Judge Orders Utah Mom to Cut Daughter's Ponytail

By Deanne Katz, Esq. on June 26, 2012 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

A Utah mom is speaking out after a judge asked her to cut her daughter's hair in court in exchange for a lighter sentence.

In a hearing, Kaytlen Lopan, age 13, admitted that she and an unnamed 11-year-old friend befriended a three-year-old and cut several inches off her hair. She also admitted to making harassing phone calls to another teen over several months in a separate case.

Judge Scott Johansen sentenced Lopan to pay restitution to the victims, and to serve 30 days in detention and serve 276 hours of community service.

But then he made a bizarre offer to Lopan's mom, Valerie Bruno.

Johansen told Bruno that he would take off 150 hours of community service if Bruno would cut Lopan's hair in court. Bruno complied and when the victim's mother complained that Bruno hadn't cut enough, the judge told her to cut it "up to the rubber band" quoted The Salt Lake Tribune.

Below is a KSL report of the incident, including audio of the judge's request:

Bruno told reporters that she filed a formal complaint against Johansen. She claims she was intimidated by the process but wishes now that she hadn't complied and that she should have gotten an attorney.

The Eighth Amendment ban on cruel and unusual punishment extends to sentences given in juvenile court. Based on the uniqueness of the sentence, Bruno may have a claim that the sentence was unusual enough to violate the law.

Less traditional sentences are sometimes used in juvenile courts to help children learn from their actions rather than just to provide punishment. Utah's law does allow for unorthodox sentencing, according to USA Today. Judges can choose alternative sentences if they will have a positive change on the youth's behavior.

Bruno doesn't think that the judge's ponytail-cutting sentence will have a positive impact on her child. "An eye for an eye, that's not how you teach kids right from wrong," she reportedly told KSL.

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