Confusing news reporting

I hope things will be cleared up a bit later, but Boston.com’s initial article Community service for defendants in Cartoon Network case doesn’t quite add up to me.

It said Prosecutors today dropped charges against two men whose guerrilla marketing unleashed a regionwide wave of bomb scares after the defendants performed up to two weeks of community service. (and a “Breaking News” email said something similar.) I thought that community service was something that one could be sentenced to when convicted of a crime. Does this mean that because they started serving their sentence before they were convicted the district attorneys essentially got a sentence for something that they might not have been able to convict.

Of course, the defendants had to agreed to this deal. Since court can be such a crapshoot, I can see why 80 hours of work and no record (and no parole, etc.) is a good deal for them. It seems a shame though that the DA can use the threat of punishment to get a punishment out of a case that they claim to be dropping. I see this as being different than making a deal for a lighter sentence and pleading guilty. At least in that case both the DA and the defendant are agreeing on guilt and agreeing on a sentence.

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