Woman Says Judge Improperly Sentenced Her Based On Lineage

CLEVELAND (AP) - A woman convicted of scuffling with police after having several drinks objected to a judge's requirement that she write a report on alcoholism and American Indians.

Dana Madey, whose paternal great-grandmother was a Cherokee Indian, said Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Judge Timothy McGinty learned of her ancestry from a presentence report and made an issue of it at her sentencing.

The judge said Friday he intended only to have her understand the danger of alcohol abuse.

Madey asked McGinty on Thursday to remove himself from her case but he refused. The judge said the court record shows both her parents are at least partially of American Indian descent.

Madey, 23, of Chagrin Falls, pleaded guilty and was sentenced on March 18 to a 90-day suspended jail sentence on a misdemeanor charge of assault on a police officer. She admitted scuffling with police after she consumed alcohol when attending a football game at Cleveland Browns Stadium last November.

At the sentencing, McGinty asked: "Do you know anything about genetic predisposition to alcoholism? Have you ever been on an Indian reservation?"

He also told her: "What would you think, with Scotch-Irish on one side and American Indian on the other? Do you think there is a problem with alcoholism?"

He ordered the blonde to write a 10-page, single-spaced paper on alcoholism and the American Indian. He also told her to abstain from drinking, attend weekly Alcoholic Anonymous meetings and quit her job as a bartender.

The judge said Friday that drug dependency counselor's report submitted by Madey's lawyer referred to her American Indian ancestry and the possibility of a genetic link to alcoholism.

"She had a history of alcoholism on both sides her family," McGinty said. "I felt the young lady should assess the risk of continued drinking -- to the blackout level -- for her own education and betterment.

"She can reach whatever conclusion she wants about genetics or socio-economic factors. It's up to her."

He said his sentence was not intended to conclude any genetic link to alcohol abuse.

"Her own counselor advised her about genetic predispositions, and it's a good thing to look at. So what we're trying to do is rehabilitate through education. The young lady placed herself in a position of danger because she was intoxicated and disoriented and we want her to view the facts. The police may have saved her life."

Madey told The Plain Dealer she believes a judge "is supposed to look at the individual, not their bloodlines. He went beyond that."

She said she planned to start cosmetology school next month and that bartending was the only profession that allows her to work hours that fit her class schedule.

Richard Deitrich, a professor of pharmacology at the University of Colorado, said alcoholism was a huge problem for American Indians but they had no genetic predisposition for the disease.

Ted Parran, an associate professor of internal medicine and director of addiction treatment programs at Case Western Reserve University, said that culturally biased studies done in the 1960s were used to propagate a myth that American Indians were genetically susceptible to alcoholism.

(Copyright 2002 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)