Federal judge denies inmate’s request to be flogged in public

Posted Jan. 21, 2012, at 4:55 p.m.
Judge John Woodcock
Judge John Woodcock
Shawn Nobrega posted this photo on his MySpace page as an advertisement for his business, where he is listed as the owner/deejay.
MySpace photo
Shawn Nobrega posted this photo on his MySpace page as an advertisement for his business, where he is listed as the owner/deejay.

BANGOR — A federal judge Friday denied a local man’s request that he be flogged in public rather than sent to prison.

U.S. District Judge John Woodcock said the law would not allow him to order that Domingos Nobrega, 34, of Bangor receive two lashes for each year of his sentence.

That order was issued three days after Woodcock granted a motion made by defense attorney Jeffrey Silverstein of Bangor for Nobrega to undergo a psychiatric evaluation. Silverstein cited his client’s request to be flogged as one reason the motion should be granted. Federal prosecutions did not object to the request.

In his ruling, Woodcock disputed Nobrega’s contention that corporal punishment statutes have not been repealed.

“Setting aside whether a sentence of a public flogging would violate the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment, Congress expressly outlawed whipping in 1839,” the judge wrote in his three-page ruling. “As part of the 1984 and 1987 sentencing reforms [to the Comprehensive Crime Control Act], instead of listing the punishments a federal court could not impose, Congress set forth the sentences that a federal court could impose and it nowhere authorized whipping.”

Nobrega, who legally changed his name from Shawn Alan Nobrega to Domingos Nobrega, was convicted in May by a federal jury of being a felon in possession of a firearm.

In late November, Nobrega filed a motion “asking for 2 lashes for every year given to him as sentence to be imposed upon him.” The defendant acknowledged in his motion that flogging would be prohibited under the Eighth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which prohibits cruel and unusual punishment.

“The defendant does not want to be part of the 2.5 million people locked up in the United States prison system and be part of a prison statistic,” Nobrega wrote. “The defendant feels he will benefit and learn more of why not to break the United States laws and will remember it if he is granted this type of sent[e]nce of corp[o]ral punishment or public flogging.”

Nobrega has been held without bail since he was taken into custody early on Oct. 24, 2010, at his apartment at 751 Main St. in Bangor after a standoff with police. State charges related to that incident are pending. He was arrested two days later upon his release from Dorothea Dix Psychiatric Hospital in Bangor.

A competency hearing and sentencing will not be scheduled until after the psychiatric evaluation has been completed, most likely at an out-of-state facility. There are no federal prisons or hospitals in Maine.

Nobrega faces up to 10 years in federal prison and a fine of up to $250,000.

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