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Eye for an Eye': Judge Offers to Reduce Sentence if Mother Chops Off Daughter's Ponytail in Court (& She Complies!)

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"...that's not how you teach kids right from wrong."

PRICE, Utah (The Blaze/AP) -- A Utah mother says she felt intimated in court when a judge told her that he would reduce her 13-year-old daughter's sentence if she chopped off the girl's ponytail in court -- an offer the mother says she now wishes she hadn't taken.

Valerie Bruno of Price says she has filed a formal complaint against 7th District Juvenile Judge Scott Johansen with the Utah Judicial Conduct Commission. The teenager and an 11-year-old friend were referred to juvenile court for cutting off the hair of a 3-year-old girl with scissors in March and for harassing another girl in Colorado by telephone.

When the 13-year-old faced Johansen for a hearing in May, he ordered she serve 30 days in detention and to perform 276 hours of community service, but he also offered to take 150 hours of community service off the sentence if her mother cut her ponytail in his courtroom.

Bruno is now expressing regret for not consulting an attorney before taking her daughter into the courtroom.

"I guess I should have went into the courtroom knowing my rights, because I felt very intimidated," she told the Deseret News. "An eye for an eye, that's not how you teach kids right from wrong."

While some may see this statement as a dismissal of her daughter's actions, according to Deseret, the mother does, indeed, believe her daughter deserved to be punished. She simply thinks the judge's order crossed a line.

"She definitely needed to be punished for what had happened," Bruno told Deseret News. "But I never dreamt it would be that much of a punishment."

Deseret goes on to provide a bizarre recap of the alleged courtroom conversation between the judge and Bruno:

"If she was my daughter, I wouldn't want her with the (youth) work crew," the judge said.

"I know, I thought of that," Bruno said.

"I'm going to give you this option: I will cut that by 150 hours if you want to cut her hair right now," Johansen said.

"Me, cut her hair?" Bruno asked.

"Right now," the judge said. "I'll go get a pair of scissors and we'll whack that ponytail off."

Mindy Moss, mother of the 3-year-old whose hair was cut off, said she approved of the sentence and even spoke up during the hearing when she felt Bruno had not cut off enough of her daughter's hair. Johansen then directed Bruno to cut the ponytail all the way "to the rubber band."

Moss told The Salt Lake Tribune that she originally called police about the haircut because she worried the girls' behavior could become more serious.

"I didn't want them to think they got away with it ... It was malicious," Moss said.

Attempts by The Associated Press to reach Johansen were unsuccessful Sunday.

Colin Winchester, executive director of the Utah Judicial Conduct Commission, said the state Constitution bars him from commenting on whether a complaint has been filed against a judge. A complaint only becomes public if disciplinary action is taken against a judge, he said.

Under state law, judges are given discretion in coming up with sanctions for youth that will change their behavior in a positive way.

Johansen ordered the friend of Bruno's daughter to have her hair cut as short as his. She was allowed to go to a salon to have it done, then return to the courtroom to ensure that the new hairstyle met with the judge's approval.

Read more about this case over at Deseret News (and watch a video about the incident here).

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