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Judge's bizarre 'hair-for-a-hair' punishment causes a buzz in Price

Published June 22, 2012 5:43 pm

Courts • Judge orders girls' locks trimmed after the two cut the hair of a 3-year-old.
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A Price mother says she wasn't seeking a harsh or bizarre punishment when she reported two girls to the police for cutting off her 3-year-old daughter's hair.

But a juvenile judge's order that the two culprits — ages 11 and 13 — suffer the same fate as their young victim has created a buzz in the Carbon County town.

Sixth District Juvenile Judge Scott Johansen opted for an unorthodox punishment: The 11-year-old was ordered to get her hair cut within a week of her hearing; and during a hearing for the 13-year-old girl, Johansen told the teen's mother she could shave 150 hours of community service off the sentence if she cut her daughter's hair in court.

Mindy Moss, the mother of the 3-year-old, told The Tribune she "didn't even care" about the hair-cutting punishment suffered by the older girls. "I just wanted to know why, and I wanted an apology."

"It was malicious," Moss said of her daughter's haircut. "Anything could have went wrong with the scissors."

In March, Moss' 3-year-old daughter was with family members at a McDonald's in Price when the two older girls asked if they could play with her hair. After a trip to a nearby Dollar Store, the girls cut off the 3-year-old's hair.

"I didn't believe her until her [8-year-old] brother got home" and confirmed her story, Moss said Friday.

The girls were referred to juvenile court for assaulting the 3-year-old, as well as harassing another girl in Colorado via telephone for several months, Moss said.

Moss said her 3-year-old had never had a hair cut and had "long and curly and beautiful" hair down to her waistline.

Moss, who attended the court hearing, said she objected audibly when the teen's mother cut only a small amount of hair off her daughter's head. The judge then directed the woman to cut the hair all the way up "to the rubber band."

Moss said she originally called police about the haircut because she worried the girls' behavior might become more serious. "I didn't want them to think they got away with it."

The Administrative Office of the Courts said Friday that juvenile courts are "unique in the sense that the focus is on rehabilitating and changing a child's behavior," and "judges are given discretion in coming up with sanctions for youth that will change their behavior in a positive way."

Court officials could not say if any complaint had been filed against Johansen. Attempts to reach Johansen, the 13-year-old's mother and her attorney were unsuccessful Friday.

afalk@sltrib.com