vactor of Urbana, Ohio, United States was convicted of violating the city's noise ordinance, Judge Susan J. Fornof-Lippencott offered to reduce the normal fine of US$150 to $35 if he agreed to listen to 20 hours of classical music. Fifteen minutes into the sentence the rap music fan changed his mind and paid the full fine in order to end his probation.

The first movement of Beethoven's Piano Sonata No. 28, Op. 101
Audio: Original by Beethoven, this reproduction by Daniel Veesey.

The sentence would have included selections from Ludwig van Beethoven, Frédéric Chopin, Johann Sebastian Bach, and Claude Debussy. Chief Probation Officer Glenda Runkle says the department keeps three CDs for this type of sentence.

Champaign County Municipal Court Judge Fornof-Lippencott told the Springfield News-Sun she often assigns creative sentencing options. "I think a lot of people don't like to be forced to listen to music. And I think sometimes the defendants ... are put in the position the general public is put in." She also selects episodes of Dr. Phil and The Oprah Winfrey Show that she considers relevant to other misdemeanor offenses and supplies copies to the probation department. "The idea, hopefully, is that it will inspire people not to come back for the same violation. It offers an opportunity for them to cut down on their fines and costs and at the same time broaden their horizons."

Is being sentenced to listening to one type of music "cruel and unusual" punishment?

Although Judge Fornof-Lippencott hopes these sentences "might enlighten defendants", Vactor denied that musical taste played a role in his decision to pay the full fine. Vactor, a student at Urbana University, told reporters he needed to leave for basketball team practice. "I didn’t have the time to deal with that," he said. "I just decided to pay the fine."