After Cassandra Belle Tolley pleaded guilty to driving drunk and crashing into a car, seriously injuring two people, a South Carolina judge sentenced her to eight years in jail followed by five years of probation and substance abuse counseling.
Circuit Court Judge Michael Nettles also included another order in the sentence, one thats much less common.
Tolley of Rock Hill must read the Old Testament book of Job and write a summary.
Its a rare ruling, according to legal experts.
Similar sentences have raised constitutional concerns, but Tolleys case is special.
Under normal circumstances, the judge wouldnt have the authority to do that, said Kenneth Gaines, a University of South Carolina professor of law specializing in civil and criminal litigation. You cant just arbitrarily add anything you want to a sentence.
But if she consented, its really not an issue. Its critical that the defendant was in entire agreement with it.
Tolleys attorney, Amy Sikora, a York County, S.C., public defender, said Tolley was thankful for the assignment. She already has started working on it.
Nettles declined to comment. But those who were in court that day agreed his decision reflects compassion not just for the victims, but for Tolley, who after years of abuse turned to alcohol.
Tolley, 28, told her pastor and Sikora that a relative repeatedly abused her physically as a child.
On Thanksgiving Day, when Tolley was 11, Sikora said, a relative doused her with gasoline and set her on fire.
Burn scars are visible on her face.
Since moving to Rock Hill from Ohio, Tolley occasionally attended New Vision Free Will Baptist Church, where she met the Rev. Daggett Duncan.
Shes a very, very, very humble, distraught person, Duncan said. Looking in her eyes, you could see the pain.
Tolley was drunk on Nov. 12, 2011, and driving in the wrong lane on Porter Road in Rock Hill. She crashed into a vehicle, severely injuring two men.
According to the York County solicitors office, Tolleys blood alcohol level was 0.333 more than four times the legal limit.
In prepared statements read in court, the victims said the injuries have dramatically altered their lives. One of the men cant sit for more than an hour at a time. Rods and screws were surgically implanted to support his spinal column. He relies on family to care for him.
The other man has undergone six surgeries and could lose his left foot.